Share the Wealth: Gurdjieff Unveiled by Seymour B. Ginsburg

Gurdjieff1Greetings Bifrost Voyagers,

I thought another adventure into the arcane is about due. As with the other parts of the series, I share this with the sincerest hope that it benefits another seeker on the less traveled path towards self-knowledge.

When you begin to conduct an inquiry into the “indweller,” it’s only a matter of time before you’ll encounter the name Gurdjieff.  An Armenian mystic who lived at the turn of the last century, G.I. Gurdjieff travelled extensively teaching the Fourth Way to students throughout the world. The Fourth Way being a reference to the fourth or objective state of consciousness. The central premise of his work is that man is asleep, is unaware of his slumber and must awaken. His writings and teachings are essentially a blueprint for awakening from this somnambulatory state of life.

There are other great books exploring Gurdjieff’s philosophy such as Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous, but I promised free and short with this series. This is a marvelous little book in the public domain that provides a nice intro to navigating the far more complex writings of the esteemed teacher. As the story goes, Gurdjieff’s writing was purposely complicated to elicit a greater investment and effort from his students. When combined with the process of linguistic evolution over the last century, a modern reader is likely to find it quite a difficult undertaking.

Ginsburg does a nice job of simplification with Gurdjieff Unveiled.  He introduces Gurdjieff’s wisdom in a concise fashion making it easy for the modern reader to grasp.

Here are a few brief excerpts to help decide if this is your cup of tea,

“The Work, the name by which his teachings are most usually known, is drawn from alchemy, where the Great Work signified the refinement and purification of base metals into gold as well as the transmutation of the soul into a higher spiritual state. Gurdjieff’s teachings similarly aimed at the transformation of man’s inner substance. Through cosmological speculations, through lectures, manual work, communal life, and sacred dances or ‘Movements’ in successive phases of his life, Gurdjieff offered a practical form of esoteric instruction that could harmonize the microcosm of the
human being with the macrocosm of the universe and so reunite man with the Endlessness or supreme deity.”

“Behind Gurdjieff’s teaching lies the idea that human beings live and die in a state of sleep, but do not realize this. In this sense, all human beings are divided into two categories: those who realize they are asleep and who are attempting to awaken, and those who do not know. The idea that human beings live mostly in a kind of sleep state is not new. For example, we can find it expressed by Plato in his allegory of the Cave in The Republic. But Gurdjieff’s teaching brings us methods about how to awaken from this “waking sleep,” with all the freedom and cosmic benefit that this gives, because through the teaching we eventually awaken to who we are.

Because Gurdjieff’s teaching is a “how to” teaching, it is directed at the category of human beings who realize they are asleep and who are attempting to awaken. For the category of human beings who do not know that they are asleep, there is no need for this teaching. It is only when a person begins to recognize the sleep of his mechanicalness and looks for a way to awaken that this teaching becomes relevant.”

“In order to experience the highest state of human consciousness, objective consciousness, we must transfer our identity from the personality, which is what we mistakenly believe that we are, to essence, that which we really are. Because of our improper education or conditioning (Gurdjieff calls this our improper oskiano), we mistakenly believe that we are the personality. The personality is that tissue of memories, thoughts, emotions, and sensations that we have come mistakenly to call “I.” Yet we know that none of this existed before birth and that all of this will dissolve at death or shortly thereafter. In this sense the personality is impermanent and thus in Gurdjieff’s view, unreal. As long as we believe in the overwhelming importance of the personality we will never discover that which is real.”

I hope that you do decide to probe this little book further as there are some rather interesting ideas explored. Whether or not you decide to tackle Gurdjieff in depth, I do believe that you can definitely gain some insight into yourself from the introduction to the teaching. But enough rambling from me however, I’ll leave you to your own devices. Travel well amigos and remember, the miraculous is right outside your door, all you need do is look.

Link to the text: Gurdjieff Unveiled by Seymour B. Ginsburg

One love,



About H3nry J3kyll
Vincit omnia veritas (using an obscure Latin heraldry motto makes one seem kinda learned and distinguished).

