In this discussion of G.I. Gurdjieff's central ideas we delve further into the key insights he had on the human individual's state of sleep and the implications that such a condition has for the state of humanity as a whole. 'Self-remembering', 'identification', and 'considering' are just some of the key concepts and terms Gurdjieff used to describe the goals and pitfalls of the individual on the path to self-knowledge. We also discuss what may be Gurdjieff's most lasting legacy: the 'mirror' that he held up to all people in all times and places, and how essential such a mirror is in order to see oneself and thus gain self-knowledge.

This week on MindMatters we also discuss Gurdjieff's cultural legacy: his writings, movements and music, and how his 'successors' have dealt with this legacy.

Running Time: 01:02:21

Download: MP3 — 58 MB

Books mentioned during the show: Here's the transcript of the show:

Elan: Hello everybody. We're back with a second in-depth or as in-depth as we can make it, discussion and look at the life and work of George Gurdjieff who was a towering figure, the most towering figure of the 20th century, that many people haven't heard of.

Just to encapsulate a couple of the ideas that we put through in the last program, there was a great deal of insight and psychological awareness that Gurdjieff had in his working with other people, in finding out what made them tick and those things that kept people effectively acting like machines and asleep to the effect that their behavior was having on others, or not having on others, not being able to help others out of a love of one's fellow man, out of a love of humanity.

So Gurdjieff had a lot of thoughts on our state of humanity, on exactly what kept people at a particularly low level of functioning and awareness. I'd like to read this quote that harkens back to a show we did some months ago on Gustav Lebon's The Crowd which was a look at how crowd behavior works and the types of very negative acts and thinking that a herd-like mentality can produce in society, which is something that we discuss here on the show and think about quite a lot.

So Gurdjieff had this to say:

"The crowd neither wants nor seeks knowledge and the leaders of the crowd, in their own interests, try to strengthen its fear and dislike of everything new and unknown. The slavery in which mankind lives is based upon this fear. It is even difficult to imagine all the horror of this slavery. We do not understand what people are losing. But in order to understand the cause of this slavery, it is enough to see how people live, what constitutes the aim of their existence, the object of their desires, passions and aspirations, of what they think, of what they talk, what they serve and what they worship. Consider what the cultured humanity of our times spends money on, even leaving the war out. What commands the highest price? Where the biggest crowds are. If we think for a moment about these questions it becomes clear that humanity, as it is now with the interests it lives by, cannot expect to have anything different from what it has."

So last week we talked a little bit about his experiences leaving Russia, having just formed the nucleus of a school. He was surrounded by a number of pupils who were unable to learn in the environment of war-torn Russia in the 19-teens, and he was pressed with the urgent goal of having his school leave Russia and find a stable country in which to continue his work. There are stories of him explaining to his students the very dire need to pay attention to all that he was telling them to do, out of a sheer concern for their life. It was a life in death situation.

So that quote comes of experience. This wasn't an armchair philosophy about how people live. This was something that came of a life-and-death realization of what war is and what its constituents are. On the subject of war he also says:

"Let us take some event in the life of humanity, for instance war. There is a war going on at the present moment. What does it signify? It signifies that several millions of sleeping people are trying to destroy several millions of other sleeping people. They would not do this, of course, if they were to wake up. Everything that takes place is owing to this sleep."

And far from just being asleep, something that he realized in his historical understanding of war and of his direct experience of it, was that there was a kind of pathological element to it as well. He would call it a revolutionary psychosis, a political psychosis or a national psychosis, something that took over the minds of people and made them even more asleep to the nature of their own whims than they might ordinarily be.

So when we look at the events of the current day, for instance, when we think about all of these far-left ideological perspectives on eating, on sexuality, on political correctness, on any number of different issues, we can take what Gurdjieff said at the time and find a very practical application to the psychosis that we find ourselves in now. We can look at things with his insight in mind.

Harrison: Well on that , what that he says has a lot to say about the human condition, but now and at all times because he says that people are asleep and just like in early Christianity, it's a universal statement. People are asleep and they've always been asleep. People are at the whims of the forces around them. This showed in a kind of mundane example in the opening quote from last show that I read from Beelzebub's Tales, about the the cultured man that wakes up and any number of minor inconveniences totally change his mood and he's very vain and petty but has a high opinion of himself.

But we are slaves to the things around us that influence us in one way or another. A prime example of that is politics and how people are caught up with political movements, revolutionary movements and even just ordinary everyday party politics, getting identified with a certain ideology or party and not doing so consciously. You see this in politics all the time. You see it today, especially if you follow American politics, but it's the same everywhere. It's the same all over the world where people identify with their party and then defend all the bad things about their side and expose the bad things about the other side and then vice versa. Everyone is subjective. Everyone is just as idiotic as everyone else and at the same time, every side gets something right some of the time as well.

