Quotations from the Gurdjieff Literature

A selection of quotations from the Gurdjieff literature, organized by topic.

ALL THAT EXISTS

“Life is sacred. Everything is animated by the One and contained in It. Everything is maintained reciprocally and is connected by life. All that exists serves Creation and has its place in the order of the Universe. Creation is Love.”
— Michel Conge, Inner Octaves

“People do not realize that when they work, conscious forces come to their aid.… Conscious forces are trying to help you. You are not alone.”
— Christopher Fremantle, On Attention

“It is my belief that every one of us is a vessel that contains a very great energy which goes unattended.  Right now as we sit here, there is something in us that is waiting to be called.  And if we attend to it, if we acknowledge it, we will then be in touch with a force that can illuminate.  It can transform and shape each one of us and can help to change the world.  When one is still and one listens, then one begins to be in touch with this mysterious element which is within each one of us.”
— William Segal, A Voice at the Borders of Silence

“I serve as a channel for a flow of energy. I serve so that energy can be transmitted to other forms of beings, to other places, to other levels unknown to me.”
— G.I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

ART AND CREATIVITY

“You must first of all remember that there are two kinds of art, one quite different than the other—objective art and subjective art. All that you know, all that you call art, is subjective art, that is something that I do not call art at all because it is only objective art that I call art. … We have different standards: I measure the merit of art by its consciousness and you measure it by its unconsciousness. We cannot understand one another. A work of objective art ought to be a ‘book’ as you call it; the only difference is that the artist transmits his ideas not directly through words or signs or hieroglyphs, but through certain feelings which he excites consciously and in an orderly way, knowing what he is doing and why he is doing it. …

Objective art requires at least flashes of objective consciousness; in order to understand these flashes properly and to make proper use of them a great inner unity is necessary and a great control of oneself.”
— GI Gurdjieff, as told by Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“So if we dare to use the word ‘creative’, we must see that its possibility lies in that mysterious human property of attention: not a mere mental attention, but an attention which relates and mobilizes the sensitive attention of the body, the affective intelligence of the feeling, and the ordering attention of the mind toward a more total openness to what is… and the real life, the living energy which that contains.

What then, is the creation of the craftsman? If he is not the owner but the servant of his concept, if he recognizes himself as the receiver rather than the author of the message, he also sees that this concept, this message, depends on him for a new form through which it can be transmitted. He is called to its service, he is vital to it: the words will not be heard unless he can rephrase them, give them a new sound; but the message itself is not his to change. … It is only if the individual can submit to a larger authority, in order to take part in it, that craft can serve creatively both art and artisan.”
— Dorothea Dooling, A Way of Working

“Quality is a word much used and much devalued today—one could even say it has lost its quality—yet all of our lives we live according to an intuitive sense of its meaning, and it guides most of our attitudes and decisions. It has become fashionable to mistrust “value judgments, yet we appreciate people, we respond to their presence, we sense their feelings, we admire their skills, we condemn their actions, whether in cooking, politics, art, or love, in terms of unwritten hierarchies of quality.

Nothing illustrates this better that the curious phenomenon we call art, which transforms the very nature of our perceptions and opens us to a sense of wonder, even of awe. Certain frequencies of vibrations—colors, shapes, geometric figures, and above all, proportions—evoke corresponding frequencies in us, each of which has a specific quality or flavor. There is, for instance, a proportion within the rectangle called the Golden Section that will invariably produce a sensation of harmony, and here as in many other geometrical figures the psychological experience is inseparable from its mathematical description. Architecture has always observed and flowed this marriage between feeling and proportion, and on a more intuitive level the painter and the sculptor are tirelessly correcting and refining their work so that its course outer crust can give way to the true inner feeling. A poet sifts within his thought pattern, giving attention to subtle intimations of sound an rhythm which are somewhere far behind the tumble of words with which his mind is filled. In this way, he cerates a phrase that carries with it a new force, and the reader in turn, can perceive his own feelings being intensified as their energy is transformed by the impressions he receives from the poem. In each case the difference is one of quality and is the result not of accident but of a unique process.”
— Peter Brook, The Secret Dimension, Gurdjieff, Needleman and Baker p31

“It is my belief that creativity arises from stillness.”
— Nicholas Hlobeczy, spoken word

ATTENTION

“Attention is the quintessential medium to reveal man’s dormant energies to himself.  Whenever one witnesses the state of the body, the interplay of thoughts and feeling, there  is an intimation, however slight, of another current of energy.  Through the simple act of attending, one initiates a new alignment of forces….Sensation of parts or the whole of the body can anchor the attention, provide it with a kind of habitat…. Freely flowing, the concentrative, transforming effect of conscious attention brings the disparate tempos of the centers to a relatively balanced relationship.  Thoughts, feelings, and sensing are equilibrated under this vibrant, harmonizing influence…. However, attention is not “mine.”  In a moment of its presence, one knows that it does not originate entirely with oneself.  Its source surrounded by mystery, attention communicates energies of a quality the mind cannot represent.  One needs to be at the service of conscious attention; one prepares for its advent through active stillness.”
— William Segal, Opening: The Collected Writings of William Segal

“In stillness one has the sensation of being opened to a more subtle cognition. It is a sensation akin to the one that comes when one is in communication with nature, with great music and art. Sometimes one experiences this energy in the presence of a man or woman with Being, or when an unexpected moment of grace, of sorrow, of shock frees one from routine associations. Suddenly there is an opening to another energy—the unmistakable taste of something higher and truer.”

