More Dialogues Review
It is an astounding romp with the figure of "G." in post-war Paris, as he leads a young American on extraordinary adventures which redefine the ordinary concepts of reality, consciousness and human knowledge—adventures which shed a new, and at times, disquieting, light on Sufism, Zen, Yoga, The Fourth Way, and intimately, the Work itself. This new edition presents an unequaled and tantalizing glimpse into the everyday activities of the Work group Jan directed for thirty-five years, and includes numerous example of his earliest papers.
"Nothing achieves its highest value until delivered to the place it is needed most. One of humanity's grand illusions is that men need help, and perhaps the grandest of them all is-- that they can be. All books are works of fiction and this one is no different in that respect."
The topic is consciousness; the tools are metaphor and symbolism; and the literary technique is author surrogate-- Jan uses the figure of Gurdjieff to speak his own understandings to present day readers with his own unique terms.
This revised edition contains the original materials from Jan Cox’s classic first edition of The Dialogues of Gurdjieff, plus a new, concluding chapter which was meant to forcefully reveal that which may have already been deduced by the reader. The Dialogues is the second volume in a four part effort that, as a whole, has a certain purpose, although each work can be read for itself on a particular level.
You may read this work directly from front to back, or you may first care to turn to the final chapter for a further explanation of this work’s purpose and origins. Yet, any way you approach it, it is all made up: “Remember: This is not a book about dead men, methods or ideas, and the very parts that may so tantalize the sleepy are the most salient examples of fiction-run-a muck. Lies, all lies. But what else could I do for you?
(The problem, as I see it, with fighting to change the way your consciousness works: it immediately offers to join in and help you…)"
“You hear me mock the would-be mystics and laugh at the religions. I stick my tongue out to the world, but in a manner that causes men to stumble and quiver. What is it that these thousands of G.-followers believe that they follow? I am not a politician; no religious saint; no occult nut. I do not tell them I am a god, or even a cousin of God. I stir up great amounts of public attention, and you see that it is not my need. I curse those who love me, and drive away those who would die for me. And yet they come. I understand. I understand the imagination, I understand the reality. But they can never understand, they can only follow. It is the way it is and is just. But they dream that men such as G. bring about instant change, and it is not so. I have brought about instant change within me; the instant change of what can be done in one lifetime. But their dreams will remain dreams. They will chew on my maps and receive ‘relief,’ but ‘satisfaction’ will not come to dreamers. Followers of the Buddha will never taste ‘Nibbana,’ and Christians will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Such experience is reserved for Tathagata and Jesus, and those-who-know. And those-who-know understand this—but what to do for the followers and dreamers?
“I will tell you this: most of those men who have Struggled and Escaped abandon any attempt to communicate their knowledge and experience; they leave that to the few of whom you hear in history.”
G. stopped to light a cigarette and peered into his coffee cup with that ethereal gaze that he normally projected heavenward: “It is strange, Lee, most strange, this Work. But life itself is strange. It is strange that you and I happen to be sitting exactly here, exactly now, with everything else in the universe arranged exactly as it is. Do you not ever feel the Strange? It is not your ordinary fear or uncertainty—it is a Strange, a secret strange.
“Friend Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. And blessed Muhammad, may eternal peace be his, said that the true knowledge of self was the knowledge of God. But an ordinary man can have no conception of what this all means. He sees of himself only what life allows him to see. He says, ‘I know myself. I know that I am ugly, fat and ill-tempered.’ So his dreams of God are ugly and foul-tempered. He finds nothing of benefit from his imagined knowledge of himself. He has no real hunger for this knowledge; he has no time to strive for it in any case; he is irretrievably trapped in the never-ceasing, swift current of Horizontal time and events. This is man’s natural state, and God save the old-man from ever falling into the ditch of the critic. It is loma, but many have seen and understood it.
“The Struggle of the Work is unnatural, and what it may lead one to is not the proper state for man as you know him. I do not say it is either this or that, good or bad, but it is unnatural.
“Many routine observers think that the Buddhas, the Moseses, the Muhammads were critics of man, crying out impending doom if humanity did not miraculously ‘wake up’ and change direction amidst the rushing current. As always, ordinary men take the literal for allegory and the parable for foolishness. The Work does not cry out that humanity are idiots and living unnatural lives. From the superior viewpoint of the very machinery-of-life, it is ordinary men who are right, and we of the Work who are wrong. From that quite real viewpoint, it is we who are idiots and fools; wasting our lives in a Struggle with no definable aim, involved in efforts with no promise of reward. Absolute madmen living in direct conflict with the very nature and movement of our present homeland.
“You hear me speak of being ‘identified,’ and the followers have chewed the map so long that they believe digestion is a reality. But without the taste there is no understanding. In said moments they will listen to such ideas, and dream of Buddha’s escape from the unnecessary suffering of ‘attachment’ to the ephemeral world. They long to be as Jesus and give no thought for the morrow, to be free, whatever that may be. And they are delighted to hear G.’s teaching of being identified and the struggle to be freed from such unprofitable entanglements. But they dream; they do not know what it would be to be free and unidentified.
