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Posted by: Keir ()
Date: March 17, 2008 05:19AM

I think a post should be devoted to Gurdjieff and his teachings. There seem to be quite a number of posts here from fomer members of various Gurdjieff groups. It only makes me wonder if his teachings are nothing but distructive.

There are a number of Sufis that are now saying Gurdjieffs teachings are not related to authentic sufi teachings.



"Oct 30, 1998

Re Mouravieff: Some Sufis claims that Gurdjieff's Work is a bastardization of Sufism. Some Buddhists claim that Gurdjieff borrowed many of his ideas from the Buddhist tradition, including Vajrayana. And Mouravieff claims that Gurdjieff's Work derives from esoteric Christianity. Isn't it likely, rather, that Gurdjieff's teaching derives from the heart of esotericism, which beats nearly identically in all the major traditions? That is, from a genuine Fourth Way? Yes, Gurdjieff was a practicing Christian, but without doubt he also studied directly with masters of other ways--perhaps even with, as some say, the Dalai Lama (not the present one). --Another Seeker "



Why Gurdjieff's "Fourth Way" Teachings are not Compatible with the Mevlevi Sufi
by Ibrahim Gamard, 11/6/04, revised 12/3/05

The Present Confusion
The following article is intended to share information, based on the author's conclusions after studying this subject for many years. Though it may be controversial, the intent is to stimulate respectful discussion--not angry debate. And the aim is certainly not to blame or condemn individuals currently involved practices based on Gurdjieff's teachings. After all, a number of contemporary Mevlevis in Western countries were themselves trained through such teachings to some extent, and report that it was quite helpful in preparing them for the Mevlevi dervish path.

There has been much confusion for decades about the so-called "sufi origins" of Gurdjieff's teachings, beliefs that Gurdjieff himself was a sufi (of the "blame-seeking" [malâmâtî] kind, as some have speculated) and assumptions that the spiritual training he gave to his students was "dervish training" and that the movement exercises he taught were "dervish dance movements."

This confusion has been increased by some of Gurdjieff's disciples themselves, such as Ouspensky, who apparently believed that the Mevlevi tradition was the source of Gurdjieff's teachings1 and J. G. Bennett ,who believed that the Khwajagan sufi masters of Central Asia, the forerunners of the strictly Islamic Naqshbandi sufi tradition, were closely linked with the mysterious source of Gurdjieff's teachings--the "Sarmân Brotherhood."2

Others have gone to authentic Muslim sufi teachers and added to the confusion by hoping to find the roots of Gurdjieff's teachings in the Islamic sufi tradition: as a result, such seekers have been disappointed by finding "merely religious" Islamic mystical teachings. And some Muslim sufi teachers have been confused by such seekers (who sometimes have an impressive level of dervish- like self-development) who have very little interest in Islam or praying and are actually hoping to find "esoteric teachings" or "secret Masters."

In addition, there are Western sufi teachers, who continue to encourage their followers to combine sufi training with Gurdjieffian teachings and spiritual practices, including some affiliated with the Mevlevi tradition. There are also some "Fourth Way" groups in which members, after being trained to do the complicated Gurdjieff movements exercises, are then taught to do the whirling practice of Mevlevi dervishes as well as the Mevlevi Whirling Prayer Ceremony (Samâ`).

Idries Shah, who wrote numerous books on sufism was another author who contributed to this confusion, by suggesting in many of his books that Gurdjieff's teachings (as well as most of the esoteric-occult teachings in Europe involving alchemy, numerology, Tarot cards, etc.) had its origins in sufi teachings. Like most Occultists,3 Shah maintained that esoteric wisdom is independent of "mere religion" and often disguised in an "exoteric religious" form. As a result, he taught that sufism is independent of Islam.

Oscar Ichazo, a Bolivian and founder of the Arica school of esoteric training (which includes teachings based on the Enneagram, an esoteric symbol first taught publicly by Gurdjieff), originally claimed to be a "Sufi Master" when he began to teach in Chile in the late 1960's. Ichazo claimed that his teachers were fellow initiates of the same secret tradition contacted by Gurdjieff, the "School of the Bees," which he also claimed was centered in Afghanistan. Subsequently, however, he stated that his teaching was closely related to the alchemists, the Knights Templar, Martinists, and the Theosophical teachings of Madame Blavatsky 4 as well as to (the mysterious source of) Gurdjieff's teachings.

Numerous other authors have contributed to the belief that the origins of sufism are to be found in "esoteric-occult" traditions. For example, the former leader of the "International Sufi Order," Pir Vilayat Khan claimed that sufism originated in the ancient Greek Mystery Schools.5

Another source of confusion is the existence of semi-secret religions in the Middle East whose origins are non-Islamic or incompatible with Islam that are sometimes claimed to be "sufi" or whose members are sometimes called "dervishes." Some of these are the Mandeans, Druzes, Ismailis, Alevis, Nusayris, Yezidis, Bektashis, and Ahl-i Haqq. Some of these same secret religions were also named by Theosophists more than a hundred years ago as related the source of Theosophical teachings and its "secret Masters."

