Now then, a strange post this one…a history lesson no less.
An Awful Truth, on the ‘Russian’ 4th Way, on Gurdjieff – an Armenian/Greek/Russian man, born in approx 1872 (but no one really knows), in what was then Alexandropol, named by the Tzar himself, large frontier fortress town in the Russian Empire, captured from the Turks a 100 years before (now Gyumri, in Armenia after the fall of the USSR). He died and was buried in France 1949, after a very ‘interesting’ life. Traveled widely in his early years, learned a lot, but who knows where he went, cause he never really told anyone the same story twice…
So yes, as you can see I am going to address the Russian question, going to address all the comments about the ‘old’ 4th Way as some of you see it, codified at the start of the 20th Century by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff in Moscow, 1912 onwards, and largely popularised by his smartest student, P.D.Ouspensky in London, 1919 onwards. Indeed the books that people read for actual guidance these days are Ouspensky’s books.
A longer post this time initially aimed at a specific group of people who know who Gurdjieff was, but really it’s for anyone interested in ‘Gurus’, and their issues. I’m actually not that comfortable with it – however many ways you can apologize for a genuine but badly taught system that we are not part of for really good reasons. It’s not really done amongst folks like me, so just be clear now that this post is primarily a response to many questions in this area.. ‘Is your approach the same as Gurdjieff’s?’ they ask.. No, it’s not, BUT.. read on and I’ll explain why it uses exactly the same understanding of the world of spirit.
See Gurdjieff was a ‘Guru’ in the real old-school sense of the word, and we hate that here…
Awful Truth – now, we love the 4th way, BUT we are also happy to walk the line between truth and optimism, to tell it like it was. That means we don’t slag off the 4th way, we slag off the teaching, even our own if it falls short. And we are especially suspicious of ‘Gurus’, particularly of those whose whole approach is to get famous and make money. At all costs. So yes, this man was VERY clever indeed, knew more than most, and probably more than he ever said (his books are often total gibberish, Ouspensky is the actual historian of the 4th Way), but also a man who wanted to get paid. So the truth is the quality of his knowledge and the quality of his teaching differ greatly. Indeed, his teaching is a total bloody mess… but the main charge against it is this: as a 4th Way ‘Guru’, he believed he was capable of using ‘Shocks’.. something done only rarely between consenting adults today. Sadly, he clearly wasn’t capable…
Now the use of External ‘Shocks’ (ie shocks that are done to you) is a big ass topic in spirituality, indeed it is at the very core of Zen method, as they are the school of Rapid Enlightenment, and shocks done correctly, work FAST… The best Zen masters still do this (they are the experts) but it’s VERY dangerous, as several of his students discovered. At the top end of this process, it’s so dangerous I’m not even going to really explain what it is, other than it’s the positive spiritual ‘use’ of an intense emotional ‘crisis’ usually ‘created’ for that purpose, but not always.
To be clear I don’t mean the mini little shocks you still get in any serious Zen Dojo today – being tapped on the arm with a stick to snap you back from your thoughts, at a particular moment of your concentration on this or that, causing your ‘catharsis moment’, which can still be very beneficial. I mean the full-blown stuff, the complete collapse of your world.. If you read Echart Tolle’s story about his experience at the beginning you will get a sense of it, much as that was unaided. The mental hospitals, psychiatrists’ offices, and cemeteries of this world are full of people who have failed to recover from some type of personal emotional crisis, to a greater or lesser extent, often through some kind of unintended Shock – it is not something to take lightly. Very sadly, harmless, low-level ‘Shocks’ have now become one of the defining characteristics of the modern TV/YouTube ‘Guru’. Even if it’s just being gently ‘abused’ on stage by Tony Robbins before he administers a positive shock via some (usually formulaic) insight into your personal life, it’s everywhere you look these days.
Now, let’s just nail the reason for this post before we say anything else – in the minds of many of you in the West to this day, he originated the term the 4th way, his way, as opposed to the way of the Fakir, the Monk, or the Yogi. These names that don’t mean the same now as they did then, if anything at all to modern people – he meant the method was different or more accurately a collection of the best of all methods, especially he meant you did not have to give ‘anything’ up, lifestyle-wise, unlike the other systems. You paid for your progress in other ways…
But, Gurdjieff actually called it ‘the work’, ‘the system’, indeed he gave it no real name at all.. because it was not the real teaching method – ‘he’ taught it personally to others in terms of what he thought they needed, at the time, cause he was a ‘Guru’. But he correctly stated his ‘System’ was A 4th way, something which appears to have passed several of you by. Indeed there are several types of 4th way in terms of agnostic ‘none physical’ systems that focus on thought and perception, with Zen being the granddaddy of them all. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this.. we teach the Left-Hand path here, and we use the modern techniques of the 4th Way, written specifically for you, just not his techniques.