So you'll find the left getting some things right, the right getting some things right, everyone disagreeing over everything else and even those things and you don't have anyone who is actually 100 percent right because everyone is in this same state of death, sleep. None of these people, no one has self awareness, self knowledge. No one has developed themselves to any great degree. Everyone's pretty much at a level playing field of idiocy and you have one idiot calling out another idiot and that idiot calling out another idiot and it's just a whole bunch of idiots calling each other out and acting like total idiots. That's kind of politics in a nutshell, a bunch of idiots doing idiotic things and not even just idiotic things.

As Gurdjieff is talking about, the context for this is World War I and then the Russian Revolution. So a period of mass death, reciprocal destruction as he put it, mass death and total hysteria, people turning on their family members, their friends, for totally stupid reasons. You get torture and murder and all the worst of humanity comes out in these periods. It's people clumping together in these tribalistic groups. Where there's not active warfare going on in the planet right now, you see these tensions and you see these conflicts cropping up and people forming themselves into camps and again, each being right about some things and totally wrong about other things, but everyone being totally certain of their own rightness, their own self-righteousness.

It's just part of the human condition. What Gurdjieff was presenting was the possibility to get out of that. By reading his work and by reading the works of any other number of people who have had any kind of insight into this, they realize and they show, that the way out isn't to come up with a better political system, a better political party, a better way of forcing people to all be good, decent citizens and to get along. That's not the way it works. You can't externally impose a system that will make everything great. It's just not the way humanity works. It's not the way human nature works.

The only way to make it work is for each person to change themselves individually because that's the only place that true change can come from. Otherwise it's all just external reactions, like billiard balls. One thing hitting another and then that will cause some friction and cause a reaction and on the worst scale it takes the form of total warfare.

So on that subject, just slightly related, I want to read another excerpt from the Paris meetings, 1943 where one of the one of the participants in one of these meetings asks Gurdjieff a question that relates to politics. So this guy had just told Gurdjieff that he's noticed something about himself that he's working on changing and he's kind of frustrated with himself because he can't do it. They've just read a chapter in Gurdjieff book Beelzebub's Tales on a figure in there called Ashiata Shiemash who some people, like John Bennet, thought was probably a version of Zoroaster or Zarathustra.

Gurdjieff asks him, "Well what is it you want to get rid of?" The guy says, "The belief that at the moment communism would be preferable to other solutions. The efforts I've made to detach myself up until now have only partially succeeded. My head no longer believes in it, but there is somewhere inside me where it remains. Certain reactions show me I'm not yet detached." So this guy's describing a process that he's been going through to get rid of his attachment to a political ideology. Intellectually he knows it doesn't work but there's still an emotional connection, an emotional attachment and identification with this political ideology.

So Gurdjieff responds in a roundabout way. Before getting to the to the actual subject itself he says this:

"You have many acquaintances, friends you have known for a long time. Perhaps you've noticed, among other things, that everyone has had a different education, has a different character and temperament. A question can never be approached in the way you think. Everyone manifests differently. You've noticed that someone who wishes to do good for everyone must have had a corresponding education. Only a person who has learned a discipline can receive this education. Without discipline it is impossible to do anything. You can judge for yourself. Without authority, you will never do anything. You are weak. You need an authority, someone to direct you and it is the same for all your friends."

So Gurdjieff starts by giving this picture of humanity, of human nature, about its variety and the necessity for what you need to actually develop. He says people are all different. They all need different things. They all need a different approach. The same question can never be approached the same way. Everyone manifests differently. Some people have an education and they want to do good, others don't. But without discipline, you can't do anything. You yourself cannot do anything without discipline and in order to gain discipline you need an authority. This can be some kind of ideal you hold. This can be a teacher, someone to teach you discipline.

This is an overall picture of where humanity is. So he goes on:

"I'm going to talk a little bit about politics with you. I know about communism. I too was a communist. There's no education, no authority in communism. They do not recognize it. Authority is not permitted. Everybody must be equal. If you've noticed, this was impossible in your own life then you'll understand that in communism it is just as impossible. If you understand that, the communist idea can die in you. It must die if you know anything about Ashiata Shiemash. In communism they choose the leaders, the directors, from the herd, idiots who know nothing at all. They choose only people who are full of self-love and vanity.

The system of Ashiata Shiemash is the opposite of all that. By comparison other systems are nothing. Communism or monarchy, it is all the same. They choose some idiot with all those same flaws. You will understand what I was saying and why. One is a great idiocy and the other two. It is the same shit in both cases. A collective existence is only possible through one system, that of Mr. Ashiata Shiemash. Right now our only concern is the development of candidates to become future followers of Ashiata Shiemash. Later on we will be among them. Do you understand?"

