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Reijo Oksanen was born in Helsinki 1942, heard of Gurdjieff and also the Orthodox Way in 1962 and came to London to join the Work in 1967. He moved back to Finland in 1971 and joined the Orthodox Church. In 1990 Oksanen moved to Denmark and in 2004 to Switzerland. After a long career in textiles, clothing and furniture industries, he set his mind into putting Gurdjieff properly into the internet.
From 2004 Reijo Oksanen is actively engaged in the activities of ars sacra Life Workshop.
Gurdjieff & Orthodox Christianity
Reijo Oksanen 2003-2011
At first look, and even after some study, it is not immediately apparent that the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff and the Orthodox Startzy or Gerontas are closely related. This is confirmed, often in no uncertain terms, by the followers of both of the teachings. And of course there are not only similarities, but also differences.
Christianity is relative to our understanding of it. Many of the commonly held usual meanings are often wrongly attached to it. To avoid some of these interpretations I want to point out that I am only writing about things like: the following of Christ, of dying to the world and to remember God, and about these and similar things, as they are known in the Orthodox teachings. This study is based on my own studies, in theory and practice, of both the Gurdjieff and the Orthodox Work.
To understand these views it may even be better if you try to forget all what you know about Christianity... unless you have studied the Orthodox tradition and know it well.
The same applies to 'Gurdjieffians'. To me it seems that the 'orthodox' view on the influences that Gurdjieff used in exposing his teaching is that it was predominantly 'Sufic'. I don't know enough to write about these influences, and have not come across anyone who does within the followers of Gurdjieff.
I did say Orthodox Work, because that is what Work is called by both Gurdjieff and the Orthodox (of course other expressions also exist). This is Work on consciousness, indirectly, and finding one's true identity, knowing oneself. The Work is not an end in itself, but a means to reach the aim. Most of it is preparatory Work.
There are similarities and there are differences; I will concentrate on the similarities. The views presented are my own and do not represent the official opinions and attitudes of either of the subjects under study.
My motive in writing is not to try to convince or convert anybody else than myself. To believe in God has always been the great stumbling block in my approach to Christianity. The sermons held by the Lutheran priests that I heard since my childhood have not helped me to understand who God, or the Devil, is. Today, 50 years later, "Who or what is God?" is still for me a big question and a mystery.
If it had not happened that I stumbled into learning about the Orthodox a couple of months before I first read about Gurdjieff I would most likely not have started to find out more about it. This was the reason that led my searches in the direction of the Orthodox teachings, but it does not mean that similar things cannot be discovered in Christianity, whatever the 'Church' one is studying is called.
Most of the Orthodox I have met were born into it. Some of them, but not all, have received the teachings with their mother's milk. God has been a part of their education at home and become a part of their being. I lack this education and it justifies my search and this study.
This is quite different with the Gurdjieffians - by far the majority of them came across the teachings at a later time in their lives.
Monasticism & the Fourth Way
Gurdjieff: "There is not and there cannot be any choice of the people who come into touch with the 'ways'. In other words, nobody selects them, they select themselves, partly by accident and partly by having a certain hunger." [Ref. 1]
The Orthodox say that the Christian life is the same for everyone independent of where one lives. 'Dying' to the world and 'remembering God' continuously are such hard labours that some people choose to follow the way to the union with God without the distractions of the daily life in the 'worldly' occupations. Withdrawing to a monastery or a convent does not change any of the difficulties or make this work easier; the novices carry the sins of their souls (and their thoughts and emotions) and of their bodies wherever they go.
Our energy is limited and used up in many ways. We 'leak' our energy through our functions: thoughts, feelings and sensations. This is all part of human nature, 'old Adam and Eve'. The 'sins of the soul' and the body can only be purified by the Lord sitting on his throne. A Christian struggles to beat this 'legion' and to prepare the way for the 'Spirit', the Lord. Gurdjieff expresses a similar struggle by saying that as we are, we have no 'real I', no Master, but a multitude of petty little I's. To be a Master is the aim.
