The only really important question in life is ” What is real spirituality and how can I get some ? “
Of course this presupposes that what most of us have had dished up as religion is a very superficial and fundamentally revised version of the real thing.
There are so many different and even conflicting religious views that we are told to respect, despite the fairly obvious observation that the vast majority of them appear to sit very comfortably with the particular interests of their owners, whether they are individuals or whole cultures.
What is clear is that the number of humans that have met a premature death as a result of the conflict between these views is a staggering indictment on the human condition.
For this and other reasons, many rational people have dismissed the whole subject of religion and spirituality as an utter illusion and deception designed entirely to control and manipulate our fellows with the threat of eternal suffering in the promised afterlife.
It is hard to see the results of religion as having much in common with the intentions of those few highly evolved beings who started most of them.
Karl Marx was famously not keen and called religion ” the opium of the masses “. But according to one spiritual teacher the whole thing was devised in order to try and get humans off the stuff in the first place.
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was an extraordinary figure who made the most challenging and controversial assessments of the human race including the idea that they invented a character called ” Mister God “.
Between 3-5 thousands years ago the people in power in a particular part of Asia became very cross that large numbers of their population were not doing the work required of them but sitting around all day eating opium poppies. After trying and failing with all kinds of methods of varying levels of brutality to force the populace to pull their fingers out, they came up with the cunning invention of ” Mister God “.
Mister God apparently lived on an island far away across the ocean, the same island to which everyone would have to go after their death.
This Mister God was very annoyed that all the people in the world were so lazy and had devised many ingenious and painful punishments to be eternally dished out as soon as they arrived.
The story succeeded and the people reluctantly went back to work. Mister God was a simple ruse, but it’s kept the vast majority of us in check for thousands of years.
The main thrust of Gurdjieff’s view of human life can be found in his first book, the intriguing but extremely challenging ” All and Everything ” which was subtitled ” Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson ”
The narrative for this was that Beelzebub, for his part in the fall and the revolution against the Almighty was banished to a remote part of the Universe and forced to spend the rest of his days on the planet Mars. His sojourn on Mars coincided with the whole period of the development of life on the neighbouring planet Earth, and he spent much of his time observing the strange beings that lived there through his telescope.
The book is set after Beelzebub has received his pardon and is flying back to the centre of the Universe in his spaceship. Beelzebub’s grandson was travelling with him and he loved nothing better than to hear stories of these peculiar Earth characters – hence the book.
Gurdjieff’s main observation is that we are all asleep, we live our lives automatically with virtually no consciousness of what we are doing or thinking from one moment to the next.
What naturally follows from this observation is that we need to wake up.
This awakening is not the kind of thing that most people talk about, which is simply the replacement of one set of opinions with another. What is actually required is a quantum jump to another level of being.
Gurdjieff’s worldview and his life’s work was all about levels. He stated that everything in the Universe including human beings operated on different levels.
Level One was a simple animalistic experience, a Two was an emotional one and Three was the intellectual realm. The vast majority of human beings function exclusively on these levels, moving between them but generally preferring one over the other. Followers of astrology would recognise in these three realms the influence of Mars, the Moon and Mercury.
Gurdjieff insisted however that these three levels were the most superficial of many and that no real human should be content with a life that functioned under such narrow limitations.
Real life existed on levels 4 – 7 and anyone wanting to understand anything would need to make profound changes to their own being in order to be able to lift themselves above levels one to three.
According to Gurdjieff it is impossible to make any statements about any subject without a reference to the level being referred to.
So in Music for example, Level One could conceivably be the kind of loud repetitive rap music whose lyrics are mainly centred on advice about beating up your bitch. Level Two could be inane love songs and so on all the way up to the kind of objective Art of Level Seven in the works of J S Bach.
But of course, all of these would be called music.
The same would apply to Art, Science and even Religion where Level One would be the kind of indoctrination that makes people go out and kill their enemies, Level Two would cover much of what happens in Churches around the world. Level Three would be the kind of stuff discussed in theological seminaries, but real Religion could only be glimpsed by beings operating on level 4 upwards.
One big problem is that people can only perceive what happens on their own level or the ones beneath it.
Gurdjieff linked this worldview to the law of octave.
The musical octave contains 8 notes, from C to the next C.
