THE WAY OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE
George Gurdjieff: Have you ever tried to watch yourself mentally when your attention has not been set some definite problem for concentration? I suppose most of you are familiar with this, although perhaps only a few have watched it methodically in themselves. You are no doubt aware of our capacity to think by chance associations; when our thought strings together disconnected scenes and memories; when everything falling within the field of our consciousness or merely lightly touching it, calls up these chance associations in our thoughts. The string of thoughts seems to go on uninterruptedly, weaving together fragments of representations of former perceptions, taken from different roils of our memories. And these rolls turn and unwind – while the apparatus of our thinking deftly and uninterruptedly weaves its threads of thought from this material. The roils of our feeling revolve in the same way – pleasant and unpleasant, joy and sorrow, laughter and irritation, pleasure and pain, sympathy and antipathy. You hear yourself praised and you are pleased; someone reproves you and your mood is spoilt. Something new captures your interest and instantly makes you forget what had interested you no less the moment before. Gradually your interest ties you to that thing to such an extent that you sink into it from head to foot – and lo and behold! you do not possess any more, you have disappeared – you have become bound to, and dissolved in this thing; in fact it possesses you, it has captivated you, and this infatuation, this capacity for being captivated under many different guises is a property of each one of us. This prevents our being free and binds us. By the same token it takes away our strength and time, giving us no possibility of being objective and free – two essential qualities for anyone who decides to follow the way of self-knowledge.
~ “Gurdjieff's Early Talks 1914-1931”
JOURNALISTS AT THE PRIEURÉ
As soon as the Study House was completed in 1923, Gyorgi Ivanovitch [Gurdjieff] devoted himself to intensifying the work on the Movements and varying the inner exercises. On Saturday evenings, he even opened demonstrations of the Movement and some of the sacred dances to the public. At first, the growing number of visitors left their cars in the courtyard, but as their numbers increased, it became necessary for them to park in the street. The local authorities went so far as to improve the street lighting and place a traffic officer at the entrance to the chateau.
The curiosity aroused by our activities grew day by day Articles on the Prieuré appeared in the press both in France and abroad, and unleashed a veritable invasion of journalists. Gyorgi Ivanovitch received them warmly and tried to explain the meaning of our search to them. I recall that one day he said to a group of journalists, “I am going to show you some Movements whose purpose is to awaken mans latent inner possibilities, allowing him to open to a new perception of himself and of reality. If you don’t distort the meaning of my words, I will gladly give you any clarification you wish.”
After dinner, we put on traditional costumes and demonstrated a series of specific postures for prayers and sacred dances from various oriental countries. The journalists photographed everything.
This invasion of the Prieuré by the press lasted several weeks. A host of articles was published both in France and abroad, but none faithfully passed on the explanations given by Gyorgi Ivanovitch. They preferred instead to give free rein to the most fantastic interpretations of the meaning of our work, It was so many pearls offered to those who refused to admit their lack of understanding.
This chorus of slander made Mr. Gurdjieff’s work seem like a great hoax and its creator, a charlatan — a twentieth-century Cagliostro. We were dumbfounded by the way the journalists, convinced that they had a real scoop for the gutter press, exploited the public's credulity and trust. They managed to distort a work directed toward consciousness until it was completely unrecognizable, either by making it totally absurd or by deliberately turning it into something evil.
One day, Mr. Gurdjieff discovered a particularly shocking article accompanied by photographs that gave the impression that the sacred dances were somehow suspect and even immoral. From that day on, he never allowed reporters to set foot in the Prieuré again.
~ Tchekovitch "Gurdjieff — A Master in Life"
"BUT THAT MUST BE GURDJIEFF!"
I'll never know what whimsical notion made Wendy plead for a stop in the Cafe de la Paix before going to the Left Bank hotel where a cozy suite awaited her. The notion caught her in the maelstrom of the Place de la Concorde when I was trying to maneuver the huge car over to the right, toward the bridge that led to Faubourg St. Germain. "No, no, keep left," she cried. "We go first to Cafe de la Paix!" I battled my way back into the vortex to head toward the Opera and the sumptuous old cafe on the comer of the square.
There was, unbelievably, a Packard-sized parking space just before the cafe's main entrance, and I backed our two tons into it with two turns of the wheel. Wendy said, "Bravo for you Katie!" We pushed through the revolving doors into the warm splendor of the world's most famous cafe and saw, unoccupied at that crowded aperitif hour, our favorite banquette table in the second salle that faced out on Boulevard des Capucines. "It was waiting for me," Wendy said.
The whole cafe as a matter of fact seemed to be waiting for her. Newspapers were lowered and monocles adjusted as she passed by in her elegant coat of fitch. The only male in the section who did not look up was a shaven-headed writer bent over his work at a table opposite. The waiter remembered Wendy. He gave her a welcome back to Paris and said, "Amontillado sherry comme toujours, Madame?" I ordered a cafe cognac to pick me up from my predawn vigil.
After our refreshments, I relaxed and cafe-gazed with Wendy. She ticked off every chic woman in view by the name of the couturiere who had costumed her and the modiste who had hatted her. I always enjoyed her specialist side and the amusing way she took women apart, exchanging the hat of this one with that one to make both look lovelier. Her musical voice tinkled on like a fountain while she looked around at the gold Corinthian pilasters upholding lofty ceilings frescoed with sky scenes and cherubs, at the busy murals in wall medallions aglow with indirect lighting and at the gold-draped show window giving out onto the crowed terrasse and the boulevard beyond. Then she turned her big eyes on me and asked: "However could Mr. Gurdjieff concentrate in a place like this?"
I saw she wanted an answer. The man on the opposite banquette was still busily writing. I nodded toward him and said, "Some can. That one for instance. I don't believe he has looked up once since we came ... "
He looked up as I spoke and I saw the countenance I had pieced together fancifully from Jane Heap's words – dome-like shaved cranium, large black eyes and handlebar moustaches curled up at their ends. My whole inner being froze to attention. Presently he found the phrase he sought and bent again to his work. On the green velour banquette that sagged slightly under his weight, I saw folded beside him a black winter overcoat with Karakul collar and a Cossack cap of the same tightly curled lamb's wool.
"But that must be Gurdjieff!" I could have bitten off my tongue, for Wendy pushed out the table, arose and said, "Come ... we'll go right over and speak to him."
~ Kathryn Hulme “Undiscovered Country”