George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was a Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher of the early to mid-20th century who taught The Fourth Way.
His teachings focused on how to overcome the unconsciousness that humanity experiences in their lives so we can reach a higher state of consciousness and become fully realized in our potential.
The Fourth Way he called “The Work” which he taught to be a new way to awaken that did not require one to withdraw from society the way the other three ways do.
- The 1st way – The way of the Fakir. By overcoming the physical body we can attain something permanent.
- The 2nd way – The way of the Monk. By intensive work on emotions we can attain something higher.
- The 3rd way – The way of the Yogi. By working with our intellect we can attain a higher level of consciousness.
The Fourth Way is a way of seeking higher knowledge and a higher level of consciousness without having to withdraw from life, but while your outer life remains exactly the same. All work takes place on the inside and is not noticed by those around you.
“Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.”
This is the inner work of the Fourth Way which focuses on the 3 centers of humanity – instinctive, emotional and intellectual.
His concept of humanity stands against the grain of our commonly held beliefs about the soul in Western culture. He believed we are not born with a soul, but we have the potential to develop a soul in our lifetime through our efforts.
Gurjieff’s intention through his teachings was to awaken people to the truth of ancient spiritual teachings which have been lost through time. He asserted that humanity had become automated, unthinking and easily controlled by outside ideas and in the process lost the true essence of the self within. His intention then was for humanity to become fully aware of ourselves as conscious, decisive beings capable of reaching our highest human potential.
“Knowledge can be acquired by a suitable and complete study, no matter what the starting point is. Only one must know how to ‘learn.’ What is nearest to us is man; and you are the nearest of all men to yourself. Begin with the study of yourself; remember the saying ‘Know thyself.”
“Man has no individual i. But there are, instead, hundreds and thousands of separate small “i”s, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible. Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking, “i”. And each time his i is different. just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly. Man is a plurality. Man’s name is legion.”
~ George Ivanovich Gurdjieff – 1866-1949. Philosopher, spiritual teacher.