False Prophets Part 2

 

 

 

False Prophets and Messiahs, Teachers and Gurus,

Cons and Cult Leaders

              

PART II

 

 

Cults and Deteriorated Spiritual Teachings

 

‘Counterfeit gold exists only because
there is such a thing as real gold.’ 

 

                                                            Rumi

 

   

   In many countries in the contemporary world, especially in the West, there are representatives of virtually every religion, spiritual teaching, cult and metaphysical system in existence. How can the earnest spiritual seeker distinguish between an authentic teaching and a cult, between a real and a false spiritual teacher? What are the salient characteristics of a genuine spiritual group or organization and what are the warning signs for detecting a spurious or misguided one? Psychiatrist Arthur Deikman provides a succinct working definition of a cult:

 

The word cult refers to a group led by a charismatic leader who has spiritual, therapeutic or messianic pretensions, and indoctrinates the members with his or her idiosyncratic beliefs. Typically, members are dependent on the group for their emotional and financial needs and have broken off ties with those outside. The more complete the dependency and the more rigid the barriers separating members from non-believers, the more danger the cult will exploit and harm its members. (1)

 

(1) Deikman, The Wrong Way Home (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), p. 1.

 

 

gurdjiefffourthway.org/pdf/CULTS

 


 

Artemis44 July 25, 2019Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog

 

A friend of mine that was also a FOF member and left 10 years ago told me that the book The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society by Arthur J. Deikman was very useful for him to understand why he joined the FOF.

 

This is the Amazon link:

 

amazon.com/Wrong-Way-Home-Uncovering-Patterns/dp/0807029149

 

This is from the book’s commentary on Amazon:

 

‘The author, a psychiatrist, argues that cult behavior is not limited to members of religious groups but is based on childhood desires for meaning and dependency that we all share. Although we live in a democracy, cult behavior manifests itself in our unwillingness to question the judgment of our leaders, our tendency to devalue outsiders and to avoid dissent. We can overcome cult behavior, he says, by recognizing that we have dependency needs that are inappropriate for mature people, by increasing anti-authoritarian education, and by encouraging personal autonomy and the free exchange of ideas.’

 

Has anybody read that book? Any comments?

 


 

Joey Virgo July 25, 2019

 

Sargan of Akkad reviewed Deikman’s book for 35 minutes in 2016 on YouTube. Most of the views discussed in the review have already been discussed here at the FoF discussion blog. Sargan’s review contains many excerpts from Deikman’s book and at 20:05 or so, Deikman’s description of the cult matches thoroughly with the FoF. A cult follower is not crazy, Deikman says, but he or she has a moral failing in self-reliance or in coping with dependency needs, i.e., immaturity.

 

Cult Behavior: An Analysis

 

youtube.com/watch

 

I liked Deikman’s idea that the cult leader is as trapped as are the cult followers — to submit to a certain unchanging standard of behavior in order to sustain the fantasy world they both have created.

 


 

Bryan Reynolds July 25, 2019

 

I first found out about Arthur Deikman from a book titled The World of The Sufi which is a collection of essays about Sufism edited by Idries Shah. Dr. Diekman’s contribution was an article which outlined how modern psychiatry by focusing on mental illness does not really have answers to questions, “What is the function of a healthy person?” or “What is the sense and purpose of existence?”

 


 

“Sufism and Psychiatry”

 

 youtube.com/watch

 

deikman.com/sufism.html

 


 

Human Givens Institute

 

Exploring the CULT in culture

 

Following is a revised version (including additional material) of an article by Ivan Tyrrell, first published in 1993, that explores Dr Arthur Deikman’s enlightening work on cult behavior.

 


 

Ocean TigerJuly 23, 2019

 

Please enjoy these 47 previously unreleased photos of Robert Burton and his associates:

 

dropbox.com

 


 

Cult SurvivorJuly 26, 2019

 

Hello all, I’m back. I replaced the picture of Burton on the FoF article on Wikipedia (that was from 2004) for a more recent one (from 2015) that was part of the set of 47 that Eric/Gaia uploaded to Dropbox. If you have a suggestion of a better one let me know.

 

wikipedia.org/wiki/Fellowship of Friends

 


 

ton2u July 26, 2019

 

Joey V @ 40

 

Thanks for the video link… I paraphrase a few salient lines from the narrative below… brings me back to my difficulty in leaving the cult… regarding what’s been referred to in the past on the blog as the “invisible fence.” Can’t really blame the folks who stay on – they believe they have no choice but to stay:

 

Leaving a cult is extremely difficult because cults prey on the emotional instability and dependency of the individual. To an outsider it might seem there is nothing forcing an individual to stay in the cult, ostensibly they have freedom of movement and self-determination, but from the perspective of the person in the cult, the cult is all consuming. Everyone closest to them reinforces cult beliefs and compliance – withholding affection, companionship and support when the individual dissents / diverts from the cult narrative. This puts an individual under tremendous duress – not only will they be unable to pursue their own ‘higher purpose’ through remaining in the group, they will lose their entire social support structure, and in many cases the individual is completely financially dependent on the cult. These pressures can be insurmountable and so people remain trapped in the cult even if they appear to be physically able to leave.

 


 

Artemis44July 26, 2019

 

I’m finding Dr. Deikman’s writings fascinating — I’m looking forward to reading his book The Wrong Way Home.

 

I found an article from him online called “Evaluating Spiritual and Utopian Groups” at deikman.com/eval.html

 

Here is an excerpt:

 

‘It is because the leader’s role is functional rather than magical that genuine spiritual teachers can be seen to obey implicit rules. Despite the general impression that great teachers indulge in any and all behavior, careful attention to traditional teaching stories and anecdotes reveals that there are certain principles that are never violated. For example, I can recall no anecdote depicting a teacher ordering one student to harm another or condoning such an action. Nor are there examples of students being encouraged to compete for the teacher’s attention. There are no examples of teachers entering into sexual relations with their students or enriching themselves with their money. All these examples have been common among current and past “spiritual” groups.

 

The reason why such examples are absent in authentic spiritual groups is that real teachers do not use their students to advance their own personal interests. In this matter the mystical literature is quite consistent and clear: a spiritual teacher does not have license to exploit students in any way or for any cause – the only legitimate basis for the teacher’s actions is the advancement of the student along the spiritual path. This is not to say that larger purposes may not be served at the same time; indeed, such synchronous activity is said to be the norm but it is never at the expense of the student’s development. The fact is, far from having unlimited license, a genuine spiritual teacher obeys functional requirements that far exceed the restraints most people are accustomed to impose on themselves in the name of religion or common decency. The behavior of many so-called spiritual leaders is a travesty of the authentic situation.’

 

IMO the term “travesty” for Burton seems very appropriate by the way.

 


 

Invictus maneoJuly 29, 2019

 

50. Artemis44

 

[Quoting an article] ‘…I can recall no anecdote depicting a teacher ordering one student to harm another or condoning such an action. Nor are there examples of students being encouraged to compete for the teacher’s attention. There are no examples of teachers entering into sexual relations with their students or enriching themselves with their money. All these examples have been common among current and past “spiritual” groups.’

 

Perhaps because followers of “true spiritual teachers” in the past had better control of the story after the spiritual teacher died. Now, with the internet still somewhat free and open, it is harder to whitewash history. There may never again be a spiritual teacher who was never known to abuse students, in one way or another.

 

We are all fallible humans who make mistakes and do things we believe to be wrong, including spiritual teachers.

 


 

Real and False Spiritual Teachers

 


 

A PATH

WITH

HEART

 

A GUIDE THROUGH THE

PERILS AND PROMISES

OF SPIRITUAL LIFE

 

by

Jack Kornfield

 

 Chapter 18

 

THE EMPEROR’S

NEW CLOTHES:

PROBLEMS WITH TEACHERS

 


 

ton2u July 31, 2019

 

It’s obvious that cult thinking and behaviors extend beyond the confines of little garden variety cults like the FOF… take a look at Trump political rallies, for example. Bringing “current events” from the political world into the discussion here may seem to some to be getting off track, but there is a parallel with the cult behavior and a type of thinking that manifests in the wider world and in little cults like the FOF.

 

(Artemis, thanks again for drawing attention to Deikman’s work – it’s right on the mark. I’ll paraphrase a few lines below):

 

Cults are social organizations and can exist anywhere in society, cult behaviors and thinking are so pervasive, so “baked-in” as to be instinctive, everyone can be considered to be part of various “invisible” cults – almost all people exhibit some form of cult behavior in their daily lives, conforming to group norms, dependence on leaders, devaluing those outside of their groups, avoiding media that does not confirm what they already believe… cult thinking is embedded in society but is usually not so all encompassing as to be thought of as a cult…

 

The structure of cults is basically authoritarian: obedience and hierarchical power tend to take precedence over truth and conscience…

 

…certain psychological benefits can make authoritarian groups very attractive – they provide the opportunity to feel protected and cared for…

 

…cult thinking is the effect of psychological forces endemic to the human mind, forces that operate in the everyday life of each of us, distorting perception, biasing thinking, inculcating a belief structure which includes: compliance with the group, dependence on a leader, devaluing the outsider, avoiding dissent… a regression to a childlike state in which one is cared for by a parental figure so that they can abdicate responsibility for their own wellbeing…

 

…a regressive wish for security uses the family as its model creating an authoritarian leadership structure (the parent) and a close-knit, exclusive group (the children). Since the leader-parent has many of the insecurities of the follower-child, reality must be distorted by both to maintain the child’s illusion (wish) that the parent can always provide protection, so that he or she has no weaknesses / vulnerability.

 

Dissent is stifled because it casts doubt on the perfection of the leader and the special status of the group. Group compliance preserves security by supporting the beliefs crucial to the fantasy of superiority, beliefs which also explain the powers and entitlement of the leader can not be challenged.… apostates are excommunicated.

 

Outsiders, non-believers are excluded and devalued for they do not believe what the group believes; if the group and leader are superior, the outsider is inferior….

 

At the time they joined the cult most were dissatisfied, distressed or at a transition in their lives. Typically the motivation was desire for a more spiritual life, finding community in which to live cooperatively, wanting to become more enlightened, to find meaning in life by serving others or simply to belong.

 


 

Artemis44 July 31, 2019

 

21. ton2u

 

Very good points from Dr. Deikman, thank you.

 

Here is an excerpt from the book The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, another seminal work on cult behavior:

 

‘Behind the masks of authoritarian power is the idea that there is some greater intelligence that knows what is best for others. What this always amounts to is that someone either claims to have that intelligence, or to have a direct line into properly interpreting it. This can occur in any realm and in differing degrees. Its most extreme forms occur when moral superiority is linked to infallibility. The image of the guru represents the epitome of this construction. Often included in this is the corollary that the authority cares more about your well-being than you do, and can do so because of being selfless. Whether or not a state of ultimate selflessness or infallibility is achievable by anyone can be debated. Then too, there is the question of how anyone could be certain someone else really is in such a state. What is clear, however, is that obeying others because they claim to be morally superior, or to have an inside track to the truth, not only breeds corruption and lies, but removes people from personal responsibility.’

 


 

Golden VeilFebruary 12, 2022

 

The Fellowship of Friends appears to be in the process of rebranding its image as a spiritual school. It’s likely that this strategy, which is implemented through new website design, was instigated by the exposure of the cult’s dark underpinnings in the dramatic and critically acclaimed Revelations podcast on Spotify. The former website image of fellowshipoffriends.com and livingpresence.com expressed elitism and opulence. Images of Robert Earl Burton were prominent and his role as a teacher reverently promoted.

 

Probably with the aim to recast the cult’s identity, the websites now present a more corporate, almost austere, look. The rich colors are absent and have been replaced with a black and white theme and an image of international flags as the key image on the Home page of each website. Robert Earl Burton’s presence is greatly diminished and he is presented more as a founder than teacher. There is only one book on the Publications page, Robert Earl Burton’s Awakening (2016) and that book appears to be the only book available on Amazon. Fifty Years With Angels (2017) is now listed as out-of-print.

 

Although only Awakening is currently featured under Publications on the Fellowship of Friends website, there are actually two books by Robert Earl Burton ~ Awakening and Self-Remembering ~ in pride of place on the Recommended Reading page of the Living Presence website. They are included with books by Fourth Way luminaries Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Collin.

 

livingpresence.com/recommended-reading

 


 

The Gentle Souls Revolution

Five years in a little cult called “school”, oops, I mean “the study”

 

April 3, 2012

Chapter 6, Part 2 – Work on the Self: Psychological ideas

 


 

27east

 

Arts & Living

July 25, 2022

 

In His Memoir, Spencer Schneider Recounts

A Manhattan Cult Story

 

By Annette Hinkle

 

Back in 1989, when an acquaintance invited Spencer Schneider, then 29, to a nondescript unmarked building on lower Broadway in Manhattan for his first meeting, he was not all that impressed. Referred to simply as School, the group adhered to the teachings of two esoteric Russian philosophers, George Gurdjieff and Piotr Ouspensky, and on that first night, Schneider, who had never heard of the pair despite being a philosophy major at Washington University, found the lecture uninteresting and difficult to follow.

 

In short, nothing about that initial meeting made him think he’d return, and he certainly didn’t think he was on the verge of being swept up into a movement that would become an all-encompassing part of his life.

 

But that’s exactly what happened.

 


 

Upper Lobby

 

The Work, The Fourth Way, The Theatre, Cults, Cult Leaders, George Gurdjieff, Sexual Abuse, Beverly, Massachusetts, Gurdjieff Ideas, Work on Oneself, Spiritual Groups, Teacher-Student Relationships, Cumbres, Work Group

 

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014
 
 
Disconcerting passages from William Patrick Patterson’s book, Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, The Man, The Teaching, His Mission. At the risk of appearing obsessed with the inappropriate nature of Gurdjieff’s sexual relationship with many of his female students, I present these quotes with the background knowledge that Cesareo also took advantage of many of his male students — at the same time professing to be a teacher in the Gurdjieff Work tradition. What’s the difference?
 
 
1916. Finland. “(Dr.) Stjoernval, who has been sitting quietly suddenly exclaims — “Yes! I believe Georgi Ivanovitch is not less than Christ himself!”
 
28 September 1919. Tiflis. Elizabeth Stjoernval gives birth to a son, Nikolai. Gurdjieff is the father.
 
***
 
31 December 1923. Prieuré. Jeanne de Salzmann gives birth to a son, Mikhail (“like unto God”), though known in France as Michel. Gurdjieff is the father.
 
3 March 1934. Leysin, Switzerland. At sixty years of age, Alexander Gustav Salzmann dies of tuberculosis. Earlier, living alone in a hotel in Fontainebleau, with Gurdjieff refusing to visit him, he had gathered all his strength and sought Gurdjieff out at the Café Henri IV. To a student sitting nearby, who has brought him halvah and other delicacies, smuggled from the Prieuré, Gurdjieff is “not very kind” to him. (Footnote #23: Why did de Salzmann leave Gurdjieff? Because Gurdjieff had impregnated his wife Jeanne? Gurdjieff had done the same with Dr. Stjoernval’s wife and he had stayed. So was this a test from Gurdjieff’s point of view of his seriousness?) {Blogger’s note: Really? Gurdjieff had sex with one man’s wife and that justifies the use of another’s?}
 
***
 
16 September 1924. Philadelphia. Jessmin Howarth gives birth to a daughter, Cynthia Ann, called “Dushka” (“darling” in Russian). Gurdjieff is the father.
 
***
 
January 1928. Prieuré. Edith Taylor has had an affair with a married man. He is willing to leave his wife but not to marry her. Gurdjieff consoles her and at some point they become intimate.  Not long afterward, Edith discovers she is pregnant.
 
13 November 1928. Rouen, France. Edith Taylor gives birth to a daughter. Gurdjieff is the father. He names the baby Evdokia, his mother’s name, which is shortened to Eve. Edith calls her “Petey”.
 
***
 
January 1949. New York. Frank Lloyd Wright, Olgivanna and their daughter Iovanna visit. Gurdjieff seats Olgivanna beside him at dinner and the two speak together in Russian the entire evening. Wright had heard the rumor that women followers had to have sex with Gurdjieff if they really wanted to be initiated into his work. The babies were to be “seekers of truth.” When Wright raises this with his wife she tells him, “But, Frank, he was my teacher. It was completely different from two lovers.”
 
***
 
There were at least two other children born to Mr. Gurdjieff and whomever. Who knows how many sexual encounters happened.
 
I suppose that Mr. de Hartmann, Dr. Stjoernval, Mr. de Salzmann, Dr. Walker, Mr. Orage, Dr. Nicoll and many other young men can take posthumous solace in the fact that Gurdjieff was heterosexual. Had Mr. G been gay, they might have had a tougher time rationalizing some sexual encounters with a man they only loved as a teacher.
 
Still, it does beg the question: Would you let Jesus have sex with your wife?
 

 

Golden Veil February 1, 2019Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog

 

Big Fish Teaches Students to Deep Dive in a Small Pond

 

Apparently a former member of the Gurdjieff Foundation, William Patrick Patterson is satisfying the thirst of some teacher seekers and monetizing his knowledge of the Fourth Way in a seminar next month in Tucson, Arizona.

 

Love the photo!

 

gurdjiefflegacy.org/20announce/events.php?page=2#seminar1

 


 

Artemis44July 21, 2019

 

I downloaded a complimentary issue of Patterson’s ‘Gurdjieff Journal’ (the link is at the end).

