1. The Physical, Cosmic (Cosmo-mythological) and Biological Premises for Objective Music (ОМ).
  2. ОМ and “Right Music”.
  3. ОМ and Subjective Music
  4. The Possibility of Comprehending ОМ – the Practice of the Enneagramm
  5. Gurdjieff as the Creator of ОМ
  6. Conclusions

The outstanding Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff (* see commentary 1) had developed an original teaching about the structure of the cosmos and the human being in which music played a substantial role. He brought in the concept of “objective music” which has turned out to be the most important element of the profound and constantly active interconnection between the universe and human culture.

  1. The Physical, Cosmic (Cosmo-mythological) and Biological Premises for Objective Music (ОМ).

According to the teaching of Gurdjieff, the entire universe consists of vibrations which determine the diversity of types, aspects and solidity of material objects. Gurdjieff made use of the ancient knowledge about vibrations being discreet (during the time of Gurdjieff, during the early 20th century, just as now, the domain of physics recognizes the continuity of vibrations from the time of their emergence under the impact of the initial impulse until its subsidence in the conditions of resistance to the surrounding environment). Nonetheless, the Russian teacher denied not only the continuity but also the uniformity of vibrations, which develop with periodic accelerations and retardations.

Gurdjieff’s disciple P.D. Ouspensky in his book “In Search for the Miraculous” presented a theoretical explanation to his teacher’s views. In opposition to the physical conceptions, widespread in the early 20th century, he argued that the force of the initial impulse operates not in a uniform fashion, but in a sort of alternating manner – sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. At first, the vibrations develop invariably during a certain period of time which is determined by the nature of the impulse, the environment, the conditions, etc. At a decisive moment a special kind of change takes place in this process, and the vibrations cease, so to speak, to obey the impulse, slow down for a certain period of time, and change their nature or direction to a considerable degree. For instance, the accelerating vibrations begin to accelerate slower, while the decelerating – to decelerate slower. After this retardations (both in the process of acceleration and that of deceleration), the vibrations return to their previous channel and for a certain period of time continue to increase or decrease uniformly – once again, up to a certain moment when, once again, a delay occurs in their development.

In the ancient teachings it was well-known that in reality the distance between the first moment could be accurately divided into eight unequal parts. At that, the eighth step repeats the first, albeit, with a doubled number of vibrations (in the case of an ascending vibration; in the case of the descending step corresponds to half of the initial quantity of vibrations). This principle of division of the period of doubling (or halving) the vibrations into eight unequal parts is called the octave. The law of the octaves in the earliest esoteric schools was applied to music. Thus was obtained the musical scale of seven tones, well-known from the remotest antiquity.

“The law of the octaves” or the “Law of Seven” lies at the core of the entire universe and manifests itself in the most diverse phenomena of the surrounding world: light, heat, chemical and magnetic vibrations obey the same law as sounds do (it is not perchance that the number “7” has been considered from the earliest times to be magnetic).

Most well-known is the color scale of the seven basic colors of the rainbow. In the Bible it is not perchance that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day.

Furthermore, Ouspensky showed that by using our perception of the scale, we could imagine a period of doubling the vibrations as orderings of notes, between the first “C,” corresponding to 1000 oscillations, and the second “C,” corresponding to 2000 oscillations:


  C (1000)    D    E    F    G    A    B    C (2000) 


Because the frequency of the oscillations increases unevenly, the period between the first and second “C” is divided into seven unequal parts.

One could perceive the correlation of the pitch of the notes or the frequency of their oscillations: if the first C is to correspond to 1, then the pitch D would comprise 9/8, E – 5/4, F – 4/3, G – 3/2, A – 5/3, B – 15/8, and the second C – 2.


  1    9/8    5/4    4/3    3/2    5/3    15/8    2 
  C    D    E    F    G    A    B    C 


The difference in the increase or rise of pitch in the notes or the variance of tones would be as follows:

Between C and D 9/8 : 1 = 9/8

D and E 5/4 : 9/8 = 10/9

E and F 4/3 : 5/4 = 16/15 – a deceleration of growth

F and G 3/2 : 4/3 = 9/8

G and A 5/3 : 3/2 = 10/9

A and B 15/8 : 5/3 = 9/8

B and C 2 : 15/8 = 16/15 – a new slowdown

The distances between the notes, the differences in their pitches are called intervals. And we can see that three types of intervals exist in the octave: 9/8, 10/9 and 16/15, which in whole numbers correspond to the heights of 405, 400 and 384. The smallest interval 16/15 could be found between E and F, and also between B and C. In these places in particular slowdowns within the octave occur.

It is considered theoretically that in the musical scale of seven tones there are two semitones between each two notes, with the exception of intervals E – F and B – C, which are divided by only one semitone. It is supposed that one semitone is missing. Thus, we obtain twenty notes, eight chief tones and twelve interim.

The main notes: C D E F G A B C

The interim notes (two each between the main ones):

C – D D – E F – G G – A A – B

(one note each in between) E – F B-C.

In practice, coming from the traditions of Western music, instead of the twelve intermediate tones only five are taken, i.e. containing one semitone each between:

C – D D – E F – G G – A A – B.

Meanwhile, between “E-F” and “B-C” there is no semitone placed at all. Hence, the basic chromatic scale consists of twelve tones.

The law of octaves is a common universal law which explains many phenomena. It shows why there are no straight lines in nature, why processes develop unevenly and, finally, why humans act inconsistently. By making use of the symbols of the musical octave, Gurdjieff explained the development of any process and, most importantly, the possibility of its change, based on the knowledge of uneven intervals. Any natural process could be depicted in the following manner:












_____________ B



The law of octaves unites: 1) the principle of deflection of forces; 2) the inevitability of movement, development or slowdown of any process; 3) in the development of ascending and descending octaves there are constantly occurring deviations – ascents or descents.

Observations based upon the understanding of the law of octaves show that in their nature “vibrations” can develop by varied means. In interrupted octaves they merely begin and then fall, disappearing or being absorbed by other stronger vibrations which intersect them or go in opposite directions. In the octaves which deviate from their initial direction the nature of vibrations changes, and they produce results that are opposite of those expected of them in the beginning.

In Gurdjieff’s teaching the law of octaves, in the final analysis, is connected with the cosmogenesis – the movement from the Absolute to lower and more contrasting worlds. Since the teacher himself did not indicate directly at the sources of his ancient knowledge, it could be supposed that Gurdjieff’s view of the primordial formation of the “music of the world” (“musica mundana”) generally coincides with those ancient text that are presently available to contemporary researchers.

Let us turn to a contemporary research of the classic Chinese book “Lüshi Chunqiu” (hereinafter in our text – LC), carried out in the wonderful work of G. Tkachenko /* see Com.2/.

Tkachenko notes: “The artistic and philosophical goal of the authors of LC was to show in graphic images that the sounds, which accompany the movement of the world revealed to us, are musical sounds, that their successions (sin) form harmonic combinations, that the universe is musical.” /Tkachenko, p.43/

The beginning of the material world was the non-segmented chaos – “hung-dung,” which revolving in between the membranes of the sky and the earth had created the primary sound. Or, in other words, the chaotic noise background of separate sounds in correspondence to the rotation of chaos (the text even has an exact indication to the fact that chaos made precisely nine turns per day, i.e. possessed a definite rate of frequency) had gradually formed the first phase of the signal, which emerged due to the process of polarization of frequencies, described in traditional terms of “yin” and “yang.” The first are feminine, low or “murky,” while the second are masculine, high and “clear.”

In the text of LC it is written: “The sources of musical sound are extremely far-and-deep. It is generated [in that] height-and-intensity which passes into the [unrevealed] great unity [Tao]. The great unity [Tao] designates twofold prototypes – lyang and yi, the twofold prototypes designate the correlation of yin and yang. When changing, this correlation [by means of] polarization of the forces of yin and yang [intensifies], creating an [individual] sound [image]. [Mixing together], as hung-dung, [the sound images] disintegrate and once again assemble together, they are formed and once again disintegrate – [all of this we] determine as the permanent law of heaven-and-nature.” [LC, 5,2] /Tkachenko 41/

(Here for the sake of comparison the Christian image of the genesis of the universe should be remembered – “In the beginning was the Word,” i.e., already not merely the “primary sound,” but a harmonious and meaningful pitch scale). According to the authors of the ancient Chinese text, the beginning of every new cycles in the world revealed to us, which reflects the transition of the System into the subsequent state, should be accompanied by the corresponding sounds (as well as by manifestations of color and space – images, symbols and signs). Thus, the spring-time thunder, similarly to the primeval sound, serves as a signal for the awakening of nature after wintertime dormancy. At the same time, each moon phase of the yearly cycle was ascribed with a certain sound – a particular tone from the classical twelve-note chromatic scale.