Sufism is Islamic Mysticism
First, it needs to be clarified that sufism is the mystical dimension of Islam. To use the word "sufism" to mean a universal spirituality that pre-dates Islam is to rob the term of its meaning and to make it equivalent to the word "mysticism." Mysticism can be defined as experiential or intuitive understanding of spiritual realities beyond intellectual understanding. Therefore, mysticism can take religious forms (spiritual experiences of feeling close to God) or non-religious forms (such as spiritual experiences involving nature or the cosmos). The mysticism of Islam is a distinct form of religious mysticism that is called "tasawwuf" in Arabic and a Muslim mystic is called a "sufi" (Islamic mysticism was first called "sufismus" in Latin, then "sufism" in English). Traditional sufi orders that are well-known in the West are the Mevlevi, Cheshti, Naqshbandi, Qadri, Rifai, Khalwati, and Shadhili traditions--all of which are Islamic religious-mystical paths.

Although Western academic specialists (called Orientalists) of the past were reluctant (for more than a hundred years) to allow Islam to have its own mystical dimension, and usually claimed that sufism was "borrowed" from other traditions (such as Neoplatonism, Yoga, etc.), most Western scholars of Islam today have been acknowledging that authentic sufism is deeply Islamic and inspired by Qur'anic verses and the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace).

While few Westerners would accept the idea that the mystical teachings of a Hasidic teacher could be independent of Judaism and the Bible, yet many readily accept the idea that the mystical teachings of a "sufi teacher" can be independent of Islam and the Qur'an. This is because of the negative attitudes about Islam, the Qur'an, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that have existed in the West since the Crusades. Westerners prefer to believe that the beautiful, profound, and inspiring teachings of sufism are not dependent upon the religion of Islam.

As a result, many people who are involved with Westernized sufi groups affiliated with more "tolerant" Islamic sufi traditions, such as the Cheshti sufi tradition of India and Pakistan (such as the International Sufi Order, the Sufi Movement, and the Sufi Ruhaniyat Society) and the Mevlevi sufi tradition of Turkey and former Ottoman-ruled areas, tend to have little interest in what they view as the "exoteric trappings" of sufism (meaning Islamic beliefs and practices) and are inclined to believe that the mysticism they are studying is something universal that transcends particular religions, and something that pre-dates the Islamic revelation. They tend to view "universal sufi teachings" as not conflicting with ancient esoteric-occult teachings that have been reformulated in recent centuries such as alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Tarot, Theosophy, Gurdjieffism, etc.

At the same time, the authentic Muslim sufi masters (shaykhs) of these same traditions in India, Pakistan, and Turkey have long been hoping and praying that the Western followers of their sufi traditions will eventually become pious Muslims. This has led to major misunderstandings and disappointment.

In order to understand how the Occult tradition of mysticism is radically different than the Abrahamic religious traditions of mysticism (such as Islamic sufism, Catholic/Orthodox Christian mysticism, Jewish Hasidic mysticism) it is necessary to understand that most teachings of Occultism are based on a secret theology involving Gnosticism.6 This term refers to a very old, secretive, and revolutionary spiritual movement whose theology is so contrary to orthodox religion that it has usually been disguised in different forms . For example, Gurdjieff claimed that his teaching was "esoteric Christianity."7

The neutral terms "gnosis" and "gnostic" (that have generic meanings of "intuitive spiritual knowledge" and "intuitive spiritual knower" and are equivalent to the Arabic sufi terms ma`rifat and `ârif) should not be confused with the historical term "Gnosticism." Readers of this article should be aware that they might not comprehend the nature of Gnosticism and the seriousness of its challenge to the Abrahamic religions without studying more about it in encyclopedia articles and books on the subject.

Gnosticism today is the continuation of an ancient "underground" movement that has usually taken the form of Dualism. Followers of Gnosticism who understand its teachings have typically viewed the Creator of the material universe with contempt.8 This contempt was expressed in the dualistic doctrines of Manicheism and "Christian Gnosticism" which taught that Spirit (Light) was opposed to Matter (Darkness), that the physical world and the body are evil, that the Creator of the material world was either an evil or inferior "moon-god" called the "Demiurge" [na`audhu bi-llâh--let us take refuge in Allah and seek His forgiveness for being so explicit about this], and that the true goal of the spiritual seeker is to find a way to escape the "prison of matter" and the "sub-lunar" world and reach salvation in the "Realm of Light" [the Pleroma]. Saviours were periodically sent down from the "Realm of Light" to offer the knowledge of salvation, or "gnosis," to seekers who had the potential to escape the material world. However, only a tiny minority called "pneumatics" had souls which could survive death and return to the Realm of Light. Some, called "psychics" had the potential to develop such a soul. The great majority of humanity were called "hylics," and had no hope of survival after death.

In 1875 Madame Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in America and taught esoteric teachings supposedly inspired by "secret masters" who lived in Tibet. Among the teachings of Theosophy is the assertion that God as worshipped in the Hebrew Bible is an inferior "moon god" [na`audhu bi-llâh]. Theosophists were instructed to cover themselves from the "harmful rays" of moonlight while sleeping. This antipathy toward Judaism was a revival of the attempts by "Christian Gnostics" during the early part of the Christian era to eliminate the Hebrew scriptures from the "Christian Bible." In many ways, Theosophy is a modern form of Gnosticism (but in a monistic, not dualistic, manner). It is known that the teachings of Theosophy were influential in major Russian cities during Gurdjieff's life there and that Theosophical ideas are a major part of his teaching.9 Gurdjieff spoke about "secret Masters," except that he claimed they were in Afghanistan.10

