He was not a magus, nor a thaumaturge, nor a philosopher, nor a mystic as some have claimed. He was something else, at the same time simpler but no less extraordinary. He was a danger. A real threat. A threat for one’s self-calming, a threat for the little regard one had of oneself, a threat for the comfortable repertoire where we generally live. But at the moment when this threat appeared, like a ditch to cross, a threshold to step over, one was helped to cross it by his presence itself. This threat was quickly followed with a sense of well-being. One had set aside the mask; one had sloughed off the weight of one’s images and one felt suddenly free.
For all those who came near him, the meeting was a shock. Three ways to express this: being stripped, having a new feeling of responsibility, and being small. I would say small, not compared to Gurdjieff, but small in front of the grandeur of the human condition, if you will, which was as yet unfathomed and to which one suddenly became attuned. I say ‘stripped’ because, as I said a moment ago, all the masks kept falling and ‘with a new feeling of responsibility’ because suddenly there was the need to respond to this new vision of human condition, of being human.
I would like to convey the impression I experienced while near him, the impression that emanated from him: the impression of a permanency. He was always quiet, contained, regardless of the circumstances, dramatic or otherwise—and there were many such—whether he was on his way to the market or remaining with his students, presiding at his table with many guests. There was always this same kind of density of presence as if he were being seen and as if his own seeing, without judgment, was upon the world. It was contagious. When one was under the sway of this quietness one had the feeling, all of a sudden, of seeing things from a distance, from tranquility.
As for the children who were at the Prieuré, each one retained an indelible memory of this time. I always felt that the meaning of Gurdjieff’s education was to give the children, on the one hand, the sense of a very challenging life, sometimes reduced to the essentials, even to restriction; and on the other hand to experience the sense of plenitude, the feeling of having been gratified, completed, and have even more than what had been hoped for. To have always these two aspects so as not to form beings who are naïve—to be neither in a state of perpetual demanding nor in a perpetual state of dreaming, without knowing really the essential reality of life, and its possible hardship.
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This text is taken from a French documentary film about Gurdjieff produced by Jean-Claude Lubtchansky, Paris, 1976.
This English translation is by Jack Cain and Nicolas Lecerf.
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Featured: Spring 2012 Issue, Vol. XI (1)
Revision: July 24, 2012