Gurdjieff was referring to the prison of mechanicalness that pervades the existence of most of us. That mechanicalness – that reacting to life in the same old ways as your conditioning dictates or as others expect you to – keeps you from realizing that you do not have to be at the mercy of life. You have the power to create your own life.
So, what does this have to do with writing? Everything. In order to write in an authentic way, we must not let ourselves be trapped behind the walls of convention. We must let our spirits be free to express in ways that resonate with the vibrations of our souls. We cannot limit ourselves by trying to express ourselves artistically according to the expectations of others. As writers, being aware of the danger if we choose to work from within this prison of convention is the only way in which the “imprisoned spendour” within us, as Browning describes it, is able to express creatively in the world.
Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in.
This perfect, clear perception – which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.
- Robert Browning