The Fourth Way teaching was introduced to Europe and America by Gurdjieff in the early twentieth century and has been transmitted and taken up by a variety of pupils and work groups. Bardic Press has published Fritz Peters’ evocative memoirs of Gurdjieff, Bob Hunter’s definitive biography of P.D. Ouspensky, Don’t Forget, and will publish the first full biography of Rodney Collin, one of Ouspensky’s most notable pupils.
An Anthology of Quotations on The Fourth Way and Esoteric Christianity
“What is the relation of the teaching you are expounding to Christianity as we know it?” asked somebody present.
“I do not know what you know about Christianity,” answered G., emphasizing this word. “It would be necessary to talk a great deal and to talk for a long time in order to make clear what you understand by this term. But for the benefit of those who know already, I will say that, if you like, this is esoteric Christianity. We will talk in due course about the meaning of these words. At present we will continue to discuss our questions. ”
This often quoted passage is the most straightforward thing that Gurdjieff ever said about Christianity, and the phrase esoteric Christianity is still the best way to describe the relationship between the Fourth Way and Christianity. Gurdjieff was not the first to use this term, as it was current in the theosophical movement of the time, Annie Besant having published a book entitled “Esoteric Christianity.”
In the passage preceding this, Gurdjieff characteristically turns the idea of being a Christian on its head:
“First of all it is necessary to understand that a Christian is not a man who calls himself a Christian or whom others call a Christian. A Christian is one who lives in accordance with Christ’s precepts. Such as we are we cannot be Christians. In order to be Christians we must be able ‘to do.’ We cannot do; with us everything ‘happens.’ Christ says: ‘Love your enemies,’ but how can we love our enemies when we cannot even love our friends? Sometimes ‘it loves’ and sometimes ‘it does not love.’ Such as we are we cannot even really desire to be Christians because, again, sometimes ‘it desires’ and sometimes ‘it does not desire.’ And one and the same thing cannot be desired for long, because suddenly, instead of desiring to be a Christian, a man remembers a very good but very expensive carpet that he has seen in a shop. And instead of wishing to be a Christian he begins to think how he can manage to buy this carpet, forgetting all about Christianity. Or if somebody else does not believe what a wonderful Christian he is, he will be ready to eat him alive or to roast him on hot coals. In order to be a good Christian one must be. To be means to be master of oneself. If a man is not his own master he has nothing and can have nothing. And he cannot be a Christian. He is simply a machine, an automaton. A machine cannot be a Christian. Think for yourselves, is it possible for a motorcar or a typewriter or a gramophone to be Christian? They are simply things which are controlled by chance. They are not responsible. They are machines. To be a Christian means to be responsible. Responsibility comes later when a man even partially ceases to be a machine, and begins in fact, and not only in words, to desire to be a Christian.”
Gurdjieff had unusual views of many aspects of Christianity, including its origin. The following passage claims that the Christianity church took its form from an ancient Egyptian form that predates even what we know of Egypt. What he says is not historically verifiable, but Egypt certainly had a large part to play in the early centuries of Christianity.
“Generally speaking we know very little about Christianity and the form of Christian worship; we know nothing at all of the history and origin of a number of things. For instance, the church, the temple in which gather the faithful and in which services are carried out according to special rites; where was this taken from? Many people do not think about this at all. Many people think that the outward form of worship, the rites, the singing of canticles, and so on, were invented by the fathers of the church. Others think that this outward form has been taken partly from pagan religions and partly from the Hebrews. But all of it is untrue. The question of the origin of the Christian church, that is, of the Christian temple, is much more interesting than we think. To begin with, the church and worship in the form which they took in the first centuries of Christianity could not have been borrowed from paganism because there was nothing like it either in the Greek or Roman cults or in Judaism. The Jewish synagogue, the Jewish temple, Greek and Roman temples of various gods, were something quite different from the Christian church which made its appearance in the first and second centuries. The Christian church is—a school concerning which people have forgotten that it is a school. Imagine a school where the teachers give lectures and perform explanatory demonstrations without knowing that these are lectures and demonstrations; and where the pupils or simply the people who come to the school take these lectures and demonstrations for ceremonies, or rites, or ‘sacraments,’ i.e., magic. This would approximate to the Christian church of our times.
