Gurdjieff on Aim

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G. I. Gurdjieff
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Gurdjieff on Aim

[Note: "ISM" refers to Ouspensky's book, In Search of the Miraculous]

G. often returned afterwards to this example of "prison" and "escape from prison" in his talks. Sometimes he began with it, and then his favorite statement was that, if a man in prison was at any time to have a chance of escape, then he must first of all realize that he is in prison. So long as he fails to realize this, so long as he thinks he is free, he has no chance whatever. No one can help or liberate him by force, against his will, in opposition to his wishes. If liberation is possible, it is possible only as a result of great labor and great efforts, and, above all, of conscious efforts, towards a definite aim. (ISM – page 30)

This is a picture of the formation of the second body. The fire by means of which fusion is attained is produced by 'friction,' which in its turn is produced in man by the struggle between 'yes' and 'no.' If a man gives way to all his desires, or panders to them, there will be no inner struggle in him, no 'friction,' no fire. But if, for the sake of attaining a definite aim, he struggles with desires that hinder him, he will then create a fire which will gradually transform his inner world into a single whole. (ISM – page 40)

"The question of aim is a very important question. Until a man has defined his own aim for himself he will not be able even to begin 'to do' anything. How is it possible 'to do' anything without having an aim? Before anything else 'doing' presupposes an aim." (ISM – page 99)
Here is a link to a 6 page PDF on aim from ISM

"Freedom, liberation, this must be the aim of man. To become free, to be liberated from slavery: this is what a man ought to strive for when he becomes even a little conscious of his position. There is nothing else for him, and nothing else is possible so long as he remains a slave both inwardly and outwardly. But he cannot cease to be a slave outwardly while he remains a slave inwardly. Therefore in order to become free, man must gain inner freedom. (ISM – page 104)

"Knowledge of oneself is a very big, but a very vague and distant, aim. Man in his present state is very far from self-knowledge. Therefore, strictly speaking, his aim cannot even be defined as self-knowledge. Self-study must be his big aim. It is quite enough if a man understands that he must study himself. It must be man's aim to begin to study himself, to know himself, in the right way. (ISM – page 105)

"The greatest insult for a 'man-machine' is to tell him that he can do nothing, can attain nothing, that he can never move towards any aim whatever and that in striving towards one he will inevitably create another. Actually of course it cannot be otherwise. The 'man-machine' is in the power of accident. His activities may fall by accident into some sort of channel which has been created by cosmic or mechanical forces and they may by accident move along this channel for a certain time, giving the illusion that aims of some kind are being attained. Such accidental correspondence of results with the aims we have set before us or the attainment of aims in small things which can have no consequences creates in mechanical man the conviction that he is able to attain any aim, 'is able to conquer nature' as it is called, is able to 'arrange the whole of his life,' and so on.  (ISM – page 133)

"It is the same case, only perhaps worse, when a man considers that in his opinion he 'ought' to do something when as a matter of fact he ought not to do so at all. 'Ought' and 'ought not' is also a difficult subject, that is, difficult to understand when a man really 'ought' and when he 'ought not.' This can be approached only from the point of view of 'aim.' When a man has an aim he 'ought' to do only what leads towards his aim and he 'ought not' to do anything that hinders him from going towards his aim.  (ISM – page 152)

"This contradicts generally accepted ideas. People are accustomed to think that good and evil must be the same for everyone, and above all, that good and evil exist for everyone. In reality, however, good and evil exist only for a few, for those who have an aim and who pursue that aim. Then what hinders the pursuit of that aim is evil and what helps is good.  "But of course most sleeping people will say that they have an aim and that they are going somewhere. The realization of the fact that he has no aim and that he is not going anywhere is the first sign of the approaching awakening of a man or of awakening becoming really possible for him. Awakening begins when a man realizes that he is going nowhere and does not know where to go. (ISM – page 158/9)

Everything in nature has its aim and its purpose, both the inequality of man and his suffering. To destroy inequality would mean destroying the possibility of evolution. To destroy suffering would mean, first, destroying a whole series of perceptions for which man exists, and second, the destruction of the 'shock,' that is to say, the force which alone can change the situation. And thus it is with all intellectual theories. (ISM – page 307)