G. I. Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff International Review

Gurdjieff Heralds the Awakening of Consciousness Now

by James George

When I was growing up in the 1920s and ‘30s, when Gurdjieff was writing All and Everything, the spiritual landscape in the West was sadly but aptly described by T. S. Eliot as a Wasteland. For most of us in that culture, God was “dead” even before Sartre proclaimed the demise, killed off by a reductionist scientific rationalism which thought all and everything could be explained without God. So the well of the meaning of human life was drying up. Space and time had lost their third dimension. We were spiritually bankrupt, and few noticed or cared. The land was not only waste; it was flat. There was no “higher” and the “eternal” had no root in our experience.

It has taken some of us fifty years to wake up to our common dilemma, and to see that what we most need is to reconnect with that which alone can give meaning to our lives. As E. M. Forester had said: “only connect!” It is easily said. But how? With what? For that, we needed real teachers and teachings.

And we got real teachers and teachings in abundance. Out of our deep unconscious unease, our incipient sense of need, the teachers appeared to complete the process of conscious awakening. There has never been a time when so many great souls and authentic esoteric practices became so generally available. The brutal Diaspora of the Tibetans has been only the most dramatic wave in the dissemination of the seeds of real being. And now the spreading is amplified by the electronic revolution of the Internet, for worse or for better. The spiritualization of the global village has begun. Suddenly, there are “rays to the sun” everywhere. One of these rays—the one that has meant the most to me—is the “Work” or teaching of Gurdjieff, as transmitted to me by Madame Jeanne de Salzmann.

So, I must bear witness to what I have received from my teachers, even though the fruit of their sowing is far from ripe. I can only tell you how I see it now. (Do not take it as gospel. You have been warned.)

In the twentieth century, to reconnect humanity with its Source, Gurdjieff could not use the religious language of earlier times. If “God” is dead, the excessive cult of individuality in the West is still very much alive and could be used to open a channel of returning energy to our unknown Source. If we are not any longer interested in God, then let us begin with what I am interested in: myself, I. For I may doubt everything else, but I cannot, in my direct experience, doubt my own existence. I know that I AM. And through that experience let me be brought to recognize the One whom Gurdjieff dared to call “our all-loving common father endlessness.” For when I am related with that Light, my little light can be a candle in the world. Only then can I “do.”

Yes, there is some risk in this “I AM” approach. I am already too habituated to taking everything egoistically. My wounded vanity does not readily forgive. My pretension to understand knows no limits. I can too easily assume that this “I AM” of Gurdjieff’s (or of the Bible) is all about me and my personal development. It may take years of inner work to come to the realization that this self-centered attitude of mine is the greatest barrier between me and the impersonal highest in me, which he calls “I.” And many more years to see that what I am when I am is not different from what you are when you are. It is not different from the Highest Presence; it is a drop of the same water as the Ocean. For that cosmic Ocean is indeed omnipresent, as is consciousness. Gurdjieff tells us in his Third Series that the difference between how I am when I am and God is “only” one of scale—and, of course, the scale is inconceivably vast. But the vibration that is the real I in me resonates with the same divine seed of life in you and (if I let it) with the Oceanic Consciousness. When, for a moment, I am truly present, I AM rings true on all levels. Then my physical body is the vehicle for a sensation of love that is not of this world, not of this planet. In this moment, I am present, no longer bound to the time of change and successiveness, from past to future. Here and now, I can receive a momentary taste of what always and everywhere IS—the changeless, the eternal I AM.

How ungrateful of me—me again!—to complain that such moments do not last! Perhaps, if humanity is both lucky and diligent, by the beginning of the next millennium human consciousness will have evolved a stage or two towards the state that a few pioneer heralds in our time have shown us is possible, and indeed our birthright. We are here for that evolution. How else could heaven and earth be connected? Heaven/man-woman/earth (as Taoist wisdom has been telling us for millennia) is the linkage. Gurdjieff calls it Theomertmalogos, conveying the same idea. Without some such permeable membrane how could life survive entropy and circulate both ways, through involution and evolution, in the cosmos and in us? Hermes Trismegistus put it succinctly: “As above, so below.” Today, we can hear that; for now our cultural landscape may still be largely a wasteland, but it is certainly no longer flat. We are beginning to “get it.” As Dr. David Suzuki recently put it, humanity is now somewhere between naked ape and superspecies. We are on the verge of seeing that the threat of ecological doom we face in this millennium could, if we receive it as a wake up call, be the threshold of a truly great spiritual renaissance. Because I AM, there is an above and a below in me. And in that immensity my ego “I” is … nothing. Yet “I AM” in me can.

D. H. Lawrence felt this, in terms appropriate for the new millennium, when he wrote The Song of a Man Who Has Come Through:

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!

Fifty years after your death, I thank you, Mr. Gurdjieff, “herald of the coming good,” and all your helpers! May your fine wind carry humanity to our intended destination! But we also have our work to do: we must each, with our best attention, trim our own sails.

~ • ~

[James George is a former Canadian Ambassador to India, Iran & the Gulf States, Nepal and Sri Lanka. He has been a student of the Gurdjieff Work for fifty years and is the author of Asking for the Earth: Waking Up to the Spiritual/Ecological Crisis, Element Books.]

Copyright © 2000 James George
This webpage © 2000 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 2000 Issue, Vol. III (2)
Revision: April 1, 2000