Essence and Personality (1)

At my father’s funeral, amid my grief, I felt a quiet but persistent fundamental question arise in me: what or who am I? What have I inherited from my father, from my mother, my grandparents?

‘Know thyself!’ is the call from many traditions throughout the ages. I do have an inner question; a search. I do want to know myself. And I’ve had this question since I was a teenager. Other people have this or other serious inner questions, but perhaps struggle to put them into words. Words can be tricky.

In the Gurdjieff Work, there is a unique distinction made between essence and personality.

Essence, it is said, is what was mine when I was born – the essential me. Sitting in silence, at a funeral, I feel the question inside me: what is life all about? Stripped away from the usual hubbub of life – vulnerable with grief – what is the real me? What is the ‘I am’? I feel this question – it is not just a half-thought in my head – it is in me.

Personality, it is said, consists of traits overlaying essence, from my background, culture, education or experience and other influences. The chatter, the going-on-with life, the keeping busy – this is the personality. But as the Verve in their Bittersweet Symphony so clearly put it:

” … I’m a million different people from one day to the next …”

Personality can change more often than the British weather.

So who am I?

If this a serious question for you, then you’re very welcome to join our next Café Gurdjieff meeting at 11am on 28 May in Central London.

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