The Gurdjieff Teaching
Gurdjieff taught by his presence and by the circumstances he created for those who worked with him. His multifaceted and indirect approach was—and is—experienced and expressed through how one responds to these challenges, an approach that calls for work on oneself toward self-remembering, individually, with others, and especially in one’s everyday life. His teaching, primarily an oral tradition, took three equally important forms, each in a “language” of its own: his writings, his music, and the sacred dances called Movements.
Writings: Gurdjieff’s magnum opus, All and Everything, comprises three books: the massive Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, the autobiographical Meetings With Remarkable Men, and Life is Real Only Then, When “I Am.” A fourth book, Views from the Real World, contains transcripts of talks given by Gurdjieff in the 1920s and 30s. A recent publication, Paris Meetings 1943, presents transcripts, translated from the French, of questions that arose in regular weekly and biweekly meetings, and Gurdjieff’s responses.
Music: In 1924, Gurdjieff and composer Thomas De Hartmann began collaborating in writing music for piano. In a unique working method, Gurdjieff would dictate the melody, whistling or playing it with one finger on the keyboard, which De Hartmann transcribed, harmonized, and formalized, always under Gurdjieff’s close supervision. A number of recordings of the music exist, including a set played by De Hartmann himself. Other pianists include the late Alain Kremsky, Laurence Rosenthal, Linda Daniel Spitz, Charles Ketcham, and Yleana Bautista.
Movements: The sacred dances Gurdjieff brought from his travels and taught during the course of his life make possible a study of the mind, body, and feeling. “Taking new, unaccustomed postures,” he wrote, “enables you to observe yourself inside differently from the way you usually do.” Observations about them by Gurdjieff and those who worked with him and since his death may be found in a special issue of the Gurdjieff International Review (Vol. V, No. 1; Spring, 2002) at https://www.gurdjieff.org/.