talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

glimpses of truth - 1

written by one of gurdjieff's circle in moscow, 1914

strange events, incomprehensible from the ordinary point of view, have guided my life. i mean those events which influence a man's inner life, radically changing its direction and aim and creating new epochs in it. i call them incomprehensible because their connection was clear only to me. it was as though some invisible person, in pursuit of a definite aim, had placed in the path of my life circumstance which, at the very moment of my need, i found there as if by chance. guided by such events, i became accustomed from my early years to look with great penetration into the circumstances surrounding me and to try to grasp the principle connecting them, and to find in their interrelations a broader, more complete explanation. i must say that in every exterior result it was the hidden cause evoking it that interested me most.

one day in the course of my life, in this same apparently strange way, i found myself face to face with occultism, and became interested in it as though in a deep and harmonious philosophical system. but at the very moment when i had reached something more than mere interest, i again lost, as suddenly as i had found it, the possibility of proceeding with its systematic study. in other words, i was thrown entirely on my own resources. this loss seemed a senseless failure, but i later recognized in it a necessary stage in the course of my life and one full of deep meaning. this recognition came only much later, however. i did not deviate but went forward on my own responsibility and at my own risk. insuperable obstacles confronted me, forcing me to retreat. vast horizons opened to my vision and as i hastened forward i often slipped or became entangled. losing, as it seemed, what i had discovered, i remained wandering round on the same spot, as though fogbound. in searching i made many efforts and did apparently useless work, rewarded inadequately by results. today, i see that no effort went unrewarded and that every mistake served to guide me toward the truth.

i plunged into the study of occult literature, and without exaggeration can say that i not only read but mastered patiently and perseveringly the greater part of the available material, trying to grasp the sense and to understand what was hidden between the lines. all this only served to convince me that i would never succeed in finding what i sought in books: though i glimpsed the outlines of a majestic structure, i could not see it clearly and distinctly.

i searched for those who might have interests in common with me. some seemed to have found something, but on closer examination i saw that they, like myself, were groping in the dark. i still hoped in the end to find what i needed; i looked for a living man, able to give me more than i could find in a book. perseveringly and obstinately i sought and, after each failure, hope revived again and led me to a new search. with this in view i visited egypt, india and other countries. among those encountered were many who left no trace, but some were of great importance.

several years passed; among my acquaintances i counted some to whom, by the community of our interests, i was bound more durably. one in close touch with me was a certain a. the two of us had spent not a few sleepless nights, racking our brains over several passages in a book we did not understand and searching for appropriate explanations. in this way we had come to know each other intimately.

but during the last six months i had begun to notice, first at rare intervals, and then more frequently, something odd about him. it was not that he had turned his back on me, but he had seemed to grow cooler toward the search, which had not ceased to be vital to me. at the same time i saw he had not forgotten it. he often expressed thoughts and made comments which became fully comprehensible only after long reflection. i remarked on it more than once, but he always skillfully avoided conversations on this subject.

i must confess that this growing indifference of a., who had been the constant companion of my work, led to gloomy reflections. once i spoke to him openly about it—i scarcely remember in which way.

"who told you," objected a., "that i am deserting you? wait a little and you will see clearly that you are mistaken."

but for some reason neither these remarks, nor some others which at the time seemed strange to me, caught my interest. perhaps because i was occupied in reconciling myself to the idea of my complete isolation.

so it continued. it is only now that i see how, in spite of an apparent capacity for observation and analysis, i overlooked the main factor, continually before my eyes, in a way which was unpardonable. but let the facts speak for themselves.