Chapter Eleven P.D.Ouspensky In Search of The Miraculous
“I AM often asked questions in connection with various texts, parables,and so on, from the Gospels,” said G., on one occasion. “In my opinion the time has not yet come for us to speak about the Gospels. This requires much more knowledge. But from time to time we will take certain Gospel texts as points of departure for our discussions. This will teach you to treat them in the right way, and, above all, to realize that in the texts known to us the most essential points are usually missing.
“To begin with, let us take the well-known text about the seed which must die in order to be born. ‘Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but, if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.’
“This text has many different meanings and we shall often return to it. But first of all it is necessary to know the principle contained in this text in its full measure as applied to man.
“There is a book of aphorisms which has never been published and probably never will be published. I have mentioned this book before in connection with the question of the meaning of knowledge and I quoted then one aphorism from this book.
“In relation to what we are speaking of now this book says the following:
” ‘A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake.’
“In another place it says:
” ‘When a man awakes he can die; when he dies he can be born.’
“We must find out what this means.
” ‘To awake,’ ‘to die,’ ‘to be born.’ These are three successive stages. If you study the Gospels attentively you will see that references are often made to the possibility of being born, several references are made to the necessity of ‘dying,’ and there are very many references to the necessity of ‘awakening’—’watch, for ye know not the day and hour . . .’ and. so on. But these three possibilities of man, to awake or not to sleep, to die, and to be born, are not set down in connection with one another. Nevertheless this is the whole point. If a man dies without having awakened he cannot be born. If a man is born without having died he may become an ‘immortal thing.’ Thus the fact that he has not ‘died’ prevents a man
from being ‘born’; the fact of his not having awakened prevents him from ‘dying’; and should he be born without having died he is prevented from ‘being.’
“We have already spoken enough about the meaning of being ‘born.’ This relates to the beginning of a new growth of essence, the beginning of the formation of individuality, the beginning of the appearance of one indivisible I.
“But in order to be able to attain this or at least begin to attain it, a man must die, that is, he must free himself from a thousand petty attachments and identifications which hold him in the position in which he is. He is attached to everything in his life, attached to his imagination, attached to his stupidity, attached even to his sufferings, possibly to his sufferings more than to anything else. He must free himself from this attachment. Attachment to things, identification with things, keep alive a thousand useless I’s in a man. These I’s must die in order that the big I may be born. But how can they be made to die? They do not want to die. It is at this point that the possibility of awakening comes to the rescue. To awaken means to realize one’s nothingness, that is to realize one’s complete and absolute mechanicalness and one’s complete and absolute helplessness. And it is not sufficient to realize it philosophically in words. It is necessary to realize it in clear, simple, and concrete facts, in one’s own facts. When a man begins to know himself a little he will see in himself many things that are bound to horrify him. So long as a man is not horrified at himself he knows nothing about himself. A man has seen in himself something that horrifies him. He decides to throw it off, stop it, put an end to it. But however many efforts he makes, he feels that he cannot do this, that everything remains as it was. Here he will see his impotence, his helplessness, and his nothingness; or again, when he begins to know himself a man sees that he has nothing that is his own, that is, that all that he has regarded as his own, his views, thoughts, convictions, tastes, habits, even faults and vices, all these are not his own, but have been either formed through imitation or borrowed from somewhere ready-made. In feeling this a man may feel his nothingness. And in feeling his nothingness a man should see himself as he really is, not for a second, not for a moment, but constantly, never forgetting it.
“This continual consciousness of his nothingness and of his helplessness will eventually give a man the courage to ‘die,’ that is, to die, not merely mentally or in his consciousness, but to die in fact and to renounce actually and forever those aspects of himself which are either unnecessary from the point of view of his inner growth or which hinder it. These aspects are first of all his ‘false I,’ and then all the fantastic ideas about his ‘individuality,’ ‘will,’ ‘consciousness,’ ‘capacity to do,’ his powers, initiative, determination, and so on.