It must be noted that in ancient China there existed two scales – the five-note and the twelve-note. The first was, obviously connected with the five primary elements (unlike the Ancient Greek conception of four primary elements – earth, water, air and fire, the ancient Chinese complemented those with wood or iron as the fifth element). However, LC provided a mythological foundation particularly for the twelve-note scale.

As G.A. Tkachenko demonstrated, “Lüshi Chunqiu” is considered to be the earliest text in the tradition to have fixed the “mathematical” expression for the system of organizing pitch relations. According to the view of the ancient sages of China, from the immovable axis of the world comes the primary movement of the world process, first of all, in the yearly cycle. The scheme of this dynamic model (its prototype) is in its numerical relations ascribed to the notes of the twelve-pitch scale, following the number of moon-cycles, generated by a special tone, called the “Huanchjun” – the reference tone (Huangchjun Chji Gun” – the Gun of the Yellow Bell). Starting from the initial step of the Huanchjun, there is an alternation of the coefficients 2/3, which occurs as an “outcome of descent,” corresponding to the interval of the perfect fourth, and 4/3, which occurs as an “outcome of ascent,” corresponding to the interval of the perfect fifth with the subsequent octave transfer.

Gurdjieff’s conception of vibrations representing the foundation of the material world also corresponds to the earliest Pythagorean conceptions of the “music of the spheres.” The Pythagoreans regarded the surrounding world as a mathematically ordered whole (cosmos). The basis of the world was considered to be the number (the Pythagoreans’ dictum “The number is the master of all things” has been preserved. The orderliness of the universe was viewed by Pythagoras in the correlations of musical intervals, and his idea has determined the formation of the teaching about the “music of the spheres” and the “harmony of the spheres.” It was perceived by him that each planet when passing through space upon a particular distance from the Earth, creates a sound of a particular pitch. The sounds of the various planets create harmonic combinations, all of which when combined together are formed into music.

In addition, Gurdjieff’s teaching about vibrations is closely connected with E.P. Blavatsky’s Theosophical teaching (expounded in her book “The Secret Doctrine”) and forestalls in a remarkable way the newest physical concepts of the construction of matter, meaning the famous theory of the “strings.”

Thus, according to Gurdjieff, the interrelationships of all phenomena are determined by those pitches, i.e. overlays of vibrations which have formed the essence of each separate object or phenomenon. Combinations of objects and phenomena create various contrasting chords. Only in octaves of cosmic order, both ascending and descending ones (such as the interaction of chemical substances, organic combinations, planetary and stellar systems, multi-level universes, etc.) the vibrations develop consistently and correctly, following the same direction in which they had started their movement.

Since the universe has been built upon the interrelationships of vibrations, consequently, it possesses a musical character, and all the changes in it are manifested as concrete sounds, consonant sonorities and melodies. It must be noted that these views do not contradict contemporary physics, cosmology and astronomy. It is well-known that contemporary astronomers connect the existence of organic life with a particular color – indigo or blue, seeking inhabited worlds in this part of the spectrum. It is also known that any inhabited planet on a certain stage of its development begins to produce a particular sound which could be heard from outer space. Thus, the Earth began emitting its sound into outer space in the 1930s.

World music is, in essence, the genuine “objective art” in Gurdjieff’s terminology. It exists independently of the subjective impressions, perceptions and limited capabilities of separate people. “Objective music” is eternal, it presents a special kind of mathematics and with mathematical precision it produces the same impression on all people.

Contemporary art is based on fashion and taste, and musical compositions are created chiefly to be appreciated. The objective art of ancient times was created on the basis of immutable laws by means of proportions calculated precisely by means of mathematics, vibrations and correlations, with the intent of creating quite a definite impact on any listener and audience member.

For Gurdjieff objective music presents a most extensive objective knowledge which is encoded in a special way and transmitted from generation to generation, surpassing by far the framework of contemporary science and religions. It could be said that the ancient and contemporary religions also make use of objective music, which in reality directly or indirectly correlates with all the types of human physical and spiritual activity. Rhythmic work becomes more successful in the hands of a master (in folk music a large number of songs was preserved which had accompanied various types of work – plowing, harvesting, blacksmithing, building of homes, etc.). Quite concrete songs and dance compositions of all peoples are connected with the chief events of human life – birth, marriage, funerals…

Contemporary science is only approaching the conceptions of the existence of OM. A large amount of research exists, which proves that music reflects the basic physiological rhythms of the human organism. It exposes, strengthens or slows down heartbeats, vibrations of the inner organs and delicate processes in inner liquid substances – blood, lymph, gastric juice and brain liquid… Incidentally, there recently was a message on the Internet about a psychiatrist in New York who had developed an original method of transformation of brainwaves into sounds of music. Highly sensitive electrodes register the oscillation of the cortex of the brain, while a special computer program brings out a melody. According to the testimony of the doctor, this individual music does not resemble jazz or rock, but rather is closer to classical music. The music extracted from a person’s head can be written down and recorded and used as treatment for insomnia or stress (a session of “musical brain therapy” costs $350).

The physicians of antiquity (who, as a rule, were also shamans) were able to treat their patients by means of special incantations and rhythmic dances. Every contemporary person knows that there exists music which is conducive to digestion, and there also exists special dance music “for the legs.” Incidentally, as demonstrated by research of veterinarians and animal technicians, classical music increases milk yield for cows and egg-laying qualities for chickens. In other words, classical music comes closest to objective music which synchronizes all living things on Earth and in the universe. It is not perchance that the messages of Earth dwellers to extraterrestrial people sent out to outer space included musical compositions by Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

Is objective music always the same? Is it the only possible type of music throughout the ages? The answer is: both yes and no. Objective music represents rather certain rules, tendencies, regular occurrences, which could manifest themselves differently at different epochs and under various circumstances. Thus, at the foundation of objective music lies the law of the octaves. And it could show itself in the configuration of a flower, as well as in the interaction of the planets in the Solar system and the biorhythms of the human organism…

Mozart’s music, just as Western classical music in general, corresponds to a considerable degree to the laws of objective music, however, ancient Eastern music corresponds even more to these laws.

When his pupils asked him about the tempered scale, Gurdjieff answered them literally as follows: “In the East there is the same octave that we have – from C to C. Only we divide the octave into seven parts, whereas they divide it differently: into 48, 7, 4, 23 or 30. But the law is the same everywhere – from C to C, it is the same scale. Each note also contains seven fractions. The better the ear is, the more fractions of intervals one can hear” /Gurdjieff, “Meetings”, 547/.

According to Gurdjieff’s remark, Western instruments are equipped to play only quarter-tones, with the exception of the piano. In the East not only quarter-tones but also seventh-tones are used.

Gurdjieff noted: “For foreigners Eastern music seems to be monotonous, they are puzzled by its primitive and musically poor qualities. But what sounds as one note for them presents itself as an entire melody for Asians – a melody consisting of one note. This melody is extremely different from our melodies. If an Eastern musician plays one note incorrectly, for them this is already cacophony, while for Europeans the entire melody seems to be rhythmically monotonous. In this respect, only a person who grew up in those areas is able to discern good music from bad music.” /Gurdjieff “Meetings,” 547-548/

In this case, Gurdjieff had in mind the cultural-ethnic and certain anthropological distinctions between Eastern and Western peoples. This is vividly manifested in the melodicism of various languages. For instance, it is known that the Japanese language lacks the sound of the letter “l.” In the Chinese and Vietnamese languages the sound “ee” contains up to seven meanings, indicated by various hieroglyphics, and each of these meanings differs in the pitch of the sound, indiscernible to the European ear.

In other words, objective music is generated by the life of the Universe, but in human perception it can vary, depending on the physiological, anthropological, cultural-ethnic and other traits of individuals.

2. OM and “Right Music”

Has objective music always existed, and to what extent is society in need for it? The first perceptions of the existence of objective music were formed in the times of the earliest civilizations, which is why Eastern music is more geared toward objectivity than the music of the younger Western civilization.

In ancient cultures music was divided into the right and the wrong kind.

The cosmic-mythological teachings of the initial phenomenon of music of the cosmos were directly connected with spiritual/social problems – first of all, with the necessity of consolidation of society and with the creation of national and world religious systems. This explains why knowledge of objective music pertained to sacred knowledge from the earliest times. As it is known at the present time, in the early shamanistic cults the “kamlanie” ritual was accompanied by certain rhythms and melodies directly correlating with cosmic rhythms. All the earliest spiritual/religious texts in their essence presented in themselves special hymns, the musical canon of which has been preserved only in the oral tradition. Thus, the “Rigveda” is still “read” in Hindu temples by means of chanting, actually, its hymns are sung, each one in a special way, on its own melody and in a particular rhythm, which is tapped out precisely by the Brahman teacher. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition particular rules are known as well as the pitches of each of the constituent sounds of the chief prayer word “OM” or “AUM,” which determines the harmony of the entire universe. In Islam the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer by means of a special type of singing, and the main Suras of the Koran are sung in a special way. In Sufism (the mystical trend in Islam) the so-called “zikr” is prominent, when representatives of several Sufi Tarikats (first of all, the Mevlevi) invoke the name of God by chanting. In each of the directions of Christianity there exist their own mandatory chants performed during church service as well as during various types of gatherings of the faithful.

