The mind that wakes up is not the mind that is asleep.
A personal reminder of the 2010 aandeconference, in Loutraki, Greece, by Mike Readshaw.
As I now write, seated on a coach with about sixty ten and eleven year old children, on a school day-trip to Whitby, I realize that, having already written my own personal reminder of Loutraki in Greece, it is perhaps customary, for those aware of the Gurdjieff Work, to preface these personal recollections and insights with a word of warning.
Gurdjieff has written Beelzebub’s Tales in order to transform us. And so, what change does he want? His aim was, and is, he says, that, in each of us, the subconscious, which he regards as our true consciousness, should predominate in our common presence. (BT BK.1. pg. 25/26 )
It is that simple.
And he also says that this subconscious, our true consciousness, which should predominate in our common presence, is formed from, what he calls, the ‘ materialized results of heredity.’ Now, for many of us, parents and grandparents, people of hard-earned experience, it is clear that heredity, as it is ordinarily portrayed, is not so simple.
There is, in all probability, in the Universe, shall we say, some overall principle or pattern called the Law of Self-Correcting.
Now, heredity passes from grandparents to grandchildren, and from parents to their grandchildren. It misses a generation. What is active in one generation, is passive in the next, and vice versa. And so, if we picture this process, we can say that heredity forms a sort of double wave, or, as the biologists call it, a double helix. Nature, in her wisdom, forms a double spiral so that, in effect, if one arm of the spiral is damaged or knocked out of line, then the other arm, operating according to the Principle of Self-Correcting, draws it back into line, that it might complete its completing process nevertheless, and reach the next stage, and the next level.
And with this in mind, I can paraphrase Mr. Beelzebub himself, perhaps, you might consider it, even to the point of parody, and say that: There are three different kinds of ‘heredity.’ The first is known as ‘physical-antecedent-heredity.’ The second is known as ‘astral-antecedent-heredity.’ And the third is called ‘Being-antecedent-heredity.’
The ‘physical-antecedent-heredity’ concerns the origins of the physical self, mentioned earlier, being the history of mama and papa, and of granny and granddad. The ‘Astral-antecedent-heredity’ concerns the origins and history of the Kesdjanian self, such as it is. The ‘Being-antecedent-heredity’ derives from the origins and history of the ‘spiritual self,’ the Being of the man, again, such as it is.
Now, it is clear that none of us can possibly share the ‘physical-antecedent-heredity’, nor the ‘Astral-antecedent-heredity,’ nor further the ‘Being-antecedent-heredity,’ of any other person, not least with, for example, Mr. Gurdjieff himself. It makes sense therefore that we will, as a result, using exactly the same data as Mr. Gurdjieff, in origin, as a result of the differences in our hereditary makeup, subconsciously, arrive at quite different conclusions based upon that evidence, from those conclusions reached, on that data, by Mr. Gurdjieff himself. This makes sense. Suppose that we all set off in our own vehicles, on a motor journey, initially all following the same road. At the first T junction, we must each decide whether to go left or to go right. It is an absolute decision. We cannot do both. And at the next T junction, again, we must decide whether to go left or right. So, before we have gone very far on our journey, already, we are all on different roads going in different directions and we will all arrive at different destinations. We will not in the end agree.
Therefore, I have added to my personal recollections here this initial word of warning because there is a danger that, in reading what I have written here, you might find yourself, at some time in the future, agreeing with it. And this would not be in the true spirit of the Gurdjieff teaching.
Gurdjieff says, in the introduction to BT, that he personally felt the need, instinctively, as well as in other ways, to ‘ruffle,’ as he says, the surface of our ordinary ‘false’ consciousness, and to ‘muddle and befuddle’ on every occasion all our established notions about the world. It behoves us all, in maintaining this tradition, to do likewise. Hence, this word of warning, which ends here.
A Personal reminder of the aandeconference 2010, in Loutraki, Greece.
