Fall 1999 Issue, Vol. III No. 1
Welcome to the Gurdjieff International Review—a source of informed essays and commentary on the life, 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. Gurdjieff maintained that, owing to the abnormal conditions of modern life, we no longer function in a harmonious way. He taught that in order to become harmonious, we must develop new faculties—or actualize latent potentialities—through work on oneself. He presented his teachings and ideas in three forms: writings, music, and movements which correspond to our intellect, emotions, and physical body.
An Introduction to Gurdjieff
Our ninth issue, the last of the millennium, comes in the same month that George Ivanovich Gurdjieff died in Paris fifty years ago. This provides an occasion to consider the rich multi-faceted portrait of him that the future will inherit.
These selected excerpts on philosophy, religion, science, and psychology are drawn from key passages of Gurdjieffs writings and notes on his talks.
Dr. de Salzmann provides an informed and thoughtful synopsis of Gurdjieffs life, writings and influence as an incomparable awakener of men and spiritual teacher who left behind him a school embodying a specific methodology for the development of consciousness The Gurdjieff teaching has emerged as one of the most penetrating spiritual teachings of modern times.
Traversauthor of the Mary Poppins bookscombines a historical account of Gurdjieffs search and teaching with a pupils personal impressions of this man whose life has the air of authentic myth. She emphasizes that Gurdjieff had come not to bring peace but a special kind of inner warfare and that his mission in life was to destroy mens complacency and make them aware of their limitations. Only by such means, by what he called conscious labours and intentional sufferings, was it possible to bring about their inner development. The Work, as his method came to be called, had, as it very soon appeared, been only too accurately named.
Dr. Walkers vivid account, particularly of his first visit to Gurdjieffs Paris apartment in the late 1940s, is distinguished by his keenly trained powers of observation as a physician. Gurdjieff used to say that a man revealed himself most clearly in his reactions to sexuality and to money. I could add yet another signpost to a mans personality, namely, his reaction to Gurdjieff himself. Many reactions were possible, but it was impossible to be indifferent to him or to forget that he was there Whatever he was, he was something on a much bigger scale than one had ever seen before, or is ever likely to see again.
The Patriarch Goes West
There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.
G. I. Gurdjieff
Gurdjieff had a very wide range of knowledge, which embraced modern Western scientific theories as well as the special knowledge he had learned in his years of wandering in the East. But it was not so much what he said or what he did that impressed as what he was. Gurdjieff was a living example of the outcome of his own teaching, which he summed up in the words the harmonious development of man.
No doubt there is a profound connection between Zen and the teaching of Gurdjieff, in that they both propose that only with tough disciplines and practice is it possible to relate to a changeless self. Theory without practice, words without an immediate connection to experience, is for followers of both Zen and Gurdjieff as fruitless as pouring from the empty into the void.
What I know for certain is that I truly began to recognize Mr. Gurdjieff when my eyes began to open. I saw him as he was to the extent I was able to see myself. From the moment when all my valuesall inner facade and indeed also my outer onebegan slowly and surely to be transformed, and another world, though still out of reach, began to appear in me, I knew it was he who was the cause.
Beelzebubs Tales gradually yields its meanings only after repeated readings. Each reading of it opens new facets of Gurdjieffs teaching, not only in intellectual terms but at deep, subconscious levels.
Efforts to understand and to test the ideas: this is what gives this teaching its dynamic character: the growth of being indeed demands both a direct knowledge and a gradual mastery of the movements of our energy as it manifests itself on different levels.
Copyright © 1999
October 1, 1999
October 1, 1999