So here Gurdjieff is kind of talking in his mythical, fantastical way that he sometimes did, especially in Beelzebub's Tales. He's talking about this system of Ashiata Shiemash which is this mythical creation that Gurdjieff has invented, and saying, "Well this is the only way to do it." So this system exists, but really that system is totally antithetical to any existing system we have. It is founded on self-development and all these things that Gurdjieff is say that are totally lacking in the world.

So basically the only system where idiots don't rule is a system where idiots don't rule, which is a truism, but he's trying to make a point here. So he says, "We're not yet followers of Ashiata Shiemash." In other words, we have to first become candidates before we can actually become the people that would implement any kind of system like this. What he's essentially saying is what I said before, the only change that we can do, has to come from within personally. There is no system that can be imposed on others. People have to develop in order to actually create something for themselves and that's difficult with seven billion people on the planet.

So he says, "Your monarchy, your communism, your surrealism, all have exactly the same quality, the same value. All four, five, ten, however many exist, it is the same thing, the same smell. It smells like a chicken's ass. The expression does exist. When you buy a chicken, you always sniff it in one place, whether it's old or young, there is one place you sniff - under the tail. That's the way you can tell if it's old or young, if it was killed five days, a week or a month before. That is why you smell it there. All chickens smell the same in that place, but with different qualities. Old, one quality, young, another quality, but both are mixed with the smell of shit. It is the same with all your political parties. The smell is mixed with the smell of shit."

So I think that's probably the most eloquent and perfect description of political parties that's ever been penned. It's all just different varieties, different qualities of the same smell of shit, whether it's republican, democrat, socialist, communist. Whatever parties are in your country of choice, the country you live in, they're pretty much all shit. And they can't be otherwise because everyone is in a state of sleep. Everyone is dead to some degree, in the Christian sense. That is just the human condition. That is just the way people are. The only way to get out of that is for individuals themselves to lift themselves out of that and to help be lifted out of that through a form of education, through a discipline, and through a self-discipline.

There's a two-sided process to that. It's kind of reciprocal. On the one hand you need others around you to pull you up to their level where they're slightly higher than you and you need to be able to pull yourself up and to pull others up. It's this mutual process that really requires a teacher and that teacher can take the form of a single person or ideally a group where you get as many perspectives as possible. Until that happens, you're going to smell like shit. That was Gurdjieff's colorful way of putting it. That was one of his favorite words, no matter what language he was talking in, just because it was so descriptive of the state of deadness and mechanicalness and lack of will and lack of unity that characterized humanity - the pettiness, the vanity, the self-love, the arrogance, the selfishness. All that for Gurdjieff was shit.

So for him and for us, the idea and the practice is to be able to start seeing that for yourself, to start being dissatisfied with that level, to not look around and just see how everything is rosy and everything's great. You can see some things that are good, some things that are moving in the right direction, or some things that are that are actually worthwhile, but when it comes down to it, all of that is pretty low on the totem pole. We haven't really accomplished that much because there is so much more potential. That's the thing for Gurdjieff. When you have any idea of what the possible potential is for humanity and for even a single individual, then any level that we're at right now, any manifestation we have of our present capability, pales in comparison. So relatively, it is shit compared to what it could be.

So it's that revaluing, that revaluation of the present that opens up the possibility for this better future. You have to be dissatisfied with the present in order to progress. It doesn't mean that you have to be a total cynic about everything and just be reactively judgmental and close-minded to everything around you, someone who's a total downer and totally negative about anything. That's not what he's saying either, but to have an objective understanding of the relative value of things. There are certain things that are valuable that you can find, but it's often just a hint of it, just a whisper of it that we see in the world. But objectively when you look at anything, particularly politics, it's all bottom of the barrel.

Corey: Yeah, it's very much a reflection of who we are. In many ways we end up getting the leaders that I guess we deserve. If you see us all as sleeping automatons, then what more could we possibly hope for or expect of political leadership? You mentioned understanding. Gurdjieff has a unique science of understanding, a unique science of being, that I think really complements the efforts made by individuals like Jordan Peterson, to try and map out an alternative to just mechanistic, scientific materialism, a way of incorporating the scientific method into the development of being end of man's potential for greater levels of being.

I wanted to read a quote from Ouspensky's Fragments Of An Unknown Teaching: In Search Of The Miraculous. This is what Gurdjieff said:

"There are two lines along which man's development proceeds, the line of knowledge and the line of being. In right evolution, the line of knowledge and the line of being develop simultaneously, parallel to and helping one another. But if the line of knowledge gets too far ahead of the line of being or if the line of being gets ahead of the line of knowledge, man's development goes wrong and sooner or later it must come to a standstill."

