_is an approach to self-development described by George Gurdjieff which he developed over years of travel in the East. It combines what he saw as three established traditional “ways” or “schools”, those of the mind, emotions and body, or of yogis, monks and fakirs respectively, and is sometimes referred to as “The Work”, “Work on oneself” or “The System”.
George Gurdjieff_ said_”The law of octaves explains many phenomena in our lives which are incomprehensible”
The Law of Seven must also be described briefly. It means that no process in the world goes without interruptions.
In order to understand the meaning of this law it is necessary to regard the Universe as consisting of vibrations. Suppose something begins to vibrate at 1000 vibrations a second and the frequency increases to 2000 vibrations a second. This period is called an octave, because this law was applied to music and the period was divided into seven notes and a repetition of the first note.
The octave, particularly the major octave, is really a picture or formula of a cosmic law because, in common arrangements, within one octave there are two moments when octaves slow down by themselves. Vibrations do not develop regularly. In the major octave this is shown by the missing semi-tones; that is why we are told that it is a picture of a cosmic law; but this law is not restricted to music.
The reason why it is necessary to understand the Law of Seven is that it plays a very important part in all events. If there were no Law of Seven, everything in the world would go directly to its final conclusion; but because of this law, everything deviates. For instance, if rain began it would go on without stopping; if floods began, they would cover everything; if an earthquake began it would go on indefinitely. But they stop because of the Law of Seven, because at every missing semi-tone things deviate; they do not go by straight lines.
The Law of Seven also explains why there are no straight lines in Nature. Everything in Life and in our machine is based on this law. So we shall study it in the work of our organism, because we have to study ourselves not only psychologically, not only in connection with our mental life, but also in connection with our physical life. In our physical processes we find many examples of the working of this law.
At the same time, the Law of Seven explains that, if you know how and at what moment to do it, you can give an additional shock to an octave and keep the line straight. We can observe in human activity how people start to do one thing and after some time do a quite different thing, still calling it by the first name without noticing that things have completely changed. But in personal work, particularly in work connected with this system, we must learn how to keep these octaves from deviating, how to keep a straight line. Otherwise we shall not find anything.
The Law of Three, in a short description, means that three forces enter into every manifestation, into every phenomenon, and every event. They are called (but these are only words, because they do not express their qualities) positive, negative and neutralising, or active, passive and neutralising; or, still more simply, they may be called first force, second force and third force.
These three forces enter into everything. In many cases we understand the need for two forces — that one force cannot create an action, that there is action and resistance. But generally we are not aware of the third force. This is connected with the state of our being, the state of our consciousness. In another state we would be aware of it in many cases where we do not see it now. Sometimes we can find examples of the third force in ordinary scientific study — for example, in chemistry and in biology we can find the necessity for a third force in the creation of events and phenomena.
We begin with the study of psychology. Later we shall talk more about three forces and we may find some examples of their interaction. But it is better to be prepared and get accustomed now to the idea of the need to study these three forces.
“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.”
“Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.”
“Practice love on animals first; they react better and more sensitively.”
“It is very difficult also to sacrifice one’s suffering. A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering.”
“Awakening is possible only for those who seek it and want it, for those who are ready to struggle with themselves and work on themselves for a very long time and very persistently in order to attain it.”
“I ask you to believe nothing that you cannot verify for yourself.”
“There is a cosmic law which says that every satisfaction must be paid for with a dissatisfaction.”
“To know means to know all. Not to know all means not to know. In order to know all, it is only necessary to know a little. But, in order to know this little, it is first necessary to know pretty much.”
“Two things in life are infinite; the stupidity of man and the mercy of God.”
“Man has no individual i. But there are, instead, hundreds and thousands of separate small “i”s, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible. Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking, “i”. And each time his i is different. just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly. Man is a plurality. Man’s name is legion.”
“I will tell you one thing that will make you rich for life. There are two struggles: an Inner-world struggle and an Outer-world struggle…you must make an intentional contact between these two worlds; then you can crystallize data for the Third World, the World of the Soul.”
“Common aim is stronger than blood.”
“If you want to lose your faith, make friends with a priest.”
“The greatest untold story is the evolution of God.”
