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The Gurdjieff-Ouspensky System

The Armenian sage G. I. Gurdjieff established a most interesting spiritual tradition in the West; one which, although apparently connected with central Asiatic Sufism (as opposed to the Sufism of the Middle East or of India), contains a  number of original elements.  Gurdjieff's teachings are strongly practical, revolving around the development of the will and self-awareness, and a kind of structuring or development of the subtle bodies.  The Gurdjieffian path requires great discipline; so it is not surprising it is only a path for a few.

Yet although in terms of sheer number of adherents, the Gurdjieff tradition could not possibly compare with any of the various  "New Age" and Guru-groups, nevertheless it has attracted and included a number of important thinkers - e.g. Peter Ouspensky, J. G. Bennett, and Maurice Nichol, - and so has had an influence out of all proportion to its size.

Gurdjieff's teachings were based on the idea of developing self-consciousness, of being "Awake"  and aware in everything one does, rather than being  "Asleep" as is the case of most of humanity.

According to Gurdjieff, this process of the development of self-consciousness has traditionally been  undertaken on only one level: i.e. either the physical level ("the way of the fakir"), the emotional level ("the way of the monk"), or the intellectual level ("the way of the yogi").  The problem, according to Gurdjieff, is that this one-sided approach leaves all the other levels undeveloped.  Thus a Yogi can have a perfected mental body, but an undeveloped and atrophied physical or emotional body (atrophied precisely because all the attention was  given to the mental body).  So Gurdjieff formulated  an alternative, a way of developing all the levels simultaneously, which he called "Fouth Way" or "Way of the Sly Man".

Gurdjieff's teaching was that man is not immortal, but man can attain immortality, and that this can be done, as described above, either on the physical, emotional, or intellectual level, or all levels simultaneously; the so-called "Fouth Way".

If it is accepted that the Higher Self is immortal in any case, it could be supposed that what Gurdjieff was striving for was a sort of transmutation and eventual immortality of the personality, or at least something equivalent to Immortal Fetus of Taoist thought.



A Summary of the Theosophy of Gurdjieff - from Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teaching, edited by Jacob Needleman and George Baker

A preliminary illustration of the Gurdjieff System - Natasha Matins


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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 4 June 1998, last modified 18 August 2004