George I. Gurdjieff speaks to Peter Ouspensky on the Slavery of the Masses

Peter D. Ouspensky, a Russian student of early twentieth-century teacher from Armenia c. 1870, George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, in his “In Search of the Miraculous” (1949) is in conversation. A play of the dialogue is below, including a video from the film about his life—

Meetings With Remarkable Men

G.I. Gurdjieff identified as a Christian, and called his “Fourth Way” Philosophy ‘esoteric Christianity.’

In the scene, Gurdjieff meets adepts that give him advice on the path that is helpful to us to recognize, especially about human psychology.

Peter Ouspensky asks:

“Why if ancient knowledge is preserved, why aren’t such men willing to let it pass into general circulation of life?”

This is the exact same question that plagued Gerald Massey.

Gurdjieff answered:

“The crowds neither want or seek knowledge. The leaders of the crowds in their own interests try to strengthen its fear of like and dislike of anything new and unknown. The slavery in which man-kind lives is based upon this fear. It is even difficult to imagine all the horror of this slavery. We do not understand what people are losing. To understand the cause of this slavery, it is enough to see how people live, what makes the aim of their existence, the object of their desires, passions and aspirations of what they think, of what they talk [of] and what they do, what they serve, and what they worship. (…) “What do you expect?,” said Gurdjieff. People are machines, machines have to be blind and unconscious, they cannot be otherwise. All their actions have to correspond to their nature. Everything happens, no-one does any-thing. Progress and civilization, and the real meaning of these words can only appear through the results of conscious actions. They do not appear as the result of unconscious mechanical actions. And what conscious effort can there be in machines? And if one machine is unconscious, then a hundred machines are unconscious and so are a thousand or a million. And the unconscious mechanical actions of a million machines must result in self-destruction or extermination.”

He continues in the scene:

“The next lecture began with the word “know thyself.” These words said Gurdjieff, which are generally ascribed to Socrates actually lie at the basis of many systems and schools far more ancient than the Socratic. The modern man of our times, even the man with philosophical and scientific interest does not realize that the principle “Know Thyself” speaks of the necessity of knowing ones machine, the human machine. A man does not know himself. A man is a very complex machine much more complicated than a locomotive or motor car or an aeroplane. People know nothing, or next to nothing of the structure or the working or the possibility of the machine. They do not understand the simplest functions, for they do not know the aims of these functions…”

Meetings with Remarkable Men film. Gurdjieff’s Meeting:

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