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Gurdjieff & Christianity

Gurdjieff & Christianity

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Published by: Johnsavior on Aug 19, 2012
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 Was Gurdjieff a Christian? The orientation of the teaching-is it Christian? Entering the newmillennium, some fifty years after Mr. Gurdjieff's passing, it is important to begin to understand thepart that Christianity played in his life and in the teaching he brought. Certainly, as Gurdjieff makes clear in Meetings With Remarkable Men, he was raised as aChristian-"I know the rituals of the Greek Church well," he would say many years later, "and there,underlying the form and ceremony, there is real meaning." His first religious tutor was seventy-year-old Dean Borsch, the highest spiritual authority of the region. As Dean Borsch aged, heasked the young priest Bogachevsky to tutor Gurdjieff and confessed him every week. For twoyears, Bogachevsky tutored the young Gurdjieff and then, when the priest was posted elsewhere,he had Gurdjieff continue his confessions by mail. It is interesting to note, regarding Bogachevsky's caliber, that later he went to Mount Athos as achaplain and a monk. Soon, however, he renounced monastic life as practiced there and went toJerusalem. Bogachevsky joined the Essene Brotherhood there and was sent to one of itsmonasteries in Egypt. He was given the name Father Evlissi and later became one of theassistants to the abbot of its chief monastery. According to Gurdjieff, the Essenes had preservedthe teaching of Jesus Christ "unchanged" and that as it passed from generation to generation it"has even reached the present time in its original form." The depth of what Gurdjieff felt for this man was expressed when, in his maturity, he declared,"Father Evlissi, who is now an aged man, happened to become one of the first persons on earthwho has been able to live as our Divine Teacher Jesus Christ wished for us all." [Emphasisadded.] Gurdjieff's choice of words would seem to indicate that for himself Gurdjieff accepts thedivinity of Jesus Christ. He speaks, for example, of Jesus Christ as "a Messenger from ourendlessness," "that Sacred Individual," "Divine Teacher Jesus Christ," and "Sacred IndividualJesus Christ." Although Gurdjieff speaks highly of Christianity and of Jesus Christ, there are also many stories ofhis making fun of Catholic priests, even shouting at them on occasion. For example, his nieceLuba reported in her Luba Gurdjieff: A Memoir with Recipes, "My Uncle never taught us how to goto church, or pray, or anything like that. And he never liked priests or the nuns. When we were outdriving and he saw a priest, he would say, 'Shoo! Son of a bitch.'" Gurdjieff certainly knew a great deal about Christianity-not only its religion but its esotericfoundation as well. This can be seen when he came to Russia in 1912 and took the guise of aTurkish prince, calling himself "Prince Ozay." Within a year of his arrival in St. Petersburg he metthe young English musicologist Paul Dukes, later an officer in British intelligence. Dukes reportsthat the prince wore a turban and spoke in Russian with a marked accent. He was of mediumheight, sturdily built and the grip of his hand "was warm and powerful." His dark eyes, Dukes said,"piercing in their brilliance, were at the same time kindly and sparkling with humor." After a chessgame which the prince won handily, he spoke knowledgeably to Dukes in English (which Dukessaid he preferred) of the Lord's Prayer. The prince told Dukes it was designed "as a devotionalbreathing exercise to be chanted on a single even breath." "I have been in many churches in England and America," said the prince, "and always heard the
congregation mumble the Lord's Prayer all together in a scrambled grunt as if the mere mutteredrepetition of the formula were all that is required." Ozay informed Dukes that the incantation of prayers as a devotional breathing exercise waspracticed in the earliest Christian Church, which inherited it from the ancient Egyptians,Chaldeans, Brahmins, and others in the East, where it is known as the science of Mantra. Thisesoteric side, Ozay said, was lost in the Western Church centuries ago. Gurdjieff had intended to found the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Russia,but the revolution precluded this. It was not until eight years later, in 1921, that he was able toestablish it in France. At the time, he stated the Institute's aim unequivocally: "The program of theInstitute, the power of the Institute, the aim of the Institute, the possibilities of the Institute can beexpressed in very few words: the Institute can help one to be able to be a Christian." He spoke ofa Christian as being "a man who is able to fulfill the Commandments...both with his mind and hisessence." St. George the Victor was proclaimed as the Institute's patron saint. The Original Christianity The opening of All and Everything, First Series, begins with a prayer: "In the name of the Fatherand of the Son and in the name of Holy Ghost. Amen." And within, Gurdjieff speaks of Christianityas based on "resplendent love," saying also that among all of the ancient religious teachings nonehad so "many good regulations for ordinary everyday life." He believed that Christianity is the bestof all existing or future religions "if only the teaching of the Divine Jesus Christ were carried out infull conformity with its