Friday, April 20, 2018

The Cariage, the Horse, and the Coachman (Part1.)


Gurdjieff often evoked the analogy of a carriage, a horse, and a coachman, in order to explain the functioning of human beings.

 A man as a whole with all his separately concentrated and functioning localizations, that is to say, his formed and independently educated ‘personalities,’ is almost exactly comparable to that organization for conveying a passenger, which consists of a carriage, a horse, and a coachman.” All and Everything – Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, page 1192

In the analogy, the carriage represents the physical body, the horse represents the organization of human feeling, and the driver represents the whole totality of the manifestations of human mentation—what is generally described as thinking.

Gurdjieff goes into quite a lot of detail regarding each—and is generally not very complimentary of their manifestation in contemporary man:

a broken-down carriage which has long ago seen its day, a crock of a horse, and on the box, a tatterdemalion half-sleepy, half-drunken coachman whose time for self-perfection passes while he waits on the corner, fantastically daydreaming, for any chance passenger.” – Ibid. page 1193

I’m sure that some would nod in agreement, while many, maybe many more, would consider Gurdjieff’s assessment harsh and unfair, but, I wonder, how many would consider the assessment in the light of their own personal self-observations? Yet, to me, this is exactly the point—not whether I agree or disagree with it in my mind based on want I have heard or believe, but rather, what is my experience of that which I call myself?

Self-observation seems to be a function of the coachman being directed by a passenger who sits in the carriage , but does just any chance passenger have any real idea of what constitutes self-observation—or interest in it—and if, by chance, he does, how long will he even remain in the carriage?

“And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” – Mark 5:9

But before I even ask myself the question; what do I observe, perhaps I need to first ask myself the question; Am I able to observe, and under what circumstances?

I remember being in a meeting with the yogi Swami Vishnu Devananda many years ago when he was asked a question about some yogic practice. His response was; “It is possible, but can you do it when your mind is tired of playing the yogi?” In other words, when the passenger—the I—in the carriage is interested in yoga then it directs the driver in that direction, but not all of the passengers that ride in that carriage are interested in, or even know anything about, yoga.

And so, I have noticed that my own attempts at self-observation appear to be limited to only certain situations and occasions (when the right passenger happens to be sitting in the carriage)  and, even then, my observations often seem quite vague and fleeting (perhaps the result of having a tatterdemalion half-sleepy, half-drunken coachman driving in the driver’s seat)?

Gurdjieff’s solution to the problem is in what he calls the temporary steward. In the case of our analogy, a group of passengers appoint from among themselves a temporary steward to administer the affairs of the carriage, the coachman, and the horse with respect to an over-all aim of making the rig suitable for the real owner to come and sit in the carriage and take over its affairs. The real owner is the real I – real Self – the real Master—Conscious God.

“But you have filled His abode with millions of strangers and He cannot enter, for He is shy of strangers. Unless you empty His abode of these millions of strangers you have filled it with, you will never find God.

“These strangers are your age-old desires — your millions of wants. They are strangers to God because want is an expression of incompleteness and is fundamentally foreign to Him who is All-sufficient and wanting in nothing. Honesty in your dealings with others will clear the strangers out of your heart. Then you will find Him, see Him and realize Him.”The Everything and the Nothing, Meher Baba

(To be continued.)


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