I would say we're probably seeing the consequences of something similar to that today. That's at least a hypothesis to consider. He goes on:

"People understand what knowledge means and they understand the possibility of different levels of knowledge. They understand that knowledge may be lesser or greater, that is to say, of one quality or of another quality, but they do not understand this in relation to being. Being for them means simply existence, to which is opposed just non-existence. They do not understand that being or existence may be of very different levels and categories.

Take for instance, the being of a mineral and of a plant. It is a different being. The being of a plant and of an animal is again a different being. But the being of two people can differ from one another more than the being of a mineral and of an animal. This is exactly what people do not understand and they do not understand that knowledge depends on being. Not only do they not understand this latter, but they definitely do not wish to understand it, and especially in western culture it is considered that a man may possess great knowledge, for example he may be an able scientist, to make discoveries, advanced science, and at the same time he may be, and has the right to be, a petty, egoistic, mean, envious, vain, naive and absent-minded man. And yet it is his being.

If knowledge gets far ahead of being, it becomes theoretical and abstract and inapplicable to life or actually harmful because instead of serving life and helping people the better to struggle with the difficulties they meet, it begins to complicate man's life, brings new difficulties into it, new troubles and calamities which were not there before. The reason for this is that knowledge which is not in accordance with being cannot be large enough for or sufficiently suited to, man's real needs. It will always be a knowledge of one thing, together with ignorance of another thing, a knowledge of the detail without a knowledge of the whole, a knowledge of the form without a knowledge of the essence.

Such preponderance of knowledge over being is observed in present-day culture. The idea of the value and importance of the level of being is completely forgotten and it is forgotten that the level of knowledge is determined by the level of being. Actually at a given level of being, the possibilities of knowledge are limited and finite. Within the limits of a given being, the quality of knowledge cannot be changed and the accumulation of information of one in the same nature within already known limits alone is possible. Taken in and of itself, a man's being has many different sides.

The most characteristic feature of a modern man is the absence of unity in him and further, the absence in him of even traces of those properties which he most likes to ascribe to himself, that is free will, a permanent I, the ability to do etc. It may surprise you if I say that the chief feature of a modern man's being which explains everything else that is lacking in him, is sleep."

And then he goes on to talk about how you cannot have understanding without the balancing of knowledge and being together, that when you combine the two, when you are evolving more or less at a steady pace, that you are balancing the being side of you, how you are doing things, how you are approaching life, whether or not you're lying to yourself or if you're vain or silly or daydreaming or dissociating all the time, or whether you have a being that is devoted to something higher than you, a being that wishes for the betterment of those around you and that wishes to make life better, that that aspect of life is completely forgotten. People are starving for that knowledge. They starve for a way of increasing that potential within them, the potential to live at a higher level than they were the day before or the day before that.

That hunger is reflected by the fact that some Canadian professor of psychology becomes a multi-millionaire based on his prescriptions for how to live in life. That was one of the big things that Gurdjieff provided to everyone that he met and all the lives that he touched. It was not a scientific, empty, mechanistic system, but a system that was broad and based on the empirical, what he could see in every individual student, what their needs were, how they would best respond to a certain lesson, how to phrase something so that they could be shocked out of the state of sleep.

As we've been discussing, a lot of the problems that we have today are that people are just sleepwalking into big problems and they're using their preconceived ideas such as "Well I'm a liberal so this is how I'm going to think. This is how I'm supposed to think and I've been told that every conservative is evil." Then on the other side of the camp, "Well I'm a conservative and blah, blah, blah. I love my country and I love humanity and I think liberals are evil."

Then each side has the rank-and-file of both sides for the most part, has some desire for goodwill, I think. They have some goodwill, some kernel in there. But it gets twisted and corrupted by a lack of being able to even possibly comprehend what the other side is saying, not even an effort really to understand what the other side is saying. I think that comes right back to what we were discussing, which is the lack of being. We have so much knowledge, so much information. Every time you open up your phone you have access to more god-dang information than has ever probably existed in the history of the human race! And yet look, like he said, all it's doing is complicating people's lives. It's making life more difficult. You have 700 billion apps on your phone, one for each and every stupid little thing and everyone out there is pushing to making some new gadget or tech so that they can capture another spot in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, you've got toddlers with their smartphones who have ADD and are developing psychiatric conditions because we have completely neglected the very practical, down-to-earth necessities of character development and of rooting are our knowledge and our desire to grow as people, in a multi-faceted system. We don't really have that. Like you've pointed out before, Christianity has a similar kind of ethic, a similar way of viewing life, that people are sleeping.

