inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #76 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Fri 30 Apr 04 23:59
    
Chrys and Jay: I don't think you can verify the ray of creation this
side of quantum physics maybe --though if you read the physicist
Basarab - Nicolescu in "Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man
and his Teaching" by Needleman and Baker  you get a sense that research
on the universe's origins may indeed confirm some of his ideas,and in
the Breathing Cathedral Martha Heynemann sees parallels in philosophy
everywhere, from Plato to Dante to quantum physics. There are parallels
in the Corpus Hermetica, if you respect sources like that, Jay. But
you can verify his methods for direct apprehension of our state, and
for connection to something higher; and his methods for personal
liberation. The trouble is, there are things that are only talked about
in person. They're an 'oral tradition'--methods for something very
like Gnosis. It's quite resonant with the Gospel of Thomas and the
GOspel of Mary Magdalene. 

Glass half empty in Gurdjieff as opposed to half full? You *assume*
that there is nothing in the work about seeing the divine spark in
people. Actually the Work is about Seeing More. The more you see, the
more that spark is visible. Gurdjieff was actually quite compassionate.
He isn't really harder on people than Krishnamurti, say, or Milarepa
or many of the great Zen masters. The latter'll whack you with a stick
if you slump during sitting! If you look at the Philokalia it depicts
humanity as being in a horrible state of degraded subjection to dark,
worldly influences. The Buddhists are often called 'negative', as they
call for people to reject identification with the world of illusion and
'wrong action'. 

Gurdjieff would try to prod people into seeing not that they're
'merde' but that their STATE at that time was merde. THeir state was
fragmentary, was daydreaming,was all blur, was...waste! But he isn't
putting them down, he's just saying No, no, no--you're not here with
me! COme back to me! Be here! Not being here is merde!

No one says you can't kick back or that's bad. He liked a drink; he
liked to tell jokes with his friends in a steam bath. There's a place
for it. It's about what's appropriate. 

 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #77 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Sat 1 May 04 00:02
    
Re the Ray of creation and Gurdjieff's cosmology, and at the risk of
giving you a headache, here are some remarks I put in the appendix of
my book that sort of tie in with things we were just talking about: 

     As the Hermetic formulation has it, as above, so below: the
lawful patterns of the cosmos are reproduced in Man, who is a
microcosmic mirror of the macrocosmos, and these same patterns can be
studied within man.
     Organized along the Ray of Creation each lower world is within
the next higher world, like Chinese boxes, every self-contained unit
fitting exactly within a larger—so  everything is here, yet
paradoxically  the higher universe is in some respects out of reach.
All the types of matter in the universe are found in man – solar,
astral, gross and so on – but some are of such a relatively fine
quality, vibrating at such an exquisitely attenuated frequency, that
they are inaccessible to us as we ordinarily are. Yet there are times
we can get help from those highly refined levels. 
Energies are transferred up and down the ray of Creation: Influences
pass from the Absolute, down through the concatenation of energetic
transactions to the planets. The Will of the Absolute helps this
influence pass down across the barrier of the first interval; after
this, the Will of the Absolute is in effect diluted, so that once it
passes through All Planets it would then be stymied by the interval of
discontinuity between All Planets and the Earth  were it not for the 
organic life on Earth, a kind of biological substrate which acts as an
“accumulator” and transmitting station for forces, “bootstrapping” the
energy over the ‘abyss’ of the interval... 
         Emanations of a certain quality are needed by the re level
and lower levels; other kinds are needed for the evolution of the
Planets, the Sun and beyond. Events on Earth, Gurdjieff averred, are
affected by the cosmic need for particular energies. When certain kinds
of energies are needed, certain organic events—often dire, perhaps
even great wars—are elicited through planetary influences, generating
the needed wavelengths through the Earth’s organ of perception and
transmission, organic life, in a manner capable of passing the
intervals.
        Is this yet another cold, grim idea? These effects happen
lawfully, according to the innate mechanism of the cosmic structure.
Nature, again, has always been quite evidently rigorous, unforgiving,
impersonal. Consider, for example, Natural Selection, and the
relentless replacement of the old with the young.
           Yet God does what can be done for us, within the rules and
necessities of cosmic balance: great possibilities are always on offer
for those willing to pay the price in attention, and work.  
            Gurdjieff moves from this simple scale to a
computationally perfect elaboration of a law of Octaves beyond the
scope of this book; the reader is referred to In Search of the
Miraculous for his marvel of cosmic mapping.
        Gurdjieff’s lectures on the role of the octave in the cosmos, as
recorded by Ouspensky, seem to  parallel some of the arcane
formulations of quantum physics. Basarab Nicolescu, a theoretical
physicist at the Centre Nationale de Recherches Scientifique,  relates
Gurdjieff’s teaching to the work of  quantum pioneer Max Plank.  Plank
expressed this as a universal constant, the Plank Constant, and in
finding a constant he also found an “inconstant,” that is, a repeating
discontinuity in the overall structure of energy. Gurdjieff, in
Beelzebub’s Tales, called this the
“obligatory-gap-aspects-of-the-unbroken-flowing-of-one-whole.” As
Nicolescu puts it, “It is discontinuity which permits unity to exist in
diversity and diversity in unity.” Gurdjieff perceived in the
vibratory spectra a cosmic ladder of seven-leveled octaves, each
expressing a discontinuity of vibrations that gives shape to the Ray of
Creation, and, by extension, to our spiritual efforts. It is not known
for sure whether Gurdjieff knew much about Plank—Gurdjieff seems to
have found a teaching that located the same truth obtained from
different sources.
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #78 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Sat 1 May 04 00:13
    
