(From Gurdjieff’s “Life is real only then, when ‘I am,’ ” pp. 103-5)
This benevolent advice of mine to you Americans, composing in the given case this group, and who became, thanks to a series of accidentally arranged circumstances of life, my nearest essential friends, consists in indicating the categorical necessity that each of you should cease entirely, at least for three months, the reading of your newspapers and magazines, and during this time should become as well acquainted as possible with the contents of all three books of the first series of my writings entitled An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man [All and Everything: “An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man” or Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson].
An acquaintance with the contents of these books is quite indispensable for each of you, chiefly in order to obtain directly or indirectly information elucidated from all sides regarding those definite notions upon which will be based and from which will logically derive all the problems which are pursued for practical attainments. It was just for this purpose that your group was organized and is now reorganized to consist of people who have more or less cognized the absurdity of our ordinary life and who, although you have not yet sensed it with all your Being but are seriously striving to take in what you have cognized, are continuing to learn as many aspects of the objective truth as possible so as to determine, in accordance with this, your own real individuality, in order to manifest afterwards in everything in a way corresponding to a Godlike creature.
It must be said that all I have expounded in the three books of the first series in its totality embraces almost all the questions which in my opinion, formed on the basis of long years of experimental elucidations, may arise under the conditions of contemporary life in the ordinary mentation of man, and the elucidation of all these questions has been made by me in such a logical sequence and in such a confrontative form as, helping to accustom the reader automatically to active mentation and contributing to an easy and simultaneous theoretical assimilation of the very essence of the questions dealt with, should give the possibility to cognize, first of all, not only with one’s ordinary automatic consciousness, which in this case has no value, but with all one’s being, that which is most important and is unfailingly required for the possibility of further work upon oneself, namely, the ephemeral nature of former conceptions and understandings.
An all-around acquaintance with the contents of these three books is necessary also in order that when I personally, or the mentioned instructors, speak during our general meetings about some question which in the given moment is the center-of-gravity question, and speak about its details, we may, for the purpose of economizing time, simply refer to the corresponding chapter in this first series, and you, already having preliminary information about this, may easily assimilate what we shall subsequently develop in detail.
For example, intending in today’s meeting to speak about a question which is based on data I have already more or less elucidated in the last chapter of the third book, namely in the chapter entitled “From the Author,” the deliberations on the proposed question today should be as a continuation of this chapter.
Well, if you were all well-informed of its contents, then I could for the purpose of economizing time refer to the requisite passages, but now I shall be compelled to waste time on reading to you certain extracts.