When Gurdjieff says “understand the machine”, he means “understand your own robot”, the Robot being this part of us that does things for us, and which ought to be entirely good. It drives your car for you, it speaks French for you, it does all kinds of things. Unfortunately, it also does the things you don’t want it to, like – you go for a walk which really moves you deeply the first time. The second and third time, it’s the Robot walking instead of you; you listen to a symphony that moves you, the third or fourth time it’s the Robot listening as well as you, and interfering. So this automatic level, which tends to cut in particularly when we’re tired, is of tremendous importance, and obviously, because the Robot in human beings is so fiercely efficient, we are not aware of our degree of freedom. We just get so completely – I mean, imagine a rich person who is born rich, and has lots and lots of servants, and he could quite easily, if he was a gentle character, get used to the idea that in fact his servants were minders who told him what to do, until he had a feeling that he had no freedom at all. You know, he did what his butler and his maid and his secretary told him. Now we’re rather like that with the Robot, and it’s only in these sudden moments of freedom in which you suddenly realise that you’re in charge, and not the robot, and the Robot’s a servant, not a master. It’s very much tied up with this notion of the third level of control.
– Colin Wilson