Actually I misspoke in 76 above when I mentioned Milarepa--I meant
Marpa, Milarepa's teacher. 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #79 of 113: gary (ggg) Sat 1 May 04 06:35
    
 Very interesting.   To continue <71> (and <75>) a moment more, as I hear
the question, it isn't so much about the how to deal with the ray of
creation, say, as with the panoply of poetic (and idiosyncratic) ... well,
vocabulary, let's say.  I'm hesitant to say anything beyond 'vocabulary'
'cos that would be overstepping the bounds of my own knowledge of the ...
system, shall we call it; I.E., this dimension which seems mythic, symbolic,
metaphoric, poetic.  (If ever there were a spiritual path where a glossary
would be useful, it might be here; yet a dictionary is only a book of words,
about other words.)

I suspect there are personalities that are more drawn to this type of
teaching than others. (I forget the system of ranking personalities that's I
believe something Gurdjiffians use, involving numbers, oh yea, I remember,
the enneagram; the gal at the caffe said it came from Sufism, originally.)
If it weren't a matter of national identity (born into), some people might
prefer orthodox Christianity, others Episcopalean, and still others the
apocalypticism in which one hears W believes.  A chacun son gout.  But,

to inject a note of drama to our convivium, I wonder what findings your
research has lead you to, John, regarding the politics (if any) of Mr G, and
of his contemporary scene.   There are Buddhists who support the war in
Iraq, and military regimes that are nominally Buddhist; yet this seems to
contradict the basic teachings.  Are there teachings that are interpreted in
terms of social or political engagement?  Or is it all strictly nonsecular?
And given that we are still sorting through the influence of the tremenduum
of the second world war (pound, heidegger, et al, for example), how has Mr.
G. come through in that regard?  (i'm asking in a peaceful way, even 'tho
the question itself concerns war; i think often of daumal's piece 'the holy
war' these days.)
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #80 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Sat 1 May 04 12:03
    
Gurdjieff's politics--I discuss this briefly in my book. He seemed to
regard most poilitics as symptomatic of the "mass psychosis" that
humanity is prone to. He seemed on the side of individualism and
freedom, if anything. He didn't like communism, and made fun of it, in
Beelzebub's Tales, but he was not rabidly any one thing. He told Orage
that social reform could only happen when individuals were changed.
Consciousness expansion made change possible. Was required to happen
"first". 

I'm going to be out of town for a couple days--will try to get to an
internet cafe or something. But feel free to "talk amongst yourself!
Coffee talk! Like buttah!" (Refence to saturday night life sketch if
you're not American). 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #81 of 113: Jeffrey M. Field (topsy-turvy) Sun 2 May 04 05:33
    
The shit hit the fan Friday, but in a way I wasn't prepared for. A
person I'll refer to as Deep Throat Jr. said we needed to talk. He
drove to my house after school and we drank Pete's Wicked Ale and
chatted about this and that. Meanwhile, my heart's pounding in my ears.
Here's the short of it:

I was targeted for dismissal about two months ago. It has nothing to
do with my errant blog I mentioned in <29>. But he doesn't have a clue
as to why I'm being let go. He said it's "politics". We discussed some
possibilities... a disgruntled parent with undue influence, unhappy
school board members (I teach two of their kids), the possibility that
my blogging offended someone in high places. What the fuck! I'm
clueless. The only certainty is, I'm a goner. (If I'd been rehired I'd
have tenure.)

