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The Story Behind the Photo

“On one trip to America, this one I believe, we took Michel de Salzmann and Nicolai Stjoernval along with us. Gurdjieff told the two boys to investigate America. And they did. They roamed through the streets and stores of New York like lice.

“One day that winter in New York, Gurdjieff told me he wanted to have photographs taken the next day. He said, "Get best photographer in town." When I called the best photographer, he was insulted that I should think that he would be available on one day's notice.

“Instead I arranged with Toni von Horn, a German friend of mine to take the pictures. [Tony von Horn, as she spelled her name on her photographs, was one of the first women professional photographers.]

“The next day we trooped into her studio. A variety of different photographs were to be taken. First Toni posed Gurdjieff by himself. She suggested an apparatus to hold his head still while she took his picture. That infuriated Gurdjieff. He said, "If wish, could hold head still till last day." While Toni photographed him, he looked at me. I felt an immense weight as if the world were pressing on me. I struggled to withstand it. There arose in me, "I can hold it."

“Then it was time for the group photograph of all of us: Mr. Gurdjieff, Dr. Stjoernval, Mme. de Saizmann, myself, Michel, and Nicolai. Such a fuss! Who should stand? Where to sit? How to be? In the end, Mme. de Salzmann and I stood while the others sat—the two bearded men, one on each end of the couch, the two boys in the middle. The next day Gurdjieff shaved off his beard. That had been the reason for the pictures.”

~ Louise Goepfert March “The Gurdjieff Years”

“Two things in life are infinite; the stupidity of man and the mercy of God.” ~ George Gurdjieff


“Common aim is stronger than blood.” ~ George Gurdjieff



“There was no need to coax. Solita led us both, soon after our return from Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia and Hungary, to the place where, in her charged words, "the only important thing in Paris" was going on. This was a study group which Jane Heap (whom I knew only by reputation as an avant-garde editor) was conducting in her Montparnasse apartment, an introduction to the Gurdjieff ideas and methods of self-study.

“Jane Heap in appearance was as formidable as her literary reputation – a handsome heavy-set American with dark cropped hair, that revealed the size and sculpture of a remarkable cranium. Her warm brown eyes softened the austerity of her masculine countenance, as well as the bright lipstick she wore on her generous mouth. Her personal magnetism was almost visible.

“She had recently wound up some fifteen years of co-editing with Margaret Anderson a most adventurous small magazine published in the States – 'The Little Review', which had introduced to the American public such literary pioneers as Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, Ben Hecht, Ezra Pound and, in serialization, the 'Ulysses' of James Joyce, for which their magazine had been put on trial by the Society for the Suppression of Vice for publishing "obscenity." Now she directed her energies to spreading the teaching of Gurdjieff.

“Before that first meeting ended, I was taking notes furiously on the astounding picture of man as a habit machine, dominated and driven by any one of the multiple I's that composed him, a "sleepwalker" in short, who could live his entire life without waking up or even feeling the need to. Until he could uncover his real I, he was a helpless slave to circumstances, to whatever chameleon personality took the initiative with him for the hour, for the day.”

~ Kathryn Hulme “Undiscovered Country”



“In the Study House one day Gurdjieff said: ‘I understand that some of you are not clear about what you call the formatory “centre”. This is not a centre, it is an apparatus. It consists of a number of machines connected with the centres.

‘Shocks from one centre pass through the formatory apparatus, and if the associated thoughts, feelings, or sensations are strong enough they will set up corresponding associations in another centre. The associations between centres are conveyed through the formatory apparatus connections. The centres are of spiritized matter, so to say; the formatory apparatus not; it is a machine that we are born with.’

“He gave as an illustration a factory with various departments—and partners, the centres. There is a general office in charge of a secretary. In us the general office is the formatory apparatus, and the secretary our upbringing and education—our automatically acquired points of view. All messages from outside, between departments, and between partners, are received in the office and transmitted by the secretary with all references and relative correspondence. But the secretary is lazy and often given to fits of day-dreaming; she presses the wrong button, gets messages mixed up. And so with the formatory apparatus in us.