Within this however there are only 12 semitones.
Between C and D and D and E there are half notes, the black ones on the piano. There is none between E and F.
For Gurdjieff, C, D and E correspond to levels 1 – 3. Between C, D and E there are semitones or black notes that act like stepping stones enabling anyone to easily traverse these levels.
Between E and F or level 3 and 4 there is no such step and an enormous jump is required in order to reach the next levels.
The vast majority of humans never make such a jump because they do not even see the possibility or the need to make it anyway, so they remain stuck in levels 1 to 3, but the members of level 3 are utterly convinced that they have reached the highest available to human beings. The level 3 members would also look down on those struggling with level 1 or 2 as somewhat primitive and unintelligent beings.
The levels 4 – 7 would be the astrological province of the remaining 4 of the ancient planets, Venus, the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn respectively and only beings operating in these levels can truly use the energies of these planets for constructive conscious purposes.
Once an individual has made the quantum jump from E to F or level 3 to 4, the possibility of reaching towards levels 5, 6 and 7 opens up because of the semi tone stepping stones between F and G, G and A and A and B.
Level 8 would be complete enlightenment and only the very few would ever reach this stage where they become one with all of the Universe. The reason for this is that between B and top C, there is another gap with no stepping stone black note, so to make the final transition, another quantum jump is needed.
One of the problems with expounding a world view like this is that it would inevitably attract a lot of opposition from the people in the lower levels, particularly the so called clever ones of level 3.
Gurdjieff was called all kinds of things including an evil charlatan but his response was always to challenge the critics.
A favourite method of his was to ask someone to focus on the second hand of their watch, and observe it intently for a minute without any other distracting thought of any kind entering into their consciousness. Anyone with a tiniest piece of spiritual honesty would have to confess that they could not do this and therefore would have to admit to having no conscious control of their own thoughts whatsoever.
And of course this kind if experiment made the level 3 geniuses hopping mad.
Gurdjieff’s life work was to wake people up to the reality of this unfortunate state of affairs.
The most important thing was what he called ” self remembering “, the conscious and deliberate sensing and feeling of ones existence in the present moment. He set about doing this using all and every means possible.
His method of getting people to make the jump to level 4 and beyond was a combination of great conscious effort and intentional suffering. He attracted many followers who were intellectuals of the day and his way of working with many of them was to push them to make tremendous physical efforts whilst constantly drawing their attention to themselves.
A typical task would be to dig deep holes in the ground, and when this task was completed Gurdjieff would come along and berate his followers for not digging in the place he’d told them to and they had to full them all in and dig new ones ten yards away.
Students of the Zen masters will recognise the method as that used to push the Tibetan saint Milarepa towards enlightenment. The point was that the efforts made in performance of these tasks helped to focus the mind and began to develope the kinds of energy needed to make the quantum jump to a new level.
Gurdjieff came from Armenia and his own tradition was primarily Sufi although he was well versed in techniques from many esoteric Eastern traditions. He was also content to use any method imaginable to achieve his own ends to push people to wake up.
He was by any measure an extremely unusual teacher. Many of the greatest spiritual leaders have had charts that have been dominated by the Water element, particularly Cancer and Pisces. Gurdjieff’s focus on the physical body as the chief springboard for achieving lift off meant that he had to be an Earth person. His system of work on the self and the emphasis on structure and the need to evolve through effort and the climbing through many levels leaves no doubt as to his Sun sign.
Gurdjieff had four planets in Capricorn, the Sun, Jupiter, Venus and Mars. He was the ultimate spiritual pragmatist, any technique, method or means would do as long as it had the desired effect.
He was also quite an adept and skilled businessman. His fundraising tours to finance his work were marked by powerful persuasion to encourage people to part with their money particularly in America. His view of people who expected spiritual reward for free without any real effort on their part was one of undisguised contempt. He felt obliged to part them from their money for their own good because they would never value anything unless it had cost them in return.
His was the spiritual path of the Mountain Goat, but even more specifically of the assertive and physical Mars in Capricorn. Naturally its this planet that forms the basis of his T Square. Mars is opposite Uranus in the 9th house of wisdom and higher studies.