In the Ancient Chinese source “Lüshi Chunqiu” considerable attention is given to examining the “right music,” which not only is determined by conformity to natural laws, but also is conducive to social/political aims and education of the people.

According to the Chinese sages, it does not suffice to turn music into the right type, but it must also be constantly maintained and kept in order. This is why the presence of a sage is indispensible who would be capable of understanding and, if necessary, to recommence the music of the cosmic order – the right music. According to Tkachenko’s remark, “in this sense, for the authors of the LC the sage is functionally identical to the divinity E for the myth: he is appointed by the demiurge-ruler… to maintain the “right” dissemination by means of ritual music of the harmonic aerial domain from the center of the Universe to its periphery”. This is, indeed, a manifestation (min) of the good essence or prowess – the de divinity of the ancestors from whom originates the knowledge of the ancestors – shengmin.” /Tkachenko, 61/

The authors of the Ancient Chinese text placed music on the highest steps on the scale of social and natural values. Music was considered to be a mysterious gift endowed to humans by the divinities-ancestors. This was the “knowledge of the ancestors,” arrayed in numerical correlations. The numbers lying at the foundation of modes and their tonalities, as well as the earliest melodies, endowed mystical qualities to them. Moreover, music presented the most vivid visible presentation of what comprises harmony and the happiness accompanying it – le – being a synonym for a noble delight of a benevolent aim, the highest aim for man. The idea human being – the tsiungtzi, i.e. the “perfect man” was required to play a musical instrument (for instance, the zither –tsing, as Confucius was), which reflected the veritable nobility of his soul.

Thus, the Ancient Chinese authors of “LC” also held the conception that the “right music” is directly connected with the flourishing and stability of society. The “LC” stated : “If the earth is scraggy, tall trees do not grow upon it. If the water is stirred, the fish and turtles living in it would be petty. If the time is vicious, the rituals will be perverted and the music debauched … These are loved only in countries possessed by discord, they arouse joy only in people who have lost their valor – de. [Because] it suffices for vicious and debauched music to appear, when the human [sensual] nature becomes ready for vice and debauchery. Hence are generated all types of voluptuousness and madness. This is why the real man – the tsiungtzi turns to the path of Tao [only that] by means of its aid to perfect his prowess – de, [for] it is only rectified prowess alone that is capable of producing shang – music. While harmonizing music, [such a man] achieved perfection in his compliance with nature – heaven, [since] when music – delight are harmonious, then the people turn to the right rectangular.” /cit. from Tkacheko, 74/

This way, the right music, entrusted by the ruler towards heaven and the path of Tao, is known only to him, and by means of this right music people are harmonized who in their nature are not capable of discern the right music from the debauched and who are easily susceptible to its pernicious influence. It is known that upon the order of emperor Tsing Shi Huandi a musical model was created in the form of bamboo tuning forks, and also exemplary bells were molded, twelve in their number, coordinated with each other in their sound with the notes of the five-note scale and meant for performance of solemn ritual music.

In any culture it can be traced how music, which was gradually generated in magical, mystery and religious rites, in each separate culture in time grew to comprise a certain canon, which gradually became rather dogmatic, dictating rigid rules of transmission and performance of sacred/religious and ritual music.

One of the contemporary researchers of Gurdjieff’s spiritual tradition, the outstanding musician David Hykes /see comm. 3*/ studied ancient sacred chants of Tibetan Buddhist monks of the Gyuto and Gyume schools. He also studied Mongolian and Tuvan throat singing – “huumi” and “kargyraa.” Hykes discovered an ancient Mongolian legend which explained the origin of the right harmonics. In the mountains of Western Mongolia is located a sacred waterfall which “sings” them. As Hykes was told: “When coming to this sacred place, people learn to play harmonics from Nature itself. The river below the waterfall is called Buyan gul, i.e. Deer River, because entire herds of deer attracted to the enchanting sounds come to have a swim in the waters of this river. The singers of huumi, the Mongolian type of throat singing, are considered to be in contact with “supernatural forces” (i.e.. the shamans, V.K.) (…). In this sense the harmonics are heard and felt beyond the limit of words, they resemble a clear mountain source where, according to the Mongols, they have appeared for the first time. They present a direct expression of the natural law – a stream of clear, uniting vibrations. The harmonic sound contains in itself the seed to all music, similarly to the way that a clear mountain spring imbues all the valleys with water /see Hykes, 136/ As Hykes calls to our attention, in Gurdjieff’s programmatic work “Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson” a certain location is described not far from “Goba” (or the Gobi Desert in Mongolia), where the emergence of certain sounds in the atmosphere induced people to build an astronomical observatory.


In Hykes’ opinion, the Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhists adapted the more ancient shaman singing “huumi.” It is a wordless vocalization and is sung solo in the baritone or tenor register with melodic harmonics. In Buddhist liturgical singing a choir of monks chants sacred texts with very low-registered sub-harmonic shifts, in unison, bringing out one specific harmonic (either the pitch “G” or “E”). A Tibetan legend tells of how Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa tradition was taught this special singing by a dakini (or angel) during meditation. In the old days in the main Gelugpa, Gyuto and Gyume monasteries monks began studying practice of sub-harmonic singing only after a twenty-year period of preparation.


In conformity with the tradition of sacred deep-throat singing, Hykes created sets of ascending and descending harmonics of pure non-tempered “pitches,” which do not correspond fully to the twelve-note equidistant temperament used in European music since the time of J.S. Bach.


The Number of the Harmonic


Note in Ascending Order


1 C
2 C
3 G
4 C
5 E
6 G
7 B-flat
8 C
9 D
10 E
11 note between F and F-sharp
12 G
13 A-flat
14 B-flat
15 B
16 C
17 D-flat
18 D
19 E-flat
20 E
21 approximately F
22 note between F and F-sharp
23 F-double-sharp
24 G


These examples have convinced us that in the history of culture, along with the sacred/religious and the ritual/ceremonial music, i.e., the right music, from the earliest times there has existed folk and vernacular music. It has existed parallel to or in interaction with the sacred musical traditions.


Frequently the folk music culture did not submit to the sacred/religious tradition (pertaining to shamans, priests, rites, religion or ideology), which is why it was evaluated as “wrong” music. As Hykes demonstrated, the singing of the Mongol monks was an adaptation of the ancient shaman singing, and subsequently transformed itself into other types of sacred chants. In other words, the Buddhists advanced from the earliest shaman right music towards the creation of their own right music, which passed through several stages. However, it is significant that in Tuva at the basis of the same ancient shaman singing of huumi the secular harmonic singing, the so-called kargyraa, was developed. That is, from the ancient right music a variety of vernacular, folk music was formed.


However, in later periods there was not such a harsh opposition between right music and other types of music. Thus, the famous theoretician of Sufism, Al-Ghazali distinguished three types of music, according to their perception: entertaining, hedonistic and ecstatic music. Entertaining music is widespread in mundane life. From the point of view of religion, it is tolerated until it starts arousing carnal desires and unworthy behavior. Hedonistic music has to do with the human being’s desire to increase his inner happiness connected with the most important events of his life. The most elevated type of music, according to al-Ghazali, is Sufi music, by means of which is achieved “the intensification of the impulse towards the highest Truth.” This music arouses a passionate love for God, inclines people towards good deeds, cleanses the human heart of low passions and liberates him of mundane sorrows and attractions…


It is absolutely obvious that the Sufi sage does not condemn entertaining and hedonistic music, but merely emphasizes their proper place and modest role in human life from the perspective of the highest religious values. As is well-known, the sources for Gurdjieff’s teachings lie in many ancient teachings, but most authors find predominantly Sufi influences in them. And Gurdjieff, most likely, would have agreed with Al-Ghazali in his differentiation of music, upon stipulation that it is necessary to keep in mind only the first three levels of human development (the motional-physical, the emotional and the intellectual).


It is noteworthy that one could clearly see the distinctions between the ancient perceptions of “right music” as described in LC and “objective music” as defined by Gurdjieff.


Right music, according to the Ancient Chinese thinkers, was supposed to have been built on the basis of a rectangle, which reflected the rightness of the ritual, as well as the order of human relations, the social hierarchy, etc.