There is an enormous difference between the established Gurdjieff/Ouspensky/Fourth Way tradition and teaching, that fills all the books, films, internet sites, magazines, Foundations and Societies – there is an enormous difference between this and what Gurdjieff himself actually wrote.
The difference is obvious and yet never mentioned.
The first person to recognize this difference was Ouspensky. He was given, in 1936, twenty years after he had first met Gurdjieff, a copy of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. He must have recognized in this book absolutely nothing resembling anything that he himself believed that he had been taught by Gurdjieff. He must have recognized nothing that he himself was teaching at that time.
Ouspensky was the first to recognize this difference, but he wasn’t the last.
Gurdjieff asks that we read his books in order. We begin with BT, and in this book, as soon as he can, on pages 24/25 and just onto page 26, – in the introduction, in my copy, – Gurdjieff defines his whole teaching. You can read it there. Forgive me if I shorten it slightly, for clarity. He writes the following:
‘I wish to bring to the knowledge of what is called your “pure waking consciousness” the fact that . . . I shall expound my thoughts that . . . the essence of certain real notions may of themselves automatically . . . go . . . into . . . the subconscious, which ought to be . . . in my opinion . . . the real human consciousness, and there by themselves mechanically bring about that transformation which should . . . proceed . . . in man . . . and give him . . . the results he ought to have, proper to man.
In . . . every man . . . there are formed two independent consciousnesses which . . . have almost nothing in common.
The whole . . . of this second human consciousness, which is . . . called the “subconscious,” . . . should in my opinion . . . predominate in the common presence of a man.’ (BT. Bk.1. p. 24/25/26.)
Gurdjieff often said that he came to teach us that when it rains, the pavements are wet. His teaching is that simple. He is transforming us so that the subconscious, our true consciousness, predominates in us. How is he to do that ? By placing, what he calls, the ‘essence of certain real notions’ into our true consciousness, our subconscious, that there, they will transform us. That is what he does in BT. That is what he was doing before writing BT. It is that simple. In fact, his teaching is so simple that the joke is that he only ever taught very clever people, for fear that he might be found out. He never was !
I first read BT nearly forty years ago. I have never belonged to a Gurdjieff group, if such a thing exists. However, having come to my own conclusions about what Gurdjieff was doing, I felt the need to see as many people as possible who had read BT, in order to verify the various stages in the transformation, that Gurdjieff so wished for us, with all his Being. This is a surprisingly difficult thing to do. I could not join a group. It would not be a progression for me personally. And so, the perfect answer for me was to attend the aandeconference. Everyone there would have read BT.
And if I was to attend the aandeconference, I might as well say a few words, at the same time, and have some fun.
As it was, on the first day, I realized that I had completely misjudged the level.
Throughout BT, Gurdjieff emphasizes the division in man, into his ordinary consciousness, – his false consciousness – and, of course, his subconscious, his true consciousness. In the chapter we examined at this conference, Chapter 31, he says:
‘ . . . most of the causes of the strangeness of their psyche are found not in that usual consciousness of theirs . . . but in that consciousness of theirs which . . . although it should have been their real consciousness, yet remains in them in its primitive state and is called their “subconsciousness.”‘ (Bk 2. pg.120)
And he also says, in the next chapter, on Hypnotism : ‘ . . . the functioning of their “being-consciousness,” began to be divided in two and . . . two entirely different consciousnesses having nothing in common with each other were gradually formed in them . . . the first . . . called by them simply “consciousness” and the second . . . called “subconsciousness.”‘(Bk 2. pg. 149)
And, as we have seen earlier, he says:’ The whole totality of the formation as well as the manifestation of this second human consciousness, . . . the subconscious . . . should in my opinion . . . predominate in the common presence of a man.’ (BT Bk1 pg. 25/26 )
There is a story somewhere in the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky/Fourth Way canon of thought about a man who secretly learned that a railway was to be built through a particular part of the desert. Being a bit of a wise guy, he visited the Mayor and Town Council of each village on the proposed route of this railway, and suggested that, for a consideration to himself, – you know what business is ! – he could arrange that the route of the railway could be diverted to pass through their town, and that this would considerably benefit them and all the inhabitants of that town. In this way he collected a lot of money for something that was going to happen anyway ! It has even been suggested that this was Gurdjieff himself, or even Gurdjieff’s teaching itself !
