A Brief Introduction
by Premananda

G. I. Gurdjieff
is one of the most mysterious and enigmatic figures in spiritual history. He was sometimes called "The Unknowable Mr. Gurdjieff." The system of teachings which he brought from a mysterious source in the East was called "The Fourth Way." The three ways existing up until that time were regarded as the Way of the Fakir (body), the Way of the Monk (heart) and the Way of the Yogi (mind). The Fourth way was said to combine these other three paths in an integrated system to develop the full man, a path of voluntary evolution. It involved simultaneous work on the body, the emotional center, and the mind or intellect.

To follow the Fourth Way was said to be involved in "The Work." It required a teacher who knew. The purpose of it was to awake. Mankind was said to be asleep, or hypnotized. To evolve to a higher level it was necessary for a man to die, and before this could rightly happen he had to awake. Before he could awake he had to see that he was asleep and operating much like an automaton under the control of certain laws. If he could evolve then he would awaken to a higher state which was subject to fewer laws and thus he would enjoy greater freedom.

The system included a psychology and the student was expected to do exercises to change his psychology. For example, instead of simply having his attention and consciousness flow outward he was instructed to set up an additional stream of focus which was directed inward. This developed a  greater sense of self-awareness, a kind of continuous self-watching. One of the things that was to be watched was called "internal considering." This was the endless stream of self-talk concerned with the "me" and the "mine." Instead he was to develop "external considering," concern for understanding and caring about others.

The system also included an elaborate cosmology which was part western science, part eastern mysticism. The cosmos was called "the ray of creation" which stretched through from the Absolute as Nothing and the Absolute as All. A galaxy was called a "world." At the highest level of "all worlds" things were subject to only three laws. Beyond that was only the Will of the Absolute which was called the Law of Three. The ray of creation proceded down through the phenomena of matter-energy and space-time with each branch of the tree being subject to increasing numbers of laws. The earth is subject to 48 laws and the next level, the moon, is subject to 96. Beyond the moon is the negative pole of the Absolute, nothingness. It stands in union with the positive pole which is the world of all worlds, in other words, All and Everything. The Ray of Creation is the appearance of all phenomena reaching between the paradoxical union of Nothingness and Everythingness. The way in which this "ray" operated was according to the Law of Seven.

It is stated that mankind, as a part of organic life on earth had a role to play in the transmutation of substances which he long ago ceased fulfilling. From this tragedy have followed all the wars of earth, all the negative emotions and general dysfuntionality of the species. One of the aims of "The Work" was to restore this lost functionality. Man was said to be a critical factor in the flow and transmutation of substances from the sun to the earth. But mankind fell asleep and the earth became a kind of hell, a terrible place. One part of waking was said to be to become aware of "The Terror of the Situation."

Thus the Fourth Way (or "The Work) had as its purpose the awakening of mankind to his forgotten duty or place in the universe and the evolution of human consciousness.