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There was a very solemn moment during dinner. The Director gave the toast to Hopeless Idiots. Mr. Gurdjieff stopped him and said he was not thinking about what he was saying. He must think about what he said, when he said “perish like dogs.” He must realise the horror of it. The young man then repeated the toast and I thought he was going to cry with the realisation. Then Mr. Gurdjieff said, “Good, now you understand,” and gave him a croissant to take home for his breakfast. He then said we must all remember this toast. Now he saw that we were beginning to smell what it means, so now we must work. Now, for the first time, we were beginning to realise what means ‘aim’ – only a small ‘aim’ is needed, but, “must be aim.”

~ Rina Hands “Diary Madame Egout Pour Sweet”



From the saw-pit I went to the stone quarry, where the mercilessly hard limestone of Fontainebleau Forest was being quarried to build the Russian bath. A burly young Russian named Tchekhov Tchekhovitch was in charge of this work. The second day I was on this task a very large block of limestone broke away. Tchekhovitch said it was just what Gurdjieff wanted to make the lintel of the Russian bath. It was far too heavy for us to remove, and we tried to break it up with stone chisels and crowbars. After two hours, during which we had made no impression on the stone, Gurdjieff suddenly appeared in his town clothes. I learned later that he had just come from Paris, having been up all night. He did not say a word, but stood on the edge of the pit and watched us. We went on hacking away at the stone. Abruptly, he took off his coat and jumping into the pit, took a hammer and chisel from one of the Russian workers. He looked closely at the rock, placed the chisel carefully and tapped three or four times. He walked half round it, and after a careful examination tapped again. I am sure he had not struck the rock more than a dozen times when a huge flake, weighing perhaps a hundred pounds, cracked off and fell away. He repeated the operation three or four times and behold, a slab remained less than half the size of the original. He said: “Lift." We put out all our strength and the rock came up, and we carried it over to the bath.

It was a telling exhibition of skill that has remained in my memory as vividly as when I saw it. But this is only half the story. More than twenty-five years later I was sitting beside Gurdjieff at meal in his flat in Paris, and Tchekhovitch, now grey and almost bald, was standing facing us. Gurdjieff was talking about Ju-jitsu, and saying that he had learned a far more advanced art in Central Asia than that of the Japanese. It was called Fiz-lez-Lou, and he had thought of introducing fit in Europe and was looking for someone to train as an instructor. As Tchekhovitch had been in his youth a champion wrestler, he had been the natural candidate. He then spoke to Tchekhovitch, and said: “Do you remember at the Prieure when we were making the Russian bath, how you tried to break the rock for the door frame and could not? I watched you then, and saw that you did not know how to look. I could see just where the rock would crack, but you could not see even when I showed you. So I gave up the idea of teaching Fiz-lez-Lou in Europe."

Tchekhovitch, who adored Gurdjieff as if he were a divine incarnation, stood motionless and said: “Yes, Georgy Ivanitch; I remember." Then tears began to roll down his cheek. I trembled in sympathy. This incident, which had taken twenty-six years to complete its cycle, was not only characteristic of human ineptitude, but terrifyingly applicable to my own condition.

~ JG Bennett “Witness”



Questioner: Since the time that you advised me to be egoistical, I have done it. But I constate in myself a desire to live only in this better part — I would like to stay there always and ignore all the rest. I feel a great laziness invading me in relation to external life, and the smallest thing is for me a great effort.

George Gurdjieff: It is very good that this state appears in you. This proves that later you will truly become someone responsible, like a man, and I love you in advance for this. But now it is necessary to struggle without rest. You must maintain a constant conflict between this state and your understanding. The more you wish to do nothing, the more you must make yourself do. You must struggle unmercifully and it is a struggle which will produce in you the necessary substance that you may, with my help, create in yourself a real “I."

~ George Gurdjieff “Paris/Wartime Meetings”



QUESTION: What is the relation of conscience to the acquisition of “I”?

GURDJIEFF: Conscience helps only in that it saves time. A man who has conscience is calm; he who is calm has time, which he can use for work. However, conscience serves this purpose only in the beginning, later it serves another purpose. In an ordinary man all his time is taken up with considering—one vibration stops, another begins; now he is glad, now sad, now angry. The machine works without stopping, waste goes on all the time. We have only one accumulator, which can contain only a certain amount of energy. This energy is collected every day and spent every day. The energy collected and stored when we are asleep sets in motion our daytime associations.

All through the day expenditure is going on in us; when night comes we collect anew. Our store of energy is sufficient for the usual mechanical life, but not for active work on oneself. If we compare, for example, the expenditure of energy on mechanical experiences with the expenditure of electric current of a five-candle power bulb, then the expenditure of active work corresponds to a hundred-candle power bulb, which very quickly consumes the available current. For instance, with our store it is possible to work, perhaps, through the morning, but there will be no energy left for the afternoon, even for the daily work—and without this energy man is merely a lump of flesh. It is necessary for this energy to be sufficient both for the new work and the every day work. But there is no room for a new accumulator.

There are no spare batteries. All that we can do is to spend the energy economically. Nature has made us such that with normal work we can have enough energy for the two kinds of work. But we have lost the habit of normal work. Here is a great deal of waste in us where there should he no waste. As a result, all the energy produced by our dynamo is used up by our movements, our thinking, our emotions, our sensations, and our manifestations; and we spend not only on what is necessary but what is unnecessary. For example when I sit and talk I need energy for my head, but I gesticulate as well. Gestures may be needed for emphasis, but no energy is needed for the legs, yet all the time I sit tensed up. And you cannot help tensing up your muscles, even if you remember about it. You are powerless, your mind has no power to give orders. To free oneself from unnecessary tension long exercises are needed. However, the body does not eat up as much energy as associations do. At every moment we have thousands of mechanical, useless thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Moreover, all these “experiences” take place without “me.” Energy is spent unconsciously on every thing—and when it is needed it is not there. If we lived consciously the expenditure would not be greater. The amount of energy in us is calculated for conscious work, which uses the same kind of energy.

QUESTION: How can we economize energy?

GURDJIEFF: One can learn to economize energy but it needs a long time. Begin what is more understandable for you—the energy in the body. You cannot, at once, economize energy in the feelings. Having learnt to economize energy in the body you will acquire a taste which will serve as a key.

~ “Gurdjieff's Early Talks 1914-1931”

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