Right music was defined by its benefit (li), presenting itself as a means for establishing order in both nature and society. This order was supposed by the Ancient Chinese philosophers to be rectangular (fan). As Tkachenko notes: “The rectangular construction, according to its plan, is the symbol of civilization – the city, kingdom and temple, the sign of the presence of the non-savage, non-barbarian human being, hence, the philosopher who enters such a city could be sure that law and order reign supreme in it, that here he is under the protection of beings like himself – sages and philosophers (…) The most rectangular of all the rectangular phenomena they perceived to be music-ritual, the symbol of orderly relations, types, hierarchy.” /Tkachenko, 73-74/


Chinese philosophers regarded the rectangular shape as a symbol of artificiality, a preservation of a temporary order, which according to the laws of nature itself cannot be eternal and should be maintained as much as possible by the ruler – the gun.


The “rectangular” aspect of everything that is right, according to LC (music, the city, state, human relations), presented a visible reflection of the laws and order established in the earliest civilizations, in contrast to primitive society (which was wild, amorphous, unpredictable and chaotic). For the Ancient Chinese philosophers, despite the acknowledgement by them of the dynamic qualities of the world, order and harmony were connected with the aspiration towards reticent, static and limited attributes of time and space – which, essentially, comprised a “rectangle,” В музыке правильность(«прямоугольность») определялась в каждый конкретный момент ее сопряженностью с источником гармонического эфира – демиургом (Дао).


In Ancient Greek philosophy, Plato’s ideal city was limited by a circle, which in reality was a projection of an ideal body – the sphere. As is well-known, according to Plato, even the ideal human being (androgynous prior to the separation into the two sexes) was also spherical. Thefact remains absolutely logical and clear to us that in Plato’s ideal city there was a strict differentiation between right and wrong music. He banned the “enfeebling” and “effete” Ionian and Lydian modes and considered the worthy modes to be the Dorian mode, which was manly, and the Phrygian, which was temperate and restrained. Plato also censured the plucked musical instruments, the trigon and pectida, multi-stringed instruments which divided the integral harmony into numerous nuances, as if being conducive towards division within a single person, enhancing finesse, intricacy and dissipation. On this basis the flute was also banished from the state, due to its polyphony and ecstatic sound. What remained was the noble, restrained lyre, the instrument of Apollo, and the cithara, a harmonious and rhythmic instrument. In rural areas the reed pipe remained. The rulers of the ideal Kallipolis, philosophers who are conscious of the idea of the Good, had to control not only musical modes in song and melic poetry, but also poetic rhythmic schemes.


The “graphic” depiction of Sufi music is much more complex than the ancient Chinese rectangle or the ancient Greek square. As is well-known, in the dances of Sufi dervishes diverse and complex figures could be discerned – clockwise rotation, jumps, special mutual placement of the participants. The outline of their movement is subordinate to certain lines which symbolically signify the movement of the spirit, as well as cosmological schemes and various levels of being. In other words, Sufi music arises out of a geometrical plane into a multidimensional cosmos.


It seems that Gurdjieff’s teaching pertains to traditions that appeared even later than Sufism, at a time when the earliest civilizations were replaced by variegated societies with more modern social structures and complex ideological and cultural perceptions. Correspondingly, in the theoretical teachings the ideal figures are the square of the tribal organization (four cardinal points, the four seasons, etc.), the rectangle (in Ancient China) and the sphere (the ideal body for the Ancient Greeks and the whirling cosmos of the Sufis) made way to more complex graphical and spatial conceptions of the ideal, harmony or natural laws. And the goal of preserving and transmission of the “right” music was already connected not with all the social, religious, aesthetical and political problems, but with the problem of development and self-development of every human personality.


The graphic symbol for Gurdjieff’s system is presented by an original figure – the enneagram. It was especially instrumental for true comprehension of objective music on the part of the most advanced students of Gurdjieff’s school.


The Enneagramm




8 1




7 2


7 2


6 3 3


5 4


The enneagram is one of the most ancient sacred symbols derived by Gurdjieff from unknown sources and the sacred Eastern teachings. However, it was comprehended, worked on and interpreted by the Russian mystic in application to his system.


Gurdjieff’s enneagram is dynamic, it presupposes not a completed ideal, but constant fluctuation, progressive and reactive movement, a lack of univocal progress or regression, as well as, incidently, the impossibility of a complete achievement of perfection. The enneagram discloses a direct possibility of exposure to objective music by means of a special spiritual/motional practice developed by Gurdjieff. It could be perceived that the enneagram contains in itself a circle, a square, a rhombus, a rectangle, a pentacle and many other ancient symbols. it also contains the fundamental “law of octaves,” as well as another law – the “law of three forces,” likewise explained by the teacher to his pupils.


Thus, there exists a fundamental difference between Gurdjieff’s perception of “objective music” and the conception of “right music” in the ancient traditions.


The right music of ancient times, reflecting the laws of cosmogenesis and cosmic laws, was called on to preserve the ideal structure, revealed prior (the rectangle, circle, sphere, etc.). The responsibility for preservation and reproduction in a maximally invariable way was entrusted on a ruler, who was supposed to be able to correlate his valor – de with the initial Tao. Later, the sages themselves became the guardians and transmitters of the “right music,” creating esoterical and hermetic schools in which carefully selected teachers and disciples were taught. While not denying the existence of preserved knowledge about the “right music,” and even being exposed to it during his youthful travels throughout the East, Gurdjieff envisioned his task in disclosing the idea of “objective music.”


According to Gurdjieff, “objective music” does not depend on human capabilities; it is endowed and constantly preserved in the world as if “in a ready form.” It could be constantly fathomed by means of esoteric tradition. “Right music” presents the most perfect expression of objective music. However, right music cannot be widely disseminated; it is even more unlikely for it to be adequately perceived by contemporary society in general or by each separate contemporary person. Objective music is a broader and more capacious conception. It simultaneously presents a part of esoteric tradition, genuine knowledge of the world, a means of synchronizing human existence with natural existence, as well as a disclosure of the fundamental natural laws of the universe. Most importantly – it presents a veritable instrument for human development.


Objective music, directly entwining into human art, varied itself constantly, changing unpredictably, remaining connected with the cosmos and with nature. Thus, the physical laws reveal themselves in the eternal phenomena of the world: the force of attraction is present in the interaction of the worlds in the Universe, the grains of sand on the seashore, as well as the bursts of supernova stars and the polar lights in the atmosphere of the Earth…


In contrast to the ancient sages, Gurdjieff does not divide music into the right and wrong type. He speaks of objective and subjective music.


3. Objective and Subjective Music.


Departing from the ancient division of music into “right” and “wrong” music, Gurdjieff distinguishes two types of music – the objective and the subjective, which in reality do not contradict one another, but are situated in a state of interaction with each other. Each of them has the right to exist, but one is eternal and appropriate from the position of human perfection, whereas the other is of a transient, fortuitous and useless character.


This is how he explained this distinction in his conversations with his pupils:


“You say: an artist creates a work of art. I say so only in connection with objective art. In regards to subjective art, I would say that he has “something created.” You do not make the distinction between these two conceptions, but herein particularly the difference lies. Furthermore, you ascribe immutable impact to subjective art, i.e. you expect of a work of subjective art an identical influence on every person. For instance, you think that a funeral march must arouse sad and solemn thoughts in everybody, whereas some kind of dance music, for instance, the “kamarinskaya” dance, would arouse happy thoughts. But in reality the situation is entirely different. Everything depends on associations. If on the day I experienced a great misfortune I heard some lively melody for the first time, then during my whole life this melody will arouse sad and depressing thoughts in me. And if on the day when I am especially happy I hear a sad melody, this melody will awaken happy thoughts in me. This is how it is with everything else.


The difference between subjective and objective art is that in objective art the artist really “creates” or does what he has the intention of doing, brings those ideas and feelings into his work which he wishes to put into it. And he impact of this work of art on people is absolutely definite: they will perceive (to be sure, each person according to his level) the same ideas, the same feelings, namely – those which the artist wished to convey to them. There is nothing accidental in either the works of objective art or in the impressions exerted by them.


In subjective art everything is accidental. …(The artist) is subjugated by ideas, thoughts and moods which he himself does not understand and over which he has no power. They control him and manifest themselves in various forms. And when they accidentally acquire a certain form that form in an equally accidental manner exerts upon a person a certain impact, depending on his moods, tastes, habits, nature of the hypnosis under which he lives, and so forth. Here there is nothing immutable, nothing definite. On the other hand, in objective music there is nothing indefinite”. /Ouspensky, In Search for the Miraculous, 338./


Objective art exists in works of art of the most diverse types, genres and styles. An example of it in sculpture is the statue of Zeus the Olympian (one of the seven wonders of the world) and the Egyptian Sphinx; in architecture it is the Pyramid of Cheops, the Taj Mahal in India and the Gothic cathedrals. The ancient objective art was created not for the sake of pleasure, but with concrete goals, primarily those of transmission of a certain type of knowledge and education. Objective music was especially highlighted by Gurdjieff. He said:


“All objective music is based on ‘inner octaves’. And it invokes not only definite psychological results, but also evident physical results. There exists such music which turns water into ice. There exists such music which momentously kills a human being. The biblical legend about the destruction of the walls of Jericho with the aid of music – this is a legend particularly about objective music. Ordinary music does not bring down walls, while objective music really has the power to do so. It is capable not only of destroying, but of building. The legend of Orpheus contains allusions of objective music, since Orpheus transmitted knowledge by means of music. The music of snake charmers in the East is an approximation of objective music, albeit, a very primitive one. Quite often it is merely one note drawn for a lengthy period of time with moderate rises and falls; however in this solitary note one can constantly hear “inner octaves,” inaccessible to the ear, yet perceived by the emotional center. The snake also hears this music, strictly speaking, feels it and obeys it. If the same type of music could be found, yet more complex, people would also obey it”. /Ouspensky, In Search for the Miraculous, p. 339/.


