“The highest limit of human achievement is to be able to do.” ~ Gurdjieff

In the Work it is asserted that man is mechanical, that he is a machine rather than the master of himself. In fact, it is stated that “mechanicality” is the general state of humanity.

Consequently, it is our state most of the time. We “know” this only intellectually, in the sense that we may think of ourselves as mechanical to some degree. Or worse, this idea was suggested to our formatory apparatus and now it repeats it every now and then, mechanically, like a mantra.

“I am mechanical” as a mechanical belief or even as an intellectual belief has no value. As a proven theory, it might be useful.

We are given just one way to prove this theory – “to see it,” by intentional exploration. And in this, the intellectual center can only help a little.

It can devise a program. It can ponder the question: “How can I prove to myself that I am mechanical?”

What experiments can I carry out?

We can look at what is there and what is not there. Two kinds of experiments:

  1. Experiments that try to prove the hypothesis – that I am mechanical.
  2. Experiments that try to prove the contrary – that I am not mechanical.

Experiments of the first kind:

I observe thoughts arise.

Where did that thought come from?

Did I create it from nothing or did it have a source? Have I ever had that thought before? Is this a new thought? Is this a derived thought, based on a previous pattern?

I observe feelings arise.

How did that feeling arise?

Did I will it or wish it, or did it come by association? What else has ever made me feel that way? Does this feeling conform to the situation? Why this feeling and no impartiality to “the cause” of this feeling?

I observe my postures and movements?

Why this particular posture? Why move from this to that? Who commanded these movements? If no-one commanded then how did they arise?

Experiments of the second kind:

I choose to think in a new way.

What are the possibilities for this? I will perhaps think without words. Or maybe I will think in a language I do not know yet. I will invent new words for this. Is this possible? Can I do this?

I choose to feel in a different way.

When something happens and I begin to feel, for example, sad, instead I shall feel happy. If I begin to feel angry, instead I shall feel exhilarated. For every emotion that arises, I will discard it and choose an entirely different emotion. Can I do this?

I will move in a different way.

I will take particular actions: walking, opening a door, smiling, talking (vocal cords) and I will do these distinctly differently. I will try this. What happens when I try this?

I will conduct experiments of the first kind and experiments of the second kind – without any prejudgment of the result.

When I have completed my experimental program, I may be able to reach a conclusion.

Until then, I do not know.