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Kristina Turner Interviews Reijo Oksanen
Kristina Turner (KT): I would like to begin with a little help from Mr. Gurdjieff by saying ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.’
Reijo Oksanen (RO): Do you know how the Orthodox Christians do the Crossing of themselves?
KT: No, tell me.
RO: You take your right hand and you put your thumb, forefinger and middle finger together and you put your ring finger and your little finger on your palm. This has a symbolism, like so much in Christianity. First: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The trinity in the three fingers. Secondly, the two fingers on your palm are a symbol for Christ as God, on the earth, as a human being. This shows the double nature he has. You know, everything in Christianity for me is symbolism…and it can work in us.
And so we put the three fingers on the forehead: the Father. The Son in the solar plexus, also in the sense of the light [sun as in David Fideler’s Jesus Christ - Sun of God] and connecting these two parts. Connecting the above with the below. And the Holy Spirit by making the sign of the cross across our heart. The heart is the middle point in this cross. We go down to the solar plexus. This is doing it the way the Orthodox do it, first your right shoulder and then the left. It doesn’t have any particular significance which way one does it; the Catholics do it from left to right. But the whole symbol, the symbol of the Cross, is so amazing. It connects the above and the below and it has got time in the horizontal. The crossing point is at our heart: also meaning right now.
Many positions and movements have got a lot of meaning that we don’t normally see in them. This comes fairly clearly into view when you do the Gurdjieff Movements. Very simple things can show us what it means to be in a position. For example, if you take a position like this, [gestures] which used to be the way one prayed (I am now showing this by raising my hands up and against each other about half a meter apart, pointing towards the above). The reception of the influence of the position can be sensed. Standing on the earth. Oh! I am so excited about the discoveries that one can make in Christianity – it is one of the works of a lifetime.
KT: To begin, I would like to say to the reader that this is a telephone interview and the data that I have for sensing your being, Reijo, is limited. What do you think I am missing by interviewing you in this way?
Video on the following section "Inner Work"
RO: Well we’ve got the voices and I’m making a video now. I think that if you’re asking generally what is the value of working in the virtual internet space or using telephones, videos or whatever, my personal answer is that I am able to work with some people in a fairly serious way with the help of these; not many people. I have put a condition on the possibility of starting to work like this, and that is that we really need to know each other quite well to be able to do any meaningful work. When we know each other we can see each other’s reactions. I would even think that the substance that is needed for transmission can be exchanged to some extent with the help of modern media. After all, long distance guidance of others without telephone lines or anything else has been possible in the past. So why not use this media, if we do not pay too much attention to the media itself, and try to be in an actively receptive state, and also an actively transmitting state. I think that this is the precondition that I have: if you know a person then there is a possibility that you can work together remotely, like so many healers also do.
On the other hand: it could be that what I am saying is not true; it has to be verified. For me it works to have meaningful inner work going on in an exchange with some people, as I have said. It can even work through an email exchange.
I have just been reading a book by William Chittick (Science of the Cosmos) who is a specialist, a professor in America studying, teaching and writing about Sufis such as Ibn al-Arabi, the Sufi Pole of Knowledge. (This is a reference to Rumi, the Pole of Love, Ibn Arabi, the Pole of Knowledge and Jilani, the Pole of Power.) Professor Chittick has written a little book where he talks about how a tradition can be transmitted generally. He says that there are two ways. One way is to imitate and that is what everybody does. If you take any religion, if you go in to a church or a mosque or a synagogue or whatever, you see imitation “live”. We also get religion at home through imitation.
The other way, which Chittick then defines as the intellectual way, is making the tradition one’s own; this is not something that can be given to another person – this is something we cannot imitate. We have to get it ourselves. That is one of the big things in the inner work, as Chögyam Trungpa said: “A real guide is a person who can take you to the other shore and then burn your boat for you”. It’s so beautifully put in this simple sentence. We need to do it. There is nobody else that can get to grips with this real meaning. It means making all the discoveries possible in everything we do and through that we can make a tradition our own.
