Gurdjieff - In Search of the Miraculous.
One must die all at once and forever after having made a certain effort, having surmounted a certain obstacle, having taken a certain decision from which there is no going back.
Don Juan - The Active Side of Infinity.
"Don't listen to the superficial voice that makes you angry. Listen to that deeper voice that is
going to guide you from now on, the voice that is laughing. Listen to it!
And laugh with it. Laugh! Laugh!"
Don Juan defined inner silence as a peculiar state of being in which thoughts were canceled out
and one could function from a level other than that of daily awareness. He stressed inner silence
meant the suspension of internal dialogue -the perennial companion of thoughts- and was
therefore a state of profound quietude.
"The old sorcerers," don Juan said, "called it inner silence because it is a state in which
perception doesn't depend on the senses.
What is at work during inner silence is another faculty man has. The faculty that makes him a
magical being. The very faculty that has been curtailed, not by man himself, but by some
"What is this extraneous influence that curtails the magical faculty of man?" I asked.
"That is the topic for a future explanation," don Juan replied, "not the subject of our present
discussion, even though it is indeed the most serious aspect of the sorcery of the shamans of
ancient Mexico. (The extraneous influence don Juan is talking about are the predators/aliens/mud
shadows, page 108)
"Inner silence," he continued, "is the stand from which everything stems in sorcery. In other
words, everything we do leads to that stand, which like everything else in the world of sorcerers,
doesn't reveal itself unless something gigantic shakes us."
Don Juan said the sorcerers of ancient Mexico devised endless ways to shake themselves,
or other sorcery practitioners, at their foundations in order to reach that coveted state of inner
They considered the most far-fetched acts which may seem totally unrelated to the
pursuit of inner silence, such as for instance jumping into waterfalls or spending nights hanging
upside down from the top branch of a tree, to be key points that brought inner silence into being.
Following the rationales of the sorcerers of ancient Mexico, don Juan stated inner silence was
accrued, accumulated. In my case, he struggled to guide me to construct a core of inner silence in
myself, then add to it second by second on every occasion I practiced it.
He explained the sorcerers of ancient Mexico discovered each individual had a different
threshold of inner silence in terms of time; meaning, inner silence must be kept by each one
of us for the length of time of our specific threshold before it can work.
"What did those sorcerers consider the sign inner silence was working, don Juan?" I asked.
"Inner silence works from the moment you begin to accrue it," he replied. "What the old
sorcerers were after was the final dramatic end result of reaching the individual threshold of
silence. Some very talented practitioners need only a few minutes of silence to reach that coveted
Others less talented need long periods of silence, perhaps more than one hour of complete
quietude, before they reach the desired result.
The desired result is what the old sorcerers called stopping the world, the moment when
everything around us ceases to be what it's always been.
"This is the moment when sorcerers return to the true nature of man," don Juan went on. "The
old sorcerers also called it total freedom. It is the moment when man the slave becomes man the
free being, capable of feats of perception that defy our linear imagination."
Don Juan assured me inner silence is the avenue that leads to a true suspension of judgment; to a
moment when sensory data emanating from the universe at large ceases to be interpreted by the
senses; a moment when cognition ceases to be the force which, through usage and repetition,
decides the nature of the world.
"Sorcerers need a breaking point for the workings of inner silence to set in," don Juan said.
"The breaking point is like mortar a mason puts between bricks. It's only when the mortar
hardens, the loose bricks become a structure."
From the beginning of our association don Juan drilled into me the value and necessity of inner
silence. I did my best to follow his suggestions, accumulating inner silence second by second. I
had no means to measure the effect of this accumulation, nor did I have any means to
judge whether or not I had reached any threshold. I simply aimed doggedly at accruing it, not just
to please don Juan but because the act of accumulating it had become a challenge in itself.
"As I have told you before, many times," don Juan said, "every sorcerer I know, male or female,
sooner or later arrives at a breaking point in their lives."
"Do you mean they have a mental breakdown or something like that?" I asked. "No, no," he said,
laughing. "Mental breakdowns are for persons who indulge in themselves. Sorcerers are not
persons. What I mean is, at a given moment the continuity of their lives has to break, in order for
inner silence to set in and become an active part of their structures. It's very, very important you
yourself deliberately arrive at that breaking point, or you create it artificially and intelligently.
