The tao of Gurdjieff


The tao of Gurdjieff


"I saw that the ocean of pure awareness, on the surface of the universal consciousness, the numberless waves of the phenomenal world arise and subside beginninglessly and endlessly.  As consciousness, they are all me.   As events, they are all mine.  There is a mysterious power that looks after them.   That power is awareness..."

 Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj    from "I Am That"


NOTE: This blog is offered up as a 3rd party comparative analysis of Gurdjieff for seekers who are looking to make connections between Gurdjieff and other teachings.  It is not meant to be an authoritative review of his principles or his ideas.  That can be found by contacting the Gurdjieff Foundation.   The author makes no claims of any 'spiritual attainments'...  just as a writer and researcher interested in these areas.  It was primarily written between 2012 and early 2017 and has been shortened in order to accommodate modern attention spans.  More links to the original extended content may be added later, although the latest posts have continued through early 2018. Also, readers often make the mistake in thinking that this blog is about Gurdjieff when it is not. Gurdjieff was simply the vehicle for bringing all the pieces together.


"Tao is the way of doing something"... Bruce Kumar Frantzis

Gurdjieff's relevance in today's world

 Gurdjieff is particularly compelling in today's world because although he taught in the first half of the 20th century, in retrospect he appears to have been speaking directly to those of us in the 21st century... and about all that we are dealing with.  That's because many of the topics he was speaking about back then are still relevant in our world.  So that tends to get your 'attention'.  In particular, Gurdjieff gets your attention when you start to see the subtle, 'covert' overlaps with the Gnostics and Gurdjieff... with Buddhism and Gurdjieff... with Vedanta and Gurdjieff, (and yes, taoism as well) which usually gets overlooked by the casual first time reader as it's typically presented in an almost subliminal fashion.   This also tends to get overlooked by most critics of Gurdjieff who usually fixate on one or two of his ideas by turning them into 'talking points' to debate, while ignoring what he is trying to tell us from the more profound, paradoxical standpoint of his own impersonal awareness or conscience.

Gurdjieff was all about the individual and all about waking up... and that takes attention.


Authors Update: 11/19/15

A word on the 'proper' application of Crazy wisdom as a communication tool

"He might say one thing today and something altogether different tomorrow, and yet, somehow he could never be accused of contradictions;  one had to understand and connect everything together"

from Ouspensky's 'In Search of the Miraculous'

Cognitive dissonance, as crazy wisdom, operates on multiple levels simultaneously.  Thus its aim (when done correctly and with the proper motivation) is to 'speak' to individuals on multiple levels... simultaneously... but with different messages and different goals, depending on the level of perception of each individual.

Because of the seemingly contradictory nature of cognitive dissonance, for an individual with a flexible linear mindset, if they are open to whats being transmitted, they can reach a point where they can no longer figure out whats being said at which point they are 'given' the opportunity to have a 'light bulb moment' in which they 'give up' trying to figure it out and just let go... thereby creating an opening in the form of a breakthrough which arrives as a sudden intuitive insight that they might not otherwise have had. 

So for these individuals, cognitive dissonance as 'crazy wisdom'... is a 'koan'.

  For those with a rigid and inflexible linear mindset, they may experience confusion as they will not be able to resolve the apparent contradiction in their minds.   The frustration with this confusion will 'send them away', if you will, as they will have no patience with what's being said, thus leaving them 'free' to find a more compatible message elsewhere.

For the individual operating on multiple levels simultaneously, cognitive dissonance will deliver multiple messages simultaneously... one to the 'person'... and one to the 'individual.   And because of its multidimensional nature it also serves as a sort of 'non verbal handshake' with the individual that simultaneously validates their multidimensional view by informing them on multiple levels... simultaneously.

So for one individual its a teaching tool in the form of an 'opening'.   For another its an 'invitation' to find satisfaction elsewhere and for another it's a form of multidimensional validation.

Thus it has multiple meanings on multiple levels for multiple individuals... simultaneously.   As such, it acts as a 'filter' and a time saver for the individual transmitting the message as they don't have to spend their time and attention on those that are not open to what they have to say while allowing them to focus on those that are open to their message... IE: those that have 'the ears to hear'.

Thus cognitive dissonance... is a paradox.

Thus, when 'crazy wisdom' teachers speak... their words have 'double' meanings.


The 3 levels of paradox

There are 3 levels of paradox.   The individual primarily identified as a separate 'person' is operating on a single level of perception.  Thus they only perceive contradictions... and thus 'problems'. 

The individual operating on multiple levels simultaneously perceives contradictions as a paradox... because their awareness enables them to 'understand' both sides simultaneously.   Thus for them, so called 'problems' brought on by contradictions are 'workable' paradoxical situations.  

For the enlightened non-local individual, they are both sides of the 'paradox'... thus they see no contradictions... or paradox.   Thus they have no 'problems'.


The 'mechanics' of 'crazy wisdom'

The mechanics of crazy wisdom - IE that which makes it work - is that the individual that is primarily identified as a separate 'person' reacts to the contradiction... whereas the individual that is primarily identified as impersonal being or awareness 'responds' to the paradox... with 'understanding'.

One is a knee jerk 'mechanical' reaction... the other an intuitive 'response'... an intuitive 'understanding'.

Big Difference.

They can 'do' that because they 'see' through the contradiction... to the paradox... via awareness.

Awareness makes us 'nobody's fool'... thus they're no longer 'fooled' by 'contradictions'... because they 'know better'. 

Thus 'crazy wisdom' teachers are not 'considering' your 'personal' opinion of them... or what they say.   They are only interested in communicating with other 'individuals'... or those that are intuitively savvy enough to aspire to being 'individuals'. 

