Author Topic: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff  (Read 2754 times)

Cramulus

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Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« on: April 11, 2017, 02:25:05 pm »
Introduction


As some of you know, I've been on an academic binge through 1900-1920s esotericism. There were a lot of these weird guru figures that emerged during this period. Crowley, Gardner, Meher Baba, Mme Blavatski, G.I.Gurdjieff, many others. Most of them attracted - let's face it - wealthy socialites from London, Paris, and New York. Their students would come study in some remote location (Russia, India, etc), then return home to show off these weird oriental ideas to their wealthy socialite friends.

If there are two scales, "wiseman" and "charlatan", most of these gurus registered somewhere on both scales. Crowley, for example, was high on both. Meher Baba, in contrast - probably not a charlatan. Blavatsky? 100% charlatan. (and by the time people discovered that her 'letters from the other side' were a hoax, she had already collected a bunch of "true believers" -- so, inexplicably, there are still theosophists today.)

This "spiritual awakening" from 1900-1920 planted the seeds that would later become the new age movement. So maybe what I'm doing is just the turbo-hipster version of alt-spirituality.

I'll state my goal in sincere terms: I have an aesthetic attraction to 1920s esotericism. I am also interested in exploring this stuff from the inside. I don't just want to read about it, I want to read the texts, discover the secrets, test things for myself. And I don't want to get into occult stuff, let's see what else is out there.

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 02:25:42 pm »

A "Bill Murray" Introduction to G. I. Gurdjieff


Here was my intro to Gurdjieff... I actually found him in an odd place: Bill Murray. You know how Bill Murray has this reputation for being this wandering trickster? His hobby seems to be surprising people, doing absurd in-the-moment things.. not as an expression of fame or ego, but because he wants to have fun, he wants to have real experiences. Well it turns out Murray is a huge G.I.Gurdjieff enthusiast, and it's likely Gurdjieff's philosophy informs Bill's lifestyle.

Check out this video:

Bill Murray gives a surprising and meaningful answer


Here, Murray talks about how his goal in life is to be "really here", to be conscious, to be present, to not be distracted by habitual thoughts or the little games we play throughout our day.

This is one of those 'grounding' videos that I will watch during a turbulent day and it calms me right down. I really recommend it.

Another video, The Philosophy of Bill Murray, gets into the intersection of Murray and Gurdjieff in more depth. I've queued it up to the right spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3_j0BlbUy8&t=4m13s

Check those out.

For a more in-depth intro to the Gurdjieff work, check out the thread You're Not Conscious.


For the Black Iron Prison Cabal - Gurdjieff also used the metaphor of a personal prison that we jail ourselves in. This will seem oddly familiar to you: http://fourthwayschool.org/prison4.html



Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2017, 02:26:04 pm »
Revisiting the Reality Safari


A quick aside about the 'reality safari' - back in, I dunno, 2010 (?), I embarked on a crazy series of adventures where I tried to find the weirdest people I could, then hang out with them and blend in... then ask them who they thought were too weird, then go hang out with THEM. And so forth. Roger gave the Safari the slogan "Ad Fundum!" - latin for TO THE BOTTOM.

Well, it took me three stops to hit the bottom. I went from Trekkies to UFO people, to paranormal researchers who believed time traveling celts built a bunch of root cellars in Putnam County. On this adventure, I met some pathologically crazy people - dysfunctional, disconnected from reality... And this is where I called Safeword. I felt like I was a tourist in these spaces, and I started to feel like I was gawking at crazy people, consuming their weirdness as a form of personal entertainment. I got sketched out, I felt guilty, and then I quit the safari.

But Gurdjieff gatherings - these people aren't insane, they're just tuned into something very old and strange. This isn't about the crazy people, it's about the oddball thoughts from a place I've never explored.


Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 02:26:23 pm »
Grab Your Safari Fez


It's April 2017. I've been reading about Gurdjieff for six months now. Fighting my way through his horrible book "Beezlebub's Tales to His Grandson". (this is harder to read than Godel Escher Bach... the book's impenetrability is probably one of the reasons the New Age movement never picked up Gurdjieff)

Much like when I discovered Discordianism in the late 90s, I asked myself "Are there really people out there doing this stuff? Or is this some dead joke I've found encased in amber?" Well the answer is yes, of course, it's 2017, people follow all sorts of shit. There are still theosophists for christsakes.

So WHO are the people still following this 1920s spiritual movement?  It turns out that there is a G.I.Gurdjieff foundation in NYC and it has like 300 or 400 members. I wanted to meet some.

So I reserved a seat for this event:



Maybe this will turn out to be a cult? I don’t know. Let’s find out.


Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2017, 02:26:41 pm »
The Event




I showed up at this esoteric bookshop in midtown manhattan, linked to the Theosophical Society of NYC. There is a little “lecture hall” next to the bookshop, which felt like a yoga room. The meeting was in there.