“But in order to see a thing always, one must first of all see it even if
only for a second. All new powers and capacities of realization come always in one and the same way. At first they appear in the form of flashes at rare and short moments; afterwards they appear more often and last longer until, finally, after very long work they become permanent. The same thing applies to awakening. It is impossible to awaken completely all at once. One must first begin to awaken for short moments. But one must die all at once and forever after having made a certain effort, having surmounted a certain obstacle, having taken a certain decision from which there is no going back. This would be difficult, even impossible, for a man, were it not for the slow and gradual awakening which precedes it.
“But there are a thousand things which prevent a man from awakening, which keep him in the power of his dreams. In order to act consciously with the intention of awakening, it is necessary to know the nature of the forces which keep man in a state of sleep.
“First of all it must be realized that the sleep in which man exists is not normal but hypnotic sleep. Man is hypnotized and this hypnotic state is continually maintained and strengthened in him. One would think that there are forces for whom it is useful and profitable to keep man in a hypnotic state and prevent him from seeing the truth and understanding his position.
“There is an Eastern tale which speaks about a very rich magician who had a great many sheep. But at the same time this magician was very mean. He did not want to hire shepherds, nor did he want to erect a fence about the pasture where his sheep were grazing. The sheep consequently often wandered into the forest, fell into ravines, and so on, and above all they ran away, for they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and skins and this they did not like.
“At last the magician found a remedy. He hypnotized his sheep and suggested to them first of all that they were immortal and that no harm was being done to them when they were skinned, that, on the contrary, it would be very good for them and even pleasant; secondly he suggested that the magician was a good master who loved his flock so much that he was ready to do anything in the world for them; and in the third place he suggested to them that if anything at all were going to happen to them it was not going to happen just then, at any rate not that day, and therefore they had no need to think about it. Further the magician suggested to his sheep that they were not sheep at all; to some of them he suggested that they were lions, to others that they were eagles, to others that they were men, and to others that they were magicians.
“And after this all his cares and worries about the sheep came to an end. They never ran away again but quietly awaited the time when the magician would require their flesh and skins.
“This tale is a very good illustration of man’s position.
“In so-called ‘occult’ literature you have probably met with the expression ‘Kundalini,’ ‘the fire of Kundalini,’ or the ‘serpent of Kundalini.’ This expression is often used to designate some kind of strange force which is present in man and which can be awakened. But none of the known theories gives the right explanation of the force of Kundalini. Sometimes it is connected with sex, with sex energy, that is with the idea of the possibility of using sex energy for other purposes. This latter is entirely wrong because Kundalini can be in anything. And above all, Kundalini is not anything desirable or useful for man’s development. It is very curious how these occultists have got hold of the word from somewhere but have completely altered its meaning and from a very dangerous and terrible thing have made something to be hoped for and to be awaited as some blessing.
“In reality Kundalini is the power of imagination, the power of fantasy, which takes the place of a real function. When a man dreams instead of acting, when his dreams take the place of reality, when a man imagines himself to be an eagle, a lion, or a magician, it is the force of Kundalini acting in him. Kundalini can act in all centers and with its help all the centers can be satisfied with the imaginary instead of the real. A sheep which considers itself a lion or a magician lives under the power of Kundalini.
“Kundalini is a force put into men in order to keep them in their present state. If men could really see their true position and could understand all the horror of it, they would be unable to remain where they are even for one second. They would begin to seek a way out and they would quickly find it, because there is a way out; but men fail to see it simply because they are hypnotized. Kundalini is the force that keeps them in a hypnotic state. ‘To awaken’ for man means to be ‘dehypnotized.’ In this lies the chief difficulty and in this also lies the guarantee of its possibility, for there is no organic reason for sleep and man can awaken.
“Theoretically he can, but practically it is almost impossible because as soon as a man awakens for a moment and opens his eyes, all the forces that caused him to fall asleep begin to act upon him with tenfold energy and he immediately falls asleep again, very often dreaming that he is awake or is awakening.
