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Georges Gurdjeiff—Sufi Teacher of Spirituality and the Occult

anuary 13, 1872, Alexandropol, Russia, 00:01 AM, LMT. (Source: Church of Light from Predictions, August 1964, time given by his sister. Also 00:39 AM, from Penfield, from Mayer, from Davison; in his autobiography he gave 1866 with historical references)    

(Ascendant, Libra; MC, Cancer with Jupiter and Uranus conjunct in Cancer and conjunct the MC; Sun, Saturn and Mercury, retrograde, in Capricorn, with Sun conjunct the IC; Moon conjunct Mars in Aquarius; Venus in Sagittarius; Neptune in Aries conjunct the DSC; Pl8uto in Taurus; NN in Gemini)

(Ascendant Libra: Sun, Jupiter, Venus and Mars in Capricorn, with Jupiter and Venus conjunct; Moon and Mercury in Sagittarius; Saturn in Scorpio; Uranus in Cancer; Neptune in Aries; Pluto in Taurus; NN also in Libra)  

Brilliant practitioner of the Sufi faith;a Russian guru who traveled the far and near East establishing a cener finally in France. His closest student, Ouspensky, wrote extensively of his teachings. Remarkable Men I Have Met includes his biography.


If you want to lose your faith, make friends with a priest.

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.

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.

A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake. .

Every ceremony or rite has a value if it is performed without alteration. A ceremony is a book in which a great deal is written. Anyone who understands can read it. One rite often contains more than a hundred books.

A man can only attain knowledge with the help of those who possess it. This must be understood from the very beginning. One must learn from him who knows.

Humanity is moving in a circle. The progress in mechanical things of the past hundred years has proceeded at the cost of losing many other things which perhaps were much more important for it.

“Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.”

“Without struggle, no progress and no result. Every breaking of habit produces a change in the machine.”

“Laughter relieves us of superfluous energy, which, if it remained unused, might become negative, that is, poison. Laughter is the antidote.”

“One must do everything one can and then say 'God have Mercy!'”

“Patience is the mother of will”

“Those who have not shown anything during their responsible life will have nothing to reap in the future”

If you help others, you will be helped, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in one hundred years, but you will be helped. Nature must pay off the debt...It is a mathematical law and all life is mathematics.

Take the 'wisdom' of the East and the 'energy' of the West and then seek.

"Beware of someone who wants to teach you something."

The first rule of many 'Fourth Way' groups is: "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."

Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all.

"If a sufficient number of people who wanted to stop war really did gather together, they would first of all begin by making war upon those who disagreed with them. And it is still more certain that they would make war on people who also want to stop wars but in another way."

"These two schools of the Mohammedan religion are called there the "Sunnite" and the "Shiite".It is very interesting to note that the psychic hatred of each other formed in the psyche of the beings who belong to these two independent schools of one and the same religion has, on account of their frequent clashes, now been transformed completely into an organic hate.

Beings of certain European communities have during recent centuries greatly contributed to their incitement to the rise of this particular transformation on that strange being-function.

And they have employed and continue to employ this incitement in order that the animosity between the beings who follow these two independent schools of one and the same religion, should increase and that they should never unite, since if that were to happen, there might soon be an end there for those European communities.

...And hence it is that accidentally arisen "newly baked" communities always rub their hands and rejoice when sparks fly between these Sunnites and Shiites, because they then count on a long and secure existence for themselves."

'Freedom leads to freedom. That is truth, not in quotation marks but in the real sense. Truth is not just theory, not just words; it can be realized. The freedom I speak of is the aim of all schools, of all religions, of all times. It is a very big thing. Everyone, consciously or unconsciously, wishes for freedom. There are two kinds, the Lesser Freedom and the Greater Freedom. You cannot have the Greater Freedom until you have attained to the Lesser Freedom. The Greater Freedom is the liberation of ourselves from outside influences; the Lesser, from influences within us."