“The only type of sexual relations possible are those with someone who is as advanced and capable as oneself.”
“Remember you come here having already understood the necessity of struggling with yourself — only with yourself. Therefore thank everyone who gives you the opportunity.”
“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.”
“Better to die than live in sleep.”
“Love without knowledge is demonic.”
“As long as our ideas are the same, we will never be apart.”
“What is possible for individual man is impossible for the masses.”
“Knowledge can be acquired by a suitable and complete study, no matter what the starting point is. Only one must know how to ‘learn.’ What is nearest to us is man; and you are the nearest of all men to yourself. Begin with the study of yourself; remember the saying ‘Know thyself.”
“Only super-efforts count.”
“Man must use what he has, not hope for what is not.”
“LIBERATION LEADS TO LIBERATION. These are the first words of truth — not truth in quotation marks but truth in the real meaning of the word; truth which is not merely theoretical, not simply a word, but truth that can be realized in practice. The meaning behind these words may be explained as follows: By liberation is meant the liberation which is the aim of all schools, all religions, at all times. This liberation can indeed be very great. All men desire it and strive after it. But it cannot be attained without the first liberation, a lesser liberation. The great liberation is liberation from influences outside us. The lesser liberation is liberation from influences within us.”
“Life is real only then, when “I am”.”
“In order to awaken, first of all one must realize that one is in a state of sleep. And in order to realize that one is indeed in a state of sleep, one must recognize and fully understand the nature of the forces which operate to keep one in the state of sleep, or hypnosis. It is absurd to think that this can be done by seeking information from the very source which induces the hypnosis.
….One thing alone is certain, that man’s slavery grows and increases. Man is becoming a willing slave. He no longer needs chains. He begins to grow fond of his slavery, to be proud of it. And this is the most terrible thing that can happen to a man.”
“Meat is necessary when there is hard physical work to be done, or in a very cold climate, or when edible plants cannot be found…Animal flesh provides all the substances we need, both for the intensive working of our organism and for maintaining a normal temperature in cold climates.”
“From looking at your neighbor and realizing his true significance, and that he will die, pity and compassion will arise in you for him and finally you will love him.”
“an honest being who does not behave absurdly has no
chance at all of becoming famous, or even of being noticed, however kind
and sensible he may be.”
“Now everything that you do is written in red or black in Angel Gabriel’s book. Not for everyone is this record kept, but only for those who have taken a position of responsibility. There is a Law of Sins, and if you do not fulfil all your obligations, you will pay.”
“With thorns in the inner world there will always be roses in the outer world, in law-able compensation.”
“Let us take some event in the life of humanity. For instance, war. There is a war going on at the present moment. What does it signify? It signifies that several millions of sleeping people are trying to destroy several millions of other sleeping people. They would not do this, of course, if they were to wake up. Everything that takes place is owing to this sleep.”
“Wish’ is the most powerful thing in the world. Higher than God.”
“All who have come to me must have enema each day.”
“man lies to himself a lot.”
“In my opinion, what will be troublesome for you in all this is chiefly that in childhood there was implanted in you—and has now become perfectly harmonized with your general psyche—an excellently working automatism for perceiving all kinds of new impressions, thanks to which “blessing” you have now, during your responsible life, no need to make any individual effort whatsoever.”
“It is necessary to observe yourself differently than you do in ordinary life. It is necessary to have a different attitude, not the attitude you had till now. You know where your habitual attitudes have led you till now. There is no sense in going on as before.”
“Modern civilization is based on violence and slavery and fine words.”
“entire life, from the moment I began to distinguish a boy from a girl, I have always done everything, absolutely everything, not as it is done by other, like myself, biped destroyers of Nature’s good.”
“Se io è presente in me non contano più né Dio né diavolo.”
“You are in prison. If you wish to get out of prison, the first thing you must do is realize that you are in prison. If you think you are free, you can’t escape.”