… Attention is the quintessential medium to reveal man’s dormant energies to himself. Whenever one witnesses the state of the body, the interplay of thought and feeling, there is an intimation, however slight, of another current of energy. Through the simple act of attending, one initiates a new alignment of forces.
— Segal, Opening

“The fundamental idea is: I am the attention. Where my attention is, there am I. If the attention is weak, I am weak, if it mechanical, I am mechanical, if it is free. I am free.”
— Michel Conge, Attention and the Two Natures

“What religions call God is the higher level, above the mind, but understood through a higher part of the mind. Man is made to create a link between two levels, to receive energy from a higher level in order to have an action on a lower level—not a reaction. As long as the ego is dominant, nothing is possible. … In order to be related to a higher level, some freedom is necessary from the level of existence where one is. Passivity of the body and of the mind stands in the way. The process requires active attention.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann

“My attention, this power tool for communication is not mine. It remains almost entirely at the disposal of life’s imperative needs or whatever event comes along and forces an impression on my senses and my mind. Yet it is mine; it springs from me, from my life; it is part of my life force which ceases to be mine in so far as it does not obey my conscious being but is constantly enslaved by the outside world.

… Am I condemned to live as a prisoner of my conditioning and my automatic association?”
— Christopher Fremantle, On Attention

BEING

“Without the relationship with higher energy, life has no meaning. The higher energy is the permanent Self, but you have no connection with that. For that connection, a fine substance needs to be generated. Otherwise, the energy of the body is too low to make contact with the very high energy which comes from above. You must persist—stay in front of the lack. Gradually, arrange to be in conditions which help you.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann, Heart Without Measure

“I am dead because I lack desire;
I lack desire because I think I possess;
I think I possess because I do not try to give;
In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;
Seeing that you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;
Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing;
Seeing you are nothing, you desire to become;
In desiring to become, you begin to live.”
— Réne Daumal, Mount Analogue:

CONSCIENCE AND CONSCIOUSNESS

“The third state of consciousness constitutes the natural right of man as he is, and if man does not possess it, it is only because of the wrong conditions of his life. It can be said that without any exaggeration that at the present time the third state of consciousness occurs in man only in the form of very rare flashes and that it can be made more or less permanent in him only by means of special training.

“In this state a man can see things as they are. Flashes of this state of consciousness also occur in man. In the religions of all nations there are indications of the possibility of a state of consciousness of this kind which is called ‘enlightenment’ and various other names but which cannot be described in words. But the only right way to objective consciousness is through the development of self-consciousness . . . In the state of self consciousness a man can have flashes of objective consciousness and remember them. . . This state of consciousness means an altogether different state of being; it is the result of inner growth and of long and difficult work on oneself.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“In ordinary life the concept of ‘conscience’ is taken too simply. As if we had a conscience. Actually the concept ‘conscience’ in the sphere of the emotions is equivalent to ‘consciousness’ in the sphere of the intellect. And as we have no consciousness we have no conscience.

Consciousness is a state in which a man knows all at once everything that he in general knows and in which he can see how little he does know and how many contradictions there are in what he knows.

Conscience is a state in which a man feels all at once everything that he in general feels, or can feel. And as everyone has within him thousands of contradictory feelings which may vary from a deeply hidden realization of his own nothingness and fears of all kinds to the most stupid kind of self-conceit, self-confidence,, self-satisfaction, and self praise, to feel all this together would…be painful.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“Conscience is the fire which alone can fuse all the powders in the glass retort which was mentioned before and create the unity which a man lacks in that state in which he begins to study himself.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“There are times when conscience alone, supplementing reason, can bring equilibrium and openness. The realization that one’s life is a waste for oneself and for others, that one lives here on earth without fulfilling one’s purpose, brings the experience of conscience. Thus touched, one may be moved to another understanding. Change, movement, liberation are possible. But until conscience, deeply buried in the subconscious is aroused, one may never unveil the feeling needed to create and sustain the human link to another order of energy.”
— Segal, Opening

EDUCATION

“If a man is sincere with himself, he enters into another’s position and knows that he himself is no better. A man cannot help another because he cannot even help himself.

If you wish your children well, you must first wish yourself well. For if you change, your children too will change.”
— Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

“Only if we know ourselves can we see others, for all people are alike inside and are the same as we are.”
— Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

“Generally, education is restricted to the education of the mind…. But a child’s essence, his inner life, is left to itself, without any guidance.”
— Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

“The law demands that your child go to school. Let him. But you, his father, must not be content with school. You know from your own experience that school provides only head knowledge–information. It develops only one center. So you must try to make this information come alive and to fill in the gaps. It is a compromise but sometimes even a compromise is better than doing nothing.”
— Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

ENVIRONMENT

“The earth needs our work… now.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann, spoken word

ESSENCE AND PERSONALITY

“It must be understood that man consists of two parts: essence and personality. Essence in man is what is his own. Personality in man is what he has learned, or reflects, all traces of exterior impressions left in the memory and in the sensations, all words and movements that have been learned, all feelings created by imitation—all this is ‘note his own,’ all this is personality.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“Essence knows what it likes but can’t explain it. Personality has its own desires. But its powers cannot extend beyond that moment. In one way or another essence or type gains the upper hand and decides.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“Essence and personality have as their support a third constituent of man: his organic body. This is the instrument through which all the exchanges which make life possible take place. These are the three basic elements given to man. Each of them has its center of gravity in one of the principal centers of man. The center of gravity of the body is the moving center; the center of gravity of essence is the emotional center; and the center of gravity of the personality is in the intellectual center.