Gnosticism and the Teachings of Gurdjieff
Among the strange teachings of Gurdjieff is the assertion that human beings do not have souls, but have to receive knowledge and training by being part of an "esoteric school" in order to "grow a soul" (or "astral body") that can then survive death for a period of time:

"You know what the exression 'astral body' means. But the systems with which you are acquainted and which use this expression state that all men have an 'astral body'. this is quite wrong. What may be caled the 'astral body' is obtained by means of fusion, that is, by means of terribly hard inner work and struggle. Man is not born with it. And only very few men acquire an 'astral body'. If it is formed it may continue to live after the death of the physical body, and it may be brn again in another physical body... Fusion, inner unity, is obtained by means of 'friction', by the struggle between 'yes' and 'no' in man."11

Gurdjieff taught that most human beings are mere "slugs" with no souls and that following death their remaining psychic energy is "food for the Moon." This teaching can understood as a reference to the doctrine in Gnosticism that the material world keeps human beings (but not all, just the few who possess "sparks of light") trapped in bodies so as to prevent escape. The realm of Darkness is depicted as not wanting to let of its captured light to escape back to the realm of Light. Such a follower of Gnosticism seeks to develop an astral body that can escape the "power of the Moon" and become freed from the "sub-lunar" material world.12 This explains another very strange teaching of Gurdjieff: "The way of the development of hidden possibilities is a way against nature, against God."13 It means that the seeker following the way of Gnosticism must gain secret knowledge and methods in order to escape the control of the "Demiurge." What Gurdjieff called "the Work" is the goal of spiritual Alchemy, the "Great Work" (Magnum Opus): the separation of light from darkness--or in Manichean terms, the liberation of "sparks of light" from being trapped in the dense world of matter.

In Mithraism, an ancient form of Gnosticism, this gnosis involved knowing the "magical passwords" necessary for the soul to pass the planetary guardians ("archons") at each celestial level traveled through the heavens. During later centuries, followers of Gnosticism cultivated a revulsion toward the Creator as worshipped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. An early example is the writings of followers of "Christian Gnosticism" (such as the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Nag Hammadi) are full of such scorn, and they delight in what may be called "Gnostical reversal": such as by interpreting the serpent (Satan) in the Garden of Eden as the hero of the story in the Book of Genesis--the Giver of Light (Lucifer) who tries to give the gnosis of Salvation that would elevate humanity to "be as gods," meaning to surpasses the rank of the "God of the Jews," who is depicted as an oppressor [na`audhu bi-llâh] who acts to prevent such "liberation."14

Gnostical doctrines may have developed in a Jewish form prior to the Christian era; some of these doctrines have continued in esoteric Jewish teachings called Qabbalah (for example, the doctrine about a cosmic disaster (the "breaking of the vessels") that caused particles of light to be trapped in darkness, and the need to liberate "trapped light") associated with the school of Isaac Luria (beginning in the 16th century). The well-known psychiatrist, Carl Jung, was a modern believer in Gnosticism; he revealed his antipathy to Christian worship very frankly.15

J. G. Bennett, a follower of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, wrote extensively about the "Demiurge." He also taught the strange doctrine (also found in some teachings of Qabbalah) that God needs the help of human beings in order to liberate light from matter and to defeat the power of evil [na`audhu bi-llâh]. He wrote:

"The very high intelligence I am postulating is neither human nor divine. It is neither perfect nor infallible, but its vision and its powers far transcend those of the wisest of mankind. I shall call it the Demiurge... By keeping the word Demiurge for the postulated spirit of the earth, we can put aside, as beyond our grasp, the idea of a deity that created and rules the entire universe. In doing this, we should breathe a sigh of relief... The truth is that the omnipotence of God is a silly idea thought up by men with narrow, logical minds. It must be obvious to anyone whose feelings have not atrophied that love and omnipotence can never be united."16

He also wrote, following the viewpoint of ancient "Christian Gnosticism": "We might even venture to say that the God of the Old Testament was the Demiurge, whereas Jesus looked beyond to the source of Divine Love."17

A student of J. G. Bennett, A. M. Hodgson, wrote:

"The Demiurge has only an indirect connection to the Source, since it is concerned with long term evolution, not with the state of 'jivanmukti' or 'liberation within one lifetime.'.... In fact, spirituality is of two distinct kinds which we call 'Liberational' and "Demiurgic'. Teachings which point this out do exist on the planet. They are placed there by conscious sources but generally they are restricted and suppressed by the Demiurgic Intelligences because their implications are too upsetting to the status quo."18

Another student of J. G. Bennett was Pierre Elliot, formerly the Director of Studies of (the Gurdjieffian training center called) the Claymont Society in West Virginia. In the late 1970's, Suleyman Hayati Loras Dede, an important Mevlevi shaykh from Konya, Turkey, visited Claymont. He was so impressed by Pierre Elliot that he initiated him to be a Mevlevi shaykh. Suleyman Dede must have seen demonstrations of Gurdjieff's movements exercises there and probably assumed that it was a kind of "dervish training." In October 1979, Suleyman Dede wrote a letter to Mr. Elliot stating, "äbecause at the same time my brother Sheikh Pierre Elliot is bringing the way of Mevlana together with the path of Mr. Gurdjieff and Mr. Bennett. Allah wishes that these paths should always be together, and I hope that it will be so."19

