Philosophising, Playing a Role (Tuesday 8 February 1944, Paris Groups, 1944, Pt XVIII)

G.B. began by stating to Gurdjieff that he did not know anything about himself, and especially not about his essence. Gurdjieff asked if he could formulate a question. G.B. asked how he could know if something came from him or not (meaning, I think, from his essence)? Gurdjieff replied:

“That is philosophy. For me, and for yourself as well, it is empty. You must begin from what is true. From the beginning you have been unsure of the path of a true man. That is (due to) your education. Seven factors were lacking in your education.”

“I can tell you the first. It has not been instilled in you that, for each man, his father is God. God loves him who esteems his father. Then, when his father dies, there is a place into which God can enter. From your question I sense that you do not have this, this relation with your father. This follows from your question. Now take as your task all those factors in you which put you out (of yourself). Establish a true relationship with your father.”

G.B. replied that he had begun this, and Gurdjieff responded that he was, then, on the right path, and that: “These things hinder you from touching on real problems.” (85)

M.D. then asked what if one’s father was “below everything” (au-dessous de tout). (85) Gurdjieff seemed to have taken the phrase as meaning “the lowest of the low,” or something like that, and doubtless he was correct. Gurdjieff replied that one’s obligation replied no matter how criminal one’s father was. You do not know why he became like that, said Gurdjieff, but that he is God for you is a law. You owe him your existence, and he must answer for you in another world, while you must pay for your existence. (86)

G.B. then objected that to have a proper relation with others, one needs to be sure of what is in oneself. Gurdjieff replied that his task was that internally he should not identify, but exteriorly, play a role. You wish for interior freedom, and this is the way to commence. G.B. said that he had begun to do this. Now this is exactly what G.B. had said earlier. It is either a problem with the transcript, or G.B. was repeating this phrase; the comment appears to have been related to his work on his relation with his father, for Gurdjieff asked:

“What is it that plays a role? Try to understand it more broadly. Do everything which makes him happy. If he likes you to be on his right, then be on his right. If, on another occasion, he likes the contrary, then act accordingly. It is an objective role, a different role with each person. You must accustom yourself to fulfil your obligations. It is one of the elements for becoming a free man. It is not necessary to philosophise.”

“After agreement (Après d’accord). First of all, prepare the soil. The soil has seven aspects. After that, proceed as you wish. In the future, you must play a role with each man. For your egoism. To make each one your slave. You do not do that which you like, but what he likes. (86)”

M.D. then asked whether, as regards one’s father, this was an interior or exterior obligation. Interiorly, replied Gurdjieff, you have “objective obligations,” but exteriorly, with your father, as with everyone else, you play a role. It may be difficult at the start, but then you will have to change everything, and perhaps your father will eventually become your slave. “Even your father must become your slave.” (87)

D.S. then asked: “So at the present we must not do as we like?” Gurdjieff replied:

“Now you do not have any time to satisfy your weakness. You must kill it. If you work, your weakness must not count for you. You must be pitiless.”

D.S. continued: “Even if the purpose is to help another?” Gurdjieff replied: “We are speaking of oneself, right now.” D.S. explained that she was living in a situation where one was expected to speak devoutly of helping others, but she has come to doubt that it is possible to do major things for others. Gurdjieff responded:

“True. It is just a dream. Previously, you had not realised that you could not do anything for another. Now, today, give yourself your word to do nothing other than for yourself, to put yourself on your feet, to prepare your future. (87)”

But now I am seen as being indifferent, said D.S. “Then you have not played a role,” replied Gurdjieff, “had you done so they would not have noticed a change. You are transparent. The others must not see what is happening interiorly.” (87) This is noteworthy – it is the clearest example of what Gurdjieff meant by playing a role but not identifying interiorly. Here the woman was living with people with whom she had shared a philanthropic outlook. Now, due to the work, she had begun to wonder about the feasibility of their philanthropic dreams.  But that was for her interior world: externally she had to continue as she had before, but now she would be playing a role, not identified with the common opinion.

Again, D.S. persisted: “These are the people who are always around me.”

Precisely with those people,” Gurdjieff replied.

Dr H. objected that it was difficult, and Gurdjieff said: “Only bad things are easy.” (88)

I might add, the longer I go, the more I think that many otherwise very good people go astray with what Gurdjieff called “philosophising.” It is, perhaps, from one perspective, applying only the formatory part of the mind to the internal work. I do not know that there is one best way to deal with it. Rather, I think the work on it must be individual. But I do think that the work on stopping thought is critical: and for this, the exercises are a potentially powerful aid.

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