Chapter 6: The Passion for the Impossible
Nikolai Berdyayev says in his autobiography: “I am very much afraid of the twilight time, when it is neither day nor night. It frightens me.” When I read it I was puzzled about why he should be troubled by the twilight. It is so beautiful - when the day is no more and the night has not come yet. But he is right. He does not mean only the twilight, he means all twilight phenomena.
Mind is a twilight phenomenon, neither body nor soul. A little reality has been imparted by the soul and the real reality has been imparted by the body. Mind is borrowed - something of the soul and something of the body. It is just midway; it is neither this nor that.
And philosophy lives in the mind, hence philosophy lives in illusion. Dreams can be beautiful, illusions can be tremendously sweet.
You ask me: “Why do great philosophers and so forth, say beautiful things and yet remain such a mess?”
By saying beautiful things you cannot sort out the mess, it is not so easy and not so cheap. If you sort out the mess, if you want to get beyond the mess, you will have to do some real work - that’s what Gurdjieff used to call it. He used to call his system -the work.- Real work is needed. Beautiful aspirations, poetry, beautiful philosophies can console, but that is not going to help. It is as if somebody is hungry and you go on talking about delicious food; as if somebody is hungry and you give him a menu beautifully printed; somebody is hungry and you give him a cookbook to read.
That is exactly what philosophy is. Philosophy is a menu. It talks about food and sometimes it can start your saliva flowing. Even thinking about a lemon, juices start moving. But that is not going to satisfy. Philosophy affects people, because people live in the mind.
I have heard:
A philosopher went to the bus station to catch a bus, but found he was early. He saw a little fortune-telling machine so he put a nickel in, and a little card came out that said: You are John Jones - you are sixty-five years old, you are a great philosopher, and you are on your way to Chicago on a business trip.
He said, “I don’t believe this machine. I can’t believe that this machine knows this information. There must be someone behind it.” So he put another nickel in and another card came out saying: You are still John Jones, you are still a great philosopher, you are still sixty-five years old - and you are still on your way to Chicago on a business trip.
“I just don’t believe it,” said the man again, as he put another nickel in. This time a card came out saying: You are still John Jones, you are still a great philosopher, you are still sixty-five years old, you are still on your way to Chicago - but you’ve fooled around and missed your bus.
Philosophy is a fooling around - and mind you, you will miss your bus.