Then for thousands of years or hundreds of years, that was sufficient for people. It was the kind of collective method that people needed, even if they're not getting a Gurdjieff in their house, they at least have some kind of a system that tells them, 'this is how you behave and this is the way to grow as a human being, towards Christ, towards God, towards the good, towards the greatest and most benevolent potential that you can'. But we have lost that by the lure of the more practical, the results of science that just seem so much more appealing, that questioned everything, abandoned everything, in many ways, maybe for the better. I don't know, in some cases.

But we forgot that it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. People are still hungering for the other half of their entire psyche to be to be cultivated.

Elan: Well you said a number of things there. First I just want to get back to the quote you read from In Search Of The Miraculous about the difference between some people being even greater than the difference between a mineral and an animal - I'm paraphrasing. That's one of those quotes that, the first time I read it, I was really quite taken aback by, because we get inculcated with this idea that most people are more or less equal. We don't really have an appreciation for the differences of human beings, of what they're capable of, the levels of potential that some people have versus others, or the degree to which we can grow ourselves. So to read that was pretty interesting, to say the least.

But I'd like to get back to the very kinds of things that Gurdjieff is trying to impart, and that is that he had a value system that he was conveying through his writing and in his teaching. His value system said that consciousness and awareness and conscience were pretty much the alpha and the omega, the beginning in the end, and the place to start, if you were to have any kinds of riches in this world, be it material or internal, that it all starts with awareness.

One of the central ideas to this was that we forget ourselves. We fall into this state of confluence that permits us to forget that we're human beings first, or that we have some sense of humanity. So we become identified, hysterized and latch onto these ideas that give us permission to, and encourage us, to go out there, to throw ourselves into a pursuit or a protest, or an idea, or a job, or a form of dissociation, that has little to nothing whatsoever to do with our capacity and potential to grow into something significant.

One of the reasons for this, he says, is that,

"All this and much else besides, is merely a form of identification. Such considering is wholly based on requirements. A man inwardly requires that everyone should see what a remarkable man he is and that they should constantly give expression to their respect, esteem and admiration for him, for his intellect, his beauty, his cleverness, his wit, his presence of mind, his originality and all his other qualities. Requirements in their turn are based on a completely fantastic notion about themselves such as very often occurs with people of very modest appearance. Various writers, actors, musicians, artists and politicians, for instance, are almost without exception, sick people. And what are they suffering from? First of all, from an extraordinary opinion of themselves. Then from requirements. And then from considering, that is, being ready and prepared beforehand to take offense at the lack of understanding and lack of appreciation."

And you think about all the thought leaders and people in society and culture who are coming up with the new thing, or the new idea, or the new media, or the new look, that is based fundamentally on a very sick perception of these individuals' selves and the world that they live in! We rarely stop to examine that.

I was watching a video the other day, I forget her name, but she's a hip-hop performer with a flute and she's rather obese and she wears a thong and it's one of the most grotesque displays of exhibitionism and idiocy I think I've seen recently. It just seems to escalate. So she's a very talented flutist, but she wears a thong and she twerks the audience and overnight she's become this bit of an entertainment sensation. I was watching an analysis of her and one of the media people was rightfully questioning this person's position in the minds and the awareness of the public. This person is fundamentally unhealthy and what she was doing was crude and grotesque basically. I was like, "Wonderful! Someone is actually looking at popular culture with a somewhat healthy and critical eye," to the extent that she was able to without being shut down by her co-hosts or whoever she was speaking with.

So that was just a recent example because what this grotesque flutist is going to say in the paper and her opinion, if she's a far lefty, if she's talking about diversity or any one of these other things that she might be asked to comment on, it's just going to naturally feed into that whole idea and I think be a negative influence on those who are paying attention to her. So self remembering is a way of being shocked into one's own awareness of oneself. I don't recall if a few minutes ago I mentioned it, but this is one of his crucial ideas and that is that if we're going to have any kind of positive effect at all on the people around us, on ourselves, on the world at large, we have to remember ourselves. We have to remember those very basic and all-important values that we've decided to value, those responsibilities that we've decided to take on and not get distracted and pushed about by all of these grotesque flutists working, people in the media, who might happen to say something that would feed into an idea that would that would take us away from what really matters.

Harrison: On the subject of self remembering, like you said, it's one of Gurdjieff's central ideas. It's a new term. It's not a common term. It was something that he came up with in Russian originally. So when you're first reading, it's hard to get an idea of what exactly he means by it. Probably in the most basic sense, it just means what you would think it means. If someone were to say to you, "Oh Corey, you forgot yourself right there" or "Corey, remember yourself," that would have the context or the connotation of, "Okay, Corey has done something that's out of character. He has forgotten himself. He has acted in a way unbecoming to him," something like that. So it can mean to come to yourself, to come back to yourself in a sense.

