This excerpt is by Maurice Nicoll, taken from The Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Vol. 2. It has to do with psychological entropy, or in other words, a state in which “We cannot apply ourselves to anything and so cannot take in any new impressions. We never try to learn anything new and instead of being horrified by our state of ignorance we just drift along in the stream of life.”
Obviously, this is in complete opposition to the state we must be in for a transformation of our nature – which is what we are really after.
“The idea of sacrifice runs through all esotericism and is implicit in all the Work teaches. But the Work very rarely mentions the word sacrifice, speaking instead of transformation. If you genuinely forego something it has a chance of transforming itself. Now, to speak more coarsely, we often receive eggs, but never take the trouble to hatch them into chickens–in fact, we usually eat our eggs–i.e. identify. The egg is an excellent symbol of a new life. G. used to call the French Institute an incubator in which we ourselves were the eggs and the friction was the heat that could transform them. Of course, looking back, one can see that this was so. One can see that all these frictions, these difficulties that we felt so acutely, were the means whereby we could have transformed ourselves if only we had practised the Work–i.e. if only we had lived the Work and not made inner accounts and identified with our inner states and above all if we had remembered ourselves. Easter is not something that comes once a year but something that comes every day: the idea of non-identifying, or dying to some typical mechanical reaction, is a daily possibility, and if it is done in a spirit of a kind of gaiety, it will gradually result in energy being transformed daily and passing upwards to another level which after a time will become a distinct experience to you.
“Are you making more energy or losing energy if you work on yourself? Everything you do mechanically, just like everything that happens in the Universe, tends to increase entropy and bring about eventually a sort of stalemate, a sort of equalization of everything. But every effort of work increases force…
“…But I will ask you only one thing: if you always follow the easiest path, if you are always ruled by pleasure, self-love, and self-gratification, do you not increase entropy and become staler and staler and heavier and heavier and more and more difficult and tiresome and exacting and small-minded? That is to say, you come to a state where only very slight differences work in you, very slight differences of potential, and eventually you will certainly be quite dead psychologically. But if you practice dying to things in yourself gradually you will become more and more alive. This certainly sounds paradoxical. Now if you have an aim and try to keep it, if only for a short time, will you increase available energy or potential in yourselves? Yes, you will, if you are sincere in your efforts, because you will be going against your mechanical selves in a particular direction–you will be making Work-effort which gives force.”
Make a whole-hearted aim to go against some mechanical activity which you observe in yourself: one ruled by pleasure and ease. Make extra effort in the doing where normally, very little is given. Often when we do something in order to obtain a desired result, we pay little attention to the action involved. Reverse the order, and pay attention to the action, not the anticipated result. Observe what happens as a result of your efforts.