Welcome to the Gurdjieff International Review—a source of informed essays and commentary on the life, writings, and teachings of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. Mr. Gurdjieff was an extraordinary man, a master in the truest sense. His teachings speak to our most essential questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life, and of human life in particular? As a young man, Gurdjieff relentlessly pursued these questions and became convinced that practical answers lay within ancient traditions. Through many years of searching and practice he discovered answers and then set about putting what he had learned into a form understandable to the Western world. Gurdjieff maintained that, owing to the abnormal conditions of modern life, we no longer function in a harmonious way. He taught that in order to become harmonious, we must develop new faculties—or actualize latent potentialities—through work on oneself. He presented his teachings and ideas in three forms: writings, music, and movements which correspond to our intellect, emotions, and physical body.
During his lifetime, Gurdjieff was almost unknown outside his circle of followers. From the 1950s onward, however, his ideas have began to spread both through the publication of his own writings and through the testimonies of his pupils. This issue provides an introduction to, and a selection of excerpts from, Mr. Gurdjieffs writings and talks.
The crucial component of Gurdjieff’s teaching which we are studying in this issue is conscious attention. Like all of Gurdjieff’s ideas this one is not meant to remain of abstract interest, possibly even great abstract interest; not meant to stay in the book, but to leap off the page, asking to be lived as a primary, direct, verifiable experience.
New Material Since Last Issue
Previously published in both Spanish and French, this is the first English translation of a conversation with Alexandre de Salzmann which took place in Paris in 2012. Alexandre de Salzmann is a medical doctor, son of Michel de Salzmann and grandson of Jeanne de Salzmann. “Renewing is living the fact that truth cannot be captured and locked up in one of our mental boxes, but it must be rediscovered at every moment. It is accepting to stay on the razor’s edge in search of an unsteady balance.”
“Ouspensky’s role, actions, understanding and level of being have often been the subject of debate. Historical data can be contradictory and the facts are often disputable. A bystander’s experience may collide with rumors, speculations, half-truths, slander and historical investigation. An unpublished manuscript by Rodney Collin, given to me by the daughter of one of Ouspensky’s older students, indicates that some published interpretations may be incorrect.”
“Maurice Desselle was a pupil of Gurdjieff. After Gurdjieff’s death in 1949 he carried on with the transmission of inner Work, alongside such people as Henriette Lannes, Henri Tracol, and other contemporaries, under the guidance of Mme. de Salzmann. In addition to groups which he took in France, he devoted much of his time and energy to groups in England.”
Gurdjieff had a very wide range of knowledge, which embraced modern Western scientific theories as well as the special knowledge he had learned in his years of wandering in the East. But it was not so much what he said or what he did that impressed as what he was. Gurdjieff was a living example of the outcome of his own teaching, which he summed up in the words the harmonious development of man.
No doubt there is a profound connection between Zen and the teaching of Gurdjieff, in that they both propose that only with tough disciplines and practice is it possible to relate to a changeless self. Theory without practice, words without an immediate connection to experience, is for followers of both Zen and Gurdjieff as fruitless as pouring from the empty into the void.
Copyright © 2016
December 5, 2016
December 5, 2016