Lord on His throne to me looks the same as having the Master in our house; he sees our faults, does not condemn, but forgives. Repentance (Greek word metanoia means turning one's direction) is an Orthodox minute to minute activity, which is only possible when our Conscience is not 'buried' (Gurdjieff). We need to see our nothingness or as Gurdjieff puts it, "we cannot enter heaven with our boots on" or "eating cakes".
Going to reclusion can be seen as an attempt to lessen the impact of the world and coming into a situation where one is reminded all the time of 'the only thing necessary' - the remembrance of God and the union with Him. Bishop Alexander Miloant wrote: "Orthodox monasticism has always been associated with stillness or silence, which is seen primarily as an internal rather than an external state. External silence is sought in order to attain inner stillness of mind more easily".
Gurdjieff says in P. D. Ouspensky's book In Search of the Miraculous: "You must understand that every real religion, that is, one that has been created by learned people for a definite aim, consists of two parts. One part teaches what is to be done. This part becomes common knowledge and in the course of time is distorted and departs from the original. The other part teaches how to do what the first part teaches. This part is preserved in secret in special schools and with its help it is always possible to rectify what has been distorted in the first part or to restore what has been forgotten. Out of dozens of monasteries one is a school." [Ref. 2]
Gurdjieff used the expression the Fourth Way to distinguish his teachings from other Ways. To me it looks that the expression Fourth Way was a 'sales trick'. It was mainly used in the early days of the teaching and adopted by P. D. Ouspensky when he taught what he called the 'system' quite independently of Gurdjieff, but based on the ideas he had learned from him.
The Fourth Way is practised in life by those who do not have a possibility to give up everything and go to a monastery. In Christianity this is the practice of the lay people. In fact the conditions the seeker of truth finds himself when coming in contact with the Fourth Way are ideal for his/her work. [Ref. 3]
I detect a certain self-satisfaction when Gurdjieff says that he has 50 sons in monasteries. It is my opinion that the concept 'Fourth Way' is very unfortunate and misleading. It seems to imply that outside the traditional ways of the Fakir, Monk and the Yogi, there are no possibilities of finding a Way, apart from his Fourth Way. I do not think that this is what Gurdjieff really wanted to say, or actually said.
To put it in Christian words: the Fourth Way is only for lay people, because there is no Fourth Way monasticism. Christianity has also been always open for the lay people.
Here lies another similarity: both teachings need to be found. They only become available with dissatisfaction with my own life as it is and through a search for an entirely new approach to it.
The World's Best Kept Secret
Gurdjieff: "Thus the work of collecting scattered matter of knowledge frequently coincides with the beginning of the destruction and fall of cultures and civilizations". [Ref. 4]
Orthodox Christianity has been called "The World's Best Kept Secret". The main reasons for this is language in many different aspects. The writings have been available for many hundreds of years in different languages like Syrian, Greek and Russian. Only in the latter part of the 20th century a larger selection of this literature has been translated into English. Some of these translations were made by E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer (two works published in the early fifties and one in 1966 [Ref 5,6,7]), who both had their association with P. D. Ouspensky as his students. Ouspensky writes: "G. Many times pointed out the necessity of studying this forgotten 'technique' as well as the impossibility of attaining results of any kind on the way of religion without it, excepting purely subjective results." [Ref. 8]
Another 'language difficulty' is that it is hardly possible to approach a spiritual father, a staretz or Geronta, for instructions if you do not speak his language. Yet another reason for the difficulty is a direct result of the forms Christianity has taken in the West - the Eastern teachings are so different, that a considerable openness is necessary on the part of a Western person to understand what the Eastern mystics said and thought. The language and the expressions used are the main difficulties.
