George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (January 13, 1866 – October 29, 1949) was an influential spiritual teacher of the early to mid-20th century who taught that most humans live their lives in a state of hypnotic “waking sleep”, but that it is possible to transcend to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff developed a method for doing so, calling his discipline “The Work” (connoting “work on oneself”) or “the Method”. According to his principles and instructions, Gurdjieff’s method for awakening one’s consciousness is different from that of the fakir, monk or yogi, so his discipline is also called (originally) the “Fourth Way”. At one point, he described his teaching as being “esoteric Christianity”.
At different times in his life, Gurdjieff formed and closed various schools around the world to teach The Work. He claimed that the teachings he brought to the West from his own experiences and early travels expressed the truth found in ancient religions and wisdom teachings relating to self-awareness in people’s daily lives and humanity’s place in the universe.The title of his third series of writings, Life Is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am’, expresses the essence of his teachings. His complete series of books is entitled All and Everything.
Gurdjieff On the “Fourth Way”
A practical and sacred teaching of great scale, The Fourth Way shows how to use one’s ordinary life—with all its uncertainty, negativity, suffering and pleasures—to come to real life. Rather than avoiding life or being magnetized or entrapped in it, one learns to consciously live one’s life fearlessly, without imagination or regret. Actualizing the practices and principles of the teaching develops self-knowledge and being, which lead to real understanding and objective conscience.
Unlike the three classic ways of self-transformation—work with the body (hatha yoga), work with the emotions (monasticism), work with the mind (raja yoga)—in The Fourth Way one stays in the midst of life working on all three centers—body, emotions, mind. The aim is to develop a harmonious individual capable of intelligent and creative response to life’s opportunities and challenges—a New Type of Man. [The word Man, here as elsewhere, is used in its active sense, not as gender.]
Fundamental to the teaching, yet often overlooked, is its focus on the sacred. While eschewing contemporary notions of love and the self-calming manufactured meanings of ordinary life, the teaching is grounded in Man as being the image of God, and whose actualization of that image will lessen the sorrow of our Common Father Creator. The teaching offers a unique means and perspective by which that image can be realized. Prayer is a definite part of the teaching.
Gurdjieff said, “One must learn to pray, just as one must learn everything else. Whoever knows how to pray and is able to concentrate in the proper way, his or her prayer can give results.” Gurdjieff begins All and Everything with a prayer.
(article originally published online Here.)
An Introduction to Gurdjieff
To learn more about Gurdjieff’s teachings visit GurdjieffLegacy.org