The significance of objective music and the peculiarities of its perception were known by the Sufis. In the well-known text by the theoretician of Sufism, Muhammad Al-Ghazali “The Elixir of Happiness” the following was written concerning music: “Know that by the Almighty Lord a certain secret has been placed in the heart of man. It is latent there as fire in iron and stone. And just as with a strike of a stone with iron this spark of fire is kindled, which falls upon the ground, so pleasant rhythmical music compels the essence of the heart to move, and brings into it some particular thing that violates human will. The cause for this is in that correspondence which may be observed in man with the higher world, called the spiritual domain.” /cit. from: Kurbanmammadov A. The Aesthetical Doctrine of Sufism. – Dushanbe: Donish, 1987. p. 49/


Al-Ghazali discerned in the content of that music, which Gurdjieff called objective, a double meaning: the knowledge of the Absolute and the self-knowledge of man. As a development of his thought, it could be said that objective sacred music by revealing the harmonic accords of the cosmos enables man to revivify actual connections of his separate existence with the highest world.


Objective music is an immense force which could be directed both destruction and at creation. This idea, generally speaking, is not a new one, if one is to remember of the trivial comparison of art with a double-edged sword, etc. Veritable novelty is in that objective music presents not an arbitrary but quite a predictable result, and, hence, really acquires the attribute of a law of science.


The starting point for division of music into the objective and subjective kind consists in the ability of perception by a concrete person or, to be precise, depends on the level of his inner development or, in the terminology of the Gurdjieff school, the level of inner being.


Gurdjieff distinguished several levels of human development, on each one of which various abilities are revealed, and only certain types and works of art can be perceived.


Gurdjieff’s conception proposes the view of seven categories of human beings, corresponding to different levels of development, capabilities and possibilities. The first category consists of people whose center of psychical life lies in their motional center. In their case, their motional and instinctive functions overweigh the emotional and rational functions. The second category of human beings is the emotional type of people, whose feelings and emotions prevail over the motional and rational functions. The third category is the intellectual type of people, whose thinking center overpowers their motional and emotional centers. All three categories of people are situated on one level, so to speak, of natural existence, and they comprise the overwhelming majority of human beings and live mechanically. Such people were called “machines” by Gurdjieff, who supposed that they do not lead veritably conscious lives, existing continuously in a state of “sleep.”


For these three categories of the natural level there is only and exclusively subjective art which exists. The first category of the motional-instinctive type is capable of perceiving and creating sensual art, directed at various dynamic processes – physical, physiological and psychic. The human being of the motional type creates music based on copying other sources or mechanically learned rules, on those skills which have been developed by means of lengthy exercises. For the human being of the emotional type sentimental art is admissible, while for composing music he is directed at random impressions, at what is subjectively pleasant or repulsive for him. The human being of the third, rational category is drawn towards the intellectual, the sophisticated, sometimes – even towards perverted art. It is built on subjective-logical thinking, on words and on a literal understanding of things. His subjective art can be pedantic or abstract, in pursuit of the realization of some conceptual idea.


Thus, the first three categories of human beings, according to Gurdjieff, are “machine-beings,” who live in a constant state of “dormancy.” They are not capable of doing anything, everything in their life “accidentally happens” for reasons unfathomable to them. They will never understand each other, because their existence is built from the start on the action of various centers. And they will always perceive or create subjective art.


category 7 – the ideal human being


category 6 – the perfect human being


category 5 – the integral human being


category 4 – the awakening human being


category 1 category 2 category 3


the natural level |the motional- | the emotional | the rational |


|instinctive | human being | human being |


|human being | | |


The human being of the fourth category is not born as such, in a ready state. Appearing in this world pertaining to one of the three first categories, he becomes a different being only as a result of certain efforts. According to Gurdjieff, the human being of the fourth category is always he result of the work of a certain sacred/religious school. He is described by us as integral, since his psychic centers – the motional, emotional and intellectual – begin to achieve a state of balance, he is “awakened” from spiritual dormancy and starts to see things the way they really are. The human being of the fourth category is at an intermediate stage, passing from a half-unconscious into a genuinely conscious state. His goal is the achievement of spiritual unity and harmony which is inherent to the human being of the fifth category. The human being of the sixth category could be defined as perfect, in comparison with the previous categories; he is distinguished by a constancy of almost all qualities, and also the presence of capabilities, incomprehensible to the previous levels of development. This last category, conditionally termed by us as “the ideal human being,” presumes the possibility of achieving of absolute will, consciousness, the presence of a constant and immutable “I,” and even of immortality.


It is understandable that only human beings of the fourth category and of higher categories are able to perceive and create art that becomes more and more objective, distinguished by its harmoniousness, correspondence to the universal and, most importantly, mathematical and physical laws and, hence, by the immutability of the impression created by it.


But, as Gurdjieff has shown, works of objective art can also generate the necessary impression on people of the natural level. In one of his talks the teacher remembered one building in the Middle East, which consisted of only two rooms. Everybody who entered those rooms cried, no matter whether they were young or old, British or Persians, educated or uneducated. During the course of two or three weeks Gurdjieff and his like-minded acquaintances observed this effect. Once, they even specially invited merry people into that house. But the effect was always the same.


In other words, the impact of objective art manifests itself on people of any category; however, the “machine-being” is capable only of displaying the necessary emotion or impact caused by objective art. But he is incapable by himself either of explaining, or recreating, or especially of making correct usage of a work of objective art.


For people of a natural order, who cannot discern objective music, any subjective music can be acknowledged as a temporary “model,” can express that which they perceive as “beautiful” and “indispensible” here and now.


In one of his talks with his pupils, Gurdjieff told of his research of objective music in the East. He said: “While studying the rhythms, I did not listen to the music. I did not have time for this.” The phrase seems paradoxical, since for Gurdjieff “studying the rhythm” and even “performing the music” did not mean “listening to the music.” In reality, this example reveals best of all the approach of the “awakened human being” towards objective music. For the Teacher “listening to music” presents a special type of work, possessing a different aim from “studying the rhythm” or “playing.” What does “listening to music” mean? – It means, possibly, evaluating it, obtaining pleasure from it, or finding flaws in it and criticizing it – attempting to “switch off” the intellect and concentrating only on one’s emotional states… In other words, it is the mechanical perception of music at the subjective level of the natural human being. For Gurdjieff with his calls to “awaken” and “always to remember oneself,” the “be aware of oneself” in all kinds of activity, this kind of “listening to music” was – being essentially a senseless pastime and, even more so, killing of time – unthinkable.


A multitude of human “I’s” inevitably supposes a multitude of models and a multitude of opinions. So what is it that forms the criteria of an doubtless superiority of objective music over the subjective kind? It is the possibility to create real conditions for self-perfection and the development of man, which means the overcoming by him of his limitations, the achievement of a maximal freedom, happiness and immortality…


What kind of information does objective music transmit? That which has not yet been comprehended in religion and science, which is inexpressible by the existing means of human thought and language, that information which, being vitally indispensible to man, remains an unfathomable mystery to him. Objective music always accompanies man, but can never be fathomed in its entirety until he achieves the highest level of his possible development.


Objective music in general, and objective music particularly, exist in reality for only for people who are prepared, who are capable of subtle perception of the world, and who became conscious of its basic laws, which in objective music are manifested to the same degree as they are in the laws of mathematics, physics, psychology, physiology, etc.


If “objective music” is audible to advanced people, is it comprehensible to all spiritual people on earth in a similar way? Does everybody perceive it in a similar way?


Thus, even though objective music is supposed to create the same impression for everybody, on each separate level of people’s development their individual peculiarities are preserved. This is why notwithstanding the presence of cosmically conditioned objective music there exists such a great variety of musical directions, genres and traditions even in the music which Gurdjieff accepts as being objective. Sacred and religious music varies among the ancient Indians and Chinese, Egyptians and Sumerians, Sufis and Christians. In each culture objective music has its own unique face. Or, in other words – it is inevitably culturally subjective. There is a well-known saying about the origins of culinary arts: God created ideal products, but the devil came and mixed them all up. Roughly the same can also be said about the correlation of objective and subjective music. The first presents a “pure product” of the cosmos which is interpreted, distorted and eternally varied in human subjective music.