I’d say there were about 30 of us. The crowd ranged from age 30 to 60. The leaders of the meeting were ancient, definitely over 70 years old. There seemed to be a lot of Russians in the crowd.. which makes sense because Gurdjieff was Russian-Armenian, so they’d be more aware of him than NYC locals.

The gathering started with a live performance of some of the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music, which is very beautiful. Here’s what it sounds like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOTRK4aus4Y

Then, one of the three leaders read a passage from a Gurdjieff book.

Then we had some Q&A.



The leaders of the meeting were not professional teachers, they’re just enthusiasts, so their answers were a bit meandering. Like I said, the gathering had a tranquil feeling kind of like a yoga class… when you asked a question, the person would think for 20 seconds and then answer.

Some of these questions were kind of frustrating - mainly because spirituality and consciousness is really tricky to discuss, so the questions (including my own) and answers were meandering and slightly unfocused.


The three old timers wanted us to know this:

-The Gurdjieff work points to a form of consciousness that is an “altered state of being”. They say that once you experience this state (and you can only experience it for short periods, nobody can stay in it for long), it transforms you and your perceptions. I think Gurdjieff hints at this with the title of his book “Life is only real, then, when ‘I Am’”.

-Becoming conscious is important, not just for us as individuals, but for all of us. The universe wants to become conscious. It can only do that through us. And we are collectively served, (by “We” I mean the whole human race is served) by having more consciousness within it. They tell us there is a purpose to life, something beyond even humanity… and that consciousness helps it along.

(I want to pause here and underscore how Modern that sounds… this is a pre-WWII system, so they are focused on these big unifying ideas like the ‘direction of history’.. I would be very curious to read if Gurdjieff had a reaction to postmodern philosophers like Camus and Sartre, who rejected ideas like universal meaning and purpose)



After the Q&A, we did some group movements.


I can imagine a slightly alternate universe in which people do this stuff instead of Yoga.


To explain the tip of the iceberg - Gurdjieff Movements are a form of group meditation. Gurdjieff studied Sufi and Tibetan temple dances and the way they affected consciousness. He distilled what he thought were the useful parts and wrapped them up in de Hartmann’s music.

The Gurdjieff Movements are a practical exercise in raising consciousness. They are supposed to make you aware of your body, aware of your thoughts, but also aware of the group movement, the group energy, the group experience, the group identity. I think the idea is to lose yourself in the movements and get a direct experience of a collective identity.

(quick aside - this is basically what Schopenhauer wrote about - the transcendent properties of art and dance)

I’m fascinated by the Gurdjieff movements. They’re dances, but they’re supposed to be private; they’re not performances. Luckily, it’s 2017, and everything is on youtube. Here’s a video that absolutely blows my mind, I love it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=740PhEOdx1M

We are told that there is a presentation coming up.. apparently the Movements will be ‘performed for the public’ for the first time since 1961. Before that, they hadn’t been performed since 1923. So the fact that there’s a presentation next month is a big deal. As soon as they post tickets for the event, they sell out in a flash - I’m staying tuned to the event page so I can get some when they’re posted.

So anyway, we did this ‘group work’, which was more or less doing a bunch of synchronized movements to this strange music.


Then there was some more Q&A, another reading, and we broke for refreshments.


« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 02:28:38 pm by Cramulus »

The Good Reverend Roger

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2017, 04:27:21 am »
Check out the Vorticists. 

Filippo Marinetti and Wyndham Lewis.

They're like dadaists that accidentally Nazi'd. 

Marinetti:  "You have never understood your machines!  You have never known the ivresse of traveling at a kilometer a minute.  Have you ever traveled a a kilometer a minute?"

Lewis:  "Never.  I loathe anything that goes too quickly.  If it goes to quickly is is not there."
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
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- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

Ziegejunge

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2017, 06:24:41 pm »
Thanks so much for this, Cram.

I finally decided to read some Gurdjieff last year in September, and made the mistake of starting with Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. Got about 160 pages into it before it was due back at the library, and I haven't found it in me to check it back out again since.

That said, I am curious about the dude and his legacy, and was actually thinking this week about trying to read more Beelzebub or, alternatively, crossing over to Meetings With Remarkable Men and giving that a shot. Then, as synchronicity would have it, you start this thread.

Once I'm home from work, I'll be checking out those vids. Thanks again.

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2017, 06:54:17 pm »
yeah I wish I could say "you should read beelzebub's tales". I don't know. I've got a love/hate relationship with it. Every so often I find something that really strikes me, but a lot of the time I just want to hurl it into a fire.

For those of you who haven't heard of it - it's kind of like a "Fourth Way Bible".. Gurdjieff put everything into that book.

