From The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
What more should a murderer think
Than such ungracious thoughts?
What Macbeth says cannot be true; we know it
There is much goodness in the world,
And goodness signifies itself.
Gurdjieff appeared to some as a madman or a devil; and tales attest to the fact that he cast much suffering about him. Yet I have, in my lifetime, worked directly with a fair number of people who knew him personally; several of them are close friends to this day. None of them resent what he was, despite the horrid things he sometimes did, the temper tantrums, the chaos he intentionally created.
He was human; the posthumous cults that worship him ignore this. While acknowledging his contribution and the enormous legacy he left behind him, it is time, perhaps, to move on past his larger-than-life presence and just look at life itself, referring to his role as a footnote— which is exactly as it should be in what was and is, by his own admission, an ancient work which never actually belonged to him in the first placed.
Every master acquires followers; but none of them own them. Anyone who wishes to be owned by a master is already wrong; everything belongs to everything else, and, in effect, there is no ownership and there are no masters. There is only a single authority, and that is the authority of God. Everyone who labors, labors under that authority, or appointed beings who act directly for it.
Even the devils do the work of God.
In any event, one must own oneself; and we do not. To take ownership of our own Being (insofar as we can) is to become responsible for what we are; this, as I repeatedly point out, takes nothing but suffering, and then more suffering. We are the idiots; and the tale we tell is our own. It can signify everything, in fact, it does signify everything, for we ourselves — and if there is sound and fury, it is because we are noisy and furious. There is no need to be that way; if we are, it is because of our shamelessness and our refusal to ignore knowledge fealty to the Lord.
I've been pondering these questions at length over the last day here in Shanghai; and it occurs to me again and again that the necessity begins with the requirement of settling down in the body and being in it, acknowledging, in a quiet and unassuming way, the organic truth of life as it is, without all of the additives and chemistry that get stirred into it by opinions, hormones, and strong coffee. (I won't include alcohol, since I have been sober for so long, but for those who wish to add it to the mix, as the Germans say, ein prosit.)
Despite the fact that they terrify us, we must learn to call on our angels; they have a love for us which is ruthless and unerring, unlike anything we can find on this planet. That ruthless and unerring love may be the only thing that can save us from ourselves, if anything can.
And our devils?
They stand ready, if we call them, to give us all the satisfactions we demand —
and in that direction lies perdition.