“The Christian church, the Christian form of worship, was not invented by the fathers of the church. It was all taken in a ready-made form from Egypt, only not from the Egypt that we know but from one which we do not know. This Egypt was in the same place as the other but it existed much earlier. Only small bits of it survived in historical times, and these bits have been preserved in secret and so well that we do not even know where they have been preserved.
“It will seem strange to many people when I say that this prehistoric Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ, that is to say, that its religion was composed of the same principles and ideas that constitute true Christianity. Special schools existed in this prehistoric Egypt which were called ‘schools of repetition.’ In these schools a public repetition was given on definite days, and in some schools perhaps even every day, of the entire course in a condensed form of the sciences that could be learned at these schools. Sometimes this repetition lasted a week or a month. Thanks to these repetitions people who had passed through this course did not lose their connection with the school and retained in their memory all they had learned. Sometimes they came from very far away simply in order to listen to the repetition and went away feeling their connection with the school. There were special days of the year when the repetitions were particularly complete, when they were carried out with particular solemnity—and these days themselves possessed a symbolical meaning.
“These ‘schools of repetition’ were taken as a model for Christian churches—the form of worship in Christian churches almost entirely represents the course of repetition of the science dealing with the universe and man. Individual prayers, hymns, responses, all had their own meaning in this repetition as well as holidays and all religious symbols, though their meaning has been forgotten long ago.”
Continuing, G. quoted some very interesting examples of the explanations of various parts of orthodox liturgy. Unfortunately no notes were made at the time and I will not undertake to reconstruct them from memory. The idea was that, beginning with the first words, the liturgy so to speak goes through the process of creation, recording all its stages and transitions. What particularly astonished me in G.’s explanations was the extent to which so much has been preserved in its pure form and how little we understand of all this. His explanations differed very greatly from the usual theological and even from mystical interpretations. And the principal difference was that he did away with a great many allegories. I mean to say that it became obvious from his explanations that we take many things for allegories in which there is no allegory whatever and which ought to be understood much more simply and psychologically.
While Gurdjieff “did away with many allegories” in his explanation of Christian rites, he certainly accepted that Christianity made use of symbolic forms.
There was yet another drawing of the enneagram which was made under his direction in Constantinople in the year 1920. In this drawing inside the enneagram were shown the four beasts of the Apocalypse—the bull, the lion, the man, and the eagle—and with them a dove. These additional symbols were connected with “centers.”
Though he did not say a great deal about the interpretation of the gospels, we do have some of his comments:
“The comparison of a man to a house awaiting the arrival of the master is frequently met with in Eastern teachings which have preserved traces of ancient knowledge, and, as we know, the subject appears under various forms in many of the parables in the Gospels.
“There is nothing new in the idea of sleep. People have been told almost since the
creation of the world that they are asleep and that they must awaken. How many times is this said in the Gospels, for instance? ‘Awake,’ ‘watch,’ ‘sleep not.’ Christ’s disciples even slept when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane for the last time. It is all there. But do men understand it? Men take it simply as a form of speech, as an expression, as a metaphor. They completely fail to understand that it must be taken literally. And again it is easy to understand why. In order to understand this literally it is necessary to awaken a little, or at least to try to awaken. I tell you seriously that I have been asked several times why nothing is said about sleep in the Gospels, although it is there spoken of almost on every page. This simply shows that people read the Gospels in sleep. So long as a man sleeps profoundly and is wholly immersed in dreams he cannot even think about the fact that he is asleep. If he were to think that he was asleep, he would wake up. So everything goes on. And men have not the slightest idea what they are losing because of this sleep.
Undoubtedly the most controversial of Gurdjieff’s statements concerning Christianity was his explanation of the Last Supper.
“For instance, in all the denominations of Christianity a great part is played by the tradition of the Last Supper of Christ and his disciples. Liturgies and a whole series of dogmas, rites, and sacraments are based upon it. This has been a ground for schism, for the separation of churches, for the formation of sects; how many people have perished because they would not accept this or that interpretation of it. But, as a matter of fact, nobody understands what this was precisely, or what was done by Christ and his disciples that evening. There exists no explanation that even approximately resembles the truth, because what is written in the Gospels has been, in the first place, much distorted in being copied and translated; and secondly, it was written for those who know. To those who do not know it can explain nothing, but the more they try to understand it, the deeper they are led into error.