The Seekers job

The seekers job is to discern between the crazy... and the wisdom... and to avoid the former while gaining from the latter.  That takes awareness... as in the awareness to discern what's in ones highest 'Self' interest.   Thus if the teaching leaves out the importance of discernment... or of looking after ones 'Self' interest... then ones 'interest' in the teaching may soon be waning.

It also helps if the seeker 'understands' that it's not their job to become enlightened... because the 'person' which is seeking is not what gets enlightened.   The seekers job is to find the correct path for them and to commit to the work that's required... until they 'understand'.

IE: until they 'know better'.

You'll know you 'know better' when you no longer fall for that which is clearly not in your 'Self' interest... and you're no longer trying to enlighten that which doesn't exist.  Trying to enlighten that which doesn't exist is a 'fools' errand.   Thus you're no longer 'fooled' by paths that 'make' you crazy... at the expense of your own 'Self' interest.

Only an individual being can reliably discern for its 'Self' that which is always in it's highest 'Self' interest.  'Persons'... are prone to craziness... because they are torn in opposite directions... simultaneously.   The individual see's through the craziness in the 'person' and the 'personal'... to that which 'knows better'.

Once you 'know better' you're no longer on a 'path'... so much as you're on a 'road'.   The 'road' that leads you directly to your destination.    Intuitively informed impersonal awareness is the road.   How you 'get' there is your business.

Once you're reliably 'on' the 'road'... you're 'good to go'.

When you're 'good to go' you no longer 'need' a teacher... 'crazy' or otherwise... because you'll 'understand' what's going on now.

NOTE: The perception of detached impersonal awareness, distinct from consciousness, is what makes the perception of paradox possible... and what makes Gurdjieff... 'understandable'.

IE: detached impersonal awareness... is what 'looks after' consciousness.

  Detached impersonal awareness can 'look after' consciousness because it's intuitively informed... thus it 'knows better'.

Being 'on the road'

 Everything makes sense at the level of 'understanding'.

   'Understanding' takes place when the individual is 'operating' on multiple levels simultaneously.   The individual is 'operating' on multiple levels simultaneously when they are 'operating on the 'impersonal' (and the 'personal') level... simultaneously.   

Thus 'the' level of understanding is actually two levels of understanding... simultaneously.

'Operating' on two levels of understanding simultaneously... is a paradox.

One is impulsive... one 'knows better'.   Thus the impersonal becomes the 'adult' supervision of the 'person' and the 'personal'.

IE: it 'looks after' them.

It 'looks after' them because it see's that which the 'person' can't 'see'... and it 'knows' that which the 'person' can't know.

Thus the impersonal individual 'understands'... because it see's more than the 'person'... because it 'sees' through it.  Thus the impersonal individual is the 'nexus' between the impersonal being and the 'person'.

So when the individual 'understands'... everything 'makes sense'... including the 'person'.

When everything 'makes sense'... you can go about your business (on the road)...  it's just that you 'know better' now about what's 'going on'... with 'you'... and 'others'.

(and the world)

IE:  you're not 'fooled' by it anymore.

When you're not 'fooled' by it anymore... 'crazy wisdom' will make perfect sense.


NOTE: Gurdjieff divided the path between the 'stairway' and the 'way'... (Paul Brunton referred to this division as the 'long path' and the 'short path').   Intuitively informed impersonal awareness is what Gurdjieff referred to, in the language of his times, as... 'self consciousness' or 'objective consciousness' or... at times, just 'Consciousness'.... all of which require detached awareness.   Thus, in today's terminology, they're seen as more than just 'consciousness'... or as having something other than just 'consciousness'.
Consciousness is informed by the senses.  Only awareness is informed by intuition.  Awareness is the antenna for intuition... so the more continuous the awareness the more one is continuously informed by intuition.
The Gnostics recognized three mental archetypes... the 'Psychics' (those with an open minded flexible mindset)... the Hylics (or closed minded cynics)... and the 'Pneumatics' (those operating on multiple levels simultaneously).
Thus the paradoxical 'crazy wisdom' teacher Gurdjieff knew exactly who he was speaking to... and what he was up against.


The Buddha had a term for those that wish to distract and manipulate us... he referred to them as 'Mara's daughters'.   Gurdjieff had an equally descriptive term... he called them 'machines'.


Separating the 'Essential Gurdjieff' from his ideas

It helps if you don't take Gurdjieff at face value (at times) if you are going to appreciate his being as there is a certain level of 'cognitive dissonance' involved in some of what he say's (and does).   Several of his ideas were ahead of their time, to us, such as the Ray of Creation, which is a classic holographic description of the breakdown of the 'waves' of reality, while others are dated (on yogis) or merely meant to 'shock' the individual out of their complacency (the moon).  Some, like the ones on the astral body and 'centers' are, at times, better expressed elsewhere, as in TCM or Ayurveda. Eventually though, too many moving parts can be a distraction.   It's as if his ideas - and particularly the methodical way in which he presents them - were more of a tool for establishing his authoritativeness.   But once that is established in the seekers mind they no longer are the main point of his work.   So a certain amount of discernment is required with Gurdjieff.  In fact you could say that sifting out Gurdjieff's individuality and his being from his ideas is meant to be an exercise in discernment.

A good example of cognitive dissonance in Gurdjieff is in the presentation of his persona.   While he goes to great pains to establish his authoritativeness he goes to equal pains to disassemble his personal legacy through clearly and intentionally acting out in an off-putting manner.  In a sense this is a tribute to his lack of attachment to his own persona (IE not 'considering' what others think of him) and a tribute to the strength of his individuality as he clearly is doing this as a service to the seeker so that they are discouraged from putting him up on a 'personal' pedestal... and thus worshiping him... instead of actualizing their own self mastery, will and individuality.  In other words he's more concerned with the seekers experience then he is with their 'personal' opinion of him.   That is rare... and important to note.  So 'seeing through' Gurdjieff while 'seeing' what he has to say... is an 'art'.