But more in-depth, you have to get into more of Gurdjieff's anthropology, his view of what the human being actually is. So he had various divisions of the human personality or being and the primary one, the one that's probably most important at the basic level, is the tripartite division of man, the three parts that make up a person. Corey, you mentioned them earlier, the moving center, of the emotional center in the intellectual center.

So this would be our physical and instinctive body. This is the physical part that moves and does things and all the instinctive processes that are going on in us, our digestion, our muscle movements, our cellular processes, our endocrine system, all of the automatic basic functioning of the body as well as all of the physical movements that we do. The emotional part, which is the valuing and emotional part of being, so the emotional reactions you have, the likes and dislikes, the pleasant and unpleasant reactions to various things, whether ideas, sensations, experiences. Another important part of the moving center is sensation. It's the tactile sensations that we have in our body, the tingling of our skin, the pressure, heat, cold. That's all associated with the physical moving center.

Then third, the intellectual center, what we think with and the thoughts that we think and the directions that we give to our body. So that would be the source of incipient will. It's the intellect that can, at least, direct the body to do a certain thing. So for self-remembering, it would be to come back to our self as the I, as in 'I am', the I in I am, that experiences all those things and experiences them from some kind of hidden place because what often happens is that we become identified with any one of our functions. We lose ourselves in the things that we do, in the reactions that we have and the thoughts that we think.

You can think about obsessional thoughts when your mind is just running and you have no control over it, or when you get absorbed into a certain activity that could be a physical activity, or absorbed with an emotion that's inspired and brought on as a reaction to something outside of us, or just the associative processes. We think of one thing. That leads us to think of another thing. We get a feeling. We get a sensation, the memory of a sensation. This is that vision of man as constantly buffeted about by the different forces inside and outside of ourselves.

To self remember would be to step outside of that reactivity and that mechanical reactive nature that we often have and that we habitually have because our attention is constantly diverted and distracted from one thing to another and we have very little control over that, just like the man in the story in the beginning of last week's show whose attention and functioning are constantly diverted by any little accident that happens in the outside world, dropping his pen or slipping on a rug or whatever. It's the things outside of our control that then end up controlling us.

So self-remembering is having a separation between the 'I', the you, the observer within yourself, and the functioning of your body, of your mechanical machine, the thing that we call the body, the thing that we inhabit, to have that separation. It's almost as if to constantly have the awareness of the three centers in your body, the three things happening at all times and not to be identified with any of the things going on there. So when I'm talking here it would be to have not only the constant talking but the constant awareness of myself talking. So there's a split awareness that's directed both to myself and to the external world and not to be completely identified with the thing I am doing or that's happening in me at any moment.

So it's that separation between what Gurdjieff would call I and it, it being the machine, the body, the things going on in the body, the automatic processes, the automatic associations going through my mind, the automatic feelings that are coming up through those associations and through the interactions that I'm having with the world around me and the people in that world, and the sensations and the movements of my body. So self-remembering is this central aspect of an inner state of self awareness.

Another aspect of the reason he uses the word remember is because anytime your attention is diverted, part of you has forgotten what was going on in the previous moment. So we're constantly forgetting ourselves. We have all of these different I's, almost like a low-key version of multiple personality disorder where one aspect of ourselves is in control at any given moment and then another aspect comes and this one goes. So this one forgets itself and then this gains superiority and then we forget ourselves. But there's no constant running throughout that stream of different things in control at any given moment. Self-remembering ideally would be the state of a single thread of consciousness running through all of those so that we never lose that stream, never lose that thread.

But that's pretty much impossible. It's impossible for anyone that's in this state of this waking sleep. It is something that has to be worked at and worked towards through a discipline, through practice. That's where Gurdjieff had all kinds of practical exercises and tasks and things to do throughout the day in order to learn to keep that thread of awareness throughout the day because we do forget ourselves habitually. So it's the effort put in to try to attempt to keep that thread of self-awareness through everything. In a sense you could compare it to - what's the name of that meditation practice - well constantly being aware. There's a word for it. It's an Eastern method, but constantly being aware of yourself in any given moment no matter what you're doing so that you're never distracted.

I experience it every day. Everyone experiences it every day where something happens out of the blue and now you're no longer doing or thinking or feeling what you were before. Now your attention is directed to something else and oftentimes you can just completely forget what you were doing in the previous moment. But what Gurdjieff presents is that there is this potential, that you can stay one and the same whole being, whole consciousness, throughout all of the shipwrecks of life that come at you, the minor ones and the big ones. There can be that thread of unity among and built out of the diversity that is our inner self.

So I think that's kind of Gurdjieff's psychology in a nutshell. It has the goal of creating within oneself that inner strength and inner unity and the inner will that is very akin to the Stoic sage who is not moved by the things that shouldn't move him, that has that solid self that is consistent through all different problems and things in life, that has an inner equanimity to the things in life.

