Gurdjieff's teaching: for scholars and practitioners

G. I. Gurdjieff's teaching, research, books, conferences




This foreword to the book is by Andrew Rawlinson, author of The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions.


It befits the Work that the accounts of it are so many and varied. Here is one that goes back to George Adie, an Englishman who met Gurdjieff in Paris in 1948 when Adie was forty-seven years old. The tenor of the man- clear, direct and above all, caring – resonates throughout the pages. Two examples will suffice.

Joseph Azize – young, eager and out of his depth – is aghast that Adie wants him to finish his studies before joining Adie’s group. Doesn’t objective consciousness help you pass your exams?

There was the briefest moment of silence, silence with the quality of an acknowledgement, before his good, golden laugh…This was the purest and deepest joy that I have yet heard: the laughter of a compassionate man.

In 1951, when Adie was fifty, on the advice of his doctors, he had one lung and part of the other removed. But it was found that there was nothing wrong with them. For the rest of his life – thirty-eight years – he was often unable to move from his bed and frequently had to pause in mid-sentence to apply the oxygen mask. But he never told anyone that the operation was unnecessary. His digested the grief and did not allow himself any complaint.

This is as good an example of intentional suffering as one is likely to find. It is the opposite of negative emotion, when we make ourselves ‘real’, solid, by letting our feelings flood out. Intentional suffering is an emotion of sadness which we experience with our real feelings. We have the sadness but also the sense of our own presence: the sadness is an element in our self-consciousness. This suffering calls me to myself and is eventually transformed into sensitivity in my essence.

Adie learnt this from Gurdjieff and tried to remain true to what he had received. The struggle to be true enabled him to be his own source for the work, and what he says about it is deeply noble.

The work promises that if we sincerely wish to see ourselves, we will. There is very little in it for the personality. It’s free, yes – but free from stupidity, to which we are so much wed. But give it up and something begins to flow: a finer substance which is not only fine in itself but has a special place in creation. “If I am partaking, it is like nothing else.” We begin to perceive, and move amongst, divine laws.

This is a great teaching: that there is an objective truth, a quality of the creation itself. But we cannot grasp it in our present state of consciousness.

What, then, is required? The courage to be present as I am. This allows some awareness of myself: freedom from fear, openness. If I am free form the false ‘I’, then I receive strength, grace even. There is the possibility of exchange, of relationship. Negative emotions will no longer devour us. “When I become present, the dreams tend to go,” as Adie put it.

And what do we find? A fine delight. That faith, hope and love are all one, whenever they are manifest. These are sacred being-impulses, in Gurdjieff’s words, and to encounter them is to enter directly into the joy of creation.

Heady stuff – but of course, never separate from work and struggle, the need to wake up. Without self-consciousness there is only mechanics, the suffering of false doing.

These ideas are familiar to anyone who has turned his attention towards the work. They are presented here with force and elegance. I love the image of the dalek and the dervish. We are both. The dervish is inside our dalek – the mechanical invention – but we don’t know it. We have been hypnotized into believing that we really are daleks. If the dalek-human once realized that he was a dervish trapped beneath heavy armour, he could learn to shatter the shell and emerge to stride the horizons of Persia. Wherever the dervish finds himself, he is always beneath an endless sky in which the sun, moon and stars endlessly shine. But time is limited. There is only so much air inside the dalek’s enclosed world. At some point, the dervish will suffocate and then he will fuse with the dalek and become machine through and through. Then, should a spear pierce the dalek’s armour, it will not draw one drop of blood but only strike sharp sparks.

Similarly, we have two lives: one under the sun and one under the stars. To live two lives simultaneously provides us with the power of choice and the ability to be and do. This notion can be presented in a rather hard-edged form, expressed in terms of obligation and responsibility. Adie took a softer line:

At the end of his days, by what shall a man be judged? What will his image reveal? Surely it will reveal every secret thing.


Well, all the angels will come home one day.

There is only one question: ‘Are you ready?’ No one whose head is up, whose eyes are open, can say ‘No’. And the creation is asking nothing else.

George Adie heard the question, responded, and asked it in his turn.


March 3, 2008 at 5:31 pm

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