G. I. Gurdjieff
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (Russian: Георгий Иванович Гюрджиев, Georgij Ivanovich Gjurdzhiev; 13 January 1866/1872/1877? – 29 October 1949) was a Greco-Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher of what came to be called "the Work" or "The Fourth Way", in which he taught people how to increase and focus their attention and energy through various awareness exercises. According to his teachings, such inner development is the beginning of a possible further process of change, and spiritual evolution.
In Search of the Miraculous (1949)
- Quotations of Gurdjieff from In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (1949) by P. D. Ouspensky
- It is impossible to recognize a wrong way without knowing the right way. This means that it is no use troubling oneself how to recognize a wrong way. One must think of how to find the right way.
- In properly organized groups no faith is required; what is required is simply a little trust and even that only for a little while, for the sooner a man begins to verify all he hears the better it is for him.
- A man can keep silence in such a ways that no one will even notice it. The whole point is that we say a good deal too much. If we limited ourselves to what is actually necessary, this alone would be keeping the silence. And it is the same with everything else, with food, with pleasures, with sleep; with everything there is a limit to what is necessary. After this "sin" begins. This is something that must be grasped, a "sin" is something which is not necessary.
- Man such as we know him, is a machine.
- In speaking of evolution it is necessary to understand from the outset that no mechanical evolution is possible. The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness.
- One of man’s important mistakes, one which must be remembered, is his illusion in regard to his I.
Man such as we know him, the "man-machine," the man who cannot "do," and with whom and through whom everything "happens," cannot have a permanent and single I. His I changes as quickly as his thoughts, feelings and moods, and he makes a profound mistake in considering himself always one and the same person; in reality he is always a different person, not the one he was a moment ago.
- Man has no permanent and unchangeable I. Every thought, every mood, every desire, every sensation, says "I".
- Man has no individual I. But there are, instead, hundreds and thousands of separate small "I"s, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible. Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking, "I". And each time his I is different. Just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly. Man is a plurality. Man's name is legion.
- The being of two people can differ from one another more than the being of a mineral and of an animal. This is exactly what people do not understand. And they do not understand that knowledge depends on being. Not only do they not understand this latter but they definitely do not wish to understand it.
- In literature, science, art, philosophy, religion, in individual and above all in social and political life, we can observe how the line of the development of forces deviates from its original direction and goes, after a certain time, in a diametrically opposite direction, still preserving its former name.
- Objective knowledge, the idea of unity included, belongs to objective consciousness. The forms which express this knowledge when perceived by subjective consciousness are inevitably distorted and, instead of truth, they create more and more delusions. With objective consciousness it is possible to see and feel the unity of everything. But for subjective consciousness the world is split up into millions of separate and unconnected phenomena. Attempts to connect these phenomena into some sort of system in a scientific or philosophical way lead to nothing because man cannot reconstruct the idea of the whole starting from separate facts and they cannot divine the principles of the division of the whole without knowing the laws upon which this division is based.
- RELIGION IS DOING; a man does not merely think his religion or feel it, he lives his religion as much as he is able, otherwise it is not religion but fantasy or philosophy. Whether he likes it or not he shows his attitude towards religion by his actions and he can show his attitude only by his actions. Therefore if his actions are opposed to those which are demanded by a given religion he cannot assert that he belongs to that religion.
- In right knowledge the study of man must proceed on parallel lines with the study of the world, and the study of the world must run parallel with the study of man.
- When we speak of prayer or of the results of prayer we always imply only one kind of prayer — petition, or we think that petition can be united with all other kinds of prayers.… Most prayers have nothing in common with petitions. I speak of ancient prayers; many of them are much older than Christianity. These prayers are, so to speak, recapitulations; by repeating them aloud or to himself a man endeavors to experience what is in them, their whole content, with his mind and his feeling.
- A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake.
- It is the greatest mistake to think that man is always one and the same. A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. He seldom remains the same even for half an hour.
- Man has the possibility of existence after death. But possibility is one thing and the realization of the possibility is quite a different thing.
- You must understand that ordinary efforts do not count; only superefforts count.
- Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.
All and Everything: Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson (1950)
- ACCORDING TO the numerous deductions and conclusions made by me during experimental elucidations concerning the productivity of the perception by contemporary people of new impressions from what is heard and read, and also according to the thought of one of the sayings of popular wisdom I have just remembered, handed down to our days from very ancient times, which declares: “Any prayer may be heard by the Higher Powers and a corresponding answer obtained only if it is uttered thrice:
- Firstly—for the welfare or the peace of the souls of one’s parents.
- Secondly—for the welfare of one’s neighbor.
- And only thirdly—for oneself personally.
