- Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'
"Life is Real Only Then, When "I Am"" (first privately printed in 1974) is the incomplete text of the third Series of "
All and Everything" by G. I. Gurdjieff. The book is organized into a prologue, Gurdjieff's description of five lectures given on five nights starting November 28th and ending December 19th, 1930, and ends with an essay entitled "The Outer and Inner World of Man".
The first talk is his initial address to the
New Yorkchapter of the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. In this talk he explains his goals for returning to North America—that due to his (first) car accident the New York group, as well as other European and Asian groups, had fallen into disarray and maintenance of them had fallen into the hands of people he considers unfit. He goes on to explain the unique difficulty he has in addressing the members of the New York chapter—the difficulty which he refers to as 'mechanized mentation'. He speculates that the reason for the concentration of this particular trait in North America is 'abnormally superfluous reading of newspaper literature'.
One interesting note he makes in this lecture, while explaining the origin of the general course which he guides his Institute, is a claim that he consulted with individuals who lived over two-centuries, and who approached 300 years old.
econd talk: Break from Orage
The second talk focuses almost entirely on his opinion that the New York group had become completely useless towards the goals he established for it the year before.
A. R. Orageis first mentioned by name in this talk—Gurdjieff explains that Orage was selected for an administrative position in the New York group solely for his journalist background, as someone proficient in English was needed. Orage, according to Gurdjieff, capitalized on Gurdjieff's post-accident convalescence by taking on a greater role in the New York group than was originally intended. Gurdjieff also accuses Orage of being motivated to join the New York group—moving from England—to gain closer proximity to a lady he calls 'Sunwise Turn'. At the close of this talk, Gurdjieff has his secretary orate a contract which will have to be signed by anyone interested in continuing involvement with Gurdjieff's official New York group. Signers confirm they will not speak to Orage and elements associated with him.
Third talk: Closed talk on developing oneself
The third talk—in contrast to all the others which were attended by many—is given to a closed, select group. Here, Gurdjieff explains that the meetings led by Orage for the past year have been useful only for "collective titillation" and that participants need to acquaint themselves with his written material, specifically "
An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man", in order to grasp the fundamentals of material to be discussed. He has his secretary read at length passages from this book, interrupting occasionally to focus discussion on material he considers directly pertinent. Gurdjieff gives an analogy of human life as being organized into two streams: the first stream contains those on the path to self-realization and individuality, and the second stream contains those who exist solely for the purposes of nature's 'involuntary and evolutionary constructs'. He says that while the stream we find ourselves in is determined in adolescence, and implies that the audience is in the second stream, there is hope to jump streams.
He illustrates seven points, which he alleges are "established by really wise people of all ancient epochs", which are necessary to live an independent life. He describes three of these seven:
*The first loosely equivalent to the pre-Shakespearean usage of the word 'can'
*The second is loosely equivalent to 'wish', but without the connotation of 'slavish impulse'
*The third, "most important", cannot be found "in the whole lexicon of words in the English language" but can be described as "the entire sensing of the whole of oneself".
Gurdjieff then gives this group their 'first exercise', which he claims is the fourth in a series of exercises taught in his schools. The purpose of the exercise he claims is to develop a person's ability to split their attention between three distinct cognitive tasks: feeling, sensing, and counting pace (he goes through great pains to distinguish for an audience unfamiliar with such distinctions the difference between 'feeling' (touch) and 'sensing' (relative spatial distance). He recommends using three fingers of one hand to perform this exercise, feeling one finger, sensing the other, and moving and keeping count of the third.
Prelude to fourth talk
The beginning of the fourth talk is a lengthy exposition where Gurdjieff explains the series of events that occur between the third and fourth talks: namely, the response from group members of the ultimatum given to them in the second talk and the arrival of Orage himself. Gurdjieff explains group members split into three camps: those who signed, those who refused to sign, and those who delayed signing until consulting Orage. Orage arrives in New York and requests a meeting with Gurdjieff, who agrees to meet with him on the condition that he signs the same contract given to his group members (which paradoxically includes himself). Gurdjieff then cites at length Orage's response (given to Gurdjieff's secretary), where he wholeheartedly agrees to dissolve his relationship with the group members and his 'old self', citing inward feelings of personal contradiction over the past year. Orage and his former followers are admitted as candidates to Gurdjieff's New York group for after paying a fine (from them Gurdjieff collects $113,000).
An interesting note here is Gurdjieff's description of his unexpected emotional response—a violent fit and sobbing—upon hearing Orage's apology.
Also interesting in his relating the above violent fit, he makes the comment, "I cannot refrain from relating this and describing in the style of my former teacher, now almost a Saint,
Mullah Nassr Eddin...", however, the Mullah Nassr Eddin lived in the 13th century.
The fourth talk is an incomplete text of the lecture he gave before Orage, his former followers, and the seeds of the new group. Cryptically, it breaks from all previous topics and begins on themes of planetary composition,
ecology, humanity's place in nature, and his unconventional understanding of 'food' (which includes, among other things, air, and is a recurring Gurdjieff theme). Although Gurdjieff presents these abstract ideas as preparatory material for an exercise, the exercise itself is truncated from the text, which ends in an ellipses during an explanation of the peculiarities of air's role in Earth's planetary composition.
Fifth talk: Two exercises
This talk focuses almost entirely on two
Gurdjieff exercises, and also on an emphasis that a necessary component of group work towards these exercises demands sincerity when it comes to speaking about results.
The first exercise is to intentionally practice "self-deception"—Gurdjieff explains that repeating aloud "I am", and accompanying this utterance by focusing on a real or imagined feeling of resonance within oneself, serves as a method of depositing an imagined property into a person's subconscious or his 'passive state' as it is referred. Once in his passive state, Gurdjieff explains it is possible to bring into fruition within the person whatever the person imagines during this practice. For example, Gurdjieff claims with this exercise it is possible to cure 'any type of disharmony' such as a headache.
The second exercise, one of dividing attention into two parts between one's breathing and then on other definite objects, is illustrated as a monologue demonstrated before the group.
The Outer and Inner World of Man
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