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One day I was sitting alone with Gurdjieff and as we were talking, he began to speak about myself. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘you are feeling ashamed because you are making no progress—and the reason why you feel ashamed is because you’ve just been drinking coffee, which you love, and that makes you feel ready to embrace the whole world. Well, there’s some chance that something good will come out of your being ashamed... But then it’s very likely that your feeling of shame will pass very quickly.’

I listened to what he said and ventured to ask in a timid voice, ‘But how am I to escape from the problem? You know I’ve a pretty poor capacity for observing my own faults and shortcomings.’

Gurdjieff replied, ‘All the time you keep expecting some miracle to happen! Now,’ he went on, ‘I’ll tell you something. How is it that you know at certain times that you have your hat oh crooked? By instinct? That’s an empty word. Try to think constructively about what I’m asking you.’

Although I did not feel sure of my words, still I found myself answering, ‘It’s a feeling of being uncomfortable —a sensation that something on my head isn’t right. Or it’s that one feels accustomed to a completely different sensation when it is on right!’

‘You must understand the reason,’ Gurdjieff said, ‘for that feeling of discomfort. You must make tremendous efforts, even that you “jump over your head”—no less,’ he added with a sudden smile. ‘Jump! Jump! . . . Of course it’s true that when you jump, your head jumps too, just as much as you do. But still you must jump, higher, higher—till you drop. And it’s here that the miracle may happen: because in making all that effort you have accumulated a potential force which serves as a preparation for the miracle to be accomplished. Now, apply my example about the hat to your own character: somehow or other you know that you have to move that hat a little to the right and not to the left. You rectify a situation that was wrong, even if it’s only more or less. But already that’s something good. Do you understand?’

Humbly, in a low voice, I answered, ‘I do . . . perhaps . . . even if not all of it.’

‘Very well!’ Gurdjieff replied. ‘It was good that you added “perhaps”—not being sure of yourself. It’s good that you aren’t like those people who are dogmatic about everything they say, or are blinded because they are in love—or in situations like playing cards for heavy stakes, or betting at the races, or buying expensive paintings that are far beyond their means. In those situations the emotional temperature is so high that one can’t judge clearly, and it can bring one to the edge of catastrophe.’

~ Anna Butkowsky "With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris"



There's a paragraph in his [Gurdjieff's] book about persons who in one state of being will give him their soul, and in another state of being, with their hate, drown him in a teaspoon of water. This love and hate which he arouses – there was, a thought I could not get accurately, to the effect that the force of the hate is directly proportionate to the time spent in proximity to him. (He explained this last part in the cab going to the cafe.) Proximity has to do with atmospheres of emanations brought close – like me here. He says, "I helpless. You three so close – your emanations keel (kill) me almost." And that remark followed some of his previous talk in the room about emanations of people who are forced to live in close proximity. Their emanations merge and find corresponding emanations in those of others. Many people close together – emanations all fuse like the colors of the spectrum and corresponding emanations find each other and mix.

~ "Gurdjieff and the Women of the Rope"



I MET AND talked to Georges Gurdjieff for the first time in 1924, on a Saturday afternoon in June, at the Chateau du Prieure in Fontainebleau — Avon, France. Although the reasons for my being there were not very clear in my mind — I was eleven at the time —my memory of that meeting is still brilliantly clear.

It was a bright, sunny day. Gurdjieff was sitting by a small marble-topped table, shaded by a striped umbrella, with his back to the chateau proper, facing a large expanse of formal lawns and flower beds. I had to sit on the terrace of the chateau, behind him, for some time before I was summoned to his side for an interview. I had, actually, seen him once before, in New York the previous winter, but I did not feel that I had "met" him. My only memory of that prior time was that I had been frightened of him: partly because of the way he looked at—or through—me, and partly because of his reputation. I had been told that he was at least a "prophet"—at most, something very close to the "second coming of Christ".

Meeting any version of a "Christ" is an event, and this meeting was not one to which I looked forward. Facing the presence not only did not appeal to me—I dreaded it.

The actual meeting did not measure up to my fears. "Messiah" or not, he seemed to me a simple, straightforward man. He was not surrounded by a halo, and while his English was heavily accented, he spoke far more simply than the Bible had led me to expect. He made a vague gesture in my direction, told me to sit down, called for coffee, and then asked me why I was there. I was relieved to find that he seemed to be an ordinary human being, but I was troubled by the question. I felt sure that I was supposed to give him an important answer; that I should have some excellent reason. Having none, I told him the truth: That I was there because I had been brought there.

He then asked me why I wanted to be there, to study at his school. Once more I was only able to answer that it was all beyond my control—I had not been consulted, I had been, as it were, transported to that place. I remember my strong impulse to lie to him, and my equally strong feeling that I could not lie to him. I felt sure that he knew the truth in advance. The only question that I answered less than honestly was when he asked me if I wanted to stay there and to study with him. I said that I did, which was not essentially true. I said it because I knew that it was expected of me. It seems to me, now, that any child would have answered as I did. Whatever the Prieure" might represent to adults (and the literal name of the school was "The Gurdjieff Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man"), I felt that I was experiencing the equivalent of being interviewed by the principal of a high school. Children went to school, and I subscribed to the general agreement that no child would tell his teacher-to-be that he did not want to go to school. The only thing that surprised me was that I was asked the question.

Gurdjieff then asked me two more questions: 1. What do you think life is? and 2. What do you want to know?

I answered the first question by saying: "I think life is something that is handed to you on a silver platter, and it is up to you (me) to do something with it." This answer touched off a long discussion about the phrase "on a silver platter", including a reference by Gurdjieff to the head of John the Baptist. I retreated—it felt like a retreat—and modified the phrase to the effect that life was a "gift", and this seemed to please him.

The second question (What do you want to know?) was simpler to answer. My words were: "I want to know everything."

Gurdjieff replied immediately: "You cannot know everything. Everything about what?"

I said: "Everything about man," and then added: "In English I think it is called psychology or maybe philosophy."

He sighed then, and after a short silence said: "You can stay. But your answer makes life difficult for me. I am the only one who teaches what you ask. You make more work for me."

~ Fritz Peters "Boyhood With Gurdjieff"

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