It is at this point Gurdjieff with his vision and with the clear language he used comes to help. His language is direct and it is not often even lost in the translation. This applies both to theory and practice. In other words he comes up with some keys that can open some of the doors to "The World's Best Kept Secret." This works both ways - some keys to Gurdjieff's teaching can be found in the Orthodox theory and practice; these teachings are complimentary to each other.
Below are two samples of this use of language, which also show the difference of the use of expressions and how they are complimentary:
Theophan the Recluse writes in The Path to Salvation: "I am a Christian, you say, and content yourself with this. This is the first deceit - transferring to yourself the privileges and promise of Christianity, without any care to root true Christianity into yourself; or to ascribe to yourself that which can only be acquired by your strength and inner worthiness." [Ref. 9]
The above is clear enough. Gurdjieff says in P. D. Ouspensky's 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." [Ref. 10]
Orthodox Monasticism has jealously guarded their communities against the sinful influences coming from the 'World', particularly influences from the West. This clash has always been there, but a definite opening in Russia towards the rest of the World has at least and at last become possible after the fall of the Soviet rule. However, the outside influences need to be kept at bay simply to maintain the special conditions in the Monasteries.
This guarding from the sinful influences has also extended to the influences with the Orthodox monasticism itself. When the monks started to practice the 'Prayer of the Heart' it was condemned by the Church authorities and those who practiced it were called 'naval gazers'. Later in the 15th century the Prayer of the Heart was though accepted and those who were against it were kicked out of the church.
It took a hundred years for the Orthodox to accept some of the main writings of Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894), who was made a Saint in 1980.
Gurdjieff's teaching is in the same situation to-day and far too 'unorthodox' to be accepted by the Orthodox authorities.
Gurdjieff: Man Can Not Do;
Jesus: for without me you can do nothing. John: 15
Gurdjieff: "Man's chief delusion is his conviction that he can do. All people think that they can do, all people want to do, and the first question all people ask is what they are to do. But actually nobody does anything and nobody can do anything. This is the first thing that must be understood. Everything happens." [Ref. 11]
The Orthodox say that thoughts, which are good or bad, lead to emotions (the strong ones are called passions), also good or bad, and the emotions lead to actions, which again are good or bad. Work consists in knowing one's self, seeing all these movements, both the good and the bad ones.
St. Theophan the Recluse: "The result of warfare can be a mind free of thoughts, a heart free of passions, and a will free of tendencies. When this develops, the person has achieved passionlessness. His inner being becomes a clear mirror that reflects spiritual things." [Ref. 12] The method to achieve this is doing the opposite of what our 'old Adam or Eve' does. 'The Law of the Opposites' is also part of the Gurdjieff-teachings.
About Self-Remembering and Self-Gathering
St. Theophan: "Gathering is where all spiritual work takes place - warfare, reading, divine contemplation and prayer. Whatever the ascetic does, he should always go within and work from there". [Ref. 13]
Gurdjieff defines self-consciousness as the third state of consciousness, with sleep and waking-sleep (our normal state) as the two lower states. The way to self-consciousness is through the practice of self-remembering, by dividing attention between my sense of 'I' and an object. The object can be within me or outside me. This has an effect in Gurdjieff's words: "everything more vivid". I do not normally remember myself and to do it I need to make an effort, every time - it does not become automatic. The exercise to do this was described on the Gurdjieff Internet Guide site in detail in an article by A. G. E. Blake and is now available at http://www.katinkahesselink.net/sufi/foundations.html
Self-gathering is the Orthodox preparatory work. There are three elements in self-gathering. First: the gathering of the mind in the heart, called attention. Second: to be alert in the body, called vigilance. Third: to come to the senses, called soberness. To be self-gathered you descend within your heart with the help of these three elements. When you are within the work is to remain there as long as you are conscious. When you are outside, your repeat the self-gathering and go on renewing it as it is not something that continues without the effort. When you have gathered yourself, you are within; missing even one of the elements puts you outside. In fact St. Theophan writes: "...the ascetic laborer is in a minute-by-minute struggle...Therefore he is in a state of perpetual beginning..." [Ref. 14]
For Gurdjieff work and the Orthodox work self-remembering and self-gathering are the methods that make further work possible. They are the preparatory works that can lead to the death of the tyrant that keeps the 'real I', 'the Spirit', in prison. The death of this tyrant (old Adam and Eve) can eventually make new birth, the birth of "I", the birth of Christ, possible.