Friday night I slipped into bed around 7. I wanted to obliterate all
consciousness. I awoke around 12:30. That's when my mind unleashed a
barrage of ugly crap. I tossed and turned, trying to sleep. No go. I
remembered The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment (full text here)
http://www.lcars.eu.org/sarah.peter.nelson/lazyman/lazyman.html 

I repeated the word "love" like you would count sheep. I fell asleep
in about 15 minutes and awoke at 5 (which is rather late for me... I
usually rise between 3 and 4). My dreams were highly sexual.

Saturday morning I took stock, while noticing that my forlorn mood of
Friday night had been replaced by an upbeat outlook. I mapped out a
plan of attack. Today I'll write the superintendent a letter, listing
my past accomplishments and future goals as a teacher. I'll also appeal
to the idea of "fair play" since he was a football star and now his
son's a star... he quarterbacked the team which won the high school's
first ever state championship this year.

During the run-up to the championship, I enquired if anyone planned to
take pix of the game. Realized no one was, so I decided to shoot it
with my trusty Kodak DC50.
http://consilience.typepad.com/photos/state_champs/

In the superintendent's quarterly report, he republished a number of
the pix, and publicly thanked me for my efforts. In my letter, I will
mention those pictures and, that as a favor to me, even if I'm not
going to be rehired, I would like to know the reason for my dismissal.
I would like the chance to face my accusers.

I may be wrong (which means I'm probably still asleep), but I think I
have a fair chance of winning over the superintendent and getting
rehired. If not, I'll hunt down a teaching position close to home.

I'm not even sure of the reason for this post... maybe it was to say
that I find The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment a more effective tool
in the short run than any other "system" I've tried, though I'm very
much intrigued by Gurdjieff and will try to "wake up", even if only
briefly. I don't care to read his philosophical underpinnings at this
time. I need a pointer to some practical exercises I can incorporate
into my daily life. I'd appreciate your recommendations.
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #82 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Sun 2 May 04 14:05
    
It's almost all practical stuff with Gurdjieff, Jeffrey, but you get
it from the teachers. Still, it's for longer term stuff than
therapy--you seem to be looking for something therapeutic. Lazy Man's
guide I seem to recall had some good info in it. Sure was no harm in
it. 
They don't want you to sue for wrongful dismissal, is why they won't
tell you, probably--whether or not it was wrongful. There are teacher's
unions, no? Why not go to yours? If you, bytheway, have been letting
some of the 'mild bipolar' issue out of the bag at school, they may be
dismissing you due to fears of mental illness (btw there's an essay
about mental illness at the fan-created  john shirley site, called The
Mental State of the Union, under nonfiction in the index,
darkecho.com/johnshirley). But all this is somewhat offtopic.
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #83 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Sun 2 May 04 14:10
    
Gary - there are those who say that Gurdjieff's enneagram came from
the sufis, but no one has provided any real proof of this. Idries Shah
claimed all kind of things re sufism and Gurdjieff but I have concluded
that he made most of it up and he's about as reliable as Carlos
Castaneda. That is, he knows about some general principles but makes
things up as it pleases him. 

Not sure what you mean about how Gurdjieff 'came through' after the
war, perhaps you could clarify.

Daumal's Holy War piece is as far as I recall about utter and total
commitment to inner struggle. Declaring war inwardly on sleep. Sort of
like remarks in the Gospel of Thomas about "hating" (so to speak)
everything but the search for the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus didn't mean
literally hating, but just a stance of unmitigated intensity and
commitment.
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #84 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Sun 2 May 04 14:13
    
Here's something to discuss...

What if it's true that immortality of the individual (as opposed to
just some little connection we have in us, without any personality or
memory to it, to the sea of consciousness) requires inner Work? Whether
it's the Gurdjieff work or something found in Buddhism or Inner
Christianity (see the book by Richard Smoley), what if it's true that
your only hope for survival after death is the struggle to be
conscious? What if it's true that if you don't put aside laziness and
do what's needed, you simply die...and stay dead? 