[essence represents] our “patrimony,” the “gifts and traits peculiar to each man… put into his charge to make it ‘grow’ in life.”
— Jean Vaysse, Towards Awakening

HABITS

“Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all. This can never be the case. All three centers are filled with habits and a man can never know himself until he has studied all his habits.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“Man cannot move, think, or speak of his own accord. He is a marionette, pulled here and there by invisible strings. If he understands this, he can learn more about himself, and possibly then things may begin to change for him.”
— Ouspensky, Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution

“The illusion of unity or oneness is created in man first, by the sensation of one’s physical body, by his name, which in normal cases always remains the same, and third, by a number of mechanical habits which are implanted in him by education or acquired by imitation.

Having always the same physical sensations, having always the same name and noticing in himself the same habits and inclinations he had before, he believes himself to be always the same.

In reality there is no oneness in man and there is no controlling center, no permanent “I” or Ego.”
— Ouspensky, Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution

HUMAN EVOLUTION

“Man is, in the full sense of the term, a ‘miniature universe’; in him are all the matters of which the universe consists; the same forces, the same laws that govern the universe, operate in him; therefore in studying man we can study the whole world, just as in studying the world we can study man. But a complete parallel between man and the world can only be drawn if we take ‘man’ in the full sense of the word, that is a man whose inherent powers are developed. An undeveloped man, a man who has not complete the course of his evolution, cannot be taken as a complete picture or plan of the universe—he is an unfinished world.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

INDIVIDUALITY

“Unless there is the I, there is only the ego. So let it be. One recognizes the presence of the I from the fact that I wish to serve. Ego does not wish to serve. But until there is the I, let the ego be. It can be useful. What else are you going to do? When the I appears, the ego automatically loses energy and becomes unimportant. It can still be there but it is not in control.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann, Heart without Measure

INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT

“The fourth way requires no retirement into the desert, does not require a man to give up and renounce everything by which he formerly lived. The fourth way begins much further on than the way of the yogi. This means that a man must be prepared for the fourth way and this preparation must be acquired in ordinary life and be a very serious one, embracing many different sides. Furthermore a man must be living in conditions favorable for work on the fourth way, or, in any case, in conditions which do not render it impossible. It must be understood that both in the inner and the external life of man there may be conditions which create insuperable barriers to the fourth way. Furthermore, the fourth way has no definite forms like the ways of the fakir, the monk, and the yogi. And, first of all, it has to be found. This is the first test.
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“There is a sentence from Elie Faure which has haunted me since my adolescence…: ‘The only man who adds to the spiritual wealth of humanity is the one who has the force to become what he is.’”
— Henri Tracol

“Watch for the point in working when it is necessary to let go. Something has to be abandoned. Ego makes the effort, but one comes to the point when the ego has to be passive. The point of transition is subtle. There can be too much effort or too little.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann, Heart without Measure

THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE GROUP

“Where could I begin? I had already covered the world, poked my nose into everything, into all kinds of religious sects and mystic cults. But with all of them it came down to the same dilemma: maybe yes, maybe no. Why should I stake my life on this one than on that one? You see, I had no touchstone. But the very fact that there are now two of us changes everything. The task doesn’t become twice as easy: After having been impossible, it has become possible. It’s as if you first gave me, in order to measure the distance from a star to our planet, one known point on the surface of the globe. You can’t make the calculation. Give me a second point, and it becomes possible, for then I can construct the triangle.”
— Réne Daumal, Mount Analogue

“The first aim of a man beginning work in a group should be self-study.

The work of self-study can proceed only in properly organized groups. One man alone cannot see himself. But, when a certain number of people unite together for this purpose they will even involuntarily help one another. It is a common characteristic of human nature that a man sees the faults of others more easily than he sees his own. At the same time on the path of self-study he learns that he himself possesses all the faults he finds in others. But there are many things he does not see in himself, whereas in other people he begins to see them. … The other members of the group serve him as mirrors in which he sees himself.

… A group is usually a pact concluded between the I’s of  a certain group of people to make a common struggle against… their own ‘false personalities.’

