Chapter 1: Knowledge and Understanding
You ask what my message is? It is a brief one indeed: those who are awake are alive; those who are asleep miss everything.
No man is given manhood readymade. He has to build it by himself. This is both a blessing and a bane. It is a blessing because there is always the possibility he will die without ever having become a man.
Man does not become God by developing himself. If he were able to open himself fully, he would know he is already God himself, here and now. As I see it, the complete revelation of the self is the only development there is.
It is no exaggeration to say that we have forgotten ourselves. Have we not forgotten our own births? Then what else can one say about a life that rests on a foundation of self-forgetfulness? Isn’t such a life really just a dream?
What, if any, is the difference between dreaming and being awake? In a dream the dreamer is completely forgotten. The dream overwhelms him, it happens right in front of him, but he is not present in the dream. In fact, his absence itself is his sleep because the moment he is present he is neither asleep nor dreaming.
Then what shall we call this so-called life of ours? It is certainly not wakefulness because we cannot remember ourselves. So is it a dream too? Yes, my friend, this too is a dream. As long as there is insensibility towards the self, life is but an empty dream.
Gurdjieff has said that man is a machine. In all his activities man is nothing but a passive participant. His actions are unconscious, unaware. They are really reactions. A man may love, hate and feel anger, but these are simply expressions of unconscious and mechanical forces at work within him. He is really only an agent through which nature works. He has no conscious vitality of his own. What we can call real life only begins when a man rises above this mechanical state of existence.
A young man came to see me yesterday. He asked, “How shall I conduct my life so I will never have cause to repent anything in the future?”
I replied, “There is only one answer to your question - discover real life. What you know as life is not life at all.”