talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

music played during exercises diverts the movement innate in us which in life is the chief source of interference. music alone cannot separate the whole of our unconscious automatism, but it is one of the aids to this. music cannot draw away the whole of our mechanicalness, but for the moment, owing to the absence of other means, we shall use only music.

one thing is important: while performing all the given external tasks to the accompaniment of music, you must learn from the beginning not to pay attention to the music but to listen to it automatically. at first, attention will stray to the music from time to time, but later it will be possible to listen to music and other things entirely with automatic attention, the nature of which is different.

it is important to learn to distinguish this attention from mechanical attention. as long as the two attentions are not separated from one another they remain so alike that an ignorant person is unable to distinguish between them. full, deep, highly concentrated attention makes it possible to separate the one from the other. learn to know the difference between these two kinds of attention by taste in order to discriminate between our incoming thoughts, information on one side and differentiation on the other.

(prieuré, january 20, 1923)

sacred dances of g. i. gurdjieff

sacred dances and movements have always played an important part in the work of real schools. they express an unknown dimension and reveal what is hidden from the average man—the reality of a higher level of being. if we are able to pass from our ordinary level to a higher, it means that something in us is changed. the changes are governed by definite cosmic laws, and a knowledge of these laws exists and can be discovered. gurdjieff in his early travels and sojourns in temples and monasteries in the middle and far east and central asia witnessed and took part in various ritual dances and ceremonies; and he realized that the dance could be used as a language to express knowledge of a higher order—cosmic knowledge. this language is mathematical, according to exact measure. every movement has its appointed place, its duration and weight. the combinations and sequences are mathematically calculated. postures and attitudes are arranged to produce definite, predetermined emotions. in these, he who is watching them may also participate—he may read them as a script, in which the higher emotions and higher mind can take part.

in creating these movements each detail has a meaning, the smallest element is taken into account, nothing is left to chance or to imagination. there is only one possible gesture, posture and rhythm with which to represent a given human or cosmic situation. another gesture, posture or movement would not present the truth—it would be false. if there is the least miscalculation in the composition of a movement the dance would be desecrated, and fantasy would take the place of knowledge. mr. gurdjieff, during a long life devoted to study and questioning, mastered the principles of those sacred dances which constitute a branch of objective art. understanding the principles, he was able to demonstrate truths through these movements.

the student, even from the beginning, through the high degree of sustained attention required to perfect himself in the movements, is using one of the specific means of self-knowledge, and of attaining "the cognition and comprehension of reality."

c. s. nott, journey through this world