What if it is true? (It's not? How does anyone know, if it's not
true?) Just for the sake of discussion. 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #85 of 113: gary (ggg) Sun 2 May 04 18:09
    
what john said, in <82>, jeffrey, about what they mean by 'politics': you
deserve to find out; I.E., 'office politics'? 'the politics of the war on
terror & homeland security'? what!?     & have they given you prior warning,
about politics?   what union could be with you in your corner?   sounds like
you have allegiance to the institution, which they should respect, in turn.

your eagle eye, john, was correct in spotting "came through" as vague ...
perhaps intentionally so.  i guess, for conversation, it could be focussed
two ways.

did Mr. G. ever have to associate with people in europe such that he might
later be accused of collaboration?

                                &

based on dusty sklar's book, i get a sense of political support for hitler
including groups with occult interests, and hitler acting as a magnet for
same.  so was the Work ever in the hands of members of the reich (as, say,
some of jung's ideas).

i'll pass as to the question of immortality.
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #86 of 113: Jeffrey M. Field (topsy-turvy) Mon 3 May 04 02:25
    
Thanks for the advice, John and Gary. There is no teachers union at
Hatch. No prior warning was given me. I spent yesterday morning
composing a letter to my former principal who's now at the high school.
If he can't help me I'll go to the superintendent. That will be my
last shot. But, as for fighting it tooth and nail, I'd rather just walk
away. Old saying - When one door closes another opens.

Sorry. Off topic. Last time. Back to the discussion.
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #87 of 113: Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Mon 3 May 04 10:30
    
<what if it's true that your only hope for survival after death is the
struggle to be conscious? What if it's true that if you don't put
aside laziness and do what's needed, you simply die...and stay dead?>

This no doubt depends on the individual, but I find - at least at this
stage of my life - that I am more compelled by an almost daily sense
of a missed opportunity. What could my experience of *today* have been
had I been more present to it? 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #88 of 113: Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 3 May 04 11:27
    
<what if it's true that your only hope for survival after death is the
struggle to be conscious? What if it's true that if you don't put
aside laziness and do what's needed, you simply die...and stay dead?>

Well, in my present state of mind, simply dying and staying dead
doesn't strike me as a terribly bad deal. Unfortunately <s>, teachings
I respect seem to indicate that one's consciousness -- in some form or
other, with what degree of "I-ness" I can't say for sure -- survives
one's death and  the point of increased consciousness is to be able to
better navigate away from being held to astral realms by one's desires
and fixations. The ultimate "goal" is Union with God. 

I associate immortality of one's individualized self after death with
the goals of the Lefthand path, ala the Temple of Set, etc. (I'm being
slightly tongue in cheek here, but not much.)  Heh. 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #89 of 113: Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 3 May 04 13:25
    
I suppose I ought to add that, obviously, normative Christianity and
Islam (and some other religions) teach of the immortality of the
individual soul as a given, but with the binary choice of eternal
heaven or hell. (The Catholic adds in the earn while you learn option
of Purgatory for some.) So, it's not just a Lefthand path thing. The
Lefthand angle seems to come in with perspectives that assume that one
has to _forge_ one's survival after death or risk oblivion. 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #90 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Mon 3 May 04 19:20
    
Gary: Gurdjieff not only never collaborated with Nazis, he helped Jews
in various ways during the occupation of Paris. He helped them get to
safe havens, through intermediaries. He gave them advice. He railed
against anti-semitism in Beelzebub's Tales. He speaks highly of
Judaism. Accords it more respect than other religions. I don't know the
book you reference but rumors about Gurdjieff and the occupation were
started, I think, by that unfortunate, confused MORNING OF THE MAGICANS
book, and the guy who wrote that stuff describes it, now, and I quote,
as "a sin of my youth" and says it was all hooey. What happened was,
Gurdjieff made deals with shopkeepers, promising payments (which came!)
after the war, and also his students brought him things, so he seemed
more wellstocked than other people, which led to rumors he was
collaborating with the Nazis. He wasn't. 

Jay: I don't think the lefthand path people are concerned so much with
survival after death, as with POWER after death. They're living in a
fantasy world. But there are some truths that diabolists and the like
will always distort--though I don't know as they distort more than
traditional religion. Jung, I think it was, said that religion gets in
the way of religious experience. Exoteric religion is just clueless
except for a certain moral-compass value. (EXoteric, outer,
traditional, conventional religion; ESoteric is inner spirituality.) 