A railway could be taken as a symbol of these two consciousnesses of man, these two tracks along which we travel. It would make sense, therefore, that BT was written along two tracks, that is, firstly, for our ordinary or false consciousness, and, secondly, for our true consciousness, our subconscious, with which, there is nothing in common. The two tracks never meet.
Here, it is important to realize that we are transformed – Gurdjieff has written – by the placing of the “essence of certain real notions” into our true consciousness, our subconscious.
Before BT was written, Gurdjieff did this himself, by giving techniques that brought the two consciousnesses closer together. He was then able, himself, to place these “essences of certain real notions” into the subconscious. It was a difficult and delicate procedure. Many have commented on Gurdjieff’s strange behavior at this time.
An example of a technique that brings the two consciousnesses closer together is the teaching of “super-efforts.” What use could this possibly have ? If we examine this, and I have done so, the only purpose of it is to draw the two consciousnesses closer together. At this point, it is possible to transfer data into the subconscious. Unfortunately, in all these cases, the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky/Fourth Way teaching records only the techniques for bringing the two consciousnesses closer together, and not the essential “essences of certain real notions,” transferred. They form no part of the traditional teaching.
Every teaching consists of two parts. They are called the strident teaching, and the sublime teaching. The strident teaching places a rigid and logically consistent structure upon the world. The sublime teaching, the “essences of certain real notions,” then establishes the place of the individual within that structure. It is a sublime teaching, that is, subliminal, and aimed at the subconscious. It is easy to miss.
What Gurdjieff was teaching is not what Gurdjieff was teaching.
The traditional Gurdjieff/Ouspensky/Fourth Way Teaching is rather like coming across a hazel nut. It has a hard outer shell, the “Gurdjieff Method.” But when this shell is cracked, there is nothing within. The “essences of certain real notions” are not there. They are so sublime, they have been missed. Ouspensky missed them.
But, they are all in BT, all sixty four: an octave of inner octaves, all on a chess board.
As I looked around at the readers of BT, at the aandeconference, I took one of the first and most important of these “essences” and tried to assess the situation. This “essence” I would express this way: that the ordinary man does not have any true perceptions. The result of this is that not only does he have to invent false perceptions for himself, either internally, as fantasy, or, externally, as a constant need for entertainment, in order to obtain the energy necessary for the maintenance of his daily existence, but he is also deprived of the possibility of acquiring any, what is called, Reason-of-Understanding, because the active factor, or initiating factor, in the acquisition of this Reason-of-Understanding, is genuine perceptions, really perceived in the world and by himself, and not put into him by another.
In fact, so important is this ‘essence,’ that, not only does it pervade BT, but Gurdjieff also introduces his next book, Remarkable Men I have Met, with this idea. On page 2 of this book, you will remember – or was it too sublime ? – he writes: And indeed, the mind of contemporary man, of whatever level of intellectuality, is only able to take cognizance of the world by means of data which, whenever accidentally or intentionally activated, arouse in him all sorts of fantastic impulses. And these impulses, by constantly affecting the tempo of all the associations flowing in him, gradually disharmonize the whole of his functioning, with such sorrowful results that . . . (Remarkable Men. pg.2)
My conclusion, as I looked around, I would express in the following way, using phraseology, I admit, possibly stolen from the great Beelzebub himself: Gurdjieff has put this notion, from BT, into three places along a certain axis in the human body of the reader ,in such a way that, from these locations, a certain vaporous something arises, and, pervading the whole body, settles into the pores of that body, and there, crystallizing, creates a certain something that blocks and prevents there any satisfaction arising from the perception of these false perceptions. In short, as a result of this, all the participants in that conference perceived genuine perceptions with their subconscious mind, even if, they themselves, were unaware of it. The result of this was, for me, a unique atmosphere at that conference, and the impression, for the first time in my life, that I was among, at least in part, genuine human beings.