Gurdjieff was first and foremost interested in if a seeker could work as hard work was an indicator of a focused mind and a focused mind was a mind focused on its own 'business'... as in internal business.  Gurdjieff appreciated seekers that could mind their own business as a focused mind is a balanced mind... and a balanced mind is the mind of a 'responsible' individual.  So if a seeker could establish that... that would indicate that they had potential.  First get a handle on the problem... and then the answers will come.   Once you understand the problem... intuition will be the individuals guide... and eventually conscience.   Once a seeker had conscience... they no longer needed Gurdjieff.   They were 'good to go'.


Getting the most from Gurdjieff

So getting the most from Gurdjieff is a matter of 'taking what you like and leaving the rest'.   The discerning seeker knows what to 'take'... and what to leave behind... and what to interpret in their own way based on their own experience with other teachings and traditions.  Thus it takes an open, aware, informed, independent and discerning individual to get the most from Gurdjieff... which is how he wanted it.

An 'open, aware, informed, independent and discerning' individual is the very definition of what Gurdjieff referred to as being... 'intelligent'.


Gurdjieff's General Laws

'General Laws' are in effect to the extent that we are reacting from a solely 'personal' perspective.  IE: from the sole standpoint of our 'Ouspensky'... IE: the separate 'person'.  Individual impersonal awareness, being or essence liberates us from 'General Laws'... because we don't take things so... 'personally'... so we're responding more... and not just reacting.  Thus we 'rise above' general laws... IE: unconscious mechanical habits of reacting from a solely 'personal' perspective.

Thus Gurdjieff taught 'impersonal awareness' that comes from practicing the 'observer' position... IE: 'self' observation or detachment. 

A being that rises above general laws is a being that is a 'law' unto its 'Self'... so to speak... because it is operating from its own 'impersonal' awareness or 'conscience'... instead of being mired in a solely 'personal' perspective.


NOTE: Overcoming 'general laws' liberates us from the 'general'  way of the world... which has the usual consequences.


 Individuals who are reacting solely from mechanical laws (IE 'machine like') are what Gurdjieff referred to as 'machines' (for all intents and purposes).   IE: they are 'asleep'.   Individual beings, on the other hand,  are what he referred to as 'intelligent'... because they are capable of making 'intelligent' choices.  IE: they have risen above mechanical laws to an awareness of  'impersonal awareness'... balanced with 'personality'.   An individual that is aware of awareness and personality simultaneously operates intelligently in this world... instead of merely being fooled by it.

The difference between a 'machine' and a 'being' is intelligent choices based on awareness.  Awareness makes us 'nobody's fool'... so to speak.

In order to make 'intelligent' choices it is necessary to have simultaneous access to something 'other' than the personality.  That 'something else'... is impersonal awareness... which is intuitively informed.   An intuitively informed individual is operating from 'conscience'... because they 'know better' than their own personality.

An 'intelligent' individual is a paradox as they appear to us as a 'person'... yet they are not solely informed by the 'General laws' of 'persons'... because they are informed by that which is 'above' the 'person', so to speak.   IE: impersonal awareness.

Being aware of 'impersonal' awareness and that which is 'personal' (personality) simultaneously is a paradox.  'Intelligent' individuals are a paradox.  You can only spot 'intelligent' individuals by what they 'don't do'.  IE: they don't merely react to 'General Laws'... because they 'know better' than that.   Thus they are 'free' to operate in this world 'intelligently'... which is a pleasure.  It's a pleasure to operate 'intelligently' in this world... instead of being 'burdened' by the 'General Laws' of it.  

 When operating in this world is a pleasure it's easier to 'aim' ones 'Self' in an intended direction... with a specific 'purpose'.  Intelligently operating individuals 'operate' on 'purpose'.   Operating on 'purpose' is an act of will... that serves a 'purpose'.   

Intelligent individuals operate for their highest good as well as the highest good of 'others'.  Operating for the highest good of our 'Self' and 'others' is a 'purpose' worth 'aiming' for.

Operating for the highest good of our 'Self' and 'others' simultaneously... is to 'operate' from inside the 'esoteric' circle of humanity.


Gurdjieff's 'circles' of humanity

 Gurdjieff noted three concentric esoteric circles of humanity but all three are based on a common 'understanding'.  Thus in essence, once an individual 'understands'... as in an understanding that comes from 'impersonal awareness' or 'conscience', they are operating from inside the esoteric circle of humanity.  Those outside the 'esoteric' circle of humanity are still operating from a solely 'personal position'... thus they are subject to 'General Laws'... and thus they lack a common 'understanding'.  This outer circle of humanity is what he referred to as the area of the 'confusion of tongues'... as in a lack of a common understanding even if people speak a common 'tongue' or language.  Thus mis-understandings are inevitable.   True 'understanding' only comes from an 'impersonal awareness' or 'conscience' that is greater than the 'person' and not limited to any language... thus it is available to all, but (in most cases), requires work to achieve.


A 'mistake' has been made

NOTE: Gurdjieff did not present such circles as some sort of 'elite' for a 'person' to apply to but rather as another example of the less than ideal circumstances that we have to labor under in this world, such as it is.  IE: that we have to work for that which is our 'own'... as in our own inherent awareness or being.   As such it's a 'Gnostic' view of this world.   One where the world is seen as having a 'design flaw'... a 'flaw' that leaves us no choice but to work for that which is our own... rather than just enjoy it as a 'birthright' in this world.

Thus we are presented with... a 'choice'... a choice that requires 'will'.  'Free will' begins with the freedom to make a conscious choice.  And in order to make a more productive 'choice' it helps to have an 'intelligent' view of this world.