“On the planet Earth also, three-brained beings are formed, and they too contain all the data for higher being-bodies to be coated in them. “But in ‘strength of spirit’ they do not begin to compare with the beings breeding on the little planet I just mentioned The external coating of the three-brained beings of that planet Earth closely resembles our own, except that their skin is a little slimier than ours Moreover, they have no tails, and their heads are without horns But the worst thing about them is their feet, for they have no hoofs”
“it was customary in long-past centuries on Earth for every man bold enough to aspire to the right to be considered by others and to consider himself a “conscious thinker” to be instructed, while still in the early years of his responsible existence, that man has two kinds of mentation one kind, mentation by thought, expressed by words always possessing a relative meaning, and another kind, proper to all animals as well as to man, which I would call “mentation by form.” The second kind of mentation, that is, “mentation by form”—through which, by the way, the exact meaning of all writing should be perceived and then assimilated after conscious confrontation with information previously acquired—is determined in people by the conditions of geographical locality, climate, time, and in general the whole environment in which they have arisen and in which their existence has flowed up to adulthood. Thus, in the brains of people of different races living in different geographical localities under different conditions, there arise in regard to one and the same thing or idea quite different independent forms, which during the flow of associations evoke in their being a definite sensation giving rise to a definite picturing, and this picturing is expressed by some word or other that serves only for its outer subjective expression. That is why each word for the same thing or idea almost always acquires for people of different geographical localities and races a quite specific and entirely different so to say “inner content.” In other words, if in the “presence” of a man who has arisen and grown up in a given locality a certain “form” has been fixed as a result of specific local influences and impressions, this “form” evokes in him by association the sensation of a definite “inner content,” and consequently a definite picturing or concept, for the expression of which he uses some word that has become habitual and, as I said, subjective to him, but the hearer of that word—in whose being, owing to the different conditions of his arising and growth, a form with a different “inner content” has been fixed for the given word—will always perceive and infallibly understand that word in quite another sense.”
“Contemporary man, owing to certain, almost imperceptible conditions of ordinary life which are firmly rooted in modern civilisation and which seem to have become, so to speak, ” inevitable ” in daily life, has gradually deviated from the natural type he ought to have represented on account of the sum-total of the influences of place and environment in which he was born and reared and which, under normal conditions, without any artificial impediments, would have indicated by their very nature for each individual the lawful path of his development in that final normal type which he ought to have become even in his preparatory age. Today, civilisation, with its unlimited scope in extending its influence, has wrenched man from the normal conditions in which he should be living. It is, of course, true that modern civilisation has opened up for man new and vaster horizons in different technical, mechanical and many other so-called ” sciences “, thereby enlarging his world perception, but civilisation has, instead of a balanced rising to a higher degree of development, developed only certain sides of his general being to the detriment of others, while, because of the absence of an harmonious education, certain faculties inherent in man have even been completely destroyed, depriving him in this way of the natural privileges of his type. In other words, by not educating the growing generation harmoniously, this civilisation, which should have been, according to common sense, in all respects like a good mother to man, has withheld from him what she should have given him ; and, it appears, that she has even taken from him the possibility of the progressive and balanced development of a new type, which development would have inevitably taken place if only in the course of time and according to the law of general human progress. From this follows the indubitable fact, which can be clearly established, that, instead of an accomplished individual type, which historical data would show man to have been some centuries ago and one normally in communion with Nature and the environment generating him, there developed instead a being that was uprooted from the soil, unfit for life, and a stranger to all normal conditions of existence.”
“The general psyche of the modern man is split into three, so to say, completely independent ” entities “, which bear no relation to each other and which are separate both in their functions and in their manifestations, whereas, according to historical data, these three sources formed, in the majority of people, even in the time of the Babylonian civilisation, one indivisible whole, which appeared to be at once a common repository of all their perceptions and the radiating Centre of their manifestations. Because of this one-sided education of the modern man, upon the attainment of his majority, these three entirely independent sources or centres of his life, that is, firstly, the source of his intellectual life, secondly, the source of his ” emotional ” life, and, thirdly, his instinct or ” motor ” centre, instead of fusing inwardly in the normal way to produce common outer manifestations, have become, especially of late, quite independent outward functions, and not only the methods of education of those functions, but also the quality of their manifestations, have become dependent on special outer subjective conditions. According to the deductions based on detailed experiments made by Mr. Gurdjieff himself, as well as those by many other people who have seriously thought about this question, every really conscious perception and manifestation of man can only result from the simultaneous and co-ordinate working of the three aforesaid sources, which make up his general individuality, and each of which must fulfil its role, that is, furnish its own share of associations and experiences. The complete achievement of the requisite and normal manifestation in each distinct case is possible only upon the co-ordination of the activity of all these three sources. In the modern man, partly owing to his abnormal education during his preparatory age, and partly owing to influences due to certain causes of the generally established abnormal conditions of modern life, the working of his psychic centres during his responsible age is almost entirely disconnected, therefore his intellectual, emotional and instinctive motor functions do not serve as a natural complement and corrective for one another, but, on the contrary, travel along different roads, which rarely meet and for this reason permit very little leisure for obtaining that, which should in reality be understood by the word ” consciousness “, wrongly used by modern people today.”
