If someone would accept this aphorism as a suggestion to accomplish always what we don’t like or what doesn’t give any pleasure, with the consequence of fighting always every instinctually pleasant tendency that manifests in us, then it would be better to encircle our arms with a hair shirt, nourish ourselves exclusively with bread and water, and mortify our physical body in every possible way.
But, seeing that in Gurdjieff’s terms, this behavior would belong to the “way of monk”, then surely this aphorism intends something else.
Indeed, this aphorism has to be intended in a different manner, and in order to accomplish this understanding, it would be good to change it slightly so that it would be understandable to the contemporary reader: “Love what you don’t love”.
The first point which we might focus our attention on is the constitution of the human, which is composed of two natures. What does this mean?
Different from other beings in this world which are composed of one nature – mineral, vegetal, animal- a human being is endowed in one part with a psychophysical mean, in another, with a mind. The mind is what makes the difference between a human and other beings.
This is a key understanding, because this knowing could help those who ponder in this sense to accept as peculiar even some aspects that are considered negative and that, in many cases, could produce in him some unpleasant effects.
Indeed, the characteristic of possessing two natures is the cause of continuous conflicts between a force that pushes us toward something new (affirmation, positive or constructive force, first force) and what denies this to happen (second, negative, conservative force). The first force belongs ideally to the field of our mind, while the second to the other fields constituting the human being.
This aphorism gives us a precise line of work which conceives as intentional effort, the act of separating the intellectual nature (which is practically nonexistent in other beings) from the psychophysical one. This line of work could bring us to the real liberation of a true thinking energy from the various impulses that come from the body and the lower feelings (emotions) which are still part of the animal legacy we still contain in ourselves, which imposes itself on the mind system, transforming it and its function.
The significance of this aphorism doesn’t lie in a type of violence we have to perform on our body, through an imposition of renouncements and denials, or of forcing the body to perform actions that it categorically refuses to do. Indeed, Gurdjieff had stated that physical efforts by themselves are useless: in his terms, this would be the “way of the fakir”. It’s an act of liberation of the essence (our true self) from thoughts, which are the result of the influences on the mind of the animal – a mechanical legacy we keep inside ourselves.
It is the division of the light from the darkness.
It’s a subtle process that the practitioner has to put into practice with acuity through adequate techniques in order to avoid producing wrong effects in his psychical structure and his physical health.
Through such a process, the two forces, the two natures, that at the beginning are opposing, can merge together through the presence of a third force that could be called “feeling”, that has nothing to do with what is commonly intended with this term.
It would be better to use the term “love”, intended as a conscious act of intentional will, namely, free from every instinctive, natural, and conservative necessity.
In order to educate ourselves to such type of activity, we could impose upon ourselves a task, an action that hasn’t any interest for us – an action that must be accomplished every day, for a determined period. During this period of time, if we accomplish this task with diligence, we’ll notice that, just because we wish that action to be performed, we’ll begin to love it.
It’s something similar to what, in the chapter dedicated to Pogossian in his book “Meetings with Remarkable Men”. This character says: “I like to work with my common sense. (“’Please bear in mind,’ he added, ‘that when I use the word “I”, you must understand it is not the whole of me, but only my mind. I love work and have set myself the task of being able, through persistence, to accustom my whole nature to love it and not my reason alone”).