And yet, it is unique. At such a young and impressionable age to be taken under the wing of a master like Gurdjieff is a blessing as great as it is unique. He would become a member of the Chicago and New York groups, but, though the teaching and Gurdjieff were in his blood, he never found his place in the Work. Neither the Chicago nor New York groups were serious enough for him.
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I will put some quotes here, just to give you an idea of some of the "lessons" that crop up in this book: He agreed and then asked me how many of the acorns would become oak trees. I answered that I supposed only five or six of them would actually develop into trees, if that many. He nodded. Must learn from Nature. Man is also organism.
Nature make many acorns, but possibility to become tree exist for only few acorns. Same with man - many men born, but only few grow. People think this waste, think Nature waste. Not so.
Rest become fertilizer, go back into earth and create possiblity for more acorns, more men, once in while more tree - more real men. Nature always give - but only give possibility. To become real oak, or real man, must make effort. You understand this, my work, this Institute, not for fertilizer. For real man, only. But must also understand fertilizer necessary to Nature. Possibility for real tree, real man also depend just this fertilizer. Nothing given by God, only Nature give.
And Nature only give possibility for soul, not give soul. Must acquire soul through work. But, unlike tree, man have many possibilities. As man now exist he have also possibility to grow by accident - grow wrong way. He added that, even with the best of intentions, most people would be too afraid to love another person in an active sense, or even to attempt to do anything for them; and that one of the terrifying aspects of love was that while it was possible to help another person to a certain degree, it was not possible to actually "do" anything for them.
But, although to take one more step is more necessary for him even than air, he must take this step alone; impossible for another person to take it for him. Among the purposes of all leaders, messiahs, messengers from the gods, and so forth, there was one fundamental and very important purpose: to find some means by which the two sides of man, and therefore, the two sides of the earth, could live together in peace and harmony.
He said that time was very short - it was necessary to achieve this harmony as soon as possible to avoid complete disaster.
Philosophies, religions and other such movements had all failed to accomplish this aim, an the only possible way to accomplish it was through the individual development of man. As an individual developed his own, unknown potentialities, he would become strong and would, in turn, influence many more people. If enough individuals could develop themselves - even partially - into genuine, natural men, able to use the real potentialities that were proper to mankind, each such individual would then be able to convince and win over as many as a hundred other men, who would, each in his turn, upon achieving development, be able to influence another hundred, and so on.
He added, grimly, that he was in no sense joking when he had said that time was short. Further, he said that history had already proven to us that such tools as politics, religion and any other organized movements which treated man "in the mass" and not as individual beings, were failures.
That they would always be failures and that the separate, distinct growth of each individual in the world was the only possible solution. Whether one believed him whole-heartedly or not, he made a convincing and passionate case for the importance of individual development and growth.
He was generally credible to me because he was sufficiently "different" from other people - from anyone I had ever known - to be a convincing "super" man.
On the other hand, I was troubled because I would always come up against a seemingly obvious fact: anyone who sets himself up as a teacher in any mystical or other-worldly sense had to be some sort of fanatic - totally convinced, totally devoted to a particular course, and, therefore, automatically opposed to the socially accepted, generally recognized, philosophies or religions. It was not only difficult to argue with him, there was nothing to argue against. One could, of course, argue about questions of method or technique but before that it was necessary to have agreed on some aim or purpose.
I had no objection to his aim of "harmonious development" for mankind. There was nothing in the words that anyone could oppose. It seemed to me that the only possible answer would have to lie in some sort of results: tangible, visible results in people - not in Gurdjieff - he was, as I have said, convincing enough. But what about his students? Except for Madame Ostrovsky, his deceased wife, I could think of no one other than Gurdjieff himself who had "commanded" any sort of respect by the simple fact of their presence.
One thing that a great many of the other, older students did have in common was what I thought of as a kind of "affected serenity". They managed to look composed and controlled or unruffled most of the time, but it was never quite believable. They gave an impression of being outwardly controlled that never rang quite true, particularly as it was easy enough for Gurdjieff to upset their equilibrium whenever he chose to do so, with the result that most of the senior students were always alternating between states of outward calm and hysteria.
He would have liked some proof, at least at that age. The fact that there is little proof except in Gurdjieff perhaps does not mean that harmonious development is not possible nor does it mean that this method does not work. I can understand this concern and doubt on a personal level, it certainly seems dubious to me that I will come to something approximating this kind of development.
However, I enjoy trying it out so it will probably never seem wasted effort to me.
Boyhood with Gurdjieff
When Fritz was eight or nine, his mother experienced a nervous breakdown and was sent to a sanatorium. Peters was under the impression Gurdjieff was a "prophet" or perhaps the "second coming of Christ. Peters told him—"I want to know everything. At one lesson, Gurdjieff made an analogy between mankind and oak trees: Man is also organism. Nature make many acorns, but possibility to become tree exist for only few acorns. Same with man—many men born, but only few grow.
Boyhood with Gurdjieff - Fritz Peters