When we first read about the Work we tend to ignore much of what Gurdjieff says. The simple fact is that some of what he says is hard to believe and some of it is hard to take in. A good example of this is what he says about language, that is our language, that is the language we speak.
In In Search of the Miraculous p102 we read
“A universal language is possible,” said G., “only people will never invent it.”
“Why not?” asked one of us.
“First because it was invented a long time ago,” answered G., “and second because to understand this language and to express ideas in it depends not only upon the knowledge of this language, but also on being.
“I will say even more. There exists not one, but three universal languages. The first of them can be spoken and written while remaining within the limits of one’s own language. The only difference is that when people speak in their ordinary language they do not understand one another, but in this other language they do understand. In the second language, written language is the same for all peoples, like, say, figures or mathematical formulae; but people still speak their own language, yet each of them understands the other even though the other speaks in an unknown language. The third language is the same for all, both the written and the spoken. The difference of language disappears altogether on this level.”
Perhaps you’ve been in the Work for decades. If so, did you ever encounter this language, of which Gurdjieff speaks?
Now if you are thinking that such a language is unnecessary then flip back to page 77.
On p77, we read:
“People . . . do not notice that they never understand one another, that they always speak about different things. It is quite clear that, for proper study, for an exact exchange of thoughts, an exact language is necessary, which would make it possible to establish what a man actually means, would include an indication of the point of view from which a given concept is taken and determine the center of gravity of this concept. The idea is perfectly clear and every branch of science endeavors to elaborate and to establish an exact language for itself. But there is no universal language.
“For exact understanding exact language is necessary. And the study of systems of ancient knowledge begins with the study of a language which will make it possible to establish at once exactly what is being said, from what point of view, and in what connection. This new language contains hardly any new terms or new nomenclature, but it bases the construction of speech upon a new principle, namely, the principle of relativity; that is to say, it introduces relativity into all concepts and thus makes possible an accurate determination of the angle of thought—for what precisely ordinary language lacks are expressions of relativity.
“When a man has mastered this language, then, with its help, there can be transmitted and communicated to him a great deal of knowledge and information which cannot be transmitted in ordinary language even by using all possible scientific and philosophical terms.
“The fundamental property of the new language is that all ideas in it are concentrated round one idea, that is, they are taken in their mutual relationship from the point of view of one idea. This idea is the idea of evolution . . .
So whether you’ve been in The Work a year or 40 years, these are the questions:
Do you know what this language is?
Do you know anyone who speaks this language?
Do you speak this language?
If you know this language then how did you learn it?
If you know this language, when and how do you use it?
These are a very serious set of questions.
In the next issue of The Lost Herald, I’ll continue on this topic.