“To understand what took place at the Last Supper it is first of all necessary to know certain laws.
“You remember what I said about the ‘astral body’? Let us go over it briefly. People who have an ‘astral body’ can communicate with one another at a distance without having recourse to ordinary physical means. But for such communication to be possible they must establish some ‘connection’ between them. For this purpose when going to different places or different countries people sometimes take with them something belonging to another, especially things that have been in contact with his body and are permeated with his emanations, and so on. In the same way, in order to maintain a connection with a dead person, his friends used to keep objects which had belonged to him. These things leave, as it were, a trace behind them, something like invisible wires or threads which remain stretched out through space. These threads connect a given object with the person, living or in certain cases dead, to whom the object belonged. Men have known this from the remotest antiquity and have made various uses of this knowledge.
“Traces of it may be found among the customs of many peoples. You know, for instance, that several nations have the custom of blood-brotherhood. Two men, or several men, mix their blood together in the same cup and then drink from this cup. After that they are regarded as brothers by blood. But the origin of this custom lies deeper. In its origin it was a magical ceremony for establishing a connection between ‘astral bodies.’ Blood has special qualities. And certain peoples, for instance the Jews, ascribed a special significance of magical properties to blood. Now, you see, if a connection between ‘astral bodies’ had been established, then again according to the beliefs of certain nations it is not broken by death.
“Christ knew that he must die. It had been decided thus beforehand. He knew it and his disciples knew it. And each one knew what part he had to play. But at the same time they wanted to establish a permanent link with Christ. And for this purpose he gave them his blood to drink and his flesh to eat. It was not bread and wine at all, but real flesh and real blood.
“The Last Supper was a magical ceremony similar to ‘blood-brotherhood’ for establishing a connection between ‘astral bodies.’ But who is there who knows about this in existing religions and who understands what it means? All this has been long forgotten and everything has been given quite a different meaning. The words have remained but their meaning has long been lost.”
This lecture and particularly its ending provoked a great deal of talk in our groups. Many were repelled by what G. said about Christ and the Last Supper; others, on the contrary, felt in this a truth which they never could have reached by themselves.
In Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, Gurdjieff repeats this and takes it a little further, transforming the figure of Judas into a loyal disciple who sacrificed himself to save Christ’s mission.
“And this came about because, thanks as always to the abnormally established conditions of ordinary existence, their being-mentation began to function without any participation of their ‘localization of feeling’ or, in their terminology, their ‘feeling center,’ and thus finally became completely automatized.
“Hence, during all this time, in order to be able to make anything clear to themselves, even approximately, or explain it to others, they have automatically been compelled to invent, and go on inventing, a great many almost meaningless words for things and also for ideas, great and small, and so their mentation has gradually begun to function, as I have just said, according to the principle of ‘chainonizironness.’ ‘
“Well, it is with this kind of mentation that your contemporary favorites try to decipher and understand a text written in the ‘imagonisirian’ manner for the mentation of beings who were contemporaries of the divine Jesus Christ.
“In this connection, my boy, I must explain a certain fact, absurd to the highest degree and in the objective sense blasphemous, so that you may see more clearly the real nothingness of their Holy Writ, which has become
particularly widely spread among your favorites since their last process of reciprocal destruction, and in which, as you may already surmise, there is everything you please except reality and truth.
“I will tell you in particular about what is said in this Holy Writ, which has supposedly reached them in an unchanged form, about the most important, most reasonable, and most devoted of all the beings directly initiated by this Sacred Individual or, as they would say, about one of his ‘apostles.’
“This devoted and beloved apostle, initiated by Jesus Christ, was named Judas.
“Anyone wishing to draw knowledge of the truth from the present version of this Holy Writ will arrive at the conviction, which will become fixed in his essence, that this Judas was the basest of all conceivable beings, and a conscienceless, doublefaced traitor.
