Thursday, May 14, 2009

There is no "Gurdjieff Work"

Out there in the world -- or right here, in this space, or anywhere you want to indicate -- there is this huge mass of technical data called "the Gurdjieff Work."

It consists of writing, of facts (and rumors) about the man and his life, of a complex cosmology as recorded by P. D. Ouspensky. There are stories, and stories about the stories. A cast of characters. All of it a record -- if you will, what Mr. Gurdjieff might have called a Legominism.

But what is all of this? It is a construction, a building. Like all constructions and buildings, it has an outward form and an inside space. It has been erected by men, and will have a lifespan. Someday it will crumble. Everything man constructs is like that.

The building has a purpose. It provides a space within which something can live, and work can be done. It puts, so to speak, walls -- metaphysical walls in this case -- around an enterprise.

But the building is not the enterprise. The enterprise is a living thing, a process, a set of relationships and circumstances: the living, breathing fact of engagement. This act of engagement cannot be named. The minute that we name it, the minute that we create the characters and assign the roles, assemble the facts and admit to a plot, it's no longer a living work. It's Hansel and Gretel: children lost in the woods who are tempted by a house made of candy.

The candy, in this case -- the beautiful decoration that lures us into the house -- is all this technical information. Whether we glean it from remarkable and subtle metaphysical works such as Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson (which we read, and all too readily bastardize with the crude substance of our minds) or pick it up from our "teachers," in the end, it's external. It's window dressing that lures us into a room with a witch and an oven.
Whatever we are up to -- and we don't really quite know what we are up to, do we? -- it is referred to as "inner" work.
Inner work must ultimately free itself from attachment. Yes, it is an inevitable requirement: inner work must then rediscover itself in relationship to the outer. But it begins with a freedom that does not count the beans, or assemble a building according to a set of construction plans. A man needs to throw out all those beautiful diagrams that have been handed to him, settle down inside himself, and take a look at the earth under his feet. He needs to discover that there is dirt -- or sand, or stone -- in the ground of his life, the place that he stands, and he needs to discover, if there will ever be a building of his own, how he can build on that surface, for himself, not according to a plan (a plan which was designed by someone else, somewhere else, for a different surface and even a different kind of structure) but according to his own experience, and what is necessary and appropriate for where he is and what is required in that place

So it isn't possible to have a real work until the plans for the work are thrown away. To be truly open and to truly question involves throwing the whole ball of wax away and standing there naked with the dirt under our feet.

That is much too frightening proposition for us; much safer, instead, to wear armor called "the Gurdjieff work," isn't it? We put that armor on and we think we are superior to the "Christians," "Muslims," "Hindus," "Jews," and so on. Come on, admit it. How many of us don't actually think that way, deep down inside? We hide in our shell like a hermit crab, thinking that we have the best shell, never seeing that it is a shell that was discarded by others, that the organism that formed it has been dead for quite some time. We are weak and have forgotten how to form a shell of our own, so we scuttle around grabbing whatever we can to find to make us safe.

And we waive our pathetic little pincers at anyone who comes near us that looks like they might try to take our shell away.

It takes courage to truly go up against the unknown, naked and alone, and yet this is what every man must do throughout the course of his life, whether he wants to or not. We put on the clothing of our ideas and our beliefs, but underneath that thin layer of nothing, we are always naked, and forever alone. And that is, in the end, exactly the way we face death. Naked and alone.

So we might as well try to acquire the courage to discover how this is now, instead of relying on a defense that protects us, in the end, from nothing.

May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.


  1. I found this a very perceptive and thought provoking piece of writing.

  2. You are a very c;ear headed person..thanks for your words, your art, and your work on your"self". It Rocks!

  3. Thank you Lee for your artistry and your poetry and your liberty,you Rock!
    Looking forward to meeting you someday.
    Ever come out West?

  4. >>"A man needs to ... settle down inside himself, and take a look at the earth under his feet. He needs to discover that there is dirt -- or sand, or stone -- in the ground of his life, the place that he stands, and he needs to discover, if there will ever be a building of his own, how he can build on that surface, for himself ..."<<

    Some four decades ago, I spoke very nearly these exact words -- before I had met the Gurdjieff Work, and the list of other things I have investigated. But through it all, I carried the "sense" of the lines you wrote above, and it has acted like a rudder.

    Of course, along the way, I've also been informed by others that I have failed to make the leap of faith required of a true seeker.

  5. It certainly is a "leap" of faith to attempt to follow this work to the end...often i ask then what? The wish that something is "being" created within all the daily efforts to "remember"...This is all that matters to me to create my soul using every "grain" of sand my ordinary life gives me to build...Thank you for the reminder to "work"...e*


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