It is absolutely apparent that there are no causes for considering objective music to be unambiguously “divine” and subjective music “infernal.” There are numerous legends known about the devilish bewitching music (the most popular of these are about the deadly enticing singing of sirens or of Paganini’s pact with the devil and his extraordinary violin which sang in a human voice…). Objective music, the knowledge of its basic laws and principles could be used for the sake of the most varied goals. But it has existed initially, as it is said, it has been given to people for their possible perfection and an even more harmonious coexistence with the surrounding world.


In other words, in objective music itself there are various levels –


    • The cosmically conditioned, ”absolute” level, which is achieved only by the most developed people (category 6 and 7);
    • The reasonable, connected with the problem of setting and achieving a spiritual goal, comprehended already starting from the fourth level of human development;
    • The culturally interpretative, which becomes apparent upon the creation or performance of objective music for other people on all levels of existence.


Objective music presents a certain chief meaning of any musical composition, its essential idea determining the aim and true purpose of it. Along with the mode, harmony, melody, etc., in any outstanding composition which is immediately or gradually recognized as being a classic, this “objective” basis is present.


According to Gurdjieff, objective music can be heard and understood by everybody who is even to some degree spiritually developed and at least aspiring towards self-development. Of course, the majority of human machines live in a state of sleep, they are really incapable of discerning harmony from a chaos of sound, hence, they are easily prone to manipulation, moreover, not only by rulers but by other human machines. However, the human being of a natural level must know that there exist other levels of perception of art. It depends only on him and on his efforts whether he will begin to progress along the ladder of a possible personal evolution. “Awaken!” (as a variant of the biblical “be watchful”) – this is the initial motto of the Gurdjieff teaching. The awakened and conscious human being is capable of independent and true action, including the perception and creation of music, which being even his own original, is still directed towards “objectivity.”


Objective music is gradually being revealed to humanity. In ancient times :objective music” had been connected only with sacred rituals, social conventions and particular moral and aesthetical notions. But even then among various peoples, in different parts of the world and even within the limits of one and the same state or region “objective music” was not identical for everyone. With the development of civilizations, during the process of gradual formation of universal culture with the full diversity of various cultural traditions “objective” music became more conventional, manifesting itself in its initial essence to be that which it has always been. Namely, it has been a certain virtual matrix of harmonious human activity, synchronized with more global overall cosmic natural laws and processes. “Objective music” as one of the endless variants of perfect human activity is co-eternal with human artistic creativity; it presents itself as a tuning fork and, simultaneously, a pattern, a standard which presupposes a ceaseless search for the new.


It is easiest of all to say and to interpret “objective music” as an abstract ideal embodied in a concrete musical composition. But all the charm and difficulty is in the fact that it is virtually impossible to create an absolutely objective work of art. To be precise, it cannot be repeated, because It exists, but endlessly far away, beyond any human capabilities. What is abstractly objective – in both the musical, the creative, the religious, the spiritual and in an infinite number of other aspects – is the Absolute or God, the initial and eternally unchangeable Something-Nothing (beyond its dogmatic definition as Tao, Allah, the Holy Trinity, Brahman, etc.).


On the other hand, objective music, beside the fact that it lies beyond human perfection, it is in a certain sense objectively subjective, since it can exist only in human activity (composition, performance, listening) and for the human being. Physicists have long since laid the foundations of the contemporary anthropic principle (in two versions – the strong and the weak), the main idea of which consists in the fact that only in man, in his consciousness and cultural activity the Cosmos obtains at a minimum a contemplator and co-creator, and in fact – a real personal existence. The human being, reflecting as a mirror the world surrounding him in his feelings, brings reality and meaning to everything that exists. In other words, in light of the anthropic principle, objective music exists only because of man and for him. Only he can hear the music of the rain and the murmuring spring, the sounds of planets and the explosions of stars, the rustle of leaves and of sand, the rhythm of chase and the melody of the wind…


Objective music is momentary, in subordination to the same law of octaves. It transforms itself from the objective music of the present moment into the objective or subjective music of the next, depending upon the dynamics of the process of its realization, which proceeds from its main goal – the perfection of man. It is the initial pitch “C,” the point of departure of conscious human activity.


4. The Possibility of Comprehending ОМ – the Practice of the Enneagramm


The theoretical conceptions of OM present the possibility of finding out and realizing the fact that in music there exists something absolute, cosmic, beyond our understanding. But real comprehension of OM, according to Gurdjieff, is possible only to the awakened human being in the process of certain types of spiritual practice. The comprehension of OM is not “listening,” which requires setting to motion the auditory function, coordinated by the corresponding cultural-ethical, individual, professional preparation and certain intuitive or conscious aesthetical predilections. For Gurdjieff, the mastering of OM presents an extremely important process of self-comprehension and self-regulation, and in the ideal case – of self-perfection. This process bases itself on the unique capabilities of the human body, but presupposes along with the adjustment of the physical center the inclusion of the highest centers – the emotional and the mental. Most importantly, it presupposes the development of the highest spiritual capabilities of man.


The closeness of Gurdjieff’s spiritual conception with Sufi sources allows us to compare and juxtapose the comprehension of OM in Gurdjieff’s movements and in the dance practice of Sufis of the Mevlevi order. Since Gurdjieff’s pupils disclose very sparsely the practical side itself of the work in their school upon the preparation of perception of OM, attention must be turned to the corresponding Sufi traditions. The religious sense of the Sufi activity had made its imprint on any moment of perception of “right music.” The Sufis have developed in great detail entire systems of rules of physical, psycho-physiological and ordinary practical preparation of the human being to an adequate perception of OM. Special rules of perception of sacred music existed for everybody – the carrying out of the so-called “zikr” (or “sama’”), comprehension by means of chant of divine names. Special psycho-physiological preparation of people was carried out, which was combined with rigorous demands in regards to the place, time and make-up of the listeners. Especially important were what upon glance were perceived to be insignificant details. Thus, once the “sama’ did not flare up” (i.e. the musical-spiritual action was not successful in occurring) because one of the participants accidentally put on someone else’s shoes – the shoes of a commoner.


According to the Sufis’ opinion, sacred music must be listened to when a person is hungry. Sheikh Abdul Kasim Gurgani taught his murids (pupils): “Do not eat anything for three days and afterwards let tasty dishes be prepared, and if after this you still prefer music, then in this case your need in music is veritable, and music shall find a way to you.”. /cit from: Kurbanmamadov, 54/


Al-Ghazali described in detail the process itself of perception of music: “…everyone must keep their heads straight, (to look) in front of themselves, not examining each other, everyone must concentrate (on the performance), not to speak to each other, not to drink, not to look around, not to move either their hands or their heads, nor to make any movements of an unnatural kind. And moreover, you must behave as if you are at prayer, to have all your thoughts directed at one Truth, to expect all the revelations from above that descend as a result of the music, and all the time to keep watch on oneself in order not to stand up or move involuntarily.”


The culminating moment of perception of sacred music for the Sufis was “wajd” or ecstasy, when the human being became fully liberated from the fetters of reason and sensation of his earthly existence, merging with the Divine. According to the Sufis, when a person is in the state of “wajd” even if his head is being cut off with a sword, he would not react.


In the school of Gurdjieff and of his pupil Ouspensky practical work with the pupils was built on the foundation of the law of octaves, with the application of the most important principle of conscious influence on the right development of octaves (behavior, thinking, self-knowledge, movement, etc.). Here the most important phenomenon was as follows: when in the necessary moment, when the present octave is going through an interval of deceleration, an “additional push” is given, which coincides in its force and character with its vibrations, then the octave would develop without hindrance along the initial direction, without losing anything or changing anything in its nature.


A most simple example could elucidate this method. For instance, we begin some kind of work – composing a musical work or writing a scholarly article. The starting moment is represented by the note “C.” We work, i.e. pass through the pitches “D” and “E,” but then comes that natural interval of retardation, “E-F,” which in the context of our work means a slackening of enthusiasm, a decrease in capacity for work… If at that moment we urge ourselves on in an absolutely conscious (or intuitive) manner – with the aid of coffee, a warm-up or an intensification of activities, etc., then the work would go on in the same direction, continuing its present development. If, on the other hand, we let that moment slip, then the work would not take up – it might alter its direction, we may abandon it forever or for a certain amount of time.


In our perception of objective music, it becomes necessary to overcome those inevitable decelerations of the “rhythm” in these certain intervals, so that the process of mastering objective information by means of OM would be carried out along the initial direction. This is aided by corresponding movements.


