by G I Gurdjieff
I said last time that immortality is not a property with which a man is born. But man can acquire immortality. All existing and generally known ways to immortality can be divided into three categories:
1. The way of the fakir.
2. The way of the monk.
3. The way of the yogi.
The way of the fakir is the way of struggle with the physical body, the way of work on the first room. This is a long, difficult, and uncertain way. The fakir strives to develop physical will, power over the body. This is attained by means of terrible sufferings, by torturing the body. The whole way of the fakir consists of various incredibly difficult physical exercises. The fakir either stands motionless in the same position for hours, days, months, or years; or sits with outstretched arms on a bare stone in sun, rain, and snow; or tortures himself with fire, puts his legs into an ant-heap, and so on. If he does not fall ill and die before physical will is developed in him, then he attains the fourth room or the possibility of forming the fourth body. But his other functions emotional, intellectual, and so forth remain undeveloped. He has acquired will but he has nothing to which he can apply it; he cannot make use of it for gaining knowledge or for self-perfection. And, as a rule, he is too old to begin new work.
But where there are schools of fakirs there are also schools of yogis. Yogis generally keep an eye on fakirs. If a fakir attains what he has aspired to before he is too old, they take him to a yogi school where they heal him, restore his power of movement, and then begin to teach him. A fakir has to learn to walk and to speak like a baby. But he now possesses a will which has already overcome incredible difficulties on his way and this will can help him to overcome the difficulties on the second part of the way the difficulties, namely, of developing the intellectual and emotional functions.
You cannot imagine what hardships fakirs undergo. I do not know whether you have seen real fakirs or not. I have seen many. For instance, I saw one in the inner court of a temple in India and I even slept near him. Day and night for twenty years, he had been standing on the tips of his fingers and toes. He was no longer able to straighten himself. His pupils carried him from one place to another; they took him to the river and washed him like some inanimate object. But this was not attained all at once. Think what he had to overcome, what tortures he must have suffered, in order to get to that stage.
A man becomes a fakir not because he understands the possibilities and the results of this way, and not because of religious feeling. In all Eastern countries where fakirs exist, there is a custom among the common people of promising to give to fakirs a child born after some happy event. Besides this, fakirs often adopt orphans, or simply buy little children from poor parents. These children become their pupils and imitate them, or are made to imitate them some only outwardly, but some afterwards become fakirs themselves.
In addition to these, other people become fakirs simply from being struck by some fakir they have seen. Near every fakir in the temples, people can be seen who imitate him, who sit or stand in the same posture not for long, of course, but still occasionally for several hours. And sometimes it happens that a man who went into the temple accidentally on a feast day, and began to imitate some fakir who particularly struck him, does not return home any more but joins the crowd of that fakir's disciples and later, in the course of time, becomes a fakir himself.
You must understand that I take the word 'fakir' in quotation marks. In Persia fakir simply means a beggar; and in India a great many jugglers call themselves fakirs. And Europeans, particularly learned Europeans, very often give the name of fakir to yogis, as well as to monks of various wandering orders.
But in reality the way of the fakir, the way of the monk, and the way of the yogi are entirely different. So far I have spoken of fakirs. This is the first way.
The second way is the way of the monk. This is the way of faith, the way of religious feeling, religious sacrifice. Only a man with very strong religious emotions and a very strong religious imagination can become a 'monk' in the true sense of the word. The way of the monk also is very long and hard. A monk spends years and tens of years struggling with himself, but all his work is concentrated on the second room, on the second body, that is, on feelings. Subjecting all his other emotions to one emotion, that is, to faith, he develops unity in himself, will over the emotions, and in this way reaches the fourth room.
But his physical body and his thinking capacities remain undeveloped. In order to be able to make use of what he has attained, he must develop his body and his capacity to think. This can be achieved only by means of fresh sacrifices, fresh hardships, fresh renunciations. A monk has to become a yogi and a fakir. Very few get as far as this; even fewer overcome all difficulties. Most of them either die before this or become monks in outward appearance only.
The third way is the way of the yogi. This is the way of knowledge, the way of mind. The way of the yogi consists in working on the third room and in striving to enter the fourth room by means of knowledge.
The yogi reaches the fourth room by developing his mind; but his body and emotions remain undeveloped and, like the fakir and the monk, he is unable to make use of his attainment. He knows everything but can do nothing. In order to begin to do he must gain the mastery over his body and emotions, that is, over the first and second rooms. To do this he must again set to work and again obtain results by means of prolonged efforts. In this case, however, he has the advantage of understanding his position, of knowing what he lacks, what he must do, and in what direction he must go.
But, as on the way of the fakir or the monk, very few on the way of the yogi acquire this understanding, that is, that level in his work on which a man knows where he is going. A great many stop at one particular achievement and go no further.
The ways also differ from each other by their relation to the teacher or leader.
On the way of the fakir a man has no teacher in the true sense of the word. The teacher in this case does not teach but simply serves as an example. The pupil's work consists in imitating the teacher.
