What happened to Gurdjieff when he had his car accident?
The system of George Gurdjieff is a little bit strange, and it is certainly different from all other, old approaches. His whole work was concentrated in getting an absolute feeling of distinction between the body and consciousness – not just as a philosophical idea, but as an actual experience.
It happens to everybody in death, but most people die unconsciously. The consciousness separates completely from the body to move on its pilgrimage, which is eternal. The journey of the body is very small, but it all happens in unconsciousness – it is a natural surgery.
A surgeon cannot remove a small piece of your body while you are conscious; he has to make you unconscious. Then, he can remove anything. He can kill you – you will never know about it. But if you are conscious, then the pain of a deep-rooted identity being broken is so terrible, so unbearable, that you won’t allow him to do it.
It has happened only once in India in this century, just in the beginning part…the Maharaja of Varanasi had to go through an operation to remove his appendix. The best surgeons from all over the world were attending him. But a great problem arose – he was not ready to take anything from which he loses his consciousness. His whole life’s work was exactly like Gurdjieff’s: he was trying to be conscious and to be separate from the body. And he said, “You can remove the appendix. I will not disturb you.”
But surgeons cannot believe a patient, and such an operation…removing his appendix while he is conscious. He may jump off the table; he may do something, and may destroy not only the operation but even his life.
But on both sides there was a problem. If the operation was delayed there was a danger that the appendix would explode and then death was certain. And because he was no ordinary man, they could not force him. He was ready to die, but he was not ready to take any anesthesia which makes him unconscious.
Finally the surgeons decided, “There is no harm in taking a chance; let him remain awake. Anyway he is going to die. If we don’t operate, he will die. But there is a possibility that perhaps he is right. He may have attained that quality of consolidation such that his consciousness is separate from the body, and he may be saved. It is worth taking a chance. And he is a stubborn man! He won’t listen; he has never listened to anyone.”
And the decision had to be made within minutes otherwise it would be out of the question, so finally they decided to operate on him.