However, the situation was not as ideal for other “essences.”
When I took the first “essence of certain real notions” from BT, namely, expressed in the saying: Gurdjieff is teaching us how to live a normal life in an abnormal world, which defines the whole structure of the book BT, – Beelzebub is exiled to a remote corner of the Universe, and there, in the midst of conditions totally abnormal for his essence involved in it, nevertheless strives to live a normal and useful existence – there was no understanding of this. As Gurdjieff writes of Beelzebub, after his pardon from his exile: His influence and authority had not only not declined during his exile, but, on the contrary, they had greatly increased, since all those around him were clearly aware that, thanks to his prolonged existence in the aforementioned unusual conditions, his knowledge and experience must inevitably have been broadened and deepened. Well, isn’t Gurdjieff saying the same to us ? Born into a world totally alien to us, if we strive to live a normal life, according to our own developing reason and insight, will not our influence and authority not only not decline, but will be greatly increased, since all those around us will, of course, become aware that, thanks to our prolonged existence in these abnormal conditions, in this world, our knowledge and experience must inevitably be broadened and deepened ? Of this, there seemed to be no understanding.
When Gurdjieff abandoned forever his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, and was forced to write BT, he gave up the Gurdjieff Method of drawing the two consciousnesses closer. In BT, he adopted a different technique of writing BT, at the same time, speaking to the two consciousnesses separately. They remain, throughout, the same distance apart, like railway tracks. I found no understanding of this, and was forced to deal with this book, like a monorail.
And further, in BT, although the story for the conscious mind takes place in time – even if it is a non-story, being simply a conversation intended to pass the time spent travelling hither and thither throughout the universe – the story for the subconscious, our true consciousness, uniquely, does not take place in time, but in depth, a situation I have never come across before.
Indeed, in his next book, Remarkable Men I have Met, Gurdjieff adopted yet another unique technique, namely, of writing on both sides of a sheet of paper at the same time, which again, has not been understood, and has certainly not been repeated.
As a result of this, I was happy to limit my contribution to the conference to two points. Firstly, to suggest to the conscious mind that there was this difference between the established Gurdjieff/Ouspensky/Fourth Way teaching – a difference between this and what Gurdjieff actually wrote, and also, to provide, for the subconscious mind, the’ whisper of a suspicion’ that Gurdjieff wrote BT in order to transform us, and not, as is assumed, as some Hegelian type enormous philosophical contribution of his ideas to the sum of human nonsensical understanding of the world.
And further, in order to aid the apprehension of these “essences of certain real notions” present in BT, but not in the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky/Fourth Way teaching, I would like to add here a version of a document written originally by me many years ago, and entitled: The Tinkerbelle Tapes.
So, here it is: The Tinkerbelle Tapes.
Gurdjieff asks that we read his books in order, and that we read them three times: firstly, he says, as if reading any other book, secondly, as if reading aloud to another person, and only thirdly, trying to understand what they are all about.
Many who attempt to read Gurdjieff’s book BT find it difficult. It is only when reading it aloud that things fall into place. When this is done, the phrases are read between the commas, pausing at the commas, and in this way the complex phraseology and long involved sentences begin to make sense. The book becomes a pleasure to read, and those who listen to it can appreciate it as a piece of music. The listener becomes aware of the overall rhythm, inherent in all that Gurdjieff produced at this time, of Remorse, the insistent repeated ninefold pattern of sound: a-i-e-i-o-i-u-o-a, repeated a-i-e-i-o-i-u-o-a. And again: a-i-e-i-o-i-u-o-a.
In the 1970’s, I was very interested in finding examples of what Gurdjieff called Daivibrizkar, which is, the influence of the form and structure of buildings on the human body and psyche. I began, with this in mind, to study the medieval monastic buildings near my home, and discovered much. An interest developed in monasticism, and the Way of the Monk. I reasoned that the secrets of the emotional development of man must be hidden, as it were, in the earlier and original monastic Rules.
