Mr. Needleman is tormented by the thought – by the certainty – that while man has been created to love, he is, by his very nature, incapable of loving. And so he buys into the Christian scheme of things, without actually becoming a Christian: God comes down to us in the form of Jesus. He becomes flesh – that is His gift, the gift of grace. All man has to do is accept it.
The reason so few people come to grace, he realizes, is because men are asleep, sleepwalking through life. Through his reading of the Gnostic gospels, he comes to ascertain that the whole purpose of a person’s life is to awaken, “to receive the help offered to man by a higher power,” and to discover the “Self” within one’s self.
The Gnostics remind him of his earlier reading of G. I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff said that most men live in sleep and die in sleep, without ever awakening to what they are meant to be. People are machines, Gurdjieff said, functioning solely under outside influences. As such, they are prisoners. The possibility of escape is very unlikely, but it does exist. Human beings have occasional flashes of true consciousness, which indicates that a more permanent consciousness may be attained.
The key to attaining any true measure of consciousness, Gurdjieff said, was self-remembering. When you observe yourself, try to remember yourself in the observing. Because if you don’t exist in your observing, your observations will be without value.
The possibility of not existing in the act of observing eventually -- years later – leads the author to consider the question: Does he exist at all? It is then that he sees that the question of whether God exists is identical to the question of whether he himself exists.
“Go out one clear starlit night,” Gurdjieff wrote, “to some open space and look up at the sky, at those millions of worlds overhead. Perhaps on each one of them swarms millions of beings, similar to you or perhaps superior to you in their organization…The earth cannot even be called a grain of sand in this infinity. It dissolves and vanishes, and with it, you.
“Before all these worlds ask yourself what are your hopes and aims…Remember where you are and why you are here.”