“This realisation of disconnected and conflicting activity of the centres of origin, which ought to represent the psyche of man, and, at the same time, of the complete absence of even a theoretical conception of the indispensability of an education corresponding to these separate, relatively independent parts, setting aside the ignorance of its practical application, must inevitably lead to the conclusion that man is not master even of himself. He cannot be master of himself, for not only does he not control these centres, which ought to function in complete subordination to his consciousness, but he does not even know which of his centres governs them all. The system applied in the Institute For Man’s Harmonious Development for observing human psychic activities clearly demonstrates that the modern man never acts of his own accord, but only manifests actions stimulated by external irritations. The modern man does not think, but something thinks for him ; he does not act, but something acts through him ; he does not create, but something is created through him ; he does not achieve, but something is achieved through him.”
“decided to make use of one of the oddities of that freshly baked fashionable language called “English,” and each time the occasion requires it, to swear by my “English soul.” The point is that in this fashionable language the word for “soul” and the word for the bottom of the foot, also “sole,” are pronounced and even written almost alike. I do not know how it is for you, who are already half a candidate for a buyer of my writings, but as for me, no matter how great my mental desire, my peculiar nature cannot avoid being indignant at this manifestation of people of contemporary civilization, whereby the very highest in man, particularly beloved by our Common Father Creator, can be named and often understood as that which is lowest and dirtiest in man.”
“When my grandmother—may she attain the Kingdom of Heaven—was dying, my mother, as was then the custom, took me to her bedside and, as I kissed her right hand, my dear grandmother placed her dying left hand on my head and said in a whisper, yet very distinctly: “Eldest of my grandsons! Listen and always remember my strict injunction to you: In life never do as others do.” Having said this, she gazed at the bridge of my nose and, evidently noticing my perplexity and my obscure understanding of what she had said, added somewhat angrily and imperiously: “Either do nothing—just go to school—or do something nobody else does Whereupon she immediately, without hesitation and with a perceptible impulse of disdain for all around her, and with commendable self-cognizance, gave up her soul directly into the hands of His Faithfulness, the Archangel Gabriel.”
“Time in itself does not exist, there is only the totality of the results issuing from all the cosmic phenomena present in a given place.”
“Consider everything belonging to another as if it were your own, and so treat it.”
“Everything existing in the world “falls to the bottom.” The “bottom” for any part of the Universe is its nearest “stability,” and this stability is the point toward which all the lines of force from all directions converge.”
“MY DEAR and kind Grandfather, will you please explain to me, if only in a general way, why is it that the beings on the planet Earth take the ephemeral for the real?” To this question of his grandson, Beelzebub replied: “On the planet Earth this particularity in the psyche of the three-brained beings arose only during later periods; and it arose only because their predominant part, formed in them as in all three-brained beings, gradually allowed the other parts of their total presence to perceive every new impression without fulfilling what is called ‘being-partkdolgduty,’ that is to say, merely as such impressions are generally perceived by one or another of their independent localizations known as ‘being-centers.’ Or, to put it in their language, they believe everything anybody says, instead of believing only what they have been able to verify by their own ‘sane deliberation’—in other words, only those convictions they have reached as a result of confronting and evaluating the data already deposited in them, which have given rise to different conceptions in each of their localizations of diverse nature.”
