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G.I. Gurdjieff on Esoteric Christianity and the Slavery of the Masses

Peter D. Ouspensky, a Russian philosopher and student of Armenian mystic, George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff around 1870 recounts a conversation he had with him in his book, In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (1949).

In one account, Peter D. Ouspensky asks Gurdjieff:

“Why if ancient knowledge is preserved, why aren’t such men willing to let it pass into general circulation of life?”

He replied to Ouspensky, that the masses do not want, nor seek the knowledge, and live in a kind of slavery, like machines.

Narration by Debbie Elliott

“The crowds neither want or seek knowledge. The leaders of the crowds in their own interests try to strengthen its fear of like and dislike of anything new and unknown. The slavery in which man-kind lives is based upon this fear. It is even difficult to imagine all the horror of this slavery. We do not understand what people are losing. To understand the cause of this slavery, it is enough to see how people live, what makes the aim of their existence, the object of their desires, passions and aspirations of what they think, of what they talk of and what they do, what they serve, and what they worship. (…) “What do you expect?,” said Gurdjieff. People are machines, machines have to be blind and unconscious, they cannot be otherwise. All their actions have to correspond to their nature. Everything happens. No-one does anything. Progress and civilization, and the real meaning of these words can only appear through the results of conscious actions. They do not appear as the result of unconscious mechanical actions. And what conscious effort can there be in machines? And if one machine is unconscious, then a hundred machines are unconscious and so are a thousand or a million. And the unconscious mechanical actions of a million machines must result in self-destruction or extermination.”

Ouspensky continues to recount what Gurdjieff said to him:

“The next lecture began with the word “know thyself.” These words said Gurdjieff, which are generally ascribed to Socrates actually lie at the basis of many systems and schools far more ancient than the Socratic. The modern man of our times, even the man with philosophical and scientific interest does not realize that the principle “Know Thyself” speaks of the necessity of knowing ones machine, the human machine. A man does not know himself. A man is a very complex machine much more complicated than a locomotive or motor car or an aeroplane. People know nothing, or next to nothing of the structure or the working or the possibility of the machine. They do not understand the simplest functions, for they do not know the aims of these functions…”

A Visual Narration

Gurdjieff and Christianity

It is important to understand in all this, that G.I. Gurdjieff was raised Christian within the Greek Church, believing aspects of the Church were lost to the Western Church centuries ago, initially inherited from the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, Brahmins and others in the East. Just like H.P. Blavatsky and Gerald Massey explains, Gurdjieff argued, that the Christian church, the Christian form of worship was not invented by the early Church fathers, but originated in a prehistoric time in ancient Egypt. The knowledge of this science he states, has been preserved, and its principles, ideas and science constitutes the true Christianity, which has been distorted.

He called his “Fourth Way” Philosophy ‘esoteric Christianity,’ and held great admiration for Jesus, referring to him as “that Sacred Individual,” “the Divine Teacher Jesus Christ,” and “a Messenger from our ENDLESSNESS.” P.D. Ouspensky describes it thus, “The system explains not only itself but also what is true in other systems.” G.I. Gurdjieff founded Institute for the Harmonious Development in Tbilisi to teach this esoteric side of Christianity, explaining in Views from the Real World that “The Institute can give very little. The program of the Institute, the aim of the Institute, the possibilities of the Institute can be expressed in few words: the Institute can help one to be able to be a Christian. Simple! That is all!”

Gurdjieff was giving a new way to approach Christianity, encouraging research and investigation:

“Real love is the basis of all, the foundations, the Source. The religions have perverted and deformed love. It was by love that Jesus performed miracles. Real love joined with magnetism. All accumulated vibrations create a current. This current brings the force of love. Real love is a cosmic force which goes through us. If we crystallize it, it becomes a power—the greatest power in the world.” (G.I. Gurdjieff, Meetings at 6 rue des Colonels-Renard, Paris, 1938)

Love and compassion is at the foundation of Gurdjieff’s teaching, and the significance is that Gurdjieff believes real love to be a primordial occult force of nature, and the aim of real esotericism is to connect Man with the will of God.

“If instead of religion in general we take Christianity, then again there exists a Christianity number one, that is to say, paganism in the guise of Christianity. Christianity number two is an emotional religion, sometimes very pure but without  force, sometimes full of bloodshed and horror leading to the Inquisition, to religious wars. Christianity number three, instances of which are afforded by various forms of  Protestantism, is based upon dialectic, argument, theories, and so forth. Then there is Christianity number four, of which men number one, number two, and number three have no conception whatever. In actual fact Christianity number one, number two, and number three is simply external imitation. Only man number four strives to be a Christian and only man  number five can actually be a Christian. For to be a Christian means to have the being  of a Christian, that is, to live in accordance with Christ’s precepts. Man number one, number two, and number three cannot live in accordance with  Christ’s precepts because with them everything ‘happens.’ Today it is one thing and  tomorrow it is quite another thing. Today they are ready to give away their last shirt  and tomorrow to tear a man to pieces because he refuses to give up his shirt to them.  They are swayed by every chance event. They are not masters of themselves and  therefore they cannot decide to be Christians and really be Christians.” (In Search of the Miraculous, Ch. 4)

He explains further, as to what is a Christian in Chapter 6 of In Search of the Miraculous.

“First of all it is necessary to understand that a Christian is not a man who calls himself a Christian or whom others call a Christian. A Christian is one who lives in accordance with Christ’s precepts. Such as we are we cannot be Christians. In order to be Christians we must be able ‘to do.’ We cannot do; with us everything ‘happens.’ Christ says: ‘Love your enemies,’ but how can we love our enemies when we cannot even love our friends? Sometimes ‘it loves’ and sometimes ‘it does not love.’ Such as we are we cannot even really desire to be Christians because, again, sometimes ‘it desires’ and sometimes ‘it does not desire.’ And one and the same thing cannot be desired for long, because suddenly, instead of desiring to be a Christian, a man remembers a very good but very expensive carpet that he has seen in a shop. And instead of wishing to be a Christian he begins to think how he can manage to buy this carpet, forgetting all about Christianity. Or if somebody else does not believe what a wonderful Christian he is, he will be ready to eat him alive or to roast him on hot coals. In order to be a good Christian one must be. To be means to be master of oneself. If a man is not his own master he has nothing and can have nothing. And he cannot be a Christian. He is simply a machine, an automaton. A machine cannot be a Christian. Think for yourselves, is it possible for a motorcar or a typewriter or a gramophone to be Christian? They are simply things which are controlled by chance. They are not responsible. They are machines. To be a Christian means to be responsible. Responsibility comes later when a man even partially ceases to be a machine, and begins in fact, and not only in words, to desire to be a Christian.”

In this scene in the film Meetings with Remarkable Men about his life, Gurdjieff meets wise men, adepts that give him advice on the path that is related to what he said of Christianity helpful to us to understand, regarding human psychology.

“The problem with many of the Gnostics, if we can judge them on the basis of their gospels, is that too often their personal understandings were not based on a foundation of effort and inner work, but instead on non-Christian mythologies and their own fantasies. On the side of the church there were problems as well. If Jesus was the only real authority, then the only authority later Christians can assert has to be dependent on the understanding of his story, his sayings, and his actions. And understanding is dependent on individual being, not on who has the historically correct story or on who has the most perfect line of teachers back to Jesus. The problem wasn’t that one or the other was wrong. What their squabbles revealed was that they were both right in their own way, but that they both failed to see that they had lost touch with their conscious or esoteric origin.” (Gurdjieff, Gnostics, and the Divinity of Christ)

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