from Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky by Maurice Nicoll. (Note: the audio covers the whole chapter, which is a few paragraphs beyond what is typed below.)
RECAPITULATION ON ESSENCE AND PERSONALITY
Essence comes down to Earth and there is formed for it a physical body out of substances derived from both parents. Out of these substances, which make separate and distinct sets of the necessary materials for the formation of a body, some are selected from one parent and some from the other parent, the rest being discarded. The Essence is prior to the body through which it makes contact with the world. In this respect the Work corrects our customary sense-based view that the parents make the child. They supply certain materials which are made in them, and everything else is done. The only thing that can be said to be done by the parents is to bring the two sets of materials together. Then, if there is an individual Essence seeking manifestation, a child results. Now the death of several million beings, in the form of sperms, is involved in this first contact of Essence with the Earth. The presence of and the death of these vast quantities of living cells seems necessary for one of them to pass from the cosmos of cells to the cosmos of Man and so attain its goal by full development. We understand that the object of Essence in coming down to this Earth and seeking a body is to enable it to reach full development. But we are told that Essence can only grow to a certain limited extent under ordinary circumstances and that it requires a special food to develop any further. We may be sure that this special food will involve the death of something else. In this case it involves the death of Personality.
First there is Essence, which can only grow to a limited extent. Understand here that the body is not Essence itself. The body becomes full grown of itself if provided with physical food. But this is not the case with the Essence, which needs psychological food. The history of the development of the Essence is not the history of the development of the body. A fully developed body does not mean a fully developed Essence. A savage may have the strength of three ordinary men and the mind of a child of two. That is the tragedy. First, then, there is Essence and body only. Then Essence is active. Next there is formed gradually around Essence a covering called Personality and this surrounds the Essence. In the meantime the body continues to grow. As a rule a man does not reach any further stage. His body grows. His Essence remains undeveloped beyond a short growth, and Personality is formed. The man’s centre of gravity of consciousness shifts more and more into the outer covering called Personality that life is forming in him, chiefly by imitation. The man, as it were, passes outwards into what is not him. In this way the Personality becomes active and the Essence becomes passive.