Chapter V. The Theater of Selves
The Master Game, by Robert S. DeRopp
The transformation of an ego-centered being to a free being does not take place either easily or quickly. One is converted into the other gradually, by a series of stages, and each stage carries with it its own dangers and difficulties (see Table III below). The transformation begins when one of the selves in a man's personality (the Seeker) develops an awareness of the state of sleep, or, alternatively, a hunger for the fourth state of consciousness (Baudelaire's "Taste of the Infinite"). The Seeker forms as a result of the working in man of the will to meaning and the will to self-transcendence. [Note: DeRopp, a biochemist, was a student of Gurdjieff, who maintained that before awakening to his real essence, man was not a singular entity but a multiplicity of I's, egos, or selves.]
Table III. Stages in Work
Stage Characteristic 4 MASTER Body of consciousness or "soul" is formed. Inner-directed, cosmically oriented man. 3 OBSERVER Prospero dominates Caliban. 2 MAGNETIC CENTER Active quest for teacher. 1 SEEKER First realization of sleep. 0 SLEEPING MAN Outer-directed puppet. No inner aim or real will.
The self or group of selves that comprise the Seeker form a definite force in the personality, creating a ferment, a restlessness, a dissatisfaction with all the games that have previously proved satisfying. The effect of this force is often disruptive and may produce great misery. The old games no long satisfy but a new game has not been found. Much of the material which William James incorporated in his chapter "The Sick Soul" [The Varieties of Religious Experience] described the grief experienced by one in whom the Seeker is beginning to develop. Leo Tolstoy, John Bunyan, William James himself and his father, Henry James, Sr., all suffered greatly during this phase of their inner development. William James wrote: "In Tolstoy's case the sense that life had any meaning whatever was for a time wholly withdrawn . . . At about the age of fifty he began to have moments of perplexity, of what he calls arrest, as if he knew not how to live or what to do." John Bunyan found himself in a similar condition, also recorded by James. "I was both a burthen and a terror to myself; nor did I ever so know, as now, what it was to be weary of my life; and yet afraid to die. How gladly would I have been anything but myself! Anything but a man! and in any condition but my own."
These examples could readily be multiplied. They illustrate the fearful ferment which the genesis of the Seeker may produce, at least in the early stages. Selves that were once believed in and trusted now seem as lifeless as rag dolls. Aspects of the persona that once appeared admirable show themselves as grotesque masks, grinning and silly. The artist becomes disenchanted with his art, the scientist with his research, the preacher with his sermons and with his whole religion, the businessman with his business. There is an awful awareness of the limitations of life, of an imperative need to set up new values, new aims, to start a new game, before death sweeps all the pieces from the board. Unless the sense of total futility has completely paralyzed his will, a person in whom the Seeker has developed is bound to search diligently for some way out, for the Master Game, which he feels almost instinctively must exist and be worth playing. To find this game he will read everything available that might possibly provide a clue to the mystery and enable him to emerge from the prison of total disenchantment. He will study works on psychology, religion, yoga, occultism, theosophy, magic. He will seek out others whose interests are similar to his own. What is the way out? What is the great secret? What is the Master Game and from whom does one learn how to play?
All this activity results in the transformation of the Seeker into a new and more powerful entity within the personality, an entity called, in the Gurdjieffian system, the "Magnetic Center." The Magnetic Center feeds on all those materials that the Seeker has culled from his readings and researches, his conversations with fellow seekers and so on. The magnetic quality of this element in the personality consists in its power, if it is rightly formed, to draw its possessor in the direction of a teacher from whom he can learn the things he needs to know.
A person's success in this respect depends on the strength and quality of his Magnetic Center. A defective center leads its possessor into the swamps of phoney mysticism or occultism, brings him to a teacher who is either a fool or a fraud, exposes him to the breed of spiritual vampires which prey on the credulous. A weak Magnetic Center does not lead its possessor anywhere. It leaves him comfortably sitting in his armchair dreaming about the marvelous powers that will be his when he attains higher consciousness.
To find a teacher appropriate for his needs, the student needs much discernment. Even a genuine teacher (as opposed to a fool or a fraud) has limitations imposed on him by his type which are difficult or impossible for him to transcend. Thus, a man who is an adequate teacher for one person may be unsuitable for another. The main function of the teacher, besides instructing in physiological and psychological techniques, is to hold up for the pupil a mirror, helping him thereby to look objectively and impartially at the selves in his own makeup, without trying to hide from the unpleasant manifestations or overemphasize the pleasant ones. To do this, a teacher needs profound insight into types and the limitations which type imposes. It is hard for him, unless he has reached a very high level in his own development, to understand types very different from his own. Much of the difficulty encountered by members of the psychoanalytical cult (it is really more of a religion than a branch of medicine) results from too great a difference in type between patient and analyst. An encounter, for instance, between a highly somatatonic analyst and a highly cerebrotonic patient is likely to produce nothing but a series of misunderstandings.
The actual work of observing the selves involves watchfulness on the part of the pupil, an ability to catch manifestations, ability to remember gestures, tones of voice, reactions to impressions. This takes time. There are barriers between the different selves. They live in the same house but do not know each other. They are often elusive. The observing self, the self that wishes to awaken, may be far from popular with the other selves, who resent this lofty talk about higher states of consciousness and only want to be left in peace to go on with the life games that please them.
A wise teacher will encourage his pupil to step carefully in this area. The selves have to be accepted in all their variety. Nothing is gained by repression or inner tyranny. The curse of the Judeo-Christian tradition has been its excessive preoccupation with sin and its unwillingness to accept the Dionysian aspects of the self. By ceaselessly harping on the "lusts of the flesh," "mortifications of the flesh," and kindred topics, it increases men's bondage to the very forces from which it exhorts men to escape. Indeed, this "struggle with the flesh" became so malignant a force that, for several centuries, it reduced the population of large areas of Europe to a condition verging on mass insanity.