“But in fact, not only was this Judas the most faithful and devoted of all the close followers of Jesus Christ, but it was solely thanks to his Reason and presence of mind that all the acts of this Sacred Individual could produce that
result which, if it did not lead to the total destruction of the consequences of the properties of the organ kundabuffer in these unfortunate three-brained beings, was nevertheless, during twenty centuries, the source of nourishment
and inspiration for the majority of them, and made their desolate existence at least a little endurable.
“In order that you may represent more clearly to yourself the genuine individuality of this Judas and the significance of his manifestation, you should also know that when the Sacred Individual, Jesus Christ, intentionally
actualized in a planetary body of a terrestrial being, was completely formed for responsible existence, he decided to carry out the mission imposed on him from Above to enlighten the Reason of these three-brained terrestrial beings
by means of twelve beings chosen from different types, initiated and prepared by him personally.
“But at the very peak of his divine activities, before having fulfilled his intention, that is, before having had time to explain certain cosmic truths and give the required instructions for the future, he was compelled by circumstances independent of him to allow the premature cessation of his planetary existence to take place.
“He therefore decided, together with the twelve terrestrial beings he had intentionally initiated, to have recourse to the sacred sacrament of almtznoshinoo—the actualization of which was already well known to them, as they had already acquired in their presences all the data for its fulfillment—so that he should have the possibility, while he was still in that cosmic individual state, to finish the work of preparation, according to the plan he had designed for accomplishing the mission assigned to him from Above.
“But, my boy, when they had decided on this and were ready to begin the preliminary preparations required for this sacred sacrament, they saw that it was utterly impossible because it was too late, they were already surrounded
by beings called ‘guards,’ and their arrest, with everything that would follow, was expected at any moment.
“And it was just here that Judas intervened.
“This future saint, the inseparable and devoted helper of Jesus Christ, who is ‘hated’ and ‘cursed’ owing to the naive stupidity of the peculiar three-brained beings of your planet, then rendered his great objective service for which
terrestrial three-brained beings of all subsequent generations should be grateful.
“The wise and onerous initiative that he took upon himself with disinterested devotion was that at the moment of despair, on ascertaining that it was impossible to fulfill the required preparation for carrying out the sacred
almtznoshinoo, this Judas, now a saint, leaped to his feet and hurriedly said:
‘I will go and do everything necessary so that you have the possibility to fulfill this sacred preparation without hindrance Meanwhile, set to work at once. ‘
“Having said this, he approached Jesus Christ and, after speaking with him aside for a few moments, he received his blessing and hurriedly left.
“Thus the others were able to complete without hindrance everything necessary for the accomplishment of the sacred process of almtznoshinoo.
“After what I have just said, you will doubtless understand how the terrestrial three-brained beings of the two types I described distort every truth, for their various egoistic aims, and have done so to such an extent that in the
case of Judas, now a saint, thanks to whom alone they have benefited for twenty centuries from a blessed hearth of tranquility in the midst of their desolate existence, there has been crystallized in the presence of beings of all
later generations this unprecedentedly unjust representation.
“I think myself that if Judas was portrayed in their Holy Writ in this way, it may have been because it was necessary for someone or other belonging to the mentioned types to belittle for a certain purpose the significance of Jesus
“That is to say, it would make him appear so naive, so unable to feel and see beforehand, in a word, so unperfected that, in spite of knowing this Judas and existing with him for so long, he failed to sense and be aware that this
nearest disciple of his was a perfidious traitor, who would sell him for thirty worthless pieces of silver.
I must admit that Gurdjieff’s view of Judas hasn’t helped me to understand the gospels, but it’s certainly startling. Gurdjieff maintained this view of Judas to the end of his life, so he presumably felt there was more to it than its shock value. On the other hand, he ends the account with a tease:
“… moreover it will be particularly interesting and instructive for you to know that part of the history of Saint Jesus Christ which relates to the period of his existence there from the age of twelve to the age of twenty-eight, according to their time-calculation. “
But he never actually gets round to telling us this story. Robert de Ropp describes Gurdjieff introducing a piece of music with, “This music I play you now come from Essene monastery where Jesus Christ spent from eighteenth to thirtieth year.” And in Meetings With remarkable Men he recounts, “I had been among the Essenes, most of whom are Jews, and that by means of very ancient Hebraic music and songs they had made plants grow in half an hour, and I described in detail how they had done this.”