This leads me to what I think might be our last segment of this show, which is Gurdjieff's legacy and what he really left the world. We've made use of one of his legacies, which is the accounts written about him by the people who knew him. So In Search Of The Miraculous being the one at the top of most people's lists. There are a couple of hundred books, maybe two or three hundred books, that have been written about Gurdjieff. A smaller section of those were written by people who actually knew him and who have given accounts of their life with him, little anecdotes, things here and there. We've got histories. That isn't directly his legacy but it's the legacy of the memory that he left behind in the people that knew him.

But his direct output can be found in pretty much three or four areas. Of course there are the books that he wrote. I read from one of them last week, his massive tome Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson. For those who haven't read it, it is a huge struggle to read because it's often impossible to understand what he's talking about. So take that as a warning. It was followed by two other books. Elan's got them here. Meetings With Remarkable Men, the second one and Life Is Real Only Then When I Am.

Elan: Much more accessible.

Harrison: Yeah, those ones are much more accessible. That's one of the things about Gurdjieff. He was deliberately obscure and deliberately difficult, often perhaps to the extent where he was impossible. Possibly one of his flaws is that he made it so hard, so difficult, such an effort to understand him and to put the pieces together, that oftentimes it's too hard to put the pieces together, not that there isn't anything good to come out of at least making the attempt and coming to some understanding for oneself. But that's another story.

That was one of his outputs, that he devoted himself to for the last 23 or 24 years of his life to these writings and using these writings. He also composed music. With one of his pupils, Thomas de Hartmann, who was a famous at the time, Ukrainian Russian composer, they composed a set of up to 300 solo piano pieces based on melodies that Gurdjieff had heard or just in the style of the music of his childhood and the various areas that he'd visited over his travels. You can find recordings of those. The first public recording that I'm aware of was in the 1970s by the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, Sacred Hymns. So for something like 20-something years after he died, that was the first time that anyone in the public could hear Gurdjieff's actual music.

Then in the last years of Gurdjieff's life he would play his little harmonium every evening. In the last year-and-a half of his life, one of his students made wire recordings of some of those performances. So those are actually accessible too. You can hear Gurdjieff playing the harmonium. Then his third output was his choreographies, the dances, or movements as they came to be called. Again, just like everything with Gurdjieff, very unique. No one writes like Gurdjieff or he didn't write like anyone else. It's the same with these movements. He had his own style. The purpose of these movements was that first of all they had to be difficult and they had to be a struggle and there had to be certain inner processes going on with the movements themselves. They were, just like with everything else in his mind, a tool for gaining new insights about oneself because one of his theoretical ideas was that in a new posture, in a different posture, you get a new impression, you get a new sensation. You create the opening for something new to come in when you get outside of your habitual postures and habitual movements.

So these were his three cultural outputs and it seems that just like in his theory, they were compatible with his theories. You had the books which were primarily an intellectual thing. You had the music which touched the emotions, that worked on the emotions. And then you had the movements which were a physical thing. So for all of these periods of his life, he was focused on working with all three aspects of the human being and that is exemplified in these outputs that he has left behind.

Then the fourth one is the one that's probably the most interesting and that is the actual practical exercises that he gave for putting all of this into practice. Unfortunately that has been kept secret for the most part by Gurdjieff's pupils, by the Gurdjieff foundations that were created after his death. So Gurdjieff actually gave practical exercises and contemplative practices to put these things into practice, to actually make them work in real life and except for a couple of publications here and there - a couple of the exercises were included in Life Is Real which was published in the 1970s - it has been kept totally secret to the point where nowadays, according to some insiders, that the Gurdjieff groups have forgotten a lot of the exercises that Gurdjieff originally gave.

So this led a student of one of Gurdjieff's students, Joseph Azize, who's a Maronite priest, to publish a book. It just became available in the last month or so. It's called a Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation and Exercises and that's where he collects all of the published information and what he learned from George Adie, his teacher, about the Gurdjieff exercises. So that's really the first time that this stuff has been available, that it has been made public because it's been so tightly guarded.

Maybe as a final comment before we wrap up, I want to talk very briefly about this idea of secrecy because Gurdjieff had all these ideas, all these practices and you can understand in any kind of esoteric groups, the mentality of keeping things secret because there's even a sense of superiority that you can understand people in this situation would come to associate themselves with. "Oh, we're part of this inner circle and we know. We've got the secret and we don't want to just share it with anyone."