“There are certain states in ordinary sleep in which a man wants to awaken but cannot. He tells himself that he is awake but, in reality, he continues to sleep—and this can happen several times before he finally awakes. But in ordinary sleep, once he is awake, he is in a different state; in hypnotic sleep the case is otherwise; there are no objective characteristics, at any rate not at the beginning of awakening; a man cannot pinch himself in order to make sure that he is not asleep. And if, which God forbid, a man has heard anything about objective characteristics, Kundalini at once transforms it all into imagination and dreams.
“Only a man who fully realizes the difficulty of awakening can understand the necessity of long and hard work in order to awake.
“Speaking in general, what is necessary to awake a sleeping man? A good shock is necessary. But when a man is fast asleep one shock is not enough. A long period of continual shocks is needed. Consequently there must be somebody to administer these shocks. I have said before that if a man wants to awaken he must hire somebody who will keep on shaking him for a long time. But whom can he hire if everyone is asleep? A man will hire somebody to wake him up but this one also falls asleep. What is the use of such a man? And a man who. can really keep awake will probably refuse to waste his time in waking others up: he may have his own much more important work to do.
“There is also the possibility of being awakened by mechanical means. A man may be awakened by an alarm clock. But the trouble is that a man gets accustomed to the alarm clock far too quickly, he ceases to hear it. Many alarm clocks are necessary and always new ones. Otherwise a man must surround himself with alarm clocks which will prevent him sleeping. But here again there are certain difficulties. Alarm clocks must be wound up; in order to wind them up one must remember about them; in order to remember one must wake up often. But what is still worse, a man gets used to all alarm clocks and after a certain time he only sleeps the better for them. Therefore alarm clocks must be constantly changed, new ones must be continually invented. In the course of time this may help a man to awaken. But there is very little chance of a man doing all the work of winding up, inventing, and changing clocks all by himself, without outside help. It is much more likely that he will begin this work and that it will afterwards pass into sleep, and in sleep he will dream of inventing alarm clocks, of winding them up and changing them, and simply sleep all the sounder for it.
“Therefore, in order to awaken, a combination of efforts is needed. It is necessary that somebody should wake “the man up; it is necessary that somebody should look after the man who wakes him; it is necessary to have alarm clocks and it is also necessary continually to invent new alarm clocks.
“But in order to achieve all this and to obtain results a certain number of people must work together.
“One man can do nothing.
“Before anything else he needs help. But help cannot come to one man alone. Those who are able to help put a great value on their time. And, of course, they would prefer to help, say, twenty or thirty people who want to awake rather than one man. Moreover, as has been said earlier, one man can easily deceive himself about his awakening and take for awakening simply a new dream. If several people decide to struggle together against sleep, they will wake each other. It may often happen that
twenty of them will sleep but the twenty-first will be awake and he will wake up the rest. It is exactly the same thing with alarm clocks. One man will invent one alarm clock, another man will invent another, afterwards they can make an exchange. Altogether they can be of very great help one to another, and without this help no one can attain anything.
“Therefore a man who wants to awake must look for other people who also want to awake and work together with them. This, however, is easier said than done because to start such work and to organize it requires a knowledge which an ordinary man cannot possess. The work must be organized and it must have a leader. Only then can it produce the results expected of it. Without these conditions no efforts can result in anything whatever. Men may torture themselves but these tortures will not make them awake. This is the most difficult of all for certain people to understand. By themselves and on their own initiative they may be capable of great efforts and great sacrifices. But because their first effort and their first sacrifice ought to be obedience nothing on earth will induce them to obey another. And they do not want to reconcile themselves to the thought that all their efforts and all their sacrifices are useless.
“Work must be organized. And it can be organized only by a man who knows its problems and its aims, who knows its methods; by a man who has in his time passed through such organized work himself.
“A man usually begins his studies in a small group. This group is generally connected with a whole series of similar groups on different levels which, taken together, constitute what may be called a ‘preparatory school.’
“The first and most important feature of groups is the fact that groups are not constituted according to the wish and choice of their members. Croups are constituted by the teacher, who selects types which, from the point of view of his aims, can be useful to one another.
“No work of groups is possible without a teacher. The work of groups with a wrong teacher can produce only negative results.
