Essay series /2009/02/04/essay-series/

Essay series

Looking at Shirley’s book is depressing.
We have our own book here, at least the basis for one to start.
Thus: just a reminder of the Essay series on Gurdjieffianity, which I would like to upgrade to a book, sometime soon when time permits.

The basic issue is to provide a public resource and warning for those who have fallen into/are falling into the trap set by the Gurdjieff corpus. The material on the ‘work’ is mostly a harmless waste of time for most people, but for those real victims of the ‘black magic’ of the ‘system’, dressed in a whore’s garb of sufism, some help is needed.

Ironically the corpus provides its own basis for critique: it is an exploitation of common suggestibility as indicated by Gurdjieff himself.

The basic issue to start is that Gurdjieff was never on the level, as Ouspensky discovered as he broke with ‘g’.
It couldn’t be otherwise. An anti-liberal, anti-modernist, crypto-fascist teaching that has to appeal to modern liberals is formulated to present a come-on for starters with the dark side hidden from view.

Quite apart from anything else, the whole game is metathesizing in the hands of all sorts of people trying to use this material for their own dishonest purposes, figures such as e.g. gold.

The basic and most effective criticism of Gurdjieff is that he is a disguised set of cliches, and has very little to offer as a teaching. There is nothing there, after you penetrate the basic set of junk for what it is (the enneagram, etc, etc…).

One of the most remarkable parallel developments accompanying the rise of modernity has been the emergence of the so-called New Age movement and its immense proliferation of groups and gurus, speaking from a variety of religious traditions. In that context one of the most confusing movements has been that associated with the figure of Gurdjieff and his expositor Ouspensky. The immense influence of the writings of Ouspensky has served uniquely as a promotional literature for a figure whose enigmatic, controversial, and finally shadowy legacy has ended in a kind of limbo, leaving behind a long trail of ‘read the book’ converts, to say nothing of actual victims of that spurious sufistic ‘school’, unable to extricate themselves from the combination of sales pitch and authoritarianism that characterizes the question of the so-called ‘fourth way’. It is notable that, despite a considerable activity, this movement has proven singularly barren in its results, as if the intent behind the public literature had been something else, leaving those attempting to make use of the materials provided paralyzed, and suspicious of a game of disinformation is at work. Followers of this movement demonstrate a frozen character, as if stuck in place, and unable to get beyond the obsessive rereading of the writings of Ouspensky by actually doing something productive. There is another side to this, the increasing realization of the dark side of Gurdjieffian activities, a factor suspected very early on by Ouspensky, who ended, we should recall, by renouncing the ‘work’. Ouspensky in private on several occasions denounced Gurdjieff as a criminal, and the whole initiative has endured as an anomalous puzzle that never quite became a scandal. Few teachers have had the stroke of good fortune to snare a celebrity as good at (unwitting) propaganda for a cause as Ouspensky and the Gurdjieff movement has, strangely, been an overwhelming success at the startup phase and a complete failure in every other respect. Behind that the ominous, almost malevolent character of Gurdjieff himself has significantly poisoned the naive enthusiasm of many of its devoted converts, who cannot seem to snap out of the depiction of purportedly ‘esoteric’ knowledge made public by ‘G’, knowledge that upon examination shows far less substance than is apparent at first encounter. Hopefully this series can help those who begin something amiss to stand up to the pretense of the Gurdjieff work. Many who realize the trap into which they have fallen are too intimidated to deal with the situation.

In fact, there is another dimension to the Gurdjieff escapade, one very difficult to unravel, but leaving those who come across it with a severe case of mixed feelings, even outrage, at the deception perpetrated by this cleverly publicized ‘teaching’. It is important to assist those who become entangled in this already quite old spiritual quagmire so they can move on, and come into the presence of mind to stop saying ‘yes’ to their own exploitation. It can be difficult to penetrate the disguises of Gurdjieff, but in fact enough clues are readily available to do this, by looking at the chronicle of events as given in plain sight, without the confusing deferral to the ‘unknown’ esoteric ‘mumbo jumbo’ said to justify the public action. Movements citing the legacy of ancient wisdom are not exempt from public judgments, nor is the authority of those who proclaim themselves spiritual teachers with self-issued credentials beyond question. One has but to screw up the courage to indulge a healthy skepticism, to demand some answers, or else be finished with a pseudo-school left on automatic pilot to the great profit who those who wish to exploit the suggestibility of the spiritually bewildered. And that temporal remainder is destined to attract many claimants to its succession, shrewd enough to see the windfall in the formulation of spiritual authority concocted by Gurdjieff.

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