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You are here You are here: Home Study Psychology & Mind Fourth Way Fourth Way Introduction Man Is in a Prison
  Man Is in a Prison       From: fourth way® gurdjieff ouspensky school

mind prison3When I was younger, for my sins, I spent time locked up in several of Her Majesty's prisons.

In this Work Mr. Gurdjieff and others have often made use of the analogy that Man is in a Prison, of the need to escape his situation and of what realizations and efforts are required.

When I look back upon my experiences of suddenly finding myself in prison – the austere and cramped conditions, the atmosphere and rules and regulations, the loss of what little dignity I had – I am immediately struck by how quickly one adjusts to the alien and hostile environment one finds oneself in.

It immediately becomes normal and acceptable.

The prison environment is a mirror and reflection of outside society on all levels. There are those who find it hard – even impossible – to deal with the situation they find themselves in. Likewise, some find the strain of outer life hard to bear. The wardens, bullies, barons, and bravado all have their reflection in the human types and interactions outside. But the majority with a modicum of intelligence fit into the running of the machine from the first morning: just like in life, you do what is required.

But in prison we had a certain advantage. We knew that we were in it. We all had experiences of, and were aware of, a life beyond the walls where there was far more choice, far more freedom. We would often yearn for that world. We could have a limited interaction with it via letters and visits.

Now if I had been born and raised in a prison – all of my experiences formed within it and it was my sole point of reference – I would accept my lot and the limitations of the life I led as perfectly normal. Hadn't we always lived like this? Didn't everyone?

Occasionally rumors of something more beyond the confines of the walls might reach us – maybe even a rare visitor bringing news of broader horizons.

Many of us would scoff, as we accepted and were happy in our environment; we knew what to expect and were safe. Some of us might suspect that something more may lay beyond the walls, but fear and lack of faith would lead us to inaction; after all, we might lose what little we had. But for some of us something would be awakened that would not allow us to sleep so easily.

This is like our situation. We don't have the advantage of having the knowledge that we are indeed in a prison. We are born into this life and it is our sole point of reference. We have either forgotten or have no experience of any realities beyond the material sensory world.

As this is all we know, the walls and the bars that restrict and confine us are invisible.

We are imprisoned by our acquired patterns of behavior and our learned attitudes --`I can't do that', `I already know that', etc. We are limited to manifesting the acquired behavior that life and the situations we find ourselves in evokes. We do not act in life but simply re-act.

Our responses are limited to whatever we have acquired and assimilated in a haphazard manner from our parents, family, friends, our peers, education, and the media. A certain situation calls forth in us a certain mechanical response.

As these acquired responses are all we have ever known, we attribute them to ourselves, under the illusion that we consciously manifest our actions rather than their being mechanically evoked. Because there is no space between us and life we are hypnotized by the rush of events.

We find ourselves in life and identified with it. We attribute consciousness to ourselves: we think we are aware and awake. In fact we are quite asleep, our lives just one not-so-long string of blind reactions.

A man who has no awareness that he is in a prison cannot be expected to begin making the required efforts to escape. So the first thing that is required is the realization that this is man's condition – My condition. He then needs to begin to study the layout of the prison and how it operates.

A man is very limited in what he can achieve on his own, and in the course of studying the prison and looking for a means of escape he may come across others who have had similar realizations and with whom he can pool resources.

Next they will need to make contact with those who have escaped before them. Maybe they will have left clues and knowledge for those that come after them.

Most importantly he needs faith in the existence of something more and the courage and strength to make the required efforts and to bear the burdens of his task. Faith on its own will not dig the tunnel.

You are asleep and you are in a prison. You need to realize this intellectually and emotionally and to begin to work towards escaping the terror of the situation. Only a few may escape, many have no wish to, and besides injustice is the rule and justice the exception in this world.