G. I. Gurdjieff - a powerful and nonconformist spiritual master

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Ananda Kali
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Scris de 
Ananda Kali
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He was an unusual spiritual master

Strong and nonconformist, he compels you by his presence to be just as strong, capable and attentive.
He spoke directly and did not shy away from life.
He also met Brâncuși at one point.

Those who followed him and resisted in his team achieved spiritual achievements.
Before the beginning of the First World War, a man of Armenian-Greek origin,who had lived to the full experience of travels and deepesoteric experiences,returned to Russia, the country where he was born, bringing with him the priceless mystical teaching of the Orient.

"Frapa through its great inner simplicity and its natural air with which it made us completely forget that it represented for us the world of the miraculous and the unknown. He also felt very strongly in him, the total absence of any kind of affect or desire to impress in any way those in his entourage. In addition, I felt completely disinterested, totally indifferent to luxury, towards his comfort and able not to spare any effort in his work."

P.D.Uspensky, Fragments from an Unknown Teaching

The first part of life

George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1877-1949) was born in the town of Alexandropol, near the Russian-Persian border.
His family, of Greek origin,lived for a time in Turkey, later settling in Armenia.
Gurdjieff's father, the person with the greatest influence on his childhood and adolescence, was a carpenter by profession. At his workshop, countless people gathered in the evening sought discussions about religion and, above all, told countless Asian legends. These stories greatly impressed Gurdjieff and made him passionate about the fantastic and supernatural from a very young age.

"Hisearly years elapsed in an atmosphere of stories, legends and traditions. Around him, the miracle was a real fact. Predictions he had heard and trusted his entourage were made and opened his eyes to many things. The interweaving of all these influences had created in him, from the earliest age, a mysterious, incomprehensible and magical thinking."

P.Uspensky, Fragments from an Unknown Teaching

He received a very good education,being closely supervised by the bishop of the village, who formed him to become a doctor and priest.
Gurdjieff left home when he was still a teenager and returned after 20 years. It is said that during this period he traveled to Asia, Europe and Africa, being a member of an esoteric group called the "Truth Seekers",which aimed to find the Ultimate Truth.

He met fachiri and dervishes, authentic spiritual masters, studied yogic practices, visited the famous Tibetan monasteries

The leaders of his group sent him from one master to another, each of whom gave him some of his knowledge, as well as their craft. Thus, he learned the art of weaving, calligraphy, brass processing, respiratory techniques, dervishe dances, Sufi music and yogic techniques of rapid evolution.

He had a very adventurous nature and proved an extraordinary inventiveness.

He told his disciples how, in order to raise funds for books and the travels of the "Truth Seekers" group, he caught sparrows that he painted and sold to rich people as American canaries, how he bought carpets from the Caucasus and sold them to Moscow claiming to be from India, convinced that it was not a sin to take advantage of the snobbel and stupidity of rich people.

He returned to Russia with the very well-developed "System" that he taught his disciples for the rest of his life.

A system that sought to explain the nature of man and the universe. The language he used was that of a scientist. Even as a teenager, he sought to approach his Western way of life, being fascinated by medicine, physics, mechanics, chemistry - so the information he gathered on his travels was mixed with the most recent Western discoveries of that period.
Gurdjieff returned to Moscow in 1912, where he sought to form a group of disciples. Among his first disciples were: Dr. de Stjoernval, composer Thomas de Hartmann, sculptor Vladimir Pohl.
In 1915, he wrote and directed a "Hindu" ballet entitled "The Magic Struggle", an occasion that would mediate his meeting with his most famous disciple, Peter Demianovitch Uspensky.

His most famous disciple, Peter Demianovitch Ouspensky

He was a well-known mathematician, journalist and a great amateur of esotericism. He had written a successful book called "Tertium Organum" - in which he argued the idea of approaching time as a fourth dimension. In 1914 he embarked on a journey around the world, wanting to find a lesson that would fulfill his aspirations for the discovery of the Truth, an esoteric school that could be followed and checked step by step, not the kind of school in which man had to sacrifice everything before he could start, before he knew if he really possessed the desired Knowledge.
The paradox led him to find in his country what he had been looking for for a long time elsewhere.

At the heart of the system taught by Gurdjieff are the following ideas:

  • man is in a state of sleep, in which he uses only a very large part of his affective, mental and spiritual force;
  • man is so conditioned by his habits and prejudices that all his reactions are totally predictableto him, he functions as a machine, which led Gurdjieff to introduce the concept of man-machine;
  • the man-machine is subject to a multitude of laws that determine its existence;
  • man must become his own master using his own free will and this can only be achieved through a process of self-observation and awareness;

This understanding of existence is based on two fundamental laws of the Universe: the Law of Three and the Law of Seven.

Law of Three

It argues that anything that exists in manifestation is the result of the interaction of three forces called positive-active, negative-passive and neutral. Most often man is only aware of the existence of positive and negative forces and we ignore the existence of the third.

Law of Seven

It shows that there is no process that goes smoothly. Just as in the music range there are two semitones or hiatuses, so any process begun will be diverted from the intended purpose, unless it is provided with sufficient additional energy to "fill" the two hiatuses.

Another basic idea of Gurdjieff's system is the eneagram

The eneagram is a fundamental symbol that condenses into a synthetic form the fundamental laws of the Universe, the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. It consists of a circle divided into 9 equal parts and a series of lines. These lines form an equilateral triangle with the tip up, an expression of the Law of Three, and the six points constitute a dynamic, procedural expression of the Law of Seven. The eneagram was first revealed in the West by Gurdjieff, who very often applied this diagram within his methods of spiritual awakening.

Gurdjieff called his system "the fourth way"

He called his system the fourth way to differentiate it from the first three paths of evolution that he considered: the path of the fachir, the monk and the yogi.

