Essence and Personality (2)

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Continuing with the theme of “Know thyself!”, in our next event we would like to explore a crucial aspect of Gurdjieff’s teaching, which is that in us our essence and our personality are two different – though related – entities . This fact, if true, changes everything we think we know about ourselves, everything  we think we know about psychology and everything we think we know about our possibility for a spiritual evolution.

“Essence in man is what is his own. Personality in man is what is ‘not his own’. ‘Not his own’ means what has come from outside, what he has learned, or reflects, all traces of exterior impressions left in the memory and in the sensations, all words and movements that have been learned, all feelings created by imitation—all this is ‘not his own,’ all this is personality.”

G I Gurdjieff

In most people living in civilised society, essence remains undeveloped. In one fascinating experiment with two members of his St Petersburg Group in 1916. Gurdjieff temporarily “put to sleep” their personalities so that their essence could interact with the other people. One of the two, known for playing the fool and for failing to see the wood for the trees, became quite serious and direct. The second of the experimentees, a man quite opinionated with much to say on all sorts of topics, became suddenly taciturn. When asked to say what he would like, he could only respond, “I think I should like some raspberry jam.”

If one can have a good, successful life with one’s centre of gravity in personality, what does it matter about essence?

“A man’s real I, his individuality, can grow only from his essence. It can be said that a man’s individuality is his essence, grown up, mature. But in order to enable essence to grow up, it is first of all necessary to weaken the constant pressure of personality upon it, because the obstacles to the growth of essence are contained in personality.”

G I Gurdjieff

Once this distinction is appreciated, even though not yet understood from one’s own experience, much else begins to make sense.

Then legitimate questions arise.

“How to connect with essence?”

“How is essence fed?”

Join our next Café Gurdjieff meeting at 11am on 28 May in Central London.

Details from enquiries@gurdjieff.org.uk

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