At one time I myself was inclined to judge people about which I had no idea, by what they had left behind them. It seemed to me that I was capable of understanding what a given mystic had left behind. And if his Work seemed to hang in midair, and it was not understandable how to become as he was, then that meant that it had not succeeded very well. There are no doubts that this was fostered by the books of Osho, in which he criticized everyone and everything; for immature and insecure minds, the overthrow of authorities has always seemed a very attractive notion. In fact, I did not consider even the Work of Osho himself to be very successful, because all of his “attained” students with whom I managed to talk with, I would not consider examples of what should be the attainment of Truth or Love. None of them had individuality, and that is exactly what a person who has reached spiritual realization attains. All of them parasited off the legacy of Osho – off his practices, words (thanks to the fact that he left more than enough) and his approach to life, adding their own, as a rule, rather primitive “understanding” of it.
Thanks to Osho’s speeches, under whose influence I was under for rather a long time, the Work of Gurdjieff seemed unsuccessful to me as well, although I did not know even its approximate goal. All seekers think that the main purpose of any Master is to lay the way for those who come after him, and no one understands that the Way must be laid for yourself by yourself, and that the maximum that a Master can do is to prepare you for passage along your own Way. Yes, the Master is a door; yes, the Master embodies the Way, but having embarked on it, you begin your own journey. The help of the Master is inestimable, but only you can pass along the proposed Way, and your experience will still be only yours, and quite unique. No one can do for you what you must do yourself.
The world is constructed in such a way that everything in it opposes the Work of the mystic, and therefore it practically never can be successful from the perspective of the ordinary human conception of success. Even so, they work, and now I understand that for many of them, leaving behind a digestible teaching or even a whole school of followers headed by the “lawful” successor of this teaching is not the main purpose for many of them.
Like many other seekers, I learned about Gurdjieff from Ouspensky’s book, In Search of the Miraculous. I read it in early 1993, and it made a quite strong impression on me. First of all, of course, the image of Gurdjieff itself drawn by Ouspensky impressed me – the image of a person of Knowledge, who had entirely unordinary views on all things; a person who possessed incredible abilities and powers, and on the whole of a person who was on an entirely different level of being compared to others. If the content of the teaching outlined by Ouspensky in his book is not taken into account, the image of the Master alone was already enough to want to become as strong and wise as he. In fact, the majority of those who go to modern Gurdjieff groups or who are interested in his teaching first of all are drawn to the image of Gurdjieff created both by Ouspensky and other authors of memoirs with names like The Unknowable Gurdjieff. As a rule those who are drawn to Gurdjieff are looking for strength and to a lesser extent, those who wish to create in their minds a beautiful, mystically-based yet consistent picture of the world. His ideas to this day remain quite original although (let his followers forgive me!) largely not very useful from a practical perspective. To be more precise, attempts to apply them in practice lead people into a dead end of thinking and endless philosophizing. Just as happened in the end with Ouspensky.
Of course, I wanted strength. The knowledge which Ouspensky set out on the whole was interesting, but a significant part of it at that time had almost no meaning for me. I was looking for what every real seeker is seeking – not descriptions of the laws of the world, which although they weighed on me, I could nevertheless do nothing about them – I needed concrete recipes for advancing to the state of being which Gurdjieff possessed. They were nowhere to be found, and as I understand now, they could not be.
There are numerous situations and states which cannot be understood with the mind; they can only be experienced, and the mind later chooses certain words for describing what is lived. Faith in the power of the mind or, if you like, reason is very widespread among modern atheistically-conditioned people. It seems to them that everything can be understood if it is well explained, and therefore intellectuals usually live with illusions of understanding of what concerns internal work and mystical experience. Both Gurdjieff’s fate and experience were too unique to try to convey them in words; moreover, his Work required drawing attention to himself, and the mysteriousness of the Teaching and the source of the Teaching were part of the concept for its embodiment. Describing the exercises that Gurdjieff did in various places under the leadership of various people was pointless due to the fact that they had to be performed under guidance; furthermore, at that time the tendency was still strong to conceal practice and knowledge from the uninitiated. The mystical Way was the domain of the chosen, and this was emphasized by the outer secrecy of the activity of Sufi orders and the secrecy of their practices. Now, much knowledge has become open, and for that reason it has been immediately corrupted, whereas the mystical Way, just as it was the domain of the chosen, has remained so.
Even so, Gurdjieff was not a Teacher of the mystical Way, although undoubtedly he was a Master; the purpose of his work with Western people was different. He wrote about this himself, but people are usually not inclined to take seriously what they don’t like, therefore few believed that his purpose was to continue research into human psychology. Of the Western person, I would add myself. And it would be impossible to say that at the moment of the beginning of his Work in Russia and then in the West, Gurdjieff did not know human psychology. He understood it wonderfully, which is absolutely clear from his published conversations with his students and even from the book In Search of the Miraculous. That means his task was not so much the research of psychology as the study of the peculiarities of the conditionality of Western people, their typical psycho-emotional reactions and the possibilities of conducting the Work with them.