talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

our development is like that of a butterfly. we cannot "die and be reborn" as the egg dies and become a caterpillar; the caterpillar dies and becomes a chrysalis; the chrysalis dies and the butterfly is born. it is a long process and the butterfly lives only a day or two. but the cosmic purpose is fulfilled. it is the same with man, we must destroy our buffers. children have none; therefore we must become like little children. . . .
(prieuré, june 2, 1922)

one-sided development
paris, august 1922

in each one present here one of his inner machines is more developed than the others. there is no connection between them. only he can be called a man without quotation marks in whom all three machines are developed. a one-sided development is only harmful. if a man possesses knowledge and knows all he must do, this knowledge is useless and can even do harm. all of you are deformed. if only personality is developed it is deformity; such a man can in no way be called a complete man—he is a quarter, a third of a man. the same applies to a man with a developed essence or a man with developed muscles. nor can he be called a complete man in whom a more or less developed personality is combined with a developed body, while his essence remains totally undeveloped. in short, a man in whom only two of the three machines are developed cannot be called a man. a man of such one-sided development has more desires in a given sphere, desires he cannot satisfy and at the same time cannot renounce. life becomes miserable for him. for this state of fruitless, half-satisfied desires i can find no more suitable word than onanism. from the standpoint of the ideal of full harmonious development such a one-sided man is worthless.

the reception of external impressions depends on the rhythm of the external stimulators of impressions and on the rhythm of the senses. right reception of impressions is possible only if these rhythms correspond to one another. if i or anyone were to say two words, one of them would be said with one understanding, another with another. each of my words has a definite rhythm. if i say twelve words, in each of my listeners—say three—would be taken in by the body, seven by personality and two by essence. since the machines are not connected with each other, each part of the listener has recorded only part of what was said; in recollecting, the general impression is lost and cannot be reproduced. the same happens when a man wants to express something to another. owing to the absence of connection between the machines he is able to express only a fraction of himself.

every man wants something, but first he must find out and verify all that is wrong or lacking in himself, and he must bear in mind that a man can never be a man if he has no right rhythms in himself.

take the reception of sound. a sound reaches the receiving apparatuses of all the three machines simultaneously but owing to the fact that the rhythms of the machines are different, only one of them has time to receive the impression, for the receiving faculty of the others lags behind. if a man hears the sound with his thinking faculty and is too slow to pass it on to the body, for which it is destined, then the next sound he hears, also destined for the body, drives away the first completely and the required result is not obtained. if a man decides to do something, for instance to hit something or someone, and at the moment of decision the body does not fulfill this decision since it was not quick enough to receive it in time, the force of the blow will be much weaker or there will be no blow at all.

just as in the case of reception, a man's manifestations, too, can never be complete. sorrow, joy, hunger, cold, envy and other feelings and sensations are experienced only by a part of an ordinary man's being, instead of by the whole of him.

* * *

the journalists at the prieuré: the demonstrations
tcheslaw tchekhovitch

as soon as the study house was completed in 1923, georgi ivanovitch devoted himself to intensifying the work on the movements and varying the inner exercises. on saturday evenings he even opened demonstrations of the movements and some of the sacred dances to the public. at first, the increasing number of visitors left their cars in the courtyard, but as their numbers grew, it was necessary to park them in the street. the local authorities went so far as to improve the street lighting and place a traffic officer at the entrance to the chateau.

the curiosity aroused by our activities grew day by day. articles on the prieuré appeared in the press both in france and abroad, and this unleashed a veritable invasion of journalists. georgi ivanovitch received them warmly and tried to explain to them the meaning of our search. i recall that one day he said to a group of journalists: "i am going to show you some movements whose purpose is to awaken man's latent inner possibilities, allowing him to open to a new perception of himself and of reality. if you don't distort the meaning of my words, i will gladly give you any clarification you wish."

after dinner, we put on traditional costumes and demonstrated a series of specific postures for prayers and sacred dances from various oriental countries. the journalists photographed everything.

this invasion of the prieuré by the press lasted several weeks. a host of articles was published both in france and abroad, but none faithfully passed on the explanations given by georgi ivanovitch. they preferred instead to give free reign to the most fantastic interpretations of the meaning of our work. it was so many pearls offered to those who refused to admit their lack of understanding.

this chorus of slander made mr. gurdjieff's work seem like a great hoax and its creator like a charlatan, a twentieth century cagliostro. we were dumbfounded by how the journalists, convinced they had a real scoop for the gutter press, exploited the public's credulity and trust. they succeeded in distorting a work directed towards consciousness until it was completely unrecognizable, either by making it totally absurd or by deliberately turning it into something evil.

one day mr. gurdjieff discovered a particularly shocking article, accompanied by photographs, that gave the impression that the sacred dances were somewhat suspect and even immoral. from that day on, he never allowed reporters to set foot in the prieuré again.

gurdjieff: a master in life