YOU MUST STRUGGLE, STRUGGLE ALL THE TIME
He [Gurdjieff] asked about the exercise. I said I couldn’t manage it very well, it made me sleepy. He waved his arms and said, “You must struggle, struggle all the time. This exercise is very important. Your whole future depends from this. It should be even more for you than God. Even get angry, if necessary. Every day struggle, little by little make data, and from this data your future depends. You must think of yourself as a baby you take care of and lead by hand. After you do, necessary you rest twice as long as you have done exercise. Be passive afterwards.” I asked if that meant sitting still or could I do my work on the typewriter? He laughed. “Oh, yes. You passive then. You well asleep then.”
~ “Gurdjieff and the Women of the Rope”
TWO DIFFERENT LESSONS IN ATTENTION
He [Gurdjieff] started his car with a race of the motor that belched smoke from the exhaust and I swung out behind him into the boulevard traffic, galvanized by the single fixed purpose to let nothing get between us for the next thirty-eight miles. I lost him a dozen times before arriving on the outskirts of Paris. He drove like a wild man, cutting in and out of traffic without hand signals or even space to accommodate his car in the lanes he suddenly switched to . . . until he was in them, safe by a hair. Black French sedans exactly like his seemed to fill the streets. I learned to watch ahead for the one being driven the most erratically, then – gripping the wheel – to try to follow it. In the breathing spaces at red lights, I sometimes saw him off to the right or the left, black fur cap set at a jaunty angle, puffing tranquilly on a cigarette. He always got away first on the green light even (so it seemed) when he was one or two cars behind the starting line.
Outside Paris things were a bit easier but not much. I could keep him in sight for longer stretches on the ‘route nationale’, but the chances he took overtaking buses and trucks were terrifying. I watched with suspended breath each time he swung out around a truck and headed directly into another coming toward him on the narrow two-lane road.
Somewhere midway or possibly beyond (memory retained no data of village names, route markers or mileposts passed) the black sedan on which total attention was riveted appeared to be slowing down. Presently it pulled off the cobbled road to a halt beneath some trees. Gurdjieff got out and walked toward the Packard pulling in behind. He gave us an enchanting smile and said, “Here we make pause … we listen to ‘grenouilles’.”
‘Grenouilles’ … frogs! I stuttered to Wendy. We got out and listened. Frogs were singing somewhere off in the marshes beyond the trees, a chorale of splendor issuing in chirps, croaks and trills from hundreds of amphibian throats.
Seeing Gurdjieff smoking, I lit a cigarette with shaking hands, watching him warily over the tip of my lighter’s flame. He held up one finger, cocked his head toward the singing and said, “You hear?” with a possessive smile as if the frogs had turned it on for him alone, knowing he would be passing that way at that magical sunset hour.
~ Kathryn Hulme “Undiscovered Country”
“MUST ALWAYS LOOK AT ALL SIDES BEFORE MAKE JUDGMENT”
We drove a very short distance on a narrow, lightly travelled road, and Gurdjieff stopped the car. We descended and he told me to bring the coffee with me, and went to sit on a fallen tree near the edge of the road. He had stopped a hundred yards or so beyond a group of workmen who were laying a stone water-ditch at the side of the road. Their work consisted in bringing stones from either one of two large piles at the side of the road, carrying them to the unfinished section of the ditch, where other men were placing them in the dirt. We watched them silently, while Gurdjieff drank coffee and smoked, but said nothing to me. After a long time, at least half an hour, I finally asked him when the lesson would begin.
He looked at me with a tolerant smile. “Lesson begin at ten o’clock,” he said, “what you see? Notice anything?” I said that I had been watching the men, and that the only unusual thing I had noticed was that one of the men always went for the pile that was furthest from the actual work.
“Why you think he do this?”
I said I didn’t know but that he seemed to be making work for himself because he had to carry the heavy stones further each time. He could just as easily have gone to the nearer pile of rock.