Full and real prayer is when praying words and praying thoughts are combined with praying feelings. [Ref. 14A]
Gurdjieff had his way of expressing what prayer is. To answer a question if prayer can help in the work and how one can pray he said: "You can only pray with your three centres, and at the same time it is an exercise. What interests me is not your prayer, it is your concentration with your three centres. Your prayer goes no further than your atmosphere... Learn, for the sake of the future, to concentrate not only with one center but with the three. You must think, feel and sense. This is important. For this there are different exercises. You can pray, sing - anything you like - but with the three centers." [Ref. 14B]
St. Theophan: "First prepare yourself: 'stand for a while in silence, until your feelings calm down' as the prayer-book teaches, and remember what you are about to approach and to perform, who you are, who are about to pray, and who is He before Whom you are about to recite your prayers, what exactly you are to say and how." [Ref. 14C]
St. Theophan: All of these activities are assigned for the development of the powers of the soul in the spirit of a new life. [Ref. 15]
Soul is an interesting word. It is used in Orthodoxy of thoughts and emotions, of our 'ordinary' thoughts and emotions. We have this ordinary soul and a body. These are not perfect as they are, but give us the possibility of work, the material. This 'soul' has to die for 'Christ' to be born in us. When the Spirit, Christ, is present, our soul is in connection with Him and through this connection our souls can be purified. We are not born with the Spirit, but according to Christianity, it enters us when we are baptized. We are not aware of it (at least most of us are not) and if we do not wake up to the presence of the Spirit the soul remains impure.
Gurdjieff says that as we are we have no soul. According to him we have fully developed 'higher centers', which we are only very rarely in touch with (we are not aware of their workings). To have a soul we first have to make it.
The main reason for the 'lack of soul' and our 'soul's impurity' (Orthodox) is that our education is wrongly conducted. This is very difficult to rectify in later life. However, we can awake, and the soul can become alive and purified in us through remorse of Conscience.
Conscience & Morality
Beelzebub: ...although the factors for engendering in their presences the sacred being-impulses of Faith, Hope and Love are already quite degenerated in the beings of this planet, nevertheless, the factor which ought to engender that being-impulse on which the whole psyche of beings of a three-brained system is in general based, and which impulse exists under the name of Objective-Conscience, is not yet atrophied in them, but remains in their presences almost in its primordial state. [Ref. 16]
Gurdjieff differentiated between subjective and objective morality. Subjective morality is artificial and different in China and Europe. It is also different within the classes in a society. The more moral you are the more immoral other people seem to be.
The aim of Orthodox morality is to attain union with God; it deals with man's relationship to God. Man is by nature weak and lacks quality. In fact his being determines his God.
Orthodox morality is conscious and voluntary doing of God's will. Its opposite is slavery - man's reasoning, habits, external influences, education etc. Freedom is choosing between the egoistic will and the will of God.
I made the following translation from a 100 page book by a Finnish Orthodox priest published in 1947 about Conscience:
"The criticism of man's actions take place in his conscience; its influence does not extend outside himself. The criticism in his conscience must be preceded by actions done consciously and voluntarily. Only this makes man responsible for his actions, words, and thoughts; also those of other people if he has influenced them."
"A wish is a moral feeling that draws man towards perfection. This wish is only influenced by conscious and voluntary efforts. After numerous efforts man can arrive at creating rules for himself. This he can do with the help of self-observation and logical reasoning. These rules are always common for all people, always the same and always necessary. There can be no development in them."
