Gurdjieff International Review

Public Lecture at Grace Church

April 9, 1976

By Hugh Ripman

When one reviews the whole field of Western psychology, one is struck by the very strange fact that while for centuries men of great intelligence and good will have been studying the human psyche—after all that, there is not a generally accepted and agreed psychology which explains why man lives as he does and what his possibilities are. But there isn’t such a psychology. And, of course, classical Western psychology has been primarily founded on the study of sick people. And the classical Western psychologist feels his job is done once people can leave him and return able to face the normal pressures and demands of life without the intolerable strain which drove them to him in the first place. Now more recently, in the last few years—beginning, of course, with Jung—a broader-based psychology has been practiced. Some of you may be familiar with the work of Assagioli, “Psychosynthesis.” Some of you may be familiar with the whole movement taking place in the psychological world now under the general name of “transpersonal psychology.” And for people interested in that kind of development, normal is no longer placed at such a low level as the classical normal. Because Jung was interested, Assagioli was interested, and all the transpersonal psychologists are interested in the integration of the self, of the psyche, and the search for and finding of the self: a great adventure, which has been symbolized under many different names in past history.

Gurdjieff himself taught a system of ideas which dealt not only with man but also with the world he lives in. Tonight I am only going to speak about the ideas he taught about man, but I don’t wish to leave the impression that what he taught about the world man lives in is less important than what he taught about man. If one asks oneself the question, “What is the sense and aim of man’s life?”—if one reflects about that question, one sees that it cannot be answered just in terms of man. It must be answered by placing man in a meaningful relation to the universe in which he lives. And for that you have to have a meaningful picture of that universe. So, like every other esoteric system of teaching that I’ve managed to discover, Gurdjieff’s system has two sides: the psychological and the cosmological. But tonight I shall be speaking primarily about the psychological ideas, and since there is a limited time to talk about them, you must expect me, in talking about them, to speak in pretty broad generalizations. Probably there is not an idea which I shall mention tonight which I couldn’t—if I wished to—talk about for the whole evening. So, what I’m going to talk about tonight is tremendously compressed, and obviously when it’s expanded it can and needs to be refined. But I must spread before you what is in effect a large-scale map…

[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]
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