“The moment when a man who is looking for the way meets a man who knows the way is called the first threshold or the first step. From this first threshold the stairway begins. Between ‘life’ and the ‘way’ lies the ’stairway.’ Only by passing along the ’stairway’ can a man enter the ‘way.’ In addition, the man ascends this stairway with the help of the man who is his guide; he cannot go up the stairway by himself. The way begins only where the stairway ends, that is, after the last threshold on the stairway, on a level much higher than the ordinary level of life.”*

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

The worse the conditions of life the more productive the work, always provided you remember the work.

Remember yourself always and everywhere.

Remember you come here having already understood the necessity of struggling with yourself-only with yourself.

Here we can only direct and create conditions, but not help.

Know that this house can be useful only to those who have recognized their nothingness and who believe in the possiblity of changing.

If you already know it is bad and do it, you commit a sin difficult to redress.

The chief means of happiness in this life is the ability to consider externally always.

Do not love art with your feelings.

A true sign of a good man is if he loves his father and mother.

Judge others by yourself and you will rarely be mistaken.

Only help him who is not an idler.

Respect every religion.

I love him who loves work.

We can only strive to be able to be Christians.

Don't judge a man by the tales of others.

Consider what people think of you-not what they say.

Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West-and then seek.

Only he who can take care of what belongs to others may have his own.

Only conscious suffering has any sense.

It is better to be temporarily egoist than never to be just.

Practice love first on animals, they are more sensitive.

By teaching others you will learn yourself.

Remember that here work is not for work's sake but is only a means.

Only he can be just who is able to put himself in the position of others.

If you have not by nature a critical mind your staying here is useless.

He who has freed himself of the disease of "tomorrow" has a chance to attain what he came here for.

Blessed is he who has a soul, blessed is he who has none, bye woe and grief to him who has it in embryo.

Rest comes not from the quantity but from the quality of sleep.

Sleep little without regret.

The energy spent on active inner work is then and there transformed into a fresh supply, but that spent on passive work is lost for ever.

One of the best means for arousing the wish to work on yourself is to realize that you may die at any moment.

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

Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.

Hope, when bold, is strength. Hope, with doubt, is cowardice. Hope, with fear, is weakness.

Man is given a definite number of experiences-economizing them, he prolongs his life.

Here there are neither Russian nor English, Jews nor Christians, but only those who pursue one aim-to be able to be.


Georges Ivanovich GurdjieffGeorges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (??????? ???????? ????????, Georgiy Ivanovich Gyurdzhiev (or Gurdjiev); January 13, 1872? – October 29, 1949), was a Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher who initially gained public recognition as a teacher of sacred dance. After attracting pupils and disciples of whom a number were already persons of some distinction, he established a school for spiritual development called The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. He claimed that the teachings he brought to the West from his own experiences and early travels expressed the truth found in other ancient religions and wisdom teachings relating to self-awareness in one's daily life and humanity's place in the universe. It might be summed up by the title of his third series of writings: Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'. His complete series of books is entitled "All And Everything".

Gurdjieff was born in Alexandropol (now Gyumri), Armenia. The exact year is unknown; anything from 1866 to 1877 has been offered. James Moore's biography ("Gurdjieff: The Anatomy Of A Myth") argues persuasively for 1866. Gurdjieff grew up in Kars, traveled to many parts of the world (such as Central Asia, Egypt, Rome) before returning to Russia and teaching in Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1913.

In the midst of revolutionary upheaval in Russia he left Petrograd (St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd on September 1, 1914) in 1917 to return to his family home in Alexandropol. During the Bolshevik Revolution he set up temporary study communities in Essentuki in the Caucasus, then Tuapse, Maikop, Sochi and Poti, all on the Black Sea coast of Southern Russia where he worked intensively with many of his Russian pupils.