Many of the ancient systems are part of the 4th WAY, that is where he learned it from – these folks did NOT INVENT the 4th Way, again Gurdjieff never even called it that, he described it correctly as A 4th way, Ouspensky just liked the title for his book ( a collection of lecture notes) The 4th way, later on. That is where we learned it from but everyone is different, and we write for the now, just as he wrote to suit both himself and his world view, both pre and post Russian Revolution (and he sided with the White Russians). He wrote for his personality.. was a big fan of type, ie difference between people, of nationalities and personalities, of male and female, which he often expressed in his own inimitable (ie nasty) style. His system started off VERY technical, later about patterns and dances, but ended with anecdotes, romantic stories, bizarre tales.
Overall their version of it is oldish, from the Near and Middle East, a high art form of Gnosticism vs Sufism, so mainly Greek style method, NOT Christian as that is a later addition. He freely admitted this, so there is no reason to think they did invent it, he actually stated ‘others’ told him this stuff, however vaguely, lapsing into the notional ‘Sages of the East’ language of his age, whilst never crediting the systems themselves. Overall, his own process was based on ‘remembering yourself’, every second, everywhere, so in many ways is the precursor of the much corrupted, modern Mindfulness movement, much as that is actually the miss translation of a Buddhist term.
Remember this is the 1920s and 30s in Europe, so things were different then – public spirituality was very different as this was the age when the Esoteric was at one of its highest points in the modern world. The occult was openly championed by many of the great and the good, the rockstars of the times, this was the age of Jung, huge influence of Madam Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner, of Nietzsche, of the once all-powerful new religions that were Theosophy and the Golden Dawn, amongst many others. The freemasons were back and as powerful as ever, having survived the purges of secret societies in Europe, caused by the reaction to their infiltration by the Illuminati becoming public (yes, that actually happened, much as it was a one-hit-wonder), and resurfaced as a much more ‘responsible’ organization, as they still exist today.
This is the age of the great cataloguers of the Occult, including the greatest of them all, another dark and nasty genius you have never heard of called Julius Evola. The intellectual rigor and clarity he brings to documenting the earliest esoteric traditions, particularly hardcore Shaktism and the actual methods used by Tibetan shamanism (Buddhism is a much later addition to this region’s occult practice), remain amongst the seminal works read by folks like me, as men of his ‘tradition’. But then Fascism came and tainted everything even remotely esoteric (including Evola even to this day..), indeed the Nazis were so closely linked with the occult that any mention of it after the end of WW2 was snuffed out like a candle in the mainstream world, so these folks went underground. We are really only just starting to recover the ground lost today, decades later.
Now, it should be said that we get why some of you love ‘his’ system, for all its bizarreness and old-world charm, for its detail and its insights. Some of the stuff P.D. published can only really be appreciated in retrospect it’s that damn clever. But you REALLY need to know what you are looking for, you need the source material to ‘get’ that. Otherwise, some of this stuff is just so much window dressing and pre-amble, of introductions, of schools and methods. In places it so death by the Victorian model of the ‘classroom’ it’s actually hard to imagine anyone ever being able to make any progress using it.
And that is really the point of this post – THEY did NOT make any progress, even P.D. rebelled and left him, and not because of the teaching, but because of HIM. P.D. started his own school, and tried for a while in London, by himself, but he lacked the real genius of Gurdjieff, so even his books are incomplete, much as they represent the early technical phase of Gurdjieff’s system… Some of the key stuff is barely hinted at, much as it is there, they did not really ‘understand it’. For example, P.D. only touched on the need for great emotion in your ‘effort’, whereas any decent Zen teacher even today understands the concept of ‘Kufu’, of great doubt and great focus being essential to the method of ‘Zazen’. It must also be said that there are biggish chunks in their books that I personally don’t recognize from anywhere else (bad sign), and several things that are quite troubling about how he communicates if you remember the references I’ve previously made about the projection of yourself onto others…
Truth be told P.D.Ouspensky broke with Gurdjieff after his highly questionable behavior became too much for him, for becoming a power-crazed bastard, focusing entirely on chasing money off his richer, famous students, (actually buying a Chateaux in France, fast cars etc). He then refused to meet him, told his own students Gurdjieff was dead, before disavowing the whole thing toward the end of his life in 1947 – he lacked the gift (their ‘Level of Being’) to progress past the basic stage. Very sadly, Gurdjieff turned very dark after the 1st car crash and after the 2nd one, which should off killed him, was little more than a shadow of his former self. By this I mean he actually pushed and broke several of his key followers in appalling and dramatic fashion, and I mean they actually killed themselves. That’s not what we do here boys and girls.
