Annie Lou Staveley : Conscience’ – The Allegory Of The Elephant And The Blind Men
Woodcut by Nonny Hogrogian
Another sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, a text by Annie Lou Staveley, a direct pupil of mister Gurdjieff, that goes with Nonny Hogrogian’s beautiful woodcut, made in 1989 printed as a limited series work of art by Two Rivers Press. This was a welcome gift by the late Michael Smyth and his wife Toddy during our visit of Two Rivers Farm in Aurora, Oregon.
‘Beelzebub (The main character in ‘Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson‘, the Magnus Opus of G.I. Gurdjieff ) says that an untrammeled conscience is the best guide and also that all men who have uncovered true conscience see things alike. There cannot be disagreement between one man and another’s conscience if it is genuine. So it follows that if a group of people need to work together, make decisions together, their only hope is to uncover conscience as best they may and strive to come to the point of agreement on this basis-inner first, outer second.
But if the group of people trying to work together suspect on clear evidence that their respective conscience are as yet faulty, incomplete and still covered, and correctly question their ableness to come to a conclusion together that would instantly be acceptable to all, then they must be patient and intelligent. They must represent impartial real conscience to themselves as similar to the elephant being examined by the blind men, and themselves as the blind men. If this group were totally devoid of conscience they would not be in this situation so it can be assumed that each one is, or may be, in touch with one or another detail of the elephant but that this part, though authentic, is not the whole elephant.
The important thing will be to remember this and keep it in mind that the part one has in one’s cognizance is valid-nevertheless it is not and can never be the whole elephant. The idea is not to add one part to another and laboriously try to concoct a logical mosaic of parts. That would be the outside only again. No. What is needed is that each one, while holding and respecting his own fragment, should listen to his neighbor’s description of his fragment and that out of this should emerge the concept of the real, whole elephant to everyone-the elephant that is greater that the sum of its parts. Only the elephant as a whole can be the same for each of the blind men-the parts cannot though they are real enough-the tail, the trunk, the ear, the leg, etc.-but the meaning of each part only becomes clear within the concept of the total elephant. Once you have that true concept you can have an awareness of how the parts fit together, how they are indispensable to the elephant and to each other. You can recognize that your neighbor’s fragment is as valid as your own even though completely unlike the part familiar to you.
What needs to be kept in mind is that the elephant IS-it exists-and it is a whole with many parts. Like all allegories this one should not be stretched too far or taken too literally. Try to understand how a group in need of guidance can find that guidance within its own resources.’