In mid-January 1919 he and his closest pupils moved to Tbilisi. In late May 1920 when political conditions in Georgia changed and the old order was crumbling, they walked by foot to Batumi on the Black Sea coast, and then Istanbul. There Gurdjieff rented an apartment on Koumbaradji Street in Péra and later at 13 Abdullatif Yemeneci Sokak near the Galata Tower. The apartment is near the tekke (monastery) of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis (founded by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi) where Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Thomas de Hartmann experienced the sema ceremony of The Whirling Dervishes. In Istanbul Gurdjieff also met John G. Bennett.

In August 1921 Gurdjieff traveled around western Europe, lecturing and giving demonstrations of his work in various cities such as Berlin and London. In October 1922, he established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man south of Paris at the Prieuré des Basses Loges in Fontainebleau-Avon near the famous Château de Fontainebleau.

In 1924 he nearly died in a car crash. After he recovered, he began writing All and Everything originally written by him in Russian and Armenian. He stopped writing in 1935 having completed the first two parts of the trilogy and only having started on the Third Series which had been published under the title Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'.

In Paris, Gurdjieff lived at 6 Rue des Colonels-Rénard where he continued to teach throughout World War II.

Gurdjieff died on October 29, 1949 at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. His funeral was held at the St. Alexandre Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 12 Rue Daru, Paris. He is buried in the cemetery at Fontainebleau-Avon.

Timelines, facts and whereabouts of Gurdjieff's early biography before he appeared in Moscow in 1913 are found in his text Meetings with Remarkable Men.

The Teachings
The Fourth Way is the most commonly used name for Gurdjieff's teachings when directly attributed to him, and they continue to be taught by schools founded by Gurdjieff as well as other institutes and individuals his works continue to influence.

Some of those who had contact with Gurdjieff saw him as a spiritual Master – someone who possessed what Gurdjieff himself called objective consciousness - a form of consciousness gained by the practice of self-remembering and work on oneself; in other words a human being who is fully awake or enlightened. Others saw him as an esotericist or occultist. Gurdjieff widely admitted his teaching was esoteric but he claimed that none of it was veiled in secrecy for secrecy's sake. Rather, certain ideas cannot be understood by people without certain preparation, and ideas received without such preparation result in distortion. Evidence of such distortion can be seen today (as well as in other esoteric teachings such as Freemasonry) where advanced allegories, and especially symbols (e.g. the enneagram) are now taken out of context, causing great confusion as to the intended meanings.

About his teaching, Gurdjieff once said, "What do I teach? I teach people how to listen to themselves."[citation needed] The teaching addresses the question of people's place in the Universe and their possibilities for spiritual development. He said that people live their lives in a form of waking sleep, and that higher levels of consciousness are possible. In developing the inner possibility of becoming more aware of ourselves in our daily lives, one is shown a fresh way of living which can enrich our experience of life, and our feeling of ourselves alive. 'Know thyself' takes on a more organic meaning rather than an intellectual pursuit. The ability to be 'present' more often (instead of being absent as we usually are), does not happen automatically and requires work on oneself over time, guided initially by a teacher trained in the practice of the teaching by those who were taught directly by Gurdjieff, or by one of his pupils.

Gurdjieff taught that by making frequent efforts to activate their attention in small things, such as walking, speaking or sitting etc., people can gradually wish to become more aware of themselves as living beings through the development of their attention instead of spending their lives asleep in dreams. To provide conditions in which attention can be exercised more intensively, Gurdjieff also taught "sacred dances" or "movements" (which are performed as part of a class) as an aid, and he left a body of music inspired by what he heard in visits to remote monasteries and other places, which was written for piano in a collaboration with one of his pupils, Thomas de Hartmann.

This presence to oneself is the beginning of a possible further process of transformation, whose aim is to change the whole nature of human beings, ultimately preparing them, speaking symbolically as is necessary in such matters, to be a conscious servant of the divine purpose behind the created world.

Gurdjieff is best-known through the published works of his pupils. His one-time student P. D. Ouspensky wrote In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, which some regard as a crucial introduction to the teaching. Others refer to Gurdjieff's own books (detailed below) as the primary texts.

