Who is Man? Six Lectures


Six Lectures given at Conway Hall, London ~ John G. Bennett
First: ‘I’ and ‘Me – 17th October 1955
(Most of this lecture can be regarded as a paraphrase of Gurdjieff’s All and Everything, pp. 1192-8 and pp. 332-8)
Second: Me and My Body – 24th October 1955
Third: Something Not Quite Right – 3rd November 1955
Fourth: Man and Mankind – 10th November 1955
Fifth: Man and the Universe – 14th November 1955
Sixth: Man – Actual and Potential – 21st November 1955


Lectures including: questions and answers –
 “Let us try to understand something of the task that lies ahead of us in these lectures. In the title Who Is Man? I have faced myself – and faced you also – with one of the most important and, in many ways, the most difficult of all the questions that we meet with during our lives. I wrote who rather than what is man in order to remind myself – and to remind you also – that it is not enough to ask ourselves what kind of animal is going about the world in man’s clothing, but we need first of all to ask who am I myself? If I could but know for certain who I am, it is very likely that I would be able also to know who you are; and with the help of this knowledge I would then have some hope of learning who all men are and what place our human nature occupies in the scheme of things.”


“Work on oneself can be called the struggle of ‘yes’ and ‘no’.  We are under the action of forces of different kinds.  Man, in his ordinary state of heedlessness, is not aware of these forces.  He runs before the wind and imagines he is doing what he chooses.  The force of expansion carries everything irresistibly before it and only those who become conscious of another force have any chance of learning how to steer their own course.  If a man becomes aware that he is being carried helplessly along and wishes to change his condition, he must search for the second force.  When he begins to see that there is a second force, he may realise that it makes a demand on him.  It will not allow him passively to submit to the automatic process of living and dying.  Only when man becomes aware that there are opposing forces acting on him can he become engaged in a real struggle.  He can then bring the process into himself.  The great world-process which is going on everywhere can be brought inside him.  In that way he has the possibility of becoming a real being.  It is in that sense it is said “Man is made in the image of God”.  This universal process is also able to enter into man but only by his own choice.  This enables the struggle between the forces of expansion and limitation to become part of himself.  The process by which they can enter into him is “work on oneself”.”

“……. when we had already said something about human relationships, because I wanted you to see that the first thing we need to know is what it is to be a man in general – what it is we share with all other men. After that, we need to know what it is to be oneself: to be able to find out who I am behind the mask of insincerity that covers me. Thirdly we need to know who we might be: whom it is possible for us to become. And, lastly, what are the means? What is the process of this transformation? All this knowledge is of a kind which does not arise automatically, which man cannot acquire through his sense perceptions nor even by his contacts with nature. It is knowledge of a kind that he can only acquire from his fellow men if they already have it in a greater degree than he has. Certainly this knowledge is useless to us until it becomes our own, until we have tested and verified it so that it is able to take the place of the illusions which vitiate the judgement of our personality. But although the knowledge has to become our own, we have to find it; and it is in this sense, first of all, that man is spiritually as well as organically a social animal. His spiritual life cannot come to be born without the help of teachers any more than his physical life can be born without the help of  parents.”

 “(Q)  Instead of speaking of God, could we try and understand what is quality?
J.G.B.     But with what are we to understand?  Understanding comes from experience, not from talking.  But experience alone is not enough.  If we observe nature with no idea of the great laws, it can only produce a subjective action upon us.  But if we observe nature and recognise in everything the working of laws it produces a quite different action.”
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