My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a book about the mystical teacher G. I. Gurdjieff by one of his pupils recounting the years he spent with him in Russia in the years during and after World War I. He taught odd things about planets and musical theory in relation to spirituality, but given my own Mormon background, I'm never eager to judge someone for their "weirdness." But in truth, some of the practical advice he gave in this book was brilliant and amazingly helpful to me. For instance, a major theme of his teaching is that we have no centralized "I" but instead have many little "I's" that take turns fighting to be in charge. Thus, there's no guarantee that the way I feel right now will lead to a conviction in even a few hours. Even though most of us know this well, Gurdjieff put it in an amazingly clear way. He also taught me new ways of thinking about yoga, meditation, religious organizations, and even astrology!
Apart from an obscure Swedenborgian book I read a few years ago (Observing Spirit), this was my first introduction to Gurdjieff. And what a guy. I've insisted for a long time that you can be dishonest and moral at the same time, that you can "lovingly deceive" or be a "good trickster" and I see in Gurdjieff an example of that type of thing. I gather that he's so attuned to the needs of his students that he can adopt any guise or teach anything that will get them on the right path. In other words, for him, truth is secondary to the demands of "the Work" itself. In Gurdjieff's own words:
"You must be cunning, you must pretend, lead up to things in conversation. Sometimes things are learned from jokes, from stories. And you want everything to very simple [but] this never happens. You must know how to take when it is not given, to steal is necessary, but not to wait for somebody to come and give it to you."I basically want to be Gurdjieff when I grow up.
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