talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

toast of/to the idiots; the science of idiotism

in this ritual, introduced by gurdjieff in 1922, toasts were drunk, usually in armagnac or vodka, to a hierarchy of 'idiots' ranging from 1, ordinary idiot, to 21, the unique idiot, which was god. toasts were proposed and formally defined by a director. the toasts most often given are: (1) ordinary; (2) super, (3) arch, (4) hopeless, (5) compassionate, (6) squirming, (7) square, (8) round, (9) zigzag, (10) enlightened, (11) doubting and (12) swaggering. the remaining ones are recalled as: (13) born, (14) patented, (15) psychopathic; these idiots may involve or evolve. (i have not found a definition for 16.) [(16) polyhedral, according to marcia paul.] idiots 17 to 21 reflect gradations of objective reason: no name is given for 17, 18 is the highest that can be reached, but can only be acquired after first descending to 1 (the ordinary idiot) and re-ascending; idiots 19 and 20 were for the sons of god. this ritual may derive from the still extant georgian tradition. bennett recalls gurdjieff explaining that his 'science of idiotism' had come from a sufi community.

bennett gives 'to be oneself' as an additional meaning of the word 'idiot'. pupils had to choose their own category of idiot; the alcohol was given to strengthen the pupil's wish; a death and resurrection must be experienced in each stage of the change from one type of idiot to another. bennett recalls the 'enlightened idiot' as being the one from which conscious descent must be made. he recalls gurdjieff equating this with the saying of jesus: 'except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven'.

taylor recalls that usually seven or eight toasts were sufficient for a meal, and that the categories could vary. he understands 'idiot' as referring to:
[the] particular 'idiosyncrasy' of a person, which holds him back from 'wholeness' of being and which chains him to mechanical behavior. the number of toasts reflects the platonic scale or chain of being between god and man, that is, the orbits of the seven visible planets and the musical proportions their distance from each other describes.
taylor notes that gurdjieff's meals, a combination of 'aristocratic material and philosophical orders', resemble plato's symposium, in which the form and use of the drinking cup is a metaphysical bond with the transcendent.

nott defines gurdjieff's term 'idiotism' as coming partly from the medieval english, in the sense of 'peculiar character or genius of a language, or a deviation from its strict syntactical rules. he writes that according to gurdjieff the science of idiotism was a mirror in which a man could see himself. he gives an account of how understanding his own 'idiot' showed him his chief feature. nott recounts the difference between a subjective and objective hopeless idiot. those who work on themselves will have an honorable death, the others will 'perish like dogs'.

the ritual toast of the idiots is one of gurdjieff's teaching methods not continued by the foundations.

sophia wellbeloved, gurdjieff: the chief concepts