The Mars / Uranus opposition is a powerful aspect that is extremely focused on a radical path that will challenge convention and cause disruption, unsettling anyone looking for an easy comfortable existence. This opposition focuses by T square onto an apex Neptune, the planet of spirituality, a natural placing for a religious teacher. Neptune is in the dynamic and assertive sign Aries, however which says much about his approach.
Another aspect of his powerful Mars was seen in his relations with women. He had at least 7 children with different mothers and it was said that he could give a woman an orgasm from the other side of the room simply by looking at her.
There were many claims made on his behalf both positive and negative but one thing that was never in doubt was that he had a enormous capacity to manipulate his own and other people’s life energy.
Because his group of planets are clustered so closely, Gurdjieff’s T Square includes Venus, Jupiter and Mercury at the end of Sagittarius. This would mean that the key period in his life would span from 1911 when Pluto was opposite Mercury to 1927 when opposite Jupiter. This was by common consent the peak time of his life.
After years of wandering through many eastern countries in search of ancient knowledge, Gurdjieff arrived in Moscow and attracted his first students at the beginning of 1912 with Pluto opposite his Mercury. By 1916 he had 30 students including P. D. Ouspensky who wrote the most accessible explanations of his teacher’s work.
The years following the Bolshevik revolution made life difficult for Gurdjieff. Pluto was opposite his Mars from the 9th to the 3rd houses of travel as he was constantly on the move through Russia trying to find conditions where he could establish a centre for his work. In 1921 and 1922, with Pluto square to Neptune he travelled around western Europe, lecturing and giving demonstrations of his work.
Pluto was in opposition to Venus and Jupiter from 1922 to 27, as Gurdjieff established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man south of Paris at the Prieuré des Basses Loges in Fontainebleau-Avon.
In 1924, while driving alone from Paris to Fontainebleau, he had a near-fatal car accident. He made a slow and painful recovery against medical expectation. The circumstances of the accident were unusual as no other vehicle was involved and many of his followers suspected Gurdjieff had arranged it deliberately as part of his own intentional suffering to force his consciousness to a different level.
After recovering, he began work on Beelzebub’s Tales, writing in noisy cafes to force a greater effort of concentration. It is not clear when he completed the book as it was not published until 1950, after his death but it seems likely that it was finished under Pluto’s opposition to his Sun between 1931 and 34.
An interesting thing about the book was that Gurdjieff instructed the lengthy introduction to be bound separately from the rest of it. The reason for this was that it contained a warning that the contents would seriously undermine the reader’s notions about life and that it would be quite acceptable for anyone who did not wish to read further to return the book for a full refund.
He also gave advice on how to read it.
” According to the numerous deductions and conclusions made by me during experimental elucidations concerning the productivity of the perception by contemporary people of new impressions from what is heard and read, and also according to the thought of one of the sayings of popular wisdom I have just remembered, handed down to our days from very ancient times, which declares: “Any prayer may be heard by the Higher Powers and a corresponding answer obtained only if it is uttered thrice:
Firstly—for the welfare or the peace of the souls of one’s parents.
Secondly—for the welfare of one’s neighbor.
And only thirdly—for oneself personally.”
I find it necessary on the first page of this book, quite ready for publication, to give the following advice:
“Read each of my written expositions thrice:
* Firstly: at least as you have already become mechanized to read all your contemporary books and newspapers.
* Secondly: as if you were reading aloud to another person.
* And only thirdly: try and fathom the gist of my writings.
Only then will you be able to count upon forming your own impartial judgment, proper to yourself alone, on my writings. And only then can my hope be actualized that according to your understanding you will obtain the specific benefit for yourself which I anticipate, and which I wish for you with all my being.”
His language throughout is deliberately difficult because he is asking the reader to make great conscious effort even to read it. Capricorn Research has to admit to only managing to complete two readings of Beelzebub and has yet to come across anyone who has followed the above instructions to the letter.
The Gurdjieff system provides astrologers with an unanswerable riposte to any pseudo scientific attempts to knock astrology.
These people are only seeing astrology on level one or two or if they are lucky, three because that is the level of development that they themselves are stuck on.
The real astrology belongs to the levels 4 – 7 and can only be understood in part by people who have at least made an effort to get to number 4.
This is a view of things that Capricorn Research is very happy to hold. The fact that George Gurdjieff has a stellium in the sign is entirely coincidental.