… Furthermore, in the work of self-study one man begins to accumulate material resulting from self-observation. Twenty people will have twenty times as much material. And every one of them will be able to use the whole of this material because the exchange of observations is one of the purposes of the group’s existence.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“In properly organized groups no faith is required; what is required is simply a little trust and even that only for a little while, for the sooner a man begins to verify all he hears the better it is for him… Accept nothing you cannot verify for yourself.”
— G.I. Gurdjieff

INFLUENCES

We have in ourselves at certain moments an intuition that something else is possible — an indestructible inner freedom, a harmonious unity, and participation in the life of a ‘better’ world. Certain myths, certain forms of art, the traditions and religions are influences which seem to come from ‘somewhere else,’ touch us sometimes in the midst of our ordinary life and revive this intuition. Indeed, these influences bring us an impression of an inner opening, an opportunity to awaken, and if we are attentive to it, we can recognize that something in ourselves responds… In this way, there can be developed in certain people a special, almost magnetic sensitivity and attraction to everything that can lead in this direction.
— Jean Vaysse, Toward Awakening

“Strange events, incomprehensible from the ordinary point of view, have guided my life. I mean those events which influence a man’s inner life, radically changing its direction and aim and creating new epochs in it.”
— Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

QUESTIONS

“Mineral, vegetable, animal, human, each kingdom or genus of life on our planet is the bearer of a specific quality which characterizes it and which, within a certain range of variation, it has the mission to develop. Being endowed with thought, is a man not bound to ask himself what is the specific characteristic of human life, which human life alone can develop? One day, should he arrive at an answer which seems valid, can a man worthy of the name have any other aim than to try to nourish from then on, by all available means, this quality proper to him and his brothers?”
— Jean Vaysse, Towards Awakening

“We all have experiences of a higher kind—the question is how do I act towards such experiences?  It is what Gurdjieff’s teaching is all about.  These pose a question.  What is the meaning of such experiences in my life?  Most of us don’t fact this question.  We collect experiences and pin them in a book and at the end have only a book of dead insects.  Gurdjieff says man could be able to feel a relationship with everything around him, could actually be a part, play a part, of the surroundings.  We see in respect to such experiences that we try to catch them, prize them.  After a time, there is a satisfaction in having experiences—getting, then not understanding them—because experiences prove we are linked with something higher.  We must understand our ordinary functions, which lead us to catching these experiences and pinning them in a book.”
— John Pentland, Exchanges Within

LOVE

“Whoever wishes to love his neighbor must begin by trying to love plants and animals. Whoever does not love life does not love God.”
— G.I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

MAN AND WOMAN

“Men have their minds and women their feelings more highly developed. Either alone can give nothing. Think what you feel and feel what you think. Fusion of the two produces another force.”
— Kenneth Walker, Study of Gurdjieff’s Teaching

MIND BODY FEELING

“Every phenomenon arises from a field of energies: every thought, every feeling, every movement of the body is the manifestation of a specific energy, and in the lopsided human being one energy is constantly swelling up to swamp the other. This endless pitching and tossing between mind, feeling, and body produces a fluctuating series of impulses, each of which deceptively asserts itself as ‘me’: as one desire replaces another, there can be no continuity of intention, no true wish, only the chaotic pattern of contradiction in which we all live, in which the ego has the illusion of will power and independence. Gurdjieff calls this ‘the terror of the situation’.

His purpose is not to reassure; he is concerned only with an impartial expression of the truth.”
— Peter Brook, Gurdjieff, Edited by Needleman / Baker

“There are three forces—of the body, mind, and feeling. Unless these are together, equally developed and harmonized, a steady connection cannot be made with a higher force. Everything in the Work is a preparation for that connection. That is the aim of the Work. The higher energy wishes to but cannot come down to the level of the body unless one works. Only by working you can fulfill your purpose and participate in the life of the cosmos. This is what can give meaning and significance to your life. Otherwise, you exist only for yourself, egoistically, and there is no meaning to your life.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann, Heart Without Measure

“Before our nature was spoiled, all four in this team—horse, cart, driver, master—were one; all the parts had a common understanding, all worked together, labored, rested, fed, at the same time. But the language has been forgotten, each part has become separate and lives cut off from the rest. Now, at times, it is necessary for them to work together, but it is impossible — one part wants one thing, another part something else.

The point is to re-establish what has been lost, not to acquire anything new. This is the purpose of development. … the power of changing oneself lies not in the mind, but in the body and the feeling.”
— Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

“It has already been said that the higher psychic centers work in man’s higher states of consciousness: the ‘higher emotional’ and the ‘higher mental’. The aim of ‘myths’ and ‘symbols’ was to reach man’s higher centers, to transmit to him ideas inaccessible to the intellect and to transmit them in such forms as would exclude the possibility of false interpretations. ‘Myths’ were designed for the higher emotional center; ‘symbols’ for the higher thinking center.…

This present teaching differs from many others by the fact that it affirms that the higher centers exist in man and are fully developed. It is the lower centers that are undeveloped. And it is precisely this lack of development, or the incomplete functioning, of the lower centers that prevents us from making use of the work of the higher centers.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

MONEY

“Nothing shows up people so much as their attitude towards money. They are ready to waste as much as you like on their own personal fantasies but they have no valuation whatsoever of another person’s labor.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