KT: Yes, it seems to me that Mr. Gurdjieff (All and Everything) called that developing our own individual reason.
RO: Yes, I think he is talking about the same thing. He uses very special expressions and if you don’t get into them it gets difficult. This reminds me of another thing: the famous last words of Gurdjieff, when he said “I leave you all in a fine mess.” What did he mean? We are in a fine mess, all of us, but he said these as his last words.
You may recall that Ouspensky (Dorine Tolley: The Power Within: Leon MacLaren) in his last three years didn’t speak to anybody. He just sat (and he may have had many different reasons for this - this is my interpretation of it). He told everybody that you have to scrap the system and abandon it and find out for yourself. We have to rediscover everything and put it into our own words. Then we will have got a little bit further.
I think that Ouspensky saw this so clearly in his final years, that it’s all very well to talk and talk about Gurdjieff’s ideas (which he learned in three years in group meetings and made into a fantastic book (In Search of the Miraculous) and which he continued all his life to teach to others), but he didn’t really make any discoveries of his own, although he did a lot of “intellectualizing”. I am sure he felt in his final days that he should have really started to make it his own. I would pose this question: “Is this what Ouspensky meant?” to the reader.
KT: How did you meet the way, the work or whatever you want to call it?
RO: To answer this I need to go far into the past. I was in the Finnish army in 1961 and 62, and a friend of mine told me about a book I should read. It was Colin Wilson’s The Outsider. It had been translated into Finnish and it had references to Gurdjieff and Ouspensky in it.
Colin Wilson was one of the four “angry young men” in England. ‘The Outsider’ is no doubt his best book; one could say it is a criticism and appreciation of existentialism. Wilson presents the ideas of Gurdjieff as one of the solutions for the outsider, which he himself was then. From then on I started studying the “ideas of Mr. Gurdjieff” and in 1964 I made contact with Stanley Nott. I found him through Routledge & Kegan Paul, the publishers of his book, and wrote him a letter. He gave me hints on what I should be reading and then in 1967 I moved to England with my family.
Stanley Nott eventually put me in touch with a group under the wing of the Gurdjieff Society of London. I became part of a little group with a leader called Sam Copley who came from the Nicoll ("Commentaries") "branch" of the Gurdjieff teaching, We met once a week at his home in Hampstead in London. The other activities came through the contact with Rosemary Nott, the wife of Stanley Nott. She was a Movements and music teacher in the Gurdjieff Society. I also went to weekends at Bray, which is still going on and developing.
My group work was difficult for me at that time as I wasn’t able to open up in the group. The people in this group first met each other in 1967 and we are still good friends. It will never go away it is something that is so deep.
KT: If you were to explain to somebody who didn’t know anything about the Gurdjieff work, or the way, more than you can find out generally in life, how would you explain it in simple terms?
RO: One of the difficulties is all the terms. Let us take an example from Christianity because it is a subject that we both know. First of all, you know that when a person has heard about Christianity, or someone has been born to a family that is a member of one or another congregation, this person is said to be a Christian when he or she has been baptized and confirmed. You can go to this person twenty years afterwards or at any time and ask, are you a Christian? And the answer is most often “yes, but I’m not practicing.” I think that says everything about so many things.
What is a practicing Christian? The same question can be put about the Gurdjieff work. There are people who talk about it and then there are people who are in the work in a real sense. That doesn’t mean belonging to any of the organisations.
So what is the practice? It is all about practicality, about religion. Religion, our great teacher Gurdjieff said, is about doing. If we’re not doing then we’re not doing anything. This big doing is all connected with just one thing: to be present. It is not to be in the head, or the body, or anywhere else, or in the past, or in the future, or to react with emotions, it is simply to be here right now. And to practice this is very difficult because we don’t have the energy for it.
