To bear the manifestation of others is a big thing.

Gurdjieff International Review

Sayings of Gurdjieff

An excerpt from A Study of Gurdjieff’s Teaching

by Kenneth Walker

Gurdjieff had the capacity to convey so much in some forceful saying that his words echoed for a long time in the hearers’ minds. His maxims did not usually take the form of polished aphorisms for, although he was acquainted with many different tongues, he was a master of none of them, and was inclined to poke fun at what he called the ‘bon ton literary language.’ Indeed, some of his phrases were memorable chiefly because of their colloquial character, such as that saying of his which Ouspensky so often quoted: ‘To know everything it is necessary to know only a very little but to know that very little is to know pretty much.’ A great deal of the force in G’s maxims was imparted by the man who uttered them, and this force is absent from the written word. Yet despite the weakening which his sayings will undergo in print, I have felt it worth while recording some of them in this final chapter.

If it were possible for me to introduce them with a short and telling description of the man who uttered them and whose presence made such a strong impact—not necessarily favourable—on everybody who came into contact with him, I would do so, but I have never read any successful description of him. I shall not attempt, therefore, to make a thumbnail drawing of a man so difficult to portray as George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. His maxims must stand by themselves.

  1. It is better to be temporarily selfish than never to be just.
    Only conscious suffering is of value.
    Man is given a limited quantity of experiences; being economical with them lengthens his life.

  2. Know that this house is of value only to those who have recognized their nothingness and believe it is possible to alter.
    Here we can only direct and create conditions, but not help.
    Remember that here work is not done for work’s sake, but as a means.
    Like what it does not like.

  3. Conscious love evokes the same in response.
    Emotional love evokes the opposite.
    Physical love depends on type and polarity.

    Faith of consciousness is freedom.
    Faith of feeling is slavery.
    Faith of body is stupidity.

    Hope of consciousness is strength.
    Hope of feeling is cowardice.
    Hope of body is disease.

  4. Only he can be impartial who is able to put himself into the position of others.
    We can only strive to be able to be Christians.
    I love him who loves work.
    Judge others according to yourself and you will seldom be mistaken.

  5. Consider what others think of you, not what they say.
    If you are not critical by nature, it is useless for you to remain here.
    He who has got rid of the disease ‘Tomorrow’ has the possibility to attain what he is here for.

  6. If you already know what is wrong and do it, you commit a sin that is difficult to redress.
    The chief means of happiness in this life is the ability to consider outwardly always, inwardly never.

  7. One of the strongest motives for the wish to work on yourself is the realization that you may die at any moment—only you must first realize this.
    Man is refreshed not by the quantity but by the quality of sleep—sleep little without regret.

  8. The highest that a man can attain is to be able to do.

  9. Here there are neither English nor Russians, Jews nor Christians, but only those following one aim, to be able to be.

  10. Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West and then seek.
    Only he who can take care of the property of others can have his own.

  11. Remember yourself always and everywhere.

  12. A good man loves his father and mother.
    Help him only who strives not to be an idler.
    Love not art with your feelings.
    Respect all religions.
    Judge no one according to the tales of others.

  13. Blessed is he who hath a soul,
    Blessed is he who hath none,
    Woe and sorrow to him who hath it in conception.

  14. The worse the conditions of life, the greater the possibility for productive work, provided you work consciously.
    The energy expended in active inner work is immediately transformed into new energy; that expended in passive work is lost forever.
    Practice love on animals first; they react better and more sensitively.
I add some additional sayings of Gurdjieff’s, most of which have been abstracted from accounts of meetings taken by him in London and America during the years 1921–24:

Aphorisms © 1924 G. I. Gurdjieff
A Study of Gurdjieff’s Teaching © 1957 Fletcher & Son Ltd.
This webpage © 1997 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Fall 1997 Issue, Vol. I (1)
Revision: April 1, 2000