“Look at people in shops, in theaters, in restaurants; or see how they identify with words when they argue about something or try to prove something, particularly something they do not know themselves. They become greediness, desire, or words; of themselves nothing remains.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“One finds many very dangerous effects in the expression of negative emotions. The term “negative emotions” means all emotions of violence or depression: self-pity, anger, suspicion, fear, annoyance, boredom, mistrust, jealousy, and so on. Ordinarily, one accepts this expression of negative emotions as quite natural and even necessary. Very often people call it “sincerity.” Of course it has nothing to do with sincerity; it is simply a sign of weakness in a man, a sign of bad temper and of incapacity to keep his grievances to himself. Man realizes this when he tries to oppose it.”
— Ouspensky, Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution

“These emotions are a terrible phenomenon. They occupy an enormous place in our life. Of many people it is possible to say that all their lives are regulated and controlled, and in the end ruined, by negative emotions. At the same time negative emotions do not play any useful part at all in our lives. They do not help our orientation, they do not give us any knowledge, they do not guide us in any sensible manner. On the contrary, they spoil all our pleasures, they make life a burden to us, and they very effectively prevent our possible development because there is nothing more mechanical in our life than negative emotions.”
— Ouspensky, Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution

“I think that, for an ordinary mechanical man, the most difficult thing to realize is that his own and other people’s negative emotions have no value whatever and do not contain anything noble, anything beautiful, or anything strong. In reality, negative emotions contain nothing but weakness, and very often the beginning of hysteria, insanity, or crime. The only good thing about them is that, being quite useless and artificially created by imagination and identification, they can be destroyed without any loss. And this is the only chance of escape that man has.”
— Ouspensky, Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution

ORGANIC LIFE

“Organic life represents so to speak the earth’s organ of perception. Organic life forms something like a sensitive film which covers the whole of the earth’s globe and takes in those influences coming from the planetary sphere which otherwise would not be able to reach the earth. The vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms are equally important for the earth in this respect. A field merely covered with grass takes in planetary influences of a definite kind and transmits them to the earth. The same field with a crowd of people on it will take in and transmit other influences. The population of Europe takes in one kind of planetary influences and transmits them to the earth. The population of Africa takes in planetary influences of another kind, and so on.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“Organic life is the organ of perception of the earthy and it is at the same time an organ of radiation. With the help of organic life each portion of the earth’s surface occupying a given area sends every moment certain kinds of rays in the direction of the sun, the planets, and the moon. In connection with this the sun needs one kind of radiations, the planets another kind, and the moon another. Everything that happens on earth creates radiations of this kind. And many things often happen just because certain kinds of radiation are required from a certain place on the earth’s surface.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

PLANETARY INFLUENCES

“Organic life is the organ of perception of the earth and it is at the same time an organ of radiation. It receives planetary influences and transmits them back to the sun, the planets, and the moon. … All great events in the life of the human masses are caused by planetary influences. They are the result of taking in planetary influences. Human society is a highly sensitive mass for the reception of planetary influences.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“Somewhere about this time I was very much struck by a talk about the sun, the planets, and the moon. I do not remember how this talk began. But I remember that G. drew a small diagram and tried to explain what he called the “correlation of forces in different worlds.” This was in connection with the previous talk, that is, in connection with the influences acting on humanity. The idea was roughly this: humanity, or more correctly, organic life on earth, is acted upon simultaneously by influences proceeding from various sources and different worlds: influences from the planets, influences from the moon, influences from the sun, influences from the stars. All these influences act simultaneously; one influence predominates at one moment and another influence at another moment. And for man there is a certain possibility of making a choice of influences; in other words, of passing from one influence to another.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

PRAYER

“Prayer is not a petition. It is another special aspect of the contact with the divine spark that we can experience in ourselves. Without this contact, we consider ourselves to be a “tiny being”; as you say in your letter, “How can such a tiny being as me…?” That’s a silly way of looking at it. You are this Life that circulates. To acknowledge it with your mass—without words and without desire—that is prayer.

We need ask for nothing. It is illusion—the ego—which asks. To come back to myself as “I”—awakened to the mirage of the “person,” the “name,” and the “form”—is to be fulfilled.

I do not need to pray in order to be; I need to recognize that i am—that’s what prayer is. And from this rediscovered fact, Faith, Love, and Hope are born, very naturally and without any subjective distortion.”
— Michel Conge, Inner Octaves

RELATIONSHIP

“Is it not enough that our daily life is filled to overflowing with insincerity, thanks to the abnormally established habits of our mutual relationships?”
— G.I. Gurdjieff, Life is Real Only Then When I Am

“If a man really remembers himself, he understands that another man is a machine, just as he is himself. And then he will enter into his position, he will put himself into his place, and he will really be able to understand and feel what another man thinks and feels. If he can do this, his work becomes easier for him. But if he approaches a man with his own requirements, nothing but new internal considering can ever be obtained from it.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“In the real meaning of the word, mechanical man cannot love–with him, it loves or it does not love.”
—Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

RELIGION

“In order to be Christians we must be able ‘to do.’ We cannot do; with us everything happens.”