Accounts of time spent with Gurdjieff have been published by A. R. Orage, Charles Stanley Nott, Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, Fritz Peters, René Daumal, John G. Bennett, Maurice Nicoll, and Louis Pauwels among others. Many others were drawn to his 'ideas table': Frank Lloyd Wright, Kathryn Hulme, P.L. Travers, Katherine Mansfield, Jean Toomer, and the pianist and composer Keith Jarrett.

Three books by Gurdjieff were published after his death: Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, Meetings with Remarkable Men, and Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'. This trilogy is Gurdjieff's legominism known collectively as All and Everything. A legominism is, according to Gurdjieff, "one of the means of transmitting information about certain events of long-past ages through initiates." A book of his early talks was also collected by his student and personal secretary, Olga de Hartmann, and published in 1973 as Views from the Real World: Early Talks in Moscow, Essentuki, Tiflis, Berlin, London, Paris, New York and Chicago, as recollected by his pupils.

The feature film Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979), based on Gurdjieff's book by the same name, depicts rare performances of the sacred dances taught to serious students of his work known simply as the movements. The film was written by Jeanne de Salzmann and Peter Brook, directed by Brook, and stars Dragan Maksimovic and Terence Stamp.

His teaching has been continued by various groups originated after his death, some under the umbrella of the Gurdjieff Foundations in New York, London, and Paris. Gurdjieff founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man to train what he called "helper-instructors" to help disseminate and practice his teaching. Today many groups use Gurdjieff's name and ideas, but they may not have been developed via a teacher-student relationship originating with Gurdjieff himself.

Gurdjieff used the "Stop" exercise to prompt his students. Suddenly and without notice a pre-arranged signal would be made, and all students would 'freeze' whatever they were doing to hold the position they found themselves in when this signal was made. The students were encouraged by this exercise to notice their habits, sense their tensions, and observe thoughts – in a word, to become able to strengthen their attention so as to remember themselves. Later another signal would be made and ordinary movement would recommence. Other shocks to help awaken his pupils from constant day-dreaming were always possible at any moment.

Much has been written about Gurdjieff, and many anecdotes about his life have been recorded. At one time in his life he set up a workshop to mend things in order to earn money for his work. Customers would bring Gurdjieff something broken to fix, and he would then find a way of fixing it – whatever it was. If he did not know how to mend a particular item he would set about learning enough to repair it.

Origins of Gurdjieff's teachings
Gurdjieff refused to divulge the origins of his system. Various intellectual and spiritual debts have been suggested:

technical vocabulary first appeared in early 19th century Russian freemasonry, derived from Robert Fludd, by P.D. Ouspensky
Esoteric Christianity, by Boris Mouravieff
Naqshbandi Sufism, by Idries Shah
Caucasian Ahmsta Kebzeh, by Murat Yagan
Tibetan Buddhism, by Jose Tirado [1]

Gurdjieff's writings and activities have divided opinion. Sympathizers regard him as a charismatic master who brought new knowledge into Western culture and whose "operational readiness" concept is valid and applicable in modern psychology[cite this quote]. Critics assert he was simply a charlatan with a large ego and a constant need for self-glorification.

Criticism of Gurdjieff's system largely focuses on his insistence that most people live in a state of "waking sleep." Gurdjieff said, even specifically at times, that a pious, good, and moral man was no more "spiritually developed" than a common criminal. His teaching involved the development of what Gurdjieff called "higher bodies," and has very little to do with altering one's actions in what most would call everyday life. Distrusting "morality," which he describes as varying from culture to culture, often contradictory and superficial, he wrote some of his greatest pages on conscience. This he regarded as the same in all people, deeply buried in our natures, thus both sheltered from damage by how we live and inaccessible without thorough "work on oneself."

The primary criticism of Gurdjieff's work frequently is that it attaches no value to almost everything that composes the life of an average man. According to Gurdjieff, everything a man possesses, accomplished, everybody he calls a friend, and even his own thoughts and feelings are not his own except by accident.

