Spring 2007 Issue, Vol. X No. 1
Welcome to the Gurdjieff International Reviewa 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 facultiesor actualize latent potentialitiesthrough 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.
The Work in Life
In this, our eighteenth issue, we provide observations from G. I. Gurdjieff, his direct pupils and many present day students, about the application of Work in daily life. This Work in life is, after all, at the heart of his teaching. Gurdjieff often referred to his Work as the Fourth Way or the Way in Life, saying that the conditions a person is living inthose that are natural to him or heroffer the best possible place for work.
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“After a lifetime of making efforts at what we call Work in life—attempting to be single-minded, engaged, united in purpose rather than pulled in many directions—the question remains. How to stay open to an ongoing call from another level as I go about my daily achieving maneuvers?”
Part I: Gurdjieff and His Pupils
“If you accustom yourself to do well the task of the present moment, you will learn to do everything well. You are here, now. Sacrifice everything else. All your presence, all your thoughts, all your associations must relate to the matter on which you are working.”
“We are between two mysteries—the outer world and the inner world—and in order to be open to both of these worlds, man has to know himself, to know himself totally.”
“My work will not be in my life except at the moment or moments when I try to understand that I belong to two masters between whom I am never able to choose.”
“This work has to do with living, an art of living with oneself, with opposite tendencies—those of our automatism and those which will open us to another dimension and create a harmony, a balance, and a better functioning of the whole of our nature.”
“I think it is quite a natural thing, but mistaken, to have this idea that the Work is opposed to one’s efforts in life. If you begin to think about it, you will see that, whatever you do, you will do it better when you are awake than when you are asleep.”
“What I need is the ability to hear what comes to me alongside myself, as it were, rather than what comes to me either from above or below.”
“The Work, when not specifically applied, comes to resemble nothing but a museum full of a number of things. People wander about in it, now looking at a case labeled ‘Higher Centers’—which appears to be quite empty—and then looking at a tall wire construction consisting of circles labeled ‘Ray of Creation,’ which they view with great disfavor.”
“What I do and the products and results of what I do are always in life—whether on the mountain top or in the market place it is all the same.”
“We do not turn on the lights over the whole house when we are only using one floor. That would be a waste of light. Similarly we ought not to be using energy on all three stories of our organism when we are only actually using one of them.”
“Just because the candle sputters sometimes, doesn’t mean it’s going out. In strong winds and in light rain it can be dampened a little, but it can be re-lighted.”
“You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again . . . So what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above.”
“We never saw him [Gurdjieff] go to bed before us, nor rise after us. It was as if there were several motors inside him working in relay, day and night.”
“Forget all you know about the Work. Its terms are an obstacle for you now. Avoid this old reductionism. Be new. Only then can you wish with real feeling, with love.”
Part II: Contemporary Perspectives
“I am totally convinced that the person speaking is my real self. This is not true. I am ‘glued.’ Glued to the part I am playing at this moment.”
“Small wonder I harbour, and must somehow reconcile, feelings of fraudulence and authenticity; small wonder I face my pupils with trepidation. Yet the case is not so dire. With Pentecostal energy, something unnameable descends.”
“The work we are engaged in is essentially self-initiatory. Although usually not seen or not accepted, help is abundant. And yet, I must make my own way.”
“To trust oneself too soon would have been an error: who was there really to trust? To trust too late would be like betting on a horse when the race is over—and you, dear, are the horse.”
The editors invited a number of people in groups all over the United States, Canada and Europe to write a few paragraphs about the inner jewels they have gathered in their attempts at what we call Work in Life.
“Is there a craftsmanlike way of working that is available not only to the worker in his workshop, but to the worker wherever he works, whatever his work is . . . even here in a noisy advertising agency?”
“I have never managed to ‘do’ mathematics while sensing. But who can ‘do’ mathematics or who can write this article in the midst of parading, vainful ‘I’s?’ Not me.”
“Someone speaks to me. I am all smiles and crinkly face wrinkles. She goes away. I ask my face to unwrinkle and relax.”
“After a while I began to believe that ‘life’ occupied so much of my time that I had no time to spare for the ‘Work.’ Then, as I became more involved in group activities, I began to believe the converse.”
The Gurdjieff International Review is published by Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing. Any information or opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or editors.