In 1917, the Russian revolution interrupted the work of Gurdjieff and his group. Gurdjieff returns to his parents' home in the Caucasus, followed by many members of the group. He founded at Tiflis the "Institute for Harmonious Human Development" where the work begun in St. Petersburg continues.
The chaos created by the First World War was used by Gurdjieff to carry out expeditions to regions that were shaken by infighting, to increase the physical and mental resilience of his disciples.

He had his disciples perform various very difficult physical work,to face certain life situations that created difficult psychological moments. Gurdjieff was sending high-company ladies to sell various items in the market. All these somewhat bizarre situations were aimed at creating certain conjunctures that led the individual to confront himself, his limitations and prejudices.

In the early 1920s, existence had become so difficult in Russia that Gurdjieff and his disciples had to go to Constantinople. Uspensky had some disagreements with his master, which led him to go to London. Here he formed study groups to which he passed on the teaching he received, always recognizing that the source of his teachings is Gurdjieff.

After two unsuccessful attempts to establish an institute similar to the one in Tiflis in Germany, Gurdjieff arrived in 1922 in Paris,where, with the help of his disciples (including Uspensky), he bought a castle at Fontainbleau, Prieure. Here Gurdjieff resumes the work of the institute in Tiflis, elaborates new activities to remind his disciples of the conflict that exists between their conscience and their way of acting. He insisted on hard physical labors: by day, his disciples made roads, knocked down trees, built houses, sat down swamps, planted orchards, and at night they rehearsed at gurdjieff's elaborate dances.

Gurjieff's dances

They were dances inspired by the Sufi tradition of rotating dervishes and which he considered an essential part of their spiritual training.
The dances were based on the belief that man operates through three centers:

the intellectual center - the one that ensures the process of thinking,
emotional center - the center of feelings,
instinctive center - the one that ensures the movement and the creative process.
In any human being one of these centers manifests itself predominantly.

The purpose of the dance was to teach the dancer how to harmoniously integrate all these centers, without giving free rein to his imagination and emotions. These dances, which seemed to an uninitiated man rather strange movements,took place on a music composed by Gurjieff with the composer Thomas de Hartmann.

Also related to the importance of awareness of the movement, Gurdjieff elaborated the "stop technique".

When he said "stop", the disciples "froze" exactly in the attitude (inside and outside) that they had at that moment, without allowing any muscle to move or any thought to manifest itself.

In 1923, Gurdjieff sent one of his disciples, Orage, as ambassador of his teaching to America.

The next year he went there with some disciples. In New York they gave some performances with the sacred ballet. One of these remained memorable. Gurdjieff ordered all of his students on stage to come running to the hall. The stage was five metres from the floor of the showroom. Everyone thought that at some point the master would say "stop." But Gurdjieff turned his back to talk to someone, so all the dancers fell on top of each other in the howls of horror of the audience. But the moment, at the master's command, all those who collapsed to the ground rose without a scratch, the hall began to clap frantically.

At the end of 1924, Gurdjieff returned to France

But due to a serious car accident, the activity at Prieure is greatly slowed down. Gurdjieff decides that he cannot fully put his ideas into practice and that he must ensure that at least theoretically these teachings remain posterity. From this period dates his three books: "All and All", "Belzebut's Stories to His Nephew" and "Meetings with Remarkable People".

His most important disciple, Uspensky, wrote about Gurdjieff and his teaching in "Fragments from an Unknown Teaching" and "The Fourth Way".
During World War II Gurdjieff remained in France, where he continued to teach relatively small groups of disciples.

He died in October 1949, leaving behind a system that transformed the lives of many people as well as the field of art, theatre and psychoanalysis.

Wise words

"Gurdjieff, following the Order's instructions, spent several months writing only the sentence: Lord, merci me!"

Edmond Andre, "On the Trail of a Great Initiate"

"Gurdjieff bore all the signs indicating that he was one of those who was sent to learn, to form, and then were guided and sent to instruct in turn."

Edmond Andre, "On the Trail of a Great Initiate"

"Man does not have a great "I" unique, but is split into a lot of "I"-ri. But each of them is able to proclaim themselves as "Essence," to act in the name of essence, to make promises, to make decisions, to agree or disagree with what another "I" would have to do. This is the tragedy of the human being, that any little "I" may thus have the power to sign treaties, that after that man, that is, the Essence, be the one who must cope."

"The fundamental method for the study of one's own being is self-observation."

"Inner unity is obtained when there is in the being the inner struggle between "yes" and "no". If a person lives without any kind of inner struggle, if everything that happens to him unfolds without any kind of opposition, if the being always goes where the wave goes, to which side the wind blows, then it will never progress, it will remain as it is."

"What people have to sacrifice is their suffering: nothing is more difficult to sacrifice. A man will give up all pleasure rather than give up his own suffering. Man has degenerated in such a way that he cares about it more than anything. And yet it is indispensable to free himself from suffering."

"Understanding the symbol of the eneagram and the ability to use it gives man a very great power. It's the perpetual movement, it's the philosophical stone of alchemists. It must be understood that the eneagram is a universal symbol. Every science has its place in the eneagram and can be interpreted thanks to it. A man truly understands only what he is capable of on the eneagram."

"A ceremony is a book in which thousands of things are written. Anyone who understands can read. A single ritual often has more content than a thousand books."

"In objective, genuine art, nothing is accidental, everything is mathematical. The artist knows and understands the message he wants to convey and his work cannot produce a certain impression of one man and an impression completely different to another - that is in the case of people on the same level of consciousness."

"An inner growth, a spiritual transformation of the being depends entirely on the work that each, alone, does in this regard."

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