“As he was rummaging about, a book called ‘The Gospels’ fell into his hands. ” ‘The Gospels’ is the name given there to a book written once upon a time by a certain Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John about Jesus Christ, a Messenger from our Endlessness to that planet. “This book is widely circulated among the three-centered beings there who nominally exist according to the indications of this Messenger. “And when this ‘writer’ happened to come across that book, the notion suddenly popped into his head: ‘Why shouldn’t I also write a gospel?’ “According to certain investigations that I had to make for quite different needs of mine, he must then have deliberated as follows: ‘Am I any worse than those ancient barbarians, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Johnnie? ‘At least I am more cultured than they were, and I can certainly write a much better gospel for my contemporaries. ‘What is more, a gospel is the very thing that is needed just now, because the “English” and “Americans” have a great weakness for this book, and the rate of exchange of their pounds and dollars is “not half bad” just now.”
“The Institute For Man’s Harmonious Development”, is due to the fact that the future representatives of this ” typicality ” have never, either with a view to the real understanding of actuality, or in the period of their preparatory age, or, again, in the period of their responsible life, absolutely never, and in spite of the obvious necessity of such a step, laid themselves open to experience, but have contented themselves with other people’s fantasies, forming from them illusory conceptions and, at the same time, limiting themselves to intercourse with those like them, and have automatised themselves to a point of engaging upon authoritative discussions of all kinds of seemingly scientific, but, for the most part, abstract themes.”
“During these uninterrupted peregrinations of mine from place to place, and almost continuous and intense reflection about this, I at last formed a preliminary plan in my mind. Liquidating all my affairs and mobilizing all my material and other possibilities, I began to collect all kinds of written literature and oral information, still surviving among certain Asiatic peoples, about that branch of science, which was highly developed in ancient times and called ” Mehkeness “, a name signifying the ” taking away-of-responsibility “, and of which contemporary civilisation knows but an insignificant portion under the name of ” hypnotism “, while all the literature extant upon the subject was already as familiar to me as my own five fingers. Collecting all I could, I went to a certain Dervish monastery, situated likewise in Central Asia and where I had already stayed before, and, settling down there, I devoted myself wholly to the study of the material in my possession. After two years of thorough theoretical study of this branch of science, when it became necessary to verify practically certain indispensable details, not as yet sufficiently elucidated by me in theory, of the mechanism of the functioning of man’s subconscious sphere, I began to give myself out to be a ” healer ” of all kinds of vices and to apply the results of my theoretical studies to them, affording them at the same time, of course, real relief. This continued to be my exclusive preoccupation and manifestation for four or five years in accordance with the essential oath imposed by my task, which consisted in rendering conscientious aid to sufferers, in never using my knowledge and practical power in that domain of science except for the sake of my investigations, and never for personal or egotistical ends, I not only arrived at unprecedented practical results without equal in our day, but also elucidated almost everything necessary for me. In a short time, I discovered many details which might contribute to the solution of the same cardinal question, as well as many secondary facts, the existence of which I had scarcely suspected. At the same time, I also became convinced that the greater number of minor details necessary for the final elucidation of this question must be sought not only in the sphere of man’s subconscious mentation, but in various aspects of the manifestations in his state of waking consciousness. After establishing this definitely, thoughts again began from time to time to ” swarm ” in my mind, as they had done years ago, sometimes automatically, sometimes directed by my consciousness,—thoughts as to the means of adapting myself now to the conditions of ordinary life about me with a view to elucidating finally and infallibly this question, which obviously had become a lasting and inseparable part of my Being. This time my reflections, which recurred periodically during the two years of my wanderings on the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, resulted in a decision to make use of my exceptional, for the modern man, knowledge of the so-called ” supernatural sciences “, as well as of my skill in producing different ” tricks ” in the domain of these so-called ” sciences “, and to give myself out to be, in these pseudo-scientific domains, a so-called ” professor-instructor “.”
“think and convince the unconscious parts—as if they were conscious—that if they hinder your general functioning in the process of ordinary existence, then in the period of your responsible age they will not only be unable to enjoy the good that is proper to them, but also your whole presence, of which they are a part, will not be capable of becoming a good servant of our Common Endless Creator, and will thus be unable to pay honorably for your arising and existence.”