On the way of the monk a man has a teacher, and a part of his duty, a part of his work, consists in having absolute faith in the teacher in submitting to him absolutely, in obedience. But the chief thing on the way of the monk is faith in God, in the love of God, in constant efforts to obey and serve God although, in his understanding of the idea of God and of serving God, there may be much that is subjective and contradictory.
On the way of the yogi a man can do nothing, and must do nothing, without a teacher. In the beginning he must imitate his teacher like the fakir and believe in him like the monk. But, afterwards, a man on the way of the yogi gradually becomes his own teacher. He learns his teacher's methods and gradually learns to apply them to himself.
But all the ways, the way of the fakir as well as the way of the monk and the way of the yogi, have one thing in common. They all begin with the most difficult thing, with a complete change of life, with a renunciation of all worldly things. A man must give up his home, and his family if he has one. He must renounce all the pleasures, attachments, and duties of life, and go out into the desert or into a monastery or a yogi school. From the very first day, from the very first step on his way, he must die to the world; only thus can he hope to attain anything on one of these ways.
In order to grasp the essence of this teaching it is necessary clearly to understand the idea that the ways are the only possible methods for the development of man's hidden possibilities. This in turn shows how difficult and rare such development is.
The development of these possibilities is not a law. The law for man is existence in the circle of mechanical influences, the state of 'man-machine'. The way of the development of hidden possibilities is a way against nature. This explains the difficulties and the exclusiveness of the ways. The ways are narrow and strait. But at the same time only by them can anything be attained.
In the general mass of everyday life, especially modern life, the ways are a small, quite imperceptible, phenomenon which, from the point of view of life, need not exist at all. But this small phenomenon contains in itself all that man has for the development of his hidden possibilities. The ways are opposed to everyday life, based upon other principles and subject to other laws. In this consists their power and their significance. In everyday life, even in a life filled with scientific, philosophical, religious, or social interests, there is nothing, and there can be nothing, which could give the possibilities which are contained in the ways. The ways lead, or should lead, man to immortality. Everyday life, even at its best, leads man to death and can lead to nothing else. The idea of the ways cannot be understood if the possibility of man's evolution without their help is admitted.
As a rule it is hard for man to reconcile himself to this thought: it seems to him exaggerated, unjust, and absurd. He has a poor understanding of the meaning of the word 'possibility'. He fancies that if he has any possibilities in himself they must be developed and that there must be means for their development. From a total refusal to acknowledge in himself any possibilities whatever, man generally proceeds forthwith to demand the imperative and inevitable development of these possibilities. It is difficult for him to accept on the one hand the thought that his possibilities may remain altogether undeveloped and disappear; and on the other hand that their development requires of him tremendous effort and endurance. As a matter of fact, if we take all the people who are neither fakirs, monks, nor yogis, and of whom we may say with confidence that they never will be either fakirs, monks, or yogis, then we may say with undoubted certainty that their possibilities cannot be developed and will not be developed. This must be clearly understood in order to grasp all that follows.
In the ordinary conditions of cultured life the position of a man even of an intelligent man who is seeking for knowledge is hopeless. In the circumstances surrounding him, there is nothing resembling either fakir or yogi schools, while the religions of the West have degenerated to such an extent that for a long time there has been nothing alive in them. Various occult and mystical societies and naďve experiments in the nature of spiritualism, and so on, can give no results whatever.
The position would indeed be hopeless if the possibility of yet a fourth way did not exist.
The fourth way requires no retirement into the desert and does not require a man to give up and renounce everything by which he formerly lived. The fourth way begins much further on than the way of the yogi.
This means that a man must be prepared for the fourth way and this preparation must be acquired in ordinary life and be a very serious one, embracing many different sides. Furthermore, a man must be living in conditions favourable for work in the fourth way or, in any case, in conditions which do not render it impossible.
It must be understood that both in the inner and in the external life of a man, there may be conditions which create insuperable barriers to the fourth way. Furthermore, the fourth way has no definite forms like the ways of the fakir, the monk, and the yogi. And, first of all, it has to be found. This is the first test. It is not as well known as the three traditional ways. There are many people who have never heard of the fourth way and there are others who deny its existence or possibility.
At the same time the beginning of the fourth way is easier than the beginning of the ways of the fakir, the monk, and the yogi. On the fourth way it is possible to work and to follow this way while remaining in the usual conditions of life, continuing to do the usual work, preserving former relations with people, and without renouncing or giving up anything. On the contrary, the conditions of life in which a man is placed at the beginning of his work in which, so to speak, the work finds him are the best possible for him, at any rate at the beginning of the work. These conditions are natural for him. These conditions are the man himself, because a man's life and its conditions correspond to what he is. Any conditions different from those created by life would be artificial for a man and in such artificial conditions the work would not be able to touch every side of his being at once.
