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May 30, 1995 12:17 PM
by Sy Ginsburg

Hi Liesel and others who are interested,

You asked me in an E-mail, "For what purpose are you studying
Gurdjieff?" and I replied that I would send my answer to you on
Theos-L in case anyone else would like to know.  So, here it is.

The Gurdjieff Study group which is one of some 20 plus study
groups that we have at our Branch of the T.S.  meets weekly.

Very briefly, Mister Gurdjieff's basic Teaching is that man as he
is at present is not what he can and should be because he is
"asleep" and lives in a kind of dream-world in which he is not
aware of his capacities and reacts to all stimuli as a machine
does, without any real consciousness of his behaviour.  The
practical part of the Work (as the technique of becoming awake is
called) is designed to get one really to know himself, starting
right at the earthly level, that of one's planetary body.  It
consists, again very briefly, in becoming aware of the NORMAL
sensation present in one's body and all its parts in its healthy
everyday state; then in observing in a particular methodical way
one's REactions to external events; and finally in bringing all
one's centres into proper balance, so that in all circumstances
it is the correct centre that responds to the need of the moment
and initiates the right ACTION, not a merely mechanical REaction.
The whole system is based on, and supported by, a Cosmology,
somewhat simpler and less complex than the theosophical one, but
which nevertheless explains clearly and effectively to me the
laws of World Creation, World Maintenance and World Conservation.

The primary purpose of meeting with other people on a regular
basis (we meet weekly) is to exchange experiences and to check on
certain exercises that we have attempted during the week when we
are manifesting in ordinary life but in a special way so that we
can be conscious of ourselves.  The tool that we use is

I have found indications of a similar technique in certain
Eastern teachings such as those of Ramana Maharshi, but Gurdjieff
brought it in a way that seems to me to be more useful for 20th
century Western people.

One of the confusing things when we approach Gurdjieff's teaching
is that his own writings, with the exception of "Meetings With
Remarkable Men", are written only for those who already know the
elements of his ideas.  Therefore, the ideas are usually
approached through the writings of P.D.  Ouspensky, who was
arguably, Gurdjieff's most famous pupil, and are expressed in his
"In Search of the Miraculous" and other works such as "The
Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution." Another recommended
introductory text written by a theosophist is Harry Benjamin's
"Basic Self-Knowledge."

At our Branch we have developed our own introductory workbook
which we have published under the name "GURDJIEFF, A NEW

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