“The next important feature of group work is that groups may be connected with some aim of which those who are beginning work in them have no idea whatever and which cannot even be explained to them until they understand the essence and the principles of the work and the ideas connected with it. But this aim towards which without knowing it they are going, and which they are serving, is the necessary balancing principle in their own work. Their first task is to understand this aim, that is, the aim of the teacher. When they have understood this aim, although at first not fully, their own work becomes more conscious and consequently can give better results. But, as I have already said, it often happens that the aim of the teacher cannot be explained at the beginning.
“Therefore, the first aim of a man beginning work in a group should be self-study. The work of self-study can proceed only in properly organized groups. One man alone cannot see himself. But when a certain number of people unite together for this purpose they will even involuntarily help one another. It is a common characteristic of human nature that a man sees the faults of others more easily than he sees his own. At the same time on the path of self-study he learns that he himself possesses all the faults that he finds in others. But there are many things that he does not see in himself, whereas in other people he begins to see them. But, as I have just said, in this case he knows that these features are his own. Thus other members of the group serve him as mirrors in which he sees himself. But, of course, in order to see himself in other people’s faults and not merely to see the faults of others, a man must be very much on his guard against and be very sincere with himself.
“He must remember that he is not one; that one part of him is the man who wants to awaken and that the other part is ‘Ivanov,’ ‘Petrov,’ or ‘Zakharov,’ who has no desire whatever to awaken and who has to be awakened by force.
“A group is usually a pact concluded between the I’s of a certain group of people to make a common struggle against ‘Ivanov,’ ‘Petrov,’ and ‘Zakharov,’ that is, against their own ‘false personalities.’
“Let us take Petrov. Petrov consists of two parts—’I’ and ‘Petrov.’ But ‘I’ is powerless against ‘Petrov.’ ‘Petrov’ is the master. Suppose there are twenty people; twenty ‘I’s’ now begin to struggle against one ‘Petrov.’ They may now prove to be stronger than he is. At any rate they can spoil his sleep; he will no longer be able to sleep as peacefully as he did before. And this is the whole aim.
“Furthermore, in the work of self-study one man begins to accumulate material resulting from self-observation. Twenty people will have twenty times as much material. And every one of them will be able to use the whole of this material because the exchange of observations is one of the purposes of the group’s existence.
“When a group is being organized its members have certain conditions put before them; in the first place, conditions general for all members, and secondly, individual conditions for individual members.
“General conditions at the beginning of the work are usually of the following kind. First of all it is explained to all the members of a group that they must keep secret everything they hear or learn in the group and not only while they .are members of it but forever afterwards.
“This is an indispensable condition whose idea should be clear to them from the very beginning. In other words, it should be clear to them that in this there is no attempt whatever to make a secret of what is not essentially a secret, neither is there any deliberate intention to deprive them of the right to exchange views with those near to them or with their friends.
“The idea of this restriction consists in the fact that they are unable to
transmit correctly what is said in the groups. They very soon begin to learn from their own personal experience how much effort, how much time, and how much explaining is necessary in order to grasp what is said in groups. It becomes clear to them that they are unable to give their friends a right idea of what they have learned themselves. At the same time also they begin to understand that by giving their friends wrong ideas they shut them off from any possibility of approaching the work at any time or of understanding anything in connection with the work, to say nothing of the fact that in this way they are creating very many difficulties and even very much unpleasantness for themselves in the future. If a man in spite of this tries to transmit what he hears in groups to his friends he will very quickly be convinced that attempts in this direction give entirely unexpected and undesirable results. Either people begin to argue with him and without wanting to listen to him expect him to listen to their theories, or they misinterpret everything he tells them, attach an entirely different meaning to everything they hear from him. In seeing this and understanding the uselessness of such attempts a man begins to see one aspect of this restriction.