To be able to get the energy for it we need to have a regular practice. I keep repeating all the time that I don’t like exercises at all because they may show us something, but so what? We can prepare ourselves with a practice every day in the morning, during the day and in the evening, for receiving something that we don’t normally receive. Influences from, let’s say, our unconscious, which, by the way, I think is incorrectly translated in Beelzebub’s Tales as the subconscious. It’s a matter of taste. I call it the unconscious because the unconscious indicates something that is not only below in us but also above, something higher.
To be able to tap into the enormous resources of the unconscious is a really big task for anybody. If you recall, in Beelzebub’s Tales Mr. Gurdjieff tells us that the only way he can see that people can grow as human beings is through the unconscious taking part in their daily life. It is amazing how the work of Jung is all about this. It is all about getting the unconscious to have an effect in our life in a more conscious way than it is doing now.
There is something here that I’ve become aware of and also interested in finding out more about. This relates to consciousness and expanding consciousness. Is it something other than getting in touch with the unconscious, in which is also Objective Conscience, which Mr. Gurdjieff speaks about? The conscious part of our mind represents maybe 5% of what is available in us and the rest is unconscious.
I would like to say a few words about Dr Nicoll. He was a candidate to become the man to run the Jung Institute in England, but ended up going to Ouspensky’s lectures, left Jung and then spent some time at the Prieuré. He then went on to have his own groups. Nicoll kept in contact with Jung right until the end of his life and Jung was the godfather of Nicoll’s daughter. These amazing connections make it possible to think differently about many things. Could it be that the influence of Gurdjieff through Ouspensky and Nicoll can be found in the work of Jung? (Of course Jung’s influence is easy to see in the work of Nicoll.)
Another example of this kind of connection is that Ouspensky very much wanted people to translate some Orthodox texts from Russian into English. Although I must say that I’m not so sure that it was P.D. Ouspensky, it could have been his wife, because she was perhaps more in touch with the orthodox religion. And so it turned out that two of Ouspensky’s pupils, Palmer and Kadloubovsky translated the books that were available in English on Orthodox ideas in the sixties, including Writings from the Philokalia On the Prayer of the Heart.
It’s all about connections. Consciousness is a relationship. It is a relationship with the inside and the outside. It’s a good definition for me. It is a relationship and when you are a little more conscious, or in contact with your unconscious, then you see more relationships. In terms of defining the Gurdjieff work in general terms, these are important things on which it is based.
KT: When you talked about your understanding of the work you emphasized your practice, in the morning, in the day, and in the evening. What is your practice?
RO: I learned it in the early years when I was in England when it was known as “morning preparation”. It is a very simple process of sitting silently, attempting to have the body relaxed, and going through the body with the sensation of it. Of course I’ve practiced this for a long time now and I’ve got help from other things to make it more alive in me. In my view you need to do this, to renew things when you can actually see what the need is. I got stuck at times with not wanting to do it. And it wasn’t a regular practice for me in some years, for example for a period in the 1970s I was fed up with it. I was quite young then. I had other things at that time.
For example: yoga helped me a lot. I had an incredible friend who became a very good yoga teacher. He lived in my house in England for nine months and apart from yoga he was studying Nicoll, mainly the Psychological Commentaries, and he loved them. He later left England to go back to Finland and went further to India. When he came back he started teaching yoga. What is yoga? It is about connection, relationship, it is about union. He was a really amazing yoga teacher for me: he had an understanding that I lacked at the time.
From him I got the practice that before I sit in the morning I do a series of ten Asanas. These are stretching exercises and today I see them more as stretching the body rather than as fitting my body into a position in an Asana. It is movement rather than anything else, and breathing comes in to it much more.
One of the big influences on my morning preparation has been the practice of breathing. The way I practice breathing has a name, it’s called conscious breathing and it comes from a man called Thich Nhat Hanh who has a centre in France where he teaches. He is a Buddhist and he says that all we need to do is to be aware of the air coming in and going out, and to have a slight smile on our face. Here is a quote: “Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life.” (Plum Village). How similar to what Adam Nott says about two centers working together!
