Each new Master or teacher who begins to work in conditions where there is no corresponding spiritual tradition must prove his competence and right to teach people. And here he must either provide something entirely new in order to start working from scratch, or use terminology and concepts from long-existing traditions that are well known and enable people to identify what the new guru is offering them. Great mystics most often operate according to the principle of renewal, introducing the Truth to the world expressed anew, and expressed in a modern language and modern level of knowledge. An average-level teacher, and also all forms of false teachers always prefer the second path, since the first is closed to them in principle; after all, they themselves have not yet reached the levels of experiencing the Truth. Then their teaching consists of paraphrasing the tenets of classical Sufism or Vedanta, which is sprinkled with their own commentaries, often bringing more harm than good.
Gurdjieff brought people the so-called Fourth Way, and a new classification of Ways in general. He identified three “classic” Ways – the fakir, the monk, and the yogi. The fakirs attain realization through work with the physical body, through total subordination of it to their will. The monks are realized through the emotional body, through love and prayers. And finally, the yogis primarily work with the body of the mind. The Fourth Way involves simultaneous work on all these levels, which is then reflected in the practices proposed in it. Understandably, the division of the Ways which Gurdjieff made is a serious simplification of them, but for the purpose of presentation of the new Way, they were quite suitable. Even so, the essence of the new Way was awareness, as old as the world, which in fact is the essence of any spiritual Way in general. But the task became far more difficult – not just dividing attention, keeping part of it for external actions and the other aimed at awareness of one’s internal reactions – but internally as well; attention had to be divided into parts, being aware simultaneously of the body, emotions and mind.
This is quite feasible with the high level of awareness already achieved, but starting with an attempt to be aware of everything at once is incredibly hard, if not completely impossible. Moreover, Gurdjieff introduced the concept of centers working in a person, that did not coincide with the customary and long-known energy centers – the Hindus’ chakras or the Sufis’ lataifs. Gurdjieff divided the centers according to their functions, and the action of each center also had to be traced and recognized. This was an additional complication of the task of growing awareness, which also turned out to be impossible for anyone to do, because in itself, the isolation and separation of the centers was contrived. The attempt to create a new energy anatomy of the human being failed, since at its foundation lay a theory invented by the sophisticated mind of Gurdjieff – who in that sense also had a quite high level of being. Gurdjieff gave out quite a few theories and claims that had uneven levels of truth.
One such idea was a new idea for everyone, that a person is not born with an immortal soul, as it is described, for example, in Christianity. Gurdjieff said that immortality had to be earned, and with this claim, he rather shocked his respectable public. Shocking people is what he knew how to do and loved. Immortality was possible, but only in order to grow a full-fledged soul in oneself; after all, Gurdjieff maintained, in ordinary people, it is in an embryonic state and no immortality is guaranteed. And only through persistent work on oneself could the soul become developed, and only then would a person attain immortality – to be sure, only within the bounds of the Solar System.
Already from that addition it can be understood how complicated was the teaching offered by Gurdjieff to the broad public. The idea of attaining immortality was always a strong motivating factor for a person’s mind, and Gurdjieff also decided to make use of it; to be sure, teaching it in an entirely new light. That was the case with everything about which he spoke or wrote – take a well-known idea, but add something to it which will make his listeners’ and readers’ jaws drop and the persistent feeling arises that finally they have encountered true knowledge. What is his claim worth, for example, that our Sun neither lights nor heats, but the warmth which we seemingly get from it is a certain effect arising in the atmosphere of the Earth itself due to a particular process, the difficult and exhausting description of which are devoted several pages of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson – the main book authored by Gurdjieff.
Another – and quite impressive – theory which Gurdjieff brought to people was the Ray of Creation. According to this theory, the Ray of Creation emanates from the Absolute, creating various worlds, each of which is burdened by its own number of laws. In fact, the further this or that world is from the Absolute, the more mechanical are the laws in it, whose actions are impossible to avoid. According to Gurdjieff, the diagram of the Ray of Creation looks as follows: the Absolute – all worlds – all suns – our Sun – all planets – the Earth – the Moon – and once again the Absolute, which at the start of the Ray of the Creation is Everything, and at the end – is Absolutely nothing. Each level represented in this diagram means another level of Being, and they are all interconnected. Here, Gurdjieff imbues the sun and planets with intelligence and power and begins to reason like an astrologist, stating that all serious events occurring with humankind are initiated by the influence of the planets. But here, too, he gives something of his own – since the Moon now represents a new sprout of the Ray of Creation, then humankind was created exactly for it, to feed it with its energies. That is, to guarantee the further development of the Ray. This was yet another shocking idea, with which nothing can be done until you receive your own vision of the Truth.
It should not be said that all of Gurdjieff’s ideas are false, but they are given in such a form that always bears within itself a distortion. For example, there is the possibility of existence after death of the physical body, thanks to the mental body which in fact is not given a person in a ready form from birth, and therefore has to be developed through efforts of a particular type. And it is understood that humankind exists not in a vacuum and is subject to influences from higher levels of Reality, and the exchange of energies also occurs with them. I have written a fair amount about this in my books. But the constant simplifications to which Gurdjieff resorts – given the outward deliberately complicated form of exposition – sometimes deprives his theories and ideas of any practical use. They can take a long time to analyze, and his numerous followers are occupied with this to this day. If one wishes, the wheat can even be separated from the chaff in them, but then again, one has to know the Truth, and he who knows it will hardly begin wasting time on that.