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Roles and Levels of Development

G. Bennett explores the question of different levels of development that can be found in a human community, including the spiritual community, which he classifies as “Psychokinetic” in contrast to non-spiritual activities which he calls “Psychostatic”. Exploration of this invaluable viewpoint will not be explicated here other than to mention the types of roles relevant to groups focused on transformation. The sensitive student who feels the call towards the higher dimension of values but needs help to find their way to the realm of others like themselves, and a practical way to seeking, he calls Candidate.

Above the Candidate in community hierarchy is the Specialist, “a person who has developed strongly in one particular field of external activity while at the same time acquiring a stable disposition towards Reality but continue to be motivated by their own qualities and impulses.  They cannot act ‘out of character’ because they are not free in relation to their Divided Self.” [The Dramatic Universe V. III p. 253]   Such people may have great facility with the ideas and theories but are, personally, not yet consistently able to put them into practice.

Above this level is the Counselor, people with the knowledge of the Specialist, but who “are free from the urge to accomplish anything for themselves and are concerned with the objective needs of the Work … the property of disinterested concern in the welfare of others, combined with an objective understanding of that in which this welfare consists … a man (or woman) who has freed himself from the domination of his Divided Self … (and) is not restricted by the limitations of his own character … (such a person) sets himself to act in such a way that he is guided by principles and not by his own motivations … a man of broad understanding that goes beyond the practical skills of his specialist days.”  The Dramatic Universe, V III, p.256-7]

Higher still is the Initiate, “free from Egoism (and) lives under the direction of his own ‘I’. The Initiate communicates an illumination … he (she) is a link rather than a source (and) is responsible for a special transmission. He is like thread that connects the outer circles of mankind to the inner … (he) appears to his followers to be not just unique but uniquely significant.  From this mistake comes the divisions and exclusion of the various ways.”  [The Dramatic Universe VIII, pp. 258-262]


A degree of dependence is natural and appropriate for students new to the program. Novices want and need instruction and guidance. But Gurdjieff’s oft-stated goal was to help develop Individuals capable of thinking for themselves.  He admonished to accept nothing at face value but to strive to confirm to one’s own satisfaction, through direct experience, before believing anything.  He titled the first chapter in his magnum opus, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, “The Arousing of Thought.” After the basic ideas and methods have been imparted, emphasis should shift to the student, encouraging growing independence in experimentation and application of the methods, so that eventually the system can become embodied within the pupil.  It is in our human nature to grow dependent in comfortable and ‘spiritually’ safe environments. A balance must be found between student and leaders to foster the gradual reduction in dependence. Often what is “comfortable’ is what one is used to, not necessarily what one needs. In the words of numerous group leaders, students must learn to stop sitting in the group like baby birds with their mouths open waiting to be fed.

How and when does this dependence get addressed? Does it arise solely from the pupil’s personality or from their ‘essence’ and/or is it subtly or overtly encouraged by the group leadership?

There are examples of Gurdjieff apparently making this judgment for some of his pupils and literally sending them away, presumably, hopefully, to discover how to bring their inner growth into their own life outside the group and break their dependence on him and the community. Some others remained with him throughout his teaching life.

The seeds planted in the school must find a way to germinate in outer life situations for the Work to have a larger influence other than upon the limited membership of small groups. Of course, it is possible to make useful contributions to outer life while also remaining in a group. The students’ course of life in any group may also be invisibly directed by fate and destiny, knowledge that neither pupil nor group leader may have.

It may also be that a particular group or school is limited in its scope of competence. No one can lead another person to a level they themselves have not realized. For a leader to try to do so is a form of “lying”, pretending they know and understand what they do not yet know or understand. As in all group activity of any type, the “culture” of the community is established by the quality, understanding and teaching style of the leadership. In Meetings with Remarkable Men, Gurdjieff quotes a dervish as dramatically advising, “Let God kill him who himself does not know and yet presumes to show others the way to the doors of His Kingdom.” [MWRM p. 185] The appropriate response to a question for which a leader does not have an answer is, “I don’t know! I’ll get back to you … when and if … I can.” A leader secure in him/herself and who wants to model sincerity, can say this.