In Paris, at this time, with a companion, to see the Dalai Lama, then in exile, giving a talk there, we passed ourselves off as “English Professors” and gained entry to the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, to see a seventh century manuscript copy of the Rule of the Master, originally from the fifth century, which was the original, complete, forerunner to the Rule of Benedict. We also examined some of the Rules from Lerins, the island communities of monks, off the coast of the Midi, in France. The Rule of the Master had not been translated from the Latin into English, at that time. My companion taught Latin, and so was able, later, to translate a little over thirty early monastic rules for the first time. From these, we learned much.
Gurdjieff refers to this in the chapter on Art, where he mentions a society called “The Seekers of Truth,” who originated in Africa – where Pachomius of Egypt is accepted as the founder of monasticism and of monks in a coenobium, or community – which came to Europe – as tradition asserts, became, in the south of France, the monks at Marseille under John Cassian, and on the islands of Lerins – and eventually became the “Benedictines,” through the Rule of the Master, which was shortened and simplified to become the later Rule of St. Benedict.
One thing that struck me at the time was a sort of formula, employed by the unknown Master, the unknown author of this Rule of the Master, which consisted of finding a sequence of three quotes. These were, firstly, the Prophet said, that is, from the Psalms, which the monks were required to learn by heart and to recite at each of the seven daily services. Secondly, the Apostle says, being a quote from the letters of Paul. And then, finally, the Lord says, being a quote from the Gospels. In this way, a sort of echoing sequence was established, of increasing authority. It stuck in my mind at that time, and came back to me later.
And so it was, that one day, whilst discussing, with friends, BT, as I used to do often, I happened to mention the fact that BT had a style much like The Rule of the Master, in that, it was clearly meant to be read aloud. I suggested that there was not a trace, in it, of introspection, as in any modern literature. It was as if each phrase was thrown out, in the same way that the original sower of seeds would take a handful of seeds from his basket and throw them into the air, letting them fall evenly to the ground before stepping forward and then taking another handful of seeds to scatter. I suggested that each phrase – between the commas – in BT, seemed to be thrown out into the world, to hang suspended for a moment, reverberating and repeating in the quiet mind, until, I said, if one listened in silence, it was as if the voice of a tiny little fairy then repeated the phrase, within, to a more subtle and discerning part of the psyche. Well. This produced absolute hysterical laughter, and total ridicule. Reading and recording BT from then on became known as the Tinkerbelle Tapes.
However, as is always the case with the germ of a true idea, after about four months, when the laughter had died down, the matter was taken up again. We began to experiment. We read and listened to BT, read between the commas, and then pausing five seconds – it seemed too short a pause – then twenty seconds – much better but maybe slightly too long – then ten seconds, then fifteen. Eventually, as a rule of thumb, I decided to use the title of each chapter as a guide, translating the number of syllables in the title into the number of seconds to pause at each comma, between each phrase.
Thus it was that the first chapter of the story, namely, chapter two of the book, was recorded and listened to with a twelve second pause. Reading the chapter in this way was real torture. But, able to record it and listen to it played back, at a later date, was a revelation. I felt that I was on the spaceship with Beelzebub, said one. I was under a glass bell, said another. It was like being on a magic carpet, claimed a third.
Each phrase of each chapter of BT was therefore allowed to hang suspended in the psyche, to there echo, and to then quietly settle in exactly that part of the psyche that it was destined for. Each chapter then reached exactly that part of the psyche appropriate for it. The “essences of certain real notions” hit home.
Gurdjieff explains in BT, to the subconscious mind, that the psyche of man is divided, and that further, each part of the psyche has its own language, its own rhythms, its own way of perceiving and understanding the world, and its own time. Each part of the psyche has its own time zone. Understanding BT is not, therefore, a matter of trying to grasp its meaning with our ordinary ‘false’ consciousness – of course not – but is a matter of allowing each chapter and section of BT to reach that part of the psyche destined for it, in a manner appropriate to it. And for this, we need to approach BT with a spirit of initiative and ingenuity.