NOTE: A world with a 'design flaw' indicates that a 'mistake' has been made... in its 'original design'.   Perpetuating the 'mistake'... is a 'mistake' on the part of the individual... that is 'correctable'... by the individual... with the will to make a conscious choice.

That choice is made... with inner attention.

Unconscious loyalty to the 'mistake'... is a 'mistake'... on the part of the individual... that can be corrected with will and inner attention.

IE: Loyalty to the 'original mistake' (separation)... is a mistake on our part.


Gurdjieff and 'free' will

One of the most instructive examples of cognitive dissonance in Gurdjieff is his apparently contradictory statements about 'free' will and the lack of self determination.  What is happening is that he is speaking from the second level of paradox that recognizes that he may appear to contradict what he says... but in reality he's actually validating it... but that can only be understood from a similar paradoxical view.

So Gurdjieff placed a heavy emphasis on 'will'... the individual will of a fully conscious individual.  But he also said that 'everything just happens'... and that there is nothing anyone can 'do' about it.   

That's a paradox.

What he was referring to was that on the unconscious mechanical 'personal' level everything is 'just happening'... but on an impersonal level there is a 'choice' to be made.  And that ability to 'choose' to be aware requires 'will'... which leads to awareness... which leads to the ability to 'do'.  

'Doing' implies that the individual is operating outside the purely mechanical general laws of 'persons'... thus they are 'free' to serve their own highest good as well as the highest good of 'others'.   Thus they are free to influence their future... in this life and beyond.  


NOTE: Knowing what you 'do'... is the antithesis of 'knowing not what you do'.


Dharma and General (karmic) Laws

The reason the 'person' can't apply to the esoteric circle of humanity is because you can only begin to 'enter' it with an 'impersonal' view.

General (karmic) laws are all about the 'person' and the 'personal'.   There are no impersonal General (karmic) laws... thus the 'impersonal' individual is a 'law' unto its 'Self'.

So 'dharma'... is just 'doing' what you came here to 'do'... 'outside' the General (karmic) Laws of 'persons'.

When you are 'doing' your 'dharma' outside the General (karmic) Laws of 'persons'... you are 'operating' inside the esoteric circle of humanity... whether you know it or not.   That's because the esoteric circle of humanity is not a group of 'persons' but an organic distributed network of individuals whose most important connection (if they have any at all) is a lack of connection to a 'personal' identity.   

And alot of what they 'do' will not be obvious... because it will be out of the 'view'... of the 'general' public.   That's because alot of what they 'do' is based on what they 'don't do'... (if you will).

When you're 'doing' what you came here to 'do'... you're no longer 'doing' what your 'Ouspensky' would 'have' you 'do'.   When you're no longer 'doing' what your 'Ouspensky' would 'have' you 'do'... you understand 'the way of doing something'.


Free will and Original Mind

'Free' will does not mean you can just do anything you want.   That's called willfulness.

'Free' will is intuitively informed individual will that is 'free' to serve the highest good of the individual... now that it is no longer completely 'distracted' by the 'personality'.

'Original mind' (IE: intuitively informed impersonal awareness) is the primary mode of perception when you are 'doing' your 'dharma'... inside the esoteric circle of humanity.

Thus 'free' will is only available to those who are 'doing' their 'dharma'... outside the General (karmic) Laws of 'persons'.

IE 'Free' will gains its 'independence'... from its independence from willfulness.


Objective consciousness

Distinguishing our 'Original mind' from our 'Ouspensky' is a form of 'detachment'.

IE: 'Objective' consciousness is not just 'consciousness'... it's consciousness and detached awareness... simultaneously.   Thus you 'see' the world (and the personality)... 'objectively'.

Thus objective 'consciousness' is 'seeing the world 'as it is'... not how we'd like it to be.

Some would call that 'mindfulness'... as in paying attention... as in minding your own business.

When you're minding your own business... you may appear to be doing 'nothing'... but in fact, you're 'doing' plenty... just not what 'others' would 'have' you 'do'.  

When you're no longer 'doing' what 'others' would have you 'do'... you're no longer 'doing' what 'Mara's daughters' would have you 'do'.

When you're no longer 'doing' what 'Mara's daughters' would 'have' you 'do'... you're no longer 'nobody's fool'... if you will.

Awareness makes us 'nobody's fool'.  If ever there was an individual who was 'nobody's fool'... it was Gurdjieff.


 Our 'proper' mind

'Objective' consciousness is a paradoxical perspective... because you are 'in' the personality... but not 'of' it... simultaneously... so to speak.

IE: 'Objective' consciousness... is a paradox.

When you are operating from the point of view of 'objective' consciousness ... you 'understand' the 'proper' use of the entire mind... as in your 'proper' mind. 


Impersonal does not mean inhuman

NOTE:  'Impersonal' does not mean inhuman.   'Impersonal' means we haven't completely 'personalized' our humanity.  

(humanity is required for a human experience)

Being is fully compatible with a human experience... but it can be obscured by a completely 'personal' experience.

The impersonal is not devoid of personality.  Impersonal means the 'person' is in its 'proper place'... in relation to the impersonal... in our minds.

If you think the 'impersonal' is 'inhuman'... try contemplating 'mans inhumanity to man'.


The Gnostic Conscience

Of all the concepts related to Gurdjieff the idea of Conscience is perhaps the most obscure in terms of its origin.   The quotes below shed some light on that...

   The following contrasts Gurdjieff and what Tobias Churton might call a 'hard core' Gnostic view on balancing temporal morality and spiritual conscience... from On the Gnostic World View.   Gurdjieff didn't teach 'subjective' morality as he saw it as changing from culture to culture, but he did teach 'objective' morality or 'conscience', because it is innate to all individuals and thus universal.   Gurdjieff did have his own 'subjective' morality based on his upbringing and other sources but he didn't 'moralize' people because he knew better than to do that... but... he didn't have a problem with using 'rules' to achieve his 'aim', as he saw them as a tool for developing 'responsible individuals'.

