Excerpt from G.I. Gurdjieff Views from the Real World
PRIEURE, MAY 24, 1923
There are two kinds of love: one, the love of a slave; the other, which must be acquired by work. The first has no value at all; only the second has value, that is, love acquired through work. This is the love about which all religions speak.
If you love when “it” loves, it does not depend on you and so has no merit. It is what we call the love of a slave. You love even when you should not love. Circumstances make you love mechanically.
Real love is Christian, religious love; with that love no one is born. For this love you must work. Some know it from childhood, others only in old age. If somebody has real love, he acquired it during his life. But it is very difficult to learn. And it is impossible to begin learning directly, on people. Every man touches another on the raw, makes you put on brakes and gives you very little chance to try.
Love may be of different kinds. To understand what kind of love we are speaking about, it is necessary to define it.
Now we are speaking about love for life. Wherever there is life—beginning with plants (for they too have life), animals, in a word wherever life exists, there is love. Each life is a representative of God. Whoever can see the representative will see Him who is represented. Every life is sensitive to love. Even
inanimate things such as flowers, which have no consciousness, understand whether you love them or not. Even unconscious life reacts in a corresponding way to each man, and responds to him according to his reactions.
As you sow, so you reap, and not only in the sense that if you sow wheat you will get wheat. The question is how you sow. It can literally turn to straw. On the same ground, different people can sow the same seeds and the results will be different. But these are only seeds. Man is certainly more sensitive to what is sown in him than a seed. Animals are also very sensitive, although less so than man. For instance, X. was sent to look after the animals. Many became ill and died, the hens laid fewer eggs, and so on. Even a cow will give less milk if you do not love her. The difference is quite startling.
Man is more sensitive than a cow, but unconsciously. And so if you feel antipathy or hate another person, it is only because somebody has sown something bad in you. Whoever wishes to learn to love his neighbor must begin by trying to love plants and animals. Whoever does not love life does not love God. To begin straightaway by trying to love a man is impossible, because the other man is like you, and he will hit back at you. But an animal is mute and will sadly resign itself. That is why it is easier to start practicing on animals.
It is very important for a man who works on himself to understand that change can take place in him only if he changes his attitude to the outside world. In general you don’t know what must be loved and what must not be loved, because all that is relative. With you, one and the same thing is loved and
not loved; but there are objective things which we must love or must not love. Therefore it is more productive and practical to forget about what you call good and bad and begin to act only when you have learned to choose for yourself.
Now if you want to work on yourself, you must work out in yourself different kinds of attitudes. Except with big and more clear-cut things which are undeniably bad, you have to exercise yourselves in this way: if you like a rose, try to dislike it; if you dislike it, try to like it. It is best to begin with the world of plants; try from tomorrow to look at plants in a way you have not looked before. Every man is attracted toward certain plants, and not by others. Perhaps we have not noticed that till now. First you have to look, then put another in its place and then notice and try to understand why this attraction or aversion is there. I am sure that everyone feels something or senses something. It is a process which takes place in the subconscious, and the mind does not see it, but if you begin to look consciously, you will see many things, you will discover many Americas. Plants, like man, have relations between themselves, and relations exist also between plants and men, but they change from time to time. All living things are tied one to an- other. This includes everything that lives. All things depend on each Other.
Plants act on a man’s moods and the mood of a man acts on the mood of a plant. As long as we live we shall make experiments. Even living flowers in a pot will live or die according to the mood.