What follows is a large quote from Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, which is a rather concise reduction of the principles of Gurdjieff's work which most commonly evokes criticism:

Contemporary 'exact-positive science' says that a man is a very complex organism developed by evolution from the simplest organisms, and who has now become capable of reacting in a very complex manner to external impressions. This capability of reacting in a man is so complex, and the responsive movements can appear to be so far removed from the causes evoking them and conditioning them, that the actions of man, or at least part of them, seem to naïve observation quite spontaneous.

But according to the ideas of Mr. Gurdjieff, the average man is indeed incapable of the single smallest independent or spontaneous action or word. All of him is only the result of external effect. Man is a transforming machine, a kind of transmitting station of forces.

Thus from the point of view of the totality of Mr. Gurdjieff's ideas and also according to contemporary "exact-positive-science," man differs from the animals only by the greater complexity of his reactions to external impressions, and by having a more complex construction for perceiving and reacting to them.

And as to that which is attributed to man and named "will," Mr. Gurdjieff completely denies the possibility of its being in the common presence of the average man.

Note that "average man" here encompasses everyone who has not made distinct and purposeful attempts at spiritual development. Someone who goes to church on Sunday, or even a rather strict adherent to Buddhism (unless he had received special instructions) almost certainly fall under Gurdjieff's category "average man," as would of course almost all atheists, agnostics, and similar people. These claims by Gurdjieff have been interpreted by many to be a total disregard for the value of mainstream religion, philanthropic work, and the value of doing right or wrong in general. While Gurdjieff himself had said that his teachings were no substitute for faith or philanthropic works, his teaching necessitated the understanding that these "things of this world" are at the very least of a "different" value than those that his teaching hopes to develop in people.

However one regards Gurdjieff's teaching, or Gurdjieff personally, he appears to have introduced certain esoteric ideas into Western society (for instance, the enneagram) which were previously unknown to western culture.

Gurdjieff had a strong influence on many modern mystics, artists and thinkers including Timothy Leary.

G.I. Gurdjieff was born in 1877 of Greek and Armenian parent­age in Alexandropol, close to the frontier of Russia and Turkey, and grew up in the Caucasus amid the intermingling of various an­cient cultures and races. Finding that neither science nor religion answered his questions about the real meaning of man's life, he be­came convinced at an early age that an ancient knowledge must have existed and been handed down and still be known somewhere on the earth. In 1912, after about twenty years of search in remote and dangerous parts of Central Asia and the Near East, he re­appeared in Russia with a powerful and complete teaching about man's inner slavery and his possible individual evolution. Gather­ing a few people around him, he began the Work that was to be his mission for the remainder of his life.

"What does his teaching consist of? And is it intelligible to everybody?

He showed that the evolution of man - a theme prominent in the scientific thinking of his youth - cannot be approached through mass influences but is the result of individual inner growth; that such an inner opening was the aim of all religions, of all the Ways, but requires a direct and precise knowledge of changes in the quality of each man’s inner consciousness: a knowledge which had been preserved in places he had visited, but can only be acquired with an experienced guide through prolonged self-study and ‘work on oneself.’

Through the order of his ideas, and the exercises which he changed repeatedly, the minds of all who came to him were opened to the most complete dissatisfaction with themselves and at the same time to the vast scale of their inner possibilities, in a way that none of them ever forgot."

Gurdjieff's early students included the writer P.D. Ouspensky, the well-known composer Thomas de Hartmann and his wife, Olga, and Alexandre and Jeanne de Salzmann as well as others. The small band of pupils were led by Gurdjieff amid the maelstrom of the Russian Revolution through Western Russia, Turkey, and into Europe, where Gurdjieff established his now celebrated Institute for the Harmo­nious Development of Man at Fontainebleau, near Paris, in 1921. Gurdjieff remained based in France until his death in 1949, but came to America a number of times to visit groups which had formed in New York and Chicago to study his teaching under the guidance of the English literary critic, A. R. Orage.