"When man understands that this objective moral law is meant personally for him, he also understands his duty. Man has only one duty, but it can contain different activities. He must have a clear picture of the order of importance and urgency of these actions in relation to his duty as otherwise he gets confused."
"Conscience keeps man informed of his moral law (rule). Conscience is of two kinds: law-giving and critical. The law-giving conscience says what man has to do; the critical conscience in him judges how he has done it. Conscience can develop, become more responsive and more perfect."
Gurdjieff: "Conscience is a state in which a man feels all at once everything that he in general feels, or can feel." [Ref. 17]
"Even a momentary awakening of conscience in a man who has thousands of different I's is bound to involve suffering. And if these moments of conscience become longer and if a man does not fear them but on the contrary co-operates with them and tries to keep and prolong them, an element of very subtle joy, a foretaste of the future 'clear consciousness' will gradually enter these moments." [Ref. 17A]
The Quest for Freedom and Obedience
St. Theophan: "...the renunciation of our own freedom. A free creature, according to his consciousness and determination, acts from his own self, but this should not be so. In the kingdom of God there should not be anyone acting from himself; God should be acting in everything. This cannot happen as long as freedom stands for itself - it denies and turn away God's power". [Ref. 18]
It is said in the Gurdjieff work that at some point we have to come under the will of another, someone, who we trust, 'a teacher', even if we do not always agree. In the absence of a 'teacher' God is available for this, all the time. The problem is that we are not always present, we are 'upside down'. Monasteries provide the opportunity to come under another will, the Will of God and that of the Spiritual Father, the Staretz. This opportunity is also open to lay people if they find a contact with 'one who knows'.
There has to be a 'guide', be that an elder, Staretz, Geronta or in the Gurdjieff work a group and a leader who is awake and can keep shaking us as long as it takes to get us 'to blink' and eventually to wake up. Learning can take place when we obey!
In other words both of these teachings are oral teachings; direct advice from the guide to the guided. Without the direct contact we go our own way and it often happens that we lose it.
What about my freedom then?
Gurdjieff in Ouspensky's In Search says: "The whole thing is in being ready to sacrifice one's freedom. A man consciously and unconsciously struggles for freedom as he imagines it and this, more than anything else, prevents him from attaining real freedom. But a man who is capable of attaining anything comes sooner or later to the conclusion that his freedom is illusion and he agrees to sacrifice this illusion. He voluntarily becomes a slave. He does what he is told, says what he is told, and thinks what he is told. He is not afraid of losing anything because he knows that he has nothing. And in this way he acquires everything. Everything in him that was real in his understanding, in his sympathies, tastes, and desires, all comes back to him accompanied by new things which he did not have and could not have had before, together with a feeling of unity and will within him. But to arrive at this point, a man must pass through the hard way of slavery and obedience. And if he wants results he must obey not only outwardly but inwardly. This requires a great determination, and determination requires a great understanding of the fact that there is no other way, that a man can do nothing himself, but that at the same time, something has to be done." [Ref. 19]
On my first visit to Mount Athos in 2010, I had the opportunity to ask from a monk how they practice the Prayer of Jesus. He answered: "It may be sounding a bit strange to you, but our practice is through Obedience".
Gurdjieff: "If you try to do something you don't want to do - you will suffer. If you want to do something and don't do it - you also suffer". [Ref. 19A]
In Gurdjieff Work Intentional Suffering is one of the two principal ways to Work on oneself (the other is Conscious Labour). He says that most of the time we suffer because of our corns, which is not worth 'one Franc'. With Intentional Suffering we help Our Common Father Endlessness and alleviate his sorrow. [See Beelzebub's Tales]
Doing the opposite and opposing the demands of the body and the soul (thoughts and emotions) are the beginning of asceticism. This struggle of man with himself is called in Russian podvig and used by the Orthodox to depict the pain and the hard Work, the unseen warfare.