 

I noticed that the free issue was no. 29. Since the current issue with REB on the cover is 79 and it’s a quarterly publication, the complimentary issue is from 2009 or before. The first article is ‘Rosie, Sharon, Alex, Robert & The Work’ which indicates that Patterson has been in a crusade against REB for a while, probably to avoid competition to his online school as WR suggested.

 

drive.google.com

 


 

Tim Campion July 21, 2019

 

A short excerpt about Robert Burton from Patterson’s 1998 book, Taking With the Left Hand and another anecdote about close encounters with Patterson’s group can be found here.

 


 

Insider July 22, 2019

 

Here is the link to Issue #79 of The Gurdjieff Journal:

 

dropbox.com

 


 

Gurdjieff & Taking With the Left Hand by William Patrick Patterson (Author) and Barbara Allen Patterson (Editor)

 

Prologue [excerpt]

 

Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, the extraordinary messenger who introduced and established in the West the ancient esoteric teaching of self-development of The Fourth Way, understood that – as with all things in time – gaps, intervals, counter currents would appear that could deflect or distort his teaching from its original direction. There would appear self-appointed teachers who would distort or deflect his message and Mr. Gurdjieff would call them “Candidates for Hasnamuss.” They would “take with the left hand,” as it is said in the East, where the left hand is used when toilet paper is lacking.

 

He had brought this sacred teaching to the West because he realized, as he said, “Unless the ‘wisdom’ of the East and the ‘energy’ of the West was harnessed and used harmoniously, the world would be destroyed.” Being esoteric in the true sense, the teaching, he said, had been “completely unknown up to the present time.”

 

The deflections and distortions that have occurred have manifested at the margins of the teaching. However noxious, they have had their use in that they served to test a seeker’s desire for spiritual evolution and knowledge rather than power, beauty and sex. Previously, these “takers of the left hand” have been ignored, for whatever is said only brings them attention. And yet a time comes when so much has been taken that the public—the seedbed of the teaching—must be warned against the false posing as the true.

 

Robert Earl Burton I have never met. I know of him through newspaper accounts, personal contacts with his former students, and his book Self-Remembering. Burton claims his Fellowship of Friends is a school of the Fourth Way. However, Burton’s only teacher was Alexander Horn, a faux-Gurdjieffian, who tried to enter but was not accepted into the teaching.

 

Of all Burton’s students I’ve met over the years, the only one of his inner circle was Ed Grieve. He was at the dinner Burton held for Lord Pentland. Pentland had contacted Burton because he was having his students put bookmarks advertising the Fellowship of Friends into Fourth Way books and with the film version of Meetings with Remarkable Men, he had students standing outside theaters passing out Fellowship flyers. Grieve told me that Burton believed Pentland was coming to hand over his students to him because he had recognized Burton’s “higher development,” and even bet on this with several students. In fact, Pentland was coming to ask Burton to make a sizable contribution to the film inasmuch as he was falsely profiting by it.

 

On Pentland’s arrival, Burton presented him with an expensive sleeping pillow, his idea of an esoteric joke. Several of Burton’s close students joined the two for dinner, Grieve was one of the servers. “Watching the two of them together,” Grieve said, “there was just no question of who was awake and who asleep, and I left the next day to become a student of Lord Pentland’s.”

 

The number of Burton’s students has greatly declined with the continuing sex scandals and lawsuits, but those who believe he is, as he declares, “a goddess in a man’s body,” stay blindly loyal. Always a great merchandizer, Burton has attempted to solve the student problem by creating an online school, headed by a married Israeli student, Burton’s “close friend” Asaf Braverman. So the “esoteric” Fellowship parade continues.

 


 

From Skeptic’s Dictionary
by Robert Todd Carroll, est. 1994

 

G. I. Gurdjieff (1872?-1949)

 

What makes a guru such as Gurdjieff attractive as a spiritual conquistador is his seemingly shrewd observation that most human beings who are awake act as if they are asleep. Gurdjieff also observed that most people are dead on the inside. I think he meant by these claims that most people are passive sheep and need a guru to give their lives vitality and meaning. That is to say, I believe Gurdjieff correctly noted that most people are neither skeptics nor self-motivated, and that many are easily duped by gurus because they want someone to show them the way to live a meaningful life. He offered to show his followers the way to true wakefulness, a state of awareness and vitality which transcends ordinary consciousness. He was able to attract a coterie of writers, artists, wealthy widows and other questing souls to work his farm for him in exchange for sharing his wisdom. He offered numerous claims and explanations for everything under the moon, rooted in little more than his own imagination and never tempered with concern for what science might have to say about his musings.

 

 

The Gurdjieff Foundation has about two dozen centers, mostly in north America.

 

There are Gurdjieff-Ouspensky Centers in over 30 countries around the world; they are operated by the Fellowship of Friends and are not associated with the Gurdjieff Foundation but with Robert Earl Burton.

 

 

Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way:

A Critical Appraisal

 

Controversy

 

Almost from the beginning of Gurdjieff’s teaching mission in the West, he was surrounded by controversy, rumour and speculation.

 

Critics, outside observers and even some of his own students questioned his intentions, credentials as a spiritual teacher, methods, traditional attitudes and beliefs, use of alcohol, sexual behavior and validity of the ideas he presented.

 

Was he a genuine spiritual teacher or a charlatan, an ‘Emissary from Above’ or a ‘black magician’?

 


 

Associated Press May 7, 2019Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog

 

Digging further found:

 

A project of:
Learning Institute for Growth, Healing and Transformation (LIGHT)

 

lightwinnipeg.org

 


 

Golden Veil May 7, 2019

 

I found it, too. Fellowship of Friends former member Joel Friedlander is quoted [in the part below] footnoted (22) and William Patterson (24) in “Gurdieff and the Fourth Way: A Critical Appraisal” in the section Contemporary Status of the Work, pages 6 – 17, which I have excerpted below. In footnote (24), the Fellowship of Friends is specifically mentioned.

 

~ ~ ~

 

The techniques used by some “teachers” to transmit Work ideas can have a powerful and potentially negative effect on students if not properly employed:

 

“It has been reported that in an effort to provide the ‘friction’ or difficulties that are deemed necessary to the Work, ‘teachers’ have made their unwitting students endure extreme periods of sleeplessness, fasting, silence, irrational and sudden demands, extraordinary physical efforts, and so on.” (22)

 

A more extreme distortion of the Gurdjieff group dynamic occurs in the case where the leader manipulates students for ego satisfaction or personal gain. (23)  Some of these groups have all the characteristics of a cult. (24)  Psychologist Charles Tart warns of the dangers of becoming involved in such groups:

 

Gurdjieff’s ideas readily lend themselves to authoritarian interpretations that turn work based on them into cults (in the worst sense of the term), giving great power to a charismatic leader. Some of these leaders are deluded about their level of development but are very good at influencing others. Some are just plain charlatans who appreciate the services and money available from devoted followers. It is dangerous to get involved with any group teaching Gurdjieff’s ideas. It may be led by a charlatan, it may be only a social group with no real teaching effect, it may be riddled with pathological group dynamics that hurt its members. (25)

 

FOOTNOTES for the above:

 

(22) Joel Friedlander: “The Work Today,” Gnosis No. 20, Summer 1991, p. 40.

 

(23) Frank Sinclair, a past president of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, with many years experience observing various Work groups, writes in Without Benefit of Clergy (Xlibris, 2005, p. 15) that many group leaders are “subject to weaknesses and sins, not to speak of downright ignorance, appalling self-conceit, unexamined arrogance, and presumptuous elitism: how many there are who profess to have been ‘specially prepared’ and singled out (often only by themselves) to carry the torch.”

 

(24) An example of a cult masking as a Fourth Way group is the Gurdjieff Ouspensky Center, also known as the Fellowship of Friends. The organization refers to its studies as a Gurdjieff/Ouspensky teaching (although Ouspensky is clearly their major inspiration) and claims that it has expanded the scope of these teachings by introducing cultural and philosophical material from the world’s great spiritual traditions and thinkers. This organization differs from most Gurdjieff groups in their active recruitment of followers; and there have been a number of serious allegations about the organization and in particular the leader of the movement, Robert Burton. See James Moore: “Gurdjieffian Groups in Britain” (Religion Today, Volume 3(2), 1986, pp. 1-4), Theodore Nottingham: “The Fourth Way and Inner Transformation” (Gnosis No. 20, Summer 1991, p. 22) and William Patterson: Taking With the Left Hand (Fairfax, California: Arete Communications, 1998).

 

(25) Charles Tart: Waking Up (Boston: Shambhala, 1986), pp. 288-289.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Word about the Fellowship of Friends does get around! At times, former members even broadcast their own experiences and raise awareness about “The School” without revealing that they, too, were once members.

 


 

NEW CULT
________

 

Forest Temple of Hard Work
and Rough Food.

 

by E. C. Bowyer

 

 

Journalist E. C. Bowyer spent a week visiting Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Fontainebleau France, five months after it opened. He begins with an account of the Study House and the student’s spartan daily life. Bowyer interviews his guide, A. R. Orage and describes the various stages of instruction at the Institute, the participation of children, the practice of movements, and the occasional feasts enjoyed by everyone. Returning to London, Bowyer interviewed P. D. Ouspensky. His reports were serialised on front pages of the Daily News (London) 15-19 February, 1923. The word ‘cult’ did not then have a pejorative connotation.  J. W. D.

   

 

FAMOUS DISCIPLES

 

In the following article a Special Correspondent of the Daily News reveals some of the leading facts relating to a remarkable new cult which has attracted to itself many Englishmen and Englishwomen bearing well-known and even famous names. The leader of the movement is Gurdjieff, an Eastern philosopher-mystic, and the article describes the “Study House” in the historic Forest of Fontainebleau, some 40 miles from Paris, where his disciples follow a course of hard work and harder fare.

 

Daily News Editor

 

bowyer new-cult

 

 

The Forest Philosophers

 

C. E. Bechhofer Roberts

 

 

Carl Eric Bechhofer Roberts first met Gurdjieff in Tiflis in 1919 and visited Gurdjieff’s Institute several times but “preferred to remain an intimate and disinterested spectator.” The English spelling Gurdjieff / Gurdjiev was not yet fixed.  J. W. D.

 

 

Of all the mystics who have become prominent in Europe during the last twelve years or so, and especially since the war, when their numbers have been doubled, I cannot recall that any has attracted so much interest in so short a time as George Ivanovitch Gurdjiev, the founder of the “Institute for the [Harmonious] Development of Man” at Fountainebleau, near Paris . . . I shall endeavour to set down here the main theories that underlie Gurdjiev’s methods and the form they take in practice. 

 

roberts forest-philosophers

 

 

A Visit to Gourdyev

 

Denis Saurat

 

 

Professor Saurat visited the Prieuré for a weekend in February 1923. He describes contradictory impressions of Gurdjieff who appears alternately contemptuous, provocative, irritable then finally serious and “extraordinarily courteous.” This skeptical article stimulated discussion about Gurdjieff among French intellectuals and journalists. Saurat eventually revised his opinion of Gurdjieff and came to recognize Beelzebub’s Tales as a major work. The English spelling of Gurdjieff’s name was not yet fixed and is here given as ‘Gourdyev’ in keeping with the Russian pronunciation.
   

 

Saturday morning, February 17th 1923. The Fontainebleau station.
    Orage comes to meet me when I arrive by train from Paris. Orage is a big Yorkshireman of vague French descent; hence his name is taken from the French word for storm. For fifteen years he has been a power in English literary circles. He owned a half-literary, half-political weekly review, the New Age, which was the most lively intellectual organ in England between 1910 and 1914.
    Orage might have been the greatest critic in English literature, which has produced few critics, and which is dying of that lack, though it revives every time a writer of genius emerges and joins a great tradition. But Orage sold the New Age and went to Fontainebleau: literature interested him no more.
    I am surprised at his appearance . . .

 

 

(p. 7)

  
    The disciples add that [Gourdyev] has defined himself as a disseminator of solar energy, which they pretend not to understand.
    Is there a God? I ask.
    ‘Yes, and Gourdyev is in communication with Him. Almost like an independent, obstinate minister with his king.’  Women, they say, have no real possibility of acquiring a soul except by contact and sexual union with men.
 

saurat visit to gourdyev

 

 

From gurdjieff-bibliography.com/Current/index.

 


 

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

 

• Susan B. Anthony, in an address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1896)

 

wikiquote.org/wiki/God

 


 

Colin Wilson writes about “Gurdjieff’s reputation for seducing his female students. (In Providence, Rhode Island, in 1960, a man was pointed out to me as one of Gurdjieff’s illegitimate children. The professor who told me this also assured me that Gurdjieff had left many children around America).”

 

Although no evidence or documents have certified anyone as a child of Gurdjieff, the following seven people are believed to be his children:

  • Cynthie Sophia “Dushka” Howarth (1924–2010); her mother was dancer Jessmin Howarth. She went on to found the Gurdjieff Heritage Foundation.
  • Sergei Chaverdian; his mother was Lily Galumnian Chaverdian.
  • Andrei, born to a mother known only as Georgii.
  • Eve Taylor (born 1928); the mother was one of his followers, American socialite Edith Annesley Taylor.
  • Nikolai Stjernvall (1919–2010), whose mother was Elizaveta Grigorievna, wife of Leonid Robertovich de Stjernvall.
  • Michel de Salzmann (1923–2001), whose mother was Jeanne Allemand de Salzmann; he later became head of the Gurdjieff Foundation.
  • Svetlana Hinzenberg (1917–1946), daughter of Olga (Olgivanna) Ivanovna Hinzenberg and a future stepdaughter of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

 

In the early 1930s, Gurdjieff publicly ridiculed one of his pupils, Alfred Richard Orage. In response, his wife Jessie Dwight wrote the following poem about Gurdjieff:

 

    He calls himself, deluded man,
    The Tiger of The Turkestan.
    And greater he than God or Devil
    Eschewing good and preaching evil.
    His followers whom he does glut on
    Are for him naught but wool and mutton,
    And still they come and sit agape
    With Tiger’s rage and Tiger’s rape.
    Why not, they say, The man’s a god;
    We have it on the sacred word.
    His book will set the world on fire.
    He says so – can God be a liar?
    But what is woman, says Gurdjieff,
    Just nothing but man’s handkerchief.
    I need a new one every day,
    Let others for the washing pay.

 

Wikipedia | George Gurdjieff

 


 

From Episodes with Gurdjieff by Edwin Wolfe

 

In 1939

 

I was alone with Mr. Gurdjieff at a table in Child’s Restaurant on Fifth Avenue near 57th Street. It was almost dusk of a winter day. The Child’s Mr. Gurdjieff called his night office. Another Child’s over on Columbus Circle was his day office.

We sat for awhile in silence. He seemed to be looking out the front window at the people passing by in the waning light. It was beginning to snow.

“Wolfe,” he said, “tell. How your handkerchief?”

“Mr. Gurdjieff,” I said, “I’m going to ask you to not speak about Dorothy like that. We are trying to live a good life together. A decent life. We are even trying to learn how to love one another. So, please, don’t call her my handkerchief. Please.”

“I not promise,” he said.

But he never called her that again.

 


 

Gurdjieff on Sex: Subtle Bodies, Si 12, and the Sex Life of a Sage

 

By Johanna Petsche

 

This chapter will begin with a brief background to Gurdjieff and his teaching. Gurdjieff’s views on the sex center, which governs mechanical behavior but can potentially liberate individuals, will then be examined and positioned within the context of his “three-octave” system of food transformation outlined in Pyotr Demianovich Ouspensky’s (1878-1947) In Search of the Miraculous (1949). Following this, Gurdjieff’s views on heterosexuality, homosexuality, masturbation, and gender, with a focus on his contentious statements about women, will be assessed within the context of his teaching. Finally, Gurdjieff”s own flamboyant and controversial sex life will be considered.1

 

academia.edu/5838382

 


 

October 17, 2011

 

George I. Gurdjieff, Peter D. Ouspensky and the Fourth Way

 

. . . Looking at his life and teachings, it is not difficult to determine whether or not Gurdjieff was an honest and sincere guru: he was a self-proclaimed and proud liar, a con man who delighted in remembering, as well as embellishing, his successful frauds and scams. He was an alcoholic tyrant, an avid opium user, a ‘successful’ hypnotist; his personal habits were deplorable to say the least, and he took all kinds of sexual liberties with his female followers by procreating several children with them.

 

ilcredino.blogspot.com

 


 

Gurdjieff International Review

 

The Strange Cult of Gurdjieff

 

An Insider’s Story of the Most Mysterious

Religious Movement in the World

 

by Armagnac

 

 

What has usually been printed about Gurdjieff, who has tried to translate Eastern knowledge into Western psychology, has been highly fanciful and mostly tosh. Practical Psychology Monthly here presents an article, not by a journalist hastily writing up the impressions of a single interview with Gurdjieff, but by a student who for twelve years was a member of the cult1 that attracted so much attention in Paris, London, Berlin and New York. The subject has never before been so thoroughly covered in a magazine article. [Editors of Practical Psychology Monthly, 1937]

 

Probably you have never heard of G. I. Gurdjieff. It’s largely because the man shuns publicity. The newshawks have descended upon him from time to time; there have been stories in the New York newspapers and in the news-magazines. But the pickings have been scanty. There have been a few articles about his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man when it was functioning at Fontainebleau, France, but they have been written by visitors who stayed there for only a very brief time. Recently a book2 devoted to modern religious leaders carried a chapter about this enigmatic teacher of psychology, but this chapter like most that have been written about Gurdjieff is highly fanciful.

