Friday, December 12, 2014

Of Definite Significance?

Mayan Figurine, Yucatan, Mexico

The fourth way differs from the old and the new ways by the fact that it is never a permanent way. It has no definite forms and there are no institutions connected with it. It appears and disappears governed by some particular laws of its own. 

“The fourth way is never without some work of a definite significance, is never without some undertaking around which and in connection with which it can alone exist. When this work is finished, that is to say, when the aim set before it has been accomplished, the fourth way disappears, that is, it disappears from the given place, disappears in its given form, continuing perhaps in another place in another form. Schools of the fourth way exist for the needs of the work which is being carried out in connection with the proposed undertaking. They never exist by themselves as schools for the purpose of education and instruction.

—Gurdjieff, speaking to P.D. Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous

I came across this passage while doing research on a different matter during my most recent trip to China.

It's worth considering. We ought perhaps to ponder the inarguable fact that the Gurdjieff work, as it exists today, has established an institution. The teachings and understandings that he left behind him have, furthermore, spawned a wide variety of subsidiary, auxiliary, derivative, and referential teachings, none of which appear to conform to the above conditions in any recognizable way. 

This fact is, so far as I can see, egregiously overlooked.

 Let's break it down in detail. First of all, he says that it is never a permanent way. That is, it eschews form— he says that specifically, it has no definite forms —and is thus in a constant state of change and evolution. It does not attempt to cement itself into a particular routine or configuration.

Secondly, there can be specific aims for work, but the point is that they are specific. The work of definite significance has to be, furthermore, work along three lines: work for the individual, work for the community, and work on behalf of God, that is, the higher principles that guide mankind. So a school of the fourth way has to have an intelligible aim; and I doubt it is anything so generic as "helping one to achieve a higher level of consciousness." No, this is too global to be considered significant or specific; rather, there need to be inner aims, and outer aims, which are tangible; concrete objectives, with intelligible, identifiable, achievable limits.

The purposefulness of a real school is defined by this statement: never without some undertaking around which and in connection with which it can alone exist.

That is, the existence of the school is dependent on the aim — and not the other way around.

I don't have any answers for the readership on this question, but it ought to be carefully and deeply examined by the Gurdjieff community at large, since it seems so strikingly absent from contemporary, so-called Fourth way schools and Gurdjieff teachings.

 Perhaps some think it's too much to ask that people come to grips with the uncomfortable questions—but should we not challenge ourselves with them?

I think so.

 I note with wry amusement that I am, by myself, hardly a school or a teaching, of any kind. I am, for that matter, just barely an actual human being... by the skin of my teeth, so to speak.

However, I believe that for myself, the current specific aim of my own inner work, and the outer work I engage in with others and by means of these writings, is to help people understand several specific things about inner development, particularly, how to grow roots within one's Being, and how to come to the organic sense of Being — that is, how to undergo an inner change so that one can sense one's atoms, as well as God. 

So at least there is something specific afoot here, even if it is guilty of adopting the definite form of this blog.

 More on that in the next post.



  1. and lets not forget that mme dedicated her later years to making that film of the movements...which of course is only for the institution...who else could see it - with those headbands....
    but there are other wide open spaces out here :)
    I think the thing about the worldliness is just the don't need a time it will be seen as rather odd?

    1. Having said that, I'm sure she thought she was doing the right thing.
      The foundation had many good qualities but, in Paris at least, there was a certain arrogance that was more than just Parisian....I think you know what I mean. The leaders are 'cut from the same cloth'...
      The fundamental thing remains that it sees itself, not just as offering another way - but offering the only truly real way...and of course that's just not the case...the spirit/shekinah/divine presence moves were it will.... :)

  2. I thought this observation by David Kherdian rang true and is relevant to your post:
    'Some students who attended the Gurdjieff Foundation during the 1960s and 1970s
    have commented on the serious, often tense atmosphere and the hierarchical structure of the organization. David Kherdian, who was a student at the time, criticized the Foundation for the absence of love and compassion in the groups led by senior members,
    the practice of basing seniority in studies on length of time in the Work rather than actual capacity, and the apparent lack of purpose or function of many of the practical activities.
    I remember Pauline saying there was nothing left to paint...such is the 4th way


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