 "If the words “ethics” or “morality” are taken to mean a system of rules, then Gnosticism is opposed to them both. Such systems usually originate with the Demiurge and are covertly designed to serve his purposes. If, on the other hand, morality is said to consist of an inner integrity arising from the illumination of the indwelling spark, then the Gnostic will embrace this spiritually informed existential ethic as ideal."

 "To the Gnostic, commandments and rules are not salvific; they are not substantially conducive to salvation. Rules of conduct may serve numerous ends, including the structuring of an ordered and peaceful society, and the maintenance of harmonious relations within social groups. Rules, however, are not relevant to salvation; that is brought about only by Gnosis. Morality therefore needs to be viewed primarily in temporal and secular terms; it is ever subject to changes and modifications in accordance with the spiritual development of the individual."

  Further on it states...
 "Gnosticism embraces numerous general attitudes toward life: it encourages non-attachment and non-conformity to the world, a “being in the world, but not of the world”; a lack of egotism; and a respect for the freedom and dignity of other beings. Nonetheless, it appertains to the intuition and wisdom of every individual “Gnostic” to distill from these principles individual guidelines for their personal application."

 In the end both 'subjective' morality and 'objective' morality or 'conscience' work together and are important, in this life and beyond... one for the sake of ones own 'personal destiny' (in this life and beyond) and by extension, the destiny of others... and one for the sake of the individual... and by extension 'other' individuals.   Thus neither 'operate' in a vacuum. 

   But... one can get hung up on the horns of dilemma... one 'knows better' than that.  Thus one works well in an 'Age of Reason'... but one operates well... no matter what the 'season'.

 One is a necessary adhering to an 'others' rules for the sake of ones 'self' and 'others'... the other is ones 'rules'.   One is borrowed... one is ones own.   Thus one is an aide and a precursor to the other... but one is not the other.  

 Learning to adhere to another's rules, at the proper time, has its place... particularly when it comes to becoming an adult, by putting the 'self' in its 'proper place'.  But internalizing ones own rules is operating on another level altogether and that can only come from impersonal awareness that is informed by intuition.

 Gurdjieff used 'rules' as a tool for exposing the 'personal' willfulness of the seeker so that they could 'see' it for what it is... which helped them to 'sacrifice' it... thus building their individual will in the process. Thus they were a 'favor' to the individual.

  So 'persons' need rules (at times) in order to put them in their proper place.  Individuals are a 'law unto themselves'... as they know how to 'rule' themselves in such a way that they are 'Self' regulating... thus they are not necessarily in need of outer rules... but they are not disrespectful of them either... in their 'proper place'... as they understand their 'proper place' in the bigger scheme of 'things'... such as we are.

 So it would appear that Gurdjieff had the "conscience" of a Gnostic... but he understood rules as a teaching tool.   IE: rules are 'salvific' in helping to 'save' the individual from their 'Ouspensky'... as in 'saving' the 'Self'... from ones 'self'.

 So Gurdjieff was, 'essentially', a Gnostic because he was a 'law' unto his 'Self'... but... he wasn't 'just' a 'Gnostic'.

You can only 'spot' Gurdjieff by what he didn't 'do'... IE he didn't just react from the 'General (karmic) Laws' of 'persons'.


  A curious footnote to Gurdjieff's Gnostic connection comes from Gurdjieff and the Gnostic Gospel of Judas  by Ralph Metzner...

 "In 2006, there appeared the first English translation of a Gnostic text known as the Gospel of Judas, that had been lost for 1600 years, and was discovered in the 1970s in a cave in Egypt. It was traded and moved across through continents and suffered major damage that reduced it to fragments. This fragmented text was finally translated by scholars, from the Coptic into English, in 2001. The appearance of the text, and an article about it in the National Geographic magazine, caused a sensation, because it turned the traditional Christian conception of Judas as the prototypal traitor, on its head. In this version of the story, Judas is portrayed as one of Jesus’s closest disciples and friends, who carries out the so-called betrayal at the request of Jesus, and is rewarded by being given some secret, very high teachings that the other disciples did not get.

 Students and readers of Gurdjieff’s All and Everything no doubt recalled, as I did, that Gurdjieff had himself declared a very similar perspective on the story of Judas, calling him “not only the most faithful and devoted of all the near followers of Jesus Christ, but also, only thanks to his Reason and presence of mind, all the acts of this Sacred Individual (Jesus) could form that result…which was, during twenty centuries the source of nourishment and inspiration for the majority of them in their desolate existence and made it at least a little endurable.” (p. 740). Since Gurdjieff wrote his book in the 1940s, long before this Gospel of Judas, or any other of the by now extensive Gnostic texts had been re-discovered, this synchronicity confirms the notion that Gurdjieff was aware of and could draw on secret initiatory teachings and revelations that had not seen the light of day in almost two millennia."   


'Self'-ishness vs willfulness

Being 'Self'-ish is not the same as being 'self'-ish.

'Self'-ishness is operating for the sake of ones 'Self'... and 'others'... simultaneously.

Willfulness is operating for the sake of ones 'self'... and the hell with 'others'.

Big Difference.

'Machines' are willful because they 'know not what they 'do'.

The 'person' (our Ouspensky) is bound by willfulness... individuals are 'free' to 'do their dharma'.

Being 'Self'-ish is knowing that what's good for the 'Self' is, by default, good for 'others' because anytime you act for your highest good... it's for the highest good of 'all' involved.

Rules are a 'favor' to the individual (in their proper place) because consciously sacrificing willfulness is an act of will that transfers power from the willful 'person' (our Ouspensky) to the 'impersonal individual'.  Why?  Because they intuitively understand it serves their highest 'good' now.. as well as the highest good of 'others'.

