More The Death Review

An overwhelming tour de force dealing with the kinds of things you wouldn't, couldn't, and shouldn't believe--even if they were true.

Excerpt: "G. sipped more wine and continued, 'Work ..does not exist in the ordinary experience of present. You think if Work does not exist in the past, then it must exist in the present. No. Work cannot exist in your ordinary concept of now. Now is too late. Now is gone before ordinary consciousness ever realizes. The past--destruction; the present--unknown. It is most strange to the mind, but it is true. No Work in the past, no Work in the present. The past will kill you and the present will keep you dead. The Real Work only exists in the future. But not in the faraway future...The Work reality for each man hides in a secret place no one knows about. Is a dangerous place, off the playing field...right before your eyes...right before your "I's.'"

J. leaned back in the chair and propped his feet on the windowsill (just as he had G. doing so many times in the Dialogues). He sipped on the coffee and gazed out toward the distant hills. “There is a certain continuing process that is reaching blinding speed in our lifetime. It is the unrecognized process whereby the machinery of life neutralizes Work ideas by making them gradually become common-knowledge and more acceptable to ordinary man. This has always been true, but it has always been a most gradual process, far surpassing individual lifetimes. But now, just as the whole illusion of ordinary, horizontal time has increased in speed, this particular process is approaching astounding velocity. Gurdjieff is a prime example. He’s been dead now for thirty years, and the kind of life inherent in his ideas should have been good for another thirty at least. The orthodoxy that immediately sprang up after his death was mechanically driven in the direction proper to sustaining the viability of Gurdjieff’s work to the maximum degree. Although they didn’t necessarily understand their efforts, they did not advertise, or proselytize, and in fact believed it their sacred duty to be noncommunicative about Work matters with outsiders. Based on past circumstances, the ideas, methods and even vocabulary of Gurdjieff should have long remained far outside the general consciousness of ordinary man, but such has not been the case.


“Although it is true that a more awakened man-of-the-Work’s teachings and methods die with him, they do continue to exert an ofttimes secondhand influence in the overall game-of-Life, and can in fact give indirect rise to a new teacher, and line of Work. But all of this requires a certain period of gestation after the death of the teacher, and does not arise from the immediate passions surrounding the funeral. But the needs of the Machine have obviously changed, if not increased in a certain fashion, for Gurdjieff’s secondhand influence was not allowed such a period of post-mortem grace. The game-of-life has dragged Gurdjieff’s name and ideas into the public light at such a speed as to render all possibilities moot. Can you understand at all what I am telling you? The machinery of life itself has jerked the name and image of Gurdjieff from the dark closets of his would-be followers and protectors, and shoved him into the new-age limelight, all cleaned up and respectable. That competing line of biological evolution has sanitized the tremendous efforts of an extraordinary man, rendered his ideas and memory impotent, and safely thrown him into the bland, meaningless hopper of ordinary consciousness. Some of his more ardent followers sense that things have somehow gotten-out- of-hand, and gone-awry. They don’t understand what has happened, and yet they are sincerely concerned and troubled. It is nothing new at all for the Machine to do this with the men and ideas of the Work; it is to be expected. But Gurdjieff’s particular purpose and impact in no way resembles, for instance, the Jesuses of the past whose influence was almost immediately snatched from the hands of the dangerously hungry and thrown into the safe arena of religious illusion. I do not mean that a religion is about to grow up around the figure of Gurdjieff, but that it has been generally only those men-of-the-Work whose memory was to become the center of a new religion who have suffered such a neutralizing blitzkrieg from the hands of life.


“That book, The Teachers of Gurdjieff, was in part an attempt to point out the danger of a serious man becoming blindly identified with maps-of-the-Work as opposed to the reality of the Work. It tried to direct a sincere man’s attention away from being totally transfixed by the recorded memory and sayings of a Gurdjieff and toward the profitable area of seeking a living cargo while leaving the vehicle to rust in peace. But now the warnings of such a book are almost meaningless. There are certainly more people than ever reading and talking about Gurdjieff, but this does not mean that somehow such proper warnings were wasted. It means that such caveats are now unnecessary because Gurdjieff is safe, accessible and intellectually acceptable. The ordinarily perceived image of Gurdjieff in the Western world is now such that a truly hungry man would pay it no attention. Such a sincere man, here and there, would unknowingly be unattracted to anything as popular as Gurdjieff has become. Any man with Work understanding is valuable only as long as he is dangerous; only as long as the machinery of life is arranged so that he is conceived as dangerous; and only so long as the Machine tolerates his danger. After a certain point is reached, life will either crush him, or render his efforts impotent by making him popular. And thus has been the case of dear friend Gurdjieff. Although it was not their intention, some of the self-proclaimed, contemporary Sufis have played a role in this process, and unexpectedly made themselves popular and impotent.

“And they’re the ones who like to tell about lessons in kindness derived from nursing scorpions.

“Is there no justice?”