Esotericism (XXXVII): Gurdjieff’s “mission” (3)

Esotericism (XXXVII): Gurdjieff’s “mission” (3)

- in Esotericism

1. After stopping in August 1924 the activities at the Prieuré that constituted the teaching of the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, after his terrible car-accident (July 1924), G turned his sense of mission to publicising his teaching through writing from 1924 to 1935. During some of those years he devoted much time to composing music for his dances; some pieces are truly exquisite.

In December he started dictating to Mrs. de Hartmann All and Everything: Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, which was the First Series. The 2nd was Meetings with Remarkable Men and the 3rd (and unfinished) Life is Real Only Then, When “I AM”. There was also the Herald of Coming Good which was after a short time considered unfit and was withdrawn!

This, he wrote, was the “fundamental aim of all my life, which included the intention to spread the essence of my ideas by means of literature also”.

2. From this last citation, anyone not acquainted with G’s style in Beelzebub can gather easily the quality of the writing – very original and very contorted, but deliberately so. He “corrected” and rewrote everything so that there is no “literary language” as we commonly understand it. And this effort is yet another manifestation of G’s constant acting, putting on a persona and odd behaviour and making it difficult for anyone to approach and know him.

The syntax is complex and difficult while the language is infested with neologisms and artificial terms. Thus the Law of Three is termed triamazikamno ‘I put together three or I do with three together’ (from Modern Greek). Ashiata Shiemash is Hebrew denoting the “Creative Sun”. The term Kesdjan is Persian for the “soul’s vessel”. The Law of Seven is heptaparashinokh, a mixture of Greek (hepta=seven) and Armenian. And so on.

3. Thus we have another paradox. On the one hand G wants his message to reach as many and as far as possible and on the other he couches it deliberately in a difficult language so that only a few elect can get it and explain it to others!

Some say he lost contact with the Inner Circle. This is rather presumptuous; for it presupposes knowledge of what the Inner Circle is and how it operates. It presupposes also full knowledge of G’s personality and essence, to use G’s terms for a man’s entire nature and character.

Others say G went out of his mind, starting with his car-accident and the closure of the Institute, which left in desolation his older Russian students since they were uprooted and abandoned in a foreign world. It was not only Ouspensky that voiced this view.

However, many continue to regard G as “herald of coming good”!

4. One needs to be dispassionate about G’s case.

There is no doubt he brought a very old teaching about Man and the Cosmos(es), a system formulated in a fairly modern language, in terms that accord fairly well with modern philosophy, psychology and other studies. Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous gives a full and accurate expression of that teaching. G himself (despite his Beelzebub’s Tales) and the most ardent gurdjieffians admit that this is so and all continue to use that book as basis.

Yet even there, in that clear, excellent presentation there are complexities and artificialities indicative of a less than perfect understanding of the original Whole Teaching, if there was one available to G, and its less than perfect formulation given by G. I am referring to G’s terms like Ayocosmos, magnetic centre, triads of forces, octaves of food, the chemical terms ‘hydrogen, oxygen’ etc, the astral body and so on. These and many others are very imperfect terms.

Then, there are the powers and the man himself. This in the next paper.

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