One of Gurdjieff's major premises, is that man is a machine --- albeit a complex one --- but a machine with no one in charge. This machine goes in one direction one minute and another direction the next, subject to whatever external circumstances or stimuli are applied to him by life. Under the law of accident, man acts mechanically according to the external influences of race, nation, climate, family, education, society, profession, manners, custom, wealth, poverty, and so on. Life is like a great belt which turns the machinery of man. `Accident' is not meant to merely cover physical accidents, such as being shot or having a car accident. The real centre of gravity of Accident is that something happens to you that does not properly belong to you.
Man may be understood to consist of two parts, that is, his being is made of essence and personality. Essence in a man is what he is born with --- what is his own. Personality is what is acquired --- what comes from outside.
The part of our being that is essential is under the law of fate and the part of our being that is personality --- particularly false personality --- is under the law of accident. Another way of considering this law is that we have different levels within us. False personality operates under 96 orders of laws, personality operates under 48 orders of laws, and essence operates under 24 orders of laws.
If a man is very identified with his personality, through his false personality (which is under a greater number of laws), then such a man is under the law of accident.
When a man does something from his understanding, he is not acting from his False Personality --- he is acting from something more internal, something deeper --- and when this is the case he is more likely to be under the law of fate. A man under the law of accident goes with his psychological machinery that has been laid down in him. He never questions what he does and never thinks about what he does. His views are stereotyped, his buffers are fixed, his attitudes are acquired --- such a man is asleep to himself.
Under the law of accident there are two kinds of influences. One is `life' influences and the other is `outside of life', that is, esoteric, influences, created under different orders of laws. These `conscious' influences have been created consciously by conscious men for a definite purpose. They may reach certain men and they may act on certain men and by this means, help them to awaken.