An extract from my Avalonian Aeon featuring some important ideas from the teachings of Gurdjieff, as presented by PD Ouspensky in his great work, In Search of the Miraculous.
Gurdjieff’s critique of the general state of humanity seems pessimistic at first. He stated that most of us can be said to be asleep in a trance of distraction. Each of us believes in a unique individuality but, on closer examination, most cannot demonstrate any real unity of functioning. We are full of small separate personalities. One part may proudly proclaim the intention to stop smoking, take up a regime of exercise, follow some idealised spiritual path etc. The “I” that likes to smoke or overeat or take drugs, be sexually deranged and so on, will later on assert its own claims and the lofty talk will be worthless. We have many I’s. They can all be “caliph for an hour”. Work on oneself involves the conscious cultivation of a “magnetic centre”. It is the responsibility of this aspect of oneself to seek out those influences conducive to the maintaining and expansion of its function.
What does that mean in the real world? The feeling of it can be better grasped by looking at it alongside another of Gurdjieff’s teaching ideas. Ouspensky discusses the concept of “food.” He takes it beyond the usual definitions. As well as what we eat in the normal sense, the case is made for regarding air as food. If anyone thinks it isn’t, try living without it for a while. Most stimulating of all was the classification of “impressions” as food. What we input through our senses can nourish or poison us. To take an extreme example, a person feasting everyday on splatter movies, hardcore porn and horror, someone who regularly read the literature of hate, racism etc, would be thoroughly poisoning themselves. Contrariwise, a person who immersed themselves in great art, literature, music, and the religious classics of the world, with a view to changing themselves for the better, would be getting some kind of higher food vitamins and protein. Although just what constitutes appropriate input is hugely debatable and variable, the basic principle is a call to some sort of conscious awakening. Gurdjieff suggested that once this process was really in motion, somehow one magnetically attracted to oneself the necessary higher influences. The world was full of them, but to the average tranced-out sleepwalking person they were all but invisible.