A ‘hasnamuss’ is a certain type of very dangerous person that Gurdjieff wrote about in Beelzebub’s Tales and Ouspensky spoke about in his lectures published in The Fourth Way and A Further Record. In order to understand what it is and what it means to us and to the world at large, we must understand three other terms used by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. They are ‘householder,’ ‘tramp,’ and ‘lunatic.’ As it happens none of the words can be defined in relation to their ordinary meaning. A ‘householder’ does not necessarily own a house, a ‘tramp’ may be wealthy and admired, and a ‘lunatic’ may be the head of a corporation or an important politician.
These terms all refer not to the role that the person plays but to the values that motivate his actions, or, as it often is in the case of tramp, the lack of action. Put simply a householder has correct values, a tramp has no values, and a lunatic has wrong values. Unfortunately the word ‘values’ in the last forty years has been used so much by certain hypocritical conservative politicians in the United States that it has lost its meaning and has become an unfashionable topic, especially among intellectuals. The word ‘priorities’ has become a replacement word in many circles.
But what I mean here by values is not difficult to understand. A value is what is important to you. But again this has to be understood in relation to what motivates you to act. If you say that you value helping those that are less fortunate than you, but the efforts you make to help the poor are motivated by a desire to give the impression to others that you are a good person, then what you actually value is the opinion of others. A value is also a relative term in that a person can value one thing over another, and a third thing can be valued above the other two. A person may, for instance, value honesty but find that in some situations honesty may not be the most practical or compassionate action.
Two qualities that are characteristic of a householder are the ability to think in a practical way and having a certain amount of discipline. Thinking practically means being able to observe a situation and to formulate an action that secures the aim you have set for yourself, and being disciplined means being able to carry out that action, even if it difficult or unpleasant. In conscious evolution these two qualities are not only important but essential. Without a certain level of householder, the student of the way will find no meaning in his work, or he will turn his work into something wrong or destructive.
Tramp is easy to understand. Tramp is an attitude that nothing matters, that everything is relative to everything else and therefore nothing can be of more value than anything else. There are people who romanticize tramp; they believe that having no values is a kind of objectivity and that an attitude of tramp makes them superior to others; nothing could be further from the truth. Dostoevsky seemed interested in characters who were ruled by tramp (he thought of it as nihilism, a philosophy that states that all values are baseless and that there are no universal moral truths). If nothing matters, then a man may murder his landlady, as Raskolnikov did in Crime and Punishment, and believe that he will not be haunted by the consequences. You can see how such an attitude can lead to bad choices, but, in most people, tramp is less dramatic; it often means despondency in relation to the world or an inability to act. Why should I do anything if nothing matters? But things matter. The universe is constructed of lower and higher worlds, of which are, to some extent, reflected in our inner experience. To believe that higher and lower worlds are of the same value is a misunderstanding of the human experience.
A lunatic has values, but they are the wrong values. A politician, who values winning over everything else, will make choices that are morally wrong or even criminal because his peace of mind and conscience are less important to him than winning. Lunatic as a feature is also prevalent in the corporate world where greed is often seen as a virtue. Making money is valued even if the way the money is made exploits other people or destroys the planet where we all live. You can see that these values are wrong or in an incorrect order. There is nothing wrong with making money, but when it becomes more important than the wholesale suffering of a workforce or the health of the planet, then something is out of joint. Lunatics are also devoted to formatory thinking; that is, either-or thinking or absolute thinking. Much of the justification of a lunatic’s extreme behavior is based on formatory thinking. If you believe that you are absolutely right and that your opponents are wrong and that there is no gray area or middle ground, then it becomes possible for you to justify questionable actions. This is seen in many issues that are presently being debated in the United States. The firearm debate is a good example. People block a clear need for gun laws by believing that the second amendment of the U. S. Constitution is an absolute right, that no matter what the consequences, this amendment gives Americans the right to buy and use any gun that they like, even military-style weapons. There is no consideration of the reality of the situation, and no compromise is possible, no matter how many people die. The second amendment makes them right and their opponents wrong, and there is no higher right in their defense.
By definition, a hasnamuss is a lunatic and a tramp at the same time, which at first glance seems impossible. How can you have no values and wrong values at the same time? But when you begin to look at the examples you will see that it is possible. Another way to view a hasnamuss is that he is a lunatic given to extreme and unpredictable behavior who also has no values.
[A hasnamuss] never hesitates to sacrifice people or to create an enormous amount of suffering, just for his own personal ambitions. ~ P. D. Ouspensky
In order to understand how this works, we need to understand that we all have lunatic and tramp. For most people tramp and lunatic are just ‘I’s, or groups of ‘I’s, that are not believed or fought against, but in some people these same groups of ‘I’s grow strong and can, eventually, become crystallized. Both the lunatic and the tramp are unable to distinguish between higher and lower worlds, and as a result of his wrong crystallization, the hasnamuss is unable to manifest from higher worlds. He manifests from the lowest worlds experienced by man. Here we can add another characteristic of the hasnamuss: he does not experience positive emotions. Positive emotions require the burning of higher hydrogens (hydrogen 12), but the hasnamuss has lost his capacity to create hydrogen 12, he is, in Ouspensky’s words, crystallized in the wrong hydrogen.
