He recounts that as a young boy his grandmother advised him to do everything differently than how others were doing it. Gurdjieff took this advice quite seriously until it became an irresistible urge. When his grandmother died, and his family, relatives and friends were attending a “requiem service” at her grave, instead of looking overwhelmed with an expression of grief and tears in his eyes Gurdjieff unexpectedly began skipping and singing the words:
“Let her with the saints repose,
Now that she turned up her toes,
Oi! oi! oi!
Let her with the saints repose,
Now that she turned up her toes,”
(This story reminded me of Emanuel Swedenborg’s fantastic account of attending the funeral of his engineering mentor, Christopher Polhem, who was miraculously allowed to observe his own funeral service through Swedenborg’s eyes and wondered why everyone was sad and crying—after all, he was still alive in the spiritual world! Also, when Swedenborg was asked what he would do if he found out that he would die the next day, he replied’ “I would summon the musicians.” The message here is that people live in unreality.)
In spite of taking some heat (external pressure) for not imitating the ordinary and robotic manifestations of those around him at his grandmother’s grave, Gurdjieff bravely began to make a lifelong study human behavior and gradually discovered that humans had a dual consciousness—internal and external. (Swedenborg also made this distinction.)
The internal consciousness represents one’s essential being and spirit but the external consciousness is artificial and fabricated and formed during life by adopting the influences of others, who determine proper behavior, and drill it into one’s impressionable head. Gurdjieff fondly described this situation as a “magical circle from which there is no escape.”
Unfortunately, the human internal consciousness was “put to sleep” as the fabricated external consciousness began ruling a person’s manifestations. The external consciousness was merely mechanical, responding simply to terrestrial stimuli.
(Swedenborg describes this dividing of the human mind in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, whereby Adam was put to “sleep” and bad things resulted.)
As Gurdjieff grew into a young man he observed strong similarities between this psychological sleep and hypnotism. To verify this unique theory he became a professional hypnotist, where he conducted experiments on all kinds of people. He discovered that people lied to themselves in order not to have their inner consciousness jolted out of its comfortable snooze. People will create various institutions with noble names, awards ceremonies—even places of worship—in order to procure an affirmation of self through the constant strengthening of the external and habitual mind.
One reason for this predicament is that most people don’t know they have a divided consciousness and don’t even want to know about it. Such a discovery leads to unflattering self-observations and a confrontation between who we think we are and what we really are.
(Swedenborg also asserts that there is no ontological basis for affirming one’s self-importance since life and love only come from God, who is life itself. Humans are simply organic forms receptive to this vivifying and life-giving reality source. Any other notion about reality is a form of sleep and trance.)
My own observations of those who have studied Swedenborg’s theological ideas, is that most of them have not yet made the connection between spiritual sleep and hypnotism—which would put a whole new slant on one’s efforts to reach the Lord God’s heavenly kingdom. (The term hypnotism was coined after Swedenborg’s death.) I have written a new book Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links (Anti-intuitive Essays For Personal Transformation) to try to remedy this situation.
Without such insights, obstacles are created in our path towards Spiritual rebirth and regeneration—especially when it comes to acquiring heavenly and angelic innocence.