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BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF

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Chapter 26

MR. GURDJIEFF'S RELATIONSHIP with me, although it continued in a surface sense to be the same, had undergone a definite change which I felt had begun with the previous Christmas. I continued to clean his rooms, bring him coffee, and do his errands, but the easy, affectionate feeling that had existed between us -- almost like that of a father and son -- seemed to be disappearing; it was as if he had set out to create a certain distance and reserve between us.

When he had talked to me before, whatever the subject of our conversations, he had often referred to the fact that I was still a child and that much of what he was saying was something that I could not, at the time, understand. But with the change, while he still talked to me frequently, his tone was more serious and he no longer referred to me as a boy. I felt that he was beginning to expect me to fend for myself, to use my own mind -- that he was, in fact, urging me to grow up.

He often discussed human relations in general, the specific roles of male and female, and human destiny; as often as not these discussions were not directed to me exclusively, but to a group of which I was a member. He took pains to make it clear to us that whenever he addressed anyone on any subject in the hearing of others, it would or could be beneficial for everyone present to listen to what he was saying. Many of us had the feeling that when he addressed one individual he was often talking not so much to that person as to anyone in the group who might feel that the conversation was applicable to himself. We sometimes had the feeling that he was talking to a particular person through someone else; as if purposely not addressing one individual directly.

He came back to the theme of good and evil, active and passive, positive and negative, very frequently. I had been impressed with what he had said about Mme. Schernvall and himself in this regard when he had told me about the recovery of the earrings; it seemed to me to be a continuation of a theme on which he had spoken recurrently: the two-sided nature of man and the need to acquire or create a reconciling force. This force, in an exterior sense, had to be created in human relations between individuals; in an "interior" sense, it had to be acquired or created within an individual as part of his own development and growth.

One of the most important things about Gurdjieff's pronouncements, talks, lectures, or discursions (everyone had his own name for them), was the enormous sway he had over his listeners. His gestures, his manner of expressing himself, the incredible range of tone and dynamics in his voice, and his use of emotion, all seemed calculated to spell-bind his auditors ; perhaps to mesmerize them to such an extent that they were unable to argue with him at the time. Unquestionably, however many questions might come to a listener's mind when Gurdjieff had finished speaking, a deep and lasting impression had always been made before such questions arose. Not only did we not forget what he said to us, it was usually impossible to forget what he had said, even if one wished to forget it.

Shortly after the earring episode with Mme. Schernvall, he brought up once again the question of men and women, their roles in life, and, as an additional element, the specific roles of the sexes in his work or, for that matter, in any religious or psychological work which had self-development and proper growth as an aim. I was surprised and puzzled then, and many times later when he spoke on the subject, by his reiteration of the fact that not only was his work "not for everyone" but that "women did not need it." He said that the nature of women was such that "self development" in his sense of the phrase was something that they could not achieve. Among other things, he said: "Nature of woman is very different from that of man. Woman is from ground, and only hope for her to arise to another stage of development -- to go to Heaven as you say -- is with man. Woman already know everything, but such knowledge is of no use to her, in fact can almost be like poison to her, unless have man with her. Man have one thing that not exist in woman ever: what you call 'aspiration'. In life, man use this thing -- this aspiration -- for many things, all wrong for his life, but must use because have such need. Man -- not woman -- climb mountains, go under oceans, fly in air, because must do such thing. Impossible for him not to do; cannot resist this. Look at life around you: Man write music, man paint pictures, write books, all such things. Is way, he think, find Heaven for self."

When someone did object that the sciences and the arts were not, after all, exclusively confined to the world of the male, Gurdjieff laughed: "You ask question about woman artist, woman scientist. I tell you world all mixed up, and this true thing I say. True man and true woman not just one sex -- not just male or female. True human is combination of these things: active and passive, male and female. Even you," he made a sweeping gesture covering all of us, "sometimes understand this because sometimes you surprised when you see man who feel thing like woman, or woman who act like man; or even when in self feel feelings proper to opposite sex.

"We all live in what we call universe, but this only very small solar system, smallest of many, many solar systems -- even very unimportant place. For instance, in this solar system, people bi-sexual: necessary have two sexes for reproduction of kind -- primitive method, which use part of man's aspiration for creation of more people. Man who can learn how to achieve higher self -- how go to proper Heaven -- can use all this aspiration for development of self, for what you call immortality. In world as now exist, no man able do this: only possibility for immortality is reproduction. When man have children, then all of him not die when his body die.

"Not necessary for woman do work of man in world. If woman can find real man, then woman become real woman without necessity work. But, like I tell, world mixed up. Today in world real man not exist, so woman even try to become man, do man's work which is wrong for her nature."

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