The Mar Saba Monastery – A Place of Contemplation
Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises
I’m very rarely moved to review a book on The Work, but I have spent time recently taking a long look at Joseph Azize’s Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises.
In my view, it is the most important book published about The Work since the publication of Gurdjieff’s Paris Meetings 1943. Azize delivers a comprehensive and insightful exploration of Gurdjieff’s teachings and practices drawing almost all the sources that exist (or at least that exist in English). It spans Gurdjieff’s own writings and all the published accounts of his students and followers, including some sources of which you might not be aware. It also includes references to a variety of Christian sources – in respect of practices and “exercisizes.”
One of the strengths of this book is Azize’s thorough (almost academic, but not quite) ability to explain the subject matter in clear and accessible language. He provides an excellent introduction to Gurdjieff’s, his life and his ideas about the nature of human consciousness. And then he carefully unpacks the various exercises and techniques that Gurdjieff developed for working with the mind, the emotions and the body.
The most notable feature of this book is its emphasis on practical application. Azize provides detailed instructions and commentary on a variety of Gurdjieff’s exercises, including the “Stop Exercise”, the “Self-Observation Exercise”, and the “Preparation”. These exercises are presented not as abstract concepts or theoretical ideas, but as practical tools for developing self-awareness and inner transformation.
I have heard a few people murmur negatively about the cover price of the book and, as Work books go, it could hardly be described as inexpensive. However, in the Work you get what you pay for, and in this instance, if anything, the book is woefully underpriced. I recommended it without reservation.