“Christ says: ‘Love your enemies,’ but how can we love our enemies when we cannot even love our friends?”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

SELF OBSERVATION

“Objective thought is a look from Above. A look that is free, that can see. Without this look upon me, seeing me, my life is the life of a blind man who goes his way driven by impulse, not knowing either why or how. Without this look upon me, I cannot know that I exist. I have the power to rise above myself and see myself freely… to be seen.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann, Gurdjieff, ed, Needleman/Baker

“We need to see ourselves as we are, instead of the picture that we have of ourselves. To see ourselves better, we must first observe ourselves impartially—in complete sincerity, without changing anything—simply because we have this need to see ourselves as we are. That is why all work in this direction begins with self-observation—observation which is all-embracing, global and impartial.”
— Jean Vaysse, Toward Awakening

“Above all, you must feel the need to know yourself. You are something and you don’t know it. You have to acknowledge that you do not know who you are, and that you need to know it. This opening if the most important step.

You need a knowledge which is not a book knowledge. Then the head can be informed by reading books where you recognize your experiences. What is needed is direct perception.”
— Jeanne de Salzmann, Heart without Measure

“One can affirm that as soon as one practices entering this body, and having contact with all these mysterious forces which are usually so completely separate and unrelated, they come closer together. And one begins to see all the forces and influences which were in fact unknown — such as instinctual drives, and everything that has been incorporated through education and social conditioning. An attitude of seeing begins to prevail… But still, in this first stage, what one sees is felt as more important than the seeing itself. Observation at this level inevitably entails a reaction. Immediately one wishes to change, to cover over what is seen, to find a solution to the unveiled problems. Further on, a certain confidence appears through letting go…

One is no longer completely taken by the forces interacting in oneself… This is sometimes called “self-observation” finding a sensitive place where one can receive impressions, and letting things be as they are… There is something new: one sees that, up until now, one was only thinking about what is. Now, one is receiving what is.… As one begins to realize that the fundamental aim is to become aware of the whole of oneself, then the sacred quality of ‘seeing’ becomes as important as what is seen, and a balance begins to appear. . . .

Seeing is the most important element in bringing order; everything takes its place from that.”
— Michel de Salzmann, Material for Thought

“Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity for self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself beings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening. By observing himself he throws, as it were, a ray of light onto his inner processes which have hitherto worked in complete darkness. And under the influence of this light the processes themselves begin to change. There are a great many chemical processes that can take place only in the absence of light. Exactly in the same way many psychic processes can take place only in the dark. Even a feeble light of consciousness is enough to change completely the character of a process, while it makes many of them altogether impossible. Our inner psychic processes (our inner alchemy) have much in common with those chemical processes in which light changes the character of the process and they are subject to analogous laws.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

SELF REMEMBERING

“Now this is the chief point in work upon oneself. If one realizes that all the difficulties in the work depend on the face that one cannot remember oneself, one already knows what one must do.

One must try to remember oneself.

In order to do this one must struggle with mechanical thoughts, and one must struggle with imagination.

If one does this conscientiously and persistently one will see results in a comparatively short time. But one must not think that it is easy or that one can master this practice immediately.

Self-remembering, as it is called, is a very difficult thing to learn to practice. It must not be based on an expectation of results, otherwise one can identify with one’s efforts. It must be based on the realization of the fact that we do not remember ourselves, and that at the same time we can remember ourselves if we try sufficiently hard and in the right way.

We cannot become conscious at will, at the moment when we want to, because we have no command over states of consciousness. But we can remember ourselves for a short time at will, because we have a certain command over our thoughts. And if we start remembering ourselves, by the special construction of our thoughts–that is, by the realization that we do not remember ourselves, that nobody remembers himself, and by realizing all that this means–this will bring us to consciousness.

You must remember that we have found the weak spot in the walls of our mechanicalness. This is the knowledge that we do not remember ourselves; and the realization that we can try to remember ourselves. Up to this moment our task has only been self-study. Now, with the understanding of the necessity for actual change in ourselves, work begins.”
— Ouspensky, “Fourth Lecture,” Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, p. 93-94.

“Unless we can remember ourselves, we are completely mechanical. Self-observation is possible only through self-remembering. These are the first steps in self-consciousness.

The birthright of a human being is the desire for self-consciousness, which should appear at the age of majority. At about the age of thirty, there should come a sense of the world in which we live, the dawning of ‘cosmic consciousness’. After this, according to one’s gifts, conditions, circumstances, and so on, one should become a conscious agent in the functions of the cosmos, which is a total scheme of which we would have a relative comprehension.”
— Orage, Commentaries on All and Everything

“The fundamental contribution of psychotherapy, whatever its form, has been the scientific approach to entering into oneself. One can spend a lifetime looking at oneself from the outside, that is, solely from the mind—thinking about oneself, rationalizing in all its many forms—but that is not really an experience. The experience of self-awareness requires that one ‘come inside.’ To come inside can be seen as the first threshold of self-initiation. It means a shift, a drastic change of orientation, of inner listening, until suddenly the event, simple and obvious, is revealed: what takes place in the body begins to be perceived from inside. So simple, but we are so far from it in our usual state!”
— Michel de Salzmann, Material for Thought

“Not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves. (He gave particular emphasis to these words.) You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, ‘it observes’ just as ‘it speaks,’ ‘it thinks,’ ‘it laughs.’ You do not feel I observe, I notice, I see. Everything still ‘is noticed,’ ‘is seen.’ … In order to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself. Try to remember yourselves when you observe yourselves and later on tell me the results. Only those results will have any value that are accompanied by self-remembering. …”

“All that G. said… and all that my attempts at self-re­membering had shown me, very soon convinced me that I was faced with an entirely new problem . . .  I am speaking of the division of attention which is the characteristic feature of self-remembering.