“The other and no less important side consists in the fact that it is very difficult for a man to keep silent about things that interest him. He would like to speak about them to everyone with whom he is accustomed to share his thoughts, as he calls it. This is the most mechanical of all desires and in this case silence is the most difficult abstinence of all. But if a man understands this or, at least, if he follows this rule, it will constitute for him the best exercise possible for self-remembering and for the development of will. Only a man who can be silent when it is necessary can be master of himself.
“But for many people it is very difficult to reconcile themselves to the thought that one of their chief characteristics consists in undue talkativeness, especially for people who are accustomed to regard themselves as serious or sound persons, or for those who regard themselves as silent persons who are fond of solitude and reflection. And for this reason this demand is especially important. In remembering about this and in carrying it out, a man begins to see sides of himself which he never noticed before.
“The next demand which is made of the members of a group is that they must tell the teacher of the group the .whole truth.
“This also must be clearly and properly understood. People do not realize what a big place in their lives is occupied by lying or even if only by the suppression of the truth. People are unable to be sincere either with themselves or with others. They do not even understand that to learn to be sincere when it is necessary is one of the most difficult things on earth. They imagine that to speak or not to speak the truth, to be or not to be sincere, depends upon them. Therefore they have to learn this and learn
it first of all in relation to the teacher of the work. Telling the teacher a deliberate lie, or being insincere with him, or suppressing something, makes their presence in the group completely useless and is even worse than being rude or uncivil to him or in his presence.
“The next demand made of members of a group is that they must remember why they came to the group. They came to learn and to work on themselves and to learn and to work not as they understand it themselves but as they are told to. If, therefore, once they are in the group, they begin to feel or to express mistrust towards the teacher, to criticize his actions, to find that they understand better how the group should be conducted and especially if they show lack of external considering in relation to the teacher, lack of respect for him, asperity, impatience, tendency to argument, this at once puts an end to any possibility of work, for work is possible only as long as people remember that they have come to learn and not to teach.
“If a man begins to distrust the teacher, the teacher becomes unnecessary to him and he becomes unnecessary to the teacher. And in this event it is better for him to go and look for another teacher or try to work without one. This will do him no good, but in any case it will do less harm than lying, suppression, or resistance, or mistrust of the teacher.
“In addition to these fundamental demands it is of course presumed that the members of the group must work. If they merely frequent the group and do no work but merely imagine that they are working, or if they regard as work their mere presence in the group, or, as often happens, if they look upon their presence in the group as a pastime, if they make pleasant acquaintances, and so on, then their presence in the group likewise becomes completely useless. And the sooner they are sent away or leave of their own accord the better it will be for them and for the others.
“The fundamental demands which have been enumerated provide the material for rules which are obligatory for all members of a group. In the first place rules help everyone who wants to work to avoid everything that may hinder him or do harm to his work, and secondly they help him to remember himself. “It very often happens that at the beginning of the work the members of a group do not like some or other of the rules. And they even ask: Can we not work without rules? Rules seem to them to be an unnecessary constraint on their freedom or a tiresome formality, and to be reminded about rules seems to them to be ill will or dissatisfaction on the part of the teacher.
“In reality rules are the chief and the first help that they get from the work. It stands to reason that rules do not pursue the object of affording them amusement or satisfaction or of making things more easy for them. Rules pursue a definite aim: to make them behave as they would behave ‘if they were,’ that is, if they remembered themselves and realized how
they ought to behave with regard to people outside the work, to people in the work, and to the teacher. If they remembered themselves and realized this, rules would not be necessary for them. But they are not able to remember themselves and understand this at the beginning of work, so that rules are indispensable, although rules can never be either easy, pleasant, or comfortable. On the contrary, they ought to be difficult, unpleasant, and uncomfortable; otherwise they would not answer their purpose. Rules are the alarm clocks which wake the sleeping man. But the man, opening his eyes for a second, is indignant with the alarm clock and asks: Can one not awaken without alarm clocks?
“Besides these general rules there are certain individual conditions which are given to each person separately and which are generally connected with his ‘chief fault,’ or chief feature.
“This requires some explanation.
