Winter 2019/2020 Issue, Vol. XIV 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.
Gurdjieff taught that in nature everything is alive and connected within the vast network of consciousness and lawful exchange. Since Gurdjieff’s death seventy years ago, earth’s ecosystems have been, and continue to be, increasingly disrupted and transformed through the actions of our species. How do we understand this, and what are our responsibilities at this time?
This issue of the Gurdjieff International Review explores these questions with contributions from a variety of perspectives, beginning with excerpts from Gurdjieff’s talks and writings. Then the remaining articles follow the chronological order in which they were spoken or written (not necessarily published).
“But unfortunately for everything existing in the Megalocosmos, there is no honesty in your favorites even in respect of the fulfillment of their duties to Nature, not even to that Nature to which, strictly speaking, they owe their very existence.”
“Organic life on earth is a complex phenomenon in which the separate parts depend upon one another. General growth is possible only on the condition that the ‘end of the branch’ grows.”
Gurdjieff had the highest regard for animals. He had a succession of dogs named Philos, a black mare named Fifi, a mule named Dralfit, and a donkey named Marishka. There were also cats and peacocks running free at the Prieuré.
“Animal cannot acquire third brain and become man; but just because of this, because of this impossibility to acquire third brain, is necessary always treat animals with kindness.”
“We behave in the family of Nature like self-indulgent children whose only object is to enjoy ourselves. If you will only ponder seriously for half an hour on the way we exploit natural resources, land, forests and animals, for the gratification of abnormal desires, you cannot help but be appalled.”
“I was called before the commission, which declared that I was responsible for the disaster, and ... would have to repair the damage.”
“Often, what happens on Earth comes from something that was done by the father or the grandfather. The results fall on you, and it is up to you to put them right. This is not an injustice; it is a very great honor for you.”
“For everything that is invented of a beneficial nature, there seems to be invented an opposite of a harmful nature. Man, feeling that he can do, does not see this continual contradiction.”
“The question for a Man is to understand that he has to grow where he is. [It] is for him exactly the same problem as for Mother Nature.”
“We make the terrible mistake of treating nature as an alien power, instead of recognizing that we are wholly involved in the well-being of the plant life of the earth.”
“Great Nature is a power that is a vehicle of Wisdom, and to be open to Her is a very great thing. It is totally different from having an emotional reaction to a piece of scenery.”
“It was at this exact moment that the formulation suggesting why animals look at us with such intensity floated up to the surface of my mind. I had heard it twenty-five years ago in Paris.”
“Man can serve the earth by becoming a link between two levels. He can receive energy from a higher level in order to have an action on the level below; not a reaction.”
A. L. Staveley
“The wasters are, quite simply, in the last analysis you and me and millions like us. It’s our greed, our laziness, our stupidity, vanity and carelessness that is devastating the whole planet. No one likes to mention this.”
Additional quotations on Nature from some of Gurdjieff’s other pupils including Henri Tracol, Mme. Ouspensky, Martin Benson, William Segal, John Pentland, Tom Daly, Paul Beekman Taylor, Charles Langmuir and Michel de Salzmann.
A scientist and a philosopher ponder extraordinary photographs of the Earth, our only home. “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
“In the absence of a value system, the development of technoscience follows its own logic: all that can be done will be done. If we reflect for a moment, we can understand that this logic of technoscience is frightening.”
“Many influences have been important in the development of modern ecology and the environmental movement, but I think both may owe much more of a debt to Gurdjieff than has so far been generally acknowledged.”
Can we reread Beelzebub’s Tales today looking for clues to a deeper understanding of Gurdjieff’s call to awaken, so that the ‘sacred conscience still surviving in [our] subconsciousness might gradually pass into the functioning of [our] ordinary consciousness’?”
“We can hardly imagine what the Earth will offer us in return for its being seen and understood by the whole being of Man. Earth and Nature need this from us more than anything else.”
“We are, as a worldwide society, now standing on the edge of a precipice, trapped in the second state of consciousness and, so far, unable to commit ourselves broadly to a real reconciliation of our inner and outer world.”
“Ahimsa-—usually understood as non-violence or physical non-harming-—is, in fact, closer to non-violation, non-imposition and non-manipulation. Ahimsa is the essential principle of all true ecology.”
“Mindful of a role in the preservation of life in the cosmoses, I am rendered both more sensitive and more responsive to being affected by that life.... Conscious impressions ... need to enter, be digested and be assimilated into my being, in an act of its co-creation and maintenance.”
A poem from In the Region of the Heart: A collection of Written Fragments (2019) Codhill Press, p. 53.
“Time is not our friend. The terror of the situation becomes unavoidably evident. The realities of both environmental degradation and environmental illiteracy can be overwhelming.”
A poem from Renga: 100 Poems, John Kinsella and Paul Kane (2017) Australia: GloriaSMH Press.
“Before entering heaven, one must first enter normalcy. But what does that mean? As with almost everything related to conscious energy, there is no fixed answer.”
“Trees look over it all and a creek rushes through it in the winter. At night the stars come down to meet the trees. This is the place where a group who had been given this task found a suitable property for our community’s weekends, work weeks and conferences.”
“For years, I’d seen them. But this day something called me to stop. What was I seeing? This was the question I asked myself. I let myself stand there as the minutes passed. After a few minutes a shift took place.”
A poem from Initiation Is from Within: The Poetry of Doug Spitz, edited by William Jordan (2017) Houston/Dallas: Third Coast Press, p. 49.
How does one relate to other-than-human beings to whom one is indebted for one’s own existence? “Watching the plants, sometimes we understood that they were watching us as well.”
“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.... Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.”
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.