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

Food for the Moon?

Saturday, April 23, 2016
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
The British Library, First Floor Café

My father, when I was growing up, sometimes used to say “these people are food for the moon” when, for example, we were watching TV showing some ‘cheap’ programme with mindless chatter and ‘trivial acting’ or behaviour.

The expression ‘food for the moon’ shocked me then as it does now. It challenges the commonly held view that we humans are the centre of everything – anthropocentric (Greek ἄνθρωπος, ánthrōpos, “human being”; and κέντρον, kéntron, “centre”). It introduces the idea of humans being connected with planets.

As the native American Chief Seattle said ‘The Earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the Earth. This we know…’

But what about things we don’t know?

What is the connection between man, the Earth, the Moon and other planets?

What is our role in the Cosmos?

Are we just food for the moon?

It seems obvious to me, instinctively I feel that man is connected with nature, the earth and the planets: ‘Everything is connected’.

At the same time, it disturbs me because it implies that we, as humans, are powerless in front of the forces of ‘great nature’. How does the moon influence me?