Gurdjieff studied various forms of thought (mainly mysticism) and attempted to synthesize them into something new. He blends Buddhism, Sufism, a little Zoroastrianism, early Christian esotericism, and a bunch of others. Kinda like Carl Jung, he is attempting to synthesize what he considers the "real" part of various religions. Beezlebub's Tales is what came out of that meat grinder.

And it's impenetrably hard to read. The first sentence of the book is like a page and a half long. The sentences are lengthy and difficult, twisting, filled with subclauses and parenthetical explanations... you basically cannot skim it. Your habitual mind will not be able to get a toehold. You can only absorb the information through concentration. And even then, it's abstract, metaphorical. So you have to crunch through it again afterwards before the meaning shines through. Gurdjieff meant the book as training wheels, teaching you how to focus and persevere. He said the book is like a yard with bones buried in it. You're the dog who wants the bones, but you have to search and dig.


Right at the beginning of the boo, Big G challenges you, "You're about to embark on something really difficult, and you won't know if it's worth it until you're done, so why even bother?"

This is a stretch, but it reminds me of this website Searchlores.org - searchlores was about cultivating this certain relationship with the internet, thinking about it like an ecosystem, learning how to find any information with a single query... The webpage itself was set up to look like it came from 1993.

And this "web of yesteryear" aesthetic was intentional - anybody who had just showed up for a quick bite of info, who wanted knowledge handed to them in a flashy, bite sized, easy to digest package, would immediately be turned off. The searchlores crowd didn't care to attract anybody that couldn't look beneath the surface.

In a similar way, Gurdjieff is saying "Hey, I'm not your teacher. I'll show you the process I used to wake up, but I'm not going to make it 'easy'. You have to do the work yourself or none of this will have any meaning."

That's a big thing to him - anything you acquire without effort will have no value to you.



the modern mind reels



anyway,

I would NOT recommend starting with Beezlebub's Tales. It's too obnoxious.

The Fourth Way, by Ouspensky, is a much better intro (though I can't say that definitively as I haven't finished it): https://selfdefinition.org/gurdjieff/Ouspensky-The_Fourth_Way.pdf

I've heard good things about Gurdjieff Unveiled, but I have only got like 20 pages deep: https://www.theosophical.org/files/resources/books/Gurdjieff/GUNVEILEDFINALWHOLEBOOK1_3_05d.pdf


EDIT TO ADD:
I now think the best starting point is In Search of the Miraculous, by PD Ouspensky:
http://www.gurdjieff.am/in-search/index.pdf
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 03:16:36 pm by Cramulus »

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2017, 06:55:06 pm »
I was surprised to find there is an intersection of Gurdjieff thought and Rave culture - this is a good essay http://www.duversity.org/archives/rave.html

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2017, 07:03:31 pm »
The writer Henry Miller on Gurdjieff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycrVil9mrCc


Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2017, 12:28:43 am »
Oh also, this youtube series is really good, breaks the whole thing down into quick little lessons with practical exercises.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyD07twyc6E&list=PLe6rk0a53V_zfZj3aq32sxvNbtHh0qLQY

rong

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2017, 09:27:59 pm »
Thanks for sharing.

I'm curious - do you actually believe in Gurdjieff (or his ideas) - or do you simply find them interesting?
"he was a smart feller who felt smart"

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2017, 09:48:52 pm »
There is no Faith in the fourth way. The Gurdjieff Work places a high emphasis on verifying things yourself.

There is a gnostic vibe to it; you can get info from teachers, but your knowledge must come from direct experience--anything else is a castle built on sand.

I will say that I'm in the process of verification. Still exploring. I don't have enough info to believe or disbelieve.



A few parts of it are rock solid to me though. There are a lot of Gurdjieff topics that resonate strongly with my own experiences. I've had my own gnostic-mystical-holy shit-experiences where some things came into focus. The less said about this, the better. But when you've been there, you can recognize when other people are talking about the same thing.

When Gurdjieff talks about as the self as something larger than the ego, when he talks about the universe as an organism and the correspondence between macro and micro - that stuff is exactly what I spent years exploring in my Fractal Cult project. His talk about us having "Many Selves" with their own agendas matches perfectly with the model of self presented in the Art of Memetics, which I do buy into. So a lot of the Gurdjieff work is like different language for stuff I already had inside of me.



The Wizard Joseph

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2017, 10:37:38 pm »
Oh also, this youtube series is really good, breaks the whole thing down into quick little lessons with practical exercises.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyD07twyc6E&list=PLe6rk0a53V_zfZj3aq32sxvNbtHh0qLQY

I'm a bit over halfway through this. SO MANY SHIRTS!
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Vanadium Gryllz

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2017, 12:38:04 pm »
Oh also, this youtube series is really good, breaks the whole thing down into quick little lessons with practical exercises.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyD07twyc6E&list=PLe6rk0a53V_zfZj3aq32sxvNbtHh0qLQY

I'm a bit over halfway through this. SO MANY SHIRTS!

I have just started and already  :lulz:

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