Now I hear you cry, you preach rock and roll spirituality but get sniffy about a cash-crazed Russian, whose technique you largely agree with, but don’t quote because he taints you, taints ‘your’ 4th way via his nastiness? Really, so you are just one more ‘woke’ ex hippy then? So know this – Gurdjieff was a genius, just a bad one, a weak one, ie he failed one of the big and bad tests for all teachers, say it out loud – ‘he knew it, but could not do it’. He could not teach it. So, yes, we still use the 4th way to describe ourselves (after the lefthand path of course as that is the real test) but we don’t ally ourselves with his school, which still exists to this day.
Quick take out for you – always try and separate the teacher from the method, one is not improved by the other, it is explained by them.. And often there is very little connection between them, as you can see in any Yoga center.. not an actual Buddhist or practicing Hindu anywhere in sight then. I will do a post to double down on this so some of you can finally get the fact that the correct spiritual method AND ‘being nice’ (loving God and then loving your neighbor as yourself) is a misinterpreted Christianity invention of mainstream morality – they have nothing to do with each other.
However, just to show our willingness to reach out, and in recognition that a small number of you are actually here because you have tried and failed with the Russian 4th way in the past, I will start to use some of their terms. This is a big decision for us, but we recognize you are going to look up this stuff on the internet and (hopefully) find some of the better essays and books that are out there. Don’t expect mad little stories about the Devil crying on the side of the road cause no one has a soul to steal anymore, but I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘More God, Less Dog’, since I read it in one of his famous follower’s memoirs decades ago.
So, you will see what ‘he’ calls the rule of 3, the rule of 7 even, but NOT the ‘Ray of Creation’ (this is actually the ‘rule of scale’ badly written in terms of Gnostic ’emanations’) or his bizarre use of Octaves to define the level of everything. You will see the prohibitions against acting out your Negative Emotions and against Identification, as they are the fundamental tenets of Buddhism (Right Action and Non-Attachment are better names), with an actual method to achieve them that is sadly lacking in his work. But you won’t see the ridiculous twaddle that is the Enneagram, every New Agers favorite madness, that he himself stated was only a representation of the truth, not the real thing. You won’t find the overly complex and contradictory theory of ‘Centers’, much as you will find the model of multiple Wills. You will find the importance of knowing how to ‘try’, and how to get actual Knowledge, too, but you won’t find the need for schools, groups, as that is Guru talk…
And, you will find ‘Being’, ‘Essence’… the big daddy concept of his system, lurking quietly in the background, the bit that they do not like but had to list.. We think it is better to refer to this as the ancients did, as your ‘Gift’, hope you agree. You will continue to see, just how important that level of Being is to your progress, just as P.D. dutifully noted in both his main books and how near impossible it is to progress without it, as P.D. discovered, which is perhaps the reason he never really explained it. Have to say in passing, the word ‘Being’ in this context is taken from a time when ‘everyone’ (and I mean everyone in the world) knew what it meant, in terms of your Soul, even your Essence, from the great and the good to manual laborers in the street. Its only in the last 50-75 years that the word Soul has passed out of common use, as no one believes this anymore – you believe in Science, in that life is little more than an electrical impulse in your central nervous system, you fools,,,
Also, understand that many, including me, would not agree with the way he defines the 4th way, based on the use of a method as a ‘type’ (as they always cross over) and the central focus that all of you are ‘unconscious’, and must learn to ‘be conscious’ via a particularly iterative, circuitous mental method, which simply does not work for normal, happy people. Yes, the spirit of that statement is agreed by all 4th ways, but ‘raising your level’ is way better than stating you need to ‘Grow a Soul’ all the damn time, which is just the way self-styled Gurus use forced dramatic narrative for a shock effect. The basic mistake they make, like so many systems, is they try and teach a ‘side effect’, actually becoming ‘more conscious’, as an actual goal, whereas the actual goal is to develop ‘Power over Yourself’, which makes you more conscious all by itself, should you have the ‘level of being’, the Gift to be able to do that. If you do then all you really need is the full method of ‘Calm Abiding’, an ancient technique used all over the world from the beginning of time to make progress, something that Gurdjieff, quite strangely, just seems to dance around the edge off, without ever explaining.
