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Why Do You Stay in Prison When The Door Is So Wide Open??

Dear Friends,

Hayy !!

My life is immersed in the Gurdjieff Work, and I bear its mark. Every moment, a self remembering, every breath drawn in awareness and consciousness. Yet , when I sit down to write about it… to share with you the depth and beauty of this work, I find myself strangely silent. There are no words to transmit the taste of it on my tongue, nothing I can say that will not trivialize and asphyxiate the essence of this great teaching. To really understand, you will have to make a "journey to inaccessible places" deep within the innerscapes of your own being.
All I can do is tell you a story…

Once upon a time, there lived a man who taught that " When it rains, the pavements get wet!" His name was Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff.

He was born somewhere between the years 1866-1877, in the Caucasus region of what is now Russia, to a Greek father and Armenian mother.

As a young boy, this man was wonder struck by many strange and inexplicable events that came his way. Seances… miraculous cures…uncanny accurate predictions…Yezidis who died if they came out of a magic circle…mountains that vibrated when the perfect musical note was played...He was full of questions about why we are here, on this planet. What are we living for? What happens at the end of it all, at death? Questions, to which there were only uncertain answers from his teachers and elders. As he searched for answers, he experimented with hypnosis, trained as a physician, studied religious practices, learned music, and eagerly scoured the land for ancient texts and manuscripts, but was not at all satisfied with the results of his efforts.

So, he intensified his search, and embarked on a lifelong quest for a hidden body of knowledge, which, he believed, had its roots in ancient traditions, and which might shed light on the meaning of man's existence.

He vanished from sight, and travelled to almost inaccessible centers of learning, temples, and monasteries, reaching from Egypt, across Central Asia, to India & Tibet. Here he came into into contact with the secret, esoteric practices of ancient brotherhoods, and discovered the" unchanging core of true wisdom," he had been searching for….

After 25 years of searching and learning, he re-surfaced as a spiritual teacher, in Russia, in 1912. He escaped, during the Russian Revolution, with a caravanserai of pupils, and finally settled down in France. In a mansion in Fontainebleau, close to Paris, he established his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.

He lived in Paris till his death in 1949.

This mans language and ideas were strange, his methods even stranger.

A little understood, much maligned, much loved, bold revolutionary thinker,

"He was a man whose virtue was not tame
But grew luxuriantly wild like ferns,
And bold like dandelions. All the neat
And mended moral fences in the world
Could not restrain the reaches of his love,
Nor curb the reckless flowering of his mind." (Wrote Mavis McIntosh Riordan, a pupil)

He taught through diagrams and symbols, through money, through alcohol, through the preparation, cooking and eating of food, through manual labor, through music , sacred dance, and stories of Mulla Nasr-U-Din. He taught through attention, and silent presence. He taught through "shock" by stepping on psychological corns, and painfully challenging the "sleepwalking" state in which he found human beings. He taught through love…

And, what did he teach?

Gurdjieff braided all his diverse learnings into a rich, intricate, multi-layered system that included cosmology, cosmogony, psychology, human typology, phenomenology of consciousness, philosophy, sacred dance, musical octaves…

These are big words… my friends

Essentially, this system, or The Work, with all its breathtaking scope of ideas and methods, is like a coat of many colors, woven with a common thread…around the idea of conscious evolution… and offers human beings practical methods of transformation and liberation from the prison of conditioning and mechanical suffering…Of learning how to BE!

Gurdjieff said "if a man could understand all the horror of the lives of ordinary people, who are turning round in a circle of insignificant interests and insignificant aims, if he could understand what they are losing, he would understand that there can be only one thing that is serious for him - to escape from the general law, to be free. What could be serious for a man in prison who is condemned to death? Only one thing: how to save himself, how to escape: Nothing else is serious"

"You do not realize your own situation. You are in prison. All you can wish for, if you are a sensible man, is to escape. But how escape? It is necessary to tunnel under a wall. One man can do nothing.

No one can escape from prison without the help of those who have escaped before. Only they can say in what way escape is possible, or can send tools, files, or whatever may be necessary. But one prisoner, alone, cannot find these people, or get in touch with them. An organization is needed."

So, my friends, it appears we must first understand the truth of our situation - that we are in prison: It is not enough to merely describe the dimensions of our prison, or spend our lives embellishing our chains: We must want to escape: Then we need maps, knowledge, & precise instructions, from the ones who have escaped before us. Then we use these tools, and the help of other prisoners… to escape

It"s all so simple, isn't it? Ofcourse we would do all these things if we were in prison!!
The problem is, we do not recognise that we are in prison. We think we are free!!