original." [Emphasis added.] It is not clear what he means by the words "itsoriginal," but presumably a religion or teaching that came before Christianity. Something of thesame sort happens with the aforementioned prayer, for he says in introducing it that this "definiteutterance...has been formulated variously and in our day is formulated in the following words." Heis quite clearly, then, pointing to something that was Christian but which predates Christianity. It is clear he believes that Christianity-the religion-was mixed with Judaism, and that Judaism bythat time "had already been thoroughly distorted." During the Middle Ages, Christianity was furtherdistorted by the fantastic doctrines of hell and heaven imported from Babylonian dualism by theChurch Fathers. Christianity, Gurdjieff says, had been "the religion and teaching upon which theHighest Individuals placed great hopes"-note how he separates religion from teaching-but, as aresult of what he calls "absurdities" and "criminal wiseacring," genuine faith in Christianity was"totally destroyed." Messengers from Above Perhaps more significant for determining whether or not Gurdjieff was a Christian is that while heobviously held Jesus Christ in very high regard, he does not take him as the only Son of God.Rather, Jesus Christ was but one of a number of Messengers from Above, though of these Heapparently holds a special place. Although Gurdjieff speaks of Jesus as a saint, as he does ofSaint Buddha, Saint Mohammed, Saint Lama, and Saint Moses, it is only Jesus and Buddha thatGurdjieff also speaks of as being "Divine." Gurdjieff's view of the resurrection of Jesus Christ differs radically from accepted doctrine. Heholds that if a person dies and is buried, "this being will never exist again, nor furthermore will he
ever speak or teach again." However, in seeming contradiction, he views the Last Supper as beinga preparation for the sacred sacrament Almznoshinoo on the Kesdjan body of Jesus Christ.Almznoshinoo, he says, is a means of materializing and communicating with the higher-beingbodies of a deceased physical body by the Hanbledzoinian process of intentionally coating itsKesdjan body. In order to accomplish this, a particle of an individual's Hanbledzoin must be takenwhile he is alive and either kept in a corresponding surplanetary formation or taken in andintentionally blended with the Kesdjan bodies of those who will afterward participate in theAlmznoshinoo process. Because Jesus Christ did not have the necessary time before he was crucified to explain andinstruct his apostles in certain cosmic truths, he had to resort to a magical ceremony so that hemight complete his mission while still in a cosmic individual state. It was at that moment, accordingto Gurdjieff, that Judas put forward an ingenious plan-the conscious betrayal of Christ-that wouldgain them the necessary time. Gurdjieff refers to Judas as a saint who, of all the disciples, was themost devoted and had the highest degree of reason. Concerning religion per se, Gurdjieff tells us there are seven levels. The religions of the first threeare subjective and correspond to people who are primarily instinctual, emotional, or intellectual. Itis at the fourth level that religion begins to become objective, free from the distortions ofpersonality. At this level, the practitioner is beginning to emerge from the hypnotism of ordinary lifeand engaging in a struggle with what it means to be a Christian. Only at the fifth level does onehave "the being of a Christian," for only at this level can life actually be lived in accordance withthe precepts of Christ, because one has now achieved a commensurate unity and will that is freefrom external influences. Good & Evil Nonexistent Concerning good and evil Gurdjieff is quite clear. "The fantastic notion," he says, "namely thatoutside of them [outside of people] there exist objective sources of 'Good' and 'Evil' acting upontheir essence" is without foundation-there is no external good and evil. Our present notion of good and evil, Gurdjieff believes, is based on misunderstanding. He saysthat long ago a being of Beelzebub's tribe, Makary Kronbernkzion, who was a full member of theSociety of Akhaldans, an esoteric brotherhood, was the first to employ the words. In an essay hewrote, entitled "The Affirming and Denying Influences on Man," he spoke of the trinity of forces inthe conscious evolution of human beings. The first force he characterized as arising from thecauses proceeding in the Sun-Absolute, and issuing from it by momentum. This force, like theother two, is totally independent. Kronbernkzion called this force "Good." When the momentum ofthis force is spent, there is then a striving to reblend with its source, the Sun-Absolute. Thisfundamental World Law is characterized as, "the effects of a cause must always re-enter thecause." This second backward-flowing force, which must continually resist the momentum of thefirst force, he called "Evil," or the active force. From the clash and friction of these two forces isformed the resultant, which in relation to the two other forces is considered neutralizing. This trinityof forces issues from one cause, the Prime Source of all creation. As long as people project agood and evil having some objective existence outside of themselves, spiritual evolution becomescurtailed. Gurdjieff, although raised as a Christian and no doubt baptized, had a deep understanding of

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