Interesting what you say, Jay, about traditions where "the point of
increased consciousness is to be able to better navigate away from
being held to astral realms by one's desires and fixations. The
ultimate "goal" is Union with God." Increased consciousness, to me,
equates with increased individuality--but Gurdjieff adds CONSCIENCE. He
says that morality is relative, unreal--unless you have *real*
conscience, and then you always know what the right thing to do is. You
get that by developing a certain part of yourself. It's an infallible
inner guide. This has implications for the next life that sets
Gurdjieff apart from anything lefthandpath--as do many, many other
things. 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #91 of 113: Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 3 May 04 21:07
    
John, just for the sake of being dialectical, I think I'll argue that
exoteric religion - truly lived - is not only not clueless but a
crucial support for millions (or make it billions) of people. Of course
that "truly lived" bit whittles the numbers down some. Unfortunately,
because so many people are involved, the opportunity for hierachies and
power plays and misuses of theology and just sheer bullying increases
vastly. Still, I have a lot of respect for "simple" Christians or
Muslims or whomever, who just try to live honest lives and be good to
others. Some days I think that's more important than all the talk and
notions of inner experiences or higher consciousness. 

You note: "Increased consciousness, to me, equates with increased
individuality..." Maybe so. I guess I just equate "individuality" with
a mostly happenstance intersection of personal history, opinions,
neuroses, memories, and identifications, that I'd just as soon be rid
of after this life. Whatever profound inner experiences I've had, which
have been rather few, have tended to blast me out of my "me-ness" into
just an "is-ness." I wouldn't mind more of that "is-ness" but I don't
really equate it with individuality. But that may just be my own
definitions at work.
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #92 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Tue 4 May 04 10:34
    
Organized religion has had a value historically--I'm with WIll and
Ariel Durant on that, two unbelievers who feel it's been useful as a
sort of time capsule of civilizing ideas, an organizational factor--and
I've no doubt it represented a certain step in human spiritual
evolution. But oftentimes it did --and does--more harm than good.
Especially extremism, Fundamentalism of any kind, going back to King
Philip's Inquisition (they'd burn you if you prayed alone at your
home!) and right up to modern Fundamentalist Christianity and
Fundamentalist Islam. The latter has a propensity for gestating
terrorism--and the former has its own brutality and its own terrorists.
Timothy McVeigh thought he was doing God's work. 

And I know what you mean about people who try to live moral lives, in
quiet ways. I did say it had value as a moral compass. But what's the
real purpose of life? ORganized religion is clueless, so to say, with
reference to that purpose--it does not cultivate what esoteric
spirituality cultivates, and in fact sometimes suppresses the esoteric.
THey burned Giordano Bruno too; they chivvied Meister Eckhart so that
he died while traveling to justify his spirituality. THey keep people
asleep--they cast a spell of promise making, promises they cannot keep.
Some simple humanistic philosophy with spiritual underpinnings can
take the place of that benevolent lowgrade religion you speak of; and
the doors to those who want to go deeper, in that philosophy, can be
kept wide open.

I know what you mean about not wanting to keep neuroses and
identifications--at least I can see your point. It's a very good one. I
have some horrible memories I'd like to do without.  But then we learn
from our failures, and our faltering. We might jettison the learning
too. Still, what the struggle for spiritual immortality preserves is a
refinement of that is-ness. What we tend to experience at the times you
describe is something like the sprout of the mustard seed. But we have
yet to grow the entire mustard tree. 

When we look at ourselves we find we are, indeed, 'three'--body, mind
and heart (aka 'soul', heart-center, heart chakra etc). These can be
cultivated as one three-aspected intertwining spiritual organism...
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #93 of 113: Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Tue 4 May 04 11:11
    
I agree sufficiently with you in general terms on the above that I
won't quibble over minor points. 

Gotta go get a Mother's Day present before it's too late... Honor to
the Sacred Feminine and all that. <g>
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #94 of 113: gary (ggg) Tue 4 May 04 18:56
    
Thanx for that 411, John.  Yes, I'd read MORNING when it had come out; I'd
be curious to know where the recanting was published, but no matter.  (In
the interests of full-disclosure, the other G-critical tome to have crossed
my path was THE TEACHERS OF GURDJIEFF, whose veracity is dubious but is
amusing in a way.)  The Dusty Sklar book Gods and Beasts: The Nazis and the
Occult is out-of-print, but provides an interesting look at the politics of
the German occultists who backed herr shicklegruber [sic].