Thus they learn to become 'responsible'... as in 'Self' regulating.

Gurdjieff was not afraid to be 'Self'-ish as 'machines' can be willful in the extreme... at the expense of 'all' involved.   Thus Gurdjieff did not come across as either 'stupid'... or a 'saint'.

(his words)

Sacrificing willfulness is a path to becoming an 'adult'.   Gurdjieff was the ultimate 'adult' in the room.



Buddhism can't be 'constructed' as in piling one concept on top of another until we come to a 'conclusion'.  It can only 'dawn' on the individual as the result of a 'deconstruction' of fundamental assumptions.  

So Buddhism is not a construction site... it's more of a 'hole' in the foundation.

The 'hole' in the foundation in Buddhism is where the 'personal' me (our 'Ouspensky') used to go.


Deconstructing Gurdjieff

If this page is helpful to individuals who are interested in the connection between Gurdjieff, Gnostics, Buddhism and Vedic thought systems it is because it 'takes' what's 'common' to all of them... which is what all of them have in 'common' from the standpoint of impersonal awareness (balanced with personality)... and 'leaves' (deconstructs) the rest... IE: that which is unique to all of them... or that which could potentially create unnecessary mental conflicts or 'barriers' in the mind to 'understanding'.  

So when you 'deconstruct' all that is around each of them and just 'leave' the rest... that which they have in common from the standpoint of impersonal awareness, then you are 'down' to the 'essentials'... as in the 'essential Gurdjieff'.

When Gurdjieff 'dawns' on you... as in his impersonal being or 'essence', there's no more need to turn him into a 'construction site'... because you 'understand' him now.

IE: Deconstructing Gurdjieff (the 'Essential' Gurdjieff) from his ideas is just... 'taking what you like and leaving the rest'.


NOTE: When you are letting go of (deconstructing) 'false ideas' (assumptions) about yourself... original (proper) mind will be staring you right in the 'face'.

 Gurdjieff was all about the 'way'... and all about 'doing something'. 

'Original mind'... (intuitively informed impersonal awareness) is the 'road' and the road is the 'way'... the 'way' that shows us the way to 'do' something... consciously...  IE: intentionally.

  When you are intentionally 'doing' something for your highest good, as well as the highest good of 'others'... you have the 'tao' right where you want it.

'Original mind' (intuitively informed impersonal awareness) is what Gurdjieff referred to as 'the Master'... as in the 'adult in the room'... which 'knows better'.  

You 'follow the Master'... with inner attention.


Authors NOTE 7-13-17

Being Responsible   (IE: 'Self' regulating)

In Gurdjieff's view the world is not divided between 'left or right' and 'this or that' but between those that are 'responsible'... and those that are 'not responsible'. 

Being 'responsible' is being responsible for ones inner life... which makes it simpler to mind your own business. Thus the individual is no longer unconsciously mind projecting their inner turmoil onto 'others'.

Those who are 'not responsible' are not paying 'proper inner attention' and thus liable to mechanically and unconsciously do anything and project anything onto others... thereby creating chaos in the world.  Thus they bear keeping a watchful eye on... but... without projecting blame onto them... because they are 'not responsible'... but merely mechanically 'reacting' to outer forces and influences... some very far away.

This 'watchful' but 'un-foolish' view from 'understanding' (or bare attention) is the actual view of detached compassion and discernment as the individual 'understands' what's going on in the world without 'beating it up' in their minds.

Thus the individual is no longer 'considering' them (others)... but... they are more likely to be considerate of them as they 'understand' them now... because they're no longer taking them personally.   Thus the term... 'they know not what they do' takes on a literal and even practical meaning.

Those that adopt such a view find themselves 'waking up'... at which point everything starts to make sense.

There are 2 levels of awakening... mental and spiritual.   Mental awakening is a function of our view of our 'self' and the world.  Spiritual awakening is the view from the individual operating on multiple levels simultaneously... where awareness is aware of its 'Self'... distinct from consciousness.  Gurdjieff - at his 'best' (IMHO) was primarily operating from either one or the other - or both, simultaneously. 

 Enigmatic is a word used by those that only understand contradictions.  Thus Gurdjieff was an 'enigma' to those who didn't 'understand' him... and and a 'paradox' to those that did.

The correct view of the world is important to the individual because anything less than that and the mind begins to rebel... with the 'usual consequences'.  But with the correct view, the mind becomes an ally instead of an adversary.   Thus it becomes 'useful' to the individual who is then free'd up to 'do their dharma'.


Authors NOTE 11/29/17

When does tao become the way? 

So when does primordial awareness or 'tao' become the 'way'.  When it's intuitively informed.

When you're informed by the 'tao'... you're on your 'way'.

Thus the 'tao'... is a paradox.

Thus the 'tao' is no longer an enigma... its 'understandable'.

Gurdjieff was all about 'doing something'... consciously... intentionally.

Tao is the way of doing something... consciously... intentionally... in plain sight.

The taoists are 'the masters' of inconspicuous doing in plain sight so as not to attract the attention of those that do not 'understand'.

Gurdjieff was all about 'doing something'... consciously... intentionally... in plain sight of the 'general public'.

If there be such a thing as the tao of Gurdjieff then it was on full display when he and his followers made their 'inconspicuous' escape from the matrix of insanity that was the revolution and civil war in Russia circa 1917.

In 'The Matrix'... the 'Machines', or 'Mara's daughters', are portrayed... as 'Agents'.

IE: those that do not 'understand'.

 If you are looking for a spiritual analog of 'The Matrix'... then the Gurdjieff (and Ouspensky) in 'In Search of the Miraculous' is a good place to start... because it was Ouspensky who was 'the One' who delivered his message... in the end.

The 'Matrix' of mind projections... is the 'Matrix' we're in.

