Gurdjieff's Ideas and Methods
One of the central ideas of Gurdjieff's teaching is that human beings are not complete; rather, we are an unfinished creation with enormous potential of which we are unaware. Our development is brought to a certain point by Nature, sufficient for the demands of ordinary life. Further development of our larger possibilities does not, and cannot, occur spontaneously, but depends on our active participation, a work on oneself. Gurdjieff said,
"The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness. And 'consciousness' cannot evolve unconsciously. The evolution of man is the evolution of his will, and 'will' cannot evolve involuntarily. The evolution of man is the evolution of his power of doing, and 'doing' cannot be the result of things which 'happen'."
If we are a creation possessing marvelous potential, the question arises as to why we do not move toward it, to claim it urgently as our own. Gurdjieff proposes that in our ordinary state we are asleep. In this state of sleep, many of us live our entire lives without being aware that something more is possible.
We imagine ourselves to be fully conscious and fully developed. This illusion prevents us from seeing our situation and, especially, ourselves as we really are. Gurdjieff expressed this very clearly: "If a man in prison was at any time to have a chance of escape, then he must first of all realize that he is in prison."
Methods are needed to reach for deeper self-knowledge and new possibilities, without adding to the imprisonment by excessive emphasis on any one method.
One of those methods is self-observation in the course of daily life. Self-observation is a quiet, invisible movement toward oneself that reveals, over time, why and how and what one does -- and, above all, who is the doer. Who is there? The result of self-observation is not intellectual information; it is awareness, simultaneously, of the thinking, the feeling, and the movement of the body.
When we discover our chaotic condition, how do we proceed? How can we move toward real change when we so quickly fall asleep again and forget the whole affair? Gurdjieff said,
"One man can do nothing. Before anything else, he needs help. ... One man can easily deceive himself about his awakening and take for awakening simply a new dream. If several people decide to struggle together against sleep, they will wake each other. It may often happen that twenty of them will sleep but the twenty-first will be awake, and he will wake up the rest."
As pupils in the Gurdjieff Work, we make a practical study of the ideas and methods, and apply them in our lives -- for ourselves and in service to others.