“Is true,” Gurdjieff then said, “but must always look at all sides before make judgment. This man also have pleasant short promenade in shade along road when he return for next stone. Also, he not stupid. In one day he not carry so many stones. Always logical reason why people do thing certain way; necessary find all possible reasons before judge people.”
Gurdjieff’s language, although he paid very little attention to the proper tenses, was always unmistakably clear and definite. He did not say anything more, and I felt that he was, partly by his own concentration, forcing me to observe whatever was going on around me with as much concentration as I could. The rest of the hour went by rapidly, and we returned to the Prieure, he to his writing and I to my housekeeping. I was to return the following Tuesday at the same time for the next lesson. I did not dwell on what I had — or had not — learned; I was beginning to understand that “learning” in Gurdjieff’s sense did not depend on sudden or obvious results, and that one could not expect any immediate spurts of knowledge or understanding. More and more I began to have the feeling that he scattered knowledge as he lived, oblivious of whether or not it was accepted and put to any use.
~ Fritz Peters “Boyhood With Gurdjieff”
FREE WILL IS NOT AN ORDINARY PHENOMENON; IT CANNOT BE HAD FOR THE ASKING, NOR BOUGHT IN A SHOP
QUESTION: Has free will a place in your system?
GURDJIEFF: Free will is the function of the real “I,” the result of finding the master of the equipage. He who has a master, has will; he who has not, has no will. What is ordinarily called will is adjustment between willingness and unwillingness. For instance, the mind wants something, the feelings do not want it; if the mind proves to he stronger than the feelings man obeys his mind. If the two are equally opposed the result will be opposite (conflict). This is what is called free will in ordinary man; he is ruled—now by the mind, now by the feelings, now by the body. Often the order comes from the automatic apparatus. Still more often the man is ordered about by the sex center. Real free will can only be where one “I” rules, when man has a master for his equipage. But an ordinary man has no master—the carriage constantly changes passengers, and each passenger calls himself “I,” Free will is reality. It may exist; but we, as we are, cannot have it.
QUESTION: Are there no people who have free will?
GURDJIEFF: I am speaking about the majority of men, those who have will, have wall. But free will is not an ordinary phenomenon; it cannot be had for the asking, nor bought in a shop.
~ “Gurdjieff’s Early Talks 1914-1931”
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL CONSIDERING
Someone said, ‘I’m not very clear about what you mean by considering.’ Gurdjieff replied, ‘I will give you a simple example. Although I am accustomed to sitting with my legs crossed under me, I consider the opinion of the people here and sit as they do, with my legs down. This is external considering.
‘As regards inner considering. Someone looks at me, as I think, disapprovingly. This starts corresponding associations in my feelings; if I amtoo weak to refrain from reacting, I am annoyed with him. I consider internally, and show that I am annoyed. This is how we usually live; we manifest outside what we feel inside.
‘We should try to draw a line between the inner and the outer impacts. Externally, we should sometimes consider even more than we do now; be more polite to people than we usually are, for example. It can be said that what until now has been outside should be inside; and what was inside should be outside. Unfortunately, we always react. But why should I be annoyed or hurt if someone looks at me disapprovingly? — or if he doesn’t look at me, doesn’t notice me? It may be that he himself is the slave of someone else’s opinion; perhaps he is an automaton, a parrot repeating another’s words. Perhaps someone has trod on his corns. And tomorrow he may change. If he is weak, and I am annoyed with him, I am even weaker; and by considering, making a mountain out of a molehill and getting into a state of resentment, I may spoil my relations with other people.
‘It must be understood very clearly and established as a principle that you must not let yourselves become slaves to other people’s opinions; you must be free from those around you. And when you become free inside you will be free of them.
‘At times, it may be necessary for you to pretend to be annoyed; and it does not follow that if someone slaps you on one cheek you should always offer the other. It is necessary sometimes to answer back in such a way that the other will forget his grandmother. But you must not consider internally. On the other hand, if you are free inside it may happen that if someone slaps you on one cheek it is better to offer the other cheek. It depends on the other person’s type; and sometimes a man will not forget such a lesson in a hundred years. Sometimes one should retaliate, other times not. A man can choose only when he is free inside. An ordinary man cannot choose, cannot sum up the situation quickly and impartially, for with him his external is his internal. It is necessary to work on oneself, to learn to be unbiased, to sort out and analyse each situation as if one were another person; only then can one be just. To be just at the moment of action is a hundred times more valuable than to be just afterwards. And only when you can be really impartial as regards yourself will you be able to be impartial towards others.
