Once there was 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 of them he suggested that they were lions, to others that they were eagles, to others that they were men, and to others that they were magicians.
And after this all his cares and worries about the sheep came to an end. They never ran away again but quietly awaited the time when the magician would require their flesh and their skins.
George Gurdjieff loved this parable very much. His whole philosophy is contained in this small parable. And this parable represents man in the ordinary state of unconsciousness. It is one of the most beautiful illustrations of man as he is.