- "Friendly Advice [Written impromptu by the author on delivering this book, already prepared for publication, to the printer" (1949)
- I find it necessary on the first page of this book, quite ready for publication, to give the following advice:
- Read each of my written expositions thrice:
- Firstly: at least as you have already become mechanized to read all your contemporary books and newspapers.
- Secondly: as if you were reading aloud to another person.
- And only thirdly: try and fathom the gist of my writings.
Only then will you be able to count upon forming your own impartial judgment, proper to yourself alone, on my writings. And only then can my hope be actualized that according to your understanding you will obtain the specific benefit for yourself which I anticipate, and which I wish for you with all my being.
- "Friendly Advice [Written impromptu by the author on delivering this book, already prepared for publication, to the printer" (1949)
- Love of consciousness evokes the same in response
Love of feeling evokes the opposite
Love of body depends only on type and polarity.
- Every one of those unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as of the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests. Only such a sensation and such a cognizance can now destroy the egoism completely crystallized in them that has swallowed up the whole of their Essence, and also that tendency to hate others which flows from it.
- The sole means now for the saving of the beings of the planet Earth would be to implant again into their presences a new organ … of such properties that every one of these unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests. Only such a sensation and such a cognizance can now destroy the egoism completely crystallized in them.
All and Everything: Meetings with Remarkable Men (1963)
- From my point of view, he can be called a remarkable man who stands out from those around him by the resourcefulness of his mind, and who knows how to be restrained in the manifestations which proceed from his nature, at the same time conducting himself justly and tolerantly towards the weaknesses of others.
- Faith cannot be given to man. Faith arises in a man and increases in its action in him not as the result of automatic learning, that is, not from any automatic ascertainment of height, breadth, thickness, form and weight, or from the perception of anything by sight, hearing, touch, smell or taste, but from understanding.
Understanding is the essence obtained from information intentionally learned and from all kinds of experiences personally experienced.
- My father had a very simple, clear and quite definite view on the aim of human life. He told me many times in my youth that the fundamental striving of every man should be to create for himself an inner freedom towards life and to prepare for himself a happy old age. He considered that the indispensability and imperative necessity of this aim in life was so obvious that it ought to be understandable to everyone without any wiseacring. But a man could attain this aim only if, from childhood up to the age of eighteen, he had acquired data for the unwavering fulfilment of the following four commandments:
First— To love one's parents.
Second— To remain chaste.
Third— To be outwardly courteous to all without distinction, whether they be rich or poor, friends or enemies, power possessors or slaves, and to whatever religion they may belong, but inwardly to remain free and never to put much trust in anyone or anything.
Fourth—To love work for work's sake and not for its gain.
My father, who loved me particularly as his first-born, had a great influence on me. My personal relationship to him was not as towards a father, but as towards an elder brother; and he, by his constant conversations with me and his extraordinary stories, greatly assisted the arising in me of poetic images and high ideals.
- I saw my father for the last time in 1916... The texts of the various legends and songs he had written or dictated...perhaps, by some miracle...may still be preserved among the things I left... The individuality and intellectuality of my father can, in my opinion, be very well pictured in the mind's eye of the reader if I quote here a few of his many favourite 'subjective sayings', which he often used in conversation... when he himself used these sayings in conversation, it always seemed... that they could not have been more apt or better put, but that if anyone else made use of them, they seemed to be entirely beside the point or improbable nonsense. Some of these subjective sayings of his were as follows:
- ...The cassock is to hide a fool.
He is deep down, because you are high up.
If the priest goes to the right, then the teacher must without fail turn to the left.
If a man is a coward, it proves he has will.
A man is satisfied not by the quantity of food, but by the absence of greed.
Truth is that from which conscience can be at peace.
In the dark a louse is worse than a tiger.
Once you can shoulder it, it's the lightest thing in the world.
A representation of Hell—a stylish shoe.
He is stupid who is 'clever'.
Happy is he who sees not his unhappiness.
The teacher is the enlightener, who then is the ass?
If you are first, your wife is second; if your wife is first, you had better be zero: only then will your hens be safe.
If you wish to be rich, make friends with the police.
If you wish to be famous, make friends with the reporters.
If you wish to be full, make friends with your mother-in-law.
If you wish to have peace, make friends with your neighbour.
If you wish to sleep, make friends with your wife.
If you wish to lose your faith, make friends with the priest.
- I also very well remember that on another occasion the father dean said: In order that at responsible age a man may be a real man and not a parasite, his education must without fail be based on the following ten principles. From early childhood there should be instilled in the child:
- Belief in receiving punishment for disobedience.
- Hope of receiving reward only for merit.
