FEB. 5 — GEORGE GURDJIEFF QUOTES
SEEING ONESELF PICTORIALLY IN ALL ONE'S DAILY ACTIVITY
The weekly lectures of Jane Heap [on the Gurdjieff Teachings], given freely to all who came with real interest, were the intellectual food on which I was growing. In my Left Bank life, I dined most often alone in a little bistro behind my hotel, the Petit St. Benoit. Their menu, a five-franc 'tout compris', featured whatever was cheapest in Les Halles that day. As I ate, I reflected on the immense concepts of this "work on one's self" we were trying to do, while I stared at the plain wood buffet that displayed the evening's choice of desserts, usually 'creme caramel' or one small fruit. Jane repeatedly referred to the cinema of one's life, that it was on record that people drowning had a complete memory of everything that had happened in life. Could we use this power consciously? she asked. "Everything that has happened to us, every experience, is within us. The impress is in some one of the three centers, never to be eradicated, but generally forgotten. 'Everything is there'."
She told us how to get at it – by beginning with the day's events, picturing oneself as the central figure, but impersonally, so as to leave the emotional center free with its pictures. This method of seeing oneself pictorially in all one's daily activity was a way of keeping one's life from slipping into oblivion. "It has been called 'a specific against mediocrity' " she said and my mind leapt for her phrase while my pencil underlined it in my notes.
After doing the day's cinema, she suggested we try the cinema of our lives, unrolling all the reels. If we could do these things, if we could teach ourselves to see impersonally, uncritically, we should gain a mastery over the three mechanical centers. There was "an inviolate completeness" which could become the property of the human being. We were only approaching the outskirts of it...
But I had a wonderful time on the outskirts. I learned how to add seltzer at widely spaced intervals to one vermouth-cassis and make it last for hours on the 'terrasse' of the Deux Magots cafe directly opposite the Church of St.-Germain-des-Pres. Against that beautiful backdrop I would unroll the reels of my life, especially the early ones of a crop-headed tomboy tongue-tied with adoration for her sardonic father who could puncture a dream with a word. Now and again when he was on scene, my inner projector stopped turning and I would think about him deeply in terms of my newly learned ways of evaluating. Was that father predominantly a "physical center" man?
~ Kathryn Hulme “Undiscovered Country”
“MUST WANT TO GO 'SOLEIL ABSOLU”
At dinner, suddenly, out of the blue, as happens when Mr. G[urdjieff] intends to say something carefully premeditated, he began to speak to me about immortality. "There are two kinds unmortal. You now already have kesdjan body, this is unmortal, but not real unmortal. Real unmortal only comes with higher body. You have body for soul, but must have body for 'I'."
He then spoke of the distinction between Paradise and 'Soleil Absolu' [Sun Absolute]. You can go to Paradise with the Kesdjan body. But Paradise is only good for two or three days. "Imagine what would be if next year, year after, hundred years. Imagine how you would be irked (not the word, but equivalent), by such thing. Must want go 'Soleil Absolu'."
I understood perfectly everything that he meant by this. It corresponds exactly with all that I had been thinking about during the day. I remembered the saying, "When a man has crystallized, he can have whatever he wants ..." I know that I can have whatever I want, but I will not take it.
Most unmistakably my aim has changed, even before he spoke. Until now, I have desired and striven for mastery over my physical organism, including my thoughts and feelings. I have wanted to reach the assurance that I was free from my planetary body. All day today I have lived with that assurance. And at the same time I have become more and more obsessed with the need to make myself a vehicle for the Will of God. Or able to receive and be part of His Essence.
~ JG Bennett “Idiots in Paris”
(Fritz Peters recalling the first time he met George Gurdjieff as an 11-year-old boy)...
[H]e went on to tell me that in addition to learning "everything" I would also have the opportunity to study lesser subjects, such as languages, mathematics, various sciences, and so forth. He also said that I would find that his was not the usual school: "Can learn many things here that other schools not teach." He then patted my shoulder benevolently.
I use the word "benevolently" because the gesture was of great importance to me at the time. I longed for approval from some higher authority. To receive such "approval" from this man who was considered by other adults to be a "prophet", "seer", and/or a "Messiah"—and approval in such a simple, friendly gesture—was unexpected and heartwarming. I beamed.
His manner changed abruptly. He struck the table with one fist, looked at me with great intensity, and said: "Can you promise to do something for me?"
His voice and the look he had given me were frightening and also exciting. I felt both cornered and challenged. I answered him with one word, a firm "Yes".
He gestured towards the expanse of lawns before us: "You see this grass?"
"I give you work. You must cut this grass, with machine, every week."
I looked at the lawns, the grass spreading before us into what appeared to me infinity. It was, without any doubt, a prospect of more work in one week than I had ever contemplated in my life. Again, I said "Yes".
