Chapter 11: Man: The Call of the Eternal
The first question:
What is it to be a man?
It is one of the most difficult questions to ask - difficult because it cannot be answered. It cannot be answered because it is not really a question but a quest. Questions are simple, they can be easily answered, but a quest is a challenge, it is an adventure. You have to explore it. It is not possible to give a ready-made answer to you. You have to go into your own depths and experience it, because man is not a being in the ordinary sense of the word.
A rosebush is a being, a tiger is a being, a dog is a being - but man is not a being, man is a becoming. To be a being means that one has come into the world with a fixed program. The rosebush can only grow roses. It has an inbuilt program - it cannot grow lotuses or marigolds; that is impossible, that is not open to it. It is linear, it can move only in one direction. Its destiny is fixed, hence the rosebush has a being.
A dog can only be a dog and nothing else. You cannot say to a dog, “You are not a perfect dog” - each dog is perfect in his doghood!
Man is only an opportunity, multidimensional. He can be a Genghis Khan, he can be a Lao Tzu - poles apart. He can be a Tamerlane, he can be a Gautam Buddha. There is nothing in common between these two persons - they are unbridgeable, but both are men. They have moved in different directions.
Man brings with him only a clean slate; he has to write his own fate, he has to decide what he wants to be. He has freedom, absolute freedom - he comes without a program. He can be a roseflower, he can be a marigold, he can be a lotus, or he may decide not to grow at all. He may remain retarded, he may remain childish, he may miss the whole opportunity of growth.
So the first thing to be remembered is that man is the only being who is not a being in reality. Man is the only entity in existence which is closer to becoming than to being. He does not bring any essence with him, he brings only existence, and then he has to create himself. It is a great responsibility; nobody can decide for you. Each act, each thought is decisive. Whatsoever you are doing, or not doing, is going to give you a certain form, a certain soul.
It is because of this that one of the greatest masters of all the ages, George Gurdjieff, used to say that man is born without a soul. When you come across this statement for the first time you will be shocked, because nobody has ever said something like that. Man, and born without a soul? We have been told by all the religions that you are born with a soul, but Gurdjieff is far closer to the truth. He may be shocking, but he is trying to bring home a certain truth of immense importance.