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The Sly Way

The Sly Way

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Published by davidwalters
A monologue on the virtues and vices of Gurdjieff & Ouspensky's Fourth Way
A monologue on the virtues and vices of Gurdjieff & Ouspensky's Fourth Way

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Published by: davidwalters on Jun 10, 2013
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06/20/2013

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Ouspensky & Gurdjieff 
THE SLY WAY 
 BYDAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
"Let God kill him who himself does not know yet presumes to show others the way to the door of this Kingdom." 
Persian saying quoted by G.I. Gurdjieff Crazy RussiansThe Russian mathematician, journalist and 'Fourth Way' philosopher Peter D. Ouspensky (1878
 – 
1947) is largely ignored and seldom taken seriously today by intellectuals. One might say thatOuspensky's contributions to the 'Crazy Russian' stereotype were not appreciated by his peers.His reputation was virtually ruined during his lifetime, not only because of his enthusiasm for thefashionable fourth-dimension discourse of his day and esoteric subjects as well, nor for  preaching his rationalizations of the self-remembering method of his iconoclastic master, yetanother black sheep, the self-remembered mystic and lover of distilled spirits, G.I. Gurdjieff (1872-1949), but also because of his eccentric, drug-enhanced lifestyle.
 
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Following in the relatively fresh footsteps of the Russian seer, tobacco fiend and professionalcharlatan, Madame Blavatsky, first Gurdjieff and then Ouspensky embarked on a nomadic,Oriental search for golden nuggets and priceless jewels of ancient wisdom, for miraculousnotions and alchemical potions, a quest that contributed to their popularity among disaffectedradicals of all sorts, bohemians, beatniks, and hippies. The eclectic product of their adventureswas rendered absurd by its often self-contradictory assortment of ancient lore posing as modernrevelation. Ouspensky's attempt to gloss the Absurd over with rationalizations was taken to heart by persons who found some security in its mechanical or systematic aspect, hence weoccasionally encounter an apparently objective or heartless system that provides for emotion inname only, an awful burnished machine that does not, however, raise consciousness to theclassically harmonious realm purposed by the 'Work' of his fascinating master, Gurdjieff, whomTime magazine referred to as "a remarkable blend of P.T. Barnum, Rasputin, Freud, GrouchoMarx, and everybody's grandfather."
In sum, Gurdjieff's hard ‘Work’ was based on ancient premises and techniques that are by no
means proprietary or unique to his school, but are necessarily platitudinous premises still held.And the related techniques and rituals are still practiced by modern psychologists. Histherapeutic work employed music, dance, rituals, and a sort of psychological shock therapy to prepare the novice for initiation into the version of reality Gurdjieff had became acquainted withon his peregrinations.Gurdjieff stated that his semi-biographical work,
 Meetings With Remarkable Men
, was intendedto be "prepatory instructive material for setting of the consciousness of creatures similar tomyself a new world"; that is, a real world instead of an illusory world. He wrote another work,
 Beezlebub's Tub
, "to destroy mercilessly the beliefs and views rooted for centuries in the mindand feelings of men", by arousing unfamiliar thoughts in their minds. Of course he employedmore than words to shock his students out of their wits.Most importantly, Gurdjieff emphasized an artificial, triadic structure of human beingness: In thename of the mind, the body, and the feeling, as One. He supposed that, IF the three centers were brought into triunal harmony, THEN a higher level or state of being-consciousness wouldnaturally follow. Gurdjieff the mystic, by the way, was a composer and hypnotist. AlthoughOuspensky's intellectual analysis of Gurdjieff's Work tends to divorce the mind from body andfeelings and exalt the rational function, Gurdjieff's version of classical Harmony, his harmoniouslevel of being, is an emotional state of being, at least from the perspective of modern psychology.Modern EmotionsWhen a bow is pulled across a string of a musical instrument in just the right way, strife is musicto the ears. When strings conflict in such a way that they insult ears sensitive to an accustomedmusical system, the result is deemed inharmonious. Life itself is a sort of lover's complaint in itswar against nature, and all against all after bliss is left behind and self-consciousness gained.What is love? Love is simply your life, said Swedenborg. So we say each life is a lover'scomplaint because the individual would persist without resistance forever if only s/he could, but
 
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s/he cannot. An individual with power unlimited would not be divided within nor without, andwould in effect be as powerful as the projected Holy Power or Almighty so many personsworship with all their might. Hence, albeit a form of complaint, self-love is essentially life, andtherein is the unity of all lives.While militant philosophers believed strife to be the general Good from which all goods flow,and held that blood must and should be plentifully and frequently shed to improve the moralfibre of the race, others, who hankered after peace among men, abhorred strife, and they opposedto strife an altruistic love, an overarching metaphysical Love that would transcend strife and purportedly bring harmony. That is to say, harmony within, to the basic anxiety of existentialcomplaints, which would, in turn, be orchestrated; and harmony without, in forms of lovingcooperation to mutual ends. Or perhaps we would better say, in mutual admiration or mutualself-love, inasmuch as all are to love their neighbors as themselves, as absurd and repugnant asthat might seem.Wherefore we hear of "Harmony" in several languages from many philosophers who profess tohold usually three-pronged keys to an emotional state of being we might all enjoy; in a word wemight call it bliss, the best emotion of emotions. Now emotion is widely regarded as the thinking-feeling basis of morality. Modern psychology'sfrequently stated tripartite analysis of emotion disintegrates the notion of integral emotion into body (feeling), mind (thinking), and behavior (acting) components. In brief, an emotion is aconscious feeling of pleasantness or unpleasantness, accompanied by a biological activation andexpressive behavior. Again, emotion has cognitive, physiological, and behavioral components,which have been referred to in popular terms as "centers", namely the thinking, feeling, andacting centers. A person's behavior communicates her emotional state, which is not always clear without corresponding context, which may include verbal communication. For instance, thefacial expression of grief, crying, may be misinterpreted out of context as laughter or "cryingwith joy" until the context is made clear.The modern "scientific" analysis of the mind-body organic functioning into components or partsis made for the sake of convenience, usually with an interest in understanding human behavior inorder to manipulate it to profitable ("good") ends. The emotional "centers" are not "facts."Furthermore, the interpretation of the facts or behavioral events is necessarily value-laden; thatis, the artificial divisions are to a certain extent arbitrary and based on the prejudicial socialmores and personal biases of the analyst. Wherefore the serious student of psychology shouldalways keep not only the unique identities but also the emotional integrity of analyzed subjects inmind. For instance, the limbic system, sometimes mislabeled the "emotional center", has pathways to and from the cerebral cortex, particularly the frontal lobes involved in theinterpretation and control of emotions.The modern theory of emotion is generally optimistic and coincides in some respects to theoptimism of Gurdjieff and other students of psychology. To wit: behavior, including thinking or symbolic acting, can be so managed as to increase the happiness of humankind. Otherwise, why bother with psychology, or, for that matter, any other human art and science?

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