Gurdjieff's Father's Thoughts on Soul

Feb 18th, 2020
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  1. and the wish to help one another.
  2. Owing to his inherent capacity for finding inspiration in the beauty
  3. of the details of life, my father was for us all, even in the most dismal
  4. moments of our family life, a source of courage; and, infecting us all
  5. with his freedom from care, he engendered in us the above-mentioned
  6. happy impulses.
  7. In writing about my father, I must not pass by in silence his views on
  8. what is called the 'question of the beyond'. Concerning this he had a
  9. very particular and at the same time simple conception.
  10. I remember that, the last time I went to see him, I asked him one of
  11. the stereotyped questions by means of which I had carried on, during
  12. the last thirty years, a special inquiry or quest in my meetings with
  13. remarkable people who had acquired in themselves data for attracting
  14. the conscious attention of others. Namely, I
  15. asked him, of course with the preliminary preparation which had
  16. become customary to me in these cases, to tell me, very simply and
  17. without any wiseacring and philosophizing, what personal opinion he
  18. had formed during his life about whether man has a soul and whether it
  19. is immortal.
  20. 'How shall I put it?' he answered. 'In that soul which a man
  21. supposedly has, as people believe, and of which they say that it exists
  22. independently after death and transmigrates, I do not believe; and yet,
  23. in the course of a man's life "something" does form itself in him: this is
  24. for me beyond all doubt.
  25. 'As I explain it to myself, a man is born with a certain property and,
  26. thanks to this property, in the course of his life certain of his
  27. experiencings elaborate in him a certain substance, and from this
  28. substance there is gradually formed in him "something or other" which
  29. can acquire a life almost independent of the physical body.
  30. 'When a man dies, this "something" does not disintegrate at the same
  31. time as the physical body, but only much later, after its separation from
  32. the physical body.
  33. 'Although this "something" is formed from the same substance as the
  34. physical body of a man, it has a much finer materiality and, it must be
  35. assumed, a much greater sensitivity towards all kinds of perceptions.
  36. The sensitivity of its perception is in my opinion such as—you
  37. remember, when you made that experiment with the half-witted
  38. Armenian woman, Sando?'
  39. He had in mind an experiment I had made in his presence many
  40. years before, during a visit in Alexandropol, when I brought people of
  41. many different types into various degrees of hypnosis, for the purpose
  42. of elucidating for myself all the details of the phenomenon which
  43. learned hypnotists call the exteriorization of sensitivity or the
  44. transference of sensations of pain at a distance.
  45. I proceeded in the following way:
  46. I made from a mixture of clay, wax and very fine shot a figure
  47. roughly resembling the medium I intended to bring into the hypnotic
  48. state, that is, into that psychic state of man which, in a branch of
  49. science which has come down to our day from very ancient times, is
  50. called loss of initiative and which, according to
  51. the contemporary classification of the School of Nancy, would
  52. correspond to the third stage of hypnosis. I then thoroughly rubbed
  53. some part or other of the body of the given medium with an ointment
  54. made of a mixture of olive and bamboo oil, then scraped this oil from
  55. the body of the medium and applied it to the corresponding part on the
  56. figure, and thereupon proceeded to elucidate all the details that
  57. interested me in this phenomenon.
  58. What greatly astonished my father at the time was that when I
  59. pricked the oiled place on the figure with a needle, the corresponding
  60. place on the medium twitched, and when I pricked more deeply a drop
  61. of blood appeared on the exactly corresponding place of the medium's
  62. body; and he was particularly amazed by the fact that, after being
  63. brought back to the waking state and questioned, the medium
  64. remembered nothing about it and insisted that she had felt nothing at all.
  65. And so my father, in whose presence this experiment had been
  66. carried out, now said, in referring to it:
  67. 'So, in the same way, this "something", both before a man's death and
  68. afterwards until its disintegration, reacts to certain surrounding actions
  69. and is not free from their influence.'
  70. My father had in connection with my education certain definite, as I
  71. have called them, 'persistent pursuits'.
  72. One of the most striking of these persistent pursuits of his, which
  73. later produced in me an indisputably beneficent result, acutely sensed
  74. by me and noticeable also to those with whom I came in contact during
  75. my wanderings in the various wilds of the earth in the search for truth,
  76. was that during my childhood, that is, at the age when there are formed
  77. in man the data for the impulses he will have during his responsible life,
  78. my father took measures on every suitable occasion so that there should
  79. be formed in me, instead of data engendering impulses such as
  80. fastidiousness, repulsion, squeamishness, fear, timidity and so on, the
  81. data for an attitude of indifference to everything that usually evokes
  82. these impulses.
  83. I remember very well how, with this aim in view, he would
  84. sometimes slip a frog, a worm, a mouse, or some other animal likely to
  85. evoke such impulses, into my bed, and would make me
  86. take non-poisonous snakes in my hands and even play with them, and
  87. so forth and so on.
  88. Of all these persistent pursuits of his in relation to me, I remember
  89. that the one most worrying to the older people round me, for instance
  90. my mother, my aunt and our oldest shepherds, was that he always
  91. forced me to get up early in the morning, when a child's sleep is
  92. particularly sweet, and go to the fountain and splash myself all over
  93. with cold spring water, and afterwards to run about naked; and if I tried
  94. to resist he would never yield, and although he was very kind and loved
  95. me, he would punish me without mercy. I often remembered him for
  96. this in later years and in these moments thanked him with all my being.
  97. If it had not been for this, I would never have been able to overcome
  98. all the obstacles and difficulties that I had to encounter later during my
  99. travels.
  100. He himself led an almost pedantically regular life, and was merciless
  101. to himself in conforming to this regularity.
  102. For instance, he was accustomed to going to bed early so as to begin
  103. early the next morning whatever he had decided upon beforehand, and
  104. he made no exception to this even on the night of his daughter's
  105. wedding.
  106. I saw my father for the last time in 1916. He was then eighty-two
  107. years old, still full of health and strength. The few recent grey hairs in
  108. his beard were hardly noticeable.
  109. His life ended a year later, but not from natural causes.
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