"And they were able to do this not only because they possessed the being-property of 'ikhriltatzkakra,' but also because, like all the learned beings of the planet Earth of that time, they were well versed in what is called the 'law of type,' and were well aware of the twenty-seven quite distinct types of three-brained beings on their planet, and even of what the beings of each type would inevitably perceive in this or that situation, how they would perceive it, and what would have to be their reaction." (5)
Role playing exercises are useful for getting beyond or free of our Identification with our Chief feature and our Self Importance. Our Chief Feature is the legacy of our Essence as it manifests through our Personality. Our Chief Feature has positive and negative manifestations which may help or hinder us on our search for Being. Most of us find it very hard to bear the Suffering and pain involved with trying to step outside of our habitual roles in life. Many of us tend to value honesty and playing an uncharacteristic role can make us feel uneasy when interacting with others. Role playing is valued in some areas of life, such as by con-artists and intelligence agencies and politics, and thus many of us may find it distasteful with its connotations of deception.
In the context of the Work, we should set these feelings aside and consider what benefits to our Being will accrue if we attempt to play Roles temporarily in life that will help us step outside the mechanical constraints of our acquired Personality and our Self Importance. In the Gurdjieffian sense, a well rounded person is not Identified with their Personality and not consumed by their Self Importance, rather, they should be able to be all things for all people, as indicated by the quote from Beelzebub's Tales above.
Of course, Gurdjieff never delineated the 27 types mentioned in Beelzebub's Tales or in his list of Idiots, which were toasted at his Paris dinners. Never the less, we can approach this subject by considering that the Law of Ninefoldness (the enneagram or the law of seven plus the two shocks) multiplied by the three types of man (physical, emotional, intellectual) gives us 27 basic types. A controversial typology based on 27 types has recently arisen and become popular under the name of the Enneagram of Personality. Neither wishing to promote nor disparage that system, I simply wish to point out that it may be of some benefit to some people in the Work who wish to explore the dynamics of their Personality and Essence further. It has close affinities to the character traits outlined by Carl Jung and his protégé Maurice Nicoll. Rodney Collin also had a typology based on the seven planets of Astrology. Thus there is a precedent for this type of endeavor in the Work. The Enneagram of Personality is a great tool for giving insight into our Chief Feature and into the features of other Types that we may wish to use as models for Role Playing.
Role Playing Exercise
Choose a Role, any Role. Choose a Role corresponding to a personality type that you dislike or that you admire. Seek out a social situation where you can exercise that Role. Prepare for the Role playing by studying the characteristics of the type. Use your powers of Visualization and Imagination to construct the outward behaviors and inner attitudes of that type. Wear clothes and groom yourself in an appropriate manner. Set yourself a time limit within which to perform the role. Prepare Affirmations to use during the Role playing that will encourage you to continue with the Role at those times when you feel yourself being overwhelmed by the demands of the Role and want to beat a hasty retreat. When you have returned to a safe haven, evaluate your performance. Repeat as necessary.
Pondering on Roles
Who is playing the Role?
What is my preferred Role?
Why am I afraid to take other Roles?
What Roles in others do I dislike?
What Roles in myself do I dislike?
The Endless Search © 2004 - 2005 Ian C. MacFarlane