The Many Many “I”s
We are creatures of the Fourth Way. Gurdjieff taught us about three focused ways: The Fakir’s Way, which seeks to exert will to gain mastery over the body, The Monk’s Way, which works with the emotional side of man; and The Yogi’s Way, which involves work on the intellect. These three ways exist and persist through time. Each involves full commitment – giving up one’s life in order to follow a teacher of that way – and seems to change very little.
The Fourth Way is different. It was said by Gurdjieff to emerge into the world to fulfill a particular task. It is the way “in life.” It adapts to the conditions of life, whatever they are, and works with them. We who have been attracted to the Fourth Way have no idea what Gurdjieff’s purpose was – he gave no indication.
We can look back on what Gurdjieff achieved – a remarkable contribution to the life of Man by any measure. He introduced Sacred dances, which had not previously existed, he composed music for them, he wrote remarkable literature, he introduced a series psychological techniques by which adherents could pursue spiritual growth. He introduced methods for people to work together in groups and he introduced a brilliant new basis for scientific understanding (which he called objective science).
He is gone now, long gone. Maybe he did whatever he came to do. Maybe now the Work can disappear and leave mankind to its own devices.
Is Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way Dead?
Those who were taught directly by Gurdjieff are now gone. His “grandchildren” have aged and inhabit disparate groups, each of which has its own leadership and its own view of where it imagines it is going.
The Fourth Way adapts to life, not the other way round. Gurdjieff’s presented the Fourth Way in the era of road and rail, of radio and telegraph. How should the Fourth Way adapt to the world that Gurdjieff never new – of television and personal computers and the internet, and cell phones and AI? Those who dream of recreating the world of the Prieuré are seeking a form of Work that even Gurdjieff eventually abandoned.
But are we not obliged to grasp this nettle? If we don’t then what we do does not conform to the way of the sly man.
According to Gurdjieff, the primary goal for the creatures of the Fourth Way is becoming a balanced, all-sided individual – a man #4 so to speak. Is that even possible in this strange era.
Gurdjieff was quite specific about advancement in the Fourth Way. One needs to have a teacher, since escaping the chains of personality requires the help of someone who has already done so. And in the subsequent the period of being “reborn” into Essence, one needs to put oneself under the will of a teacher.
Do such teachers even exist in these times?
It is hard to believe that the current mechanical momentum of mankind can be changed without some sort of cataclysm to the world – or perhaps to mankind because of warfare. Either way, it is difficult to imagine mankind rising from the ashes without being led in some way by another teacher from a higher level.
The Work is gradually descending and it needs a strong counterforce to revive it. I believe I read somewhere that Gurdjieff said that there would be another that followed on from him and I spent hours trying to find the reference for that, but couldn’t dig it up. Perhaps I imagined it.
to quote W B Yeats in The Second Coming …