I represented it to myself in the following way:

When I observe something, my attention is directed out­ward toward what I observe—a line with one arrowhead:

I —————————> the observed phenomenon.

When at the same time, I try to remember myself, my attention is directed both towards the object observed and towards myself. A second arrowhead appears on the line:

I <–————————> the observed phenomenon.

Having defined this I saw that the problem consisted in directing attention on oneself without weakening or obliterating the attention directed on something else. Moreover this “something else” could as well be within me as outside me.

Having defined this I saw that the problem consisted in directing attention toward oneself without weakening or obliterating the attention directed on something else.

The very first attempts at such a division of attention showed me its possibility. At the same time I saw two things clearly.

In the first place I saw that self-remembering resulting from this method had nothing in common with “self-feeling,” or “self-analysis.” It was a new and very interesting state with a strangely familiar flavor.

And secondly I realized that moments of self-remembering do occur in life, although rarely. Only the deliberate production of these moments created the sensation of novely. Actually I had been familiar with them from early childhood. They came either in new and unexpected surroundings, in a new place, among new people while traveling, for instance, when suddenly one looks about one and says: How strange! I and in this place; or in very emotional moments, in moments of danger, in moments when it is necessary to keep one’s head, when one hears one’s own voice and sees and observes oneself from the outside.

I saw quite clearly that my first recollections of life, in my own case very early ones, were moments of self-remembering.”
— Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

“We turn with astonishment to find, for example, in the Orthodox Christian traditions, directives such as that of Gregory Palamas in the eleventh century: ‘You see brother, that not only spiritual, but general human reasoning shows the need to recognize it as imperative that those who wish to belong to themselves… should lead the mind inside the body and hold it there. It is not out of place to teach even beginners to keep attention in themselves.’”
— Jacob Needleman, Material for Thought

“Balanced attention, sustained for a brief time, invariably results in the reconciliation of body and mind, sensitizes feelings, and opens the door to another level.

Sensing, the practice of placing one’s attention on a specific part or area of the body, expands and deepens the reception of impressions, endows the body’s automatized functions with added intelligence.

Sensing oneself, particularly as a whole, paves the way and helps to enlarge the capacity to see the random associations and thoughts which float through the head.

This practice, coupled with observing one’s shifting moods and feelings, opens the question of a higher reality behind or within the corporeality one calls ‘me’.”
— Segal, Opening

“There’s a knowledge in the mind, but there’s also a knowledge in the heart and a knowledge in the body. All these have to come together, and that is much more difficult than we know. So, for the present, let us stay with the first thing that Gurdjieff asks of us—something that is always available to us in our daily life…. He asks us to try to ‘remember ourselves,’ to awaken to ourselves here in our life as it is now. What does this mean? What is this ‘self’ which it is necessary to remember? What is this ‘myself’ which needs to enter into my life? When someone has really understood this, he discovers that it opens him to what is of utmost importance and value in himself. He feels this possibility as the central point of his life because it relates him to what is deeper and truer in himself and, at the same time, to what is greater than himself and for which he has an authentic and unforced feeling of respect. But he also sees that he is always falling away from that, and this begins to be his question. He feels that he should not be out of contact with this quality of being; he begins to see that his whole life is not in accordance with those impressions of his own self. So this is really the starting point. And it is then that the means, the methods, can be brought. The Gurdjieff teaching contains many methods, but they are always related to that beginning.”
— Pauline de Dampierre

SLEEP AND AWAKENING

“A man who sleeps cannot ‘do’. With him everthing is done in sleep. Sleep is understood here not in the literal sense of our organic sleep, but in the sense of a state of associative existence. First of all he must be awake. Having awakened he will see that he cannot “do”. He will have to die voluntarily. When he is dead he may be born. But the being who has just been born must grow and learn. When he has grown and knows, then he will ‘do’.”
— G.I. Gurdjieff, Views From The Real World

STAIRCASE AND THE WAY

“At the end, I want to speak at length of one of the basic laws of Mount Analogue. To reach the summit, one must proceed from encampment to encampment. But before setting out for the next refuge, one must prepare those coming after to occupy the place that one is leaving. Only after having prepared them can one go on up. That is why, before setting out for a new refuge, we had to go back down in order to pass our knowledge on to other seekers.”
— Réne Daumal, Mount Analogue

“And you, what do you seek?”
— Réne Daumal , Mount Analogue

SUFFERING

“When you exercise, do it as a service for the to the whole of humanity. …” “Mr. Gurdjieff also expressed it: ‘work must be for yourself, for the group, and me.’ (that is, for the school). It can begin in any place, but must soon develop to touch all three aspects.”

“Each line involves suffering: suffering at seeing what I am, my nothingness; suffering at working with others, seeing that we do not understand one another except superficially, that we do not love one another, that we even think or say malicious things behind the back of another; suffering for our complacency and passivity; and finally, suffering for the human condition, for those who are swallowed up in misery, poverty, crime, ignorance.