As Idries Shah wrote (under a pseudonym or perhaps borrowing someone's name): "Gurdjieff had taught 'movements', a stylized dance technique which requires extended energies of attention. The association of the G 'movements' and the Mevlevi whirling was perhaps unavoidable, but we shall find reason to suspect presently, that the 'movements' have a different source, although G. dressed his disciples in Mevlevi outfits, perhaps for 'misdirection' purposes."20 In another book, written using a pseudonym, Idries Shah mocked the beliefs of Gurdjieffians about Mevlevi origins by claiming that an ancient "Babylonian" mannikin with moveable arms and legs used to teach "ancient temple dances" that Gurdjieff claimed to have seen at a "Sarmân monastery" in Afghanistan21 was hidden in a secret underground room of the Mevlevi lodge where Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi is buried in Konya, Turkey.

A major exercise taught by Gurdjieff is called "self-remembering." This exercise has been alleged to derive from the sufi practice of "remembering" [zikr]. But there is a major difference between Gurdjieff's method of self-development via "self-remembering" that dismisses the value of prayer and the Islamic sufi practice of self-effacement via the practice of "God-remembering" [zikru 'llâh]. This points to an important distinction between these two different paths of mysticism: the tradition of Occult mysticism (based on a secret theology rooted in Gnosticism) emphasizes the development of potential divine powers within a human being while at the same time trying to escape the power of the Creator of the material world and to evolve into something "higher." In other words, the doctrine of this kind of mystic is, "There is no true divinity except Man."22

In contrast, the tradition of religious mysticism (meaning here, the Abrahamic religions based on a theology rooted in Monotheism and the revelations given to authentic Prophets of God) emphasizes the nothingness of the worshipper before Almighty God and submission to the Omnipotent Divine Will of the Creator. In other words, the doctrine of this kind of mystic is, "There is no true divinity except God."

This is why it is hoped that readers of this article will not dismiss the important distinctions described here by concluding, "There are no real differences between mystics/gnostics: mystics of all traditions, religious or Occult are all saying the same thing in different spiritual languages in which the conflicts are only external, not essential." If readers incline toward this view, then they are strongly advised to study more about Gnosticism23--so that perhaps they may see more clearly how radical and different it is compared to the mysticisms of major world religions. This is not a type of spirituality that offers salvation or enlightenment to most or all of humanity or sentient beings. Rather, it is aimed at the liberation of a very small minority of "elite beings" who have a "spark of light"--and all other humans have no lasting value.

Despite the strong criticism of Gurdjieff's Gnostical theology expressed in this article, it should be mentioned that some of Gurdjieff's teachings can be very useful for the sufi aspirant, such as the practice of "sensing" (as an alternative to compulsive thinking), developing will power and concentration, the teaching about objective knowledge and awareness in contrast to a subjective and "sleeping" state, the need to overcome "mechanical habits," and the necessity of finding access to a "higher source of energy" in order to "awaken."

In addition, although this article also criticizes Occultism in general, it should be mentioned that many followers of Occult philosophy are idealistic and high-minded individuals who sincerely wish to further the spiritual evolution of humanity. However, many or most of them may be unaware of the secret Gnostical doctrines of Occultism, and they might be unpleasantly surprised to learn about them.

Mawlânâ Jalâluddîn Rûmî's Teachings about Sleep and Wakefulness
Now let us compare these strange and disturbing teachings of Gurdjieff and his followers with the heart-uplifting teachings of Mawlânâ, our beloved Master. In contrast to "self-remembering," Mawlânâ taught the "passing away of self" [fanâ] in the remembrance of God [zikru 'llâh]. And in contrast to "waking up" and attaining a "permanent I-Am" consciousness, Mawlânâ taught the waking up to the Presence of God while being "asleep" to ego and the material world:

"Whosoever is awake (to the material world) is the more asleep (to the spiritual world); his wakefulness is worse than his sleep.
When our soul is not awake to God, wakefulness is like closing our doors (to Divine influences).
All day long, from the buffets of phantasy and from (thoughts of) loss and gain and from fear of decline,
There remains to it (the soul) neither joy nor grace and glory nor way of journeying to Heaven.
The one asleep (to spiritual things) is he who hath hope of every vain fancy and holds parley with it."24

Mawlânâ taught that when one is "awake" to the Presence of God, the physical senses become under control and made to be "asleep." Then "spiritual senses" become activated so that Heavenly visions and knowledge are granted to the seeker:

"So, when the intellect becomes thy captain and master, the dominant senses become subject to thee.
He (who is ruled by the intellect), without being asleep (himself), puts his senses to sleep, so that the unseen things may emerge from (the world of) the Soul.
Even in his waking state he dreams dreams and opens withal the gates of Heaven."25

In contrast with Gurdjieff's Gnosticism which has a derogatory view of God as worshipped by the those of the Abrahamic religions, Mawlânâ affirms the Qur'anic faith in the Omnipotence of God:

"From this you may realise that all these things are but an occasion for the display of God's omnipotence; that these things are of Him, and that His decree is absolute in all things. The believer is he who knows that behind this wall there is Someone who is apprised of all our circumstances, one by one, and who sees us though we see Him not; of this the believer is certain. Contrary is the case of him who says, 'No, this is all a tale,' and does not believe. The day will come when God will box his ears; then he will be sorry, and he will say 'Alas, I spoke evil and erred. Indeed, all was He; and I denied Him.'"26

While is true that Mawlânâ does make the analogy that the soul is like a bird trapped in the "cage of the body,"27 the difference between his view and the view of Gnosticism is that, as a religious mystic, he teaches that the entry and exit of the soul from the physical body is governed in accordance with the hidden Wisdom and Guidance of God, the Omnipotent Creator-- something that the believer should willingly submit to with an attitude of faith, trust and love of God, the All-Merciful.

