George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
Teaching first in Russia, then from 1928 until 1949 in Europe, he was the largest influence on European spiritual teaching in the 20th Century. While his methods obviously came from the Sufis, he adapted them freely to suit conditions in Western Europe at that time.
From the "Third Series".
Such is the ordinary average man - an unconscious slave to universal purposes which are alien to his own personal identity. He may live through all his life as he arose and was crystallised by the conditions of life, and as such after death be destroyed for ever. Although this is the lot of every life, yet Great Nature gave to some lives, as in this case to man, possibilities to be not merely a blind tool to universal purposes, but while at the same time consciously serving Nature, to intentionally generate energy in excess for the formation of his own individuality. This possibility also serves universal purposes as these relatively liberated, independent lives, in particular of human origin, which result from this conscious extra effort, are necessary to maintain and administer the universal equilibrium. These two possibilities, involutionary and evolutionary, create two great streams of human life, one of which unconsciously drains into the nether regions serving simply the needs of nature, while the other consciously flows into the limitless ocean and beyond.
Chiefly in consequence of the abnormal, what is called 'education', people passively and without reflecting on the consequences, drift in that stream which empties itself into the nether regions. Though at the arrival of adulthood the great mass of humanity is already lost in this unconscious stream, by foresight Great Nature has provided the possibility, that by our own intentions, through certain inner experiencings and certain outer conditions, to cross from one stream to the other, thus manifesting the first "liberation" or "initiation". As to the possibility of this crossing I must warn you that it is not so easy as merely to wish and you cross. It is indispensible, first of all with extremely great intensity to engender an unquenchable desire for such a crossing, then will follow a long inner struggle, requiring great tension between all the inner forces and the obvious negative abnormalities previously automatically crystallised by the conditions of outer life.
Q. I don't see exactly what path to follow and what aim to have in view?
Gurdjieff. A path isn't necessary. it is only necessary that you obtain results in yourself. Collect, accumulate the results of struggle. You will need them for continuing. You must accumulate - you have batteries in you in which you must accumulate this substance, like electricity. This substance can only be accumulated by struggle. Therefore create a struggle between your head and your animal. Continue your struggle but without waiting for results. When we struggle interiorly with thoughts, feelings and body, that gives a substance in the place where it belongs.
Q. When I do my inner work I am hampered by thoughts of outer work and when I do my outer work it's just the opposite?
Gurdjieff. You mix - you must not. For you a half hour of inner work is enough for the rest of the day. If you can't do a half hour do 10 minutes. When you do your inner work use all your being. You cannot do it for a long time, it takes all your strength. If you work internally for a long time that proves that you do not work with all your being - you are working only with your mind. But as to that, you can do it for a thousand years without gaining anything - it is worth nothing.
Q. How should one understand "repair the past". Is it by remorse?
Gurdjieff. You are too complicated. It is much more simple. The present is the result of the past. If you have a aquired a bad habit in the past you must stop it. This is repairing. Prepare for the future. Practice, repeat, repeat. One must work precisely on something. Always have an immediate aim. Create a need in yourself. Know where you are going and you will find a means to get there. The aim should be clear and always before you.
Q. I notice in myself a dryness, an absence of emotions. I live either in indifference or hostility. What is to be done?
Gurdjieff. You interest me. I wish to help you. Are your parents still alive? We have not known them but perhaps they had souls. Perhaps they suffered. They cannot do any more where they are, they have no bodies. You must do something for them. Picture them to yourself, have their faces before your eyes, you must think of all that you owe them. You must love them, express your gratitude to them. Think back on all they have done for you. You must see your mistakes towards them. You must have remorse of conscience. one must suffer voluntarily to repair. One must pay for the past. For the moment your parents are your god. You cannot know god - there is no place for him in you. You owe your parents everything, life, everything. They are the future place for god in you.