One of the methods of comprehending OM by Gurdjieff’s advanced students was the dance according to the enneagram. According to P.D. Ouspensky’s memoirs, in 1922 at the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Prieuré near Paris Gurdjieff instructed his pupils special exercises connected with the dances and exercises of Sufi dervishes.


“On the floor of the hall where the exercises were done a large ennegram was drawn; the pupils who took part in the exercise stood in their places, indicated by numbers from 1 to 9. then they started to move in the direction of the number or the period in a very interesting movement, circling around their respective neighbors in places that they met, i.e. in points of intersection of the lines of the enneagram (…) (Gurdjieff) said that without participation in such exercises, without taking a particular position in them, it is almost impossible to understand the enneagram.


“It is possible to experience the enneagram by means of movement”, he used to say. “The rhythm itself of this movement will inspire us with the appropriate ideas and support the necessary tension; without we cannot feel what is essentially most important”. /Ouspensky, 336/


C.S. Nott, one of Gurdjieff’s pupils in Prieuré, remembered: “When I participated in one dance which was based on the so-called “enneagram,” something started to happen with me, with my feelings; it was caused partly by the music and partially by the poses and movements. The music presented a simple melody and harmony which repeated all the time, though constructed in such a way, so beautifully, that it penetrated into the very depths of being. I seemed to understand something, seemed to be conscious and to participate in a ritual. I understood in a certain way the meaning of the enneagram, the law of eternal recurrence, eternal repetition and the possibility of escaping from it. Gradually the enneagram became for me a living, moving symbol, which aroused in me a sense of joy, no matter where I looked at it; I was able to learn something from it each time I thought of it. It was just like what was written in the chronicles of Mary Stuart: ‘My end is my beginning’.” /Nott, 116-117/


“The experience of the enneagram” in the process of a certain practice of movement is closely related to the dances of the “whirling dervishes.” However in the Gurdjieff system a different aim is set from that of Sufism – not a direct understanding of God, but familiarization with objective knowledge by means of a special kind of living through objective music. Here dance and music are merged into one, devoid of any meaning without each other.


5. Gurdjieff as the Creator of OM


Gurdjieff, knowing the particular laws of musical vibrations and the correlations of tones, rhythms, etc., possessed the ability to arouse in any listener of his music one and the same predictable reaction. In his conversation with his pupils from 1924 he remembers: “We tuned the instruments in a special manner and played in such a way that even a random passerby who heard these sounds had the reaction which we expected. The only difference was in the intensity of the emotions he experienced.” /Gurdjieff. Meetings with Remarkable Men, 546/


Gurdjieff’s listeners expressed the assumption that if objective art is built on certain laws which anybody could learn, then the art itself turns into a kind of craft, based on exact knowledge, rather than the manifestation and development of talent. For the Teacher the answer was apparent: what is important was the goal for the sake of which something is done; it does not matter whether the question is about composing or performing music. If you aspire to comprehend the principles of creation of objective music, you must not focus on random impressions, but must display general conformity to natural laws based on physics and mathematics. Gurdjieff said: “The mathematical laws are identical for everybody. Music is built on rhythm. Once I decided to research musical rhythm. While I was traveling and gathering materials related to art, I was engaged only in this task. Having returned home, I played music in correlation with the rhythms that I have researched. And they turned out to be identical with contemporary music, since the person who was writing the music, was following mathematical laws. /Gurdjieff, Meetings with Remarkable Men, 547/


The famous musician, Sir Paul Duke convinced himself from personal experience that Gurdjieff was a genuine master and connoisseur of objective music (which Duke himself understood as sacred music). On the eve of World War I, while still studying at the Conservatory, Duke made the acquaintance of Gurdjieff in Moscow. The teacher, explaining his assertion that at the beginning of Existence there was Sound, put the youth’s hand onto his own chest and started reading in a special way the prayer to Jesus (which, as is well-known, is the foundation of “sensible action” of the Byzantine Hesychasm and the Russian principles of the monastic elders), pronouncing the text in a singing voice, at one long breath, on one note. Accordiung to Duke’s memoirs, he received the sensation of having been struck by an electric current.


Knowing the foundations of objective music and its available examples in Eastern music (Sufi music, the songs of dervishes, sacred church music in separate monasteries in the Middle East and Central Asia), Gurdjieff was no outstanding musician in the usual sense of the word. However, he could give extraordinary lessons, incomparable with any other types, and to any talented musician who was granted the opportunity of becoming his pupil. It is noteworthy that among his pupils many were professional musicians. The closest and most devoted of his pupils was Jeanne de Salzmann, who studied music – piano, composition and conducting at the Geneva Conservatory prior to joining Gurdjieff’s milieu. It was to her in particular that Gurdjieff bequeathed the continuation of his practical Work, the preservation and transmission of the exercises and dances created by him. Madame de Salzmann also guided the translations and publications of the Teacher’s books. Gurdjieff’s other pupil, Margaret Anderson, prior to coming into Gurdjieff’s circle, began her career as a talented pianist. Another Russian pupil of Gurdjieff, Anna Butkowsky-Hewitt, was a professional pianist and dancer.


As many of Gurdjieff’s pupils remember, the main accompanist during the daily rehearsals of his pupils who persistently studied the most complex, almost acrobatic exercises (“movements”) and dances, incomparable with anything, was Thomas de Hartmann (see commentary N.4). Hartmann and his wife Olga, an opera singer, spent over ten years (from 1917 to 1929) with Gurdjieff as his closest followers and assistants. Thomas was the chief accompanist, while Olga was the Teacher’s personal secretary. This is what that they wrote their well-known book “Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff” about.


Thomas de Hartmann experienced the strongest impact of Gurdjieff as a composer, since for him music was a means of inner development and service as a pupil. During the course of many years, when their days were filled with hard physical work, reading, conversations, inner exercises and “sacred gymnastics,” Hartmann was able to grasp, write down and arrange around 300 compositions which Gurdjieff sometimes composed and frequently extracted from his extraordinary memory, reviving those days when he travelled throughout the East in search for the truth. Many of the musical fragments were connected with sacred dances. Others were sacred hymns from those unknown religious schools which Gurdjieff attended. Sometimes they were lightweight and humorous melodies. In his diary Hartmann preserved a countless number of unarranged melodies and unfinished musical fragments, hitherto unpublished. Nonetheless, many of those musical sketches were published by Hartmann, and presently we are able to hear them, not only in his performance, but in the interpretations of contemporary musicians.


Hartmann called these compositions “awakening music,” herein emphasizing its unique role in the process of deliverance from cosmic “sleep” and progress towards the highest levels of human existence.


It is well-known that in 1919 in Tiflis Gurdjieff worked intensively on the production of “The Struggle of the Magicians.” Ouspensky recalled about this ballet: “…the most important position in it was supposed to be taken up by dance and rhythmical exercises which would prepare people for participation in this ballet. According to his ideas, the ballet was supposed to become a school. I worked out the scenario of the ballet for him and started to understand his idea better. The dances and all the other “numbers” of the ballet or, to be precise, the “revue” called for lengthy and extremely particular preparation. The people who took part in the ballet were supposed to make use of their participation for studying themselves and learning to control themselves, progressing thereby towards exposure of the highest forms of consciousness. The ballet included as its mandatory elements dances, exercises and ceremonies of dervishes, as well as little-known Eastern dances”. /Ouspensky, 437/


In his book of memoirs Thomas de Hartmann also wrote about this work in Tiflis: “Mr. Gurdjieff said: ‘Write for the first act the kind of music that you wish,’ and, of course, I wrote it. One evening, having returned after supper, he complied with my insistent demands and started whistling the music for the second act, while I tried to write it down on music paper in a hurry. Even though I knew from experience, that by the time of the production of “The Struggle of the Magicians,” everything might be completely revised.” /Hartmann, 95/


Gurdjieff asked his pupil to compose the music because he knew that Hartmann had studied Eastern melodies thoroughly – Turkish, Armenian, Georgian and others. It is known that Hartmann had even published a number of articles about the Armenian composer Komitas, whereas Olga de Hartmann learned his songs and performed them in Armenian.