I’ve taken part in a breathing class for years; the method is from Ilse Middendorf (Ilse Middendorf), who died this year at the age of 98. We do stretching movements and breathing. Through this I have come to see how much the sensation of the body is connected with the breath. Also the work of Dennis Lewis has been important for me (Dennis Lewis on Breathing).
There are different ways of expressing these things, but the connection between breathing and sensation is amazing. One can say that sensation is breathing and breathing is sensation. If you breathe into your toe, if you can sense your toe, it’s the same thing as sensation. Try experimenting with that and you will find out. They work together in the sense that the aim is for the breath to go through the body.
You can get all kinds of influences for your practice and you can practice wherever you are at any time.
Let us hop over to the Orthodox; what they can offer is also amazing. Last summer when I was in Finland, I discovered something about coming into the church, about entering the church and going to the Analogue Table. The Analogue Table is in the middle of an Orthodox church before you come to the altar. The Orthodox say that the way to the analogue table, through the entry door, is the Way of the Christian. It goes from earth (narthex, the entrance) towards heaven (the altar) and what takes you there is the Analogue Table itself. It is a symbol for the Virgin Mary; she receives you in the church. Then, from there, you, having respected the icon on the Analogue Table by kissing it, go to the right or the left and do whatever you want. But this is the way of the Christian towards heaven. You have to go to purity first. Everything is symbolic.
KT: Why is it called the Analogue Table?
RO: It is the symbol for the Virgin, analogue means symbol. Symbolism is so incredible. Take the simple thing that we stand in an orthodox church. Standing is a symbol for being awake and sitting is a symbol of being dead. So when you are in a church and you know this, this symbolism, you can experience it.
KT: Yes, you have all the standing up and sitting down during mass.
RO: Exactly. And then I found out that when I had gone into a church in the past I wasn’t really there. I had gone quite automatically to this Analogue Table. I didn’t know what I was doing. This is about combining the head with the body when walking there. It is not an exercise, but a practice – lived symbolism, symbolism made one’s own, digested!
In matters relating to Christianity, Sufism, Zen, Astrology and so many other things, including the teachings of Mr. Gurdjieff, I am grateful of the past five years of intensive work with Agi; she has opened my eyes to see, and she is still rubbing them! I have sympathy for her as she needs my co-operation: I can not wake up on my own, but to accept her shaking is not such an easy thing!
In this connection I must also mention one writer included in the books Agi has in her bookshelves: Friedrich Weinreb. Weinreb was a Jewish mystic whose many books and lectures, mainly on the symbolism of Christianity and the Cabbala have not been discovered by the English-speaking public. However, his main work has been translated into English under the name Roots of the Bible.
KT: We’ve heard about the past on your way and about the present, your practice. What do you see on the horizon of your way? Can you see where you are heading, what you are going towards?
RO: Your question is probably connected with aim. What is my aim? You know I’ve tried to read and write about this. To start with, in groups, I was given a question: Who am I? That was the thing that Sam Copley gave us. All of us in our group bless his memory. And it wasn’t my question. What is ‘I’ anyway? If somebody gives you a question you need to understand it, make it your own.
Later on, I started questioning questions: Is this the right question? At some point I came to the conclusion that I really have to find out what I need. What do I need? Really need? I also had the question: What do I want? My good friend Malcolm Gibson focused me on this question. What do I want now, or what do I want in ten minutes? Today? This week? This month? This year? This life? It can be a big question. It wasn’t my question.
Where to find one’s own question? What is the real question that I have? I’ve really only got one sort of indication of that. I’ve discovered that I don’t want to, and I don’t need to, and there is no point in trying to save myself from anything.