But it’s not just that, see at a fundamental level I understand that for some of you this system feels more Western, even Gnostic Christian, which actually hits you better, for a whole host of historical reasons. You can’t relate to all the Mid and Far Eastern stuff, to Indian/Chinese/Japanese systems, to Buddhism and Daoism, you can’t trust them for some reason.. You want something from closer to your own culture. Be clear, I’m not calling you racist or a xenophobe, but I am recognizing that there is a large number of Western people who don’t believe the West EVER had an energy work system, and that stops them from trying. But you are wrong and I will prove it to you…
Summary, going to wrap this up now so hopefully this has answered your question – yes we are A 4th way, just not that one and why. We will make allowances for all the failed or struggling fans of Gurdjieff on this blog, and we will make it clear when what we say can be related to his style of system. Again not a fun post to write, so if you are going to take anything away then it should be this – Stay away from famous Gurus, as Gurus, no matter how good, how gifted and how clever, ultimately distort the way after their own image, through self-interest in personal goals, which can have a VERY negative effect on their students. Focus on the system, on the goals of the teaching, not on the teacher or the methods they use. If you are in any doubt of this go and listen to the audiobook – ‘Women of the Rope’, the notes of 4 of his most famous female followers in 1920s Paris, (another one of his many teaching ‘phases’), and you will understand what a Guru is. If nothing else you will ‘hear’ just how much he struggled with the English Language, and how much he relied on others (his privileged American students no less) to interpret his largely Russian/Greek/Turkish thoughts, a perfect ‘lost in translation’ storm.
I’m not going to mention the women, the 7 or 8 children, mainly disowned, and all the madness in the US – demanding cash and causing chaos more than once, his stay in Paris during the Nazi occupation… Not going to talk about how his training ‘declined’, where his teaching consisted of just sitting around telling strange stories and making off-color jokes like so many other short, old Greek or Turkish men, constantly eating and drinking, whilst demanding people read his books. No interest in the rumors that he was in some way part of The Great Game of European politics through Capt Bennett, one of his most ardent pupils and Ex-head of British Intelligence in the region. No comment on that he claimed to have found the last surviving members of the ‘Essenes’ (hardcore Gnosticism), long thought extinct, living amongst the ancient Yazidis Kurdish peoples, but was impressed that the otherwise callous Americans sent a brigade of the PKK and their own special forces to the Sinjar Mountains to stop ISIS committing wholesale Genocide and mass sexual slavery of them in 2014. I will say I was once lucky enough to eat in his Niece’s restaurant in Knightsbridge, London – Lubas, long gone now.
Anyway, hope that is clear, but to be clear I’m not going to make a big deal of this going forward. We don’t believe the 4th way is tainted by him, as long as you understand the 4th way is the core of real spiritual method, that existed long, LONG before him. Opinions vary, but I feel his own failings got the better of him, and that should not lessen the respect for his genius, that he is still largely held in by folks like us. Others think he was a perverted, nasty, and actually quite dangerous little man, who simply abused his knowledge for financial gain, whilst never really helping anyone. Take your pick – are you the type to forgive Churchill his many failings and mistakes as he is ultimately the man who saved this world from the greatest organized evil it’s ever seen, or do you condemn him by the standards of our times and consider him little better than Hitler? I get the ‘scale’ of judgment is very different from what we are talking about here, but for me the choice is obvious. The ‘ends’ can never ‘always’ justify the ‘means’, but some ends are so important the means are largely ‘meaningless’ at the end of the day, don’t you think?
As a lesson to learn, he remains one of the clearest examples of the modern ‘Guru’ kind of teacher, arguably the first to ‘obsess’ about his pupils buying and reading his ‘books’, just as P.D. is one of the clearest examples of the ‘Librarian’ kind, but ultimately the trick is to be neither – the trick is to be a ‘Tutor’, in the ancient Greek sense of it. It’s an interesting point, for all you wanna be Gurus out there – no matter how many books you write and sell, if you are going to ‘make your teaching up as you go along’ in this day and age you will eventually be thought a charlatan, as he was at the end. The world is full of spiritual people right now, some genuine, most not, some become teachers to help others, most become teachers to help themselves, you have to decide for yourself.
