And by “the work” he means digging into your unconscious, going as deep as possible. Unless you reach to the very living source of your life you will have to suffer much.
It is unnecessary, he says, because you can live like an ordinary man. Nobody is forcing you. It is extraordinary, because ordinary people go to the church, not into themselves. They read the Bible, they don’t read their own unconscious. They worship in a temple, but they don’t expose themselves in meditation.
Gurdjieff used to call it “work” because it is undertaken only by very intelligent, courageous and strong people – for the simple reason that you can live without going into all this, you can just be a stationmaster your whole life, or a businessman or a clerk, or a priest. There is no need to go into such suffering and sorrow.
But you will not get rid of it. Even in your next life it will continue, and it will gather more suffering from this life. Each life, layer upon layer goes on collecting all that has not been lived, expressed, the unfinished, unlived, the repressed.
In Buddhism – and perhaps only in Buddhism – there is a technique to find out how many lives you have lived before. And the way is to count the layers, just as by cutting the tree you can know the life of the tree by the circles, how many years, because each year one circle is made. So if the tree has been two hundred years old, you will find two hundred circles in the wood.
Exactly in the same way, every life leaves a circle of suffering and sorrow within you. It can be counted, how many lives you have been repressing, how many lives you have lived before. But the longer you have lived, the more difficult it becomes to enter into your inner kingdom.
The ordinary priest, the preacher, goes on talking about beautiful things – about good work, virtue, charity, sharing, and you will enter into the kingdom of God. It is not so easy. First you have to be finished with your whole unconscious. And that unconscious is what the mystics have called “the dark night of the soul.”
Only very intelligent people will take this unnecessary burden, because: “…he alone knows the taste of real sorrow and sickness of the heart, for he will suffer pain and pressures that life does not ordinarily require.”