 

But if little has appeared in print about this man (or superman, as some of his followers think), much has been gossiped about him in the great capitol cities, Paris, London, New York and Chicago. The fantastic tales I have heard! Usually, without a speck of truth in them. But Gurdjieff is like that—a legendary figure. Many people have called him a charlatan; some think he is a hypnotist who exploits his followers; some, including very shrewd and highly intelligent persons, say frankly that he is the greatest man alive. To the present writer Gurdjieff is an enigma, a strange individual about whom it is impossible to make up one’s mind.

 


 

From Biographies

By Peter Holleran

 

George Gurdjieff – Mysterious Trickster

 

Proponent of “The Fourth Way”, George Gurdjieff taught a hard school of self-understanding.
 

   Gurdjieff evidently had yogic powers of a sort, but controversy exists over his morals and ethics, no doubt due to his use of “crazy-wise” methods. Many students were pushed to extremes of discipline, and a few went over the edge. This might be looked upon as the mark of a good teacher, using forceful means for the benefit of his disciples, but many thought otherwise. Rom Landau wrote:

 

   “Some of his pupils would at times complain that they could no longer support Gurdjieff’s violent temper, his apparent greed for money, or the extravagance of his private life.” (5)

 

John Bennett said that

 

   “(Gurdjieff) spoke of women in terms that would have better suited a fanatical Muslim polygamist than a Christian, boasting that he had many children by different women, and that women were for him only the means to an end.” (6)

 

   Every teacher has his detractors, particularly those teachers who make bold, dramatic use of the energies of life for teaching purposes, but it is not our intent to criticize character. Teachers can make mistakes, however, and the ways of any one teacher are not necessarily the way for all students. Gurdjieff used strong and shocking means to reveal his students to themselves, and he particularly liked to hit upon the “sex nerve” and the “pocketbook nerve”. He said that “nothing shows up people so much as their attitude toward money”, and through casual incidents he delighted in awakening people to the hypocrisy of their gentile ways. He liked to keep people on the edge of financial ruin, creating one disaster after another, saying that if they felt too comfortable they would not grow.

 

   The “crazy-wise” teaching methods have a long history, and must always be seen in context. What works for some, may not work for others, and cannot be imitated. What is most important to remember about a teacher, says Arthur Deikman, is this:

 

   “Teachers will be imperfect. What you need to be able to count on is them doing their job.” (6a)

 

Gurdjieff apparently had yogic powers, and it is said that he purposely helped to delay the death of his wife a few more days because she was close to enlightenment. Through his help it is claimed that she would not need to come back to this world because she did in fact attain awakening.

 

   As mentioned earlier, Gurdjieff (because of his obscure writing style) is better understood through his interpreters. Indeed, when writing All and Everything, Gurdjieff continually changed his wording in this long book whenever he saw that disciples understood what he had written! Again, this was an example of his “burying the dog.” He felt that the work was more useful when one was kept in a state of confusion on the level of the mind, forcing one to dig deeper for the truth.

 

John Bennett summarizes his basic form of argument:

 

   “You think you know who you are and what you are; but you do not know either what slaves you now are, or how free you might become. Man can do nothing: he is a machine controlled by external influences, not by his own will, which is an illusion. He is asleep. He has no permanent self that he can call ‘I’. Because he is not one but many, his moods, his impulses, his very sense of his own existence are no more than a constant flux… Make the experiment of trying to remember your own existence and you will find that you cannot remember yourselves even for two minutes. How can man, who cannot remember who and what he is, who does not know the forces that move him to action, pretend that he can do anything?” (7)

 

The “Fourth Way” was Gurdjieff’s term for the way taught in his system. According to him, there are three traditional paths, those of the faqir, the monk, and the yogi. The faqir works on disciplining the physical body with harsh austerities. The monk works on his emotions with prayer, fasting, and meditation. The yogi attempts to discipline his mind and alter his state of consciousness. “The fourth way” is that of simultaneously working on the other three dimensions (which correspond with the three bodies: physical, emotional or astral, and mental (which Gurdjieff called the spiritual) while applying the process of self-observation to make oneself less mechanical. This is the way of the “cunning man”, who thus surpassed the faqir, the monk, and the yogi and came to know the true “I” which was the presiding ego, the ‘divine’ body, the owner of the other three bodies. With this language, almost theosophical in character, one can see the possible limit of Gurdjieff’s teachings in encompassing the higher non-dual philosophy. How many of Gurdjieff’s followers found the Self, as opposed to the “I” or ‘ego-soul’? How many knew the ‘I AM’? Did Gurdjieff himself attain such realization?

 


 

GURDJIEFF: LIFE AND CONTROVERSY

 

A critical investigation of a subject who inspired a partisan movement and also much controversy. Gurdjieff has been diversely described as an occultist, a hypnotist, a mystic, a holistic philosopher, and a charlatan.

 

citizenthought.net

 


 

AMONG

THE DERVISHES

 

By Omar Michael Burke

 

The Octagon Press

London, 1973

 

An account of travels in Asia and Africa,

and four years studying the Dervishes, Sufis and Fakirs,

by living among them.

 

Speaking several Oriental languages, traveling as a dervish pilgrim, O. M. Burke lived and studied with ancient communities in the Near and Middle East. This first-hand report is no ordinary book of travel.

 

O. M. Burke’s modern-day pilgrimage begins in a school built like a medieval rock fortress hidden in northern India. From there he takes the reader to monasteries where ancient lore is still taught, along the pilgrim road to forbidden Mecca and into the heart and mind of Asia.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

From CHAPTER TWO: Solo to Mecca (pp. 35-37)

 

Although most historians deal only with individual orders of Sufis, these splinters are not in fact the main centres of Sufi activity. United congregations, their members drawn from several of the fraternities, are today’s rule among the Sufis, whether of Arabia, Africa or Central Asia.

 

Sheikh al-Jabri was born in Tunisia. After attaining initiation into five or six Orders, he was finally accepted as a teacher of a ‘united lodge’. This Zawiia regarded itself as purged of the drawbacks of the personality-cult Orders and concentrated upon human self-improvement as part of a combined effort.

 

It was in this company that I learned about the inner circle in Sufism. In the presence of strangers or members wedded to maintaining the name or identity of any particular Order, the members will behave as if they belong to that Order. They will use its hoary rituals, speak only of its venerated founder, wear its distinctive headgear. But when operating as an inner circle, the entire ‘lodge’ will revert to what they call the ‘activity’ of the original Way, sometimes called the Working of the Foundation, or Fundamental Work. This phrase is extremely difficult to translate, because it can also mean such things as ‘the work of the archetypes’, which means in turn the group regards its activities as being identical with the parallel actions of an extraterrestrial force which guides them.

 

    Sheikh al-Jabri was learned both in the traditional lore of the Four Ways and also in modern methods of thought. Unlike the saintly type of North African mystic which is so common in the Great Maghreb, his earliest studies had been carried out in Europe, and had not been theological at all. It was only after he was thirty years old that he started to attend the great teaching centres of Kairawan and Mulai Idriss.

 

    His father had been in Turkish service, and sent the boy to Paris, where he attended school and later the University of Paris. He had absorbed Western ways of thought and graduated in French literature. He knew a great deal of English, besides, because he was an import-export merchant carrying on a flourishing trade with Britain and the Commonwealth.

 

    The Sheikh was married to a Lebanese woman, and his sons had attended the American University in Beirut.
    He advised me to study not Sufism alone, but the attitudes, opinions and way of life of the people of the East and of the West. This, he said, was because otherwise I would simply equate Sufism with the East. I would not be able to descry the thread of Sufi thought and ‘being’ in both cultures unless I knew what was not Sufism.

 

    ‘My son and brother,’ he smiled, stroking his white beard and looking at me through brilliant Berber-blue eyes, ‘too many Westerners become orientalised. This is sometimes because they seek spirituality in the East and think that therefore everything in the East is for them or can teach them something. Do not be like them.’

 
    I asked him what, in the West, we could cultivate and emulate, in order to make our own tradition stronger. He gave me some strange examples. The first was team-spirit. This enabled man to understand what it was to work with others in harmony. The second was not democracy but a preparation for it. This enabled one to value democracy which itself was the prelude to understanding the real equality of man. The third was respecting other people. This, he said, enabled one to respect oneself. ‘But you cannot respect yourself unless you respect others. This is a great secret.’

 

    I was to be very sure, he stressed, that I realised that these three valuable secrets were points of development which were already deeply rooted in my own culture. It was for me to help them grow, to defend them, to work on them.
    ‘Unless you have the three things in your heart, you are a hypocrite if you say that you are looking for a teacher.’
    We had many talks, and I many times attended the sessions of the Sufis who were with Sheikh Jabri. One day he said to me:
    ‘I cannot teach you, though you sometimes ask me, things which you demand to know . . . But I can help you towards learning some of these things, perhaps by an unfamiliar route. Are you ready to travel?’
    Although I did not really want to leave this companionship, I said that I was.
    ‘Very well. See how life is for some of your fellow men. Go to Tunisia, see some friends of mine. Perchance you will see something about man through their eyes.’

 

 

From CHAPTER EIGHT: The Followers of Jesus (pp. 109-110)

 

    Sufi Abdul-Hamid Khan, Master of the Royal Afghan Mint and something of a polymath – military engineer, calligraphist, sage and expert on rhythmic exercises – must have been over ninety years of age. A follower of the Mir of Gazarga, he could remember in considerable detail the events which had taken place eighty or more years ago.

 

    A frequent visitor to Kunji Zagh, he had spent many years in Bokhara, and it was there that he had come across the redoubtable Gurdjieff, whose studies of Eastern metaphysical systems were introduced into Europe about the time of the First World War.

 
    Although the people of Kunji Zagh called Gurdjieff ‘The Russian Tatar’, Sufi Abdul-Hamid said that he was in reality partly Mongolian, part-Russian, part-Greek. According to the Sufi, this Jurjizada (Son of George) had once been a Theosophist, had also studied in an Orthodox seminary, and ‘was responsive’ to the Sufic ‘waves’ – could, in other words, contact the mental activity which emanated from the ‘work’ of the dervishes. This, together with a curiosity about the occult, led him to the shrine of Bahauddin, the Naqshbandi teacher in Bokhara.

 

    Here another Bahauddin, known as Dervish Baha, had taught him certain ‘secrets’. Among them were the ‘sacred dances’ or movements made by the dervishes, the rules of the Order and the ‘inner interpretation’ of the Sufi texts. Then he sent him on a tour of the centres of the Sufis, some in Egypt, some in Syria, some in India.
    Seeing the strange effects of the Sufi practices, Gurdjieff decided that he would find out how they worked. In order to do this, he and a number of friends collected as much of the material used by the Order as they could, and fled with it ‘to the West’.

 

    ‘Unfortunately,’ continued Abdul-Hamid, ‘Jurjizada was at too early a stage to do anything final with the material. He had not yet learned, for instance, that the exercises and the music had to be carried out with special people at certain times in a special order of events. As a result he propounded the theory of the Complete Man without being able to take it into practice.’
    Further, Gurdjieff tried to make the method work by trying out the exercises on a large number of people. The result?

 

    ‘Here in Afghanistan we still receive, like faint radio messages, the influence of the minds of the pupils of Gurdjieff, coming from far away. They must still be carrying on the exercises, but they don’t know how, when or with whom to do them.’

 

As soon as I got back to Europe, I found that some at least of this information might be true. After the first War, the Russian and a disciple of his, the philosopher Ouspensky, settled in France and England respectively. They set up teaching groups, and – I was told – several of these still existed. But they remained fully secret. Probably, like the custodians of any secret knowledge which had become reduced in quality, they would continue to operate, perhaps for generations . . .

 


 

A Gurdjieff Genealogy: Tracing the Manifold Ways the Gurdjieff Teaching has Travelled

 

By Johanna Petsche

 

This article examines the diverse routes that G. I. Gurdjieff’s (c.1866-1949) work has traversed, from the time of the very first Gurdjieff-based groups established in his lifetime in England, America and France, to the new groups that formed around the world after his death. Focus is inevitably paid to the dramatic changes made by Jeanne de Salzmann after Gurdjieff’s death, when she took the reins from Gurdjieff and restructured groups, forming a network of orthodox, hierarchical ‘Foundation’ groups that taught Gurdjieffian principles and exercises in a formalised manner. These Foundation groups and their core practices will be examined. Not all of Gurdjieff’s followers amalgamated into this network; an assortment of Gurdjieff-based groups remain outside of it. These can be considered ‘independent’ and ‘fringe’ groups, and will also be considered. An in-depth study of the existence and development of these Gurdjieff-centred groups has never before been attempted, and is crucial to an appreciation of the influence and relevance of Gurdjieff today. It is primarily through these groups that Gurdjieff’s work has been carried on, expanded, modified, preserved, and/or assimilated with other religio-spiritual teachings.

 

academia.edu/5838275

 


 

Appendix TEXTUAL CHRONOLOGY OF GURDJIEFF’S LIFE

 


 

Gurdjieff and Blavatsky: Western Esoteric Teachers in Parallel

 

By Johanna Petsche

 

This article is concerned with the largely unexamined interrelations between the biographies (both factual and mythological), public personas, and teachings of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) and George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949). Although their lifetimes overlap in the late nineteenth century, Blavatsky and Gurdjieff never met.1  The years that most obviously link them are between 1912 and 1916, after Blavatsky’s death, when Gurdjieff was establishing himself as a spiritual teacher and formulating his teachings in Moscow and St Petersburg. At this time Theosophy was flourishing in Russia, particularly in these cities, which were major centres for the occult revival. It will be posited that Gurdjieff capitalised on the popularity of Theosophy by donning a Blavatsky-like image and using recognisable Theosophical terminology in order to attract followers in Russia. 

 

Blavatsky and Gurdjieff were pioneers in reviving occult traditions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and in introducing Eastern religious and philosophical ideas to the West. Charismatic and controversial, both courted reputations as charlatan gurus,2 impostors, and spies,3 and they remain problematic figures, vilified by some while emphatically honoured by others.

 

academia.edu/5838316

 


 

Gurdjieff International Review

 

Gurdjieff

Chronology

 

By James Moore

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Gurdjieff

International Review

 

Winter 1998/1999 Issue, Vol. II No. 2

 

Special Issue on P. D. Ouspensky

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Rodney Collin

 

A Man Who Wished To Do Something With His Life

 

Terje Tonne

 

 

Since I first came into contact with Rodney Collin’s writing, his simple and honest approach to life and the Gurdjieff Work has always struck me deeply. Whether it is in his books, collected notes, unpublished manuscripts or his personal letters—it’s always there.

 

Rodney Collin-Smith was born on the 26th of April 1909 in the coastal town of Brighton, England. His father, Frederick Collin-Smith, had retired early from his business as a general merchant in London and after traveling in Europe and Egypt had settled down in Brighton. There Rodney’s father married Kathleen Logan, much younger than he and the daughter of a local hotel owner. Kathleen was a member of the local Theosophical Society and had a strong interest in astrology, possibly the source of some of Rodney Collin’s later interests. She also worked extensively with transcribing books for the blind.

 

After boarding school at Ashford Grammar School in Kent, Rodney Collin studied at the London School of Economics, where he received his Bachelor of Commerce degree. He worked as a freelance journalist supplying articles on art and travel to the [London] Evening Standard and the Sunday Referee. In 1930, on a pilgrimage organized by the Christian organization Toc-H, he met Janet Buckley. That same year he read Ouspensky’s A New Model of the Universe. Four years later, Collin and Buckley married in London.

 

In 1935 Collin and Buckley attended some lectures given in London by Maurice Nicoll. After meeting Ouspensky in September 1936, Rodney Collin knew instantly that he had found that which he had been looking for in his extensive reading and traveling. Robert de Ropp, at that time also a member of Toc-H, was most likely a source for their developing interest in the Work ideas. Regardless of what perspective one assumes for a description or interpretation of Collin’s work, it is not possible to overstate both the direct and the indirect influence of Ouspensky . . .

 


 

The Theory of

CELESTIAL INFLUENCE

 

Man, The Universe, and Cosmic Mystery

 

By Rodney Collin

 

 

INTRODUCTION [excerpt]

 

Meanwhile, to the ordinary man, interested in his own fate but not particularly in science, it can only be said that perhaps, on closer examination, he may find this book in fact not so ‘scientific’ as it at first appears. Scientific language is the fashionable language of the day, just as the language of psychology was the fashionable language thirty years ago, the language of passion the fashionable language in Elizabethan times, and the language of religion the fashionable language of the Middle Ages. When people are induced to buy toothpaste or cigarettes by pseudo-scientific arguments and explanations, evidently this in some way corresponds to the mentality of the age, and truths must also be scientfically expressed.

 

At the same time, this is not to suggest that the scientific language used is a disguise, a pretence or a falsification. The explanations given are, as far as it has been possible to verify, quite correct and they correspond to actual facts.3  What is claimed is that the principles used could with equal correctness be applied to any other form of human experience, with equally or more interesting results. And that it is these principles which are of importance, rather than the sciences to which they are applied.

