A GLOWING PICTURE OF HOW MAN ONCE WAS — SIMPLE, UNSPOILED, AWARE OF HIS SOUL AND ITS NEEDS
"It would be better if it was candlelight,” he [Gurdjieff] said. ''Candlelight blends better; electricity does not blend. But the most beautiful light I know, is the light I saw many times in Persia. They make a clay cup, fill it with mutton fat, put twist of cotton in, and this they bum for holiday, fete, wedding. This light burns longer than any other kind of light — even for two days one such small cup will burn. And such light — the most beautiful for blending. For Mohammedan fete, once I saw a whole house lit by such lights . . . such brightness you cannot imagine, it was like day. You have seen Bengal lights? This I speak about was even more bright. For man, it is the best light for reading . . . ”
A note of nostalgia for the Near East came into his voice. "In Persia, they even arrange rooms for such light. Once I saw one I can never forget. They hang mirrors everywhere, even floors and ceilings have mirrors — then around, in special places to make decoration, they put such clay cups with mutton fat, and when you see — it makes the head spin. Wherever you look, you see lights, endless, thousands. You cannot imagine how it was. Only, one must see — and when you see you would never imagine that such a beautiful sight comes from such small idiot thing as this clay cup of mutton fat. Each house has its own clay cups, sometimes painted, sometimes with names on them, especially if for a wedding — the names of ones who marry. Or, the name of some special event. . .
"One other thing about such lights,” he went on, "is most original. When they make them with frozen fat, this they put together in layers, each layer with special perfume, with separations between layers so that when they burn — first you smell, then the room fills with one perfume; after half an hour with another, and then another — all planned exact! Such knowledge they had before . . . such candles they made consciously and everybody had them. Such was life then! Now . . . they make them automatically . . . ”
A sadness settled over our spirit after he had spoken, as so often happened when he made a glowing picture of how man once was — simple, unspoiled, aware of his soul and its needs. The strident mechanical life of our time always seemed doubly monstrous in contrast; and now, in the beginning of 1937 with Europe moving automatically toward another war, doubly dangerous. Such was life then . . such was what it still could be, if only Man would learn, as Gurdjieff taught, to conquer himself instead of his neighbor.
In the colored glow from Christmas-tree lights, Gurdjieff’s powerful torso was humped forward like Rodin’s Thinker, his ponderous pondering form was contracted and contained, its mysterious force unknown, invisible. He meditated often like that in our presence, especially after playing his sacred music.
~ Kathryn Hulme “Undiscovered Country”
I COULD SCARCELY BELIEVE THAT THE SELFISHNESS, INDIFFERENCE AND MALEVOLENCE, USUALLY SO DEEPLY HIDDEN IN PEOPLE, COULD BE SO NAKEDLY SHOWN
“I knew nothing about kitchens, or indeed any kind of household Work. My first task was to wash the stone floors of the kitchen and scullery. They were very dirty, and I lavished hot water on them, feeling very proud that the dirt was coming away so easily. I suddenly became aware that I had no idea how to remove the water that was flooding the floor. At that moment, Madame Ouspensky [Gurdjieff’s wife], a majestic figure dressed entirely in black, and with dark chestnut hair and flashing eyes, appeared standing in the doorway, a high step above the floor. I had not seen her since we had met on the Island of Prinkipo more than two years before. She laughed like a young girl, snatched up a couple if kitchen cloths, and went down on her knees to mop up the water and squeeze it into a pail.
“I felt very small and incompetent to have been ignorant of so simple a procedure, and at once imitated her action. Every day there were a dozen lessons of this simple kind, in which my practical ignorance and my mental arrogance were painfully knocked together. My kitchen boy duties included that of putting out the breakfast food before eight a.m., when the people came in from the early morning work. In the first three days I learned something about human nature that I had scarcely suspected. The food was scanty and everyone was hungry. The amount of bread, butter, jam and porridge that I was allowed to put out was enough to satisfy about two thirds of the people. There was also a particularly unpleasant drink called 'coffee', made, I believe, with roasted acorns prepared according to some recipe laid down by Gurdjieff himself.
“People would come in from work early, and take more than their share. Standing beside the tables to collect and wash plates and cutlery, I could watch and listen. I could scarcely believe that the selfishness, indifference and malevolence, usually so deeply hidden in people, could be so nakedly shown, over the simple process of eating breakfast. I began to see what Gurdjieff meant when he said that everything at the Institute provided conditions for work on oneself.”
~ JG Bennett "Witness"
I LEARNED FROM GURDJIEFF WAS THAT THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH “HAVING A GOOD TIME”
“I think there is an emotional attitude that seems to me healthier as well as proper to mankind — certainly preferable to continually bemoaning one’s fate in this “vale of tears”. It is a vale of tears only if we decide — emotionally — to think of it as such. I learned to like life when I was a child, often simply because Gurdjieff managed to make it seem ridiculous and therefore amusing. The conscious use of humor — at which he was an expert — reduces the greatest human drama to something absurd. Great human drama does not lose its dignity in the process, but it is put into perspective: it is still tragic, perhaps, but tragedy is only the other side of the coin, comedy.
“Life, to me, is a gift and a privilege, and perhaps the most important thing I learned from Gurdjieff was that there is nothing wrong with “having a good time” by, first of all, just living to the hilt. Since life itself is a potential daily miracle, what reason is there to be solemn about what may happen when it comes to an end?”
~ Fritz Peters “Balanced Man”