In this edition of the Missal, we finish our series on the teachers of the Fourth Way with a look at its founder, G. I Gurdjieff
a mystic, teacher, and personality from the early part of the 20th century, was born in Alexandropo, Armenia. He grew up in Kars, and traveled to Central Asia, Egypt, Rome before returning to Russia and teaching in Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1913.
He began to form a group or 'school' based on a spiritual teaching he called 'the Work'. He claimed he had learned this teaching somewhere in the Caucasus region of Central Asia in the years he spent wandering through the East. The origins were unknown except by his own account, given in his book, Meetings With Remarkable Men.
He and his group of followers moved frequently, traveling around Russia and Europe during the tumultuous years following WWl, until settling into an estate, the Chateau du Prieure, near Fountainbleau in France in 1922. He called his new school, The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. His teaching methods were demanding, pushing his students into difficult situations in life and at the school. Stories of life
at the Institute at Fountainbleu provide a good look at his methods of bringing his students to see themselves.
" Remember you come here having already understood the necessity of struggling with yourself—only with yourself. Therefore thank everyone who gives you the opportunity. "
By this time he had gathered a dedicated following, including P.D Ouspensky
and Maurice Nicoll.
Following a near fatal car crash, the school faded, and Gurdjieff devoted his time to writing. His books, Views from the Real World, Life is Real Only When I Am
, and the weighty tome, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson,
are, in my opinion, somewhat unapproachable. His teaching is perhaps better seen through the work of his students, particularly Ouspensky and Nicoll. His main asset was his effect upon those who met him, for he was said to have power and a commanding presence, leaving a lasting impression and bringing many into the Work from this alone.
His teaching centered around the idea that Man as he is, is not complete, and must work to achieve the state of oneness, of having a permanent "I". As we are, we have many different personality patterns and inner voices, all of which call themselves "I". He called his tradition, the process of becoming one real, permanent "I", 'the Work', and his school or path, The Fourth Way. The Fourth Way was the way of the sly man, while the first he called the way of the ascetic, the second the way of the monk; the third, the way of the yogi.
Another of the main points of the Work was that man is asleep, that he does not remember himself, but lives in dreams and identification with his personality. Gurdjieff emphasized 'self-remembering', a method akin to mindfulness, to help wake the student, and show him this state of trance or sleep. This led to his distinction between man as personality, and man as essence. He said that essence was what we are born with, what is permanent in us. Personality is what we have acquired by accident and circumstance here in this life, and is transient, being connected only with experience. Essence is active in us when we are little children, but soon becomes buried under personality. Paradoxically, we must develop a working personality for essence to later develop, for only essence can be self-conscious. He emphasized that only a man who was capable, what he called Good Householder, was ready for the Work. Men who were not fit to work were called tramps, those who traveled from one teacher to another but never worked on themselves(dharma bums), and lunatics, those who thought the Work was about changing the world and others, not themselves.
He continued to teach and write until his death in 1949. In his last days, he would host dinner parties, where he would engage his guests in the ceremony of ' The Toasts to the Idiots', in which each guest, or idiot, would receive his dose of confrontation from Gurdjieff himself. The following quote serves to illustrate this propensity of Gurdjieff's to burst bubbles during this later part of his life:
"...whomever I should meet, for business, commerce or any other purpose, whether an old or new acquaintance, and whatever his social standing might be, I had immediately to discover his 'most sensitive corn' and 'press' it rather hard."
- above quotes by G. I. Gurdjieff -
inscribed above the walls of the Study House at the Prieuré
from Gurdjieff Observed by Roger Lipsey
- Related Sites -
Gurdjieff International Review: a source of informed essays and commentary on the history, writings, and teachings of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. Mr. Gurdjieff was an extraordinary man, a master in the truest sense. His teachings speak to our most essential questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life, and of human life in particular? As a young man, Gurdjieff relentlessly pursued these questions and became convinced that practical answers lay within ancient traditions. Through many years of searching and practice he discovered answers and then set about putting what he had learned into a form understandable to the Western world. http://www.gurdjieff.org/index.en.htm
G. I. Gurdjieff, from Wikipedia: Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff was a Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher who initially gained public recognition as a teacher of dancing. After attracting pupils and disciples of whom some were already persons of considerable eminence, he established a school for spiritual development called The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. He claimed that the teachings he brought to the West from his own experiences and early travels expressed the truth found in other ancient religions and wisdom teachings relating to self-awareness in one's daily life and humanity's place in the universe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._I._Gurdjieff
World Forum for Gurdjieff Movements:
The online resource for Gurdjieff and his Movements. "Our aim with this website is to create a survey, of what is going on in the Gurdjieff 'world', focussing on his Movements. The dances called 'Movements' are essential in G.I. Gurdjieff´s teaching, further consisting of orally transmitted ideas, books and musical works." http://www.gurdjieff-movements.net/
Tricks and Traps
Trick: Put your conceptual thinking, paradigms and intellect aside and do the following trick: pick an object in front of you. Where is this object in relation to You, where you are, as awareness. Now pick one behind you, then see where it is(the memory) in relation to You. Now, close your eyes, and scratch your nose. Where is this happening, in relation to You? Scratch the back of your neck. Look closely, where is this taking place, in relation to You? Hint: having a double arrow of attention is imperative: one pointed towards the object; one back inwards toward the Unknown.