The need for a guide is essential for this Work. St. Theophan the Recluse writes: "Whoever conducts warfare with himself is conducting it himself, and while trying to work against egotism he is in a way feeding it. With a guide our "I" and its will entirely disappear at the outset, and together with it the passions lose all support." [Ref. 20]
All the sorrows and unpleasantness that an Orthodox meets are sent from God as a gift to give material for this Work of uprooting the passions (meaning strong emotions).
Centers & Brains - Aspects & Degrees
Gurdjieff: "Man is a three-brained being".
There is an interesting passage in St. Theophan's 'The Spiritual Life', which is directly related to Gurdjieff's concept of brains and centers. He calls them 'aspects', 'degrees' and 'layers':
"There are five layers in all, but one person in man, and this one person lives first one life, then another, then a third life. Judging by this, a person receives a particular character according to the kind of life he lives, and this character is reflected in his views and attitudes, his habits, and his feelings. That is, his life is either spiritual, with spiritual views, habits and feelings; or it is intellectual, with intellectual concepts, habits and feelings; or it is carnal, with carnal thoughts, deeds and feelings. (I am not taking into consideration the states in between - the intellectual-spiritual, or the intellectual-physical, because I don't want too many categories). This does not mean that when a man is spiritual that the intellectual and physical have no place in him, but only that the spiritual predominates, subordinating to itself and penetrating the intellectual and the physical parts." [Ref. 21]
On the same page he continues: "Man is always free. Freedom is given to him along with consciousness of self, and together they constitute the essence of the spirit and the standard of humanity. Extinguish freedom and consciousness of self, and you extinguish the spirit, and man is no longer man." [Ref. 21]
In Gurdjieff's teachings 'The Harmonious Development of Man' is possible with 'self-remembering' and a man who remembers himself is self-conscious. Although the language is somewhat different both are speaking of the same things, which becomes apparent when St. Theophan writes:
"...spirituality is the norm of human life, and so as a result, being spiritual, he is a real person, whereas the intellectual or carnal man is not a real person." [Ref. 22]
It looks to me that Gurdjieff clarified these concepts. For St. Theophan living without a Spirit brings us into a whirlpool of thoughts, emotions and actions "sometimes for a short time, sometimes for a long time, and not infrequently forever." [Ref. 22] He goes on to say that this turbulence is abnormal and an illness, but it can be healed.
St. Theophan writes of the Spirit, intellect and body (carnal man). Why does he not mention 'the emotional man'? The heart for the Orthodox (and many others) is the seat of emotions, not in the sense of the physical muscle, but more as occupying that part of the human body. His view on the emotions is what is said about the passions; they are not what they should be and if they are not uprooted they are the biggest obstacle in our Union with God. Self-consciousness and freedom are only possible when the passions don't rule.
The Gurdjieff-approach to this was well defined by Adam Nott in the 2003 All & Everything Conference (I have edited this from the Proceedings, because the original is rendered in such a way that it can hardly be understood):
"What is the difficulty about seeing ourselves?
The most obvious difficulty is that at the moment when one glimpses some aspect of oneself, which one could learn from, there is a reaction; one can be either pleased or disappointed. I am usually disappointed or shocked at the behaviour that I see and then I am taken by the reaction and what I have seen does not leave an impression.
The question becomes: 'How is it possible to see and not react?
This is only possible when the centres are connected. The level of reaction is a level where one centre has dominated. In order to see it is necessary for the centres to be connected.
How is this possible? This brings us to the fundamental question.
How is it possible for the centres to be connected?
Before three centres can be connected, two need to be connected. Which two? If I try to connect my emotions with my body or with my mind the emotions are so strong that there is no possibility of a relationship. If I try to connect my body to my head there is a possibility of a relationship. If that relationship can be maintained the feelings can come in.
How do I connect my body with my head?" [Ref. 22A]
Adam Nott goes further by saying that this is a discovery that one has to make. I wish to add that the exercise given in the above link by A. G. E. Blake in his article and the practice of the Prayer of the Heart are both about this discovery.