“To be identified is man’s natural state, and from the ordinary viewpoint there is nothing wrong with such a condition—it is proper and necessary for ordinary men. The state of being identified is both simple and difficult to understand. It is simple once you see it, but you can never see it from your normal state of consciousness, for in your normal state you are identified. It is like trying to see the very ground under your feet while you stand there. You cannot see it until you move, and when you move there is new ground under the soles.
“To see what identification is you must move in a different direction. You cannot simply move about in the Horizontal manner, you must move in a new direction—Vertically. You must be able to escape the very being in whose shoes you now stand.
“But an ordinary man must stay identified, or else he would go absolutely mad. And if everyone suddenly became unidentified, the planet would literally explode in a matter of hours.
“Men come from the Vertical Line and are dropped into the rushing torrents of the Horizontal Line of the mechanical life of this planet. They are born in appropriate Essence to their race, culture and heritage. They, among all creatures on this lonely outpost, are conscious, but that is not sufficient for the Great Needs of this universe. It is necessary that they develop attention. And to have attention men must acquire my-False-Personality. Men must be made to go to sleep in consciousness, and awaken in life in attention. If men were simply conscious without the restraints and limits of attention we would be with the beasts in the jungle, and Earth requires more.
“True Consciousness is free and unfettered, while attention is always fixed and captive. Consciousness would deal in the relative nexus of reality while attention moves in imagined, associative absolutes. From the Work viewpoint this is all a curse, an unnatural hindrance, but from the majority viewpoint, it is natural and necessary. A man must acquire a Personality to consume his Essence, and he must fall prey to the identifying hold of attention and leave the unearthly realm of Consciousness.
“Ordinary men must develop attention so that they can become identified, and they must become identified so that they will stand still for their cosmic captivity. What would an ordinary man have if he were not continually identified with this-or-that? He must be identified with his imagined reputation; his dreams of future fame and coming fortune. His natural mind must stay constantly involved in dreams of yesterday and hopes for tomorrow. He cannot be conscious of now. That is impossible for attention. His total concept and feeling of himself and his position in life is rooted in the Horizontal Line of time. Man’s time, his Personality and his state of identification are all thorns on the same tree. One way to consider being identified is simply in taking the temporary as the permanent, and this is what fixed attention is all about.
“Personality is produced in man after birth, after he has descended into the Horizontal Line of life-on-this-planet. Along with this Personality he acquires a natural mind, and this mind is constructed by and nourished on ‘attention,’ and attention is always in a state of being identified. A man forced to study fleas” toenails instead of Entomology. But that is all he is equipped for. He dreams and imagines otherwise, but Allah forbid that he should ever impartially consider the matter.
“No, my Lee, men must stay identified with their dreams of what life is about. They must remain hypnotized in believing that they are something that they are not. If they could be shaken from this natural state, it would all be over. Humanity as a whole cannot be allowed to revert back to the Essential state of Consciousness. You might think that such a thing would produce an instant world of awakened holy men, but it would turn loose the final holocaust, if it were possible. But it will never be, for it is not meant to be. Men are food. They are raised here as crops; watered, fed, kept ignorant of their ultimate fate, then cut and eaten. Dreams of a better existence after death are not all dreams, for part of our destiny is to be consumed by stepmother Earth, and to become a part of a more conscious being increases one’s own consciousness. But until that final day, men must remain identified, and scoff at ideas of a ‘Great Secret’ hidden in the dark corners of some imaginary ‘Work.’
“Men must take their few days here most seriously and for that they must stay identified with the passing events that seem to carry them along the Line of time-and-change. A man must stay totally immersed in his life-activities to take them seriously. He must walk the Horizontal Line, looking neither to the right nor the left; gazing neither up nor down, but staring straight ahead, his attention constantly affixed, first here, then there. Conceiving of life as a complex ball of twine existing within the maps of their own minds, men childishly attempt to wind, unwind and rewind the threads, engaged in all manner of torment, suffering and self-doubt while forced to remain ignorant of the lost possibility of simply living in free accord with their own unalterable Essence and the ever-changing nature of things-as-they-are.
“And so the old-man sits and talks, and—what to do with dreamers and followers?
“They refuse to see the reality that I grow old. There is Real Time beyond the induced sense of mortal time within man’s Personality, and from this time, none can escape. It seems I grow soft. I no longer have the taste to kick-the-asses, to curse the idiots onward. But they do not even notice. As always, they live in the dreams, the stories and dreams of what G. used to do. They repeat my words and debate my lectures until they no longer even see the man. The map I have produced is now sufficient for them. And can it ever be otherwise?”
I was beginning to tremble and cry, and G. looked up and smiled: “Gangsters do not weep like schoolgirls, and Real Men do not become sorrowful over reality. What I have told you is nothing new to the Work. G. is not particularly singled out for any hardship or abuse. I am no more misunderstood and hated than many better men before me. It is the nature of this Path. It is life that is right and we who are wrong.
“You ofttimes think that the old-man has done you a miraculous service by my time with you, but I may have done you a grave curse.” His smile intensified in compassion: “But it is no real curse, for justice always prevails, and should it not be proper, you would not be here with me now.”