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GURDJIEFF-VOICES- Anna Butkovsky-Hewitt

Posted by lahar9jhadav on February 11, 2013



Everything that Gurdjieff taught had some meaning for our lives, and a purpose towards aiding understanding between people. Most of his arguments, therefore, had a universal application.

One such theory of his, I remember, concerned what he called ‘Voices’. It is an example of Gurdjieff’s teach­ing which has not just individual but even an interna­tional application-but the laws of international and individual understanding are the same.

When two people converse (so Gurdjieff taught), in reality it is not a ‘duet’ but a ‘quartet’. Two voices speak aloud which we shall call the ‘first’ and ‘second’ person~ but also present in the conversation are two unheard voices, which we shall call the third and fourth persons. Although these may not speak aloud, they most cer­tainly take part in the conversation, often with a greater importance than the first two. Voiceless in a physical sense, they may nevertheless be the root cause of what we actually hear in the normal way.

The third voice inspires the first, and the fourth in­spires the second. Sometimes this ‘shadow’ conversation between the ‘third’ and ‘fourth’ persons can reach such an intensity of probing that the outer person (‘first’ and ‘second’) can penetrate into the secret regions of each other’s inner person, yet still maintaining an ordinary conversation in an outward sense.

Each of us confronts a hidden conversant-possibly even a hidden enemy. Although this is true about strangers, a friend does not need to hide in this way and put on a mask of disguise. On the contrary, he loses no time in revealing himself and coming straight into the open, provided the situation is not of some special or complicated nature. But often this ‘hidden enemy’ does not reveal himself at once, if at all, and thus begins a kind of ‘shadow play’ as tricky sometimes as a complex battle plan, with it’s diversionary tactics, it’s simulated attacks, attitudes of indifference, the careful watching of each other and the pretense of taking up arms. The attitudes can range from the refined falsehood or subtle destructiveness of a Cesare Borgia, to the swift, striking forcefulness of Attila, burning and annihilating all in his way.

Sometimes in such conversations, the participants may even deliberately assume ‘character roles’ as if out of a play, even to rehearsing the parts and studying them with great care. No doubt in international and diplomatic relationships this is often useful, allowing one a prudent avoidance of the more obvious errors; but again, one of the ‘actors’ may suddenly over-reach himself–a trifle too much emotion or a lapse of self-­control, and then he is completely at his opponent’s mercy, to be thrust at, or not, according to the other’s whim. In politics, this Machiavellian method is shown to perfection in that famous book The Prince.

In ordinary life, too, there are many ‘diplomats’, who can easily deceive those who are good and simple, even though not particularly stupid. Many of the latter do not even conceive that people can use such tactics, and so invariably lose their battles. Take the lives of a husband and wife, for example, with all their major and minor love scenes, their quarrels and arguments: often they do not suspect the existence in themselves of the ‘third’ and ‘fourth’ persons, or possibly one may and the other not. Thus the weaker one uses only his ‘first’ voice against the other two, because his own inner voice is often undeveloped and thus not of a harmful nature. This weaker partner may well be on his guard in speaking to a stranger, using his own natural reserve, but in conversation with someone he believes he has no need to fear (often for some very naive or trivial reason, such as coming from the same town or village!) he will relax. It may well be that he has known this person for a long time, or that it is someone who has been strongly recommended to him, or more rarely it could be the result of some calculated conspiracy between others; but whatever the reason, and whether through his own fault or not, the battle will already be lost.

Occasionally this kind of situation can be prevented in good time, or righted, by the timely help of a more experienced person. Sometimes one’s own efforts or experience may be sufficient to put it right, or again, as happens now and then, fate itself unexpectedly intervenes. But generally speaking, how long can one wait to acquire such a sense? A good example of this kind of situation is shown in Dickens’s Dombey and Son, where the father at last, too late, realises his mistake and the resultant cruelty he has been guilty of towards his own daughter.

It sometimes happens that the ‘third’ and ‘fourth’ persons dig more deeply into one another and find, to their surprise, that they are much closer to friendship than they imagined; their former ‘state of war’ is concluded in a truce, and peace is declared between them. On the other hand such an assumption made mistakenly will lead to one partner unfolding all his secrets, private thoughts and most cherished plans in vain.

Before the Second World War, Hitler ‘rehearsed’ with his ‘third’ person before Chamberlain’s arrival in Munich, and the latter when he reached London again after their meeting, said, ‘Hitler knows what is in my mind, and I know what is in his.’ But did he? We all know now that he did not. It is always these ‘third’ and ‘fourth’ persons who cause the really great events in the world. The ‘fourth’ or shadow side of Chamberlain was far too noble to suspect the treachery of Hitler’s ‘third’ person, and probably didn’t even realise its existence.

Thus, in ordinary everyday life, when peace is concluded between two persons, how long can it last? Much depends on the integrity or weakness of the individuals concerned, and the result is often in doubt.

This whole process of understanding can be analysed, verified, controlled and even taught in such a way as to be handled aright. Many disasters, perhaps even those of national importance, could be prevented if people could be made aware of these hidden voices, thus understanding the adversary in good time.

The lesson to be learned from the meeting of Chamberlain and Hitler in 1938 is that future Chamberlains must learn to listen to the deliberately suppressed third voice. As Gurdjieff said, the man who knows there are four voices has an additional weapon against falsity, for his hidden voice speaks to the other’s hidden voice, as his first voice speaks to the other’s first voice.

download Anna Butkovksy’s, With Gurdjieff In St. Petersburg and Paris



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