Yes, we are born free. We are born with Being- Essence. A real identity, with its unique tendencies and predispositions, already colored by the configuration of the stars and planets at the moment of its birth, which will grow, if not stifled, into mature, healthy "selfhood." And yet, in this process virtually every one seems to fall into a kind of stupor that is the ordinary waking state, and forgets the origin and destiny of the Being-Essence. We lose a self, and acquire a personality.
This "personality" is our invisible prison. The one we deny we are in!

How is it possible to lose a self ?

An anonymous author has written a heartfelt story I would like to share

"The treachery, unknown and unthinkable, begins with our secret psychic death in childhood…
It is a perfect double crime, in which the tiny self gradually and unwittingly takes part.

He has not been accepted for himself, as he is.

Oh, they "love" him, but want him, or force him, or expect him, to be different!

Therefore, he must be unacceptable.

He himself learns to believe it, and atlast, take it fot granted.

No matter now whether he obeys them, whether he clings, rebels or withdraws… his centre of gravity is in "them" not in himself. If he so much as noticed it, he'd think it natural enough. And the whole thing is entirely plausible; all invisible, automatic, and anonymous!

This is the perfect paradox.

Everything looks normal. No crime was intended: there is no corpse, no guilt. The sun rises and sets as usual. But what has happened? He has been rejected, not only by them, but by himself. He is actually without a self.
What has he lost? Just the one true and vital part of himself: his own yes-feeling, which is his very capacity for growth, his root system.

But alas he is not dead

"Life" goes on, and so must he.

From the moment he gives himself up, and to the extent he does so, all unknowingly he sets about to create and maintain, a pseudo self. But this is an expediency. A self without real wishes..It shall go through all the motions (Oh ! but they are caricatures) not for fun or joy, but for survival.Not simply because it wants to move, but because it wants to obey. This necessity is not life - not his life - it is a defense mechanism against death. He will be torn apart by compulsive (unconscious) conflicts, into paralysis, every moment, every instant cancelling out his Being; and ,all the time disguised as a 'normal' person , and expected to behave like one!


Gurdjieffs bleak view of the personality - this prison of our entrapment and suffering, goes further. Essence is one, but personality is legion. We have many "I's"- scores of parasitic pseudo selves each with its own set of neurotic needs and behaviors, each using the word " I " to describe itself. There is utter chaos, as each "I" surfaces indiscriminately, and is " Caliph" for an hour. Many of the selves don't know of the existence of others. One "I" makes promises, that another has no knowledge of, and therefore cannot honor...There are 'I's of different ages and temperaments. These are not different aspects or even fragmented parts of a whole, these are a crowd of people who represent you.

"Do you see that psychologically and spiritually you would appear like a crowd of people walking along, of every age, and if you introduced yourself you would include everybody, and call each person by your own name. Sometimes a very odd crowd _ Some dressed up, some in rags, and some deformed and some in better shape, and so on - may represent you. This ill assorted crowd of somewhat queer people represents the multiplicity of your personality. It is a great shock when you realize this, but once you do begin to understand you are a multiplicity, you begin to cease saying "I" so easily to this crowd. You may begin to see that it is not "I" but an I in me that behaves in a particular way" (Nicoll)

Friends, by now you may have begun to connect with your particular prison, and the selves that inhabit you. For me it has been a journey full of unexpected discoveries, rude shocks and unwilling meetings with my I's. As I see that all the I's of my personal history are not me, these historical selves have begun to fade away, and glimpses of an essential self break through sometimes. I have learned to watch the little I's, and holding back from identifying and falling into them has slowly become a little easier. It is a rocky road, that leads out of this prison, but now that I know I am in prison, I must set myself free, no matter how rocky the road.

But, do not be satisfied with knowing how things have gone for me, or waiting for my story to unfold further. Gurdjieff insisted that we not take his word for it, but investigate and understand for ourselves through direct experience. Watching oneself even for 10 minutes, can yield a wealth of information and insight.

This is a primary technique in the Work. Self - observation. The whole of the work starts from a person beginning to observe herself.

You are not asked to be good, or kind, or become vegetarian, or practise celibacy, or wear particular clothes, or to think positive, or perform rituals, or chant mantras ,
or worship any Deity…

All you are asked to do is direct your attention inward, & observe all the performances going on in you, all the voices you take as your own, all the parts you have invented, that you think are real.

Serious and continuous self - observation, leads to definite inner changes. Observe everything in yourself as if it were not you, but it. Not "what am I doing," but "what is it doing?" You then see the thoughts going on, the emotions, the private plays and self dramas, elaborate lies, stories, excuses and inventions passing through you.

Observe how you enjoy all this!!

Observe without judging, criticising, approving, analysing, justifying, or cringing!

And, you can start now, where you are, as you are.

This is a practical method for entering deep inner spaces.
The first tool from Gurdjieffs-how -to-escape-from-prison -tool kit.

Love, Akash