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On The Path to the Higher Self On The Path to the Higher Self
by Rene Wadlow
2021-05-26 08:55:39
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For those on the path toward the Higher Self or a greater self-awareness, the name of George Gurdjieff keeps coming up, either through his ideas or through his music structured by Thomas de Hartman. (1) A useful introduction to Gurdjueff's thinking is the book by J.H. Reyner The Gurdjieff Inheritance. (2) Reyner's book is one in a series of books on philosophical thinkers who have developed what is commonly called « new age » or « new consciousness » thought. However, in a sense there is no direct inheritance of George Gurdjieff, an Armenian Greek who grew up in Georgia and, it is said, was a classmate in theology of the person who later became Joseph Stalin.

geor0001_400If one can speak of a Stalinist inheritance – rigid political and economic centralism – based on a few concepts drawn from Maxist thought and forged with an iron will into state institutions – one cannot point out direct links in philosophical groups today to Gurdjieff's work. Gurdjieff has said « that point of wisdom is to establish here and there, centers in which right relationships can exist by the power of common understanding of what is ultimately important. From such centers there can spread throughout the world – perhaps far more quickly than you might imagin possible – the seeds of a new world.»

Gurdjieff's center, the Institute for the Harmonius Development of Man, in Fontainebleau, France, lasted only three years. Gurdjieff's ideas have been clearly presented only by P.D. Ouspensky in A New Model of the Universe and In Search of the Miraculous. Ouspensky, however, was an original thinker in his own right, and it is never clear which ideas are those of the Sufi teachers that Gurdjieff contacted, which are Gurdjieff's ideas and which are Ouspensky's. (3)

Gurdjieff was born in the area between the Black and the Caspian Sea – an area influenced by Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Persian thought, an area in which Russians, Tarters, Chinese, Kurds, Afghans all lived ; in which Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians mixed. At some point in his early twenties, Gurdjueff left home and spent the next twenty years in Asia learning from Sufi orders and probably Tibetans. Gurdjieff recounts some of these experiences in Meetings with Remarkable Men. (4)

In 1910 he returned to Russia and settled in St Petersburg where he moved in the circle of artists and musicians. After the Russian Revolution, he moved to France where he taught small circles of followers until his death in 1949.

Many of the ideas of Gurdjiefff are similar to those of the Sufi order, but he dropped the Islamic coloring that would have put off Western Europeans at the time. Until relatively recently, there were no translations of the Sufi writings of Central Asia – Afghanistan being the most active center of Sufi traditions. The core of Gurdjieff's work lies in the realization that we all posses greater powers than we realize and that our apparent limitations are due to a laziness so habitual that it has become a mechanism. We are asleep, and the first task is to awaken, to deactivate the mechanism so that the real self may come forth. De-mechanization means becoming conscious of how the mind, emotions, and body works. Once the de-mechanization has taken place, then one can begin the harmonious development of the latent capacities of the individual, the integration of the body, emotions, mind and spirit.


1. See Thomas and Olga de Hartman. Our Life with Mr Gurdjieff (Cooper Square, 1964)
2. J.H. Reyner. The Gurdjieff Inheritance (Turnstone Press, 1984)
3. See Gary Lachman. In Search of P.D. Ouspensky. The Genius in the Shadow of Gurdjieff (Quest Books, 2004)
4. G.I. Gurdjieff. Meetings with Remarkable Men (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1959)


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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