Sunday, November 10, 2013

The functional form of movements

Gurdjieff's movements, as I have pointed out, have a rich intellectual content embedded in them. This aspect of movements has been all but forgotten in favor of exploration of the form through action alone; yet they positively beg to be studied in other ways.

One of the principle aspects of the movements is that they were not ultimately designed to be done "alone," that is, without an audience viewing them. While he was alive, Gurdjieff ensured that there were numerous public presentations of movements; and indeed, we can't fully understand the meaning of the movements without appreciating the role of the audience.

The movements carry both a subjective and objective meaning. The subjective meaning is experienced from within the form; what this means is that each person doing the movement sees it from their own perspective.

Members of an audience, however, see the movement from the opposite point of view; and indeed, every aspect of the form is reversed for the viewer. Right becomes left and left becomes right. The external perspective of the movements as seen by an audience is the objective perspective, in which the audience actually plays the role of the higher principle, or God; and the dancers play the role of the lower level.

This is important to understand in terms of standing between two worlds. The movements actually represent the action of forces that mediate, that is, stand between two worlds; and the movers and the audience represent those two worlds. There are some movements where the inversion of the form actually carries specific meanings that convey impressions of the immanent and transcendent aspects of God; but they can't be understood unless both audience and dancers are present.

It is the action itself that stands between the lower and higher levels, as represented by the audience and the dancers. The reciprocal relationship between the two represents a model of the universe; and the form of movement itself depicts the laws that define that relationship, as they take place.

What this means, in essence, is that the movements were ultimately intended for public presentation; it's only in this form that they can realize their highest degree of expression. Of course, to be at their best—to define the relationship in the most sacred possible manner—the audience ought to be a "prepared" audience, that is, trained in the arts of attention—but since all human beings invariably fall short on both ends of this equation (participant and viewer) one presents the movements in front of the best audience one can muster. It is, in some senses, incumbent upon those who perform to help transmit and support an increasing attention from the audience; the effort of the performers supports and intensifies the effort of the viewers.

This is the kind of exchange sacred dance was always intended to promote; when there's no audience, the movements become a self-referential form, a preparation for an event that does not come. In a sense, it's like rehearing a play endlessly but never putting it out in front of the intended audience.

May your soul be filled with light.


  1. which begs the question why the movements' films - esp those made in Paris in the early 80's are not more's that old foundation thing...and they can look cultish to an 'unprepared' viewer. The whole headband thing - and too much brown make-up - u gotta laugh sometimes lee :)

  2. Well, no one on the planet has ever succeeded in fully freeing themselves from the Law of Embarrassing Mistakes.

  3. on second thoughts maybe it's a good thing those films are only for paid up members...:) I raised the question of the headband once with Pauline de Dampierre and she replied that it was one of the things madame de Salzmann was most insistent is indeed a strange world....I guess she had a good reason


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