One last Guru warning – it is very common both now, and from ages past for seekers (like you) to ask – ‘tell me who I am’, in terms of your essence, your Gift. We get this a lot and that’s fine, should you find someone able to do it, indeed it’s a good sign, much as many people go away feeling disappointed until they find someone who can tell them what they want to hear. Within the limits of what is wise to say, you should know early in your progress why you are like this and what it’s possible to do with it.
HOWEVER, the alarms bells in your head should start to ring when they claim to be able to ‘do it to you’, in terms of what the ancients referred to as ‘Mind to Mind’ transmission, to make you better by little more than their presence. Whatever the truth of that is, it is the number one trick charlatans and psychic healers play, the number one method used to get money out of the desperate. Maybe there are some genuine Anton Mesmers, with his animal magnetism or Grigori Rasputins, with his healing hands, wandering around this world as we speak, maybe there are not, but take my advice, RUN A MILE. Ultimately, whatever Li Hongzhi tells you he is able to do by inserting his Law Wheel in your belly, to automatically refine and improve your Being, YOU have to develop yourself, no one can do it for you. It is a fundamental truism of spirit, and whatever positive effects you perceive has happened from any brief Guru encounter is little more than a catalyst to that end.
Lastly know that little long-term good ever comes from Gurus, with chaos and disaster often following in their wake which eventually overtakes everyone ‘involved’. Indeed, I’m not sure just how much the Romanovs’ fall was down to the death of Rasputin, but they were gone just a few short weeks after he was (finally) assassinated by a British SIS agent in 1916, with a ‘coup de grace’ to the head, after the Russians made a total bags of killing the drunken, sex-crazed old bastard. Not that it stopped them from making peace with the Germans soon after, sadly.
See Gurus have a tendency to ‘feed off’ people, in one way you can say that their student relationships become parasitic, even symbiotic, as the attention of their students benefits them, so they end up doing just enough to keep them around for that purpose, engaging in what modern folks like you would call ‘attention seeking’ behavior. They collect small dedicated followings, of the devoted, of the believers, of the awestruck, who ‘strangely’ never seem to make much progress themselves… and end up getting thrown out later for no reason, when new, fresher meat happens by.
A ‘Tutor’ selects the student on the basis of ‘potential’, and doesn’t care if that student is rich, nice, pretty, ‘likable’, useful, indeed it’s usually easier if they are none of those things, much as that rarely happens. They avoid the devoted, the desperate, the starstruck, the fan clubs and the copy cats, the great and the good. Indeed, an experienced Tutor knows they personally suit a specific type of student and looks out for them, in terms of their gift against their level of education, interest, personality, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to the gateway into practice. Once there they let the student ‘set the pace’, listen to them, changing and adapting the teaching to suit their strengths and weaknesses, often waiting a while for them to be ready, waiting for them to pass ‘tests’, (which sounds harsh but is a very necessary evil). A decent tutor does not ‘intervene’ to save you from yourself (that’s your job), even if they can tell what you ‘need to hear’ by just looking at you. They won’t do anything until you ‘ask’, as they know that ‘you have to do it’, you have to TRY, should you know how to…
Not always easy to do in real life, all that Tutor stuff, but trust me, that is the standard, cause that delivers ‘tryers’, and without that aspect of their personality, without the Magnetic Center of thought (as Gurdjieff would say) the teaching experience can be little more than listening to the sound of your own voice whilst looking at bored people eating lunch. Personally, I only teach the highly gifted, don’t care what they are like at the start, as I know that is where you can make the biggest difference. But, I’d be quite rare amongst my peers – those highly gifted types are way harder to ‘catch’ and it’s human nature to only want to help folks you like, as most highly gifted folks at the start tend NOT to be very likable or honest, however ‘cool’ and clever they (think they) are. Many good teachers will only help their own type of ‘essence’, some only go for the opposite of their type and sex, some only want the very best, those well-read, ‘aristocratic’ personality types who have a real head start. But I remember that I was initially helped by someone like me now, VERY much against the odds at the time, so I pass that ethos down the line… an honor thing.
Ultimately I see the comparison to the other 4th way as a good thing, I see this as helping you get some ‘validation’ of our approach from a hundred years ago. Just as long as you don’t confuse the two – we are not them. We explain things correctly, we are not Gurus, we are not trying to get rich, we are actually trying to help you, should you be capable of being helped. And that will be the next post, on the core if largely technical issue that separates the ‘seekers’ from the ‘adepts’ – on simply knowing ‘how’ try correctly, spiritually – that is the help you clearly need..
Quote to end as always – one of his, just for the sake of it:
‘Without self-knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.’ – George Ivanovich Gurdjieff