Your breaking point" he said, "is to discontinue your life as you know it.
You have done everything I told you dutifully and accurately. Were you talented you never
showed it. That seems to be your style. You're not slow but you act as though you were. You're
very sure of yourself but you act as though you were insecure. You're not timid and yet you act as
though you were afraid of people. Everything you do points at one single spot: your need to break
all that, ruthlessly.
I think everything boils down to one act," he said. "You must leave your friends. You must
say good-bye to them, for good. It's not possible for you to continue on the warriors' path
carrying your personal history with you, and unless you discontinue your way of life, I won't be
able to go ahead with my instruction."
"Now, now, now, don Juan," I said, "I have to put my foot down. You're asking too much of
me. To be frank with you, I don't think I can do it. My friends are my family, my points of
"Precisely, precisely," he remarked. "They are your points of reference. Therefore, they have
to go. Sorcerers have only one point of reference: infinity."
"But how do you want me to proceed, don Juan?" I asked in a plaintive voice. His request was
driving me up the wall.
"You must simply leave," he said matter-of-factly. "Leave any way you can."
"But where would I go?" I asked.
"My recommendation is you rent a room in one of those chintzy hotels you know," he
said. "The uglier the place, the better.
"What do you want me to do there, don Juan?" I asked.
"A sorcerer uses a place like that to die," he said, looking at me with an unblinking stare.
"You have never been alone in your life. This is the time to do it. You will stay in that room until
Gurdjieff teaches in P.D. Ouspensky's In Search Of The Miraculous:
"But in order to be able to attain this or at least begin to attain it, a man must die, that is, he must
free himself from a thousand petty attachments and identifications which hold him in the position
in which he is. He is attached to everything in his life, attached to his imagination, attached to his
stupidity, attached even to his sufferings, possibly to his sufferings more than to anything else. He
must free himself from this attachment.
Attachment to things, identification with things, keep alive a thousand useless I's in a man. These
I's must die in order that the big I (true Individuality) may be born. But how can they be made to
die? They do not want to die. It is at this point the possibility of awakening comes to the rescue.
To awaken means to realize one's nothingness, that is, to realize one's complete and absolute
mechanicalness and one's complete and absolute helplessness. And it is not sufficient to realize it
philosophically in words. It is necessary to realize it in clear, simple, and concrete facts, in one's
own facts. When a man begins to know himself a little he will see in himself many things that are
bound to horrify him. So long as a man is not horrified at himself he knows nothing about
A man who has seen in himself something that horrifies him, he decides to throw it off, to stop it,
put an end to it. But however many efforts he makes, he feels he cannot do this, that everything
remains as it was. Here he will see his impotence, his helplessness, and his nothingness; or again,
when he begins to know himself a man sees he has nothing that is his own, that is, all he has
regarded as his own, his views, thoughts, convictions, tastes, habits, even faults and vices, all
these are not his own but have been either formed through imitation or borrowed from
somewhere ready-made. In feeling this a man may feel his nothingness. And in feeling his
nothingness a man should see himself as he really is, not for a second, not for a moment, but
constantly, never forgetting it.
This continual consciousness of his nothingness and of his helplessness will eventually give a man
the courage to 'die,' that is, to die not merely mentally or in his consciousness, but to die in fact
and to renounce actually and forever those aspects of himself which are either unnecessary from
the point of view of his inner growth or which hinder it.
These aspects are first of all his 'false I,' and then all the fantastic ideas about his 'individuality,'
'will,' 'consciousness,' 'capacity to do,' his powers, initiative, determination, and so on.
But in order to see a thing always, one must first of all see it even when only for a second. All
new powers and capacities of realization come always in one and the same way:
at first they
appear in the form of flashes at rare and short moments; afterwards they appear more often and
last longer until finally, after very long work, they become permanent. The same thing applies to
awakening. It is impossible to awaken completely all at once. One must first begin to awaken for
But, one must die all at once and forever, after having made a certain effort, surmounted a certain
obstacle, taken a certain decision from which there is no going back. This would be difficult, even
impossible for a man, were it not for the slow and gradual awakening which precedes it.