It is often spoken of to save one’s soul, to build a soul, to save it, so that it can exist further, after death and so on and so on. What is that? I mean: there is no self to be saved. I don’t believe in that and I have not been able to find out further. It has become quite clear to me that there is absolutely nothing to save. Where do I save it? This is a stupid question maybe, but still valid, I think. If I save it to my “harddisk” can I find it there when I am dead? Is there an external “server” where I can save my soul, and: will I find it there when I am dead? It is starting to sound quite ridiculous!
So from then on it became quite clear that the only thing that I can try to do is to work for others. But then the big question comes: what can I do to serve? And whom do I serve in the end? I have to make a choice.
There is a beautiful story that Agi tells sometimes of two nuns, where one is dying in bed and the other is looking after her, giving her water and so on. She is really in her last breaths. Suddenly this sister looking after her sees a very peaceful smile appear on her face. And she asks: How is it sister? Did you find your answer? And she answers: “No, but I found the question”.
It’s so important to keep the question alive.
Going back to the work in the Gurdjieff Society at the time I was there, the person who established the Gurdjieff Society in London was Madame Henriette Lannes from France. She had been with Mr. Gurdjieff for years and had a group in Lyon, France, and she ran the Gurdjieff Society. The Gurdjieff Society is her big life work. There are two books written about her, in her words, the things she used to write and say and both of the books are about questions: Inside a Question and 'This Fundamental Quest'. They are both good books because she had seen and understood many things and she used her own language to express her understanding.
We’re coming back to where I started, its very much a question of finding out for yourself. If one really finds something out, then one can try to pass it on. But I am a typical example, particularly in the past, of a person who has more or less repeated things like a parrot and I still do. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that. But the main thing is to discover.
KT: And how does the teaching formulated by Mr. Gurdjieff fit in to this future going towards your question? Does it?
RO: Well, he wanted to put everything into question. Let’s take one of the important questions. Today, as you know, Buddhism is getting a strong foothold in the west. And I have my way of understanding why it is so. The main reason, apart from the deep teachings of it, is that Buddhism has no God. It is so much easier to go to Buddhism than towards Christianity. But the question for me is: What is God? I don’t know or think that I can ever find out what God is, but I have the question.
And what is the Gurdjieff’s teaching and what did Mr. Gurdjieff represent? He managed to formulate what he had discovered in a completely new way. He put it in his words. If I’m not able to do that, what the hell is the use of me parroting? Why would I repeat anything whatsoever from the past or from somebody else? It has to be made fresh, after all it is food. Like Ouspensky saying: It’s not like this. Find out for yourselves and express it.
I think that Reshad Feild, Feild: The Last Barrier, is a good example of this, he found his own way. He made such big discoveries that they could shine through him in his teaching.
And I am not comparing myself to anybody at all. I am not a teacher. The biggest thing that I have to offer is my being, and that either teaches or doesn’t teach depending on the receptivity of the person that I’m with.
My aim is partly to serve and to serve, you need to come under another person’s, or even better, God’s, will. This is one of the prerequisites of going further on the Way. At one stage we all need to come to that point.
KT: Who’s Reshad Feild?
RO: You don’t know?
RO: Well, I think you should know. Reshad Feild is a man who in my view is the best living teacher of the Gurdjieff teaching in our time. But he stopped teaching last year. He is 75 now. During his active time he established a centre in England very near where Bennett was based in the 1970s. By then he was already initiated into different Sufi orders. His task became to take the Mevlevi turning to the western world. He started doing this by packing his guitar (he was the singer Tim Feild in a pop group called The Springfields with Dusty Springfield) and two suitcases and flying to Vancouver. He now lives in the U.K. Reshad eventually came to Switzerland and established what he called The Living School.
KT: It sounds to me like you are becoming less identified with Mr. Mr. Gurdjieff and the Gurdjieff teaching.