“Every man. has a certain feature in his character which is central. It is like an axle round which all his ‘false personality’ revolves. Every man’s personal work must consist in struggling against this chief fault. This explains why there can be no general rules of work and why all systems that attempt to evolve such rules either lead to nothing or cause harm. How can there be general rules? What is useful for one is harmful for another. One man talks too much; he must learn to keep silent. Another man is silent when he ought to talk and he must learn to talk; and so it is always and in everything. General rules for the work of groups refer to everyone. Personal directions can only be individual. In this connection again a man cannot find his own chief feature, his chief fault, by himself. This is practically a law. The teacher has to point out this feature to him and show him how to fight against it. No one else but the teacher can do this.
“The study of the chief fault and the struggle against it constitute, as it were, each man’s individual path, but the aim must be the same for all. This aim is the realization of one’s nothingness. Only when a man has truly and sincerely arrived at the conviction of his own helplessness and nothingness and only when he feels it constantly, will he be ready for the next and much more difficult stages of the work.
“All that has been said up till now refers to real groups connected with real concrete work which in its turn is connected with what has been called the ‘fourth way.’ But there are many imitation ways, imitation groups, and imitation work. These are not even ‘black magic.’
“Questions have often been asked at these lectures as to what is ‘black magic’ and I have replied that there is neither red, green, nor yellow magic. There is mechanics, that is, what ‘happens,’ and there is ‘doing.’ ‘Doing’ is magic and ‘doing’ can be only of one kind. There cannot be two kinds of ‘doing.’ But there can be a falsification, an imitation of the outward appearance of ‘doing,’ which cannot give any objective results
but which can deceive naive people and produce in them faith, infatuation, enthusiasm, and even fanaticism.
“This is why in true work, that is, in true ‘doing,’ the producing of infatuation in people is not allowed. What you call black magic is based on infatuation and on playing upon human weaknesses. Black magic does not in any way mean magic of evil. I have already said earlier that no one ever does anything for the sake of evil, in the interests of evil. Everyone always does everything in the interests of good as he understands it. In the same way it is quite wrong to assert that black magic must necessarily be egoistical, that in black magic a man strives after some results for himself. This is quite wrong. Black magic may be quite altruistic, may strive after the good of humanity or after the salvation of humanity from real or imaginary evils. But what can be called black magic has always one definite characteristic. This characteristic is the tendency to use people for some, even the best of aims, without their knowledge and understanding, either by producing in them faith and infatuation or by acting upon them through fear.
“But it must be remembered in this connection that a ‘black magician,’ whether good or evil, has at all events been at a school. He has learned something, has heard something, knows something. He is simply a ‘half-educated man’ who has either been turned out of a school or who has himself left a school having decided that he already knows enough, that he does not want to be in subordination any longer, and that he can work independently and even direct the work of others. All ‘work’ of this kind can produce only subjective results, that is to say, it can only increase deception and increase sleep instead of decreasing them. Nevertheless something can be learned from a ‘black magician’ although in the wrong way. He can sometimes by accident even tell the truth. That is why I say that there are many things worse than ‘black magic.’ Such are various ‘occult’ and theosophical societies and groups. Not only have their teachers never been at a school but they have never even met anyone who has been near a school. Their work simply consists in aping. But imitation work of this kind gives a great deal of self-satisfaction. One man feels himself to be a ‘teacher,’ others feel that they are ‘pupils,’ and everyone is satisfied. No realization of one’s nothingness can be got here and if people affirm that they have it, it is all illusion and self-deception, if not plain deceit. On the contrary, instead of realizing their own nothingness the members of such circles acquire a realization of their own importance and a growth of false personality.
“At first it is very difficult to verify whether the work is right or wrong, whether the directions received are correct or incorrect. The theoretical part of the work may prove useful in this respect, because a man can judge more easily from this aspect of it. He knows what he knows and what he does not know. He knows what can be learned by ordinary means
and what cannot. And if he learns something new, something that cannot be learned in the ordinary way from books and so on, this, to a certain extent, is a guarantee that the other, the practical side, may also be right. But this of course is far from being a full guarantee because here also mistakes are possible. All occult and spiritualistic societies and circles assert that they possess a new knowledge. And there are people who believe it.
