Of course, it's generally understood that he meant this in regards to the Prieuré at Fontainbleu, the place he had established for the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. But in reality, if one takes this same aphorism from the point of view of the old adage, "be here now," one understands that it is no use to be here now if one is simply standing here in the middle of the rabbit droppings. That is not enough.
No, one must have a critical mind — that is, one must question the rabbit droppings.
I'm sure that most of us, when we decided to undertake a spiritual practice, expected it to be loftier than the examination of rabbit droppings. Nonetheless, as any scientist might tell us, studying the excrement of creatures can tell you an enormous amount about their lifestyle, behavior, diet, digestive abilities, micro-and macrobiotic health, and so on. So rabbit droppings are actually a rich source of investigation, if I have a critical mind.
And that critical mind needs first of all to understand that what I am looking at are rabbit droppings.
Until I realize this, a great deal of my analysis of my associations holds them in high regard and thinks that they are anything but rabbit droppings. Their spherical nature, their consistency, their elegance are all appealing features. I like them. And when Gurdjieff said, "like what it does not like,” what he was essentially saying is, “don't become enamored of your rabbit droppings. Don't let your associative thoughts become the focus of your spiritual life.
Even after many years spent studying these questions, one tends towards trying to approach inner work from the point of view of the outer and associative parts. This is impossible. It will never work; and yet the associative parts are absolutely convinced not only of their own value, but their efficacy and infallibility in the pursuit of spiritual matters.
In reality, they are worthless, and need to be ignored.
They can be there; but they can't be allowed to call the shots, because all they are is automatic functions that pop up in response to external stimuli. This was the essence of my experience back in 2001 when I started the new job; and although one does not live forever in such states, they merge and blend with the ordinary state to some extent, so that the organic intellect of being can function, on one level or another, with a healthier and better connection to parts. This is part of the action that the inflow helps to engender.
Part 4 of this 6-part series will publish August 15.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.