George Gurdjieff has said: “You are in prison. If you wish to get out of prison, the first thing you must do is realize that you are in prison. If you think you are free, you can’t escape.”
What are the prisons that I call “home”?
George Gurdjieff is one of the most significant masters of this age.
He is unique in many ways – nobody has said things in the contemporary world the way Gurdjieff has said them. He is almost like another Bodhidharma or Chuang Tzu, apparently absurd but in reality giving great indications towards the liberation of human consciousness.
You are asking about one of his significant statements. He often used to say, “You are in prison.” Sometimes he was even deeper into the reality, and instead of saying, “You are in prison,” he would say, “You are the prison.” That is more true.
If you wish to get out of prison – or better to say, if you don’t want to be a prison – the first thing you must do is realize that you are in prison…or you are the prison. This is something to be always remembered as one of the first principles for any seeker of truth.
The tendency of the human mind is to deny those things which are ugly, to hide those things which he does not want others to know – to hide in such a way, in such depths of the unconscious that even he himself becomes unaware of them. This way he maintains his superficial personality.
Gurdjieff had a story about it…
There was a magician who used to live in faraway deep forests, and he had many sheep because that was his only food. In those deep forests he was keeping all those sheep just to kill them every day, one by one. Naturally, the sheep were very afraid of the man, and they used to run into the forest being afraid that any day can be their day. Their friends are gone, there is no reliability…tomorrow they may be gone. Out of fear they used to go far away, deep into the forest. And to find them was a tedious job every day.
Finally, the magician did a trick. He hypnotized all the sheep, and told every sheep, “You are an exception; everybody may be killed but you can never be killed. You are no ordinary sheep; you have a divine privilege.” To some he said, “You are not sheep at all; you are lions, you are tigers, you are wolves. Only sheep are killed. You need not hide yourself in the forest; that is very embarrassing, because a lion hiding himself in the forest in the fear that he will be killed…only sheep are killed.” And in this way, he managed to hypnotize all the sheep in different ways.