“In properly organized groups no faith is required; what is required is simply a little trust and even that only for a little while, for the sooner a man begins to verify all he hears the better it is for him.
“The struggle against the ‘false I,’ against one’s chief feature or chief fault, is the most important part of the work, and it must proceed in deeds, not in words. For this purpose the teacher gives each man definite tasks which require, in order to carry them out, the conquest of his chief feature. When a man carries out these tasks he struggles with himself, works on himself. If he avoids the tasks, tries not to carry them out, it means that either he does not want to or that he cannot work.
“As a rule only very easy tasks are given at the beginning which the teacher does not even call tasks, and he does not say much about them but gives them in the form of hints. If he sees that he is understood and that the tasks are carried out he passes on to more and more difficult ones.
“More difficult tasks, although they are only subjectively difficult, are called ‘barriers.’ The peculiarity of barriers consists in the fact that, having surmounted a serious barrier, a man can no longer return to ordinary sleep, to ordinary life. And if, having passed the first barrier, he feels afraid of those that follow and does not go on, he stops so to speak between two barriers and is unable to move either backwards or forwards. This is the worst thing that can happen to a man. Therefore the teacher is usually very careful in the choice of tasks and barriers, in other words, he takes the risk of giving definite tasks requiring the conquest of inner barriers only to those people who have already shown themselves sufficiently strong on small barriers.
“It often happens that, having stopped before some barrier, usually the smallest and the most simple, people turn against the work, against the teacher, and against other members of the group, and accuse them of the very thing that is becoming revealed to them in themselves.
“Sometimes they repent later and blame themselves, then they again blame others, then they repent once more, and so on. But there is nothing that shows up a man better than his attitude towards the work and the teacher after he has left it. Sometimes such tests are arranged intentionally. A man is placed in such a position that he is obliged to leave and he is fully justified in having a grievance either against the teacher or against some other person. And then he is watched to see how he will behave. A decent man will behave decently even if he thinks that he has been
treated unjustly or wrongly. But many people in such circumstances show a side of their nature which otherwise they would never show. And at times it is a necessary means for exposing a man’s nature. So long as you are good to a man he is good to you. But what will he be like if you scratch him a little?
“But this is not the chief thing; the chief thing is his own personal attitude, his own valuation of the ideas which he receives or has received, and his keeping or losing this valuation. A man may think for a long time and quite sincerely that he wants to work and even make great efforts, and then he may throw up everything and even definitely go against the work; justify himself, invent various fabrications, deliberately ascribe a wrong meaning to what he has heard, and so on.”
“What happens to them for this?” asked one of the audience.
“Nothing—what could happen to them?” said G. “They are their own punishment. And what punishment could be worse?
“It is impossible to describe in full the way work in a group is conducted,” continued G. “One must go through it. All that has been said up to now are only hints, the true meaning of which will only be revealed to those who go on with the work and learn from experience what ‘barriers’ mean and what difficulties they represent.
“Speaking in general the most difficult barrier is the conquest of lying. A man lies so much and so constantly both to himself and to others that he ceases to notice it. Nevertheless lying must be conquered. And the first effort required of a man is to conquer lying in relation to the teacher. A man must either decide at once to tell him nothing but the truth, or at once give up the whole thing.
“You must realize that the teacher takes a very difficult task upon himself, the cleaning and the repair of human machines. Of course he accepts only those machines that are within his power to mend. If something essential is broken or put out of order in the machine, then he refuses to take it. But even such machines, which by their nature could still be cleaned, become quite hopeless if they begin to tell lies. A lie to the teacher, even the most insignificant, concealment of any kind such as the concealment of something another has asked to be kept secret, or of something the man himself has said to another, at once puts an end to the work of that man, especially if he has previously made any efforts.
“Here is something you must bear in mind. Every effort a man makes increases the demands made upon him. So long as a man has not made any serious efforts the demands made upon him are very small, but his efforts immediately increase the demands made upon him. And the greater the efforts that are made, the greater the new demands.