He struck the table with his fist for a second time. "You must promise on your God." His voice was deadly serious. "You must promise that you will do this thing no matter what happens."
I looked at him, questioning, respectful, and with considerable awe. No lawn—not even these (there were four of them) — had ever seemed important to me before. "I promise," I said earnestly.
"Not just promise," he reiterated. "Must promise you will do no matter what happens, no matter who try stop you. Many things can happen in life."
For a moment his words conjured up visions of terrifying arguments over the mowing of these lawns. I foresaw great emotional dramas taking place in the future on account of these lawns and of myself. Once again, I promised. I was as serious as he was then. I would have died, if necessary, in the act of mowing the lawns.
My feeling of dedication was obvious, and he seemed satisfied. He told me to begin work on Monday, and then dismissed me. I don't think I realized at the time—that is, the sensation was new to me—but I left him with the feeling that I had fallen in love; whether with the man, the lawns, or me, did not matter. My chest was expanded far beyond its normal capacity. I, a child, an unimportant cog in the world which belonged to adults, had been asked to perform something that was apparently vital.
~ Fritz Peters "Boyhood With Gurdjieff
A LESSON IN ACROBATICS
Seeing Mr. Gurdjieff always thoughtful, serious, and contained, I could not imagine him capable of acrobatic feats Indeed, he never ceased to astonish me and give me food for thought.
One day he shared a joyful moment of comradeship with us young men. The Study House was almost finished. We were in the process of laying the carpets and sewing them together, which most of the time forced us either to squat or kneel. The work was going well, and the relaxed presence of Mr. Gurdjieff created a very pleasant atmosphere. The softness of the carpets made us feel like rolling on the ground and, as Mr. Gurdjieff often encouraged us to relax, we had great fun doing acrobatics. Each of us took advantage of the occasion to display his skill. Mr. Gurdjieff followed our antics, encouraging those who were not doing so well; but if someone wanted to show off, he was at once given an exercise he could not do, which quickly put him in his place.
For example, seeing someone walking on his hands with his legs in the air, Mr. Gurdjieff would say, “Going forward is easy. Try staying still.”
When someone managed to do this, he would immediately throw out a new challenge: “Anyone can do this on two hands! But one cannot claim to be a real champion unless he can support himself on only one!”
If someone succeeded at this, he would then say that to be the very best, one must be able to support oneself equally on either hand. In short, he always found a difficulty that would teach a pretentious person a lesson or make him feel out of his depth.
Something very difficult for us amateur acrobats was to extend one leg parallel to the ground and to slowly bend the other until sitting on one’s heel; then, after a moment in this squatting position, to come up again slowly, still keeping the extended leg parallel to the ground. Even if one of us succeeded in doing this on one leg, he couldn’t do it on the other.
Watching us, Mr Gurdjieff laughed kind-heartedly and said that one part of our bodies was made of wood and another filled with lead. When we were exhausted by our fruitless efforts, he interjected: “What! You can’t even do a childish exercise like that! When I was a child, we also played such games; but it would take too long to explain them. I will simply show you something we did as children.”
Turning to one of us, he asked, “Which leg is more difficult to hold in the air?”
Mr. Gurdjieff extended his left leg parallel to the ground and lowered himself in stages. Once seated on his right heel, he slowly brought the sole of his left foot to his right knee, then held this position. Clearing his throat, he took a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, lit one and began to smoke. This was done so naturally and with such ease that none of us took the demonstration to be at all serious or difficult.
In the same position, still smoking his cigarette, he continued the conversation. When he had finished the cigarette, his body gave a jolt upwards and became immobilized, another jolt and again it stopped. It was as if electrical discharges shook an inert body, raising it by degrees until it was completely upright, the left leg always resting on the right knee. Then, with the look of someone who had just remembered something, he bent forward and simply let his left foot fall to the ground as he began to walk away.
“Try to sew the rest of the carpets together for tonight,” he said to us as he left.
We had not found this demonstration by Mr. Gurdjieff at all astonishing as there was no apparent effort, either in this posture, in his movements, or on his face.
Naturally, we were determined to repeat the exercise and after he left, we tried to copy the movements he had made. It was only then that we were forced to accept the real difficulty of what he had shown us. A long time afterwards I understood that this exercise, though not at all spectacular in fact belonged to a higher level of balance and acrobatics.
We told some older people what we had seen. After having tried this exercise several times without success, tbs' asked Mr. Gurdjieff how to practise it. He did not immediately understand what they were referring to, but once he grasped the meaning he declared innocently, “To tell the truth, I no longer remember what I did as a child.”
~ Tchekovitch "Gurdjieff — A Master in Life"