Charismatic & Controversial Mystic George Ivanovich Gurdjieff & His Work
August 6, 2002 4:49 AM   Subscribe

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. Charismatic and controversial, infamous for introducing the enneagram, claimed by the Sufis, linked to the little known Yezidis, (More here), Gurdjieff--and his school--have their detractors, whether religious or skeptic. His ideas can be difficult , abstruse and are ultimately beside the point. His thesis can be reduced to this: We are asleep, mere machines, acting from habit rather than volition. The goal then is to wake up and stay awake. And that is where the Work comes in. ( A bit more within)
posted by y2karl (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Actually, the work involves exercises, self-remembering or self-observation, for one example, the "I am", for another. These could even be described as meditations except they are active, involve some doing, rather than passive and contemplative. Gurdjieff's greatest disicple and interpeter was P. D. Ouspensky, whose In Search Of The Miraculous is the introduction wherein first most meet Gurdjieff and his thought. The Gurdjieff International Review is the best all around site on the man and his thought. One caveat--as Gurdjieff's teachings were oral and experiential, his teaachings have remained largely estoreic and unwritten. Many schools contend, unfortunately some are outright cons and cults. disinformation has links concerning these, among others in their great Gurdjieff page.
posted by y2karl at 4:51 AM on August 6, 2002

welcome to y2karl day on metafilter.
posted by johnnyboy at 5:00 AM on August 6, 2002

[cheerleader post]

Great post Karl. Thanks. I'll take this sort of thing over Newsfilter any day.

*goes off to read*

[/cheerleader post]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:03 AM on August 6, 2002

welcome to y2karl day on metafilter.
posted by y2karl at 5:08 AM on August 6, 2002

I love sorts of thing.

By the way I was complimenting you karl, enlightening as usual, great post.
posted by johnnyboy at 5:19 AM on August 6, 2002

I understand Bill Murray was a student of his teachings.
posted by engelr at 6:14 AM on August 6, 2002

Nice link. Gurdjieff is frequently compared with Carlos Castaneda and may have been one of his influences. Many of their ideas are similar, and both enjoyed scandals after their deaths related to their sexual lives and false aspects of their personal histories.
posted by rushmc at 6:31 AM on August 6, 2002

I was reading about Gurdjieff when I was 8. I was a weird kid.
posted by Marquis at 6:41 AM on August 6, 2002

Boy, does this bring back memories.

I've always preferred the interpretations of Maurice Nicoll, and his Commentaries are very helpful in understanding what Gurdjieff was on about. Also, both Beryl Pogson and Jane Heap wrote very good books on the the Work life. The women in the Work are often overlooked, but both these books, especially Pogson's, provide marvelous insight.

And of course, as with any movement, you should beware of false prophets. Especially if they beat you.
posted by kittyloop at 6:50 AM on August 6, 2002

Gurdjieff didn't invent it. He described it. Here is another description:

Students are with their masters ten years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: "I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs."

Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in's pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.

There is only one Way.
posted by ewkpates at 6:52 AM on August 6, 2002

alex burns also wrote a pretty thorough article on gurdjieff and peace studies (and also linked to an interesting article on gurdjieff & money :) btw, this cracked me up for some reason,
"Gurdjieff spoke with great fondness of the 'games' his father played on him as a child; games designed to shock the mind of the child onto a higher plane of awareness. The father would surprise the sleeping child in the early hours of the morning, force him to strip and go outside in the chill morning air where he was then doused with buckets of cold water."
take it to the maat! keke :) oh, and sarlo's guru rating service (gurdjieff is up there with j.krishnamurti!)
posted by kliuless at 7:06 AM on August 6, 2002

I have read every single word of "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson".

I understood about five of them.

"Meetings with Remarkable Men" is a great read all round tho' (and Peter Brook made a film of it (which I haven't seen, actually)).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:15 AM on August 6, 2002

I started reading Beelzebub's tales as a result of reading about the guy on, in fact. I got through the intro just fine - despite continual assurances from the writer that I wouldn't.

I only got about 50 pages into the actual book. It's an allegory of sorts. Beelzebub is a space alien that is responsible for our "idea" of what the devil looks like. The tales to his grandson are tales of his "exile" on Earth, told after his return to Space Alien society.

I have difficulty reading alternative versions of the bible particularly since I don't believe in the original book.
posted by jaded at 8:14 AM on August 6, 2002

Beelzebub is a space alien that is responsible for our "idea" of what the devil looks like

Sounds like he was a Clarke fan.
posted by stuporJIX at 8:42 AM on August 6, 2002

more likely, stuporJIX, it's the other way around...
posted by jaded at 8:46 AM on August 6, 2002

Beelzebub is a bit better described as a instrument whereby Gurgieff could introduce an external, 'objective', impartial point of view into the narative. On one level the book is offered as a criticism, of more or less, all of humanity. From Beelzebub's perspective we have an opportunity to see the 'normalcy' of human culture that we have habituated to. On this level it is an almost merciless attack on the present knowledge and values of humanity.

There is a motive for this attack. It has been said that the knowledge of the variety offered by this system is not readily appreciable by just anyone. The proper 'state' of the student is seen to be as necessary as the information itself to understanding.

When asked what most characterized a man as ready to begin to approach these ideas Ouspensky replied that he must have found all of life's normal sources of answers lacking. Politics, Religion and Science for example. He must have exhausted these possibilities and must then feel within him(her)self a real need for a method of a higher order. On a fundamental level it is not a system for 'believers'.

From this point of view we might then re-evaluate the role of Beelzebub.

There is no way for
posted by randomnfactor at 2:17 PM on August 6, 2002

Ah, let me add Gurdjieff And The Kabbalah, Gurdjieff & Christianity and Gurdjieff and Sexuality for your syncretic completist pleasure.
posted by y2karl at 3:45 PM on August 6, 2002

We are asleep, mere machines, acting from habit rather than volition.

In other words, we are all fakes
posted by kindall at 3:53 PM on August 6, 2002

the asleep and need to wake stuff is pretty much what existentialism is/was all about. i make this banal observation only because i've just finished mary warnock's book "existentialism" and want to recommend it. it is excellent - clear, sensible, witty, intelligent, interesting etc etc.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:52 PM on August 6, 2002

Gurdjieff's teachings were responsible for Peter Murphy (of "Bauhaus" fame) converting to Sufi Islam some time back. So I've been told.
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:15 AM on August 13, 2002

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