- Love of God—but indifference to the saints.
- Remorse of conscience for the ill-treatment of animals.
- Fear of grieving parents and teachers.
- Fearlessness towards devils, snakes and mice.
- Joy in being content merely with what one has.
- Sorrow at the loss of the goodwill of others.
- Patient endurance of pain and hunger.
- The striving early to earn one's bread.
- It is very difficult to explain what takes place in me when I see or hear anything majestic which allows no doubt that it proceeds from the actualization of Our Maker Creator. Each time, my tears flow of themselves. I weep, that is to say, it weeps in me, not from grief, no, but as if from tenderness.
- Formerly, it may be said, my whole being was possessed by egoism. All my manifestations and experiencings flowed from my vanity. The meeting with Father Giovanni killed all this, and from then on there gradually arose in me that "something" which has brought the whole of me to the unshakable conviction that, apart from the vanities of life, there exists a "something else" which must be the aim and ideal of every more or less thinking man, and that it is only this something else which may make a man really happy and give him real values, instead of the illusory "goods" with which in ordinary life he is always and in everything full.
- 'Yes, Professor, knowledge and understanding are quite different. Only understanding can lead to being, whereas knowledge is but a passing presence in it. New knowledge displaces the old and the result is, as it were, a pouring from the empty into the void.
All and Everything: Views from the Real World (1973)
- Knowledge can be acquired by a suitable and complete study, no matter what the starting point is. Only one must know how to "learn." What is nearest to us is man; and you are the nearest of all men to yourself. Begin with the study of yourself; remember the saying "Know thyself."
- There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him. For without this knowledge, he will have no focal point in his search. Socrates’ words, “Know thyself” remain for all those who seek true knowledge and being.
- All religions speak about death during this life on earth. Death must come before rebirth. But what must die? False confidence in one’s own knowledge, self-love and egoism. Our egoism must be broken. We must realize that we are very complicated machines, and so this process of breaking is bound to be a long and difficult task. Before real growth becomes possible, our personality must die.
- The power of changing oneself lies not in the mind, but in the body and the feelings. Unfortunately, however, our body and our feelings are so constituted that they don’t care a jot about anything so long as they are happy. They live for the moment and their memory is short. The mind alone lives for tomorrow. Each has its own merits. The merit of the mind is that it looks ahead. But it is only the other two that can "do."
- Sincerity is the key which will open the door through which you will see your separate parts, and you will see something quite new. You must go on trying to be sincere. Each day you put on a mask, and you must take it off little by little.
- LIBERATION LEADS TO LIBERATION. These are the first words of truth — not truth in quotation marks but truth in the real meaning of the word; truth which is not merely theoretical, not simply a word, but truth that can be realized in practice. The meaning behind these words may be explained as follows:
By liberation is meant the liberation which is the aim of all schools, all religions, at all times.
This liberation can indeed be very great. All men desire it and strive after it. But it cannot be attained without the first liberation, a lesser liberation. The great liberation is liberation from influences outside us. The lesser liberation is liberation from influences within us.
At first, for beginners, this lesser liberation appears to be very great, for a beginner depends very little on external influences. Only a man who has already become free of inner influences falls under external influences.
Inner influences prevent a man from falling under external influences. Maybe it is for the best. Inner influences and inner slavery come from many varied sources and many independent factors — independent in that sometimes it is one thing and sometimes another, for we have many enemies.
There are so many of these enemies that life would not be long enough to struggle with each of them and free ourselves from each one separately. So we must find a method, a line of work, which will enable us simultaneously to destroy the greatest possible number of enemies within us from which these influences come.
I said that we have many independent enemies, but the chief and most active are vanity and self-love. One teaching even calls them representatives and messengers of the devil himself.
For some reason they are also called Mrs. Vanity and Mr. Self-Love.
As I have said, there are many enemies. I have mentioned only these two as the most fundamental. At the moment it is hard to enumerate them all. It would be difficult to work on each of them directly and specifically, and it would take too much time since there are so many. So we have to deal with them indirectly in order to free ourselves from several at once.
These representatives of the devil stand unceasingly at the threshold which separates us from the outside, and prevent not only good but also bad external influences from entering. Thus they have a good side as well as a bad side.
For a man who wishes to discriminate among the influences he receives, it is an advantage to have these watchmen. But if a man wishes all influences to enter, no matter what they may be — for it is impossible to select only the good ones — he must liberate himself as much as possible, and finally altogether, from these watchmen, whom some considerable undesirable.
For this there are many methods, and a great number of means. Personally I would advise you to try freeing yourselves and to do so without unnecessary theorizing, by simple reasoning, active reasoning, within yourselves.