Inconspicuous 'doing in plain sight' is what Gurdjieff might refer to as...  'the way of the sly man'.

 Thus the 'taoist'... is 'nobody's fool'.


Authors Note 11/8/17

The three levels of 'doing'

There are actually 3 levels of 'doing'.  

!) The 'person' as 'doer' - where the individual that is primarily identified as a separate 'person' is convinced they are doing when in fact they are unconsciously and mechanically reacting to outside forces and influences.

2) The individual is 'doing' - where the individual is capable of conscious (intelligent) choices - thus they are intuitively informed and consciously responding to outside stimulus... IE: 'intelligently'.

3) Doing gets 'done' (or 'non-doing') - there are 3 versions of this view... one is that 'doing gets done' yet one is not necessarily the 'doer' thereof (IE: the witness) - one where 'doing gets done' and it all appears to occur within ones 'Self' (IE: the view from the extended 'all-seeing eye' of non-local awareness) and one where 'doing gets done' and it all is somehow ones 'Self' doing.

One is asleep... one is awake... and one is either an aspect of an enlightened perspective or the non-dual view from the enlightened Jnani.
Thus one is 'willful'... one has 'free will'... one is a 'surrendered free agent'.

Gurdjieff was primarily concerned with the transition between the first two... as in 'first things first'... because one has to learn to 'walk' before one can 'run'... and... it's also where most of the work gets 'done'... thus it's the 'hard part'.   The second two levels are more about effort or effortless 'efforting'.  Thus there are three major levels of perception of... or experience of... the manifestations of original awareness... or 'tao' ... behind all that is.


The 'tao' may be undefined but it is informed.   Thus the 'tao' may be unchanging... but the 'way' is 'informative'.

When the tao is informed serves a 'purpose'.

That purpose is to show us the 'way'.

'Machines' have lost their 'way'... individuals have found their 'way'... and the enlightened are the 'way'.

Big difference... same awareness.


For individuals in the 21st century, learning to turn insurmountable problems into 'workable' situations will make all the difference... in the world.


NOTE: If you don't believe that cognitive dissonance is a communication tool, try contemplating the message behind the words... 'Apple Computer'.   The term 'Apple Computer'... is a koan.  'Apple' is known... for 'operating' on intuitive insights... which attracted individuals who were intuitively 'savvy'.

Changing the name from 'Apple Computer' to 'Apple'... was a 'mistake'.


For more on how this all relates to ones dharma or purpose as well as the difference between 'personal' opinions and 'impersonal' opinions (IE the opinions of the individual) see 'The Twelve Clarifications' near the top of this blogs... Home Page


"They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
and I the hymn the Brahmin sings."

                                                                                From Emerson's "Brahma"

The ancients, like the Gnostics, Vedics etc., would agree with Gurdjieff that on an unconscious personal level everything was 'just happening'... and as such, even predictable.   In the case of the Gnostic Christians, it was a major 'complaint'.   They would also agree that the way 'out' was to learn to operate on multiple levels simultaneously - IE: raising impersonal awareness, which is 'outside' of that which 'just happens'... thus giving the individual 'conscious input' as to how their future unfolds... in this life and beyond.  For more on how everything is, on an unconscious personal level, electro (mechanically) 'just happening' as well as 'that' which is 'outside' of all that see this authors 2011 article on... Where is Time?

That article and its view of the brain (and technology) as well as Gurdjieff's view of 'free will'  (and how everything is 'just happening') was validated recently by Deepak Chopra and a recently revived scientific theory of how the brain interacts with the 'mind at large' in a July 14, 2017 television episode, linked here and titled... The Akashic Record

In addition the view of technology described in that episode validates the view described in this blogs Home Page section called 'On Technology' in the Footnotes near the bottom of the page.   See this blogs... Home Page

It's just another example of how the longer Gurdjieff is around, the more his views are validated by recent discoveries.


Authors NOTE 12-15-17

The Case for Gurdjieff in China

"This means that there is now something solid, something permanent.  Such people can become immortal"

From Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous

If Gurdjieff himself said that he got the basis for his system from an ancient tradition, but not from India, then there is a good case to be made that a significant part of it he found in China as their traditions are truly ancient and align in several key ways with what he says.  

For one, his '3 brained beings' are in alignment with the 3 tantiens (or dantiens) or 'centers' of mind in Traditional Chinese Medicine (head, heart and gut).  TCM is taoist medicine... it came from the original taoists... perhaps even the original taoist.   Thus his 'centers' have a familiar ring to them.  Also in taoism they speak of 'making a soul'... as what we take to be a solid personality is actually seen as a collection of parts that will be discarded for another set of parts in the next lifetime... unless... one makes a soul... otherwise known as the 'seventh body of individuality'... that is capable of surviving death, as Gurdjieff would say.   Thus this seventh body of individuality allows one to reincarnate 'intact' - as in to truly reincarnate - as opposed to starting all over again with a new set of 'parts' IE a new personality or personal identity.   Thus Gurdjieff's view that we would not truly reincarnate unless we 'make a soul' does have it's precedence... in China.

Thus in taoism only the individual can truly reincarnate and thus build on what they have (Buddhism refers to these individuals as Bodhisattva's) as opposed to being recreated anew and starting over from scratch.  A very tedious and time consuming project to say the least... and perhaps even 'foolish'... unless one 'knows better'.  The immortal and ever-present Self is there the whole time but it doesn't appear to have a say in the matter... unless one realizes it or works for it.  The taoists call this being 'one with the tao' IE: identified with it - as in primordial awareness itself.   Being aware of awareness itself is what they call 'Heart Mind'.

One is awareness of awareness... one is identification with it.   One is awake... one is 'realized'.