At this point, in the late 1980’s, I had a serious climbing accident, in the French Alps, near Mt Blanc, and matters were put on hold for twenty years.
Thus ends the document now known as the Tinkerbelle Tapes.
Some Sayings, developed by me, during the conference,
Don’t show the fool his foolishness, show the wise man his wisdom.
Why did Gurdjieff not write ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ ?
Conscious ego is character.
I arrived in Greece knowing only two words of Greek. I was determined to use them both. And so:
The ‘alpha’ of Gurdjieff’s teaching is the saying: The mind that wakes up is not the mind that is asleep, and the ‘omega’ of Gurdjieff’s teaching is the saying that: Gurdjieff was teaching us how to live a normal life in an abnormal world.
There is no such thing as school, for: what can the predictable teacher teach ?
And so it is clear that, since BT was written, and certainly since it was published sixty years ago, two quite separate teachings have emerged. The first is known as theGurdjieff Sez teaching, and is based upon what Gurdjieff is said to have said, mainly before BT was written, and is perpetuated by those who knew Gurdjieff, or who were taught by him, and their, what they call, ‘lineages.’ The second teaching, havingalmost nothing in common, quite different in tone and content, is known as theGurdjieff All teaching, and is based, by independent, rather quirky, individuals, on what Gurdjieff actually wrote in his series of books, All and Everything.
And so, we can suspect that even here, we can find an example of that overall principle hinted at earlier by me, called the Law of Self-Correcting. Should one of these two relatively independent teachings, the Gurdjieff Sez teaching and the Gurdjieff Allteaching, running on different tracks, go haywire, then, rest assured, the other will gently and carefully pull it back into line.
As the saying goes: The subjective ways become the objective ways and the objective ways become the subjective.
And, finally, a Gurdjieff joke, one of the best that I have written !
A rich American woman was staying with Gurdjieff towards the end of his life, in Paris. She had to catch an aeroplane home, early the next morning. She went to bed. But Gurdjieff pondered this and, slightly concerned, knocked on her door and peered round it. She sat up in bed and looked at him.
‘Khave you alarm set ?’ he asked.
She stared at him, from her bed, blankly.
‘Khave you alarm set, for tomorrow ?’ he repeated.
She stared at him blankly. Then, all of a sudden, she reached up, and took an ear plug out of each ear.
‘I’m sorry, Mr Gurdjieff, what was it you said ?’ she asked.
‘Khave you alarm set, for aeroplane ?’
‘Oh, yes, Mr Gurdjieff,’ she said. ‘The alarm is set.Thank you so very much.’
And, having said this, she replaced her ear plugs, and settled down comfortably to sleep.
Gurdjieff, then an old man, bewildered by this, quietly closed the door, and shuffled softly off down the corridor in his slippers.
Then, as he put it himself: ‘ Two o’clock in morning. Alarm rings, Everybody in building awake. Everyone rush around. Everybody angry ! All except American lady with ear plugs. She sleep all time. She miss aeroplane.’
Next year, I hope to give a little talk. It starts from the first page of the chapter on France, in BT. There, Gurdjieff uses that phrase that occurs over and over in BT to define our status, namely, the phrase: ‘The abnormal, external conditions of ordinarybeing-existence established by them themselves’, and in the following paragraph, the word ‘normal’ to contrast with it. In fact, BT, at this level, can be seen as a sort of undergraduate essay comparing and contrasting, throughout, the world as it is – the ordinary – with the world as it should be – the normal.
My talk, if I can give it, therefore will be quite simple and, in addition, a quite genuine work of scholarship.
If I am allowed to give it, the title will be : Gurdjieff’s use, in Beelzebub’s Tales, of the terms ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’ to indicate the ‘vices’ at the start and the ‘virtues’ at the end, of that transformation, that he so wishes for us, with all his Being.