RO: I have been working on that. The other aim with Gurdjieff Internet Guide was to get some distance from Gurdjieff. I was so identified with him. Agi tells this story of Reshad shouting for days on end, through the seminars he had and in the presence of everybody else, to Agi: “Gurdjieff is dead!” She felt it as love, while the others thought “she’s getting what she deserves” or “poor Agi”. It was not directed towards her in a sense. But you know, Mr. Gurdjieff is dead, so who is the Mr. Gurdjieff of our day? Is it you Kristina?
KT: (laughs) I know that my way goes through me. It does. I am the Way and the Truth for me. I don’t know if you’ve seen Adam’s [Turner] picture on Facebook? The picture he uses for his profile. It is of a man who is drawing out a road behind him. I love that picture because that is how I feel.
KT: Language and etymology is important to me and my work and one thing that I wanted to ask you as a Finnish speaker, which is not an indo-European language, is what do you see as the significance of language and the work or being on the way?
RO: Well, we have one person in the work who has done a lot of work in the field of images and that is Keith Buzzell. He has written two books touching the subject (Explorations In Active Mentation). Words are symbols, like pictures. In fact, words appear as pictures in our brain. They are not letters. Pictures have an incredible meaning because we couldn’t have any conscious life whatsoever without pictures. Our eye is an important organ in the sense that it experiences everything as pictures. Through this whole area of images we approach the subject of Objective Art, which is very much connected with the pictures that are outside and inside us.
It is a subject that I am not the best qualified here in my household to talk about; Agi is much better qualified. It could be said that her whole study has been of images, pictures and words – symbolism in all its aspects.
KT: I just wonder about Finnish particularly. I love to see the connection between words but with Finnish you can’t even do that.
RO: I learnt it at home as a young child and of course there is something about speaking one’s own language, reading one’s own language. For example, reading Beelzebub’s Tales in Finnish is a completely different experience from reading it in English (the translation is underway).
Another thing about words and languages is that it is one of the most mechanical things in a human being. I’ve been observing this at our meetings in small groups. We have regular meetings here once a month and we have agreed that everybody should speak High German because I don’t speak Switzerdeutsch. Although this works most of the time, as soon as someone gets a little excited what comes out is Switzerdeutsch. I have seen this in all kinds of meetings; people promise you that they will speak High German and then the next sentence comes out in Switzerdeutsch. Language is one of the most mechanical things in us. We don’t have to think to say something.
KT: Another question I wanted to ask is how do you feel and think about the different lineages of transmitting the Gurdjieff tradition.
RO: A very interesting question. I think it’s really amazing that this little teaching, which it is, and which is so intense and so genuine and so deep, can find all these different expressions, and that people then get identified with the form. The question is who is coming forth with any kind of meaningful renewal of the saintly labours of Ashiata Shiemash? Is anybody turning up who can show us something?
Gurdjieff himself used to say that there is only one religion and that all the others are sects. If there is only one Gurdjieff teaching then the different lineages are all sects, however official they claim to be.
KT: I just wonder, because in the beginning you may want to know which the best line is, how can I know which the real teaching is?
RO: Yes, how can you choose? And who asks in the right way? Actually, we get the answer that we deserve. It is so important to have a regular practice, to go back to that.
KT: Could you summarize what you mean by Spiritual Archaeology (Link 16)?
RO: Ah. That is a good subject but it’s a vast one. I came up with this idea of calling things Spiritual Archaeology as I was watching what Agi is doing, and what I myself am doing in my investigations of Orthodox mysticism or Christianity generally. It is about going into and digging into the depths and finding the real thing under the dust.
We can use Christianity as an example. The problem in connection with Christianity is that I live my Christianity through what has been put into me when I was a child, not only at home but also at school and elsewhere. I might have this idea that God came to earth and that it’s a historical fact. Spiritual Archaeology differs from this kind of archaeology in that we try to find the real meaning of things. Not only religion; there is so much meaning in myths, in fairytales, in singing, in art. This meaning doesn’t get through to us. Something is blocking it, and the discovery, I repeat, has to be made personally. It’s no good if somebody else does it for me. If I discover something, then maybe I can present it without the dust, cleaned up, so that it looks good even today.