Remembrance of God in the Qur'an
Muslim mystics, or sufis, have specialized in the spiritual practice of the remembrance of God [zikru 'llâh] for many centuries. This practice of "recalling" was inspired by verses in the Qur'an, such as the following: "Recollect your God often" (Q.33:41; see also Q.3:41). "Remember your Lord within your soul with humility and in reverence" (Q.7:205). "Remember the name of your Lord" (Q.73:8). "Recollect God standing, sitting down, and (lying down) on your sides" (Q.4:103). ". . .those who believe and whose hearts find satisfaction in the recollection of God--for truly in the recollection of God do hearts find satisfaction" (Q.13:28). "Men, whom neither buying nor selling can divert from the remembrance of God" (Q.24: 37). "And don't be like those who forgot God, for He made them forget themselves. Such are the transgressors" (Q.59:19). "They have forgotten God; so He has forgotten them" (Q.9:67). "Remembrance of God is the greatest [zikru 'llâhi akbar]"-- Q.29:45.

Those who are seeking to be faithful to the inspired teachings of Hazrat-i Mawlânâ Jalâluddîn Rûmî would benefit by practicing the same spiritual practices that he did: the Islamic prayers, fasting, and study of the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), in addition to the sufi practice of frequent remembrance [zikr] of God and the cultivation of spiritual love. Those who do not feel ready or willing to do the daily Islamic spiritual practices that Mawlânâ did should at least strive to be faithful to his beliefs and teachings. One should avoid the temptation to "gain more" by combining the Mevlevi Way with teachings and practices from other mystical traditions--especially those that are contrary to the principles and teachings of Hz. Mawlânâ.

1Ernest Scott, "The People of the Secret," 1983, p. 165.

2Bennett, "The Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia," 1977.

3There is evidence that Idries Shah was primarily an Occultist who used sufism as a cover, and that he deliberately promoted himself: as the foremost authority on sufism, as a great sufi shaykh, as the leader of the most esoteric circle of the Naqshbandi sufi order. However, the latter is contradicted by the fact that this is a very conservative Islamic sufi order, whereas Shah taught that sufism is an esoteric tradition independent of Islam. Born in India (the son of an Afghan father and an English mother) he was raised from early childhood in England and attended English schools. His first book was on the subject of magic: "Oriental Magic," 1956, when he was about 32 years old. In his next book, "Destination Mecca," 1957, he revealed his ignorance about sufism at that time by asserting that the "Dancing Dervishes" were part of the Bektashi Order (when they are a part of the Mevlevi Order). In his late 30's, he was still involved in Occultism, as is shown in an article written by a Gurdjieffian who wrote a biography of Gurdjieff, James Moore.

4"Interviews with Oscar Ichazo," 1982.

5Khan, "Toward The One," 1974.

6This conclusion (that the secret doctrines of Occultism are based on a theology of Gnosticism) is an insight of the author, gained as the result of many years of study of these subjects; therefore, there is no particular book or article to which reference can be made regarding this conclusion. One way of understanding the connection is by contrasting the neo-Manichean movement in Europe (called Catharism) which taught its heretical doctrines so openly and boldly (until it was crushed by the Albigensian Crusade in the 13th century) with the later secret societies in Europe that hid their secret teachings in symbols and disguised forms to avoid persecution from the Church (which suspected that secret societies, such as Masonry, maintained anti-Christian doctrines).

7quoted by Ouspensky, " In Search of the Miraculous," 1949.

8For a brief introduction to Gnosticism, see the following article.

See also "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam," 1989, by Cyril Glassé ("Dualism," pp. 105-06; "Manicheism," pp. 252-56, and "Seveners," pp. 354-56).

9For further information on the Theosophical roots of much of Gurdjieff's teachings see the following article by an authority on Occultism, Arvan Harvat.

10Gurdjieff, "Meetings With Remarkable Men," 1974.

11quoted by Ouspensky, "In Search of the Miraculous," 1949, p. 31. This was restated by Kabir Helminski in "The Knowing Self," 1999, pp. 211-12: "The world is a place for fashioning the soul, in the sense that soul is not given to us automatically, despite our assumptions to the contrary. Our interiority, our presence, must be created from within the distractions and forgetfulness of everyday outer life, from within the constant clash of pleasure and pain, happiness and loss."

12Gurdjieff was also quoted by his student Ouspensky as saying (in "In Search of the Miraculous," 1949): "Man, like every other living being, cannot, in the ordinary conditions of life, tear himself free from the moon. All his movements and consequently all his actions are controlled by the moon. If he kills another man, the moon does it; if he sacrifices himself for others, the moon does that also. All evil deeds, all crimes, all self-sacrificing actions, all heroic exploits, as well as all the actions of ordinary everyday life, are controlled by the moon. The liberation which comes with the growth of mental powers and faculties is liberation from the moon. The mechanical part of our life depends upon the moon, is subject to the moon. If we develop in ourselves consciousness and will, and subject our mechanical life and all our mechanical manifestations to them, we shall escape from the power of the moon."

