George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, born in Armenia about 1866, concerned himself with the deepest questions of the nature of human life and of the universe we belong to. He traveled in Central Asia, India, and North Africa searching for hidden knowledge. He learned ways to enable people like us to live in closer contact with the Truth we intuit, that a part of us has never stopped longing for.
He brought this knowledge to the West, with the help of Jeanne de Salzmann and P. D. Ouspensky—first to Russia, then to Europe and America. The teaching has roots in Buddhism, Vedantic Hinduism, Sufism, and Christianity. He called his approach a “Fourth Way,” a way that requires not belief but understanding. He died in 1949.
The fundamental premise is that as we are, we are incomplete: nature develops us only up to a point. We have the potential to develop higher capacities, to wake up, to live more in accordance with what we are designed to be. We must participate in the process with active intelligence. The Work provides a path that we can practice in the conditions of our ordinary life.
The ideas call us to awaken to our possibilities. Self-knowledge developed by means of self-observation is the starting point. We verify what we know and don't know about ourselves. We discover that we are tense, inconsistent, forgetful. The energies of our mind and body and feeling do not work in balance together. We suffer from a lack of presence and unity.
Through practice we begin to see that will can be strengthened by exercise against resistance; that consciousness depends on the development of real attention; that unity can only arise through the process of seeing and bearing our contradictions, holding them under the light of attention.
This work is an oral tradition. The methods and practices include group study and discussion, sitting meditation, crafts and handwork, music and sacred dance. Contact with a group is essential.