When Gurdjieff’s father died Gurdjieff was only nine years old. The father was poor. He called Gurdjieff close to him and told him, “I have nothing to give you as your inheritance. I am poor, and my father was also poor, but he gave me one thing that made me the richest man in the world, although the outside poverty remained. I can only transfer the same to you.
“It is some advice. Perhaps you are too young and you may not be able to do it right now, but remember it. When you are able to act according to the advice, act according to it. The advice is simple. I will repeat it, and because I am dying, listen carefully and repeat in front of me what I have said so I can die satisfied that I have transferred the message that may have come down from father to son for centuries.”
The message was simple. The father said, “If somebody insults you, irritates you, annoys you, just tell him? I have received your message, but I have promised my father that I will answer only after twenty-four hours. I know you are angry, I have understood it. I will come after twenty-four hours and answer you.’ And the same with anything. Give a gap of twenty-four hours.”
The nine-year-old boy repeated what the father said, and the father died, but because it was such a moment the message became engraved. As he repeated the message, the father said, “Good. My blessings will be with you, and now I can die peacefully.” He closed his eyes and died. And Gurdjieff, even though he was nine, started practicing what was given to him. Somebody would insult him, and he would say, “I will come after twenty-four hours to answer you because that’s what I have promised my dying father. Right now I cannot answer you.”
Somebody might beat him, and he would say, “You can beat me right now, but I cannot answer. After twenty-four hours I will come and answer you, because I have promised my dying father.” And later on he used to say to his disciples, “That simple message transformed me totally. The person was beating me but I was not going to react at that moment so there was no question except to watch.
There was nothing I had to do: now the person was beating me, I just had to be a spectator. For twenty-four hours there was nothing to do.
“And watching the man created a new kind of crystallization in me. After twenty-four hours I could see more clearly. At the moment when he was beating me it was impossible to see clearly. My eyes were full of anger. If I was going to answer at that moment I would have wrestled with the man, I would have hit the man, and everything would have been an unconscious reaction.
“But after twenty-four hours I could think about it more calmly, more quietly. Either he was right – I had done something wrong and I needed, deserved, to be beaten, to be insulted – or he was absolutely wrong. If he was right, there was nothing to say to him except to go and give him thanks.
If he was absolutely wrong… then there was no point at all in fighting with a man who is utterly stupid and goes on doing such wrong things. It is meaningless, it is wasting time. He does not deserve any answer.”
So after twenty-four hours everything settled down and a clarity was there. And with that clarity and the watchfulness of the moment, Gurdjieff changed into one of the most unique beings of this age.