13quoted by his student Ouspensky, "In Search of the Miraculous," 1949, p. 47.

14For a modern example, see "The Cipher of Genesis," 1970, by Carlos Suares.

15Jung, "Answer To Job," 1952. On the subject of Jung, Gnosticism, and Alchemy, see the following article.

16Bennett, "The Masters of Wisdom," 1977, p. 94)

17Bennett, "The Masters of Wisdom," 1977, p. 26.

18Hodgson, "Crisis In the Search for Truth," 1984, pp. 80-81, 85.

19This letter appears on the webpage of a contemporary Gurdjieffian group.

20Ernest Scott, "The People of the Secret," 1983, p. 164.

21"Teachers of Gurdjieff," 1966, using the pseudonym of "Rafael Lefort."

22If some readers think that this conclusion is too narrow, perhaps because of reading in Occult literature positive references to the word "God" together with an emplasis on the latent Divine powers and knowledge within the human being, readers should keep in mind that the author is asserting that this is the secret Gnostical doctrine of Occultism--and therefore something that most Occultists would avoid teaching or writing about directly (that is, if they have known at all about this secret doctrine).

23See the links to articles on the Internet in footnote 8.

24Masnavi I: 409-13, translated by R. A. Nicholson, 1926.

25Masnavi III: 1832-34, translated by R. A. Nicholson, 1930.

26Fîhi Mâ Fîhi, Discourse 45, translated by A. J. Arberry, 1961, p. 182

27See Masnavi I: 389, 1447, 1540.

About Dar-Al-Masnavi
The Mevlevi Order

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/17/2008 05:27AM by Keir.

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Blog article on Idries Shah
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 17, 2008 06:39AM

There is a blog article on Idries Shah that can be read here:


One commentator posted a bibliography:

Some articles for further reading:

“DISKUS Vol 1 No 1 (1993) pp.45-83


Andrew Rawlinson *(Rawlinson is author of a source book, originally titled ‘Western Masters in Eastern Traditions.’ Its current edition is published under the title ‘The Book of Enlightened Masters’

Department of Religious Studies, University of Lancaster, Lancaster LA1 4YG, England


and an article by James Moore who himself practiced Gurdjieff work but had some interesting things to say in the following article:

“Neo-Sufism: The Case of Idries Shah”


For a sober description of Islamic Sufism get and read Mark Sedgwick’s book, Sufism:The Essentials


Sedgwick states that Islamic Sufism was practiced within the social context of Islamic faith and was never meant to be a cloak and dagger, drama ridden Dungeons and Dragon game. (My paraphrase). It was meant to support spiritual practice, not use secrecy and elitism to inflate someone’s personal egotism.

This suggestion by Sedgwick seems to be supported in a much earlier book by David Edwards, Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier–available online


In the biography, The Lives of an Afghan Saint, written by an anthropologist who interviewed Pashtun in Pakistani refugee camps


Edwards states that a Sufi center, where everyone was socially equal and all deferred to the Pir or spiritual leader, in that particular social context (Pashtun tribal life), actually provided a relief from the heavy social pressures imposed by the Pasthun code of honor. In outside life, the Pastun men were constantly on guard in relation to each other, fretting about their own prestige, whether they’d been insulted, or threatened, or what to do. This hypervigilence and anxiety about maintaining place in the tribal pecking order was nerve-wracking. The one respite was to become involved with a Sufi center in which everyone’s outside rank ceased to matter because all deferred to the Pir (Sufi leader).

Edwards interviewed disciples and learned their reasons for keeping their discipleship secret–it was for reasons of humility, based on their Muslim faith and very different from the elitist, clubby secrecy Western esoteric cults enjoin:

Edwards wrote:

“Despite the fact that there is no shame attached to following a pir (Sufi leader), it is the practice in some areas for disciples to keep secret their involvement with pirs. The reason for keeping this attachment a secret is difficult to ascertain, but it seems at least in part to keep the moral worlds of honor and Islam separate and thereby avoid the kinds of contradictions that ensue when the two overlap.

‘An alternative explanation is offered by an informant from Paktia Province who explained the practice as follows:

“Most disciples do not want to reveal that they are followers of a pir. They think that [revealing this fact] would be a way of projecting yourself as a good person, which is [an attitude] that Allah wouldn’t like. Basically, one becomes a disciple to seek guidance on the right path to Allah. One doesn’t do it for any other reason, and it should be kept secret as much as possible.

“In thecase of our family, it happened so many times that one of our family membersbecame a disciple without our even knowing about it. Because of this attitudeon the part of the disciples, it is difficult to know how many have accepted the tariqat.”

Edwards does not say so, but my layman’s hunch is that if transferred to a Western democratic society, this same master disciple relationship which was apparently therapeutic for Pashtun disciples living in their traditional culture might , if transferred to a Western society, lead to regression on the part of Western followers and perhaps trigger a tyrannical response in the leader—because what was a liberating alternative in the harsh, competitive hyper macho Pashtun scene would warp into something quite different if applied to Westerners in a participatory democracy who bring a different set of questions and different pattern of inner distress to the spiritual search.

