Gurdjieff claimed that people cannot perceive reality in their current states because they do not possess a unified consciousness but rather live in a state of a hypnotic "waking sleep."
"Man lives his life in sleep, and in sleep he dies." As a result of this condition, each person perceives things from a completely subjective perspective. He asserted that people in their typical state function as unconscious automatons, but that one can "wake up" and become a different sort of human being altogether.
Self-development teachings: Fourth Way
Gurdjieff argued that many of the existing forms of religious and spiritual tradition on Earth had lost connection with their original meaning and vitality and so could no longer serve humanity in the way that had been intended at their inception. As a result, humans were failing to realize the truths of ancient teachings and were instead becoming more and more like automatons, susceptible to control from outside and increasingly capable of otherwise unthinkable acts of mass psychosis such as World War I. At best, the various surviving sects and schools could provide only a one-sided development, which did not result in a fully integrated human being.
According to Gurdjieff, only one dimension of the three dimensions of the person—namely, either the emotions, or the physical body or the mind—tends to develop in such schools and sects, and generally at the expense of the other faculties or centers, as Gurdjieff called them. As a result, these paths fail to produce a properly balanced human being. Furthermore, anyone wishing to undertake any of the traditional paths to spiritual knowledge (which Gurdjieff reduced to three—namely the path of the fakir, the path of the monk, and the path of the yogi) were required to renounce life in the world. Gurdjieff thus developed a "Fourth Way" which would be amenable to the requirements of modern people living modern lives in Europe and America. Instead of developing body, mind, or emotions separately, Gurdjieff's discipline worked on all three to promote comprehensive and balanced inner development.
In parallel with other spiritual traditions, Gurdjieff taught that one must expend considerable effort to effect the transformation that leads to awakening. The effort that one puts into practice Gurdjieff referred to as The Work or Work on oneself. According to Gurdjieff, "...Working on oneself is not so difficult as wishing to work, taking the decision." Though Gurdjieff never put major significance on the term "Fourth Way" and never used the term in his writings, his pupil P.D. Ouspensky from 1924 to 1947 made the term and its use central to his own teaching of Gurdjieff's ideas. After Ouspensky's death, his students published a book titled The Fourth Way based on his lectures.
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, inner growth and development are real possibilities that nonetheless require conscious work to achieve.
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.
Distrusting "morality," which he describes as varying from culture to culture, often contradictory and hypocritical, Gurdjieff greatly stressed the importance of conscience.
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.
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. In Russia he was described as keeping his teaching confined to a small circle, whereas in Paris and North America he gave numerous public demonstrations.
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 Man 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.
Origin of the Work.
Arthur to write about the Armenian and Gyumri Origins… his parents influence, etc.
In his works, Gurdjieff credits his teachings to a number of more or less mysterious sources:
• Various small sects of 'real' Christians in Asia and the Middle East. Gurdjieff believed that mainstream Christian teachings had become corrupted.
• Various dervishes (he did not use the term 'Sufi')
• Gurdjieff mentions practicing Yoga in his youth but his later comments about Indian fakirs and yogis are dismissive.
• The mysterious Sarmoung monastery in a remote area of central Asia, to which Gurdjieff was led blindfold.
• The non-denominational "Universal Brotherhood".
Attempts to fill out his account have featured:
• Technical vocabulary first appearing in early 19th century Russian freemasonry, derived from Robert Fludd (P. D. Ouspensky)
• Orthodox Esoteric Christianity (Boris Mouravieff)
• Caucasian Ahmsta Kebzeh (Murat Yagan)
• Tibetan Buddhism, according to Jose Tirado.
• Chatral Rinpoche believes that Gurdjieff spent several years in a monastery in the Swat valley.
• James George theorises that Surmang, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery now in China, is the real Sarmoung monastery.
• Naqshbandi Sufism, (Idries Shah, Rafael Lefort)
• The "stop" exercise is similar to the Uqufi Zamani exercise in Omar Ali-Shah's book on the Rules or Secrets of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order.
• in principle to Zoroaster, and explicitly to the 12th century Khwajagan Sufi leader, Abdul Khaliq Gajadwani (J. G. Bennett)
P R I N C I P L E S O F W O R K
Objective Reason The Law of Three
The Law of Seven, or The Law of Octave
The symbol of Enneagramm and principle of additional shocks Time
The Principle of Reciprocal Maintenance Three Lines of School Work
The aim of Work is to achieve the highest state of consciousness, which Gurdjieff called the Objective Reason. As Gurdjieff postulated, this state may be achieved by fulfilling being partk-dolg-duties and by means of special contemplation. Other spiritual traditions refer to this state using such terms as Samadhi, Cosmic Consciousness or Enlightenment.
THE LAW OF THREE
The Law of Three is one of the fundamental laws of Universe. Many ancient doctrines are rooted in this idea, referring to the unity of three forces in Absolute. The Law of Three approves that each manifested phenomenon in Universe, from molecular to cosmic, is a result of interaction of three different forces. The first force can be called active, positive; the second one can be called passive, negative; the third force is neutral, reconciling. In fact, all of the forces are active in the same degree and become apparent as active, passive and reconciling only in a point where they have met, that is only in a relationship to each other in a given moment.
The Law of Three plays primary role in a cosmological model, proposed by Gurdjieff and called «The Ray of Creation». This model of Universe turned out to be very productive and has allowed Gurdjieff to combine in its framework a lot of additional concepts and ideas, including the principle of reciprocal maintenance.