- Inscribed in a special script at the Prieuré Study House
- Like what "it" does not like.
- The worse the conditions of life the more productive the work, always provided you remember the work.
- Remember your self always and everywhere.
- Remember you come here having already understood the necessity of struggling with yourself — only with yourself. Therefore thank everyone who gives you the opportunity.
- Here we can only direct and create conditions, but not help.
- Only help him who is not an idler.
- Respect every religion.
- Don't judge a man by the tales of others.
- By teaching others you will learn yourself.
- Rest comes not from the quantity but from the quality of sleep.
- One of the best means for arousing the wish to work on yourself is to realize that you may die at any moment. But first you must learn how to keep it in mind.
- Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.
- Here there are neither Russians nor English, Jews nor Christians, but only those who pursue one aim — to be able to be.
- There is nothing compulsory. One is not asked to violate cherished beliefs or accept any of the ideas presented. Rather, a healthy skepticism is encouraged.
- Robert Fripp, a student of Gurdjieff's philosophy, in An Introduction to Guitar Craft (1988). This has sometimes been quoted as a remark by Gurdjieff on the Fourth Way.
Quotes about Gurdjieff
- They open doorways that I thought were shut for good.
They read me Gurdjieff and Jesu.
They build up my body, break me emotionally.
It's nearly killing me, but what a lovely feeling!
- Kate Bush in "Them Heavy People" on The Kick Inside (1978)
- I have found my people at last.
- Katherine Mansfield, in a letter to her husband John Middleton Murry (26 December 1922), on living with others in Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Fontainebleau, where she stayed in the last months of her life before dying of tuberculosis.
- Political leaders are never leaders. For leaders we have to look to the Awakeners! Lao Tse, Buddha, Socrates, Jesus, Milarepa, Gurdjiev, Krishnamurti.
- Henry Miller, in My Bike & Other Friends (1977), p. 12
- Gurdjieff then suddenly announced that he was going to Tuapse, on the Black Sea. The dutiful de Hartmanns followed. Their account of an exhausting nocturnal walk forced on them by Gurdjieff in spite of the fact that they were unsuitably clad and also dead tired is a striking example of the autocratic and unreasonable demands which Gurdjieff made on his followers which they nevertheless slavishly obeyed. Olga de Hartmann's feet were so swollen and bleeding that she could not put on her shoes and had to walk barefoot. Thomas de Hartmann had missed a night's sleep because he had been ordered to stay on guard. Their limbs ached and they were both exhausted; but they went on nevertheless.
- Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay; Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1997), p. 27
- Gurdjieff was a dictator. He had the capacity so completely to humiliate his disciples that grown men would burst into tears. He might then show the victim special favour. He demanded unques tioning obedience to his arbitrary commands. For example, he once suddenly announced that none of his followers might speak to each other within the Institute. All communication must be by means of the special physical movements he had taught them. Gurdjieff sometimes imposed fasting for periods up to a week without any lessening of the work load. His authority was such that his followers convinced themselves that these orders were for their own good. Those less infatuated are likely to think that, like other gurus, Gurdjieff enjoyed the exercise of power its own sake.
- Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay; Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1997), p. 28
- It is clear from Gurdjieff's writings that hypnotism, mesmerism and various arcane methods of expanding consciousness must have played a large part in the studies of the Seekers of Truth. None of these processes, however, is to be thought of as having any bearing on what is called Black Magic, which, according to Gurdjieff, "has always one definite characteristic. It is the tendency to use people for some, even the best of aims, without their knowledge and understanding, either by producing in them faith and infatuation or by acting upon them through fear. There is, in fact, neither red, green nor yellow magic. There is "doing." Only "doing" is magic." Properly to realise the scale of what Gurdjieff meant by magic, one has to remember his continually repeated aphorism, "Only he who can be can do," and its corollary that, lacking this fundamental verb, nothing is "done," things simply "happen."
- During his lifetime Gurdjieff did not publish any books on the techniques of his teaching, and his pupils were bound to secrecy on the subject. Since his death in Paris in 1949, however, many of his works have been published, and there has been a flood of memoirs by disciples and admirers. Gurdjieff was in almost every respect the antithesis of Aleister Crowley. Whereas Crowley craved publicity, Gurdjieff shunned it. Crowley was forgotten for two decades after his death; Gurdjieff on the contrary, has become steadily better known, and his influence continues to grow. One of the main reasons for this is that there was so little of the charlatan about him. He is no cult figure with hordes of gullible disciples. What he has to teach makes an appeal to the intelligence, and can be fully understood only by those who are prepared to make a serious effort.
- Colin Wilson, in They Had Strange Powers (1975), p. 116