22 Responses to Share the Wealth: Gurdjieff Unveiled by Seymour B. Ginsburg

  1. Gurdjieef (and the Rocky Horror Picture Show) were quite popular in Chico California in the early 80s. The most important thing I learned from his teachings was to learn to appraise and accept myself – faults and all. I find it interesting that Wittgenstein, who was a philosopher by discipline (philosophy supposedly being based on deductive reasoning) said the same thing: “We are asleep. Our life is a dream. But we wake up, sometimes, just enough to know that we are dreaming.”

    • H3nry J3kyll says:

      With confirmation by such esteemed thinkers, maybe there’s more wisdom than initially thought in the old row your boat verse we learned as kids,
      “Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
      Life is but a dream.”

  2. Hi, Henry! This is so strange, but I just finished writing my post for next week on “consciousness.” As usual, I don’t pick these topics, they just come to me. Everytime I thought about not writing about consciousness something I was reading or watching would mention the word! Now with your post, I guess it’s something very powerful for everyone to learn. Thanks for being you and writing what you write. :)

    • H3nry J3kyll says:

      I certainly look forward to reading the post. I think it’s awesome when you get a peak into the mystery and experience synchronicity like you did.
      As for the thank you, the feelings are definitely mutual. I take away quite a bit from your writing Michele. I have a tendency to lose my footing at times and Life as a Garden serves up some great reminders.

  3. I’m having fun listening to all the sound effects offered by the video in conjunction with the human speech–and your introduction to a man concerned with ‘awakening’.

    to wake, to breathe
    what wings are these
    transparent without illusion
    ahhh an iron thread invisble
    until your ankles trip the wire
    garden mine-field

    Thanks H3nry. :)

    • H3nry J3kyll says:

      The soul of a poet although I think you said it was the poet in the soul. Thanks for commenting, it makes the joy of sharing this stuff that much netter.

      • In the nature of netter sharing of stuff, here’s a link to a book I’ve just discovered via my public libraries “new” additions. Have not yet gotten my hot little hands on its pages, but eventually it will come my way.
        The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku —

        • H3nry J3kyll says:

          Looks fascinating. What are your thoughts Eva? Do you think the brain is a machine? I have trouble with that limitation. I think it has certain machine-like attributes, but machines don’t feel and you cannot code consideration for others.
          The new trends in science seem to emphasize, though incorrectly in my opinion, that the body is a mere amalgamation of cells. The body machine is the new paradigm. I’m sure a poetic soul like yourself can relate to this question, but when is a mighty eagle just talons, feathers and a beak?
          Oh well, I guess as I close in on 40 I get a peak at what the future generations are gonna consider the norm. A total devaluation of the mystique and majesty of the body. And the media, Hollywood, etc. all seem to be part of the charade.
          Devaluation of life and advancement of a mechanistic culture. Gotta love the Matrix trilogy.
          Thanks for commenting.

      • H3nry, in part I think contemporary science employs the metaphor that the brain is a machine because it lacks any other man made object for comparison. I guess we could say that shows the limits of their imagination and creativity with expressing complexity they like to give the illusion of having a firm grip on factually. What really is a living ‘machine’? So far computers cannot create themselves nor has true independent Artificial Intelligence emerged. Humans, and other living creatures possess all kinds of potential that machines do not.
        I also think that western science often employs a certain kind of thinking–totally linear which adheres to a certain system of logic–which limits exploration and understanding. With every new ‘thing’ they discover in the universe they’re forced beyond the former status quo context in which they operate. I think such pushes some minds in positive ways.
        The sum of the parts is greater then just its whole as a thing–it can ‘do’ so much more than any single part alone–an eagle needs wings to fly and it does as a whole being.
        The Matrix offers a decent analogy. But such thinking did not begin nor end with those films.
        All living things are more than just the sum of their cells.
        When every cell–every dot in my art–comes together there is a lot more created.
        Then there’s “animation” via energy–via the electromagnetic field–does it set the human ‘machine’ in motion or is the human machine a means for the energy to manifest in a visible form?

        “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”

        ― Albert Einstein

        Or can it?

        Albert was just one human tuning into things–where did his life energy ‘go’? Did his human machine just shut down like a light bulb when the switch is flipped to off when his body ‘died’? Or does he continue to live as “energy” in other forms?
        What’s a robot without an energy source? Does your computer run without a power source?