“This talk, in time, cleared up many things for me. We depend on this secretary. Accidental shocks set something going within us, and we talk and talk—or write! There are those who talk incessantly, like a gramophone record which repeats and repeats; not only barkers at fairs and markets, intellectuals and politicians, but many nice well meaning people pour out an unending stream of words.”

~ CS Nott “The Teachings of Gurdjieff - A Pupil's Journey”



“But if a man knows how to be sincere with himself—not sincere as the word is usually understood, but mercilessly sincere—then, to the question "What are you?" he will not expect a comforting reply. So now, without waiting for you to come nearer to experiencing for yourselves what I am speaking about, I suggest that, in order to understand better what I mean, each of you should now ask himself the question "What am I?" I am certain that 95 percent of you will be puzzled by this question and will answer with another one: "What do you mean?"

“And this will prove that a man has lived all his life without asking himself this question, has taken for granted, as axiomatic, that he is "something," even something very valuable, something he has never questioned. At the same time he is unable to explain to another what this something is, unable to convey even any idea of it, for he himself does not know what it is. Is the reason he does not know because, in fact, this "something" does not exist but is merely assumed to exist? Is it not strange that people pay so little attention to themselves in the sense of self-knowledge? Is it not strange with what dull complacency they shut their eyes to what they really are and spend their lives in the pleasant conviction that they represent something valuable? They fail to see the galling emptiness hidden behind the highly painted facade created by their self-delusion and do not realize that its value is purely conventional. True, this is not always so. Not everyone looks at himself so superficially. There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter what path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him. For without this knowledge, he will have no focal point in his search. Socrates' words "Know thyself" remain for all those who seek true knowledge and being.”

~ George Gurdjieff "Views from the Real World"



“One needs fire. Without fire, there will never be anything. This fire is suffering, voluntary suffering, without which it is impossible to create anything. One must prepare, must know what will make one suffer and when it is there, make use of it. Only you can prepare, only you know what makes you suffer, makes the fire which cooks, cements, crystallizes, does. Suffer by your defects, in your pride, in your egoism. Remind yourself of the aim. Without prepared suffering there is nothing, for by as much as one is conscious, there is no more suffering. No further process, nothing. That is why with your conscience you must prepare what is necessary. You owe to Nature. The food you eat which nourishes your life. You must pay for these cosmic substances. You have a debt, an obligation, to repay by conscious work. Do not eat like an animal but render to Nature for what she has given you, Nature, your mother. Work—a drop, a drop, a drop—accumulated during days, months, years, centuries, perhaps will give results.”

~ George Gurdjieff (Paris Talks)



"In ordinary life the concept 'conscience' is taken too simply. As if we had a conscience. Actually the concept 'conscience' in the sphere of the emotions is equivalent to the concept 'consciousness' in the sphere of the intellect. And as we have no consciousness we have no conscience.

"Consciousness is a state in which a man knows all at once everything that he in general knows and in which he can see how little he does know and how many contradictions there are in what he knows. "Conscience is a state in which a man feels all at once everything that he in general feels, or can feel. And as everyone has within him thousands of contradictory feelings which vary from a deeply hidden realization of his own nothingness and fears of all kinds to the most stupid kind of self-conceit, self-confidence, self-satisfaction, and self-praise.”

~George Gurdjieff as quoted by PD Ouspensky in "In Search of the Miraculous"



“From the time when man began to live on the Earth, from the time of Adam onwards, there started to be formed within him, with the help of God, of Nature, and of all his surroundings, an organ whose function is conscience. Every man has this organ, and whoever is guided by it automatically lives according to God’s commandments. If our consciences were clear, and not buried, there would be no need to speak about morality, for consciously or unconsciously everyone would behave according to God’s commandments. Unfortunately conscience is covered up with a kind of crust which can be pierced only by intense suffering; then conscience speaks. But after a while a man calms down and once more the organ becomes covered over and buried.”

~ George Gurdjieff

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