It is this suffering which brings about a connection with another dimension, with inner depths; it is that elusive quality, sincerity with myself, which brings about contact with ‘being,’ the truth in myself. And so the suffering of each aspect of school work brings not only suffering but also a subtle joy—because to know the truth, to understand, always brings positive feeling: ‘In the space around thought, love is born.’”
— Christopher Fremantle, On Attention

TEACHINGS

“Its summit must be inaccessible by means known up to now. But… its base must be accessible to us, and its lower slopes must be inhabited by human beings similar to us, for it is the path which links our present human domain to higher spheres.”
— Rene Daumal, Mount Analogue

“The knowledge that Gurdjieff offered is in danger of disappearing because the very thing which claims our attention—the hugeness of its scope—makes it ungraspable in its entirety. It is not, dare I say, intending to be grasped. It is a finger pointing at a moon forever beyond us, showing us a direction, a way: a shadowy ladder to another world, that disappears from our view into incommensurable spaces (although the first rungs seem close and clear).”

“Listening for this echo…” [we find the] “same note on a higher or lower scale,” an inner resonance in us which connects in a manner beyond words, beyond the mind. “Listening for this echo allows the ideas which escape the pinning down process of the mind to make unexpected suggestions. Fragments of the unknown come miraculously together; one learns something new, a new dimension in the process of thinking.…”

“Without an intuition of the same laws acting, echoing, and re-echoing on different levels…, ‘self-knowledge’ and ‘work on oneself’ are reduced to the plane of ‘self-improvement’—’more’ and ‘better’ of the same thing. Transformation, actual change of being, which is the goal of all true teachings, is forgotten.”
— DM Dooling, Gurdjieff, Needleman and Baker

“Self-improvement is an ‘arrangement’ of something that already exists. Self-perfection is an actualization of potentialities not yet developed.”
— Orage, Commentaries on All and Everything

“Gurdjieff taught that there is another quality of mind, a real vision, that is accessible to us—but not without effort. It seems it cannot be attained without the participation of real feeling and real presence. Then understanding appears that is of a different nature, and attitudes and perceptions change and widen. This new understanding accepts the question, accepts its own unknowing and inability to know, accepts that it is not the place of the part to comprehend the whole. It rejoices in the hugeness of what it can never reach at the same time that it weeps because it can never reach it.

Gurdjieff’s teaching is for those who can truly face this paradox.”
— DM Dooling, Gurdjieff, Needleman and Baker

THE TEACHER

“It was astonishing to discover so great a knowledge of art in someone whose teaching was already so vast. Everyone had the feeling that they were in the presence of something unique coming from very far away and from very high: an ancient knowledge of the laws of the universe, of the laws governing movements and postures, and of the laws relating to the harmony of the body and to feelings of a higher order. Each gesture, each tempo, had to executed with great precision. Gurdjieff often used the expression ‘to do exactly.’ When this ‘to do exactly’ was there each posture resonated in us like the precise echo of something much higher. Forces long forgotten within sprang forth. … What I have been speaking about are exceptionally rare, elevating moments of truth that leave you with a very strong impression and, perhaps, a sense of longing as well.”
— Pauline de Daumpierre

WISH

“By our calculations, thinking of nothing else, by our desires, abandoning every other hope, by our efforts, renouncing all bodily comfort, we gained entry into this new world. So it seemed to us. But we learned later that if we were able to reach the foot of Mount Analogue, it was because the invisible doors of that invisible country had been opened for us by those who guard them. The cock crowing in the milky dawn thinks its call raises the sun; the child howling in a closed room thinks its cries open the door. But the sun and the mother go their way, following the laws of their beings. Those who see us, even though we cannot see ourselves, opened the door for us, answering our puerile calculations, our unsteady desires and our awkward efforts with a generous welcome.”
— Rene Daumal, Mount Analogue

“Wish is the most powerful thing in the world. With conscious wish everything comes.”

“He offers an exercise: ‘For those of you who are already able to remember your aim automatically, but have no strength to do it: Sit for a period of least one hour alone. Make all your muscles relaxed. Allow your associations to proceed but do not be absorbed by them. Way to them: ‘If you will let me do as I wish now, I shall later grant you your wishes.’ Look upon your associations as though they belonged to someone else, to keep yourself from identifying with them.

At the end of an hour take a piece of paper and write your aim on it. Make this paper your God. Everything else is nothing. Take it out of your pocket and read it constantly, every day. In this way it becomes a part of you, at first theoretically, later actually. To gain energy, practice this exercise of sitting still and making your muscles dead. Only when everything in you is quiet after an hour, make your decision about your aim. Don’t let associations absorb you. To undertake a voluntary aim, and to achieve it, gives magnetism and the ability to ‘do.’”
— GI Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World

“Go out one clear starlit night to some open space and look up at the sky, at those millions of worlds over your head. Remember that perhaps on each of them swarm billions of beings, similar to you or perhaps superior to you in their organization. Look at the Milky Way. The earth cannot even be called a grain of sand in this infinity. It dissolves and vanishes, and with it, you. Where are you?”
— GI Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World


Most of the books quoted here are available from Gurdjieff Books and Music