Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Insiders: The Teachers of Gurdjieff revisited, 2012

Before the second world war, there was an influential Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher by the name of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. He taught that most of humankind was in a hypnotic, robotic state of sleep, and that it was possible to awake from this sleep and achieve a higher state of consciousness through what he termed "the Work". His methods differed from that of the fakir, monk or yogi, and so he called his methodology "the Fourth Way". Many Fourth Way groups and organizations are still operating to this day, in such far flung places as the United Kingdom and the United States.

Little was known about the origins of Gurdjieff's teachings, until a partly fictionalized book, The Teachers of Gurdjieff by Rafael Lefort was published nearly fifty years ago in 1966, and at the time this caused a considerable stir, not least amongst those students still following or involved in the Fourth Way. At the time, in the swinging sixties, many people were setting off for places like India, Japan, Turkey and Tibet in search of spiritual and mystical masters, and the exotic; and Gurdjieff's own sources, such as the legendary and elusive Sarmoung Brotherhood, appeared to have been lost.

Rafael Lefort is a nom de plume, of course, and is said to be an approximate anagram of "Real Effort" (which is quite permissible in traditional circles). It is not known for certain who wrote the book, but it is likely that this came out of the camp of the Sufi mystical teachers Idries Shah and Omar Ali Shah who were at that time working together in the West, before they agreed to disagree and went their separate ways. The book may have been written by Omar Ali Shah, or perhaps by a number of students in the Paris group.

After Gurdjieff's death, others continued his work, but their efforts were hampered because they were unable to relocate the Eastern sources of Gurdjieff's teachings. Were access to the mystical source re-established, the schools, teachings and work might be re-invigorated. In The Teachers of Gurdjieff, a student who has become disillusioned with the Fourth Way teachings, travels to the East in search of the source of Gurdjieff's teachings, and on his travels he meets a number of masters of the Way or Tradition. It turns out that Gurdjieff's teachers were actually dervishes and Sufi mystics.

Eventually in his travels, the student finds himself no more than one hundred miles from one of the Eastern "Power Houses". However, at this point he is told: "You are a European. You must live, work, study and develop in the West" and he is sent off to a place in Europe, ironically not far from where he originally set out on his long quest. He was sent, presumably, to the door of the Sufi teachers Idries Shah and Omar Ali Shah.

My own book, The Insiders: Exploring the higher realms of possibility, takes up this same theme: of finding the source of the spiritual and mystical teachings. It is written from the first person point of view of the student, John Little, with more emphasis being placed on his own errant psychology.

Though John Little is again sent from master to master around the world (this time in the Shadowlands), the teachers are presented in a more approachable and less stern light, and the work that the student is involved in is more down to earth. Some traditional masters will insist that one's personal psychological issues are, like a donkey, to be left at their door when you enter. However, the masters that John Little encounters adopt a more pragmatic attitude, knowing that students do being their issues with them, though of course this dead wood and undergrowth does still need to be cleared to make way for higher things to enter.

John Little discovers that rather than finding the masters in robes of honour and turbans in exotic locations, you are more likely to find them -- and countless others -- engaged in very ordinary and down to earth endeavours. A butcher, a baker, a candle stick maker or the lady next door might turn out to be a student or master of the Way, though many are unconscious of having this hidden function or have made themselves "invisible" to the untutored or unperceptive eye. Indeed, you can find the whole of the secret life of humanity revealed in this new light. The Way is not a place to journey toward; it is a Way of Being to awaken into.

Details of The Insiders may be found on this site.

• By Etienne de L'Amour ~ Google+

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