Well, people think they are really important.
Really, we all do.
This despite the fact that one can walk down the street in (for example) New York City on any given day at all and pass literally thousands of people, all of whom are of more or less the same importance.
On this level, nothing can actually be of any greater importance that what this level allows. The most powerful human (materially or spiritually) can never be more than human; everyone puts their pants on one leg at at time; everyone eats pizza of about the same quality.
In the midst of these established and inescapable facts—which most folk assiduously ignore for as long as possible, perhaps even an entire lifetime, up to the last breath—we live.
We live inflated by self-importance and delusion. We live without regard for any real potential, because we are living according to a set of personalized rules that have nothing to do with the facts. We all think we are entitled, in this area, to our own facts.
This brings me to a remark Gurdjieff made to some of the members of the Rope:
Moreover, I tell in objective sense I not complete objective mentation have. I not yet complete initiate. There are many thousands complete men on earth; not in the world, but on earth. I still have far to go.
—Gurdjieff and the Women of the Rope, p. 110.
So much, I would think, for our impression of Gurdjieff as some kind of completed Being.
Initiation is not something accomplished in a single action; it’s an evolutionary process. Initiation takes place in increments—usually one tiny grain of truth and inward Being at a time. One can get lucky—but don't ever count on it.
One wonders, perhaps, what Gurdjieff meant by complete. What is certain is, we are not. Yet in any given moment we experience ourselves as ”complete”—as capable, as though we have ability of one kind or another.
Yet under any objective set of observations and principles, our imperfections stand out—and it is a sign of the true initiate that as often as possible, one ought to see these faults first and always, and keep them in front of oneself as advisors in every situation within ordinary life:
Here I am.
It’s likely I'm wrong in this moment, wrong about something I cannot quite see and which I probably don’t want to see.
Hence I ought, as Dogen used to say to his acolytes, to respectfully take good care about how I behave.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.