 

Where do these principles come from? To answer this question, it becomes necessary to acknowledge my complete indebtedness to one man, and to explain to a certain extent how this indebtedness came about. 

  

I first met Ouspensky in London, where he was giving private lectures, in September 1936. These ‘lectures’ referred to an extraordinary system of knowledge, quite incomparable with anything I had encountered before, which he had received from a man whom he called ‘G’. This system, however was not new: on the contrary it was said to be a very ancient one, which had always existed in hidden form and traces of which could from time to time be seen coming to the surface of history in one guise or another. Although it explained in an extraordinary way countless things about man and the universe, which had seemed hitherto quite inexplicable, its sole purpose – as O. constantly stressed – was to help individual men to awake to a different level of consciousness.
    Any attempts to use this knowledge for other and more ordinary purposes he discouraged or forbade altogether.

 

    Yet despite the staggering completeness of this ‘system’ in itself, one could never entirely separate it from the ‘being’ of the man who expounded it, from O. himself. When anyone else tried to explain it, the ‘system’ degenerated, lost quality in some way. And although no one could entirely neutralise the great strength of the ideas in themselves, it was clear that the ‘system’ could not be taken apart from a man of a certain quite unusual level of consciousness and being. For only such a man could induce in others the fundamental changes of understanding and attitude which were necessary to grasp it.

 

 

3.  Even ‘facts’, however, are not sacred. Of two recognised and reputed scientists, writng in two books published in England in the same year (1950), one states as a ‘fact’ that the moon is moving away from the earth, the other equally categorically that it is moving towards it.

 

 

    This ‘system’, in the pure and abstract form in which it was originally given, has been recorded once and for all by Ouspensky himself in his In Search of the Miraculous. Anyone who wishes to compare the original principles with the deductions which have here been made, would do well to read that book first. They will then find themselves in a position to judge whether the applications and developments of the ideas are legitimate. And in fact, from their own point of view, it will be their duty so to judge.

 

    Personally, I felt myself at a crossroads at the time, and on the first occasion I saw O. in private – at his crowded little rooms in Gwyndyr Road – I told him that I was a writer by nature, and I asked his advice upon the courses which then lay open to me. He said, very simply, “Better not to get too involved. Later we may find something for you to write.”

 

    It was typical of the strange confidence that O. inspired that this seemed a complete answer to my problem – or rather, I felt that I no longer had to worry about it, it had been taken from me. In fact, as a result of this conversation, for just over ten years I wrote practically nothing at all. There was too much else to do. But in the end O. kept his promise. And the outline of the present book was written in the two months immediately before his death, in October 1947, as a direct result of what he was trying to achieve and show at that time. Later, a second book, continuing where this leaves off, was written after his death.

 

During the ten years’ interval, O. expounded to us in countless ways – theoretical, philosophical and practical – all the different sides of the ‘system’. When I arrived, many of those with him had already been studying in this way, and endeavoring to penetrate to the result he indicated, for ten or fifteen years, and they were able to help a newcomer like myself to understand very much of what was and what was not possible. O. tirelessly explained, tirelessly showed us our illusions, tirelessly pointed the way – yet so subtly that if one was not ready to understand, his lessons could pass one by, and it was only years later that one might remember the incident, and realise what he had been demonstrating. More violent methods may be possible, but these can also leave scars that are difficult to heal.

 

    O. never worked for the moment. It might even be said that he did not work for time – he worked only for recurrence. But this needs much explanation. In any case, he quite evidently worked and planned with a completely different sense of time from the rest of us, though to those who impatiently urged him to help them achieve quick results, he would say: “No, time is a factor. You can’t leave it out.”

 

    So the years passed. Yet although very much indeed was achieved, it often seemed to us that O. was too far ahead of us, that he had something which we had not, something which made certain possibilities practical for him that remained theoretical for us, and which for all his explaining, we did not see how to get. Some essential key seemed missing. Later, this key was shown. But that is a different story.

 

    O. went to America during the war. In connection with this strange unfolding of possibilities which went by the name of O’s ‘lectures’, I remember how in New York about 1944 he gave us a task which he said would be interesting for us. This was to ‘classify the sciences’, according to the principles which had been explained in the system; to classify them according to the worlds which they studied. He referred to the last classification of the sciences – by Herbert Spencer – and said that though it was interesting, it was not very satisfactory from our point of view nor from the point of view of our time. He also wrote to his friends in England about this task. It was only when the present book was nearing completion, some five years later, that I realised that it was in fact one answer to O’s task.

 

    O. returned to England in January 1947. He was old, ill and very weak. But he was also something else. He was a different man. So much of the vigorous, whimsical, brilliant personality, which his friends had known and enjoyed for so many years, had been left behind, that many meeting him again were shocked, baffled, or else were given a quite new understanding of what was possible in the way of development.

 

    In the bitter early spring of 1947, he called several large meetings in London of all the people who had previously listened to him, and of others who never had. He spoke to them in a new way. He said that he abandoned the system. He asked them what they wanted, and said that only from that could they begin on the way of self-remembering and consciousness.

 

It is difficult to convey the impression created. For twenty years in England before the war, O. had almost daily explained the system. He had said that everything must be referred to it, that things could only be understood in relation to it. To those who had listened to him the system represented the explanation of all difficult things, pointed the way to all good things. Its words and its language had become more familiar to them than their mother tongue. How could they ‘abandon the system’?

 

    And yet, to those who listened with positive attitude to what he now had to say, it was suddenly as though a great burden had been taken from them. They realised that in the way of development true knowledge must first be acquired and then abandoned. That exactly what makes possible the opening of one door may make impossible the opening of the next. And some for the first time began to gain an idea where lay that missing key which might admit them to the place where O. was and where they were not.

 

    After this O. retired to his house in the country, saw very few people, hardly spoke. Only he now demonstrated, now performed in actuality and in silence, that change of consciousness the theory of which he had explained so many years.

 

The story of those months can not be told here. But at dawn one September day a fortnight before his death, after a strange and long preparation, he said to a few friends who were with him: “You must start again. You must make a new beginning. You must reconstruct everything for yourselves – from the very beginning.”

 

    This then was the true meaning of ‘abandoning the system’. Every system of truth must be abandoned, in order that it may grow again. He had freed them from one expression of truth which might have become dogma, but which instead may blossom into a hundred living forms, affecting every side of life.

 

    Most important of all, ‘reconstructing everything for oneself’ evidently meant ‘reconstructing everything in oneself’, that is, actually creating in oneself the understanding which the system had made possible and achieving the aim of which it spoke – actually and permanently overcoming the old personality and acquiring a quite new level of consciousness.

 

    Thus if the present book may be taken as a ‘reconstruction’, it is only an external reconstruction, so to speak, a representation of the body of ideas we were given, in one particular form and in one particular language. Despite its scientific appearance, it has no importance whatsoever as a compendium of scientific facts or even as a new way of presenting these facts. Any significance it may have can only lie in its being derived, though at second hand, from the actual perceptions of higher consciousness, and in its indicating a path by which such consciousness may be again approached.

 

 

R.C.

 

Lyne, August 1947
Tlalpam, April 1953

 


 

WhaleRiderApril 29, 2019Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog

 

It dawned on me today that one of the reasons the fourth way works so well not only to recruit followers, but to funnel unsuspecting victims who join the cult directly into Burton’s predatory orbit is that Ouspensky’s books focus on both the “efforts” required in the so-called, pseudo-scientific “system” and also a great deal upon Ouspensky’s close relationship with his teacher, Gurdjieff.

 

To my recollection, Ouspensky doesn’t mention anyone else in his writings in such vivid detail.

 

It was all about Mr O. and Mr G., with musical accompaniment provided by Saltzman.

 

(Toward the end of Gurdjieff’s life, apparently it was all about the Benjamins…determining who could pay the most to have direct contact with him, of course after he disavowed any connection with Nicoll’s American extension of his cult. All roads lead to Gurdjieff, just like all roads lead to Burton, there are no others.)

 

So as a result of my intense study of Ouspensky’s three main books (required reading according to my center director) that’s what I was led to expect when I joined the so-called “fourth way school” called the Fellowship of Friends…that I eventually needed to have as close a relationship with my “teacher” as Ouspensky did with his – sans the “expression of negative emotions” – in order to “evolve”.

 

And in order to be a member and be “photographed” in the fourth way tradition or shown just how “asleep” I was, payment was necessary, the perfect setup for Burton’s (or other’s) predatory sexual, emotional, and financial exploitation.

 

IMO, that’s what makes the fourth way and supporting “work language” so incredibly toxic.

 

The more depersonalized I grew through the practice of “self-observation” of “the machine”, the more compliant I became. Any resistance to Burton’s agenda was negatively labeled as “willfulness” or succumbing to “feminine dominance”.

 

Fourth way ideas are also used by the cult as a self-destructive weapon to turn a person against themself…hence the evolution of “false personality versus true personality” into the FOF’s splitting of a person’s psyche into the “upper self versus lower self”.

 

Modern Psychology, on the other hand, teaches one to have a more constructive, nuanced, and inclusive relationship with a person’s unconscious parts, generally in an empathetic setting, without mystifying spiritual and delusional superstitious beliefs.

 

Bear in mind that the language of psychology, i.e. terms like cognitive dissonance, magical thinking, ideas of reference, thought reform, narcissism, ego, personality, sociopathic behavior, etc., are the lens through which the public at large can safely comprehend the cult experience (and many here regularly use to describe and understand our cult experience) without having to join a cult and learn first hand or reduce our cult experiences into a simplistic battle between good and evil.

 

For example, we look to the work of Margaret Singer, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist, who was a leading expert on the topic, to articulate the underpinning of cult behavior for us.

 

In other words, psychological language can help a person understand that in order for a pathologically narcissistic personality to thrive in a cult situation, he or she must be surrounded by people with pathologically accommodating personalities who lack healthy narcissism, myself included at the time…the cult milieu functioning as the arena for the interplay between the selfish and the selfless in all of us, without becoming self derogatory about having joined or simply pointing the finger (or giving the finger in my case) at Burton.

 

And one of the proven methods to deprogram a person from cult indoctrination such as the fourth way is to strongly suggest they “ABANDON THE SYSTEM”…ironically Ouspensky’s famous last words)…and the language associated with it.

 

(And on the off chance that anyone still in the cult is reading this, that’s your c-influence for today.)

 


 

Coming Out of the Cults
Psychology Today, January 1979
By Margaret T. Singer

 


 

Nancy GilbertJuly 21, 2019

 

npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/07/21/743408637/how-microexpressions-can-make-moods-contagious

 

This article summarizes research on the phenomena of group feel and group think, which are shown to be part and parcel of human and other animals’ inherent neurological wiring. Very interesting in view of how friends, cults and other groups affect and convert our thoughts, feelings, POV, etc. A bit like the discovery that trees and other plants in an ecosystem are all interconnected by complex pathways with mycorrhizae in the soil.

 


 

WhaleRiderJuly 22, 2019

 

Nancy Gilbert:
Thanks for the link. Here’s another aspect of FOF groupthink that can cause a follower to remain a loyal follower, waste years of their lives serving Burton’s narcissism and continue to recruit others to join the cult despite Burton’s history of collateral damage and failed predictions: the Dunning-Kruger effect.

 

“In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.

 

People perceive confident individuals as competent and, as a result, promote individuals with higher self-confidence.” ~Wikipedia

 

“We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead…they are left with the mistaken impression that they are doing just fine.”

 

Click to access 9ca64cbed9a441e55568797cbd3683cf7f8c.pdf

 

Direct lineage to Gurdjieff is neither a measure of intelligence nor competence.

 

Narcissistic, overconfident individuals who claim to be more “conscious” than others continue promoting the delusional ideas of the fourth way due to their own incompetence in the field of psychology and to compensate for their own lack of self-awareness, IMO.

 


 

RationalWiki

 

Dunning–Kruger effect

 

“To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” Amos Bronson Alcott

 

The Dunning-Kruger effect (also known as Mount Stupid[1] or Smug Snake[2]), named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger for their seminal paper of 1999.[3] The effect occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence – or specifically, their incompetence – at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence, which robs them of the ability to critically analyse their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves. In simple words: “people who are too ignorant to know how ignorant they are”. When people do not recognize their own mental illness, this is known as “anosognosia”; this is common for people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.[4]

 

The principle is illustrated indirectly by the common saying that “I’ve learned enough about ________ to know what I don’t know.” The implication is that someone who hasn’t learned much about the subject would have no appreciation for how much there is to learn about it, and so might grossly overestimate their level of understanding.

 


 

Ames Gilbert July 29, 2008

 

Here is a great PBS (Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S.A.) interview in 2004 with a person who has been in advertising for his entire adult career. He talks about the similarities between brands and cults, the good and the bad, and how marketers use this knowledge of human psychology. There is a brief mention of the Fellowship of Friends and Robert Earl Burton as an example.

 

pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/interviews/atkin.html

 


 

Traveler July 29, 2008

 

Rear View Mirror says: In some posts here on the blog, I sense an unquestioned premise that people within the FOF “just wouldn’t hear it” if information were presented to them. I disagree. The information is very cleverly obstructed or distorted or downplayed. And I personally believe that a majority of the people in the FOF still haven’t tuned into the blog for more than a few minutes. Were someone within the FOF to step forward and talk to people at length about what is happening, and present things in very formal way — i.e., hold several meetings in very public locations with many “students” around — it would have a profound effect on the opinions and attitudes of those in the FOF.

 

Very interesting, thanks for that! I wonder though. If many people in the FOF would hear dissent only when it became the next fashionable thing, has any essential change happened in them? It seems the question is big beyond how much time I want to give it right now, but I would like to hear more thoughts on this if someone else has already done the thinking. Do I want to influence members to make them change their opinions to be more in line with mine, because I know what’s good for them, or do I wish for them to think for themselves and decide independently, regardless of where that brings them at this point in time – and how are these two perspectives related? Many sub-questions…

 


 

Rear View Mirror July 29, 2008

 

Traveler,

 

People sometimes don’t ‘hear’ information because they receive a preponderance of disinformation. Of course, none of the following will happen, but think of this example: What if the above posts by Ames and Associated Press were printed and hung in huge posters at several locations at “Apollo” and at “teaching houses” around the globe? And left there for weeks? What if talks were given by cult experts every few days? People’s thinking would begin to change.

 

It’s stimulus-response thinking. And when there’s no stimulus, there’s no response. That’s one reason, as you say, it’s not “fashionable” to hear dissent in the FOF… mainly because dissent doesn’t last very long, is not very persistent, and therefore it doesn’t leave much of an impression. 

 

You wrote: “do I wish for them to think for themselves and decide independently…” 

 

Of course. But do we? Does anyone? Those are two other questions. 

 

It’s very difficult for us stimulus-response humans to think independently when everyone and everything is telling us, “We must go to war. We must go to war. We must invade Iraq. We must invade Poland. We must stay in the FOF. We must not question. We must obey.” 

 

And by the way, “obey” is a very prominent word in Ouspensky’s “Notes on the Decision to Work.” Whatever we may think about the man, he certainly had us primed and ready for the FOF experience…

 

“Think very seriously,” he wrote, “are you really ready and willing to obey, and do you fully understand the necessity for it? There is no going back… Understanding of the necessity for obeying rules and direct instructions must be based on the realization of your mechanicalness and your helplessness… You can see, if you are sincere with yourself, all the blunders and the mistakes which you made when you tried to act by yourself. You cannot think rightly. You cannot feel rightly. You need constant help. And you can have it. But you must pay for it – at least, by not arguing.”

 


 

Traveler July 29, 2008

 

OMG. This is from the Notes on the Decision to Work. To think how highly I esteemed that particular passage, how essential it was to my Work, how I would look down on those who did not take it seriously enough and with sufficient valuation, and how much I WANTED to follow. Mind-blowing.

 


 

Rear View Mirror July 29, 2008 

 

57. Traveler:

 

Yes, my sentiments as well. I hadn’t read the passage for years. Apparently, I was vulnerable to such unchallenged premises — that we are weak and helpless, that we need to obey, and so forth. 

 

“You cannot think rightly. You cannot feel rightly. You need constant help.” We were bombarded by these ideas in the FOF. 

 

Reminding ourselves that sometimes we do need help — or even that we often need help — is wise for all of us. But there’s very little sound reasoning or “understanding” in Ouspensky’s unchallenged premise that “you cannot think rightly” and that “you cannot feel rightly”. Cannot is a strong word. And if I cannot, the hidden premise is that there is someone out there for me who can think rightly, and who can feel rightly. 

 

Although….. since I cannot think rightly and feel rightly, it’s a little scary isn’t it? How am I to truly recognize someone who does if I don’t have the same in myself? 

 

Yes, very mind-blowing that I bought into these ideas.

 


 

Notes on Work

 

Notes on Work, first printed in 1952, consists of three short essays: ‘Notes on Decision to Work’, ‘Notes on Work on Oneself’, and ‘What is School?’ All deal with the degree of individual commitment required from one beginning work in the system. The chief message of Notes on Work is contained in Ouspensky’s opening paragraph: ‘Think very seriously before you decide to work on yourself with the idea of changing yourself . . . this work admits of no compromise and it requires a great amount of self-discipline and readiness to obey all rules . . .’

