George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (January 13, 1866 or December 28, 1877 - October 29, 1949), generally referred to as G.I. Gurdjieff, was an influential Greek-Armenian spiritual esoteric teacher who founded a quasi-religious movement and introduced Fourth Way to the Western culture in the first half of the 20th century. Gurdjieff was first known as "G" in In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky, which is the most concise and structured presentation of the background and precepts of the Fourth Way.
The date of Gurdjieff's birth is uncertain and he was vague about his origins. It's generally know that in one passport, a date of January 13, 1866 was given, but in another passport revealed "December 28, 1877" as a birth date. A few close friends held the year 1872 to be Gurdjieff's birth year.
Gurdjieff wrote three books, known as All and Everything series:
- Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson (first published in 1950)
- Meetings with Remarkable Men (first published in 1963)
- Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am' (first privately printed in 1974)
Much about Gurdjieff's early years are unclear, but according to his autobiography, Meetings with Remarkable Men, he traveled across Inner Asia and the Middle East in a quest for an esoteric knowledge and learning about various spiritual traditions between 1887 and 1911, yet this cannot be corroborated.
Gurdjieff appeared in Moscow in 1913 with a developed teaching and started organizing groups of pupils from intelligentsia of the period. He met Ouspensky in 1915, which is recounted in In Search of the Miraculous. The period between 1913 to 1949 was a very active period in Gurdjieff as confirmed by primary materials, independent witnesses, and other reports (See "Books about Gurdjieff" below).
Gurdjieff is one of the great influences on the FotCM, representing a prior living tradition that has proven valuable in explaining the human condition time and again. Gurdjieff's teaching is comparable to a cold shower of realism, dispelling much of the fluffy wish-fulness of other esoteric teaching or of the New Age.
While Gurdjieff teaches a rather dim conception of the human condition, where man is, by default, only a mechanical part of a food chain, Gurdjieff's life's work demonstrates a faith in the possibility of this being altered, at least for a small portion of humanity.
Most of Gurdjieff's system of metaphysics and cosmology has been transmitted through Ouspensky, but Gurdjieff stands apart from his followers as the uncontested source of the teaching.
The Fourth Way Work consists of mental exercises of awareness, specific physical exercises such as traditional temple dances and specific movements aimed at developing attention, group work in a school context and applied study of an extensive body of teachings on the inner structure of man and the universe.
Gurdjieff's notable quotes
- "Man such as we know him, is a machine."
- "Men are machines who are not responsible for their actions. We cannot do. With us everything happens."
- "Buffers are appliances by means of which man can always be in the right. To destroy inequality and suffering would destroy evolution and the "shock" needed to overcome the buffers."
- "Constant awareness of the inevitability of death is the only means to acquire the urgency to override the robot."
- "It is the greatest mistake to think that man is always one and the same. A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. He seldom remains the same even for half an hour."
- "Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave."
- "Religion is doing; a man does not merely think his religion or feel it, he lives his religion as much as he is able, otherwise it is not religion but fantasy or philosophy."
Books about Gurdjieff
- Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky by Maurice Nicoll (1952)
- A Study of Gurdjieff's Teaching by Kenneth Walker (1957)
- Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Pupil's Journal by C. S. Nott (1961)
- The Unknowable Gurdjieff by Margaret Anderson (1962)
- Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff by Thomas and Olga de Hartmann (1964)
- Gurdjieff by Louis Pauwels (1964)
- Boyhood with Gurdjieff by Fritz Peters (1964)
- Gurdjieff Remembered by Fritz Peters (1965)
- Undiscovered Country by Kathryn Hulme (1966)
- Gurdjieff: A Very Great Enigma by J.G. Bennett (1969)
- Views from the Real World gathered talks of G.I. Gurdjieff by his pupil Olga de Hartmann (1973)
- Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J.G. Bennett (1973)
- Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J.G. Bennett (1973)
- The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers by James Webb (1980)
- Who Are You, Monsieur Gurdjieff? by René Zuber (1980)
- Gurdjieff: An Approach to his Ideas by Michel Waldberg (1981)
- The Gurdjieff Work by Kathleen Speeth (1988)
- Gurdjieff: The anatomy of a Myth by James Moore (1991)
- Eating The "I": An Account of The Fourth Way: The Way of Transformation in Ordinary Life by William Patrick Patterson (1992)
- Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship by William Patrick Patterson (1996)
- Ladies of the Rope: Gurdjieff's Special Left Bank Women's Group by William Patrick Patterson (1999)
- Taking with the Left Hand: Enneagram Craze, The Fellowship of Friends, and the Mouravieff Phenomenon by William Patrick Patterson (1998)
- Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts by Sophia Wellbeloved (2003)
- Gurdjieff: An Introduction To His Life and Ideas by John Shirley (2004)
- Gurdjieff's America: Mediating the Miraculous by Paul Beekman Taylor (2004)
- Gurdjieff Unveiled by Seymour Ginsburg (2005)
- Gurdjieff: A Master in Life by Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch (2006)
- G. I. Gurdjieff: A New Life by Paul Beekman Taylor (2008)
- IT'S UP TO OURSELVES, A Mother, A Daughter and Gurdjieff, a Shared Memoir and Family Photoalbum by Jessmin and Dushka Howarth (2009)
- Gurdjieff and Hypnosis: A Hermeneutic Study, by Mohammad H. Tamdgidi (2009)
- The Self and I: Identity and the question "Who am I" in the Gurdjieff Work by Dimitri Peretzi (2011)
- The Gurdjieff Years 1929–1949: Recollections of Louise March by Annabeth McCorkle (2012)
- Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff — The Man, The Teaching, His Mission by William Patrick Patterson (2014)