His friend Bogachevsky, or Father Evlissi became ”assistant to the abbot of the chief
monastery of the Essene Brotherhood, situated not far from the shores of the Dead Sea.
This brotherhood was founded, according to certain surmises, twelve hundred years before the Birth of Christ; and it is said that in this brotherhood Jesus Christ received his first initiation.
While Gurdjieff surely did meet with sources of ancient wisdom, he’s bamboozling us here. He also mentions that the order had a branch in Egypt. The connections of the Essenes with the Dead Sea and Egypt come straight from the writings of Pliny and Philo which, unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi Library, were quite available.
Before he met Gurdjieff, Ouspensky had already used passages from the Bible as springboards for his thought in Tertium Organum. Although he developed his ideas much further, his most sustained treatment of Christianity was in A New Model of the Universe.
“Nor will esoteric ideas, that is, ideas coming from higher mind, say much to a
logical man. He will ask, for instance: “Where are the proofs that the Gospels were
written by people of higher mind?”
Where indeed are the proofs? They are there, everywhere, in every line and in every word, but only for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. But the logical mind can neither see nor hear beyond a very small radius or the most elementary things.
An entire chapter of A New Model was devoted to the study of the New Testament. He restricts himself to the gospels and revelation, regarding the letters of Paul as a falling away from the initial esoteric impulse of Christianity:
The Acts and the Epistles are works of a quite different specific gravity from the four Gospels. In them esoteric ideas are met, but these ideas do not occupy in them a predominant place, and they could exist without these ideas.
The four Gospels are written for the few, for the very few, for the pupils of esoteric schools. However intelligent and educated in the ordinary sense a man may be, he will not understand the Gospels without special indications and without special esoteric knowledge.
At the same time it is necessary to note that the four Gospels are the sole source from which we know of Christ and of his teaching. The Acts and the ” Epistles ” of the Apostles add several essential features, but they also introduce a great deal that does not exist in the Gospels and that contradicts the Gospels. In any case from the Epistles it would not be possible to reconstruct either the person of Christ, or the Gospel drama, or the essence of the Gospel teaching.
The Epistles of the Apostles, and especially the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, are the building of the Church. They are the adaptation of the ideas of the Gospels, the materialisation of them, the application of them to life, very often an application which goes against the esoteric idea.
The addition of the Acts and the Epistles to the four Gospels in the New Testament has a dual meaning. First (from the point of view of the Church), it gives the possibility to the Church, which in fact originates from the Epistles, to establish connection with the Gospels and with the ” drama of Christ “. And, second, (from the point of view of esotericism) it gives the possibility to a few men, who begin with Church Christianity, but are capable of understanding the esoteric idea, to come into touch with the first source and perhaps to succeed in finding the hidden truth. Historically the chief role in the formation of Christianity was played not by the
teaching of Christ but by the teaching of Paul.
I do feel that Ouspensky does Paul a disservice here. Paul’s letters are the oldest Christian writings, predating the gospels by between one and five decades, while Acts uses the same esoteric techniques as the four gospels.
Ouspensky’s essay provides a fairly radical look at the gospels, from his statements that they were written much later than is generally thought, and not by the disciples whose names are assigned to them, to his assertion that features of the life of Jesus are taken from the life of Moses (extremely probable) and the life of Buddha (rather unlikely.) Ouspensky tends to state everything, and I do wish that he had given a few more reasons along the way. He views Matthew as the earliest gospel, being used by Mark and Luke as material for their own gospels: this is very difficult to maintain, and it is much likelier that both Matthew and Luke used Mark. He regards the Gospel of John as being a much higher level of work than the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
A New Model of the Universe, at least in the 1931 edition, now appears to be out of copyright. In the USA it has recently been reprinted by Dover Books and Kessinger Publishing. With this understanding, I have put the entire chapter on Christianity and the New Testament online:- Ouspensky on Christianity and The New Testament
In the chapter on Superman, Ouspensky seems to disagree with Gurdjieff’s assessment of Judas:
Another remarkable type in the Gospel drama, a type also opposed to everything
which in ordinary humanity leads to the superman, is Judas.
