Existentialists make a very fine distinction, and a beautiful one, and meaningful also. They say for animals essence is first and existence is a later growth. This is difficult to understand, but try. They say for animals, for trees, essence is first and existence follows. There is a seed: the seed is, in essence, the tree. The essence is there, the existence will just follow. The essential thing is there; it just has to be manifested, expressed. The tree will follow. The tree is not going to be a new thing; in a way it was already there. So, really, the seed has no freedom – the tree exists in it. And the tree is also without freedom – it is destined by the seed. This is what is meant: essence is first, below man, and then existence follows.
With man, the whole thing is just the opposite: existence comes first and then essence follows. You are born with no fixed future, you will have to create it. You are born, so you have an existence, simple existence, with no essence. Now you will create the essence. So man creates himself. A tree is created by nature, man creates himself.
Man is simply born as an existence, with no essence. Then whatsoever you do will make your essence; your acts will create you. And the freedom is multidimensional. A man can become anything, or he may not become anything. He may remain just an existence without any essence; he may just remain simply a body without any soul. The soul is, in a way, to be created.
Gurdjieff used to say that you have no souls, you are without souls. Unless you create it, how can you have it? It looks contradictory to all the teachings of religions – it is not. When religions say that everyone has a soul, it only means that everyone can have a soul. That’s a possibility. You can grow to be a soul. If you already have a soul, then there is no distinction between a seed and you. And if you are growing like a seed into a tree, if you are growing just like a seed into a man, then there is no difference between man and all that exists below man.
Man is a freedom – freedom to be. He can be many things, he can be anything. And it may be that he remains just a possibility without being anything. That creates a dizziness and that creates fear.
Kierkegaard has given a concept of dread. He says that man lives in dread. What is that dread, the fear? This is the fear: you are simply a possibility, nothing else. You have only existence, no essence. You can create it, you may miss it. The responsibility is yours.
This is a very dreadful state. Nothing is certain, man is insecure. Every moment many directions open, and you have to move in some way, somewhere, without knowing where you are moving, without knowing what the result will be, without knowing what you will be tomorrow.
Your tomorrow will not come automatically out from your today. The tomorrow of a seed will come automatically from its today. The death of an animal will be the automatic result of his life – not so with you. That’s the difference. Your death will be your achievement: you will be responsible for it. And that’s why every man dies in a specific way. No man’s death is similar to anyone else’s. It cannot be.