Chapter 4: Let Go of the Branch
In fact, in the West, it is very difficult to teach people the nonaction mode. So he was teaching techniques, methods of how to become integrated. He would say, “There is no soul already there.” Not that there is no soul, and not that he was not aware of it, but it was a device. People had become very lethargic about the soul. They thought it was already there - so why worry, why bother? It is there. Any day we can find it, so let us in the meanwhile find other things which are not already there. Meanwhile, let us find beautiful women, more wine, more money, more power - things which are not there. So let us seek these. And the day we are fed up with all this, at any moment, we will close our eyes and we will go in, and the soul will be there. It is never lost; you cannot lose it and you cannot gain it. It is already there.” So people have become very lethargic.
You can see it in the East. The whole East has become so lousy and lethargic. The soul is there and everybody knows it, everybody has heard it. God is within the heart, he is already there, so why create any fuss about him? People seek that which is not there.
Gurdjieff became aware of this fact: that the theory that the soul is already there had made people very lethargic, very uninterested in the soul; very uninterested, absolutely uninterested in the inner world. The mind is interested only in that which gives a challenge, which is an adventure. So Gurdjieff, to fit with the Western mind, started saying that the soul is not there: “Don’t sit patiently, do something - because when persons die, all persons don’t survive. Only those who have integrated their centers will survive. Others will simply disappear like vegetables, so it is for you choose. You are taking a risk,” Gurdjieff said. “If you do something - and doing means arduous doing, hard work, a whole life devoted - then only will you be able to survive death. Otherwise you are going to be discarded. You will be thrown in the junkyard. God is not going to choose you unless you are integrated. You have to earn it. Only very few will be saved after death, not all.”
This is a very strange theory, never propounded before, never in the whole history of humanity. There have been people who say, “There is no soul.” We know them; they are atheists. They have always been there. There are people who say, “There is soul, and it cannot be destroyed. Even death cannot destroy it.” We have heard about them; they have always been there. But Gurdjieff was saying something absolutely new, something which had never been said before. He was saying, “Soul is possible; it is not actual. It is simply possible. You may attain to it, you may not attain to it - you may miss it. There is more possibility that you will miss it, because the way you are living, you are not earning it.” Gurdjieff said, “Man is like a seed. It is not necessary that the seed will become a tree. It is not necessary - the seed may not find the right soil. Even if the right soil is found, there may be no rains. Or even if there are rains, animals may come and destroy the plant. There are a thousand and one difficulties. The seed is not going to necessarily be a tree. If one thousand and one protections are taken, only then will the seed become a tree. You are not a soul; you are just a possibility. A thousand and one efforts have to be made; only then will you become a soul. Only rarely: in one million, one person becomes a soul. All others simply vegetate, die, and disappear.”