 

These five works were once printed in very limited quantities and made available to a small group of people who had devoted themselves for years to the study of Ouspensky’s philosophy. The decision to reprint Memory, Surface Personality, Self-Will, Negative Emotions and Notes on Work for presentation to a larger audience is based on renewed public enthusiasm, much of it taking the form of inquiries about the P. D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection at the Yale University Library. It is hoped that the many scholars and interested lay people who have come to know Ouspensky through that, and other, avenues will gain further insight into P. D. O – and themselves – by discovering this remarkable new collection.

 

Merrily E. Taylor

 

selfdefinition.org/gurdjieff/Ouspensky-Conscience.pdf

 


 

THEDOG

TEACHINGS

 

Podcast Series 3, Episode 9: Notes on Work

 

In this episode of our third series, we present two lectures, from P. D. Ouspensky’s book, Conscience. The first lecture is Notes on Decision to Work, and the second is Notes on Work on Oneself. Discussions on the preparation, aims, means, energy, and control for undertaking personal transformation. The transcript for this podcast, can be found on our website at thedogteachings.com under Resources/Podcasts.

 


 

Joe Average July 29, 2008

 

57. Traveler
65. Rear View Mirror 

 

I remember at the end of a FOF center (it is deprogramming just to spell it the US way) dinner long ago, someone read the “Notes on the Decision to Work”. As it was being read, Michael S-vick started, in a very low voice at first but building to a crescendo, to imitate the sound of a large plane flying low overhead. Initially people seemed to shrug off this markedly unFOFish behavior as just an idiosyncrasy, but eventually someone had the courage to ask him why he did that. He laughed and said “a B-52 loaded with Feminine Dominance dropping a load on us.”

 

I was able then to understand the remark and find it hilarious and simultaneously to totally accept Ouspensky’s bullshit.

 

From Orwell’s ‘1984’ (roughly from memory)

 

“It goes without saying that the members of the Inner Party were the most artful and subtle practitioners of Doublethink.” 

 

My ability to occasionally recognize the absurdities and manipulation in “The System” and Burton’s psychotic chicken gumbo sauce overlying it and yet still be certain of its higher purpose was classic doublethink and put me in the inner circus. Movement within the hierarchy usually depended on the amount of absurdity/criminality one could recognize or even actively create while still maintaining the delusion.

 


 

Rear View Mirror July 30, 2008

 

Joe Average, thanks for sharing that great story, and for your comments: “Movement within the hierarchy usually depended on the amount of absurdity/criminality one could recognize or even actively create while still maintaining the delusion.”

 

There’s a type of machismo related to this… The attitude is that I see what RB is doing and what he’s up to, but I am not one of the weak ones. I am strong and undeterred and honorable and loyal to what I believe to be a higher calling. If I see something unsavory, I don’t get queasy like a girl. If someone is hurt along the way, I can’t speak to that. It is out of my hands. I have no choice. I am strong. 

 

But that person does have a choice. I always thought there was more strength and honor in learning to recognize the truth, and trying to live by it, and in following conscience despite the odds being difficult. To me, that is strength. Taking the viewpoint that people are hopelessly doomed and weak and “asleep” — that is weakness, and just plain stupidity on my part when I believed it. 

 

The six steps of the “sequence” — shocking news break — are not something new after all. The six steps were cleverly crafted by Burton from Day 1, or maybe Day 2 or 3.

 

Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. 

 

(See Notes on the Decision to Work — 56.)

 


 

ton July 30, 2008

 

74 elena “Communication or sharing are aspects of love….”
76 RVM ‘Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey.’

 

This reminded me of something I heard on the radio a while back…. one of the interviewees stated: 

 

“Listening is an act of love…”

 

There is no real listening going on in the followship…. The dictatorial nature (no pun intended) and existing power structure does not allow for listening, and any claim that it is a “school of love” is completely fraudulent… How can anyone confuse Robert Burton’s form of satyriasis with love? It’s a school of selfishness, “profound” only in how deeply misguided are its adherents. That people are still buying into it is astonishing. 

 

democracynow.org/2007/12/3/listening is an act of love

 


 

lauralupa July 30, 2008 

 

“Think very seriously,” he wrote, “are you really ready and willing to obey, and do you fully understand the necessity for it? There is no going back… Understanding of the necessity for obeying rules and direct instructions must be based on the realization of your mechanicalness and your helplessness… You can see, if you are sincere with yourself, all the blunders and the mistakes which you made when you tried to act by yourself. You cannot think rightly. You cannot feel rightly. You need constant help. And you can have it. But you must pay for it – at least, by not arguing.” 

 

Now that’s what I would call a series of dangerous memes! It would be interesting to do a serious study of Fourth Way books by various authors, and explore all the ideas that can be easily employed by ill-willing individuals to create coercive and cultish environments. Also, how these ideas were passed on and in different ways, modified and corrupted as they moved from Gurdjieff to his various followers and on to their followers. In the meanwhile, still playing with the memes idea (meme?), I found this on religion and faith: 

 

Memes – the skeptic’s dissection of religion 

 

Among many anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers, it has recently become fashionable to dismiss all religions as memes – parasitic mental processes which propagate in the same manner as chain letters [Dawkins 1989, Dennett 1995]. In this view, religious belief is a self-perpetuating delusion. A meme (rhymes with ‘dream’) may be defined as any self-referential belief system which contains within itself the instructions for its own propagation. Memes are often described as the cultural equivalents of computer viruses.

 

A meme carries exactly the same fear-driven psychological motivation as a chain letter – “If you propagate me then something nice will happen, if not then something horrible will happen”. In order to justify themselves against attack by reason, memes place absolute reliance on faith, which is seen as being superior to reason. They also contain self-referential or circular claims to the truth such as, “This meme says it is the divine truth. Since it is the divine truth, whatever it says must be true. Therefore, it must be divine truth because it says so and all competing memes must be the work of the Devil”.

 

These two types of self-referential statements: “propagate me” and “I am the only truth” provide the driving force for memes to invade the minds of their hosts. In addition, many memes contain the instructions: “Help people who believe in this meme, attack people who do not”. These commands being the ultimate cause of all religious hatred, wars, pogroms and persecutions throughout the centuries.

 

The general defining features of all memes can thus be seen to be self-referential ‘closed-loop’ type of circular statements, and a strong tendency towards hatred and intolerance.

 

The science of the study of memes, their internal structures and modes of propagation is known as memetics (by analogy to genetics – how biological entities propagate themselves).

 

More detailed analysis will usually show the following features:

 

Like a virus – such as rabies – a successful meme must perform two actions:

 

– Overpower the resistance of its host.
– Bring about the conditions for its spread.

 

To establish itself in the mind of its host, it will use some or all of the following mechanisms: 

 

[1]  Promise heaven for belief. This may involve frustrating the host’s normal sexual urges and redirecting them into sexual fantasies of the hereafter.

 

[2]  Threaten eternal punishment in hell for disbelief.

 

[3]  Boost the believers’ egos by telling them they are ‘chosen’ or superior to believers in false memes.

 

[4]  Disable the faculties of disbelief (‘immune response’) by claiming that faith is superior to reason. 

 

[5]  Establish itself as the One True Meme, usually by some sort of holy book containing a circular self-referential argument such as:

 

X is the one true meme. We know X is the one true meme because The Source of Universal Truth has approved X. We know The Source of Universal Truth has approved X, because X contains statements which say so. We know what X says is true because X is the one true meme.

 

Once it has parasitised the mind of its host, a meme needs to propagate itself. A successful meme will contain instructions for some or all of the following:

 

[6]  Holy war – convert or kill all unbelievers. 

 

[7]  Intimidation and terrorism – threaten and discriminate against unbelievers.

 

[8]  Enforced social isolation or even death to apostates. (An apostate is a host which has cured itself of a meme-infection. It is especially dangerous to the meme because it might pass on meme-resistance to others). 

 

[9]  Fecundism – encourage true believers to breed faster than believers in false memes. 

 

[10]  Censorship – prevent rival memes from reaching potential hosts (a theological doctrine known as ‘Error has no rights’) and forbid rational analysis of the meme itself.

 

[11]  Disinformation – spread lies about rival memes. 

 

from kwelos.tripod.com/memes.htm

 


 

44thWayAugust 26, 2021

 

My book, ‘The fourth way to nowhere’ is almost ready. Readers of this forum will probably feel that I pull some of my punches, and some may prefer that I would have performed a more overtly aggressive demolition. Certainly some of the material on this forum and on the REB blog would merit that. However, I have explicitly confined my commentary to what I myself witnessed, referring readers to the blog in the footnotes, and I think in the end the demolition is quite thorough. Perhaps it will lure some current members into reading it. I have not used my real name for personal reasons, although I would not be ashamed to be associated with what I have written if that were my only concern. I hope at least some of you will buy the book and post honest reviews on Amazon, even if you hate the book. The files are with the printer and I am aiming for next week for publication.

 


 

THE FOURTH WAY TO NOWHERE

 

How I got into and came out of a cult, the “Fellowship of Friends,” with reflections on the fourth way: what works, what doesn’t, and what is totally unprovable.

 

44thway.blogspot.com/p/about.html

 


 

RichSeptember 2, 2021

 

44thWay: During the time I was a member of FOF
both my parents died, and this year both my older
brothers passed on. I was never able to repair
the relationship with my family. Good luck with your
book!!

 


 

44thWaySeptember 3, 2021

 

Rich,

 

I’m sorry to hear that.

 

One of the points I make in the book is to question whether the FoF (and by extension any similar organisation) is really a Fourth Way school, given that the Fourth Way ‘takes place in life.’ Other Fourth Way schools had similar rules excluding or distancing from non-members, including (according to Joyce Collin-Smith, Rodney Collin’s sister-in-law) the remnants of Ouspensky’s group, later to become the Study Society. I am inclined to think that the Fourth Way lends itself to this kind of abuse, and all manifesations of it tend to become absurdity-factories.

 

In the book, I make the point that ‘external considering’ is supposed to be the emotional aspect of self-remembering, and yet ‘external considering’ was hardly if ever talked about in relation to our ‘life’ families. I include more than one episode in which ‘external considering’ was either criticised or manifestly not practiced as a direct or indirect result of the requirements of the FoF.

 

Another point: the foundation of the Work, according to Ouspensky, is ‘good householder.’ FoF was in general not in ‘good householder’ regarding emotional connections with friends and family not in the Work.

 

We were hypnotised by the gradual and almost imperceptible addition of absurdity to what had seemed at the beginning to be a reasonable starting-point.

 


 

WhaleRider September 4, 2021

 

“…in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that acts of apparently consensual sex, when involving parties marked by a significant power differential, can in fact be instances of harassment. Mechelle Vinson was a young Black woman who said she had given into the persistent pressure to have sex with her boss because she was afraid she would be fired. Vinson’s consent to sex, the court noted, did not mean that her boss’s sexual overtures were welcome, if her consent had been secured by coercion.

 

… in recent years our interest in consent has become single-minded. The habit of viewing all kinds of exploitative, creepy or troubling sex solely through the lens of consent has left us unable to speak, in many situations, about what is really going wrong.

 

Teachers, as teachers, understand how to do certain things; students, as students, want to understand how to do those same things. The tacit promise of the classroom is that the teacher will work to confer on the student some of his knowledge and understanding. In the best case, the teacher-student relationship arouses in the student a strong desire, a sense of thrilled if inchoate infatuation. That desire is the lifeblood of the classroom, and it is the teacher’s duty to nurture and direct it toward its proper object: learning. The teacher who allows his student’s desire to settle on him as an object, or the teacher who actively makes himself the object of her desire, has failed in his role as a teacher.

 

Therapists are taught to anticipate and negotiate the fact that their patients will often develop feelings for them — what Freud called “transference.” They are taught that they must harness those feelings and direct them toward the therapeutic aim — the well-being of the patient — rather than responding to those feelings in kind.

 

I have tried to explain here, that the absence of consent isn’t the only indicator of problematic sex; that a practice that is consensual can also be systemically damaging; that the pedagogical relationship comes with certain responsibilities beyond the ones we owe one another as persons. I wanted to explain…that it was precisely because pedagogy can be an erotically charged experience that it is harmful to sexualize it.”

 

“What’s Wrong With Sex Between Professors and Students? It’s Not What You Think”, Professor Amia Srinivasan, New York Times, Sept 3, 2021.

 


 

ton2u September 5, 2021

 

goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/power

 


 

WhaleRider September 6, 2021

 

Gullible…or vulnerable? Are they the same? Yes and no.

 

Speaking for myself, having joined at the tender age of 21, there were core elements of the FOF doctrine of which I remained skeptical throughout my tenure, particularly when it came to burton’s warped deployment of the concept of “c-influence”, eventually appearing to me as a means to abdicate responsibility for his actions and predictions.

 

IMO, this is how burton exploits his followers through relying on him to interpret ideas of reference as “shocks” from disembodied spirits, as in the reading of license plates and street signs, etc., instead of acting in the best interest of his students as an ethical teacher like ton2u does in an academic setting governed by rules designed to protect vulnerable students from such sexual predators as burton.

 

I can honestly say that in my early twenties with the divorce of my parents, alienation I felt from my peers at the time, and identity crisis I was experiencing back then, that I was ripe for cult exploitation due to my vulnerable mental state rather than inherent gullibility and naivety.

 

At the time I was keenly invested in my personal growth, could not afford college, and due to my emotional vulnerability, easily fell victim to cult “love bombing”.

 

It seems to me that the FOF’s recruitment efforts in Eastern Europe and Russia after the fall of the Iron Curtain and breakup of the Soviet Union is further evidence that cults prey upon vulnerable individuals who have limited choices to escape the dire circumstances in which they find themselves and thereby causing them to choose in retrospect what would seem like the lessor of two evils.

 

It’s no wonder that the FOF currently places so much emphasis on the magical thinking that joining a cult guarantees a follower’s entry into “Paradise” after death…(not a prevalent idea during my membership), for isn’t that the internal paradigm that would drive an individual to leave their destitute motherland and transition from their old way of life to the gilded labyrinth of the FOF, believing it to be a better life, only to discover after they have burned their bridges that an insatiable Minotaur resides at its center? That’s exactly how I felt after moving out to the “golden hills of California” from my hometown.

 

I was only naive insofar as I was uninformed about the nature of cults. I strongly believe that education regarding the honing of sharp critical thinking skills is the antidote. My desire is to educate others to the best of my abilities to avoid the trap and drain the victim pool.

 

Once I learned first hand what burton was really up to, I left, eventually following the deathbed advice of Mr O, the original person who led me into that morass in the first place…to “abandon the system”.

 


 

John HarmerSeptember 6, 2021

 

#46 Whalerider gives a clear account of how it is possible to become entangled in a fourth way cult like the FoF. At the end he quotes the famous Ouspensky advice to “abandon the system”. I remember how FoF members interpreted this phrase as if it were a deep Zen Koan that could unlock wonders, guided by Rodney Collin’s interpretation. However there are documents available that suggest it was more that Ouspensky truly lost his way. I found Marie Seton’s account quite shocking the first time I came across it (it was quoted way back in 2007 on the predecessor of this blog), and in looking for that also came across another account of his final days that suggests the same thing, i.e. that Ouspensky came to see that the fourth way doesn’t result in the benefits he had hoped it would.

 

Here is Marie Seton’s account:

gurdjieff-bibliography.com/Current/t seton case-of-pdo 2004-07-04.pdf

 

and here is the account of his final months:

ouspensky.org.uk/final-months-january-to-october-1947

 


 

44thWaySeptember 7, 2021

 

John Harmer,
Thank you for those links. I was aware of the Mary Seaton but not the other link.

 

In some ways I think Ouspensky is a bit like us: starting out with a belief that there must be some way to a better way of living, seeking some kind of spiritual enlightenment, and becoming sucked in to the first genuinely new ideas he came across in the form of Gurdjieff.

 

The difference is that he left his teacher after a few years. However, it appears he became trapped by the teaching itself, unable to break free of the mythology he had created and the students who had come to depend on him.

 

Contrast Krishnamurti, who disbanded the organisation others had set up for him to become the new Avatar.

 I shall not spam this forum, but I hope readers will indulge one more plug for my book, which is available on Amazon today. In it I make a systematic attempt to analyse the fourth way, not just the warped version promulgated by Robert Burton. The fourth way acquired some good advice that you can get easily from other sources, and packaged it together with some core teachings that are simply nonsense. In order to unpack the System it is necessary to acknowledge the fragments that are actually right, and that is one of the things I have tried to do.

 

The fourth way to nowhere
Publication date 7 September 2021
Book links:
USA: amzn.com/0956549780
UK: amazon.co.uk/dp/0956549780/
or search on Martin Braybrooke

Reviews, good or bad, welcome.

 


 

Ames Gilbert September 7, 2021

 

Hi Martin/44th Way,

 

I’ve ordered my copy, and am looking forward to reading it.

 

However it turns out, for me and for you and for other future readers, I commend you for taking on the project, and for the enormous efforts it must have taken you to bring it to fruition. Thank you very much!

 


 

44thWaySeptember 9, 2021

 

Thank you Ames!

 

Also sorry for the inadvertent spamming this forum with multiple images of the front cover, which is what happened when I put in Amazon links. For me, the book is an attempt to clarify for myself how I got into this mess in the first place, and by extension how other apparently intelligent people also get sucked in. FoF members for the most part are not dunces. It is not an academic thesis on the Fourth Way, although I have done most of the demolition work that is necessary.

