by George I.Gurdijeff
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, b.1872, d.Oct.29, 1949, founded a movement based on doctrines of enlightenment through meditation and heightened self-awareness that attracted many prominent followers in Europe and the United States.
Of Russian-Armenian origin, Gurdjieff established his ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’ at Fontainebleau, France, where he settled in 1922. He wrote books like “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson”, “Meetings with remarkable men” and “Life is real only then, when I am”.
His disciples included architect Frank Lloyd Wright, painter Georgia O’Keefe, writer Katherine Mansfield, and journalist P. D. Ouspensky, whose books helped to popularize Gurdjieff’s teachings.
In order to understand what the difference between states of consciousness is, let us consider the state of sleep. This is an entirely subjective state of consciousness.
A person is immersed in dreams, whether they remember them or not, does not matter. Even if some real impression reaches them, such as sounds, voices, warmth, cold, etc., they arouse only subjective images.
Then the person wakes up. At first glance, this is a completely new and different state of consciousness. The person can move, talk with other people, make calculations ahead, can see danger and avoid it, and so on. It stands to reason that they are now in a better position than when they were asleep.
But if we look more deeply into things, into the person’s inner world, their thoughts, the causes of their actions, we will see that the person is almost in the same state as when their were asleep.
And it is even worse, because in sleep they are passive, but in the waking state they can do something and the results of these actions will be reflected upon them and upon those around them. And yet they do not remember themselves.
They are a machine, they cannot stop the flow of their thoughts, cannot focus the flow of their thoughts, cannot control their imagination, emotions and attention.
They live in a subjective world of “I love”, “I do not love”, “I like”, “I do not like”, “I want”, “I do not want”, that is, of what they think they like, of what they think they do not like, of what they think they want, of what they think they do not want. They do not see the real world.
The real world is hidden from them by a thick wall of uncontrolled imagination. They live in waking-sleep. They are asleep. What is called “clear consciousness” is actually sleep and a far more dangerous sleep than sleep at night in bed.
Take some event in the life of humanity, for example, war. What does it signify? It signifies that several millions of sleeping people are destroying several millions of other sleeping people.
They would not do this, of course, if they were to wake up. Everything that takes place is owing to this sleep.
Both states of consciousness, sleep and the (false) waking state are thus equally subjective. Only by beginning to remember themselves does a person really awaken.
Once awoken all surrounding life acquires a different aspect and a different meaning, it is a life of sleeping people, a life in sleep.
All that people say and do, they say and do in sleep. All this can have no value whatsoever. Only awakening and what leads to awakening has a value in reality.
How many times have I been asked whether wars can be stopped? Of course they can. For this, it is only necessary that people should awake. This seems a small thing.
It is, however, the most difficult thing there can be because this sleep is induced by our so-called education and maintained by the whole surrounding society.
Artwork courtesy of and copyright by Daniel B. Holeman at Awaken Visions Galleries.