Chapter 31: Discarding the Container, Discovering the Content
Gurdjieff was brought up by a nomadic society, so he was coming from almost another planet. He knew a few things which we have forgotten. He remembered that in his childhood the nomads hypnotized their children - because they could not carry them continuously while they were hunting; they had to leave them somewhere under a tree, in a safe place, but what was the guarantee that those children would remain there? They had to be hypnotized. So they used a small strategy - and they have used it for centuries. From the very beginning when the child was very small, they would make him sit under a tree. They would draw a circle around the child with a stick and tell him, “You cannot go out of this circle; if you go out of it, you will be dead.”
Now those small children believed, just like you. Why are you Christian? - because your parents told you. Why are you Hindus? Why are you Jainas? Why are you Mohammedans? - because your parents told you. Those children believed that if they went out of the circle they would die. They grew up with this conditioning. And you might try to persuade them: “Come out, I will give you a sweet.” They could not, because death. Even sometimes if they tried, they felt as if an invisible wall prevented them, pushed them back into the circle. And that wall existed only in their minds - there is no wall, there is nothing. Unless the person who had put them in the circle came and withdrew the circle, took the child out, the child remained inside.
And the child goes on growing, but the idea remains in the unconscious. So even an old man, if his father draws a circle around him, cannot get out of it. So it is not only a question of the child; the old man also still carries his childhood in his unconscious. And it is not a question of one child. The whole group of nomads have put their children under trees nearby, and all the children are sitting there the whole day long. By the time their parents come back, it has become such a conditioning that no matter what happens, the child will not leave the circle.
Exactly the same kind of circles are drawn around you by your society. Of course they are more sophisticated. Your religion is nothing but a circle, but very sophisticated; your church, your temple, your holy book is nothing but a hypnotic circle. One has to understand that one is living surrounded by many circles which are only in your mind. They don’t have a real existence, but they function almost as if they are real.
One night it happened, it must have been nearabout twelve, a young man knocked on my door. I was still awake, writing a few letters. He fell on the ground, took hold of my feet, and said, “Just give me one glass of water with your hand.”
I said, “What is the purpose?”
He said, “I have been sent by a Dr. S.C. Barat. I am his patient. I have been suffering from a stomachache for years. He has tried all kinds of medicines, nothing helps. And today he said, ‘Now medical science cannot help you, only a miracle can help you.’ So I asked where I had to go for the miracle and he sent me to you. And he said, ‘Whatever happens, go on holding his feet unless he gives you a glass of water - just that water will be the cure.’”