        O H3nry …. the mind is full, mindfulness, overflowing

        • H3nry J3kyll says:

          We do seem to pigeon-hole ourselves based on the prevailing metaphor. Good point. It happened for a long time with biologists and viewing DNA as a computer program. At least until knowledge of epigenetics was achieved.
          I like that btw- mindfulness overflowing. Thx for the chat.

      • PS.
        Then there is this from “Until the End of the World” — when dreams can be recorded.

  4. tubularsock says:

    I understand Gurdjieff plied his students with alcohol to break them down and open them up. I guess whatever works.

    Thank you H3nry, once again. I have read much of Gurdjieff’s work and especially “enjoyed” Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. A “trip” that lasts a lifetime.

    But I knew nothing about Shpongle,

    “The gnomes have learned a new way to say hoo-ra-aaaaay. . .”

    “This space is inhabited ………”

    Their drugs are far better than mine. Tubularsock must remedy this immediately!

    • H3nry J3kyll says:

      Thank you for sharing that Tube. I take that as an endorsement of the time required to read B.T,H.G. I’ve been debating whether to make the investment but, it seems like I will.
      Glad you enjoyed the Shpongle track. The musicians in the psychedelic arena are creating some great stuff.

      And as far as the menu, always good to opt for organic.

  5. Henry,
    One could look at human beings’ philosophical, inquiring actions kind of like a miniature self inside that uses those little hands to grasp the meaning of life, exploring and running around with the objective of getting our hands on knowledge, wrapping our heads around ideally real wisdom. How would you describe the most significant wisdom that Gurdjieff’s “little hands” grasped, and offers people today the greatest intellectual discoveries made by Gurdjieff? A question related to “who created God?” in reference to Gurdjieff would be “after one awakens, then what?” Did he ever delve into that next logical step.

    • H3nry J3kyll says:

      These are all great questions Jerry but I’m not sure I am qualified to posit answers.
      My understanding is that Gurdjieff outlined a method for you or I to awaken from the self-imposed limits of our conscious state. The “knowing” that he offered transcends intellectual knowing as the intellect defines itself by the mere collection and repetition of bits of information. According to the author, he didn’t offer his students attainment of anything but an identification and connection with one’s essence.
      Once you discard the programming and awaken, there is no “then what” as you realize the perfection of your being.You view the world with the wonder of a child. The objective state of consciousness excels the “if I do this then what happens” methodology by which the mind reasons.
      I hope that provided a bit of clarification. With the questions you ask amigo I think that you would definitely get something out of this book. From what I’ve observed, once people awaken, the primary objective becomes waking others from their walking slumber.

      • After reading your article came across some words out of the Upanishads that said there is a point in spiritual journeying which, when one passes it, words are inadequate to describe and the mind is simply baffled. And there’s nothing anyone can do to change that aspect of life, it simply must be accepted. This is confirmed by those who have near death experiences. “Words are inadequate… beyond words, etc.” It seems that Gurdjieff was on the same road as NDErs, but perhaps didn’t have an NDE himself. He would probably have been very interested in NDEs – as if any person wouldn’t be. Or, maybe he had one and that is what sent him on his particular journey. Fascinating fellow for sure.

  6. Went to the book and it says that Gurdjieff was teaching ancient traditions in a newer, updated language. A combination of Sufism, Buddhism, Hindu, etc. in what Gurdjieff described as “esoteric Christianity”, with the aim of joining the microcosmic body with the macrocosm infinite, supreme being/God. Like Gandhi said “this wisdom is as old as the hills.”

    • H3nry J3kyll says:

      Great point, esoteric wisdom is definitely not new. I think it’s just been concealed by two thousand years of persecution by first the Church of Rome, and then materialist rationality as a reaction to the incomprehensible gibberish of humans as fallen beings. Men like Gurdjieff, Bruno, and other Western mystics sought to liberate us from the bonds of mental slavery.
      Ah well, it sure is great to be living on the cusp of a transition.

  7. Near Death Experience Research Foundation has the world’s largest collection of NDE personal accounts at their website: About as profound as it gets.

  8. Pingback: An irrational ordering of reality? | high-grade discourse

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