Gurdjieff left Russia in 1920 when the communist regime had begun the destruction of religion and the religious people. Many of the monks and nuns were killed (the statistics of this say that 88000 monks, nuns and priests were killed). The monasteries, convents and churches were used for the purposes of communism in the Soviet area. When I visited St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) in the seventies and wanted to see the Theological Academy near Alexander Nevsky Monastery, the buildings were used for weapon production and access was denied.
By the time Gurdjieff arrived in the West with his teaching the whole of the Orthodox tradition of the Elders in Soviet Union had to go underground. Only a few traces of it are left now after the Soviet fall. Today it is in the process of being built up again. The work of the Gerontas in Mount Athos could continue through this time, and has been under renewal from the seventies.
In the Gurdjieff related literature there are some references saying that Gurdjieff stole the ideas from somewhere - he started these rumours himself. When asked where he got his knowledge, he once answered: "Perhaps I stole it". He certainly was inspired by the Orthodox inner teachings. He put them in a form that is more accessible in our time. However, stealing in this area is not possible, as it is a question of being and being present.
Gurdjieff: "No, we are a group of friends. About 30 years ago a dozen of us spent several years in central Asia, and we reconstructed the doctrine from the remains of oral traditions, from the study of ancient customs, folk songs and even from certain books. The doctrine has always existed, but the tradition has often been interrupted. In ancient times certain groups and castes knew it, but it was incomplete. The ancients went in too much for metaphysics. The doctrine was too abstract." [Ref. 22]
Gurdjieff said towards the end of his life: "Remember what now I say, begin in Russia, finish in Russia". Why did he say that? He had kept the Orthodox tradition similar to the teachings of the elders alive with his teaching. Did he want to go back and hand it over to the church?
James Moore writes in his website http://www.gurdjieff.org.uk/gs9.htm that it is possible that in 1935 Gurdjieff applied for permission to return to Russia and went on a journey for about three months the same year, perhaps visiting also Leningrad.
It is not surprising, although there is perhaps no way to verify the truth of what Ted Nottingham writes about in his review on Robin Amis' book A Different Christianity at http://www.gurdjieff-internet.com/book_details.php?authID=28&BID=126&lang=English: "In a striking anecdote resulting from his years of research, Amis informs us that, shortly before his death, Gurdjieff arranged for a group to travel to Mount Athos in an effort to re-establish contact with the tradition. The author claims that making the connection with this ancient teaching virtually lost to the world completes the incomplete system of inner work which Ouspensky called "fragments of an unknown teaching."
Before Gurdjieff's 'literary ambassador' P. D. Ouspensky died, he 'abandoned the system' he had been teaching for nearly 30 years. His advice to his followers was to 'reconstruct the system'. As far as I know no re-construction has taken place.
I do not think that Gurdjieff's teaching is incomplete, neither is the Orthodox inner tradition. It has been of benefit for me to study both. Perhaps some day some others will also find this study beneficial (like some already have) in their attempts to Work; irrespective of if they call themselves 'Gurdjieffians' or 'Orthodox Christians', or both.