Judas is a very strange figure in the Gospel tragedy. There is no one about whom
so much has been written as Judas. In modern European literature there are attempts
to represent and interpret Judas from all possible points of view. Contrary to the
usual ” Church ” interpretation of Judas as a mean and greedy ” Jew ” who sold
Christ for thirty pieces of silver, he is sometimes represented as a figure even higher
than Christ, as a man who sacrificed himself, his salvation and his ” life eternal ” in
order that the miracle of redemption should be accomplished; or as a man who
revolted against Christ, because Christ, in his opinion, spoiled the ” cause “,
surrounded himself with worthless people, put himself in a ridiculous position, and
Actually, however, Judas is not even a ” role “, and certainly not a romantic hero,
not a conspirator desirous of strengthening the union of the apostles with the blood
of Christ, not a man struggling for the purity of an idea. Judas is simply a small man
who found himself in the wrong place, an ordinary man, full of distrust, of fears and
suspicions, a man who ought not to have been among the apostles, who understood
nothing of what Jesus said to his disciples, but a man who for some reason or other was accepted as one of them and was even given a
responsible position and a certain authority. Judas was considered one of the
favourite disciples of Jesus; he was in charge of the apostles’ domestic arrangements,
was their treasurer. Judas’ tragedy was that he feared to be exposed; he felt himself in
the wrong place and dreaded the thought that Jesus might one day reveal this to
others. And at last he could bear it no longer. He did not understand some words of
Jesus; perhaps he felt a threat in these words, perhaps a hint at something which only
he and Jesus knew. Perturbed and frightened, Judas fled from the supper of Jesus and
his disciples and decided to expose Jesus The famous thirty pieces of silver played
no part in this whatever. Judas acted under the influence of injury and fear, he wished
to break and destroy that which he could not comprehend, that which revolted and
humiliated him by the very fact of its being above his understanding. He needed to
accuse Jesus and his disciples of crimes in order to feel himself in the right. Judas’
psychology is a most human psychology, the psychology of slandering what one does
In Search of the Miraculous contains much that Gurdjieff taught concerning Christianity; most of this is excerpted above, in the section on Gurdjieff.
Ouspensky hardly wrote anything else on esoteric Christianity, although he did make an unpublished English translation of the Sincere Narrations of a Pilgrim. (Rodney Collin published a pamphlet, Notes on the Gospel of St. John, in parallel English and Spanish in 1949, made up from notes found after Ouspensky died. However, it seems that these were actually made by one of Ouspensky’s students, so he withdrew the pamphlet.) However, Ouspensky spoke of the gospels in his meetings, which were transcribed, and formed the source material for the books The Fourth Way, A Record of Meetings and A Further Record.
Ouspensky carried around with him a well thumbed copy of the New Testament in the original Greek. Irmis Popoff records a charming incident, on the first occasion that she met Ouspensky, soon after he came to New York:
Lionja Savitzky read that evening some notes taken from the writings that we came to know much later as the “Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution” I was not particularly impressed, but when someone asked, “Mr. Ouspensky, do I understand correctly, you state that neither good nor evil are important in your System, that all man must do to develop is to remember himself?”
And after a short pause he answered, “It is correct. Good, evil, all relative. A man who remembers himself can become conscious. Conscious man is free, and may do as he wishes. It is all that is needed.”
I protested, “But, sir, as Oscar Wilde says, ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?’ ”
He was very near sighted. He adjusted his glasses on the tip of his nose and, scrutinizing me, he asked, “Beg pardon—who said?”
“Oscar Wilde,” I repeated emphatically.
“Ahhhl” He smiled, and turned his attention to someone else.
So did I.
Very late that evening, when I returned home I found a wire awaiting me. It read:
“MR. OUSPENSKY WILL SEE YOU AT HIS STUDIO AT 4 P.M. TOMORROW. M.S. Secretary.”
“How odd!” I thought. “Now why on earth would this gentleman want to see me, of all people?”
