From the journal Material For Thought, issue number 2

© 1990 Far West Editions



By Robert S. De Ropp Delacorte Press


The aim of The Master Game is to reveal “path­ways to higher consciousness.” Dr. De Ropp is a noted biochemist, author of Drugs and the Mind and other works dealing with the question of man’s search for the way to inner evolution. He brings to this deeply perennial theme an earnestly critical mind at home in both scientific and metaphysical literature.

The Master Game is weighted by the ideas of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. But Dr. De Ropp also brings together elements from the psychological teachings of the great religions, the insights of modern writers like Freud, Alan Watts, and W. H. Sheldon, as well as a fund of information from his professional specialty, psycho-pharmacology. The unifying idea is his notion of a “master game”, “the only game worth playing,” that can lead man out of the condition of sleep and into the state of awakening.

The present book offers a synthesis of many methods derived from different sources, all of which are designed to help the practitioner to emerge from the darkness of waking sleep into the light of full consciousness. (p. 24)

Dr. De Ropp supposes that this awakening is the inner goal of all the major religious traditions, and that these traditions, when they are not cor­rupted, are so many methods for this awakening. What gives his book a unique flavor is the way he selects and combines these teachings and methods into arrestingly contemporary forms of thought.

All around us something like a “spiritual ex­plosion” is taking place. Esoteric knowledge of the great religious traditions of the world seems to be pouring upon us from all directions—from India, the Middle East, Japan, Tibet. Texts which have hitherto been inaccessible and unknown to all but a few remarkable Westerners can now be pur­chased at the local magazine stand, and the land abounds with people claiming to hold secrets and methods which can change our lives and the very life of our society. Indeed, one knows very few people who are not seeking the help of someone else—be it therapist, guru, swami or master—to find the direction for his life, and the knowledge of his place in the universe, Perhaps it is therefore more accurate to call the “spiritual explosion” an explosion of psychological dependence.

Amid this explosion, The Master Game oc­cupies an interesting place. As a summation of the psychological teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff, it raises the question of whether there is any sense at all in the idea of “spiritual methods,” and whether they do not really increase psychological dependence, rather than provide man with a path to inner freedom.

What is our relationship to new methods which tempt us to try to change ourselves? Gurdjieff taught that because of our psychological de­pendence—what he calls sleep—we adopt all such methods without ever seriously attempting to use them as a means for self-knowledge, The wish for self-knowledge springs from the wish for psy­chological independence. It seeks to establish the mind in truth rather than in progress.

How then to find the truth? Obviously, one does need a method. The problem is how to be free of our ideas about methods and their results. The moment I have adopted a method, it is because it conforms to my ideas and it is then no longer a practical help in my search for the truth about myself. Thus I need a method to help me to see my ideas for what they are and to help maintain my search even as I am attracted to methods.

De Ropp has found and accepted a method which he calls Creative Psychology and he is highly persuasive in his presentation of it. In order to show us the value of the method he believes in, he marshalls the most important concepts of con­temporary psychology and the latest evidence from the field of psycho-pharmacology, in which he is expert, along with the thoughts of the great thinkers and saints of the ages.

Dr. De Ropp thus offers us an opportunity to see our own psychological dependence. As he displays the ideas of Gurdjieff side by side with those of modern science and psychology, we see ourselves mixing and diluting ideas which can awaken man’s spirit with ideas which can only lend themselves to application and speculation. Is there any wonder we do not move from our position?

Methods for psychological freedom initially ap­pear as possible truths which confound us, stir us —even to the point of chilling us—with a glimpse of our situation as individuals and as Man. To support the outer form of such truths with ac­ceptable ideas and authoritative references is to discard them as methods. Then they truly become “mere ideas.”

Dr. De Ropp may well be his own sharpest critic when he writes:

One who tries to practice the method without a teacher almost inevitably encounters certain difficulties which he cannot surmount.... (He) may enjoy all sorts of pseudo-experiences, the result not of an expansion of consciousness but of the workings of his own imagination. (p. 25)

What is the function of a teacher? Is it to provide us with answers or to create situations in which we may more readily discover our own questions?

Without that discovery, how shall I ever know the true weight of ideas, or feel the hunger for a method of my own?