[Ref. 1] P. D. Ouspensky: In Search Of The Miraculous(Search). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957; page 360
[Ref. 2] Search, p.38
[Ref. 3] Search, p. 304
[Ref. 4] Search, p. 48
[Ref. 5] Anonymous: Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart (Philokalia, Heart). London: Faber & Faber, first published in 1951
[Ref. 6] St. Theophan the Recluse: Unseen Warfare (Warfare). London: Faber & Faber, first published in 1952
[Ref. 7] Igumen Hariton: The Art of Prayer (Art). London: Faber & Faber, 1966
[Ref. 8] Search, p. 304
[Ref. 9] St. Theophan the Recluse: The Path to Salvation (Path). U.S.A.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1996, p. 133
[Ref. 10] Search, p. 102
[Ref. 11] Search, p. 21
[Ref. 12] Path, p. 302
Ref. 13] Path, p. 226
[Ref. 14] Path, p. 217
[Ref. 14A] Warfare, p. 205
[Ref. 14B] Meeting Transcripts, 1941
[Ref. 14C] Warfare, p. 208
[Ref. 15] Path, p. 260
[Ref. 16] Gurdjieff: All & Everything. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950, p. 359
[Ref. 17] Search, p. 155
[Ref. 17A] Search, p. 156
[Ref. 18] Path, p. 316
[Ref. 19] Search, p. 365
[Ref. 19A] Gurdjieff: Views from the Real World, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973, p. 101
[Ref. 20] Path, p. 306
[Ref. 21] St. Theophan: The Spiritual Life (Spiritual). U.S.A.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1995, p. 71-72
[Ref. 22] Spiritual, p. 74-75
[Ref. 22A] The Proceedings, All & Everything Conference, 2003, p. 128
[Ref. 23] Denis Saurat: 'A Visit to Gourdyev', The Living Age, New York, January 1934, Vol. CCCXLV (4408), pp. 427-433
This article is exactly what is needed. It was interesting to see the parallells to mystic Ortodox christianity and Gurdjieff. This kind of comparing is good.
Gurdjieff was educated as a priest and knew Ortodox priests (see Meetings..) So it's not really strange to have parallells in his teaching. Gurdjieff said that the christian churchfathers have recived rites, liturgies etc ready made from earlier periods.
I hope Gurdjieff readers read this article and take it to heart.
Mika Kerttunen, Sweden
Thanks for a great read. I'm very interested in Gurdjieff and Christianity, and how they apply to my own inner work.
Jennifer, United States
Truth as it is in Jesus
The article was very fair with regard to how far one can really go without total truth. As a pastor/evangelical who has been in deep study of Orthodoxy for over 5 years I have come to realize its power and truth.
The problem is living out truth when one is fragmented and living in illusion. Gurdjiff helps open the doors to where we really are. Focus on sin can sometimes be unhealthy and self defeating, focus on inner consciousness is I beleive a more healthy way to face our level of awareness as to who we truly are. I can't blame sin, I have to see it is I.
Inner spirituality is most seen and expressed by the Athonite tradition on Mt Athos. As a pastor I want to become more whole/well alive and true. Gurdjiff is helping me see my Christianity more authentically. He didn't have it all right but there is enough to help one get on The Path. Thanks for the site and the very helpful and unbiased articles on the Orthodox Chruch and a Different Kind of Christianity. Christo Inesti
clarke, United States
Heart does not mean the emotions in Orthodox Christianity.
Heart does not mean the emotions in Orthodox Christianity. If you want to learn more about what the “Fathers” mean by the heart then read Dr. Bradshaw’s excellent paper “On Drawing the Mind into the Heart:Psychic Wholeness in the Greek Patristic Tradition“.
The main key in Gurdjieff teaching is the same like in Ortodox teaching, especially in orders from Athos. This key or Gate
is Humiliation. Secret gate which exist in eneagram,second shock or intentional suffering. Secret orders or other in Ortodox church like Ortodox saint or monks really know that behind all is the oposite side and they know what is the key in order to unite both sides. Mainly they use "secret prayer" in combination with breath, pumping blood and body feelings.
'I wanted to get into the Kingdom of Heaven and I tried one gate after another, but there were always so many people trying to get in that I could not even get through the crowd. And then I came to a little gate where there was no one trying to get in, and I got in very easily. Over the gate was written "Humiliation"'.
You can see one interview with the Serbian monk Father Tadey translated to English.
Exactly what I needed, thank you ~
I have long sensed a parallel energy at work in these two teachings to which I have been drawn in my life. Thank you so much for connecting them in writing as you have.
Kate Willens, United States
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