Wat 'ZelfKennis', de 'kennis van het Zelf' (dat niets te maken heeft met het menselijk lichaam, zoals de inhoud van het brein, de ikjes, persoonlijkheden, of wat dan ook, maar dus naar het 'Zelf' refereert) en de Gurdjieff-filosofie betreft, is het heel moeilijk uit te leggen waarom een mens misschien 1/1000ste kan begrijpen van al hetgeen er wordt geschreven of gezegd.
Om dit nader te verklaren, publiceer ik hieronder een fragment uit het boek 'Meetings with Remarkable Men', dat door George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff eigenhandig geschreven werd.
Ondanks het feit dat er weinig waarde aan Gurdjieff's woorden wordt gesteld, beweerde hij nochtans dat 'Ontmoetingen met bijzondere mensen' hét boek is dat eenieder, die zijn leerstellingen zou willen bestuderen, zou moeten lezen. Toch, vooraleer je aan 'Beelzebubs verhalen aan zijn kleinzoon' begint.
Voorbeeld: teneinde hoofdstuk XI in het boek 'Op zoek naar het wonderbaarlijke' te begrijpen, dient men hoofdstuk 10 te lezen van 'Ontmoetingen met bijzondere mensen', enzovoorts, waaronder vooral het hoofdstuk 'Mijn Vader', omdat daar dingen te lezen zijn over de Ziel en extra lichamen.
Misschien begrijp je eveneens iets meer over 'de hond die zeer diep onder de aarde begraven werd'. Gurdjieff verwachtte dus dat mensen, die aan zichzelf werken, inspanningen verrichten, teneinde zichzelf voor te bereiden voor de superinspanningen, die ze veel later aan zichzelf zouden stellen.
De onderstaande tekst is in het Engels. Ten eerste, om het originele zo dicht mogelijk te benaderen - en, ten tweede: om ook van de lezer een klein beetje inspanning af te dwingen. Ikzelf zou het de titel geven:
'To Know - To Understand - To Be'.
Professor Skridlov, deeply stirred, could not contain himself and exclaimed in astonishment: 'Father Giovanni! I cannot understand how you can calmly stay here instead of returning to Europe, at least to your own country Italy, to give the people there if only a thousandth part of this all-penetrating faith which you are now inspiring in me.'
'Eh! my dear Professor,' replied Father Giovanni, 'it is evident that you do not understand man's psyche as well as you understand archaeology.
Faith cannot be given to man. Faith arises in a man and increases in its action in him not as the result of automatic learning, that is, not from any automatic ascertainment of height, breadth, thickness, form and weight, or from the perception of anything by sight, hearing, touch, smell or taste, but from understanding.
Understanding is the essence obtained from information intentionally learned and from all kinds of experiences personally experienced.
For example, if my own beloved brother were to come to me here at this moment and urgently entreat me to give him merely a tenth part of my understanding, and if I myself wished with my whole being to do so, yet I could not, in spite of my most ardent desire, give him even the thousandth part of this understanding, as he has neither the knowledge nor the experience which I have quite accidentally acquired and lived through in my life.
No, Professor, it is a hundred times easier, as it is said in the Gospels, "for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle" than for anyone to give to another the understanding formed in him about anything whatsoever.
I formerly also thought as you do, and even chose the activity of a missionary in order to teach everyone faith in Christ. I wanted to make everyone as happy as I myself felt from faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ. But to wish to do that by, so to say, grafting faith on by words is just like wishing to fill someone with bread merely by looking at him.
Understanding is acquired, as I have already said, from the totality of information intentionally learned and from personal experiencings; whereas knowledge is only the automatic remembrance of words in a certain sequence.
Not only is it impossible, even with all one's desire, to give to another one's own inner understanding, formed in the course of life from the said factors, but also, as I recently established with certain other brothers of our monastery, there exists a law that the quality of what is perceived by anyone when another person tells him something, either for his knowledge or his understanding, depends on the quality of the data formed in the person speaking.
To help you understand what I have just said, I will cite as an example the fact which aroused in us the desire to make investigations and led us to the discovery of this law.
I must tell you that in our brotherhood there are two very old brethren; one is called Brother Ahl and the other Brother Sez. These brethren have voluntarily undertaken the obligation of periodically visiting all the monasteries of our order and explaining various aspects of the essence of divinity.
Our brotherhood has four monasteries, one of them ours, the second in the valley of the Pamir, the third in Tibet, and the fourth in India. And so these brethren, Ahl and Sez, constantly travel from one monastery to another and preach there.
They come to us once or twice a year. Their arrival at our monastery is considered among us a very great event. On the days when either of them is here, the soul of every one of us experiences pure heavenly pleasure and tenderness.
The sermons of these two brethren, who are to an almost equal degree holy men and who speak the same truths, have nevertheless a different effect on all our brethren and on me in particular.
'When Brother Sez speaks, it is indeed like the song of the birds in Paradise; from what he says one is quite, so to say, turned inside out; one becomes as though entranced. His speech "purls" like a stream and one no longer wishes anything else in life but to listen to the voice of Brother Sez.
But Brother Ahl's speech has almost the opposite effect. He speaks badly and indistinctly, evidently because of his age. No one knows how old he is. Brother Sez is also very old - it is said three hundred years old - but he is still a hale old man, whereas in Brother Ahl the weakness of old age is clearly evident.
The stronger the impression made at the moment by the words of Brother Sez, the more this impression evaporates, until there ultimately remains in the hearer nothing at all.
'But in the case of Brother Ahl, although at first what he says makes almost no impression, later, the gist of it takes on a definite form, more and more each day, and is instilled as a whole into the heart and remains there for ever.
When we became aware of this and began trying to discover why it was so, we came to the unanimous conclusion that the sermons of Brother Sez proceeded only from his mind, and therefore acted on our minds, whereas those of Brother Ahl proceeded from his being and acted on our being.
'Yes, Professor, knowledge and understanding are quite different. Only understanding can lead to being, whereas knowledge is but a passing presence in it. New knowledge displaces the old and the result is, as it were, a pouring from the empty into the void.
One must strive to understand; this alone can lead to our Lord God.
And in order to be able to understand the phenomena of nature, according and not according to law, proceeding around us, one must first of all consciously perceive and assimilate a mass of information concerning objective truth and the real events which took place on earth in the past; and secondly, one must bear in oneself all the results of all kinds of voluntary and involuntary experiencings."
We had many other similar never-to-be-forgotten talks with Father Giovanni.