"Have you ever tried to watch yourself mentally when your attention has not been set on some definite problem for concentration? I suppose most of you are familiar with this, although perhaps only a few have systematically watched it in themselves. You are no doubt aware of the way we think by chance association, when our thought strings disconnected scenes and memories together, when everything that falls within the field of our consciousness, or merely touches it lightly, calls up these chance associations in our thought. The string of thoughts seems to go on uninterruptedly, weaving together fragments of representations of former perceptions, taken from different recordings in our memories. And these recordings turn and unwind while our thinking apparatus deftly weaves its threads of thought continuously from this material. The records of our feelings revolve in the same way—pleasant and unpleasant, joy and sorrow, laughter and irritation, pleasure and pain, sympathy and antipathy. You hear yourself praised and you are pleased; someone reproves you and your mood is spoiled. Something new captures your interest and instantly makes you forget what interested you just as much the moment before. Gradually your interest attaches you to the new thing to such an extent that you sink into it from head to foot; suddenly you do not possess it any more, you have disappeared, you are bound to and dissolved in this thing; in fact it possesses you, it has captivated you, and this infatuation, this capacity for being captivated is, under many different guises, a property of each one of us. This binds us and prevents our being free. By the same token it takes away our strength and our time, leaving us no possibility of being objective and free —two essential qualities for anyone who decides to follow the way of self-knowledge."
~ George Gurdjieff "Views from the Real World"
STRUGGLE PRODUCES A SUBSTANCE
One of these substances is formed when we suffer. We suffer whenever we are not mechanically quiet. There are different kinds of suffering. For instance, I want to tell you something, but I feel it is best to say nothing. One side wants to tell, the other wants to keep silent. The struggle produces a substance. Gradually this substance collects in a certain place.
~ George Gurdjieff "Early Talks"
CAN NEVER MAKE STOP ASSOCIATIONS; AS LONG AS YOU ARE BREATHING THERE ARE ASSOCIATIONS, THESE ARE AUTOMATIC
Questions after twenty-four hours of trying to achieve withholding emanations: I said, "Very very difficult for me—-cannot do even forty seconds of this work without having associations start and so must stop work in order to cope with associations"
GURDJIEFF: Can never make stop associations; as long as you are breathing there are associations, these are automatic. Therefore, in this task, must not try stop associations – let them flow but not be active. With other part of mind you work at new task and this is active. Pretty soon you find you have beginnings of new kind of brain, a new one for this new kind of mentation and that other one becomes entirely passive.
~ "Gurdjieff and the Women of the Rope"
In answer to another question about observing oneself, he [Gurdjieff] said: ‘Many things are necessary for observing. The first is sincerity with oneself. This is very difficult. It is much easier to be sincere with a friend. We find it difficult to look at ourselves, for we are afraid that we may see something bad, and if by accident we do look deep down, we see our own nothingness. We try not to see ourselves because we fear we shall suffer remorse of conscience. There are many dirty dogs in us, and we do not want to see them. Sincerity may be the key to the door through which one part may see another part. Sincerity is difficult because of the thick crust that has grown over essence. Each year a man puts on a new dress, a new mask, one over the other. All this has gradually to be removed. It is like peeling off the skins of an onion. Until these masks are removed we cannot see ourselves.
‘A useful exercise is to try to put oneself in another’s place. For example, I know that A. is in a trying situation. He is dejected and morose. Half of him is trying to listen to me, the other half is occupied with his problem. I say something to him that at another time would make him laugh, but now it makes him angry. But knowing him I shall try to put myself in his place and ask myself how I would respond. ‘If I do this often enough I shall begin to see that if someone is bad tempered there may be a reason for it which has nothing to do with me personally. We must try to remember that often it is not the person himself but his state that behaves irritably towards us. As I change, so does another.
‘If you can do this and remember yourself and observe yourself you will see many things, not only in the other person, but in yourself, things you never even thought of.’
~ CS Nott “The Teachings of Gurdjieff - A Pupil's Journey”
IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY THE MIRAGE OF GREATNESS AND POWER DISINTEGRATES
Very often in conversation with people, one hears the direct or implied view that man as we meet with him in ordinary life could be regarded as almost the center of the universe; the "crown of creation," or at any rate that he is a large and important entity; that his possibilities are almost unlimited, his powers almost infinite. But even with such views there are a number of reservations: they say that, for this, exceptional conditions are necessary, special circumstances, inspiration, revelation and so on.
However, if we examine this conception of "man," we see at once that it is made up of features which belong not to one man but to a number of known or supposed separate individuals. We never meet such a man in real life, neither in the present nor as a historical personage in the past. For every man has his own weaknesses and if you look closely the mirage of greatness and power disintegrates.
But the most interesting thing is not that people clothe others in this mirage but that, owing to a peculiar feature of their own psyche, they transfer it to themselves, if not in its entirety, at least in part as a reflection. And so, although they are almost nonentities, they imagine themselves to be that collective type or not far removed from it.
~ George Gurdjieff "Views from the Real World"