Trap: This one's for all you jaded seekers, so you neophytes, beware. How much value do you place on your self-image as a seeker? Is your pride mainly centered on your spiritual progress? Do you see everything in hierarchies of spiritual attainment? Feel spiritually superior, and like it? Welcome to the trap of the spiritual ego. You cannot keep getting better and better forever, someday you'll have to give it up, and finally get well.
- from the Monthly Missal of July 2002
"Our aim is to become one, to have one permanent "I". But in the beginning work means to become more and more divided. You must realize how far you are from being one, and only when you know all these fractions of yourself can work begin on one or some principal "I"s around which unity can be built. It would be wrong understanding to unify all the things you find in yourself now. The new "I" is something you do not know at present; it grows from something you can trust. At first, in separating false personality from you, try to divide yourself into what you can call reliable and what you find unreliable." - P.D. Ouspensky
Fisherman, Hiker, Driver: Who Am I?
- from the Monthly Missal of July 2002
Somewhere in the past, I had the good fortune to learn to fish. It started out as curiosity and peer pressure, but mostly came from a desire to spend time in the wilderness. Since my better half at the time thought it inappropriate for a grown man to just hang out in the woods, a socially acceptable excuse was needed... fishing it was. It went from a part-time habit to a full-time obsession in short order, then vanished as quickly as the marriage. What remains is mostly an inability to come upon a body of water and not look at it through the eyes of a fisherman. As soon as I approach the bank, I notice an immediate change. The fisherman springs up from Nowhere and a aprt of my mind slips into the habits of years stalking trout in countless streams and lakes.
For a time, this pattern was identified with, for "I" became the fisherman. In recent times, I've been able to simply sit back and watch this fisherman as he goes through his well-worn act. He's no longer me, for the "I" thought is no longer present in him. The fisherman is no longer in opposition to his environment, but is lost in it. He and the fishing are one, but who was "I"?
On a recent hike, I had the opportunity to see this character in action, this fisher person, and several more besides. I noticed a person who hikes. It was interesting to watch how he made decisions as to route finding, rationalizing the climbing of "just one more peak", how he resisted the inevitable coming of the end of the day, felt pride in his confidence and skill. Like the fisherman, he was like an old friend of sorts, having once been 'me' too.
Later, when the day was drawing to a close, I noticed yet another 'person' in the entourage: the fellow driving the car. This chap was by far the oldest of the group and the most set in his ways. He had been 'me' at times for most my adult life, and behind the wheel during many episodes, some best forgotten, at least by the insurance industry. Now the strange thing about these persons, or little men, is that at some point I had said "I" to each of them. I had even said "I" to them in turns several times over the course of a day, interspersed with a whole zoo of others. Who are these characters, and what is this mysterious "I" which floats with ease from one person to another? And most importantly, why don't most of us notice this?
The truth of the matter is simple. The fisherman is the response to fishing, the hiker to hiking, the driver to driving. They are the insentient response to a particular set of circumstances, just one side of the coin of a pattern of events. There is no "I" in them. The only thing that is present in all circumstances, and paradoxically free of them, is our simple awareness. We say "I" to the least and greatest of our response patterns, but never question the apparent absurdity. Instead of remaining fast 'asleep', as Gurdjieff would say, become the hunter of yourself. Stalk this "I" thought, see where it leads. To be identified with and trapped in the confines of circumstantial response patterns, one after another, is hell on earth and the cause of our needless suffering. To be free is to reside in that which does not change, yet is aware, and does nothing. Keep watch on this sense of "I", and see where it leads you.
- Quotes of the Month -
" What do I teach? I teach people how to listen to themselves.
" You do not realize your own situation. You are in prison. All you can wish for, if you are a sensible man, is to escape.
" Hard work is an investment of energy with a good return. Conscious use of energy is a paying investment; automatic use is a wasteful expenditure.
" Without struggle, no progress and no result. Every breaking of habit produces a change in the machine.
" When one's body revolts against work(physical or mental), fatigue soon sets in; then one must not rest for it would be a victory for the body. When the body desires rest, don't; when the mind knows it ought to rest, do so, but one must know and distinguish language of body and mind, and be honest.
" Nothing shows up people so much as their attitude toward money.
" If you help others, you will be helped, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in 100 years, but you will be helped. Nature must pay off the debt... It is a mathematical law and all life is mathematics.
" Looking backwards, we only remember the difficult periods of our lives, never the peaceful times; the latter are sleep, the former are struggle and therefore life.
" From looking at your neighbor and realizing his true significance, and that he will die, pity and compassion will arise in you for him and finally you will love him.
" I ask you to believe nothing that you cannot verify for yourself. " - G. I. Gurdjieff
" First, we have to stop waste of energy; second, collect it by self-remembering; then adjust things. We cannot begin in any other way. " - Ouspensky
" Show me a revelation and I'll show you a traumatic event from which that Light emerged. Show me a true vision of heaven and I'll show you a descent into the anguish of hell wherein that vision was tried, tested and found faithful." - William Samuel
" The people who complain about not having material for meditation are those who have the most." - Richard Rose
Global Language Monitor defined "truthiness" as meaning "truth unencumbered by the facts."
"Wikiality," derived from the user-compiled Wikipedia information Web site, was defined as "reality as determined by majority vote,".
"Try giving up hope. It turns the bad feeling into emptiness." - Dilbert
Copyright 2003 - 2006 Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.