It may be difficult at first to accept that this invisible element is an ineradicable weakness in our – that is, everyone’s – nature that subconsciously we will do anything to keep secret, even from our ‘conscious’ selves. Soon, however, the reports of people’s observations of their inner life are likely to render plausible such an obstacle to our, not only happiness, but even normality.
We are told that if we could separate from this harmful power our lives would improve dramatically. But how to tackle an invisible force? Paradoxically, the Tyrant itself makes this possible. Fourth Way founder Georgii Gurdjieff taught that this hidden, powerful ‘weakness’ devises a deceptive alter ego as its public face – though this persona is not as apparent to the person concerned as to his or her fellows.
However, persistent self-observation can disclose personal idiosyncrasies produced by this alter ego that can be traced to the ruling influence. Gurdjieff termed the false persona Chief Feature, and revealed how it could be recognised.
The poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe demonstrates in his masterpiece, Faust, an intuitive understanding of Chief Feature, sometimes regarded as a devil. When Faust asks Mephistopheles who he is, the tempter sets him a riddle: ‘Part of a power that would/ Alone work evil, but engenders good.’
The Lord explains that, since ‘Man’s efforts sink below his proper level,’ ‘I send this fellow, who must goad and tease/ And toil to serve creation, though a devil.’ This book reports Fourth Way teachers’ techniques of working on Chief Feature so as to serve creation and, personally, to attain a proper level of Being.
Bookcover: Faust (right)
and Mephistopheles on a 19th century engraving.