NOTE: The Bon and Buddhist traditions in Tibet call this primordial awareness or 'tao' from which all arises... Rigpa,

According to Tobias Churton, Gurdjieff himself say's he was studying in a Chinese Monastery.  So one doesn't have to look far to connect the dots.  Thus there was the Gnostic Gurdjieff... the Buddhist Gurdjieff... the Vedic Gurdjieff... the esoteric Christian Gurdjieff and the tao of Gurdjieff.  He was all of those and more. 

A no-nonsense view of taoism can be found in the life of Bruce Frantzis and his legendary teachers in China, including the immortal Liu Hung Chieh... much of which can be found in his book on  The Internal Martial Arts   Liu Hung Chieh was 'the master' of inconspicuous 'doing in plain sight' (in the middle of Beijing) so as not to attract the attention of those that 'do not understand'.   For Liu, 'doing' was integral to an objective taoist morality... as in a taoist objective conscience.
Liu kept his own counsel... he minded his own business.

He was a 'Law unto his own Self'. 

Liu knew how to hide his light when necessary (in the middle of Beijing) and he knew when to put it on full display, for instructional purposes, with carefully selected students only... IE: those that were prepared to accept what he had to offer.

IE: he was a 'Master'... in every sense of the word.

 He and Gurdjeiff would have seen 'eye to eye'... as in... they would have 'seen through' each other... with a smile. 

One could safely say that Liu Hung Chieh earned a 'Lifetime Membership' in the esoteric circle of humanity.


The Chinese say that one should never stop learning till you leave this world... and then you get a real education.

May we all be so fortunate.


Afterword (3-1-18)

I hadn't read this in about 30 years so when I picked it up again recently it made me smile.

The late Robert Pirsig on 'machines' and Mara's daughters...

"The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.  The machine that appears to be 'out there' and the 'person' that appears to be 'in here' are not two separate things"

"Folks, I just remembered the biggest gumption trap of all.  The funeral procession!  The one everybody's in, this hyped up, *&^%-you, supermodern, ego style of life that thinks it owns this country.  We've been out of it for so long I'd forgotten about it."

From 1974's  'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'

Somehow I think he had something slightly different in mind with these two... but you gotta love it.

It goes on...

 "His Quality and Plato's Good were so similar that if it hadn't been for some notes Phaedrus left I might have thought they were identical."

 as in ones highest Good?...  something to ponder...

"Phaedrus is fascinated too by the description of the motive of 'duty toward self' which is an almost exact translation of the Sanskrit word Dharma, sometimes described as the "one" of the Hindus. Can the Dharma of the Hindus and the "virtue" of the ancient Greeks be identical?"

as in the awareness to discern what's in ones highest 'Self' interest?

 "Phaedrus, following a path that to his knowledge had never been taken before in the history of Western thought, went straight between the horns of the 'subjectivity-objectivity' dilemma and said Quality is neither a part of mind, nor is it a part of matter. It is a third entity which is independent of the two.
 He was heard along the corridors and up and down the stairs of Montana Hall singing softly to himself, almost under his breath.  "Holy, holy, holy... blessed Trinity"

he's taken a contradiction... and resolved it into a paradox...

 "He had built empires of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth -- but for this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of equal magnitude:  an understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, not an enemy of it"

   as in not beating it up in your mind... 

      it goes on...

"Then, on impulse, Phaedrus went over to his bookshelf and picked out a small, blue, cardboard-bound book.  He'd hand copied this book and bound it himself years before, when he couldn't find a copy for sale anywhere.  It was the 2400 year old Tao Te Ching of Lau Tzu.

Unceasing, continuous, it cannot be defined...

 It is the origin of Heaven and Earth...
 When named it is the mother of all things...

 An image of what existed before God ...Continuously, continuously... it seems to remain.  Draw upon it and it serves you with ease...

 The image of nothingness, that is why it can't be defined...

 He who holds fast to the quality of old is able to know the primeval beginnings... which are the continuity of quality.

      He had broken the code".

    Somehow... I think I could write a whole book about this...


Authors NOTE 3-17-18

When I began writing this blog 6 years ago I had no idea it would end with Robert Pirsig.  Coincidentally, through a 3rd party, it has reached the hands of Dr Anthony McWatt, the first individual to receive his Phd in Robert Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality (or MOQ) and a world class authority on the man and his writing.   As it turns out, in 2008 he produced a video on Robert Pirsig called 'On The Road'.  I'll take that as a sign that this is a fitting place to sign off.  You can find his website and video linked below...

Ode to MOQ

If Quality is the tao and the tao is the way...
then when you're informed by the tao...
you're on your way.

When you're on your way you may still work on your cycle...
but you're no 'machine'.

When you're on your way you 'see through' contradictions with the 'eyes to see' and you understand paradox's with the 'ears to hear'.

When you're on your way your Duty is to your Highest Good as well as the Highest Good of all involved.  Thus the paradox of MOQ is no longer an enigma... because in your mind... it's solved.

If by some chance you become enlightened then your understanding is elevated and your senses are heightened.

If by some chance you become enlightened... then you are MOQ... and the rest is a hyphen.

Thank you Anthony McWatt for helping to keep Robert Pirsig's work and memory alive all these years and for dedicating your life to That which matters.

Robert McCoy 3-18-18


NOTE: Quality was implied in what Gurdjieff referred to as Objective Art - see... Quality, Objective Art and Society


Robert McCoy is a yoga practitioner who spent several decades in technology... primarily as an integrated circuit layout designer for Intel, working on microprocessors, including their first 64 bit chip (otherwise known as the Merced Project) as well as the original chip behind Google's Web TV.

See also this authors article on spirituality and Tesla, octaves and The Law of Three titled... Who Needs the Higgs

Now that yoga is being practiced on the ISS this authors 2011 article about yoga on a private space station is topical... see... A Yoga in Space