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Soon more English people, sent by Ouspensky, came from London. At
the same time Katherine Mansfield also arrived. The English asked
Mr Gurdjieff some questions. It is interesting to see which questions
concerned them most at that time. Orage and I interpreted for Mr
Gurdjieff and recorded the questions and answers as follows:
Question 1: Has Mr Gurdjieff’s educational system produced a example
of the type of man that he wishes to develop?
Answer: With regard to the results achieved by pupils here during this
short period of time, first of all we can note:
1. Improvement in their health. That means that there was established
a basis to improve their future health from the chronic diseases that
they had. The following can serve as examples: improvement from
obesity, the strengthening of their weak memories and bringing in
order their disordered nerves.
2. The second result is the enlargement of their horizons. In general,
people have a very narrow outlook on life; it is as if they wear blinkers
which prevent them from seeing more. Here, thanks to a great variety
of new conditions of work, and thanks to many other things, this field
of view is enlarged, as if a new horizon is acquired.
3. A new interest has been created. The majority of people who came
here had quite lost any interest in, and for, life. This is also because
they had such a narrow outlook on life. Here, a new interest is born
for them. (This result had to be stressed as the most important, Mr
Gurdjieff said.) It is possible to list a thousand examples of results
acquired by people from being here, but most of the results would
come from these three fundamental ones; that is why it is not
important to list them.
Since the Institute has been in existence for a very short time, it is only
recently that some pupils have emerged who measure up to the results
I expected. But generally speaking there are no limits for selfperfecting, and so each attainment is only a temporary state. People in
their outer life are not tied to the Institute. They can play any social
role, fulfil any job, have any occupation that occurs in life. Many
people live their own independent life and Work at the same time.
The difference lies only in that if, before, someone was a good
shoemaker, by becoming a pupil of the Institute and continuing to
learn, he will become a different shoemaker; if someone was a priest,
he will become a different priest.
Question 2: How do you explain the despair that some pupils of the
Institute fall into in the beginning?
Answer: There exists a principle in the Institute about which I will tell
you at once, and then this period of despair will begin to be quite clear
to you. A man generally lives with a ‘foreign’ mind. He has not his
own opinion and is under the influence of everything that others tell
him. (The example was given of a man who thinks badly of another
person only because someone else has said bad things about that
person.) In the Institute you have to learn how to live with your own
mind, how to be active, to develop your own individuality. Here in the
Institute many people come only on account of their ‘foreign’ mind;
they have no interest of their own in the Work at all. That is why
when a man arrives at the Institute, difficult conditions are created and
all sorts of traps laid for him intentionally, so that he himself can find
out whether he came because of his own interest or only because he
heard about the interest of others. Can he, disregarding the outside
difficulties that are made for him, continue to work for the main aim?
And does this aim exist within him? When the need for these artificial
difficulties is over, then they are no longer created for him. The
periods of despair in life are the result of the same cause. The man
lives with a ‘foreign’ mind and his interest arises accidentally, owing to
some outside influence. As long as the influence continues, the man
seems quite satisfied. But when, for some reason or other, the outside
influence ceases, his interest loses all meaning and he falls into despair.
What is his own, and cannot be taken away from him and is always his
- this does not yet exist. Only when this begins to exist, is it possible
for these periods of despair to disappear.
Question 3: Does Mr Gurdjieff view the Institute as something
experimental. That is, is one of Mr Gurdjieffs aims the acquiring of
some knowledge through the Institute? Or is it the putting into
practice of a system that he has already completed during his life?
Answer: The putting into practice of a system I completed during my
life, but at the same time there are also other aims.
Question 4: Why does Mr Gurdjieff put so much emphasis on physical
work? Is it temporary or permanent?
Answer: Temporary. For most of the people now gathered in the
Institute, the physical work is indispensable, but it is only a period of
the whole plan of the Work.
Question 5: Is the attainment of any kind of occult possibilities one of
the subjects of this ‘education’?
Answer: Truth is one. It existed always and is as old as the world itself.
In distant times there existed a real knowledge, but owing to all kinds
of life circumstances, political and economic, it was lost and only
fragments of it remain. These remains I collected with other people.
We learned of them and found them through people, monuments,
customs, literature, our own experiments, comparisons and so on.
Question 6: What is the origin of this system? Has Mr Gurdjieff
personally acquired it? Or has it been transmitted to him? Here, Mr
Gurdjieff did not answer. (I wish to say that Mr Gurdjieff s silence was
not meant to avoid the question. It was obvious that he felt that the
question had already been answered in other words.)
Question 7: What does Mr Gurdjieff hope to do in Europe? What is
his opinion about the value of Western science? Why has Mr
Gurdjieff chosen Paris?
Answer: I chose Paris because it is a centre of Europe and I have
thought for a long time that an Institute was necessary here. It is only
political circumstances that have held that up for two years. From the
West I wished to take the knowledge that the East could not give me.
From the East I took theory; from the West, practice. That which is in
the East did not exist in the West and vice versa. That is why each
alone has no value. Together they complete each other.
Question 8: What made Mr Gurdjieff choose his pupils? Did he think
he would produce teachers from some of them? Can they begin to be
as he is?
Answer: Each pupil is a teacher to the one who stands lower than he.
Everybody can become like me only if they wish to suffer and work as
Question 9: Is Mr Gurdjieff alone in this undertaking, or is he a part of
an already existing group?
Answer: Alone. All of my doings are personal. Those who came before
are scattered around the world and I have lost contact with them.
Question 10: Does the teaching of Mr Gurdjieff form part of some
historical school still in existence? Was the knowledge that he
possesses ever the property of a ruling caste? And was there any kind
of civilization founded on it? For example, was there in India a
government in the hands of people who wished to put into practice
the ideas of Mr Gurdjieff?
Answer: Tibet is an example where, ten years ago, all government was
in the hands of the monks. But they couldn’t put my ideas into
practice, because my teaching was not known to them. My teaching is
my own. It combines all the evidence of ancient truth that I collected
in my travels with all the knowledge that I have acquired through my
own personal work.
Question 11: What is Mr Gurdjieffs doctrine about Necessity, Free
Will and Death? Can people in general become immortal or only
some of them? For those who have not acquired immortality, what
will happen to them? Does there exist for them something like
reincarnation or eternal recurrence?
Answer: Yes and no. Those people who have a soul are immortal, but
not everyone has a soul. A man is born without a soul, with only the
possibility of acquiring one, and he has to earn it during his lifetime.
For those who have not acquired a soul, nothing happens to them.
They live and they die. Individuals die, but the atoms live because in
the world nothing ceases to live. But even immortal souls exist in
different stages. Full immortality is quite unique.
In general, in his discussions with us Mr Gurdjieff never used the word ‘soul’.
He referred only to a ‘something’. However, in his discussion with these new
people, it was necessary for him to use words that they would understand and
for that reason he used the word ‘soul’.
Source: Thomas & Olga de Hartmann - Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff
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