KT: How can I share with another the richness of symbols? How do I do that polishing and cleaning up so that it becomes current and relevant?
RO: You have to come so far that what you want to express is so clear to you that whichever way you’re standing, on your head or whatever, it comes out bright for the other person. It’s an amazingly big job.
KT: It is. And it’s really got to do with working on my own being.
RO: Yes, not trying to insist on anything. It has to be done objectively. Let’s say if we can treat information in such a way that it is alive and not in a frozen state, then give it over to the other person in this live state. I think that this is one of the abilities that Reshad Feild has with his pupils. He has a direct contact above, and he can pass it on for the benefit of those around him.
KT: What would you say, after all your years of working on yourself and posing questions to yourself, what would you say, now, is consciousness?
RO: Oh. It is also a good question. It is to be attentive right this moment. It is nothing else. We have the ability to misunderstand it. I particularly also have this of course, and carry it out in my head. But it’s not about that. To have attention is not just to think something. I don’t think consciousness can be anything else than attention in the moment. And what am I attentive of? Where is my attention? It can be anywhere outside of me but it’s also within me at the same time. Can I be aware of my body when I talk? Can I listen to my voice when it’s coming out? Can I see what I’m looking at? I think the big thing for me these days is to learn to see.
That’s the thing. What can I see? When I go into the garden, can I see the flowers? This year I have seen perennial flowers in our garden that I have never seen before. They’ve been there for 5 years. I’m not saying that I am better for seeing them, but somehow it has happened that I am seeing something. And it is the same thing with everything. If attention is active, if we are in an active receptive state, then we can see something and then there’s a connection. We come back to this, that consciousness is a relationship.
KT: What do you think of Beelzebub’s Tales and in particular about talking about and discussing it?
RO: I’ve had a couple of forums in the past and taken part in two All & Everything Conferences. I’ve tended to keep the forums rather small. In one of the forums there was a study on Beelzebub’s Tales where there were about 20 people who I had invited. So it wasn’t a public forum in that sense. An American friend had done a lot of studies in his group work in America and they had tapes that they had transcribed. People were asking him a lot of questions about Beelzebub’s Tales and his answer was: It doesn’t matter what I say or think. Find out for yourselves. This somehow struck home for me, that this is the only thing that matters. We all have, as Gurdjieff used to say, our own version of Beelzebub’s Tales. And my version is different from everybody else’s version.
Of course we can inform others of how we see things. It’s alright to have exchange but it doesn’t bring us any nearer to seeing the real meaning in Beelzebub’s Tales. This is also one of the reasons I stopped going to All & Everything Conferences to hold lectures – I was getting intellectually involved and it was not taking me closer to my aim. We have to come further in our understanding of it through our own experience in life.
In my view, an objective book like this acts differently on me at different times in my life. The same is true for everyone who is reading it. It is not just one experience that comes from it. It is an objective book in the sense that what is being said is a truth, or a section of truth, and it can be seen in a different light depending on where we are in our selves and in our understanding.
I think that Beelzebub’s Tales can be very rewarding for you emotionally and intellectually when you make your own discoveries in it. For example, one day many years ago it so happened that I was reading it and I found out that I completed the long sentences in my own head. I can’t explain it. I could say that I was too tired to read the whole sentence, or simply that the automatism took over, or that I was completely in sleep, but I was awake enough to find out that there was something wrong. To see my automatism working when reading was a big discovery for me. It’s perhaps connected with how language is the most automatic thing.
KT: There is a group of us who are now in the process of taking over the running of Gurdjieff Internet Guide from you. What do you think is, and has been, the significance of Gurdjieff Internet Guide?
