Question from a reader.
You must educate your body with your head, consciously. It is very simple. Never allow it to do what it wants. You make it do everything contrary to that which it loves. It likes sugar; you do not give it any. One must inure it to struggle, you are always right when you resist your body. It is simple. Everything contrary; it is, so that God created your body and your intellect. It is a very simple thing. For this it is not necessary to read. The program is very simple. Under all conditions, in all political situations, man must educate his body to be submissive to him. Your personality can educate your body. He in which the body is strong and has the initiative over him, this one is null.
So man must resist the yearnings of the body. Is this what's meant by physical temptations?
... Can you tell me if I'm missing something vital on the question of will?
Well, this may be what Gurdjieff said.
But the advice is suspicious. After all, he did a lot of things the body likes. For example, he smoked tobacco. (This is entirely unnecessary for an individual in which certain faculties of the air octave are properly developed.) So he talked a big game; but I would challenge him on many things, because we are not supposed to take everything he says for granted anyway. He himself told us not to; and sometimes he told people nonsense just to see if they were smart enough to resist him.
Nowadays, people eagerly swallow even the nonsense. Remember, just because a spoon is silver does not mean it can't have shit served in it.
In my opinion, bullying the body around in this manner is just stupid. My own teacher never ever gave advice like this—if anything, she gave the opposite—, and if I were you, I would be quite careful before I accepted it.
Better to form a friendly relationship with the body and make it your assistant. The poor thing is mortal anyway; it is going to die; do you want to just condemn it to death after a lifetime of punishment? It isn't a criminal, after all. Stop treating it that way, I would say.
It's the same as people who would make a crime out of masturbation. This obsession with believing that the body is our downfall is nonsensical; it is our soul that causes problems, not the body, and cruelty is no way to respond to a gift God gave us which has its own sense and its own rights. You might as well beat your dog to make it obey. Well, some people like beating dogs—both their own dogs and other people's.
There are times when one has to go against the body; but the body has all the power, an enormous amount of power, and one is not going to win every argument with it. One has to pick one's battles, make demands of it, but also use it as an ally and a friend.
That's my opinion. Some other person might tell you something else. But I'm not posing as a teacher. I'm just a human being sharing my own observations about my work with you.
More on this. Question:
Do you ever think in terms of "duty" or "purpose" when doing work/trying to get closer to God?
No. One has to live these things as organic emanations from one's inner Being, not think about them.
When Gurdjieff said not to do things the body wants, what he basically meant, I feel, is that you should always put yourself under terrific personal demands and work very hard. This often applies to the inner attitude to ordinary outer work.
For example, let's say I am working on a project. I want to stop and drink some water or eat food. But I never do, I push and push myself to get the project done, and I deny myself any comforts till it is finished. I make this my ordinary way of working; maybe I even work this way all the time out of sheer instinct, because the work must be served first. Later, I can have a reward.
There ought to be an enormous amount of work, and very few rewards, and eventually I need to see that the work and the effort themselves are the reward—and the things that come after are just to be nice to my body.
It doesn't mean I punish myself. It just means that I push myself very hard to be everything I can, to fulfill every duty, to always be responsible — and I do all of that because I love it; because it is right, not because I expect recognition, or want the results, or people expect it, or anything else. It is wanting it because it is right and loving it because it is right that's important.
In other words, I have to love the principal and the effort.
Love the good.