If I can shoehorn in a question before your tenure amongst us falls due:
having written nonfiction and fiction, do you have any comments on contrast
/ similarity of such acts?  And, squeezing one more onto the shoehorn, do
you have any plans yet for your next tome? (respecting all personal
superstitions about talking about unfinished books before they're done).
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #95 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Wed 5 May 04 11:00
    
Both nonfiction and fiction require lots of research but for me
fiction requires less; especially fiction based in the fantastic, or
'gritty crime fiction' which is 'researched' by living an, er, full
life (usually in one's youth--I'm 51). Fiction for me, usually, is
allegory or parable. SOmetimes it's a bit more...which brings me to
your second question, what am I writing now: a "historical" novel
called JESUS THE GNOSTIC. He who has ears, let him hear. I *think* that
The Teachers of Gurdjieff, attributed to a Lefort, is believed to be
the work of Idries Shah, whose whole trip is attributing EVERYTHING of
any value to Sufism--he happens to be a Sufi teacher. JG Bennett said
that the book "is recognizable as a set of fables written to express a
point of view and not in any sense a factual account". Bennett knew
Shah--he signed over an estate to Shah, to use as a spiritual center, a
grand donation and act of faith indeed, and Shah went behind Bennett's
back, SOLD the estate and kept the money! So that should say something
about Shah. 

A better book that criticizes Gurdjieff somewhat is THE HARMONIOUS
CIRCLE by Webb. In the first part of the book Webb shows a kind of
enthusiasm for Gurdjieff and his ideas; toward the end he starts to
cast the thing as a failed experiment, and is rather negative (though
he never repudiates Gurdjieff's main concepts). Note that pattern in
the book: Webb is thought to have been bipolar, he certainly suffered
from manic depression, and he committed suicide. He was never in the
Gurdjieff Work but merely an outsider journalist.

I myself have criticized Gurdjieff, in my book, the one that started
this discussion, Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas
(Tarcher/Penguin). I saw it yesterday in Barnes and Noble--in the
Eastern Religion section. Close enough, I guess. ANyway, I pointed up
Gurdjieff's personal flaws, in my book. He was a human being, and he
admitted as much--he didn't tout himself as a little tin saint. But--he
was an extraordinary human being. He was a "remarkable man". 

Even Ouspensky criticizes Gurdjieff, some, toward the end of his book
IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS. That book is probably the best single
overall book about Gurdjieff's ideas, though it's perhaps a bit harder
to take in than my volume. I intended to write only an introductory
work. Ouspensky's book is still used in the Work. Maurice Nicoll's
"Psycholgical Commentaries" are detailed looks at Gurdjieff's teaching.



 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #96 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Wed 5 May 04 11:50
    

Someone asked me about politics, Gurdjieff, and 'why this book
now'--the Gurdjieff work is about self-knowledge. It's about creating
an increase in consciousness so that one can make conscious decisions.
If you're making decisions based on fanaticism--either on the part of
American right-wingers, Christian fundamentalists, or terrorists of any
kind--you're not making conscious decisions. You're acting according
to program; you're doing things in your sleep. Part of the reason for
the book is the tinderbox feel that the world has today...

At my blog I talk about trying to get some objectivity in studying
human behavior. People need to be able to see the worst in themselves
in order to transcend the worst. We need to see how we're prone to
dehumanizing others before we can rise above dehumanization. I really
think we're *all* prone to dehumanization. The recent events re abuse
of Iraqi prisoners by US troops demonstrates that very thing. I talk
about this and related issues at my blog: 

http://www.johnshirley.net/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=336
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #97 of 113: Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Wed 5 May 04 15:40
    
John, thanks for a great dialog about your book and Gurdjieff. There's
much food for thought here and I hope it encourages readers to seek
out the book.

Gary, the only book that I'd trust on the Hitler & Occult theme is
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's _The Occult Roots of Nazism_ which was
thoroughly researched in original sources (G-C is fluent in German) and
includes an appendix where _Morning of the Magicians_ and other books
of the genre are debunked. 

