talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

shadows of heaven
paul beekman taylor

life with gurdjieff was like being somewhere in the midst of a three-ring circus, with too many things going on at once to know where one stood or what one was to see. no wonder so many people seemed unaware of the presence of anyone else in the group except themselves and gurdjieff, who played clown and trickster. everything he said could be taken as a joke, an absurdity, or a profound observation in disguise; and yet al the serious pupils were stone-faced and tense in his presence. they were either afraid or unsure of themselves, whether even to laugh at gurdjieff's jokes; and, above all, gurdjieff had an enormous sense of humor, an appreciation of the absurd he found and even incited all about him. as for myself, i little understood his method and faintly heard his message, but i was intrigued by both his performance and the different reactions of others to it.

i had only one other private conversation with him that summer, and that by accident, but it did give me a glimmer of something that i hadn't in the least perceived earlier. i was on my way down the rue d'armaille toward the avenue des ternes early the morning after tania left, and noticed him sitting alone at a café by the corner. he saw me and beckoned me to sit down with him and have a coffee. he asked me softly if i had enjoyed my summer, and i replied with the usual banalities, but added, again, that i was learning a lot about life. he smiled and asked what i was learning. i said i couldn't really say, but i was seeing and hearing new things. then i asked out loud what i had for some time been repeating to myself, assuming that gurdjieff had the powers so many attributed to him, "how do you put up with so many people about you who seem so shallow?" very slowly he lifted his head and looked at me with his deep eyes. no smile.

"these 'people' you call, 'idiots' you want to say, you think they come only listen to me, hear what i know? no. what i know? i know how teach them listen to themselves. they listen radio, phonograph, love-song, typewriter, and forget listen to self. i not hear them, so i not tell them what in them they hear. i only teach them remember what they forget. i teach them hear the music in them. you americans, you like noise. you jabber. you wiseacre. like donkeys, you make noise and say nothing, because you listen to things outside, like own noise eating.

you sit with me and eat, you sit and listen to readings, listen my music, do movements. maybe you hear something, maybe not. all these people come listen. some hear, some not. what is hear? i tell you. when you do movements, you listen to music. you move to music. you think about movements and you think about music. you do this every day. one day you do movements and hear music without listening. you hear it from inside when no music playing outside. this take a long time, hard work. you do same movement and listen to same music until you no longer hear or feel with body but with consciousness. then, you on higher level. it is same with reading book. you understand inside when you know outside.

outside is noise of world. inside is music self."