It appears from James Moore’s article that Idries Shah did not live for any extended period of time as a Pastun or in the Pastun homelands where he would have had to live daily life according to the demanding Pastun code of honor. Shah was ethnically Pastun on his father’s side, but was born in British India, educated and socialized within a British cultural context, lived and worked in the UK with a brief stint in South America–worlds away from the context studied and described by Edwards.

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Additional material on Message Board
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 17, 2008 06:45AM

Search and ye shall find:



Resource Reading on Gurdjieff and Faux Gurdjieff groups


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Re: Gurdjieff
Posted by: Keir ()
Date: April 06, 2008 04:31PM

Thanks Corboy.

Your name sounds familar. I forget which posts you posted here befor now???? Its been awhile since I droped by.

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Re: Additional material on Message Board
Posted by: bill77 ()
Date: August 06, 2008 02:29AM

As a current member of a 4th way group, i feel compelled to briefly state:
There are many false practioners of the work. Gurdjieff himself foresaw this coming before his death, and so the legends of 'secrecy' have appeared over the past 50 years. This was created to protect the corruption of the teaching by individuals like Burton, Horn, etc..
If anyone wants to know the veracity of a teacher or group , there are a few simple methods. A few questions to ask.
1. Do they insist on large financial contributions? if so, be very wary.
2. Do they do 'outreach' propaganda - i.e. leaving bookmarks in books, ads in 'underground' newspapers, et al...
3. Does the leader impose him or herself on you, ask inappropriate questions, make what you feel are irrational demands?
4. If a group , such as mine does , breaks for the summer - a 4 month period - and preassures you to return in the fall, you can be sure this is not a legitimate group.

The Gurdjieff work can be a life transforming study; when put into the hands of the irresponsible, the underdeveloped, it can be a destructive weapon.

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Re: Additional material on Message Board
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: August 06, 2008 04:01AM

Here are some simple warning signs about any group or teacher--

See []

This also covers how people involved with a destructive group or leader may act.

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.

4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".

9. The group/leader is always right.

10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.

2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.

3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".

4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.

5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.

6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.

7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.

8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.

9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.

2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.

3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.

4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.

5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.

6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.

7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.

8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.

9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.

10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

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Re: Gurdjieff
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 06, 2008 10:15PM

Sufis have had severe travails. As if distortions from Gurdjieff and Shah were not enough, yet another ideology, traditionalism, has used Sufism as a means to an end. Native American spirituality, throughout the Americas, found itself misrepresented and commercially distorted by opportunists such as Carlos Castaneda.

A similar set of misfortunes befell Sufism. Genuine Sufis are modest much as Quakers are and dont usually speak up to defend themselves. This has left them dreadfully vulnerable to misrepresentation and exploitation by ambitious characters.

One source of confusion, in addition to Gurdjieff (who will be discussed below) has been yet another ideology that has mixed matters up in Sufism, a European ideology termed 'Traditionalism.'

Traditionalism, in its current form, was refined by Rene Guenon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, and Julius Evola. It was Guenon who came to the conclusion that Islam and Sufism met Traditionalist criteria. It should be noted that other Traditionalists have reached different conclusions. But..many have become converts, on thier own Traditionalist terms, to Islam via Guenon.

Traditionalism holds the view that the modern world is in decline, that what we see is progress is actually regression and the only hope is to find an authentic, uncorrupted religious tradition that will give us an authentic intiation. But there are many, many ‘counter-intiatic’ counterfeits so one must beware. Guenon came to belief that Sufism and Islam represented a valid initation—but he interpreted Islam through the framework of his own personal biases, seeing it as a means to fulfill the Traditionalist agenda. Guenon died in 1951 but his ideas remain influential to this day.
One bookseller at a European mosque told Mark Sedwick that the two factors that were most important in causing a European to convert to Islam were, in this order, marrying a Muslim....and having read Guenon.

Mark Sedwick writes:

"Many seem to become Sufis and even convert to Islam, not because of primary commitment to Islam, but in order to derive an ‘initiation’ that meets Traditionalist criteria for authenticity---using Islam and Sufism as a means to an end.

." Being Muslim and Guénonian potentially gives rise to the same difficulties as does being Muslim and, say, Marxist: to what extent can a Muslim legitimately defer to an authority which derives its bases from outside Islam? Being Muslim because one is Guénonian is even more difficult: who comes first, the Prophet Muhammad or Guénon? That Pallavicini, for example, parted with Schuon because Schuon disagreed with Guénon - not with the Prophet or with Islam - would make most Muslims uncomfortable, as would Pallavicini's habit of taking Guénon (rather than God or the Prophet) as his standard authority in his speeches and articles. This question of motivation may be the final irreducible difference between Guénonian Sufis and all others."