~ CS Nott “The Teachings of Gurdjieff – A Pupil’s Journey”
RADIATING SUCH POWER THAT ALL THE PEOPLE BETWEEN HIM AND ME SEEMED DEAD
WE stood before his table waiting for him to look up. He made us wait for an interval that felt like eons, then slowly raised his head and gazed at me with the most beautiful eyes I had ever looked into – even slightly angry as they were, scowling.
“Excusez-moi, Monsieur… êtes-vous Monsieur Gurdjieff?” My voice dwindled as I hurried on to explain that we belonged to a small group meeting each week in Montparnasse to study his teachings with Miss Heap. His eyes narrowed as if regarding something very small, then his glance moved on to Wendy standing taller behind me.
“Geep?” he rumbled. “Mees Geep?” It took me a moment to realize be was repeating Heap with a hard G for the H which his Russian tongue could not aspirate. I said “Oui, monsieur” with my last breath. Then he nodded and said “Sit,” in English. He thrust aside his overcoat and made a place for Wendy beside him on the banquette, indicated any old vacant chair for me to pull up and invited us for a coffee, with him or whatever else we might prefer.
Wendy did most of the talking. She told him how we had, stumbled, so to speak, into Miss Heap’s circle, how she had made notes (she had copied mine) and had always wanted to meet him since she believed in going direct to a source. She was a businesswoman, she said, as if that explained everything. Hands as well as voice conveyed her delight for the unexpected encounter. He studied her as she chattered confidingly. Did he understand a word of her rapid breathless English? He offered her a long Russian cigarette and placed one in his own short holder made of some sort of briarwood, dark and knotty. He accepted a light from me without looking my way, then said, “Business, aha! I also am businessman.”
I know now that we must have caught him in a moment of weariness after writing for hours in the blankbook that lay on the table beneath his brown fingers flattened at the tips like a musician’s. Unknown and uninvited, we must have appeared when he needed what he was later to term for us “idiot relief” – a most useful expression for anyone toiling to communicate through the written word. I marveled at the way Wendy chattered on unabashed, then listened to him, seeming to understand his abbreviated English which was not pidgin (as some reports had suggested) but simply nouns without articles preceding verbs without adverbs.
Presently he said to Wendy, “You have car?” and she pointed out the window to the Packard parked at the curb, directly behind his mud-splattered sedan. He looked at the long lowslung roadster, then turned directly to me and said, “You are chauffeur?” I meant to speak up brightly and naturally like Wendy but the full force of his regard caused me to blush and stammer.
“He invites us to go to Fontainebleau with him this afternoon,” Wendy said across the table. “We are to follow his car.” Gurdjieff turned his eyes away from me for a moment to study Wendy registering pleasure at the prospect and I got my voice back firm and strong in time to answer his next query: “You can follow?” “Yes Sir,” I said, looking straight into his wonderful eyes, “I am very good at following.”
He instructed me to come to the cafe at three o’clock exactly. With night bag in the car. “And bring the Thin One,” he added, giving Wendy the name which summed her up for him.
We arose, thanked him for coffee and walked from the salle as if emerging from a royal audience. At the revolving doors I looked back. I had to see Gurdjieff once again to believe that the encounter had really happened. With one leg pulled up beneath him Oriental-fashion on the banquette, he looked from a distance like a broad-shouldered Buddha radiating such power that all the people between him and me seemed dead.
~ Kathryn Hulme “Undiscovered Country”
THAT IN HIS LOOK THAT ALWAYS MADE ME FEEL LIKE SO MUCH MELTING BUTTER
“When the time came to go, I went up with the others to say goodbye and to thank Mr. Gurdjieff. To my great surprise, he took my hand in both of his and said he was happy I would stay and work for him. I was quite overcome and completely inarticulate. There was that in his look that always made me feel like so much melting butter, for a moment absolutely free of all my pretensions. I knew he knew me and he did not judge me for my pretensions – but accepted, as I cannot myself, that I am what I am.”