Later, when Gurdjieff’s group was compelled to emigrate to Constantinople in 1920, the work on the production began anew, and Gurdjieff dictated the melodies of the dervishes’ songs for the first act. Subsequently, he founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man once again, as he had in Tiflis, simultaneously working on the creation of the ballet. Hartmann wrote: “Mr. Gurdjieff continued his experiments which he began in Tiflis, but at the same time he brought in new ones. I understood that, just as it was in Essentuki, the chief Work consisted in intensification of attention. Once, I accompanied on the piano, as I usually did, and Gurdjieff gave me a small sheet of paper which contained the part of the descant upper voice as embellishing supplement. However, it became impossible to play all the parts with two hands. So he asked Madame de Salzmann to play the lower part, and thereby it became the dance of the dervishes. The more pupils became involved in the process of creating the performance, the more exciting it became, filling with the magical power of the peculiarities of all the orders of dervishes. It was incredibly interesting to edit and revise the music for these dances; and this had to be done immediately following the directions of Gurdjieff, since the main theme for the left hand turned out to be lower at an interval of a sixth. It was remarkable how the combination of the accompaniment, subdue high voice and the transposition of one voice a sixth lower created a unified image. Then very soon Gurdjieff gave me one more piece of music paper with unusual signs of flats in the indication of the key. The melody against the background of monotonous strikes in the bass register developed from the beginning to the end. This was a grand procession of the dervishes. When it took place at the Champs Elysées in Paris, Gurdjieff asked a few musicians in the orchestra to add very gently a second voice placed in the same octave. This additional tone was supposed to represent the dervishes which read their prayer in soft, monotonous voices, remaining immobile. In this version the entire performance was remarkably effective.” /Hartmann, 101/


From this example we see how the Teacher, to whom the laws of “objective art” are disclosed, directs and develops professional musicians, and with the aid of his perception – all the participants and viewers of the performance. In reality, for Gurdjieff it did not matter whether he taught elementary movements, put on dances or gave a public performance. What was important for him was the principle of “work,” an intense creative process which mobilized all human energies and at the utmost limit of their possibilities revealed closed and unidentified reserves.


Thereby, Gurdjieff, not being an outstanding musician, with the assistance of his pupils discovered contemporary forms of transmission of objective knowledge in contemporary music and dance. Creating for his perceptions a special kind of music based on the principles of “objective music,” Gurdjieff never retreated from the main principles and aims of his teaching – spiritual awakening and perfection of his pupils and followers. As a rule, the music was always “momentary,” connected with the vital needs of his school and, most importantly, intended not for passive “listening,” but for accompanying special exercises, movements and dances. In exceptional cases, this was music for public performances of Gurdjieff groups in various countries of the world, sometimes – for combined programs, occasionally – for theatrical performance, known to us from the descriptions of his pupils or outside audience members (for example, “The Struggle of the Madicians”).


It is deemed hardly possible to recreate such performances, even though this in particular was what was attempted by one of the contemporary admirers of the Russian mystic – the outstanding British film producer Peter Brook, most famous for his filming of the classical Indian epos “Mahabharata.” It was Peter Brook in particular who produced the film based on Gurdjieff’s book “Meetings with Remarkable Men.” In it he tried to recreate the music, dances and sacred actions of those temples in Asia where the Russian seeker for the truth visited in his youth.




Gurdjieff’s merit is in that he not only disclosed to us the basic conception and meaning of objective, but also proposed concrete methods and an entire original system for creating and learning it. In the natural sciences the laws of the world are expressed in coefficients and formulas. Objective music was written down by Gurdjieff in the sacred symbols and formulas of the ancient dances and in the musical images of his preserved compositions.




*1 Georgy Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1877 (?) – 1949) was an outstanding Russian mystic, the founder of an original school of spiritual practice, frequently called “The Fourth Way.” He was born in the Armenian part of Czarist Russia, in the city of Alexandropol (presently Gyumri). Being an Orthodox Christian, Gurdjieff also studied thoroughly Eastern religions and ancient cults. For twenty years he travelled throughout the East (India, Tibet, Turkey, Persia and Central Asia). He joined the most diverse spiritual schools and movements. His chief idea was to join ancient Eastern wisdom with contemporary Western scientific thinking. During the 1910s he began to found his own schools in Russia (Tashkent, Tiflis, Moscow and St. Petersburg), during the years of the revolution he emigrated with his pupils to Constantinople, then lived for a short period of time in Berlin. Near Paris he acquired the estate of Prieuré, where he founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. His original system of spiritual practice was based on sacred movements and dances. For some researches the impact of the practices of the Sufi orders of Mevlevi and Nashkhabandi on Gurdjieff is apparent. However, during his spiritual quest in the East, Gurdjieff had undergone instruction in the most ancient Eastern communities and monasteries, unknown in the West. Some of the results of his spiritual quests were set forth in mythological form in his trilogy comprising his books “Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, “ “Meetings with Remarkable Men” and “Life is Real Only When I Am.” Not being carried away with theorizing, Gurdjieff was conducive to the development of a large group of pupils (P.. Ouspensky, John Godolphin Bennett, Thomas and Olga de Hartmann and others) who in their books had set forth different variations of the spiritual practical teaching of their mentor.


*2 The classical ancient Chinese book “Lüshi Chunqiu” (Mr. Lü Buwei’s Springs and Autumns [Annals] was written around 240 B.C. It is attributed to the influential activist Lü Buwei and his numerous “guests” (around 300 philosophers and sages). Trying to comprehend the universal analogy for world harmony, the authors turned to music in which they saw the disclosure of world laws. This work has been remarkably analyzed and commented in G.A. Tkachenko’s book “Cosmos, Music, Ritual.”


*3 David Hykes was a singer, composer and founder of the Harmonic Choir, the first group in the West which practices harmonic singing based on Eastern musical traditions. He composed music to many films, one of which was the film version of Gurdjieff’s vook “Meetings with Remarkable Men” in the production of Peter Brook.


*4 Thomas de Hartmann (1885 – 1956) was a famous Russian composer and pianist. He became acquainted with Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg in 1917. Towards that time Hartmann had been a renowned musician in Russia’s cultural capital. Endowed with outstanding musical talents from childhood, he studied with Anton Arensky and Sergei Taneyev, the great teachers of his time, having also received instruction in piano from the famous pianist Esipova-Lishititskaya. Hartmann graduated from the Imperial Conservatory with honors at the age of 17. After returning from his studies in Munich to St. Petersburg, Hartmann obtained wide renown as a composer and conductor. His piano and vocal compositions were broadly published before the revolution. In 1907 on the stage of the Imperial Theater (the famous “Mariinsky Theater”) Hartmann’s four-act ballet “The Scarlet Flower” was produced, which included the participation of Anna Pavlova, Mikhail Fokin and Vatslav Nijinsky. For ten years Thomas and Olga de Hartmann were pupils of Gurdjieff. After leaving Gurdjieff’s school at the Prieuré in 1929, the Hartmanns settled in Garches, near Paris, where Hartmann continued his independent composing activities. His symphony, concertos and other orchestral compositions had been performed by outstanding conductors in the famous concert halls of the world and on the radio. Hartmann also wrote music for films under a pseudonym. Inspired by literary works of Verlaine, Proust and James Joyce, he set some of their texts to music, and these compositions were later performed in Paris, London, USA and Canada. Upon invitation of Frank Lloyd Wright the Hartmanns moved to Arizona, where Thomas continued to compose music, and also taught a course of “Arts’ Interaction” to students of a school for architecture. During the last five years of his life Hartmann lived in New York where his music was performed often, and he himself played in recitals broadcasted on the radio. Hartmann died in 1956, a day prior to a concert at the Town Hall which was important for him. However, the concert was not cancelled. In subsequent years, Hartmann’s music was performed in many American cities and in Paris. Hartmann brought up a considerable number of composition and piano students in Russia, France, USA and Canada.


Victoria Kravchenko, Doctor of Philosophic Sciences, Professor


Translation into English by Anton Rovner




  1. Gurdjieff G.I. Vstrechi s zamechatel’nymi lyud’mi [Meetings with Remarkable Men]. Vzglyady iz real’nogo mire (Views from the Real World). – Minsk: OOO “Kuzma”, 1999. – 640 p.
  2. Kurbanmamadov A. Esteticheskaya doktrina sufizma [The Aesthetic Doctrine of Sufism]. – Dushanbe: Donish, 1987
  3. Nott C.S. Uchenie Gurdjieva (dnevnik uchenika) [The Teaching of Gurdjieff (The Diary of a Pupil]. – Moscow: Libris, 1995. – 320 p.
  4. Tkachenko G.A. Kosmos, muzyka, ritual. Mif I estetika v “Lushi Chunzu” [Cosmos, Music, Ritual. Myth and Aesthetics in “Lüshi Chunqiu”]. – Moscow: Nauka, 1990. – 284 p.
  5. Ouspensky P.D. V poiskakh chudesnogo [In Search of the Miraculous]. St. Petersburg: izdatel’stvo Chernysheva, 1992. – 522 p.
  6. Hykes D. Poisk probuzhdyonnogo slushaniya. [The Search for Awakened Listening] – In the book: Esse I razmyshleniya o Cheloveke i yego Uchenii. Sbornik. [Essays and Reflections on the Man and his Teaching]. A Compilation. – Moscow: STARKLAIT, 2002. pp. 125-145.
  7. Hartmann, de, Olga and Thomas. Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff. New Revised and Expanded Edition. – N.Y., Harper & Row, Publishers, cop. 1983 by Thomas C. Daly. – 158 p.
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