In both the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, the metaphor/imagery of sheep, shepherd and wolves has been ongoing. The 23rd Psalm, "the Lord is my Shepherd…" provides a generic background into an ideal attitude towards being in the Work.
ne has only to look at sheep, as a commodity, to learn many things. Sheep remain a passive lot. Sheep are herd animals; they prefer to move as a unit. Their instinctive nature feels that there is safety in numbers especially in regard to danger.
Sheep's skittish nature is reminiscent of our all-to-familiar human trait of running away from any unpleasant, incoming impressions. Many people spend their lifetimes trying to run away from the Wolf within themselves. If "things" remain in their natural state, one flock of sheep versus one wolf, each day the herd would diminish by one member. But if one adds a shepherd, and, perhaps, a sheep dog into the mix, the outcome becomes quite different.
Both the shepherd as well as the wolf wants to eat the sheep. But only the shepherd knows how to utilize the full advantage from the sacrifice of the sheep. The wolf simply eats the sheep for food, whereas, the shepherd can utilize the wool as well as the hide of the sheep.
It is interesting to note that while the sheep run away from the wolf, the sheep dog, a "civilized" dog, runs towards the wolf to protect the flock. The Work's near-endless aims to go against oneself enables one's inner canine elements to so refine themselves that they now become able to meet the wolf without/within, thereby preserving the inner sanctuary.
The value of the Shepard for the flock is ongoing. Depending on the form of the danger, (lack of food and water, disease and injury, endless predators around the perimeter of the flock, etc.), it is the Shepard that responds and helps to preserve the sheep. This idea of sheep as a commodity is reminiscent of Gurdjieff's parable of the sheep.
"There is an Eastern tale which speaks of a very rich magician who had a great many sheep. But at the same time this magician was very mean. He did not want to hire shepherds, nor did he want to erect a fence about the pasture where his sheep were grazing. The sheep consequently often wandered into the forest, fell into ravines, and so on, and above all they ran away, for they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and skins, and this they did not like. At last the magician found a remedy. He hypnotized his sheep and suggested to them first of all 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; and in the third place he suggested to them that if anything at all were going to happen to them, it was not going to happen just then, at any rate not that day, and therefore they had no need to think about it. Further the magician suggested to his sheep that they were not sheep at all; to some he suggested that they were lions, to others that they were eagles, to others that they were men, to others that they were magicians. And after this, all cares and worries about the sheep came to an end. They never ran away again, but quietly waited the time when the magician would require their flesh and skins."
Work Parable, Psychological Commentaries of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Volume II, p. 459
In Gurdjieff's allegory, the sheep remain placid because they have become convinced, through the agency of imagination, that they are not mere sheep to be skinned and eaten, but rather eagles and lions instead. This idea that the higher acts as a shepherd guiding and protecting the flock is mentioned by Mark (6:34) after the death of John the Baptist.
"And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was
moved with compassion towards them, because they were as a sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things."
One wonders if Gurdjieff was thinking of the above passage when he sent Madame Ouspensky a telegraph after Ouspensky's death which read, "You are a sheep without a shepherd; come to me."
Contrasted against the benefits of having a shepherd is the Old Testament and the New Testament descriptions of what happens when the shepherd is gone. In the Old Testament, Ezekiel points out how Judah's princes have turned against the people by turning into ravenous wolves.
"His [Judah's] princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain."
In the New Testament, Matthew again illustrates this self-same state when Jesus warns:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
Even the Apostle, [Paul], reiterates this point,
"For I [Paul] know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you not sparing the
In response to the reality of lost sheep forever scattered by wolves, Yahweh states:
"I, Myself, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his
sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep: and I will rescue them."
Besides the near endless forms of opposition between sheep and wolves, the metaphor for the reconciliation between sheep and wolves is also mentioned by Isaiah 11:6 to predict Jesus' birth…
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb…"
In order to awaken, one must learn how to incorporate the wolf-like nature into one's everyday sense of I. In order to be in the Work, one must become harmless:
"…behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves, be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves."
Similar to Yahweh's sentiments concerning how Yahweh would rescue His sheep, (Ezekiel 34:11-12), Jesus restates Yahweh's "protective" attitude towards his flock in John 10:11-16:
- "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
- But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep.
- The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
- I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep and known of mine.
- As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
Learning which voice to obey is the start of becoming able to become a member of a higher flock. Learning how to organize the near-endless inner chaos requires the agency of a Shepherd. The Work acts as an organizing principle in ones everyday life. To be in the Work means that one has become a member of an age-old flock. Any goat can be food for the moon, but to be in the Work means that one's aim is to become food for the sun.
To be in the Work means that one is able to play many parts; sometimes you are the sheep and sometimes you are the Shepard. To be in the Work means that one realizes the value of the wolf, especially in regard to the ongoing health of the flock. It is not until one is able to recognize the wolf within oneself that one's inner peace can be maintained. One must become aware of the role of the wolf in one's own inner drama.
As Bob Dylan so aptly noted, "You gotta serve somebody, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord; still you gotta serve somebody." Simply put, there is more than one kind of Shepherd for mankind. One kind of Shepherd appeals to the sheep's vanity as well as to their self-love. One kind of Shepherd manages the flock by appealing to the sheep's never-ending need to feel good about themselves.
On the other hand, there is a Shepherd who serves the Work Itself. This Shepherd teaches the sheep that they are simply sheep, headed for slaughter.
There will always be a wolf around to challenge the Shepherd as well as the flock. For the individual on the path, the trick seems to be their recognition of the eternal value of the wolf in the general maintenance and reciprocal well being of the Self.