~ Rina Hands “Diary Madame Egout Pour Sweet”
IN RELIGION WE HAVE A PRAYER: GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON AND GOD THE HOLY GHOST, THREE IN ONE—EXPRESSING THE LAW RATHER THAN A FACT
GURDJIEFF: Yes, if you have knowledge. Nature arranged it so that air and bread are chemically quite different, and cannot mix; but as bread changes in ‘re’ and ‘mi’, it becomes more permeable, so that they can mix.
Now you must work on yourself, you are ‘do’; when you get to ‘mi’, you can meet help.
QUESTION: By accident?
GURDJIEFF: One piece of bread I eat, another I throw away; is this accident? Man is a factory with three stories. There are three doors by which the raw materials are taken in to their respective storage rooms where they are stored. If it were a sausage factory, the world would only see carcasses taken in and sausages coming out. But in actual fact it is a much more complicated arrangement. If we wish to build a factory like the one we are studying, we must first look at all the machines and inspect them in detail. The law “as above, so below” is the same everywhere; it is all one law. We also have in us the sun, the moon, and the planets, only on a very small scale. Everything is in movement, everything has emanations, because everything eats something and is itself eaten by something.
The earth also has emanations, and so has the sun, and these emanations are matter. The earth has an atmosphere which limits its emanations. Between the earth and the sun there are three kinds of emanations; the emanations of the earth go only a short distance, those of the planets go much further, but not all the way to the sun. Between us and the sun there are three kinds of matter, each with a different density. First-the matter near the earth, containing its emanations; then the matter containing emanations of the planets; and still further—the matter where there are only emanations of the sun. The densities stand in the ratio one, two, and four, and vibrations are in an inverse ratio, as finer matter has a greater rate of vibration. But beyond our sun are other suns which also have emanations and send influences and matter, and beyond them there is the source, which we can only express mathematically, also with its emanations. These higher places are beyond the reach of the sun’s emanations.
If we take the material from the uttermost limit as 1, then the more divisions of matter according to density, the higher the numbers. The same law goes through everything, the law of three—positive, negative, neutralizing. When the first two forces are mixed with a third, something quite different is created. For example, flour and water remain flour and water—there is no change; but if you add fire, then fire will bake them and a new thing will be created which has different properties.
Unity consists of three matters. In religion we have a prayer: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, Three in One—expressing the law rather than a fact. This fundamental unity is used in physics, and taken as the standard of unity. The three matters are “carbon,” “oxygen” and “nitrogen,” and together they make the “hydrogen” which is the foundation of all matter, whatever its density.
The cosmos is an octave of seven notes, each note of which can be subdivided into a further octave, and again and again to the uttermost divisible atom. Everything is arranged in octaves, each octave being one note of a greater octave, until you come to the Cosmic Octave. From the Absolute, emanations go in every direction, but we will take one—the Cosmic Ray on which we are: the Moon, Organic Life, the Earth, the Planets, the Sun, All Suns, the Absolute. The Cosmic Ray goes no further.
Emanations from the Absolute meet other matter and are converted into new matter, gradually becoming denser and denser and changing according to law. We can take these emanations from the Absolute as threefold, but when mixed with the next order of matter they become six. And since, as in ourselves, there is both evolution and involution, the process can go either up or down, and do has the power to transform into ‘si’, or in the other direction into ‘re’. The octave of the Earth needs help at ‘mi’, which it gets from the Planets, to turn ‘mi’ into ‘fa’.
~ “Gurdjieff’s Early Talks 1914-1931”
I have finally gone and begun assembling my Gurdjieff Quotes into a single PDF that you can download.
I had to teach myself how to use Adobe InDesign and will try to create one a week for the next year.
“Week One” is 43-pages and over 10,000 words. Just follow this link.