Parts: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9],  Downloadable PDF


We have been exploring the interaction of three basic factors: The Work, the group leader, and the pupil. At any given moment, each may carry any of the three fundamental forces in relationship to each other.

The Work may appear first in the sequence of events carrying the initiating, active force, as it did in my case when a friend unexpectedly handed me a book. My degree of receptiveness was the carrier of the second, passive-receptive force. My wish to fathom this material took me on a search to find a teacher who could embody the third force and reconcile the need to understand this startling new information.

At another moment, the leader plays the active role to the pupil’s passive role and the experiences and impressions from Work practice provide the reconciliation in terms of verification of the elder’s words and the pupil’s wish. Or the pupil may take the initiative with the teacher carrying the receptive role and the Work reconciling.

Unfortunately, it may sometimes be that the group leader resists or discourages the pupil from developing their own initiative, either from a lack of the leader’s understanding, or a rigid adherence to the form of the teaching as given initially to the current leader by their teacher, or from a sense of threat to the leader’s authority. This latter may be a warning sign that the group is at risk of become a cult.

In the end, all human group activity is susceptible to the above problems, because the participants are typically in a state of “waking sleep”, Gurdjieff’s second stage of consciousness.4 In Fourth Way groups, participants and leaders are intimately aware of the phenomenon of waking sleep, as the idea and its study are foundational to the system of awakening which Gurdjieff brought. However, even though aware, and practicing to avoid this state, its pernicious effects require constant vigilance, and its results are often manifested despite all these efforts. Therefore, such groups are not immune from its effects even while trying to avoid them.

It is the responsibility of those who offer to act as spiritual guides, to have the ableness to be “awake” more often than their pupils, particularly at moments requiring decision or confrontation. To successfully transmit, one has to consistently “walk the walk”, manifest the principles of the teaching in real time.

Can the Work actually produce people of higher development?  Whoever proposes to transmit the teaching should be a living example, a proof of the proposition. Can they demonstrate their practice in the moment? Are their efforts to not identify, to be Present, to work on themselves, to demonstrate conscience and compassion, tangible for others?  Do they conform to Gurdjieff’s description of “remarkable men”?  Otherwise, how can students put their faith in the teaching?  This, in my opinion, is the most critical variable in any group aspiring to spiritual development.

The group leader need not be a saint or a great spiritual being but does need to be a competent and honest guide. Saints are awe-inspiring, but this rarified archetype is out of reach to most students … and not necessary or even appropriate as an aim. I am not aware of any story of saints where that status was sought by the individual who eventually rose to this level of development. What is needed is the reassurance and inspiration that the Work is possible and can actually yield results for “ordinary” people not anointed by Grace to an elevated station. The group leader is responsible for establishing conditions that allow students to learn how to open to something higher than themselves. If the leader has found this opening and if its influence can be demonstrated through the leader’s consistent manifestation, then the students can have a realistic hope that transformation may also be possible for them. The demonstration of this reality through consistent manifestation, is critical for those who would offer to lead others.

With a group leader who manifests as a remarkable person, who admits when he or she has been asleep, made an error of judgment, became identified, or even been unfair, students can have a model of Being-ness to follow and have a justifiable hope that there actually is a possibility of transformation and growth of Being for them as well.

As Meister Eckhart asked, “What good is it that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 1300 years ago if He is not also born in me?”

And we may ask today, “What good is it that the Work transformed Gurdjieff if the Work cannot transform me?”

[1] Buzzell, Keith; Fifth Press, Salt Lake City. Utah

[2] For readers not familiar with Gurdjieff’s terminology:  Law of Three is a way of looking at the creative process. Something of a higher quality blends with something of a lower quality, thus raising the quality of the latter. This newly improved factor can now serve as a higher quality for those still lower down, but also can now receive a new impulse, higher than the one that originally raised it, and thus be lifted again to the level of that original quality. It is a way of representing a ladder of upward or downward evolution or involution.

The Law of Seven is a way of looking at process in time, suggesting seven steps in any evolutionary or involutional process. Every process needs an impetus and a sense of direction. It has a beginning, a middle and an ending. There are specific places in any process where outside influences enter and can facilitate or distract the process. The clarity of inner planning and constant attention at each point in the process can help avoid being derailed by inevitable outside factors.

[3] Gurdjieff observed that people live most of their lives in a state of distracted, semi-sleep, daydreaming, assuming, reacting in a way that is mechanically determined by the conditioning influences of life. Because of this fractured and weak attention, we are rarely aware, simultaneously, of the interaction between outside influences and internal world of reaction. This simultaneous awareness is necessary to begin to study one’s conditioned personality in its natural habitat, as it responds to the stimulation around it. This provides a surge of “psychic” energy which momentarily intensifies the effort of “observing oneself”. This can occasionally occur spontaneously … often under stress or sudden surprise.  But, to cultivate it requires that the effort be made intentionally, what he calls the “First Conscious Shock”. The beginning of deeper initiation begins at the location in the developmental process he called, “The Second Conscious Shock”. Successful progress in the preliminary First Conscious Shock is necessary before entering the region where the Second Shock becomes possible. Without sufficient foundation leading up to this point, the Second Shock cannot be located, or worse, may be entered in the wrong way resulting in a potential catastrophe for the student as well as for those around them.


Bennett, J. B.  The Dramatic Universe, Claymont Communications, Charles Town, W.V., 1966

Gurdjieff, G. I., Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, Gurdjieff 1950, E. P. Duttpn 1964, Penguin 1999

Gurdjieff, G. I. Meetings with Remarkable Men, Arkana/Penquin, 1963

Ouspensky, P.D. In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, Harcourt, 1949

Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Adam and the Kabbalistic Tree, Red Wheel/Weiser,1989