The following formula of the Law of Three has been proposed by Gurdjieff as a basis for practical work: "The higher blends with the lower to actualize the middle, which becomes lower for the next higher or higher for the previous lower".
THE LAW OF SEVEN, OR THE LAW OF OCTAVE
Gurdjieff called the fundamental Law of Seven «Heptaparaparshinokh», or the Law of Octave, formulating it in a following way: the forces’ movement follows a line, which regularly departs from primary direction in particular intervals until closes a contour, - in other words, until both line ends are joint together in a point from which the movement has begun.
This line’s geometry, by Gurdjieff, is defined by seven points of swerving from a previous direction of forces’ movement. In the Beelzebub Tales’ the intervals between the nearest points of swerving are called “stopinders of Holy Heptaparaparshinokh”. The Law of Seven works on absolutely all, arising to existence or already in existence, and it’s action is always connected with a presence of seven points mentioned above, also called as “gravity centers”, and a presence of intervals between these points.
This law explains in particular why we are not capable to think or to do really, and why many things happen with us in a manner which is opposite to our wishes or expectations. In all this cases we deal with direct consequences of “intervals”.
Explaining how The Law of Seven works Gurdjieff widely illustrated it with an analogy of musical scale, setting forth at the same time his theory of an objective music. Seven tones accomplish an octave, and the new octave is started by the eighth tune, whether it’s higher or lower. Seven tones in octave are analogous to seven gravity centers, and intervals between tones are analogous to intervals of different length in all the processes around and inside us.
Geometric illustration of this law and it’s work, in parallel with introduction some other practical ideas, has been given by Gurdjieff using the enneagramm symbol.
THE ENNEAGRAMM AND PRINCIPLE OF ADDITIONAL SHOCKS
The Enneagramm is one of the main symbols in Gurdjieff’s teaching. Enneagramm is contained in any complete whole, cosmos or an organism.
Gurdjieff declared that the knowledge of Enneagramm has been kept hidden during a long period; now it has been made open only in restricted and theoretical form, which doesn’t permit to extract pure practical benefit from it without direction from a person who knows this symbol directly, in his own being.
The Enneagramm unites The Law of Three and The Law of Seven. It gives a vivid introduction to the principle of two additional shocks. To avoid fading of vibrations in octave, it is necessary to modify twice the direction of forces’ movement. If in a required moment, moving through an interval, octave receives “additional shock”, coinciding with her vibrations, octave proceeds its development along a primary direction, losing nothing and with its nature unchanged. In opposite case its direction will be changed, its vibrations will fade, and its common movement becomes circular in a result.
The possibility to create intentionally and knowingly “additional shocks” endows the Enneagramm, the Law of Three and the Law of Seven studying with pure practical meaning.
In Beelzebub's Tales Gurdjieff called Time “The Merciless Heropass” and sad that the problem with Time was a reason for creation of our Universe.
“Thereupon our Endlessness grew deeply thoughtful, for in His divine deliberations He had become clearly aware that if the action of the Heropass should continue to diminish the volume of the Sun Absolute, it would sooner or later bring about the complete destruction of this sole place of His Being…
It should be noted that in the Great Universe all phenomena, without exception, wherever they arise and are manifest, are simply successive, lawful 'fractions' of some whole phenomenon which has its prime arising on the Most Holy Sun Absolute.
In consequence, all cosmic phenomena, wherever they proceed, have an 'objective' significance.
Time alone has no objective significance, since it is not the result of the fractioning of any definite cosmic phenomenon. Issuing from nothing, but always blending with everything while remaining self-sufficiently independent, Time alone in the whole of the Universe can be named and extolled as the 'Ideally Unique Subjective Phenomenon'.”
THE PRINCIPLE OF RECIPROCAL MAINTENANCE
Every form of being is supported by other forms of being and, in turn, has to support the existence of other forms of being. We cannot neglect this law, and that is why our life must serve as a basis for existence of some other form of being.
Such formula of this principle has been given by Gurdjieff to Bennett, who later thoroughly and actively elaborated Gurdjieff’s conception of Trogoautoegocrat in his own cosmology.
THREE LINES OF SCHOOL WORK
Three lines of work present one of the main principles of work of the Gurdjieff group. This principle ensures preservation of a proper balance and direction of the work, as well as the success of its fulfillment.
The first line features work on oneself: self-study, study of the system and the attempts to overcome some of our most mechanical habits and manifestations. This line of work focuses directly on the human being and in a certain sense may be regarded as egocentric. It presents an opportunity for a person to realize for himself what he wants to receive, what he wants to know, who he wants to be and how to change his old habits of thought and of feeling.
The second line features work with other people in a group. In the second line a person must not only receive but also give – to convey knowledge and ideas and to present himself as an example for other people. On this level of work one can no longer work on one’s own; the assistance of others and the cooperation with members of the group is indispensable, as are the inevitable conflicts, discomforts and obstacles which create additional necessary stimulus for the work. The greatest difficulties at the beginning may be caused by working upon another person’s initiative, acceptance of many unpleasantthings, as well as the external discipline which, nonetheless, aids the formation of inner discipline. In this line of work each person works for other people.
The third line presents work for the sake of work as a whole. This line takes on different forms in the case of different people. The third line deals with the entire work as a whole entity, including an overview of the present and the future of the work. In regard to the third line of work, it is important to understand the integral idea of why this work exists and how to enhance it. Just as in the case of the first line, the third line must be carried out solely upon a person’s individual initiative.
The work may extend its beneficial effects on a person in full only in the case when he works along all three lines. If the person neglects to work along in all of these three lines, he is compelled to stop his work after a certain time.