 

Looking at some of the entries in The Greater Fellowship (ning) site, some ex-members seem still to be pursuing some kind of spiritual path. That might be fine, depending on what is meant by ‘spiritual,’ but the same kinds of questions need to be asked about any spiritual path as should be asked about the Fourth Way.

 

The link John Harmer gives in 47: to Ouspensky’s last days is from a web site that is generally not critical of the Fourth Way and by implication is saying that Gurdjieff was the real thing. The suggestion emerges that Ouspensky’s mistake was over-intellectualising instead of doing the movements and diving into the living experience.

 

However, the Ray of Creation, the idea of planets as baby suns, the idea that our souls go to the moon unless we awaken, the possibility of ‘immortality within the limits of the solar system,’ and a number of other ideas are either just plain wrong or else totally without evidence or any method of testing them even in principle.

 

It also looks as though Gurdjieff got some of his ideas from Ouspensky and made the system up as he went along. That is perhaps material for a future essay by someone.

 


 

THE MIND FIELD

A Personal Essay

 

 By Robert E. Ornstein

1976

 

 

From Chapter 7: Caveat Meditator (pp. 85-87)

 

For many people, the first experiences of an extended consciousness have come from newly organized groups. Some of these groups are resolutely commercial, others clannish and secretive. In considering both types of groups, we encounter, again, the difficulties of understanding and conveying an advanced knowledge of human capacities. In observing how these “franchised mysticism groups” promote and maintain themselves, we can note how the original knowledge seems to shrink to fit commercial requirements.

 

 

I

 

Many people have been associated with both psychotherapy and parapsychology for many years. The advent of trademarked, franchised mystic cults, however, is a more recent development. Some people seize upon them as the latest stage of their own continual self-preoccupation and indulgence; others seek new “experiences” for themselves. Such forms of meditation, and of awareness-training, have usually met with immediate and continued disdain from professional psychologists and educators, sometimes justified, sometimes for the wrong reasons. That these pop cults and organizations exist and thrive is in large part due to the same lag in mainstream awareness that has allowed the psychotherapeutic disciplines to extend their rightful role in our affairs. Along with our cultivation of intellectual skills, and the increasing prominence of those skills in education and professional life (with attendant specialization of function), there has been an almost complete abdication of teachings regarding the person and what could be called wisdom and self-knowledge. The trademarked awareness systems have, therefore, moved into an area of “applied psychology” in disuse within the academic and educational professions.

 

The systems offer either one special technique or a synthetic amalgam of techniques drawn from many sources. These techniques, in spite of the opinion of most academics, may not be entirely worthless. The “systems” do continue the fragmentation and degeneration of an authentic mystical tradition. Although the piecemeal benefits of these cults may be of scattered and transient use, such benefits are often perverted to the perpetration and dominance of the system, or to the personal service and material benefit of the leader. The process is similar to the bureaucratic encrustation of a new and perhaps useful government program: the original impetus is lost. If quite important traditional teachings about the person and conscious evolution have fallen into the hands of the contemporary guru-superstar industry, then both the organizers of this industry and those responsible for our education share responsibility. After all, if one is denied normal food one will search out alternatives, even food that makes one sick.

 

In our society, where is one to learn how to calm one’s mind in times of stress, how to improve personal relationships, attain a measure of responsibility for the direction of one’s life, and come to terms with one’s own creation of experience of the world, let alone an intuitive wisdom of the purpose of life? The existence of “instant-weekend” and simpleminded meditation-training systems tells us more about what is missing from contemporary education, even at a rudimentary level, than any amount of professional criticism could do—we are a society of spiritual illiterates, suckers for a quick answer. Many have turned to the showmen/salesmen and to the recycled Indian dropout to make up for the basic shortcomings of our education—and at great, and often unnecessary, cost.

 

We are lax in the training of personal knowledge. We may spend years perfecting our tennis stroke, yet precious little training is offered on the nature of our bodies or on the personal dimensions of our own experience. Much modern research, for instance, shows our ordinary consciousness to be a construction of the world, a “best guess” about the nature of reality. Yet rarely, if ever, in psychology or education classes is this fact brought home to students and made part of their experience.

 

 

 

(pp. 98-100)
 

II

 

The noncommercial, secretive, esoteric cults are unfortunately similar to the well-advertised consciousness systems. The degeneration of a true religious tradition in the West has left those high-minded “metaphysical people” prey to those who substitute an ancient fragmentary teaching for a unified whole. David Pendlebury describes the current situation:

 

“Sobriety” and “intoxication” are of course not intended literally; nor are they merely flowery metaphors: these are technical terms denoting twin poles of human awareness, each in its own way indispensable to balanced development. A man has to see the true reality of his situation; he has to take a very sober look at himself. Equally, though, he needs a taste of another condition in which his latent possibilities are recognized. Taken on its own, either pole is sterile, developmentally speaking. There are plentiful examples all around us of such imbalances. Perhaps you, too, had a Calvinist great-uncle who died heartbroken, having succeeded in convincing himself, a. that “the grace of God” was essential, and b. that such “grace” had been withheld from him. Perhaps you, too, have friends whose Ouspensky-oriented understanding of Gurdjieff has left them eternally bewailing the (obvious) facts that “man is asleep,” “man cannot remember himself,” “man cannot do,” etc. Or other friends who have chosen to “freak out,” to “blow their minds”; and are astonished, in rare moments of lucidity, to find themselves inhabiting a “behavioural sink” or “terminal sewer.” Or other friends, perhaps, who inform you in and out of season that: “I was hopelessly at sea, until (name and address supplied) showed me the answer.”

 

 

Pendlebury mentions the Caucasian “mystic” George Gurdjieff, whose followers unfortunately have come to represent the fragmentation of much of contemporary esoteric studies. Although by many accounts Gurdjieff was a man who personally could awaken a sense of life and action in his associates, his work has become the captive of his most doctrinaire and severe followers, who seem to cherish their incompleteness and merely shout “I must wake up” while reading obsolete doctrines. A fragment of a coherent approach has become honored among those who look to each new teacher for the secret that will allow them to turn away from their morbid self-preoccupation and experience the wholeness of life.

 

This kind of esoteric school serves to promote the abnormality of those involved. Thus, the continuous search for “true teachers” of mysticism often leads enthusiasts to an examination and popularization of the past, of teachings inappropriate for our time and culture. Outmoded books on alchemy, ancient mysticism, commentaries on Gurdjieff and other mystics are all scoured by the devout in their hope of finding “the key” which will unite all. One of Gurdjieff’s teachers describes this process to one who sought out the teachings of the East: “You are scrabbling about in the sands, looking for bits of mica to piece together to make a mirror, not realizing that the sand itself is capable of being transformed into the purest glass.”

 


 

Gurdjieff’s teaching: for scholars and practitioners

 

GURDJIEFF AS BLACK & WHITE MAGICIAN: How Gurdjieff’s Four Books relate to each other & his Law of Three

 

gurdjieffbooks.wordpress.com

 


 

From Gurdjieff’s HERALD of COMING GOOD: First Appeal to Contemporary Humanity, initially published by the author in Paris and 1933; later published by Samuel Weiser, Inc., NY, 1973

 

Only now, having prepared, in my opinion, by means of everything already set forth in this booklet, a corresponding, so-to-say, “ground-work” for depicting before the inner eye of every reader different outlines of the essence of this booklet of mine, called by me “The-First-Appeal-To-Contemporary-Humanity”, I consider it right, before other things, to announce in the hearing of all that, although I undertake at last the publication of my writings, I have decided to promote their circulation not by the usual ways, but in accordance with a definite plan worked out by me.

This plan, newly formed by me, consists in taking all possible measures to prevent my writings, with the exception of the first series, from becoming at once property “accessible-to-everybody”.

This decision of mine, made during the last years in the course of my observations of those who listened to the readings of my current work, is the result of long consideration, and is a conclusion contrary to my original hope of the possibility of making some more, generally available contribution to the healing of man’s psyche, which has already become, during the last centuries, almost completely abnormal.

 


 

Is There “Life” on Earth? An Introduction to Gurdjieff, by J.G. Bennett, Stonehill, NY, 1973

 

From Chapter 2: Gurdjieff – The Man and His Work

 

Gurdjieff came more and more clearly to see that the ways of helping people which have been used in the past are no longer applicable — because modern man cannot even listen to what is most necessary for him to hear. Notwithstanding so many years of profound study of the human psyche, Gurdjieff reached the conclusion, as late as 1927, that a new and more penetrating approach to the problem must be undertaken. He accordingly imposed on himself a way of life that would, as he says, “cause each person to take off the mask kindly provided by their papa and mama,” and disclose the depths of his or her nature. The procedure adopted he describes as “finding the most sensitive corn of each person from whatever class or race he might come and whatever position he might hold, and treading on it rather violently.” It can well be imagined that such a procedure made him many new enemies and even scandalized many old friends. Since he carried his procedure into every kind of relationship, it is not surprising that stories of a most damaging nature should have begun to spread at his expense.

 

Very few people were able to see the necessity or sense of his actions and there is no question that many obstacles were created to the acceptance of his teaching. Nevertheless, for anyone who has felt the obscurity of the human psyche, it is obvious that what he did was indispensable – partly to establish the facts which it was necessary to know and partly, also, for the further aim – equally important and necessary – namely, to try and recover his own health.  Not only was his bodily strength almost destroyed by the automobile accident, but he carried the results of many serious diseases contracted in the course of his travels in different parts of the world.

 

In 1931, he again visited New York and, before the outbreak of the Second World War, paid several further visits to America. The Prieuré was finally closed down in 1932, and in 1934 he settled in Paris.

 

The period from 1939 to 1948 was one of utmost difficulty and privation for himself and his work. Those who were directly in contact with him were fewer in number than in the past, while those who misunderstood his ideas and mistrusted his methods had increased. Very much misunderstanding existed. Only a few who knew him well and had worked closely with him had some understanding of his aim.

 

So it came about that in the summer of 1948, many people who had not seen each other for many years, and others who had never met at all, began to arrive in Paris and went round to see him in his little flat, re-establishing contact first with him and then with one another. Everything seemed to be going normally as if work with him would continue as before, when again, there was one of these automobile accidents which, with bullet wounds and disease, make a terrifying pattern in his life. Once again, by all ordinary standards, he should have been killed.

 


 

 “I am Gurdjieff. I will not die.” 

Part I of III

 


 

The J.G. Bennett Foundation

 

Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J.G. Bennett

 

(This public talk was given at Caxton Hall in London, on November 22, 1973. Previously unpublished, it was reproduced in the Spring 1989 Impressions Journal. Used by permission of Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett.)

 

Very young children, two or three years old, often ask the question, “Why?” and sometimes “Why am I here?” Or, if they get the idea of life, they will say, “Why am I alive?” And because people don’t know how to answer these questions, they put them off with foolish answers and soon children stop asking the question. Probably children don’t grasp the depth and difficulty of the question “Why?,” but that they ask it is an indication that somewhere deep down in us this question is there even before we begin to think, even before we are taught anything about ourselves and the world. But this question “Why?” gets covered up and very few people continue to pursue it.

 

The man, about whom I am going to speak tonight, George Gurdjieff, never gave up seeking the answer to the question “Why?” and it is this that gives him a peculiar significance for our present time . . .

 


 

The Counterculture and the Occult

 

From The Occult World (Routledge, 2014)

 

By Erik Davis

 

Perhaps the single most important vector for the popularization of occult spirituality in the twentieth century is the countercultural explosion associated with “the Sixties”—an era whose political and culture dynamics hardly fit within the boundaries of that particular decade. A more useful term was coined by the Berkeley social critic Theodore Roszak, who used the word “counterculture” to describe a mass youth culture whose utopianism and hedonic psycho-social experimentation were wedded to a generalized critique of rationalism, technocracy, and established religious and social institutions. As such, the counterculture significantly overlapped, though also sometimes resisted, the parallel rise of the New Left and its ideological and occasionally violent struggle against more-or-less the same “System.”

 

Within a few short years after its emergence in the middle of the 1960s, the counterculture had transformed social forms, creative production, personal lifestyles, and religious experience across the globe. Though the counterculture was a global phenomenon, its origins and many of its essential dynamics lie in America, which will be the focus of this essay.

 

techgnosis.com

 


 

Journeys With A Sufi Master

 

By Hadrat Bashir M. Dervish

Octagon Press, London, 1982

 

 

Chapter 6 – THE CULTS

 

A dervish said to a devil: ‘Why are you sitting
there
making no mischief?’ The demon replied
sadly:
‘Since the would-be teachers have
appeared in
such numbers, there is nothing
left for me to do.’

                                    Ghulam Haidar

 


 

FEET OF CLAY

 

SAINTS, SINNERS, AND MADMEN:

A STUDY OF GURUS

 

By Anthony Storr

1997

 


 

The Value of E. J. Gold: Unearthing the Real Mr G
 

By Johanna Petsche
Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 27.3, 2014

 

In the 1960s, the highly elusive Eugene Jeffrey Gold (b. 1941) fashioned himself as a spiritual teacher and established a number of spiritual schools, most notably his Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being (IDHHB), echoing Armenian-Greek spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff’s (c.1866-1949) Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Little is known of Gold’s background and career due to his penchant for role-playing, practical jokes, fabricating facts, and mythologising details of his life. What is clear, however, is that Gold’s core teaching and eccentric pedagogic approach are largely modelled on those of Gurdjieff.

 

In fact, in his Autobiography of a Sufi (1977) and Secret Talks With Mr. G (1978), Gold goes so far as to blatantly mimic Gurdjieff: his teaching, mode of expression, idiosyncratic terminology, and the very format of his publications. In Autobiography of a Sufi Gold even describes specific events in Gurdjieff’s life, passing them off as his own autobiographical accounts, while on the cover of Secret Talks With Mr. G (a book deliberately meant to confuse readers into believing that ‘Mr. G’ is Gurdjieff) there is a photograph of Gold impersonating Gurdjieff in a false wig and beard. This paper aims to shed some much-needed light on the fascinating figure of E. J. Gold, and interrogate the bizarre ways in which he employs, copies, and unashamedly steals core aspects of Gurdjieff’s persona and teaching.

 

academia.edu/5838643

 


 

An Enlightened Life in Text and Image: G. I. Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men (1963) and Peter Brook’s “Meetings With Remarkable Men” (1979)

 

By Carole M. Cusack

 

This article considers the ‘autobiographical’ memoir by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866[?] – 29 October 1949), Meetings With Remarkable Men (hereafter Meetings), which was published posthumously in 1963 under the aegis of Jeanne de Salzmann, Gurdjieff’s designated successor. Almost all known about the Greek-Armenian Gurdjieff is open to question, from his birth date (variously given as 1866, 1872 and 1877), to the ‘Work’, as his teaching is called. The Work has been jealously guarded as a modern initiatory tradition by first-and second-generation disciples, and is controversial in terms of its sources, meaning and interpretation. The 1979 film, “Meetings With Remarkable Men”, with a script co-authored by Madame de Salzmann, directed by Gurdjieffian theatre and film auteur, Peter Brook (b. 1925), depicts the young Gurdjieff’s spiritual quest reverentially.

 

academia.edu/898549

 


 

THE

HARMONIOUS

CIRCLE

 

The Lives and Work of

 G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky,

 and Their Followers

 

by

James Webb

1980

 

 

From Chapter 6: The Inner and the Outer Revolutions (pp. 134-36)

 

Ouspensky’s doubts were dissipated by his first meeting with Gurdjieff. They were replaced by other doubts, of a quite novel sort. Gurdjieff answered his questions precisely and neither stumbled nor prevaricated. But there were some strange inconsistencies. Ouspensky’s description of this first encounter is probably the most famous portrait of Gurdjieff:

 

We arrived at a small cafe in a noisy though not central street. I saw a man of an oriental type, no longer young, with a black mustache and piercing eyes, who astonished me first of all because he seemed to be disguised and completely out of keeping with the place and its atmosphere. I was still full of impressions of the East. And this man with the face of an Indian raja or an Arab sheik whom I at once seemed to see in a white burnoose or a gilded turban, seated here in this little cafe, where small dealers and commission agents met together, in a black overcoat with a velvet collar and a black bowler hat, produced the strange, unexpected, and almost alarming impression of a man poorly disguised, the sight of whom embarrasses you because you see he is not what he pretends to be and yet you have to speak and behave as though you did not see it. He spoke Russian incorrectly with a strong Caucasian accent; and this accent with which we are accustomed to associate anything apart from philosophical ideas, strengthened still further the strangeness and the unexpectedness of this impression.

 

 

They talked of Ouspensky’s travels and his interest in narcotics. Then they went together to a meeting of Gurdjieff’s pupils, which was to take place, Ouspensky gathered, in an apartment which had caused Gurdjieff great expense, as was only fitting for an undertaking in which many “professors” and “artists” were concerned. Gurdjieff refused to say precisely who among the intelligentsia were intrigued by his work; and it emerged that the meeting was to be held in the sort of barely furnished flat Ouspensky recognized as probably belonging to a municipal schoolteacher, with an audience drawn from the poverty-stricken lesser intellectuals. He was read the story, Glimpses of Truth, and noticed a reference to The Struggle of the Magicians, which he too had seen advertised in the press. About the actual work which went on in the group he could learn little. Gurdjieff had said that it was something to do with chemistry, and the schoolteacher types talked indefinitely of “work on oneself.” Despite the absence of the professors and artists, and despite Gurdjieff’s refusal to identify the “famous dancers” who would appear in his ballet, Ouspensky was fascinated by the evening. He had the conviction that he must at all costs arrange to meet Gurdjieff again. He was caught.

