It seems that the implications of Gurdjieff’s work were as revolutionary, as threatening to the status quo, as yours. Many of his methods were unequivocally outrageous, yet it seems he was never reported in the local rags as running a camp for slave labor, disrupting public transport, being a menace on the roads or being the instigator of riotous bacchanalian orgies.
You said the other morning that Gurdjieff failed because of the thick human skull. Is it for this reason that he chose to work with a small, select group of people – rather than challenge the entire world as you have? And if you have succeeded – which you have – where he did not, is that in part because man was not in quite such a pitifully desperate state fifty years ago as he is today?
There are a few things to be understood. One, George Gurdjieff was never interested in changing society. His reason was very strange but seems to be meaningful. He believed that people are not born with souls: the soul has to be earned, you have to deserve it.
So the question of the society being revolutionized, transformed, does not arise. For him, only very few people, who have worked hard to crystallize their being, have souls; others are simply vegetables, they don’t count. It hurts. It is shocking. And it is not true either, but it is meaningful.
All the religions of the world have been teaching that man is born with a soul. Gurdjieff is the first man in the whole of history with this strange idea – that man is born only with the possibility of having a soul, if he chooses.
There have been atheists who have said there is no soul in man, but they never accepted that there is any possibility of deserving it. And there were theists who believed man is born with a soul; the question of deserving it does not arise, you have to discover it.
Gurdjieff stands alone in his idea that people are born just as the atheists say, but if they make enough effort they can create souls in themselves as the theists say.
Now the problem is a little complicated. It is not a question of what is true and what is untrue. The question is always, what works?
The atheist who simply denies the soul – as the communists are doing all over the world – is immensely harmful because he stops man’s possibility of growth. He gives you the idea that you are material and you are going to remain material; there is nothing more. You are born matter, you will die matter, and nothing will be left; life is only between birth and death, neither before or after.
It is a dangerous creed, and half of the world has accepted it. It seems it fulfills some inner necessity of man.
Man does not want to be a soul, because to be a soul means a struggle for freedom, a struggle for individuality, a struggle to live totally. Once you accept the soul, you are accepting the whole sky of growth. For people who don’t want to struggle for so many things, the easiest way is that there is no soul, so the question of any growth does not arise.
It is not coincidental that half of the world or more, for the first time in the whole history of man, are atheists. There have always been atheists, but single thinkers, or a small group, never such a large amount of humanity.
All the religions are on one side, and atheism alone is equal in strength on the other side. This is happening for the first time.