RO: Well, if it has woken somebody up it would be a very big thing. I don’t know if a website can wake anybody up. It could be the times or the influence of not only Gurdjieff Internet Guide, but also other web sites and the developments of the internet in general that attention has fairly recently been focused on making websites and blogs about Gurdjieff and his teachings. The internet is a necessary evil that has to be dealt with somehow, even if it can not be used to our advantage. I started from that, really. Everything that I saw then, apart from the unofficial “official” website of Greg Loy, was not really up to the standard that it needed to be (with very few exceptions). My idea has simply been to make the website alive with interviews with people who are in one way or another involved in work on themselves.
Of course it is a very limited view to look at anything only from the standpoint of the Gurdjieff work and I’m not sure if I would do it in the same way today. In the course of the last five or six years I have discovered so many others things in many different teachings that say the same thing as Gurdjieff used to say in different words. And I’m still very much in the process of trying to find my own expression; my own way of expressing what I’ve understood. How does one do this? For me, it seems that video is a good media for expressing myself. It’s too dry to write articles, it’s too selfish. In a way you get into this sort of rut in writing. I’ve elevated myself onto a kind of pedestal and said “OK guys, this is how I see things, and if you think otherwise then you are wrong.”
To be able to give positive impulses to others and to make them think differently would be a great aim for me in the future. But let’s say in the present because it’s only in the present that we can change anything whatsoever. Not in the past, not in the future, only now can anything happen and take place.
So with regard to Gurdjieff Internet Guide and my position in relation to it, I am now busy and involved in translating and eventually getting published the work of Agnes Hidveghy, now 74. We want to get her message out; it is a work over 50 years and it is important, and we mean not only for us. Agi has about 15 years of Gurdjieff work behind her and about 20 years active contact with Reshad Field.
Agi (arssacra.org) took part in his Living School for 18 years. She brought about 80 people to him and lost everything in connection with her own work at the time, which, in my view, was an incredible sacrifice. She got what she’s got today from him really, apart from all the amazing things she has discovered herself in astrology, fairy tales, sacred geometry and so on. So this is my work now. My wish is that her work can come out, at least part of it, before she dies. That’s why I don’t have the time I had before.
In 2002 when I started Gurdjieff Internet Guide, I was editing it daily. At the time I had a shoulder problem and couldn’t work, so I had a lot of time to edit GIG. That’s how it was born. It was an enormous effort in the sense that I put so much time and effort into setting it up; I don’t have the time now.
KT: Now I understand better why you want to hand Gurdjieff Internet Guide over, so my next question is: why us?
RO: Well, you’ve shown an interest. I was contacted by the Facebook group you are part of to see if you could help in some way. The initial enquiry was about the Fourthway.info web site, which I edit. I have not advertised that I would like to hand over GIG. It is also a good time to start developing the site anew. We are living in interesting times in relation to new things coming onto the scene. There are many nice things happening today with the help of videos; one of the things I was looking at yesterday was Harold Good reading Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. It’s incredible. I mean the effect of that is completely new, rather than having some old man with no teeth reading the book. It’s making it alive. That’s what it’s all about anyway. The book has to come alive; Beelzebub has to become our grandfather, as Gurdjieff said.
KT: Well, thank you for the opportunity to make these ideas alive for our times. I think I speak for all of us involved in taking over the website when I say that I wish you well and good speed in publishing the works of Agi.
RO: I really need some speed in it: right now the first book, The Inner Way to Bethlehem has been translated. Of her main work, Astrology – A Cosmological System, I have translated the first 50 pages.
Now that you are taking over the editing of GIG with Adam, Jill and James (Link to your introductions) with all the friends and contacts as your help I have no doubt that Gurdjieff Internet Guide is in good hands and will be in a position to give information to the public about Mr. Gurdjieff’s extraordinary teaching.
It is important to keep in touch with the people who are visiting the site and I am glad that you have decided to send out the newsletter in the future. You have so much to tell.
I wish that you can enjoy your time in editing the site and the contacts it brings with it. For me, the contacts with all those who have actively or passively contributed to GIG are valuable and I am grateful for their support.
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