( C comments here: Worse, in my opinion, many Sufi scholars, such as Lings and Nasr, have been covertly Traditioanlist, and don’t always make that clear in their writings, which meant that trustful readers imbibed unexamined and covert Traditionalist biases in the course of reading these books. The ones who were worst were those associated with Frijof Schuon. These adherants tended to recruit and cultivate well placed people. One such person who nearly fell into the net was none other than Thomas Merton, author of Seeds of Contemplation and the Seven Storey Mountain. Merton died before matters went any further. In 1980 Schuon, head of a ""Sufi"" order called the Maryamiyaa got into a scandal and left the US. He died in Switzerland in the 1990s. Two other Traditionalists whose writing have been highly influential have been Huston Smith--and
Mircea Eliade)

Professor Sedwick has written a survey of Traditionalism entitled Against the Modern World. It received reviews on Amazon that were either glowing or utterly derogatory--IMO, a sign that something is worth reading. What is interesting is that some seemed angry that anyone had dared write publicly about traditionalism and blown the cover on it...a sign that it was indeed high time to write publicly about Traditionalism and give it some long over due scrutiny--and assist others to scrutinize it. .C)

(It should be noted that this traditionalist Sufism is quite a different strand from the faux Sufism connected with the enneagram C)

Some discussions of Gurdjieff and sources for researching him. The website is rather eccentric but these articles may offer some leads.





(Includes some reflections on Burton and that he failed to find any trace of the enneagram
while he was pursuing Sufi studies—and manuscripts, in what is now Pakistan.)


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/06/2008 10:27PM by corboy.

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Re: Gurdjieff
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 06, 2008 10:17PM

There is an additional and extensive survey article on Gurdjieff matters here on the message board


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Re: Gurdjieff
Posted by: bill77 ()
Date: August 06, 2008 10:56PM

Gurdjieff was not a sufi, and never claimed to be. It's only the psudo intellectuals (re: academics), trying to put his teaching into a nice containable bag, decided his teaching was based in Sufism.
When pressed on the origins of his teachings, late in life, Mr. Gurdjieff replied: If you like, I teach esoteric Christianity.

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Re: Gurdjieff
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 06, 2008 11:12PM

If interested, one can read the customer reviews for Mark Sedgwick's book Against the Modern World, here.


Sedgwick's own introduction to Traditionalism is described in the prologue of Against the Modern World.

A friend of Sedwicks who had converted to Islam lent him a book by Guenon.


'The book looked innocent enough' Sedwick wrote. 'a Penguin paperback with an AUC (American University of Cairo--the place where Sedgwick taught) library shelfmark on the spine. The date stamp indicated that the book was approximately 12 years overdue, as I pointed out.

'The convert smiled. 'That is far too valuable a book' he said, 'to be trusted to the library. Make sure you give that back to me.'

(Against the Modern World, page 7)

One can only hope there are no librarians at the gates of heaven. If so, that elitist esoteric delinquent will have a lot of explaining to do. It is one thing to let a book go overdue from carelessness, but to deliberately not return a book to the library because one has reached a private judgement that that book should be with-held from the general public, when it was purchased by the library so that it could be made available...
that, friends is creepy.

Later, in describing Traditionalism's concept that what looks like social progress is actually social and spiritual regression, Sedgwick writes:


''In the words of a contemporary Traditionalist, a young and talented European scholar of Islam--once the modern world is understood in terms of decline rather than of progress, almost everything else changes, and there are not many people are left that you can usefully talk to.'

(Against the Modern World, page 25)

And on pages 169-70 Sedgwick wrote, speaking of Islamic scholars such as Nasr who are actually influenced by Traditionalism, especially the form taught by Schuon and his eccentric Maryamiyya order:


'Only someone who knows the Traditionalist philosophy and is looking for it will recognize its presence in these books (eg Nasrs Ideals and Realities of Islam--discussed in the prior paragraph same page--C)Traditionalist interpretations are never presented as such but rather are given as the simple truth.

'There need be no dishonesty in this practice' Sedgwick charitably remarks, 'we all present things in the way that we see them, without feeling obligated to explain precisely how we have come to see them in that way....What most readers will be unable to distinguish between is Sufi spirituality and Maryami, or Traditionalist spirituality.

To a specialist in Sufism who is familiar with Traditionalism, almost every essay contains interpretations that are clearly Traditionalist but are never signaled as such. Many of these interpretations are open to dispute, to say the least. To the non specialist reader, however, neither the origin nor the questionable nature of the interpretations is evident.

Not everyone is happy when they discover Traditionalism behind these books. One Scandinavian scientist who had converted to Islam reacted with dismay on reading an article of mine which identified Traditionalist writers that she and others she knew had read unawares:

"Traditionalist books are everywhere..." she wrote. "Perhaps most scary is the subtle penetration of Traditionalist thinking without references...People pick up these ideas because they are appealing and pass them on..('This) is something that affects everyone who depends on non-Arabic (non-Urdu, non-Turkish) literature."

Another person had a slightly different take on the matter, telling Sedwick

"This 'subtle penetration' of Traditionalism also struck another observer, James W Morris, who found it more ironic than sinister. 'One rarely encounters academic specialists in the spiritual dimensions of religious studies who have not in fact read several of the works of Schuon' wrote Morris, but 'This wide ranging influence (by Schuon) is rarely mentioned publicly' because of 'the peculiar processes of academic canonization."

(against the Modern World pp 169-170)

Interestingly, a colleague of Sedwick's had tried to get him interested in Schuon, but before matters could go further, Sedwick was mailed information that revealed Shuons very troubled past. As soon as the friend realized that Sedwick knew this and worse, was shocked---the erstwhile friend abruptly dumped Sedwick!


'This was my first puzzle (about Traditionalism) wrote Sedgwick. 'Some of the major Western authors on Islam were followers of a man who went around dressed in a feather headress, or not dressed at all, painting some very unusual pictures.' (Pages 9-10)

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/06/2008 11:25PM by corboy.

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