THE “HARNEL-MIATZNEL” – the sane logic of the Real World
by Ken Pledge
And only thirdly — try and fathom the gist of my writings. -- G. I. Gurdjieff
"Harnel-miatznel" is one of the neologisms introduced by G. I. Gurdjieff in his book Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. In this article, K. Pledge discusses the meaning of the term, drawing attention to its fundamental importance for developing a realistic form of thought.
Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that we really want to understand something of Gurdjieff s 'ideas'. If this is so then we are at once confronted with special problems. Gurdjieff's ideas are not 'ordinary' ideas. They are not ideas that can be separated from the world and from ourselves and what we do in our lives. They are the very reverse of 'abstract' ideas, because they are the actual forms of the workings of the real world, not excluding ourselves. It is through confrontation of the substance of actual experience that we have to meet with them, and there we are meeting them on their own ground.
There is a story by, I think, Saroyan about a little boy at school learning the alphabet. The teacher tells him that C-A-T is 'cat' and he is filled with indignation at the very idea. He inwardly rebels at the absurdity of it, refusing to accept it. "It is not true", he says to himself, "C-A-T is not 'cat' — 'cat' is the eyes, and the fur, walking."
Gurdjieff's ideas by no means correspond with the ways we have become used to thinking about most things. In fact he was at pains to show that almost all ordinary 'thinking' about ourselves and the world is so defective that it effectively prevents us from seeing anything in any kind of correct perspective. We think about and perceive the world in ways that entirely leave out essential elements, and in doing so we split up the world and are split apart from it and from ourselves. With ordinary 'thinking' we are not really able to properly understand either our own action or the actions that occur in the world.