THE GURDJIEFF WORK
Top: Jeanne de Salzmann
Bottom: P. D. Ouspensky
“We can do nothing without one another. The exchange we can have together is more necessary than our daily bread. We make efforts alone—we struggle alone, suffer alone, respond alone. But a moment comes when exchange is indispensable, when we need to nourish one another with the fruits of our efforts. And without this exchange, we cannot go further. The more we value our existence, the more the question of relation appears.”
Jeanne de Salzmann, excerpt from “Real Exchange in a Group”
Most of us at one time or another have felt a sense of lack; of something missing in us that can’t be found on the ordinary level of life. We begin to wonder who we are, why we are here. There are also those moments when we are a brought to ourselves by a sense of awe, or an unexpected sense of harmony, beauty, or stillness. We feel that everything has meaning-- a place in the vast palette of creation. It seldom occurs to us that these moments are a call from another, higher level in ourselves.
But how, on the ordinary level of life today, with its demands, challenges, and ever-new distractions, are we to consistently turn toward this unknown level in ourselves? Instead we are consumed by this outer life, and our other possibilities are ignored. This is the meaning of “sleep” often referred to in the Gurdjieff teaching. We are asleep to our higher nature, even though it is the source of our deepest feelings and most intuitive thoughts; it is the small still voice of conscience in us, and it is at the basis of our true humanity and individuality.
Many traditions today speak of the practice of awareness, or mindfulness, of living in the present, as being the means of relating us to our higher nature. But in trying to undertake such practices we soon realize that they require the participation of a mysterious faculty in us that we also need to discover and develop: this is the faculty of Attention. Normally this faculty is consumed by the distractions of outer life and by the associative thoughts of the ordinary mind, rather than being free to serve as a bridge to our higher selves. To be able to live mindfully, to be present to ourselves in the moment, is to have discovered the secret of a conscious attention. It is this force that can bring us to a state of wholeness, or unity—to an undivided presence: connected to our real or higher Self.
Gurdjieff said “People may believe in progress and culture, but there is no progress whatsoever. Everything is the same as it was thousands of years ago. Only the outward forms change, but inwardly man remains the same. We may think that wars can be stopped, but they cannot. Because modern civilizations are based on violence and slavery, and fine words." And the reason that there is no real progress or evolution in the life of man is that our level of being does not permit it. We are asleep to our true nature, our higher nature, and to our real possibilities. Before we can speak about progress, or evolution or the cessation of war, we must first become aware of the level of our being, the low level of consciousness in which we pass our daily lives and all the consequences that flow from it.
Gurdjieff was a messenger. His message is a call for Being, for becoming, rather than doing. He tells us that we can begin to awaken to a new reality, a new intelligence and a stable center of gravity within ourselves. The whole of his teaching and its practice is intended to free us from our preconceptions of what we are, and, at the same time, help us to acquire what we mistakenly believe we already have.
The Gurdjieff Work is practiced in many small communities worldwide where people work together to achieve the aims of the teaching. There are standard forms of study and practice which include meditation, working together, readings, and Movements or sacred dances. In addition to these forms, the teaching uses methods of self- study that are both immediate and dynamic giving rise to countless experiments over its short history. This experimental method, by which we work to bring a more impartial look at ourselves and our place in the cosmos, is at the heart of the practice of Gurdjieff’s teaching.
The psychological, philosophical and cosmological foundations of the teaching, also known as the Fourth Way, is accessible through recommended readings such as P.D. Ouspensky’s, In Search of the Miraculous, and by Gurdjieff’s own writings including his major work, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.
The Halifax Gurdjieff Group is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a forum for spiritual search based on this teaching. We welcome inquiries from anyone interested in these ideas and practices. We are affiliated with the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York and with groups in other parts of Canada. While engaging in traditional forms of the Work-group meetings, practical work together, meditation, music and sacred dance (known as the Movements)-we endeavour to make self-study an integral part of daily life.
If you are interested in finding out more please contact The Halifax Gurdjieff Group at : firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOOKS AND OTHER INFORMATION
Books by Gurdjieff and his pupils
Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950) New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company. Most recently published in 1993 by Two Rivers Press.
Meetings with Remarkable Men (1963) New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am” (1981) New York: Dutton Publishing Company, Inc.
Views from the Real World: Early Talks of Gurdjieff (1975) New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.
Ouspensky, Peter D.
In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (1949) New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution (1974) Knopf.
de Hartmann, Thomas and Olga de Hartmann
Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff (1992) Edited by T. C. Daly and T. A. Daly, London: Penguin
de Salzmann, Jeanne
The Reality of Being (2011) Boston and London: Shambhala
For Music click here
www.gurdjieff.org (many articles on the various forms of the Gurdjieff Work)