even more complex questions arise: how to establish a relationship with this Divinity? What does he want from man? How can man learn to know him? From philosophy to religion, from popular superstition to scientific and technical thinking, man has spent rivers of ink trying to answer all this.
On the one hand religion dogmatically claims the existence of a Divinity. God exists, according to its thesis, and man must submit to his laws. Whoever doesn't fulfil such prescriptions will face the punishment reserved for him. Religion becomes a way to save oneself from the terrible final judgement. Many Christian sects use this marketing technique to capture followers: if you feed the fear of consequences, you exalt the qualities of the remedy. If you flick through the pages of their tracts you will often find pictures similar to Dore's: men and women burning in hellfire, suffering unbearable pain and punishment. Then, at the end of the article you find a completely different picture: a wonderful garden, overlooked far away by a mountain with snow, and smiling children having fun. A caption says: do you want to live in Heaven for a thousand of years too? Under the caption you find the address of the sect. Philosophy, on the other hand, has produced so many hypotheses as to get lost in the maze of theories.
Often philosophical lectures, instead of aiming to investigate the Truth, turn into oratory shows. Science, on the other hand, has forgotten the importance of theoretical postulation and looks more and more like religion, creating dogmas and disclosing certainties. The determination of some scientific "no"s seems to be animated by the same strength as a priest exorcising demons with holy water. However, sometimes, between these three great "schools" of thought individuals emerge that don't get caught up in the net of the extreme defence of their ideas just because they are their own, servants of knowledge, and not of their own merits. Among them we can pick out religious men who, even if they remain externally faithful to their Church, can see its faults, and move ahead, perhaps secretly, with broader ideas. We also find philosophers of life, and not just of pure thought, who understand the limits of thoughts that think about themselves.
We also find several scientists who perceive the limits of their knowledge and don't burst with pride at their certainties. It is not just form or intellectual habit which makes them claim what Nietzsche said during the nineteenth century: "Learned persons correctly judge that men from all times have believed that they know right from wrong, praiseworthy from blameworthy. But it is a prejudice of learned persons to believe that we now know it better than at any other time". Getting into the specifics, we can also include George Ivanovich Gurdjieff among these great men.
He was born in 1869 in Alexandropol (Russian Armenia) from a humble family. In that difficult environment, and from a very young age, he posed those questions that have always grasped man. When he was old enough, he left his family and began research that took him to many different places in the Middle East, the same places where Jesus and Mohammed had walked; he then moved further and further east to the area of Buddha.
He came into contact with small groups, schools of thought between philosophy and religion, and he recognised in their background a central corpus of knowledge. He realized that religions, in their original form and appearance, uncorrupted by successive interpretations, tried not only to give theological and mythological explanations but also had practical targets for the development of man. A sort of concrete knowledge, which could be used by whoever had control of it and would permit the development of new levels of consciousness. Gurdjieff rejected purely theoretical answers, and began to experiment these systems practically, passing from one Master to another and gathering experience.
After years of this "learning" he exclaimed: “What is the Divine Conscience?” It is too high and theoretical a level for the man who is unable to be conscious of himself and the present! It is necessary, above all, to learn to be more alive here, in the only world that we know (the material one). How can the man of the third millennium, who is growing more and more machine-like and less and less individual, broach the question of the Transcendent? Man is incapable of sensing the beauty of a rising sun, of a blooming rose, how will he ever know the eternity of the fleeting moment? Will the man who doesn't know himself ever be able to be conscious? If you are not aware of how short your life is, how will you ever be aware of the eternity of the Universe?
Gurdjieff's work on man includes the spheres of personality both on an emotional and psychomotor level. It's a de-structuring and, at the same time, structuring course, which aims at the acquisition of a higher level of attention. Gurdjieff defines this "attention" beautifully, as "Memory of oneself", a poetic lyricism which invites us to a life where the "self" is placed in the middle, where dynamics of everyday life are put back in their right place.
We must place Remembering Ourselves first of all, before even other people, before the external view, before moral and imposed ethics. To remember ourselves, to realise how we live in a total lack of perception of the body and of logical-emotional processes. To perceive ourselves in the surrounding space, to feel ourselves even before we feel.
Several articles, texts, and university theses have been written about Gurdjieff. However, all these words will never succeed in showing us his capacity to create innovation in the soul of those who asked for his help. He saw the lies we often hide behind. He had the ability to let the house of cards of our false securities fall down and to point out where it was necessary to work to strengthen our essence. Today we can no longer know the greatness of this character; his books are only a pale reflection of him. The Art of understanding hearts is an ability, not a scientific doctrine printed in a book. His example, in having started a journey, should help us all. Because even if Gurdjieff is dead now, the heirs of the Tradition from which he drew are still alive.
Will we be up to replacing the brochures of spirituality and starting the journey too? Will we have the courage to believe that we can find answers? Will the examples of the Greats of the past who began this journey before us be sufficient to restore us? The quality of our questions has changed.
Will they remain eternally unsolved as well?
To each his/her own answer.