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BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF

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Chapter 33

My AWAKENING RESISTANCE to what I thought of as the "trap" I wag in had little to do with Gurdjieff or the Prieure itself. I was convinced that had I been a free agent (which, of course, at least implied adulthood) and had told Gurdjieff that I wanted to leave his school, he would have told me to leave at once. With the sole exception of Rachmilevitch, Gurdjieff had never asked -- or tried to persuade -- anyone to stay at the Prieure. On the contrary, he sent a great many people away even when they would have given a great deal for the privilege of staying. Rachmilevitch's case was hardly in point, in any event, since he was paid to be there, according to Mr. Gurdjieff, and even he had only been "asked" to stay. For these reasons, I did not think of Mr. Gurdjieff as an obstacle.

The real obstacle, in my mind, was Jane; and since she was rarely at the Prieure and then only for a day or two at a time, I tended to look upon Tom as her tangible representative. The experience of Christmas with my mother, and our different attitudes and feelings about it, had widened the existing gap of disagreement between Tom and myself. Either Gurdjieff or Jane had arranged for the two of us to share a room at the Prieure that winter, and this new arrangement, of course, was not conducive to increased harmony.

During the years in which we had grown up together, Tom and I had both become accustomed to the use of different weapons. We were both impulsive and impatient, but we expressed ourselves in different ways. When we would quarrel with one another, our disagreements would always take the same form: Tom would lose his temper and would begin fighting -- he had a great admiration for boxing and wrestling -- and I would scorn fighting and confine myself to sarcasm and invective. Now, confined in the same room, it was as if we suddenly found ourselves in the strange position of having had our weapons changed for us. One night when he persisted in his general defence of Jane and his criticism of me, I at last managed to goad him into hitting out at me, and, for the first time in my life, once he had hit me -- it was, I remember, important that he should strike the first blow -- I hit him with all my strength and with the added force that seemed to have been building up inside me for some time. The blow was not only a hard one, it was completely unexpected, and Tom crashed to the tile floor of our bedroom. I was terrified when I heard his head hit the floor and then saw that he was bleeding -- from the back of his head. He did not move immediately, but when he did get up and seemed to be, at least, alive, I took advantage of my superior position of the moment and told him that if he ever argued with me again I would kill him. My anger was genuine, and I meant -- emotionally -- what I was saying. The momentary fear I had experienced when he hit the floor had disappeared as soon as he had moved and I had felt immediately self-confident and very strong -- as if I had liberated myself, once and for all, from physical fear.

We were separated a few days later and no longer lived in the same room, which I found a great relief. But even this was not the end of it. It had also, apparently, been brought to Mr. Gurdjieff's attention, and he spoke to me about it. He told me, seriously, that I was stronger than Tom -- whether I knew it or not -- and that the strong should not attack the weak; also that I should "honour my brother" in the same sense that I honoured my parents. Since I was, at that time, still sensitive about my mother's visit, and about Tom's, Jane's, and even Gurdjieff's attitudes about it, I answered angrily that I was not the one who needed advice about honouring anyone. He then said that the position was not the same -- Tom was my older brother, which made a difference. I said that the fact of his being older did not make any difference to me. Gurdjieff then told me, angrily, that I should listen, for my own benefit, to what he was saying to me and that I was "sinning against my God" when I refused to listen. His anger only increased my own feeling of anger and I said that even if I was at his school, I did not think of him as my "God", and that whoever he was he was not necessarily always right about everything.

He looked at me coldly, and finally said quite calmly that I had misunderstood him if I thought that he was representing himself as a "God" of any sort -- "you still sin against your God when you not listen to what I say" -- and that since I would not listen to him, there was no point in talking to me any further about it.

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