 

 

I felt myself very strange–a long reading which I very little understood, people who did not answer my questions. G. himself with his unusual manners and his influence on his people, which I all the time felt produced in me an unexpected desire to laugh, to shout, to sing, as though I had escaped from school or from some strange detention.

 

 

For the next week he continued to meet Gurdjieff in the same shabby cafe. He rapidly came to see that Gurdjieff deliberately created unfavorable conditions for such conversations, and that over ideas which Ouspensky felt to be profoundly true would take pains to spread a gloss of apparent shiftiness. For example, they were talking about money. Gurdjieff said that his fee for a year’s work was a thousand roubles. To Ouspensky this seemed a large sum for someone who did not have private means. Gurdjieff replied that he could not have many pupils and ought not to spend his own money on “the work.” People who could not provide such a sum, he said, were probably weak in life and therefore might be weak in the work. Knowledge was not valued unless it was paid for. Ouspensky assented to all these propositions, yet with a sense that Gurdjieff was overacting a part. “I was surprised at G.’s apparent desire to convince me of something in connection with the question of money when I needed no convincing.”

 

When the week was past, Ouspensky returned to St. Petersburg where he had to prepare books for the press, including a new edition of Tertium Organum and his Occult Tales. Gurdjieff had let him know that he sometimes traveled to St. Petersburg and would contact Ouspensky if he did come. The war went badly, and Ouspensky buried himself in his work, consoling himself that if necessary, he could always go to Gurdjieff. Then in the autumn of 1915 he was telephoned by Gurdjieff, who was on one of his periodic visits from Moscow. From this renewal of contact with the man who had almost imperceptibly become his Master, sprang the “St. Petersburg group,” a group whose activities during the next eighteen months are chronicled by Ouspensky. The internal revolution which he records was paralleled with an extraordinary exactness by the events of the outer world.

 

It was Ouspensky who was chiefly responsible for creating Gurdjieff’s following in St. Petersburg. In 1937 he told his pupils that there had been an explicit understanding that he should screen prospective recruits. By his own account it was largely through his material support that the groups could exist at all, and his new prestige as author and lecturer made him an ideal channel through which people infected by war weariness and ennui could pass to Gurdjieff. An account of this period has recently been published which bears out the impression that Gurdjieff was using Ouspensky as his second-in-command and front man.

 


 

THE OCCULT WEBB

 

An Appreciation of the Life and Work of James Webb

 

Compiled by John Robert Colombo

 


 

In Search of P. D. Ouspensky

 

The Genius in the Shadow of Gurdjieff  

 

By Gary Lachman

2006

 


 

Gurdjieff and de Hartmann’s Music for Movements

 

Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review, Vol 4, No. 1, 2013

 

By Johanna Petsche

 

A large body of piano music was composed in an unusual collaboration between eccentric, hard-edged Armenian-Greek spiritual teacher George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949), who had no classical music training, and his cultivated, aristocratic Ukrainian pupil Thomas Alexandrovich de Hartmann (1885-1956), who was classically trained in composition to the highest of standards. The music they jointly composed is generally overlooked in the vast majority of writings on Gurdjieff’s life and teaching, which is surprising considering the unique nature of the collaboration, and the fact that music and its effects were not only recurring themes but also compulsive interests for Gurdjieff throughout his life . . .

 

academia.edu/5838298

 


 

The Washington Post

March 26, 2000

 

The Composer, The Cult and the Musical Guru

 

 

By Philip Kennicott

 

Early one morning, a young man woke Socrates and tried to persuade the old master to attend a discussion by the hot-flavor Sophist of the moment, Protagoras. In Plato’s dialogue of the same name, Socrates gives the young man a warning: “If then you chance to be an expert at discerning which . . . is good or bad, it is safe for you to buy knowledge from Protagoras or anyone else, but if not, take care you don’t find yourself gambling dangerously with all of you that is dearest to you.”

 

In 1916, a very promising Russian army officer—with money and connections, a beautiful and brilliant wife, and a burgeoning career as a composer—gambled all he held dear, and apprenticed himself to the Armenian-Russian guru George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. Thomas de Hartmann was poised to be a player in the tumultuous world of avant-garde music, a composer with the skill and worldliness to build a career in St. Petersburg, Paris or both. Instead, he signed on with Gurdjieff, a seer and mystic who promised that his guidance, known as “the Work,” would bring his students a new enlightenment, a greater level of consciousness, a deeper sense of what it means to be in the world.

 


 

 G. I. Gurdjieff:

The War Against Sleep

 

By Colin Wilson

2003

 

One

 

The Magician

 

 

Introductory Note

 

IT WAS in 1951, a year after the publication of In Search of the Miraculous and Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, that I first came across the ideas of Gurdjieff. I was instantly aware of being in touch with one of the great minds of this century. I wrote about him for the first time in 1955, in the concluding chapter of The Outsider, where he figures (with Ramakrishna and T. E. Hulme) as one of the few men who have glimpsed a solution to the ‘sickness of man in the twentieth century’. Since then I have written about him in several books — notably The Occult and Mysteries.

 

When the publishers of the present book suggested that I should write about Gurdjieff, I experienced misgivings; it would involve repeating a great deal that I have already written. But then, my own views on Gurdjieff have changed and evolved over the years, and the idea of getting them between two covers was an interesting challenge. So I brushed aside my doubts, decided to repeat myself where necessary, and wrote the book. And in repeating myself I discovered an entirely new set of meanings and implications in Gurdjieff.

 

It was an interesting lesson in the difference between ‘grasping’ and merely ‘knowing’ — a distinction that lies at the heart of Gurdjieff’s thought.

 

Which is why I make no apology to those who have read me on Gurdjieff before. His ideas will bear repetition.

 

 

pdfslide.net/documents/colin-wilson-gi-gurdjieff-the-war-against-sleeppdf.html

 


 

Gurdjieff

 

The Secondary Literature:
A Selective Bibliography

 

By J. Walter Driscoll

2004

 

academia.edu/10377508/Gurdjieff & the Fourth Way

 


 

The Three Dangerous Magi: Osho, Gurdjieff, Crowley, examines the lives, teachings, and influence of three of the most controversial, important, and interesting ‘crazy wisdom’ teachers of the 20th century. It was published by O-Books (now Axis Mundi Books) in December 2010 and is available in major bookstores and via Amazon.

 

Despite the consistent focus and research required to produce a work like this (230,000 words and 714 pages), ultimately it was not hard for me to write, because the subject matter is absorbing and juicy (in contrast to the repetitive dryness of so much of the written material concerning transformational inner work). Crazy-wisdom type teachers, at least those of an impactful and influential nature, are profoundly interesting, if only because they run counter to the mass doctrines of religious programming that in large part is concerned with dividing human beings inwardly via a morally simplistic dualism. This simple-mindedness shows up a great deal in so-called ‘new age’ teachings, with their tiresome ‘warriors of the light’ mentality and tendency to perpetuate standard Christian programming that ultimately reinforces the repression of the nastier, more hidden elements of the ego (what Jung called the ‘shadow’, essentially). The Great Work lies in the uniting of Opposites (a work that often is necessarily antinomian), and more subtly in the embracing of paradox, not in ‘division for morality’s sake’. I address some of these matters in my book Rude Awakening.

 

As to the matter of what exactly ‘crazy wisdom’ is, the term technically derives from the Tibetan yeshe cholwa, which means roughly ‘wisdom gone wild’. The Indian equivalent of the Tibetan crazy wisdom teacher is the avadhuta, a term that refers to a wandering mystic who flaunts social conventions and whose concern with awakening transcends moral frameworks. The best two treatments of this difficult subject I am aware of are Chogyam Trungpa’s Crazy Wisdom and Georg Feuerstein’s more scholarly Holy Madness.

 

P. T. Mistlberger | ptmistlberger.com

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

From Chapter 8: Self-Perfection and the Myth of the Infallible Guru (p. 218)

 

A bleak fundamental of Gurdjieff’s teaching is that man is not born with a soul – and that without one, he will ‘die like a dog’. (Gurdjieff’s reference to ‘dying like a dog’ is interesting in that the dog is a symbol of death in many cultures – not least of which was in ancient Egypt, where Anubis, generally recognized as a canine-type god, is a chthonic deity of embalming and death.) Consistent with some elements of ancient Egyptian mysticism, he believed that the soul could only be created by working on oneself – by becoming, at the least, a ‘man number four’.

 


 

From A NOTE: ON THE DOG GURDJIEFF BURIED

 

By Sophia Wellbeloved
(with 13 comments)

 

Here is a brief look at two specific ways in which Gurdjieff referred to dogs in relation to his teaching. Firstly, he warned his pupils that if they did not perfect themselves they would ‘die like dogs’.

 

Secondly, as his pupils struggled in an attempt to unravel his long complex and confusing text, he would tell them that he had ‘buried the dog’ in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. Gurdjieff watched his pupils while the Tales was being read aloud to them, and if pupils looked as though they might be understanding something, he would then ‘bury the dog deeper’ altering his text to make it more difficult.

 

Perhaps confused by their own notions of dogs buring bones, something they wanted to hide from other dogs, his pupils, believing that Gurdjieff’s lack of fluency in the English language had caused him to make a mistake, tried to convince him he meant that he had ‘buried a bone’, he said ‘No,’ he had buried the whole dog.

 


 

“The Language of Behavior”:
Gurdjieff and the Emergence of Modernist Autobiography

 

By Cecily Swanson

 

That the Gurdjieff foundations have suppressed information on Gurdjieff’s association with magic and his administration of narcotics explains some of the secrecy surrounding the publication of The Women of the Rope collection. Sophia Wellbeloved, artist and scholar of Gurdjieffianism, has given a paper that describes the “omissions and redefinitions” of Gurdjieff’s work by later Gurdjieffian societies.

 

academia.edu/35981620

 


 

The Esoteric Experience

 

By Mike Rush

 

This article is based on a dissertation written for the MA in Religious Experience run by the then University of Wales, Lampeter, 2008. It was published in Paranthropology, Vol. 2, No. 3, http://paranthropologyjournal.weebly.com

 

What kinds of spiritual experiences are reported by people involved with esotericism and occultism? Are experiences, and their outcomes, negative or positive? This approach was based upon that of William James, author of the seminal Varieties of Religious Experience (James, 1902), who advocated judging spiritual experiences by their fruits. The three traditions selected were Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophy, G.I. Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way movement, and Mathers’ Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

 

Sources of written accounts of spiritual experiences were collected from published texts, the archive of the Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC), and from contemporary practitioners. It was found that esoteric or occult spirituality can be a source of positive experiences and outcomes. This is contrary to the popular conception of these traditions. Finally, there is no esoteric experience per se that can be characterised from the data. The experiences reported, whilst differing in emphasis, tend to be similar to accounts from other traditions.

 

academia.edu/1052219

 


 

ALL & EVERYTHING
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITIES CONFERENCE

 

On the writings of G.I. Gurdjieff

 

ABSTRACTS OF 2015 PRESENTATIONS

 

Posted on April 24, 2015 by in Abstracts, Past Conferences

 

 

Lee van Laer: Intentional Suffering in Beelzebub’s Tales and Meister Eckhart’s Book of Divine Consolation

 

An investigation of the question of intentional suffering from Gurdjieff’s point of view; Meister Eckhart’s perspectives on suffering from the Book of Divine Consolation; a comparative discourse on the two sources, with a further examination of Buddhist and Islamic concepts, as well as Swedenborg’s teachings.

 

The presentation contends that Gurdjieff’s views on suffering address esoteric, or inner, questions, and not outer ones; that they are canonical in the sense of being traditional and well in keeping with established ideas within the great traditions; and that the idea of intentional suffering has practical aspects whose hidden depths are best revealed by comparisons to other teachings.

 

—Lee van Laer was born in Yonkers, NY. He spent his childhood in Hamburg, Germany, and now lives in Sparkill, NY. Mr. van Laer has a BFA from St. Lawrence University (‘77) and is a global sourcing professional in the textile business. He is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine and the publisher of the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff blog, and the author of several books about the enneagram and the Gurdjieff work, as well as a book on esoteric meaning in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.

 


 

RUMI THE PERSIAN, THE SUFI

 

By Prof. A. Reza Arasteh
Department of Psychiatry School of Medicine
George Washington University, Washington D.C.

 

First published in Iran in 1965

 

Synopsis:

 

This volume presents a systematic study of Rumi’s rebirth into a total being. By studying the elements of Persian culture, as well as the unique writings of Rumi, the author reveals the characteristics of maturity, the qualities of final integration in identity, health, and happiness that underlie Rumi’s life and work.

 

Review:

 

The author has enriched the cultural life of the English-speaking world by presenting the ideas and personality of one of the greatest humanists in such a vivid scholarly fashion… Erich Fromm

 

AbeBooks.com

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

From CHAPTER III: The Human Situation and Self-realization (pp. 92-95)

 

    By 1261, the year he began the Mathnawi, Rumi had already integrated his personality. Having resolved the conflicts in his heart, he now experienced oneness with all. He had undergone rebirth numerous times and easily related himself to humanity, for whom he felt a great concern and desire to guide. At the request of a new bosom friend, Husam al-Din (generally known as Ibn Akhi),1 Rumi interpreted the human situation and the seeker’s path to perfection during his nightly dances. To the accompaniment of the reed, 2 Rumi related to Husam al-Din the essence of man’s inward state. This practice continued for about ten years.

 

1.   Rumi dedicated the Mathnawi to Akhi, whom he referred to as: “My master, stay and support (who holds) the place of spirit in my body and (who is) the treasure of my today and my tomorrow. . .” (Translation: Nicholson, op.cit)

 

2.   In the Mowlavi order, the reed became the primary musical instrument, as it both symbolized man’s previous unity when he was united with Nature (or even before the creation of the universe in the form of creative force), and the instrument which when joined to the lover’s lips would disclose the way to the Beloved: “It is the comrade of whosoever has lost his union.”

 

 

In the six volumes of the Mathnawi, Rumi reveals the innermost activities of man’s soul in quest of certainty. He calls the Mathnawi: “the root of the root of the root of religion in respect to its unveiling of the mysteries of attaining truth and certainty . . . it is as a station and most excellent as a resting place.”1  He now speaks as a guide with none of the emotional instability he revealed in Diwan-e-Shams. In a continuous way he tries to awaken the seekers and bring them out of their present state of disharmony so that they may realize the human situation and regain their harmony. Not only does the Mathnawi explain the human situation in terms of the existing cultural media (forms of communication), but it demonstrates the way of becoming a fully-born man. It thus raises certain questions: What is the human situation as Rumi sees it? What are its forces and tendencies? What is the true way and why?

 

I

 

As the previous section indicated, Rumi believed that man, as a copy of the universe, originated from the non-phenomenal world, and passed through various stages (primarily plant and animal) to his present life, in which he now possesses infinite potentialities. Arising out of the essence which produced the state of oneness, man passed through the state of “he-ness” to become “I-ness.”2  Beneath these veils man’s essence has remained the same, but he must now unveil it to gain a better union with all. He can only attain this end by allowing himself to be born and reborn.

 

1.   Rumi: Mathnawi, I.

 

2.   A century after Rumi, Abdul Karim Ibn Ibrahim al-Jili (Gilani) (d. 1406?) systemitized these ideas in a book, Al-Insan al-Kamil Fi Marifati-l awakhir wa’l-awail (the Perfect Man in Knowledge of First and Last Things).

  

To Rumi man possesses every kind of being in his unconscious. Rumi compares man’s unconscious to the sea, where every kind of animal, plant, and mineral exists. Like a calm sea, the human soul in its depth carries a sample of the whole creation, which we are unaware of and cannot see. Yet a wave may bring some of the sea’s contents to the surface. Though the source of the wave (motivation) may be the same, the natural forces in man can presumably bring to the surface any creature – a sea dragon, snake, plant, or animal, useful or dangerous, or even a precious pearl. Thus, man has potentially inherited a force which can direct him to a bestial state or elevate him. In an evolutionary sense this force has progressed until it has manifested itself in man’s reason. At this stage reason has found itself challenged by man’s animal tendencies; out of its contradictions man must either go beyond reason to attain the state of certainty (Nafs-e-Mutma’inna),1 or fall downward into Nafs-e-Ammara.2  Intuition and the power of spontaneous living comprise the former; evil belongs to the latter. An integrated man possesses Nafs (the natural instinctive force), reason (in the scholastic and Aristotelian sense), intuition, and love.

 

1. & 2.   In modern psychology Nafs-e-Ammara can be compared to impulses and Nafs-e-Matma’inna to “dynamic insight” as expressed in the writings of Freda Fromm-Reichman.

