BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

A different angle on Gurdjieff ...

I've read a lot of Gurdjieff/Ouspensky/Bennett/etc. books over the years, and I'm frankly amazed at how many "angles" there are from which one can come at the Work. Admittedly, as the years roll on, there's less authenticity in the material (as it seems that none of their students ever got to the point of having something systematic, beyond the core books themselves, to pass on to the next generation), but it is interesting to see where it goes (like the "corporate enneagram" crap that totally has lost the concept of "outside shocks" essential to the model's functioning!).

This book, Views from the Real World: Early Talks Moscow, Essentuki, Tiflis, Berlin, London, Paris, New York, and Chicago as Recollected by His Pupils, attributed to Gurdjieff (but, obviously at one remove) is fascinating as it's the first step away from the his direct teachings (in that these were produced by memory by their transcribers, as Gurdjieff would not allow note-taking), but are also one of the clearest views into his teachings.

I really need to get over my hesitancy to mark up my books ... I had a half a dozen slips of paper stuck in this marking places that, as I was reading, seemed to hold particularly apt bits to quote in a review, however, out of context of the book, these are frequently hard to discover ... perhaps I need to move to sticky notes where I could "bracket" the section in question on the note! In this case, these appear to have been particularly lucid expositions of such things as Gurdjieff's concept of "octaves", of bodily postures (the area that his famous "stop" exercise was intended to highlight), the above-mentioned "shocks", the production of intentional non-subjective art, the various "centers" and "foods" of the being (and how the phrase "I wish to remember myself" triggers various of these in sequence), and subjects such as morality, suffering and consciousness, etc. I guess if you're interested, you'll have to get the book!

This is structured oddly, with sections based on the opening phrases of a talk, or just on their subject, with some being long (the whole of Section I is "Glimpses of Truth" which was in circulation early enough to have been mentioned in Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous) and some being just a few paragraphs. In all cases (as I recall) they are anonymous, leading me to wonder who collected them for publication, as these are from far-flung sources (as noted in the lengthy sub-title) and over a fairly wide span of years. After all, if Gurdjieff did not want his students taking notes, these would very likely have been "kept in secret" until after his death, or shared in very limited groups which were more interested in the literal exposition of the teachings than the Teacher's wishes about the teachings. It is also odd that, as far as I've been able to research it, this was published in 1973, while the materials in it range from 1917 to 1930, with Gurdjieff dying in 1949. Was this collected before his death, soon after his death, or much later?

Anyway, the material here is of specific interest as it's first-hand reports of Gurdjieff's teachings, even if those reports had to depend on the student's memory. Each is a moment in time with Gurdjieff, and most provide fascinating glimpses at nuances not necessarily present in the "canon" of what he wrote.

Views from the Real World is still in print, so would be available at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor, although Amazon has it at just over ten bucks, which is a pretty good deal (the new/used copies start at $2.50, so with shipping that's almost there anyway). Some have suggested that this is a "good introduction" to Gurdjieff, but I disagree, as this is something that opens up parts of the teachings to students of Gurdjieff's written material, and it would be better to start with that (perhaps Meetings with Remarkable Men) and then pick this up after absorbing some of the materials that he intended to convey to a general audience. However, if you're interested, this should not hold you back from getting a copy of the book.

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Tags: book review

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