George Gurdjieff

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George Gurdjieff : biography

13 January 1866 – 29 October 1949

Gurdjieff’s teaching addressed the question of humanity’s place in the universe and the importance of developing latent potentialities—regarded as our natural endowment as human beings but rarely brought to fruition. He taught that higher levels of consciousness, higher bodies,P. D. Ouspensky (1949). In Search of the Miraculous Chapter 2 inner growth and development are real possibilities that nonetheless require conscious work to achieve.P. D. Ouspensky (1971). The Fourth Way, Chapter 1

In his teaching Gurdjieff gave a distinct meaning to various ancient texts such as the Bible and many religious prayers. He claimed that those texts possess a very different meaning than what is commonly attributed to them. "Sleep not"; "Awake, for you know not the hour"; and "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within" are examples of biblical statements which point to a psychological teaching whose essence has been forgotten.

Gurdjieff taught people how to increase and focus their attention and energy in various ways and to minimize daydreaming and absentmindedness. According to his teaching, this inner development in oneself is the beginning of a possible further process of change, the aim of which is to transform people into what Gurdjieff believed they ought to be.P. D. Ouspensky (1949). In Search of the Miraculous, Chapter 9

Distrusting "morality," which he describes as varying from culture to culture, often contradictory and hypocritical, Gurdjieff greatly stressed the importance of consciousness.

To provide conditions in which inner attention could be exercised more intensively, Gurdjieff also taught his pupils "sacred dances" or "movements," later known as the Gurdjieff movements, which they performed together as a group. He also left a body of music, inspired by what he heard in visits to remote monasteries and other places, written for piano in collaboration with one of his pupils, Thomas de Hartmann. Gurdjieff also used various exercises, such as the "Stop" exercise, to prompt self-observation in his students. Other shocks to help awaken his pupils from constant daydreaming were always possible at any moment.

Methods

The Work is in essence a training in the development of consciousness. During his lifetime Gurdjieff used a number of different methods and materials, including meetings, music, movements (sacred dance), writings, lectures, and innovative forms of group and individual work. Part of the function of these various methods was to undermine and undo the ingrained habit patterns of the mind and bring about moments of insight. Since each individual has different requirements, Gurdjieff did not have a one-size-fits-all approach, and he adapted and innovated as circumstance required."Gurdjieff’s teachings were transmitted through special conditions and through special forms leading to consciousness: Group Work, physical labor, crafts, ideas exchanges, arts, music, movement, dance, adventures in nature…, enabled the unrealized individual to transcend the mechanical, acted-upon self and ascend from mere personality to self-actualizing essence.", Book review of Gary Lachman. In Search of the miraculles: Genius in the Shadow of Gurdjieff. In Russia he was described as keeping his teaching confined to a small circle,P. D. Ouspensky (1949). In Search of the Miraculousm Chapter 1, whereas in Paris and North America he gave numerous public demonstrations.G.I. Gurdjieff (1963) Meetings with Remarkable Men, Chapter 11

Gurdjieff felt that the traditional methods of self-knowledge—those of the fakir, monk, and yogi (acquired, respectively, through pain, devotion, and study)—were inadequate on their own and often led to various forms of stagnation and one-sidedness. His methods were designed to augment the traditional paths with the purpose of hastening the developmental process. He sometimes called these methods The Way of the Sly ManSee In Search of the Miraculous because they constituted a sort of short-cut through a process of development that might otherwise carry on for years without substantive results. The teacher, possessing consciousness, sees the individual requirements of the disciple and sets tasks that he knows will result in a transformation of consciousness in that individual. Instructive historical parallels can be found in the annals of Zen Buddhism, where teachers employed a variety of methods (sometimes highly unorthodox) to bring about the arising of insight in the student.