Ouspensky after a close association with Gurdjieff for about eight years came to the conclusion that there was a persistent impulse in Gurdjieff which led him to obscure the pure gold of his teaching by mingling it with extraneous matters. This is especially true, according to Ouspensky, of his magnum opus, All and Everything or Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson published in 1950 shortly after his death. The great oracles—Laotze, Pythagoras, Gautama, Socrates, Jesus Christ—never did set down their doctrine in writing. Perhaps it is not advisable to do so. Gurdjieff himself once said, “I bury the bone so deep that the dogs have to scratch for it.” Such an obscurantist bent, however, is in accord both with the precepts of the esoteric schools never fully to reveal arcane secrets and with his own preference for mystification and his demand for desperate striving. He had achieved his goal by his own great effort, and had the self-made man’s reluctance to make things easy of access. He believed that people did not value what they had not paid for. The sense of urgent intensity appears to be basic in Gurdjieff. Various incentives for the attainment of higher states of being in mankind had been tried out, such as hope, faith (Amitabha’s Western Paradise) or love (bhakti-marga). Jesus Christ also tried to save the world through love but met with indifferent success. Gurdjieff employed a more agonizing motivation: the fear of death and annihilation, the “terror of the situation.” Could this be the counsel of Beelzebub? Gurdjieff had nothing of a saint’s benevolence. He had a tougher, more realistic approach: he came not to send peace, but the sword of terror and tension. He would crack the whip! If people wanted to be sheep, he would acquiesce in their fate and use them without pity. But if one of them had any “human” instincts, Gurdjieff was always prepared to allow him to profit from his intuition by showing him the way out of bondage. Gurdjieff once gave Orage his candid opinion of the American groups. “The Americans,” he said, “are good people, not nasty rotten, but good. But that not enough. They sheep, good sheep, responding obediently to anything suggested, but not take course by themselves. Question—which is better: good sheep or bad dog? They must show more initiative not necessarily toward me or Institute, but in daily life—all for exercise of Will.”
[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]
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This excerpt, including the photographs, is taken from a chapter of Carl Zigrosser’s autobiography, My Own Shall Come to Me: A Personal Memoir and Picture Chronicle, Philadelphia: Casa Laura; 1971, Limited edition of 300 copies, pp. 158–170.
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Featured: Fall 2004 Issue, Vol. VIII (1)
Revision: November 1, 2004