So that's essentially what happened. They didn't share the secrets, the family jewels. But it got to the point where, like I said, apparently a lot of these things have now been forgotten because they've been kept so secret that they haven't been passed on. So you have these Gurdjieff exercises, many that have been lost to time, because they were never recorded and never shared. They were kept secret. You can imagine how this happened. One person says, "Oh, these people aren't ready yet. I'm not going to share this exercise with them." Then no one ends up becoming ready and the exercise never gets shared. That person dies and then no one knows it.

Whereas Gurdjieff actually seemed like he was much more open about sharing things. He was much more open with the movements, for instance. He staged public performances. After Gurdjieff died, until a few years ago, there were only one or two public performances of Gurdjieff's movements and even then invitations were limited and it's not like there was a big public announcement about it. It was still pretty limited and even with the movements, it's at the point where again, as one student of the modern Gurdjieff work learned, he was being taught movements by a student of Gurdjieff and only years later realized that they weren't actually teaching the entire movements. They were only teaching fragments and that they never actually taught the full movements so that the Gurdjieff groups themselves, a lot of the members aren't even aware that they don't know Gurdjieff's complete choreographies. But none of them know the complete choreographies. They've forgotten them.

So luckily there's a guy, Wim van Dullemen, who wrote a book that came out a couple years ago in 2018, which is the first book specifically devoted to the movements. He's done a ton of research and managed to get choreographies from here and there, written descriptions of what a lot of these were. He has found groups that have preserved things from when they were first taught and worked on them in isolation over the years. But whatever you think of the value of his movements or exercises or whatever, it's still, I think, a great sin that they've been so neglected and not preserved with what to me seems with any degree of respect that they deserve, just as a cultural output. If the same thing had happened with any of the great artists of history, people would be appalled. Why not at least approach Gurdjieff's creations with the same kind of respect?

It happens it's like on every level. Even Gurdjieff's writings, now that manuscripts are available for Life Is Real, you find out that certain things have changed. There are manuscripts available for Meetings With Remarkable Men where you see things have been reworded to make it more accessible. They even did an entire new translation which wasn't really a new translation of Beelzebub's Tales. Well they tried to pass it off as a new translation, again, changing the meanings here and there, apparently totally with good intentions. They just wanted to make it easier to understand but screwed things up in the process. Even this book which I really like, Paris Meetings, in the first page in the editor's note, it says that previously only a certain number of these had been available and they're available in this book, Transcripts of Gurdjieff's Meetings 41 to 46, but they say that the majority of these were found in the papers of Solita Solano who'd kept them.

So they say in the note here, "Differing versions and other translations of some of the original notes exist. For instance. the papers of Solita Solano, which include a record of some of the Paris meetings, were deposited in the Library of Congress in 1975. Solano, who was not in Paris during the period of these meetings, worked from an already-existing English translation that she edited and abbreviated."

That seems to be true. It seems like there is editing. That seems to be some bad translations going on here. But when you compare this one with this one, you find out these guys did the same thing. They abbreviated things. They cut out certain sections of the overlap between the meetings because this is about 100 pages. The 1943 Meetings is about 350 pages. They cut out things, some things for seemingly no reason. It's hard to understand why they cut them out, other things because Gurdjieff said some controversial things that might offend people today, so sanitizing his image and they've done though they've done a lot of things like that.

So on the one hand, it's great that we've got all this stuff that's coming out. On the other hand, there's no transparency and no real reasons given for why they've treated Gurdjieff's legacy in this way and no acknowledgement that they've done it. They're not open about it. That's just kind of a personal pet peeve of mine. I just can't believe how the people who have followed his work and who have become the cultural inheritors of that work and whose responsibility is to present that now to someone, hopefully the public, seem to have made some very poor decisions over the years. I think that's just unfortunate.

But luckily, not only is there like an academic resurgence in actually studying Gurdjieff, there are people coming forward in each of these areas and trying to put the pieces back together, which I think is at least a good thing for history and for the preservation of the legacy of George Gurdjieff.

Elan: Well with that said, I would just add one thing to all of this and that is that a central idea to his teachings was to put someone on the step behind you. Now another one of his sayings is that to know a lot of things, to have a lot of knowledge, actually you might only need a little knowledge. But in order to have that little bit of knowledge, you actually need quite a lot of knowledge, which sounds paradoxical but makes sense on a certain level.

Anyway the point is this I think, and that is that if you get anything out of this, if you do decide to read any of the writings or watch any of the videos - and we'll be posting a few links to this week's show - even if you never impart his teachings per se, if any of this can be made real to you or if it can affirm any of what you believe to be your highest goals or aspirations as a human being, and if those aspirations can be translated into doing some good, some good for someone else, then I think that in some way we'll be able to pay the debt that we owe and in some measure to the world of knowledge, to all the work and the struggle and the pain that Gurdjieff undertook in order to bring his teachings to the world. I hope that makes some sense. We hope you enjoyed the show today and thanks for tuning in.