The emotional function, when it works with its own energy, is an organ of perception, and the hasnamuss, who has only negative emotions, loses his ability to perceive from the emotional function. Part of what this means is that he has no conscience, no empathy, and no shame. In many important ways, it is exactly this that gives him his power over other people and his apparent strength. Since he has no conscience, he is not troubled by his lies or by his actions when they create suffering for other people. It is also his lack of shame that makes him attractive to a certain type of person. Many ordinary people are frustrated by the burden of conscience; shame and guilt keep these people from acting on their most base impulses, and the hasnamuss, when he achieves a position of power, gives them permission to manifest their prejudice, their hatred, and their violent desires. Here we come to another characteristic of the hasnamuss: he appeals to the lowest in his followers, and in doing so destroys whatever higher possibilities they have.
In ordinary conditions, in ordinary life, in ordinary times, they are just criminals or actual lunatics—nothing more. But in certain periods of history—in times like these, for example—such people very often play a leading part; they may become very important people. ~ Ouspensky
It’s not clear from the source that I have, but this statement by Ouspensky seems to have been made in 1935; that is, just after the rise of Hitler and Mussolini.
Gurdjieff believed that darker times were cyclical and that they were the result of planetary influences.
Somewhere up there two or three planets have approached too near to each other; tension results. Have you noticed how, if a man passes quite close to you on a narrow pavement, you become all tense? The same tension takes place between planets. For them it lasts, perhaps, a second or two. But here, on the earth, people begin to slaughter one another, and they go on slaughtering maybe for several years. ~ G. I. Gurdjieff
Clearly we are now in another such time. The instability in the United States caused by the rise of Trump certainly has the most potential for a large-scale disaster, but the figures of hasnamuss have appeared in other countries as well, as would be expected if Gurdjieff is right and this movement is the result of planetary influences that affect the earth as a whole.
In the United States we find politicians and business people who think that they can use Trump to get what they want while he is in power without falling prey to his sordidness; they are mistaken. History has shown us that people who support the hasnamuss are either betrayed by him or, if they hold out, are shunned by coming generations. It also has to be observed that when powerful people protect the hasnamuss, it only emboldens him to commit greater crimes. It is predictable that his crimes will eventually become so horrific that they will go beyond what the majority of his supporters can stomach. The hasnamuss lives his life in a downward spiral and is happy to pull others into his inevitable downfall.
Others in the United States believe they can change Trump; they too are mistaken. The hasnamuss is crystallized in the meanest human desires and the most degenerate behavior. By definition he cannot change. More than anything he fears higher emotions, like love and compassion and sympathy, because he cannot understand them. They are no longer within his range of experience, and so, like Trump, the first impulse of the hasnamuss, on encountering anyone manifesting from higher emotions, is to bring them down to his level, and, if he can’t do this, to do his best to destroy them.
The next natural question is: what can we do? But in this case, the most revealing question is: what would a householder do? A householder is more than anything practical. A householder knows what is possible for him to affect and what is not. He doesn’t enter into fights that he cannot win, yet at the same time he does what he can to support the institutions that are trying to counter the trends the hasnamuss has created, and he doesn’t expect those institutions to be perfect or run by perfect individuals. A householder acts when he sees any possibility of positive change, and doesn’t allow himself to be drawn into domains where he has no influence. He is disciplined when he needs to be and aloof when the situation is out of his control.
On a human level, a householder does what he can when he can do it and then withdraws. He understands his possibilities as well as his limitations.
A householder is a normal man, and a normal man, given favorable conditions, has the possibility of development. ~ Ouspensky
A householder has the possibility of development, but it is not a certainty. In many ways it comes down to luck. He must be in the right place at the right time when conditions allow for the teachings of esoteric ideas. Ouspensky believed that the development of a teaching needs a time of relative calm, despite Gurdjieff’s claim to the contrary.
I think they were both right in their own way. Ouspensky observed that in difficult times it becomes next to impossible to organize a teaching and attract new people, and Gurdjieff believed that hard times were beneficial to people who have already adopted the fourth way as a way of life. So if we take both of these as correct, we can say that what hurts the organization of esotericism as a whole may benefit the individual.
The system is designed in a way that we can profit, on a spiritual level, from difficulties by using the tools that are given. We can transform suffering, if we know how to do it and have the discipline to bring the appropriate tools to the situation in the moment. Non-identification, external considering, and self-remembering are powerful tools in ordinary situations and become more powerful in difficult or extraordinary situations.
The moment you suffer, try to remember yourself. ~ Ouspensky
Of course, a comparison to the 1930s and ‘40s to our time is not exactly correct. On a human level the stakes are much higher now in our time. The hasnamuss, the lunatic, and the tramp are not only in a position to slaughter many, many people, and make many more suffer, but are in a position to destroy the entire human experiment on earth. The fact of global warming, unchecked pollution, extreme weather, and massive amounts of stockpiled weapons in countries that are now unstable does make a happy ending, or even a sustainable path forward, less likely. The question for us is this: do we allow the reality of what is happening force us into a state of fear and instinctive desperation, or do we use the situation to better understand that we are in essence spiritual beings.
For a long time we have taken self-remembering too narrowly. We have thought of our self as this body in this life, and have used self-remembering to further our worldly aims. But self-remembering can be more. If we can reach higher centers even for short periods of time, we will uncover a different being, one based on the experience of many lifetimes, whose understanding is rooted in spiritual worlds. And this is the self we ultimately want to remember.