The ideas Gurdjieff brought have spread around the world over the last century; first through books, and now through the Internet, where they have taken on a life of their own in the hands of countless people who have little or no connection with the original work, and have never worked in a line under people who knew Gurdjieff personally.
Inevitably, many of the ideas are misinterpreted, and ultimately, end up being misused.
It's easy to mistake the Work ideas as a vehicle for interpreting the outer world and all of its faults. Certainly, the allegorical vehicle of Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson takes that form; yet it's one thing for the master to do that, and quite another for all his disciples to imitate it. The book was never meant to be used in that manner. Such an approach is far too literal.
The Gurdjieff ideas are not a vehicle or a mechanism for interpreting the outer world. It's quite possible to use them in this manner; people like to strut about explaining how so-and-so does everything with sex energy, assign personality types to the enneagram, and so on. This is a flagrant misuse. The ideas are there to help man understand his inner self; unless they are used first and foremost for this purpose, attempts to explain the outer world with them are very nearly useless. All these attempts, even the best of them, belong to the outer circle of personality, where these very sacred ideas get entangled with the level we are on, become perversely complicated, and ultimately conflict with one another.
The ideas must be taken in in the deepest part of the self. They are here to help educate the essence, not the personality; all of the initial encounters we have with an inner work may be through personality, but unless the ideas penetrate deep into essence, they have no real action. Essence is where our weakness lies; essence is where the hope of digesting impressions so that they become useful lies. This is where the finer substances we receive can be transmuted. The ideas can help that process to begin; but only if they are turned inwards and understood in an organic sense. This must happen first.
Later, if a man truly develops, the ideas may become useful in the outer world, but until then, trying to apply them ends only in confusion. This is actually not so difficult to see both in real life and especially the Internet, where people batter each other with opinions about the Gurdjieff ideas as though they were a cudgel, rather than a finely tuned system for inner understanding. The moment one encounters activity with even a taste of this, one knows that the train has gone off the rails entirely.
One must take a very careful look at one's own attitude about the ideas in order to clearly understand that. In the end, everyone begins to bear some responsibility in this area, and those who are the most sure of themselves are often deepest in the quicksand.
Almost everything that appears to be about the outer world in the ideas—and this includes most of the material in The Reality Of Being as well—is actually about our inner life. It takes a finer kind of understanding, a subtle understanding that is not built of the coarse knowledge we use to interpret our outer life, in order to see how this holds true.
The work is here to help me see how I am. That's what the ideas are for. Any other use of them turns them into a perversion of their intention and their purpose.
It's odd to see how badly the ideas are misused today, because it seems clear enough that the ideas are expressly for the purpose of helping man to see what he is, for himself, first and foremost. After all, the practice we engage in is called self-remembering, not “remembering the whole damn world and everyone else," or, "interpreting the world and telling everyone else how it is.” Unfortunately, we're well familiar with these practices, since all of us live in the middle of them constantly within ourselves. We need to clearly see how different these machinations of personality are from the practice of an inner understanding. Anyone who encounters these ideas and is serious about them becomes responsible for them in a different way than we are responsible for day-to-day life. Misuse of the ideas is a perversion, the complete antithesis of everything they stand for—yet how often we see it happen.
This is part of why we need to remember the self. When we forget it, personality appropriates the ideas and the understanding and uses them anyway it wants to; and make no mistake about it, personality has no real conscience whatsoever. The next time you see someone in a spiritual work who claims to be highly developed doing something quite appalling, if you understand this particular issue, you will understand very nearly everything about how it takes place.
The ideas need to be kept alive and in circulation; but if a man or woman does not first keep the ideas alive and in circulation in his own body, his own being, and his own life, they can't live.
Failure to do this means that when one passes on the ideas, one passes on dead things, corpses, forms without substance. There must be an understanding first, and that understanding must be born within the being and within the organism: not in the intellect alone.
I respectfully hope you will take good care.