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At one point in Ouspensky’s narrative, Gurdjieff tells a strange parable about a magician who is perplexed by a flock of disobedient sheep. “This magician was very mean,” says Gurdjieff. “He did not want to hire shepherds, nor did he want to erect a fence around the pasture where the sheep were grazing.” The sheep kept running away, “for they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and skins and this they did not like.”
The magician hit upon an expedient. He hypnotized the sheep into thinking “that they were immortal and that no harm was being done to them when they were skinned, that, on the contrary, it would be very good for them and even pleasant; secondly he suggested that the magician was a good master who loved his flock so much that he was ready to do anything in the world for them.”
(Personally I can no longer hear the Twenty-third Psalm without having this parable come unsettlingly to mind.)
“After this all his cares and worries about the sheep came to an end. They never ran away again but quietly awaited the time when the magician would require their flesh and skins.

By Richard Smolley