Fall 2013 Issue, Vol. XII 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.
In this, our twenty first issue, we explore a subject that this publication would never have had the audacity to attempt, were it not for the initial suggestion and written contribution of Paul Reynard, to whom this issue is dedicated. A complete printed copy of this issue can be ordered from our online store.
“The crucial component of Gurdjieff’s teaching which we are studying here is conscious attention, true attention, intended to touch us, to call us, to activate us, with the hope of finding our way to it in its many forms.”
“They have forgotten everything that was essential and always for the same reason: the disappearance from their presences of the practice of actualizing being-Partkdolg-duty.”
“But we do not have enough Will. And we do not have enough Attention. So we must increase them as best we may. And the only way to increase them is to make the right kind of efforts. Without efforts, nothing can increase.”
“Mr. Gurdjieff made it clear that if we didn’t study attention—not study in the ordinary way, but putting all our attention on developing that attention—we would arrive nowhere.”
“I believe I need to pay attention when, in fact, I need to see and know my inattention.”
“I saw that the problem consisted in directing attention on oneself without weakening or obliterating the attention directed on something else. Moreover this ‘something else’ could as well be within me as outside me.”
“It is particularly important to observe the things that attract and keep the attention, because they produce imagination. Study of attention is a very important part of self-study.”
“Collection of our energy means the collecting of our attention—nothing else that we can collect at all. Key to all our work.”
“It is our work to find a finer attention. This finer attention can come; the machine is made for it.”
“Gurdjieff said, ‘Must have attention. What is attention? Attention is working together of association of thought with association of feeling. Memory working together with sensing makes attention.’”
“Attention creates the power of relation. I relate myself to the world, to others, to the work, and to my manifestations, through attention. I relate myself to myself through my attention.”
“Try to work regularly and methodically, and to relax all the parts of your body. Try to open yourself to a quality of attention that can penetrate you. Understand that this is more important than anything in the world.”
“This body-machine has been given to me so that I can try and recognize myself as attention, and so that, at this level of ordinary life, three unconnected currents of attention can come together.”
“To be attentive, I have to free my attention. What a work that is. My attention clings to things. But work is a question of freeing my attention again and again from what it is sitting on and bringing it back to myself.”
“The attention is not mine. In a moment of its presence, one knows that it does not originate entirely with oneself. Its source surrounded by mystery, attention communicates energies of a quality the mind cannot represent.”
“By conscious attention the impressions are assimilated. Gurdjieff looked on conscious attention as a catalyst. Automatic attention provides man with security; but conscious attention is the key to evolution.”
“The attention we need is an attention from another level a two-way attention and it can be developed in us through appropriate exercises.”
“Work involves giving account to oneself for everything and trying to think always in terms of attention.”
“Each time we make an effort to bring our attention back to ourselves, to what we are doing, to remember ourselves, the centres become connected.”
“People in general have no real attention. What they think of as attention is only self-tensing. First you must strive to acquire attention.”
“All the functions closely cohering must be ready, vigilant, alert; and to preface this ingathering there must be present in us—one can sum it up in one single word: attention’s closest kin, intention.”
“Since we are going to be demanding the attention of the children, we need to train our own attention an energy that emanates from us and warms and nourishes them.”
“Directing one’s attention to the Intellectual or Emotional Centre demands internal attention. Internal attention begins with self-observation.”
Dimensions of Attention
First published here, Paul Reynard presents an all-encompassing perspective of attention. “What is attention? But trying to find a rational definition of this word is as hopeless as explaining a koan, and the only way to understand it, I believe, will come not from expounding, but from staying in front of the question.”
“Little attention: little question.”
A selection of excerpts about Gurdjieff’s Movements from Thomas de Hartmann, Jeanne de Salzmann, Jessmin Howarth, Pauline de Dampierre, Joanna Haggarty, Paul Reynard, Henri Thomasson, Stafford Ordahl, and Gurdjieff himself.
A number of people in groups from the United Kingdom and Denmark were invited to write a few paragraphs for this publication about the inner jewels they have gathered in their attempts at working with attention.
Spiritual and Religious Sources
“I wished to include a selection of other spiritual and religious sources, ancient and modern, to show a miniscule portion of the immense evidence of the perennial nature of the search for and practice of conscious attention.”
A selection of excerpts from religious sources including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
A selection from other masters and seekers including Chuang Tzu, Marcus Aurelius, Sri Anirvan, Dag Hammarskjold, Simone Weil, Jerzy Grotowski, and T. S. Eliot.
“Attention is the transforming force that carries us across the threshold from theory and reading into practice and personal experience. Like light, flowing down and penetrating the material world, it illuminates the lower and the dark in ourselves and transforms it.”
“The Way of Tea resembles Mr. Gurdjieff’s Movements. Without attention and awareness the way of tea-making does not flow.”
“The followers of different religions are like bands of mountain climbers who all wish to get to the top of the same mountain. The summit of this mountain is hidden in the clouds. None of them can see it clearly, but the mystery of the highest peak calls alike to them all.”
“Now Is A Place”
Intimations from Michel de Salzmann of possible ever deepening experiences of attention. “There is a subtle energy penetrating the body, moving through it, and I can perceive that because I am a human being. With a very active attention, I can receive this energy.”
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.
“Attention is gained only through conscious labor and intentional suffering, through doing small things voluntarily.”
G. I. Gurdjieff
“To be present requires dividing the attention. Three-quarters must be kept inside, and only one quarter allowed to support the movement toward manifestation.”
Jeanne de Salzmann
“Attention is the most tremendous power in the world.”
“I cannot do anything except train my attention, and if I think that is not enough, I am a fool.”
“Collect attention—collect it from all functions: mental, feeling and sensation of the body.”
“We have to sacrifice some of the out-going attention for inner attention.”
“Attention in its active form is inseparable from interrogation; it is essentially, in its purity, an act of questioning.”
Michel de Salzmann
Copyright © 2013
November 1, 2013
November 1, 2013