Thanks to this, the fourth way affects simultaneously every side of man's being. It is work on the three rooms at once. The fakir works on the first room, the monk on the second, the yogi on the third. In reaching the fourth room the fakir, the monk, and the yogi leave behind them many things unfinished, and they cannot make use of what they have attained because they are not masters of all their functions. The fakir is master of his body but not of his emotions or his mind; the monk is master of his emotions but not of his body or his mind; the yogi is master of his mind but not of his body or his emotions.
Then the fourth way differs from the other ways in that the principal demand made upon a man is the demand for understanding. A man must do nothing that he does not understand, except as an experiment under the supervision and direction of his teacher. The more a man understands what he is doing, the greater will be the results of his efforts. This is a fundamental principle of the fourth way. The results of work are in proportion to the consciousness of the work. No 'faith' is required on the fourth way; on the contrary, faith of any kind is opposed to the fourth way. On the fourth way a man must satisfy himself of the truth of what he is told. And until he is satisfied he must do nothing.
The method of the fourth way consists in doing something in one room and simultaneously doing something corresponding to it in the other two rooms that is to say, while working on the physical body to work simultaneously on the mind and the emotions; while working on the mind to work with the physical body and the emotions; while working on the emotions to work on the mind and the physical body. This can be achieved thanks to the fact that on the fourth way it is possible to make use of certain knowledge inaccessible to the ways of the fakir, the monk, and the yogi. This knowledge makes it possible to work in three directions simultaneously. A whole parallel series of physical, mental, and emotional exercises serves this purpose. In addition, on the fourth way it is possible to individualise the work of each separate person, that is to say, each person can do only what is necessary and not what is useless for him. This is due to the fact that the fourth way dispenses with a great deal of what is superfluous and is preserved in the other ways simply through tradition.
When a man attains will on the fourth way, he can make use of it because he has acquired control of all his bodily, emotional, and intellectual functions. And besides, he has saved a great deal of time by working on the three sides of his being in parallel and simultaneously.
The fourth way is sometimes called 'the way of the sly man'. The 'sly man' knows some secret which the fakir, monk, and yogi do not know. How the 'sly man' learned this secret is not known. Perhaps he found it in some old books; perhaps he inherited it; perhaps he bought it; perhaps he stole it from someone. It makes no difference. The 'sly man' knows the secret and, with its help, outstrips the fakir, the monk, and the yogi.
Of the four, the fakir acts in the crudest manner; he knows very little and understands very little. Let us suppose that by a whole month of intense torture he develops in himself a certain energy, a certain substance which produces certain changes in him. He does it absolutely blindly, with his eyes shut, knowing neither aim, methods, nor results, simply in imitation of others.
The monk knows what he wants a little better; he is guided by religious feeling, by religious tradition, by a desire for achievement, for salvation; he trusts his teacher who tells him what to do, and he believes that his efforts and sacrifices are 'pleasing to God'. Let us suppose that a week of fasting, continual prayer, privations, and so on, enable him to attain what the fakir develops in himself by a month of self-torture.
The yogi knows considerably more. He knows what he wants, he knows why he wants it, he knows how it can be acquired. He knows, for instance, that it is necessary for his purpose to produce a certain substance in himself. He knows that this substance can be produced in one day by a certain kind of mental exercises or concentration of consciousness. So he keeps his attention on these exercises for a whole day without allowing himself a single outside thought, and he obtains what he needs. In this way a yogi spends on the same thing only one day compared with a week spent by the monk and a month spent by the fakir.
But on the fourth way knowledge is still more exact and perfect. A man who follows the fourth way knows quite definitely what substances he needs for his aims and he knows that these substances can be produced within the body by a month of physical suffering, by a week of emotional strain, or by a day of mental exercises and also, that they can be introduced into the organism from without if it is known how to do it. And so, instead of spending a whole day in exercises like the yogi, a week in prayer like the monk, or a month in self-torture like the fakir, he simply prepares and swallows a little pill which contains all the substances he wants and, in this way, without loss of time, he obtains the required results.
It must be noted further that in addition to these proper and legitimate ways, there are artificial ways which give temporary results only, and wrong ways which may even give permanent results, only wrong results. On these ways a man seeks the key to the fourth room and sometimes finds it. But what he finds in the fourth room is not yet known. It also sometimes happens that the door to the fourth room is opened artificially with a skeleton key. In both these cases, the room may prove to be empty.
It is, of course, hard for a man of Western culture to accept the idea that an ignorant fakir, a naive monk, or a yogi who has retired from life may be on the way to evolution while an educated European, armed with 'exact knowledge' and all the latest methods of investigation, is moving in a circle from which there is no escape.
That is only because people believe in progress and culture. There is no progress whatever. Everything is just the same as it was thousands, and tens of thousands, of years ago. The outward form changes. The essence does not change. Man remains just the same. 'Civilised' and 'cultured' people live with exactly the same interests as the most ignorant savages. Modern civilisation is based on violence and slavery and fine words. But all these fine words about 'progress' and 'civilisation' are merely words.