And a head's up to folks that I'll be back in Inkwell in early August
talking at greater length about my new book _The Inner West_ and
related topics. 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #98 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Thu 6 May 04 11:41
    
 Some quotes from my book, that I include here to provide a sort of
springboard for understanding the Gurdjieff perspective (might be
slightly different in printed book since this is from my pre-editing
file):

   ...The  psychologist and philosopher William James said: “One
conclusion was forced upon my mind…It is that our normal waking
consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one type of
consciousness, whilst all about it, parted by the flimsiest of
screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely
different.”
    Gurdjieff gives us a simple outline of the basic levels of
consciousness.
    First, there’s  slumber, the sleep we enter into at night, the
lowest state of consciousness. It is a passive state, in which dreams
work according to their own logic, without our control. Man spends much
of his time in this healthy state of sleep, and he needs it to restore
his energies, and to cleanse his body of fatigue poisons. In its
deepest form we’re nestled in some essential, primordial state of
being. 
    The second state of consciousness, the next one up from slumber,
is the ordinary “waking” state. This is the state in which we spend our
ambulatory days, going about our business. We respond to stimuli with
a fair briskness, as we’ve learned to, and as we are instinctively
programmed to, but we’re only “awake” relative to slumbering abed. It’s
difficult, at first, to clearly see this state as being one of only
relative wakefulness, until we actively set out to observe our state,
to observe when we’re more and less conscious—and then we’re startled
by what we observe.
       If a man wanders the streets drunk, falls into a stupor in a
locked and wintry doorway, he may be convinced he’s already home.
Before he can actually get to his real home, he must sober up and
convince himself he’s not yet there. Until then he will sit  on the
cold stone stoop, with his feet in the rain. Similarly, before we can
reach a state of even relative wakefulness,  we have to decide we’re
not there yet!
       Being wrongly convinced that we’re already self-conscious,
Gurdjieff said, is the first great obstacle to self consciousness.
And let’s be clear: Self consciousness is a level higher than our
ordinary, typical waking state.
        “The third state of consciousness,”  Gurdjieff tells us, “is
self-remembering or self-consciousness, or consciousness of one’s
being.” 
       This state of consciousness is nothing like mere introspection,
or being nervously “aware” of oneself. Instead, it involves an
attention to the self that is constantly refined, compassionate,
nonjudgmental and nearly unblinking. It is ideally a constant honest
self-appraisal, much of it directed internally, and involving the
higher functions of the emotional center —a process we’ll talk about,
in a constrained sort of way, further on. As the Gnostics have it in
the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, ‘when you come to know yourselves,
then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are
sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, then
you will dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty.’”
    “Self-remembering” is a critically important idea in the Gurdjieff
Work—but the term seems takes on different shades of meaning, in
different contexts and as used by various people, rather like the
variability one finds in the use of the term “dharma” in other
traditions. Most basically, as used by Ouspensky in his book In Search
of the Miraculous, “self-remembering” seems to mean simply being
present to oneself, in a way that excludes day-dreaming, rumination,
vagueness; additionally one observes oneself, senses oneself—and tries
to bring conscious decision-making to whatever arises. This is a
process of remembering your true self, so that you can  strive to rise
above your automatic self. There appear to be degrees of
self-remembering, as different teachers use the term: from ordinary
mindfulness to a profound unification within and with the cosmos.
    One tool for self-remembering is “divided attention”—which
Ouspensky diagrammed with the double-headed arrow, with some attention
turned inwardly, in a quiet way, while we continue simultaneous
attention to the outer world...
     The fourth and highest state is objective consciousness. In this
state we see things unfiltered, as they truly are, and including a much
broader spectrum of the energies of life. This state, we’re told,
“cannot be described in words” but has various names in various places,
most famously “enlightenment.”  Most of us do not experience this
state, except passingly. When we do catch a flash of it, we don’t
understand it—we are not in it enough to understand it; unless we’ve
developed it in ourselves, we lack the spiritual substance that would
help us sustain our understanding at that level. 
    “The fourth state  of consciousness in man,” Gurdjieff says,
“means an altogether different state of being; it is the result of
inner growth and long and difficult work on oneself.” 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #99 of 113: John Shirley (john-shirley) Thu 6 May 04 12:00
    
And this coda from GI Gurdjieff himself: 

"The most characteristic feature of a modern man is the absence of
unity in him and, further, the absence in him of even traces of those
properties which he most likes to ascribe to himself, that is, 'lucid
consciousness', 'free will', a 'permanent ego or I' and the 'ability to
do'. it may surprise you if I say that the chief feature of modern
man's being which explains everything else that is lacking in him is
sleep." 
  
inkwell.vue.212 : John Shirley, _Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas_
permalink #100 of 113: Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Thu 6 May 04 22:23
    
John, what advice do you have for someone who has read your book (and
even some of the other books you list,) and now wishes to further
investigate the ideas of Gurdjieff?  
  

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