 

Indeed, so contradictory is man’s nature that he can rarely harmonize these discordant elements. Disharmony appears most often between the tendencies of Nafs-e-Ammara and reason, reason and Nafs-e-Matma’inna, intuition and reason. Yet ultimately one tendency may come to dominate the others. One might well ask at this point: What kind of character does a man develop when Nafs-e-Ammara becomes dominant, or when reason rules supreme? What happens when the voice of reason fails to give man a satisfactory answer to his existential problem? What happens when the inner voice challenges reason? Rumi takes up all these questions in the Mathnawi, in addition to discussing the corresponding character types which appear in man. He also cites historical examples to arouse man so that he may realize himself.

 

When the forces of Nafs-e-Ammara dominate, man reacts in a specific way; he pays no heed to God at all, but worships such things as women, other men, and wealth, while neglecting God entirely. At the next stage he worships only God, but if he progresses still further he attains silence, regardless of whether he serves God or not.1

 

The dominance of Nafs-e-Ammara in man’s situation increases his rational insecurity. Relating one’s self to immediate pleasures encourages regressive tendencies. Nafs-e-Ammara gains its dominance by opposing reason, for in the ontogenetic development of the individual and the history of mankind, reason has appeared when impulses have held the controlling power. Therefore, the path of Nafs-e-Ammara is initially the one of least resistance.

 

    1.   Rumi, Fihi Ma Fihi.

 

 

(pp. 97-100)

 

In a social sense Nafs manifests itself as the search for power; those who exchange their genuine human character for power, seek immediate pleasure, become servile, or slaves of wealth. The power of Nafs develops in the mind such a craving that a ruler willingly commits inhumane actions to satisfy it. The evil in man’s nature, like a voracious crab, consumes all his humane qualities. Thus, to gain security the power-seekers strive to possess and use power at the expense of their fellow-men. They become a tool of power, wealth, and their carnal desires. Those who want to succeed must fully develop the art of guile and treachery, and act in such a way as to secure more power.

 

Rumi maintains that Nafs in its regressive tendencies makes its followers slaves of their own life situation. With increased use, Nafs (like lust) gains in strength until it governs the individual’s whole life. Never satisfied, it is like the tasting of salty fish: the more one eats the more he craves water. A man in such a situation finds relief and nullifies his insecurity and suspiciousness by creating fear in others. Out of his own base desires and state of mind, he compels everyone to obey him without question. He expects others to worship him as a leader and god. In the spiritual sense, such a figure creates idols, which he worships and desires so that even indirectly people will relate themselves to him, particularly if his own image is somewhat tainted. He also requires others to relate themselves to him by sacrificing and working for his glory.

 

In brief, he alienates himself by becoming a means to power, lust, and wealth; in turn, others, in becoming his property, suffer the same fate. Rumi also emphasizes that these vain individuals in their conceit and indulgence in passion become slaves of pleasure without knowing that this thirst derives from self-conceit. Such people permit their self-conceit for an object to increase, with the result that their illness grows. Either power enslaves them, or they humiliate themselves in order to satisfy their pleasure-seeking goals. Habituation to certain pleasures leads to undesirable habits. By pursuing only that which secures their unhealthy situation, these people will gradually alienate themselves from others. To maintain the status quo they become prejudiced, and their prejudice eliminates opposing individuals and their ideas. Here Rumi compares the interpersonal relationship of powerful individuals to those whom they rule, or the divergencies of power between different sects as Jews versus Christians, Muslims versus Zoroastrians, and within each of these. The one who is power-driven destroys his opposition by using fear and other means. For example, he may psychologically relate himself to a dominant leader of the simple people and at the price of blind loyalty may manipulate people so as to attain his selfish goal. Such a man, if in that position, pretends to devote himself to their spiritual aims and convinces them that he can arbitrate and guide their actions. The people, ignorant of his true aims, judge him only outwardly and impart their secrets to him. Their trust in him creates conformity and strengthens his cause. In time he designs plots to divide those of the same faith and creates rivalries among leaders so that they may, in turn, eliminate themselves.

 

Rumi illustrates this point with the story of a strong-willed vizier who, in the service of a powerful Jewish king, persuaded him to carry out a plan to destroy the Christians. As part of this scheme, the vizier planned to develop an image of himself among the Christians so that he could entirely misguide them. At his own insistence the vizier requested that the King cut off his ears on the pretence that he was a Christian and exile him. In this way the vizier readily gained the confidence of the Christians. In due time he presented to each of the twelve leaders contradictory scrolls, and to each he confided that he was his apostle. One scroll advocated asceticism, another denied it; one stressed trust in God, another declared that it increased doubt; one advocated power, another submission, and so on. After the vizier’s death the other Christian leaders fought so vehemently among themselves that they ultimately destroyed each other and their followers.1

 

In the Mathnawi and in his Discourses Rumi declares that the genuine scholar therefore must not attach himself to authority, because the gain in material wealth deprives him of independence. Moreover, accepting such gifts from a despot forces the scholar to obey his orders. In such a situation the scholar soon abandons his good qualities for those held by the opposition.2  Rumi further asserts that in the eyes of God man is the culmination of beings. He must not sell himself to anyone; he is an end in himself, and his purpose in life is to decipher himself.

 

1.  Rumi: Mathnawi, 1. (According to Nicholson, the Turkish Commentators identify this vizier as the apostle Paul; however, Rumi’s main intent is to show the misuse of religion and man.)

 

2.  Rumi: Fihi Ma Fihi

 


 

ESSENTIAL SUFISM

 

A collection of gems of wisdom

from the mystical branch of Islam.

 

By James Fadiman and Robert Frager

 

1997

 

 

From Chapter 4: The Lower Self

 

Sufism is concerned with the ways of following a spiritual path and with what gets us off track. There is an element in us, the nafs, that tends to lead us astray. This Arabic term is sometimes translated “ego” or “self.” Other meanings of nafs include “essence” and “breath.”

 

In Sufism, the term nafs is generally used in the sense of “that which incites to wrongdoing.” This includes our egotism and selfishness, our greed and unending desire for more things, our conceit and arrogance. Perhaps the best translation for this part of us is the “lower self.”

 

The lower self is not so much a thing as a process created by the interaction of the soul and the body. Body and soul are pure and blameless in themselves. However, when our soul becomes embodied, we tend to forget our soul-nature; we become attached to this world and develop such qualities as greed, lust, and pride.

 

On the spiritual path and in life in general, we all struggle to do those things we clearly know are best for ourselves and others. We often struggle even harder to avoid those actions we know are wrong or harmful.

 

Why the struggle? If we were of a single mind, there would be no struggle. But our minds are split. Even when we are convinced of what is right, our lower self tries to get us to do the opposite. Even when we see clearly, our lower self leads us to forget.

 

How the lower self operates, how to understand it, and how to work with it is vital for our soul’s remembering. If we use it to work on ourselves, this material is precious beyond price.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The lower self is continually subject to notions and whims, both in word and deed. Its movements are arbitrary and unreliable; it is in a hurry to fulfill its desires, acting precipitously. Certain sages have likened it, in its fickleness, to a ball rolling giddily down a slope.

 

However much the lower self makes a show of virtue and attempts to conceal vice, the latter will be hidden only from the shortsighted and the naive, never from those with insight. It is like a hideous old hag who bedecks herself in fancy, dazzling clothes.

 

The lower self is constantly preoccupied with the virtues of its attributes, contemplating its states with contentment and reverence. It considers important the least thing it has done for anyone, remembering it for years afterward, being overwhelmed by its own kindness. Yet however great the favors others do for it, it places no importance on them, forgetting them quickly. If, by any chance, the lower self should succeed in attaining what it wants, it will still not be satisfied.

 

The lower self always wants people to obey moral precepts only as it expounds them, to love it more than anything else. The lower self wants others to fear it in all situations, clinging to hope in its mercy, in the same way that God demands these things from His devotees.

 

In most situations, the outward aspect of the lower self differs from the inward. It praises people in their presence, feigning honesty to their face, while in their absence it does the opposite.

 

The lower self is obsessed with presenting itself in ways that gain the good opinion of others. This results in its increase of possessions and pride in them, as well as arrogance, self-importance, and contempt. It avoids or ignores whatever people disapprove of, even though these things might please God.

 

Kashani

 

 

One of the latent vices and secret maladies of the lower self is its love of praise. It continually enjoins a person to put on pretensions, so that people will compliment it. Indeed, there are many worshippers and ascetics who are thus controlled by the lower self.

 

Qushayri

 

 

Those who are controlled by the lower self must serve it; those who control the lower self serve others.

 

As long as your lower self rules your heart, you will never lose your love of this world.

 

If you treat your lower self with affection, you will never be saved from it.

 

One way to train the lower self is to resist its desires. However, if we wish to resist, we know that we must not resist by opposing or suppressing it; for when we do, it will rear up somewhere else, seeking gratification of its desires.

 

Traditional

 

 

Whatever possessions and objects of its desires the lower self may obtain, it hangs onto them, refusing to let them go out of greed for more, or out of fear of poverty and need.

 

The lower self does not want anyone to receive anything from anyone else; and if it is aware of someone receiving a special boon, it seeks to destroy it.

 

A so-called dragon hunter went to the mountains to trap a dragon. He searched the mountains and finally discovered the frozen body of a great dragon in a cave high up one of the tallest peaks. The man brought the body to Baghdad. He claimed he slew the dragon single-handed and exhibited it on the bank of the river. Hundreds of people came to see the dragon. The warmth of the Baghdad sun gradually warmed the dragon’s body, and it began to stir, coming slowly out of its winter sleep. The people screamed and stampeded, and many were killed. The dragon hunter was frozen in fear, and the dragon ate him in a single gulp.

 

Your lower self is that dragon, a savage, bloody tyrant.

It is not dead, merely frozen.

Keep your dragon in the snow of self-discipline.

Do not transport it to the sunshine of Baghdad.

Let that dragon of yours remain dormant.

Should it be released, it will devour you.

 

Rumi
 

 

The lower self is like a thief who sneaks into your house at night to steal whatever is valuable and worthwhile. You cannot fight this thief directly, because it will mirror whatever force you bring against it. If you have a gun, the thief will also have a gun. If you have a knife, the thief will have a knife as well. To struggle with the thief is to invite disaster. So, what can you do?
    The only practical solution is to turn on the light. The thief, who is a coward at heart, will then run out. How do we turn on the light? Through the practice of remembrance, awareness, and heedfulness.

 

Sheikh Tosun Bayrak

 


 

The Nature of Conditioning and Indoctrination

 


 

A

PERFUMED

SCORPION

 

by

Idries Shah

 

The Octagon Press

London, 1978

 

Whoever might perfume a scorpion

Will not thereby escape its sting.

 

— Hadrat Bahaudin Naqshband

 

 

From Chapter III: The Path and the Duties and Techniques (pp. 82-85)

 

THE CONDITIONS OF THE HUMAN SELF:

 

The Self, called the Nafs, goes through certain stages in Sufi development, first existing as a mixture of physical reactions, conditioned behaviour and various subjective aspirations.

The seven stages of the Self constitute the transformation process, ending with the stage of perfection and clarification. Some have called this process the ‘refinement of the Ego’.

The stages are:

 

The Commanding Self

The Accusing Self

The Inspired Self

The Tranquil Self

The Satisfied Self

The Satisfying Self

The Purified and Completed Self

 

Each one of the words given above signifies a major characteristic of the Self in its upward ascent, hence, in Sufi eyes, most people in all cultures are generally familiar only with the first stage of the Self as represented in their ethical systems as something which seeks only its own interests. The ordinary person, staying at the level of ordinary religious and moral teaching, is at the stage which the Sufis would regard as only struggling with the Commanding Self, with, in action, the Accusing Self reproaching itself for its shortcomings. It is because of this scheme that observers styled Sufi development as going five stages beyond that known to the ordinarily ‘Moral’ person.

 

It cannot be denied that in Sufi eyes the stages of human service, for instance, and concern for others, are regarded as not very great achievements, though lauded to the skies in moralistic-centred systems as almost impossible of attainment. Hence when Saadi says in the 13th century:

 

All Adam’s sons are limbs of one another,

Each of the self-same substance as his brothers,

So, while one member suffers ache and grief,

The other members cannot win relief.

Thou, who are heedless of thy brother’s pain,

It is not right at all to name thee man . . .

                                                (Gulistan, tr. Brown)

 

he means that the Sufis, though recognizing its vital importance, still keep the door open for many stages of greater function for humankind. They maintain that to regard human well-being, though essential, as the highest possible, the sublime, achievement of humanity, is to limit oneself so much that it is, effectively, a pessimistic and unacceptably limited stance. Again, the desire for human well-being is the minimum, not the maximum, duty of humanity.

 

The Commanding Self is the origin of the individual controlled by a composite consciousness, which is a mixture of hopes and fears, of training and imagination, of emotional and other factors, which make up the person in his or her ‘normal’ state, as one would ordinarily call it. It is the state of most of the people who have not undergone the clarification process.

 

The Accusing Self is the state of the Self when it is able to monitor its behaviour and perceive the secondary nature of so many things formerly imagined to be primary, the actual relativity of assumed absolutes, and so on. This part of the man or woman is both the check on imperfect action and also the area through which the legitimate reproach of others or of the environment gets through to the individual. This is the stage of ordinary conscience. Most people stop and mill around here.

 

When the depraved or commanding self and the reproaching or accusing selves have done their work, the organ of perception and action becomes susceptible to the entry of perceptions formerly blocked. For this reason it is termed the Inspired Self. In this stage come the first indications, albeit imperfect ones, of the existence and operation of a reliable higher element, force, power or communications system.

 

Although people have often translated the word Nafs, which we call ‘Self’ here, as ‘soul’, it is in fact not such at all, but what might be called the real personality of the individual. The word for soul is ‘rouh’, spirit.

 

The so-called lower self, the Nafs, passes through the stages in which it is said to ‘die’, and be transformed. Since it also is held to die on physical death, the phrase for this process is ‘dying before you die’. Hence the death and rebirth cycle takes place in this life instead of being assigned, as in the Hindu model, to supposed literal reincarnation births and deaths.

 

Attempts to cause the self to operate out of sequence; that is, to receive perceptions when the third stage has not been reached, or to provoke and benefit from mystical experience before the fifth stage, produces the sort of confusion – and sometimes worse – which is reflected in some current literature of experimenters who choose their own sequence of events, and may cause developments which they cannot handle.

 

It also makes people crazy or nearly so. Many of these imagine themselves to be spiritual teachers, and some of them convince others that they are, too.

 

The inner psychological problems of people who try to force developments in their psychic life are a matter for clinical, or even experimental, psychology. But there are many who stop short of this, who have not even got to the stage where they realize that their superficial interest in metaphysics bars them from something deeper, and who try exercises mechanically or spasmodically. No wonder they try to store up with emotion.

 

Some of these are often otherwise quite nice people. They get superficial delusions, because of a rationalizing tendency.

 

 

THE INVISIBLE TEACHER

 

I remember one such, whose supposed mystical career was attributed by him to ‘fate’ for just this kind of reason.

I lived quite near to him, and began to hear that he was passing on messages from an ‘invisible teacher’.

One evening, however, he confessed to me that the teacher did not really exist.

I said: ‘How could you plot such a deception? Lots of people believe you. You must be very unprincipled.’

‘No,’ he said, ‘it is Fate. I have been chosen by a strange and mysterious method. This is how it happened.’

He had written to someone he called a ‘Holy Dervish’ (presumably as distinct from an unholy one) and asked him to come for a visit, to speak to a group of people in his town. He had already informed everyone he could that the great man was coming, when the appointed date arrived with no answer and no dervish. The people collected, and my friend sat on a platform before them, in silence, waiting. When everyone had been there some time, one of the local people stood up and said: ‘I have understood your meaning. The Holy Dervish has not come because he is invisible and you are his representative. We accept you!’

‘Well,’ continued my friend, ‘if that was not me being chosen as a teacher, through the inner working of fate, what is? I could never have planned such a thing!’

 

 

(p. 87)

BEARD, CLOAK AND ROSARY

 

I cannot resist, thinking of ancient formulae, referring to the story of the man with a bushy beard, wearing a rosary around his neck, dressed in a hooded cloak, with long and greasy hair, who was anxious, recently, to tell everyone that he was ‘A Sufi’.

Someone – who really was a Sufi – asked him why he was behaving like that. He said: ‘I am following the instructions and information contained in this ancient handbook for disciples.’

‘But,’ said the real Sufi, ‘that cannot apply now – it was written several centuries ago . . .’

‘That may well be,’ said the new ‘Sufi’, ‘but I only found it last month!’

 


 

THE

COMMANDING

SELF

 

by

Idries Shah

1994

 

SECTION I

 


 

THE CONVERSATION

 

Academic rigor, journalistic flair

 

Friday essay: what do the 5 great

religions say about the existence

of the soul?

 

Published: April 15, 2021

 

Author: Philip C. Almond

Emeritus Professor in the History

of Religious Thought, The

University of Queensland

 

A recent survey found almost 70% of Australians believed in or were open to the existence of the soul — meaning they believe we are more than the stuff out of which our bodies are made.

 

The soul can be defined as the spiritual or non-material part of us that survives death.

 

Western pop culture is currently bewitched by what happens to us after death with TV shows such as The Good Place and Miracle Workers set largely in the afterlife. And the Disney film Soul depicts the soul of a jazz pianist separating from his earthly body to journey into the afterlife.

 


 

Seeking The Divine

Journey of The Soul

 

academia.edu/8903129

 


 

PART  I    II   III