Gurdjieff’s power of being was at the same time both a blessing and a curse for him. He knew about it, and moreover, was forced to arrange his work with people taking into account his peculiarities. Gurdjieff’s power was such that he could enthrall people, but in response they would deify him. No matter what various malicious haters said about Gurdjieff, it was precisely this situation that he avoided his whole life. It is exactly for this reason, possibly, that he did not receive permissions to teach people – in its standard form – and precisely for that reason he was forced to behave repulsively and rudely. And even that did not save Gurdjieff from the superman status ascribed to him in the majority of recollections about him. If we take into account all of this, then we can guess why Gurdjieff rid himself of his devoted students from time to time. First, he had a limited mandate for teaching, which was not supposed to go beyond the bounds of his mission. And then from a certain time he could not give his students anything more without breaking his promises. And Georgy Ivanovich regarded his promises very seriously. Secondly, when devotion to the Work began to turn into servility regarding the Teacher, a person should have left Gurdjieff – even with hurt and misunderstanding – but leave, for the sake of his own good. Someone like Ouspensky left on his own, but then the reasons for the departure were different. Gurdjieff pushed away people for the reason of either their state, or for the reason that teaching under his guidance could not be continued. Because he did not intend to form any schools, and furthermore, was not supposed to do that. And here we encounter the issue of how useful then the System he gave was, and for what reason in general he gave it.
Osho compared the position of a mystic to an ordinary person in the following way: a mystic sits on a tree, and a person sits under a tree. And thanks to his higher position, the mystic sees the cart which appears on the road several minutes earlier than the person sitting under the tree. What is the future for a person is the present for a mystic. Let us say the Sufi mystics knew about the threat of the final degradation of Sufism and sought means of changing this situation. In an orthodox setting, this was practically impossible, because precisely because of its orthodox nature, it had grown distorted. The mystics did not fear non-standard decisions, and therefore it is quite possible that Gurdjieff was sent to the West in order to verify the readiness of people to perception of new knowledge and new practices. The Sufis were searching for new lands and new people, which Idries Shah spoke about directly, and his first followers became adherents of the Gurdjieff teaching.
So that is how the whole picture looks – Gurdjieff brought not Truth, but a collection of ideas in which Truth was deliberately mixed with a lie. And this was one in order to test the average level of being of people who possibly later would be given more truthful statements. Only in this way can the obvious absurdity of some of Gurdjieff’s theories be explained, because no matter how you look at it, he was not a fool. It was a provocation; it was a test of listeners and readers for the level of their understanding, and those who could separate the wheat from the chaff could count on a real teaching. And we cannot know for sure how many people passed through this test, but we do know that to this day, numerous followers of the teaching of Gurdjieff-Ouspensky (which is already humorous) try to solve the riddles which one of the greatest mystics of the last century threw at them.
The time of mystics is different from the time of ordinary people. Mystics live by eternity and act by proceeding not from immediate tasks – although that can occur as well – but by the scale of decades and centuries. As is known, God’s mills grind slowly, and mystics take direct part in keeping the millstones turning. It is hard for people to believe that there is Work whose effect can appear decades later, but for Sufis following the Will of God, this is a quite ordinary practice. Therefore, contemporaries may not know about the true purpose of the Work of this or that Sufi, just as they may not know that they are Sufis at all. That was how it was before, and it is that way now.
If we look at Gurdjieff’s activity as researchers, then the entire essence of his provocations becomes much more comprehensible. To determine the form of conditionality and the fundamental ideas by which Western people are conditioned; their receptivity for new ideas; their readiness to perform the Work and for service – here is a large field for work. It can be said that to sacrifice one’s life to research of this type is a major and imprudent stupidity, but if such a thought arises in you, that means your ego is now talking. It is searching for great meanings and great accomplishments. The essence of the Sufi Work consists in serving God, and here there are no important or unimportant things. It is just that what is required here and now must be done, without any hope that you will enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Not a single mystic is one-dimensional. Therefore, it is understood that the Work which Gurdjieff performed also had many aspects in it equal in significance. His Beelzebub’s Tales is quite an ambiguous work, which has become for his followers a kind of analogy to the Bible for Christians. It truly does contain many levels of meanings, but its main message is a report on the state of the minds of people with whom Gurdjieff dealt. And that report is intended not for you and me – it is addressed to those who initiated Gurdjieff to perform the research mission. We, too, of course, have something to profit from in this book, but in order to understand it, you must already possess that level of knowledge which is impossible to obtain without becoming a mystic. Approximately the same can be said about another one of Gurdjieff’s books – Meetings with Remarkable Men. It is only in part autobiographical, and its main purpose is not so much to give keys to those who search for the Way as it is to test the level of the reader’s being – that is, whether he is capable of distinguishing reality from fiction, or truth from falsehood.
Gurdjieff’s strength of being brought some to a state of holy trembling, and others to a state of rejection and fear. Following his rule not to become a new god for people, Gurdjieff conducted himself with them sometimes exceedingly harshly, although it is not for us to judge about this. His holiness, manifesting itself from time to time, was balanced out by rudeness and bad habits, which not a single author of recollections could manage to ignore. And, strange as it is, it was this ambiguity of Gurdjieff’s behavior and manifestations that continue to attract attention to his figure to this day. He himself made a mystery of himself, full of contradictions, and that turned out to be the best marketing trick; after all, The Fourth Way continues to be in demand and attracts people seeking powers. Now it means little that following this Way it is impossible to get anywhere, because no one understands that this Way itself was invented, created for the achievement of a specific goal which had no relationship to what real seekers are striving for. The Fourth Way is Gurdjieff’s original invention, but it leads exactly to where practices of awareness can lead, and no more, and the entire entourage of ideas which it is seasoned are largely useless. That has been proven by time, but people again and again, with stubbornness worthy of the best application, try to approximate Gurdjieff’s state of being through a Way which in fact does not exist. And that completely characterizes the state of their own being. Truth is almost always mixed with a lie, but Gurdjieff made of this mixture an entire teaching. And that also demonstrates to us the level of his being – after all, to play seriously at what from the outset does not have the declared meaning really requires skill.
Gurdjieff was unique, as any mystic is unique. His level of self-sacrifice can be evaluated only by a person who has done a similar Work, and there are only a few such people. The work of Gurdjieff prepared the way for Idries Shah, and he created a situation in which the spread of Sufism in the West became possible. And even if this has not yet led to its renewal, the beginning has been made, and the millstones in the mills of God continue to turn. Perhaps we will see the flour that results from all of this even in our lifetime, and then likely we will understand more than we can understand now.