Curiosity made me keep the appointment. I found him alone.
“Well. . . .?” he asked me as I sat by him.
“Well, I received your wire. A wire from Miss Seton.”
He smiled as he told me, “Yes. You must read New Testament. All versions you can find. And next Tuesday, same time, you come to see me.”
“New Testament! But what do you mean by all versions?”I asked.
“Greek, Catholic, King James—all versions you can find.”
It was my turn to say, “0. . .hi” I had thought there was but one version.
After a while he dismissed me, saying, “Read, read. Then come back.”
Starting with Matthew’s Gospel, it was not long before I came to Chapter 16:XXVI: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
I had never noticed the quotes in Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey. Jiminy! I thought, and I understood. Suddenly I felt a warm sensation of affection for the kindly old gentleman.
What a quaint way to show me! I whispered to myself.
Mrs Popoff also records another incident:
…[O]ne day when he was telling us about the many I’s present in man, how he has
no unity, how he is not one but many. He scolded us severely saying that we must never say “I” before we knew what we were saying.
“Look what happened to the devil,” he said. And I protested:
“But, Mr. Ouspensky, God said to Moses on Mount Tabor,
‘I am that I am’l”
I was sitting in the first row. He paused, and looked at me for a while, and then said tenderly and very softly:
“Yes. But you see, you are not God. In you there is no ‘I.’ You must work. Work hard to have ‘I.’ ”
“If only I had enough energy to work!” I said sincerely.
“You have it,” he assured me. “You waste it in arguments.”
He gave me a long look, and then indulged in the shadow of a
Here is an analysis of the Lord’s Prayer, taken from The Fourth Way:
is the same as speaking of such Christian principles as loving
Q. Is not the A B C of all esoteric knowledge the death of the seed?
A. We may take it like that. As a matter of fact, in connection with this there is another thing which may perhaps explain our situation. I remember long ago Mr Gurdjieff said about this expression repeated two or three times in the New Testament, that in order to germinate and produce a plant a seed must die, that it was not complete in relation to man. In relation to man it must be amplified. Speaking in general about the work, about its possibilities and about the direction of the work, Mr Gurdjieff explained it to us like this. First we must realize that we are asleep; secondly we must awake. When we are awake we must die; when we die we can be born. This
is the process in detail and the direction. It is useful to think about it, useful to understand what sleep means, what to awake means, what to die means and what it would mean to be born. Suppose we want to be born. We cannot be born until we die, and we cannot die until we awake. We cannot awake until we realize that we are
asleep. So there are definite steps.
Q. What does to die mean in the sense in which you speak?
A. ‘To die’ means to die, to disappear, not to be, not to exist. It is useless to die in sleep, because then you cannot be born. You must awake first.
I have been asked many questions, some of them very naive, by different people who have tried to understand the Lord’s Prayer and who came to me asking me to explain what one or another phrase in it means. For instance, I have been asked what ‘our Father in heaven’ means, who are ‘our debtors’ and what are ‘our debts’ and so on—as if the Lord’s Prayer could be explained in ‘plain words’. You must understand first of all that ordinary, plain words cannot explain anything in relation to the Lord’s Prayer. Some preparatory understanding is necessary, then further understanding may come, but only as a result of effort and right attitude. The Lord’s Prayer can be taken as an example of an insoluble problem. It has been translated into every language, learnt by heart, repeated daily, yet people have not the slightest idea of what it really means. This failure to understand its meaning is connected with our general inability to understand the New Testament. If you remember, in another conversation, the whole of the New Testament was given as an example of objective art, that is to say, the work of higher mind. How then can we expect to understand with our ordinary mind what was formulated and given by higher mind?
What we can do is to try and raise our mind to the level of thinking of higher mind; and although we do not realize it, this is possible in many different ways. In mathematics, for instance, we can deal with infinities— with infinitely small and infinitely large quantities which mean nothing to our ordinary mind. And what is possible in mathematics is possible for us if we start in the right way and continue in the right way. One of the first things which must be understood and remembered, before a study of the Lord’s Prayer is possible, is the difference between the religious language and system language. What is religion? This word is used very often; there are people who use it every day, but they cannot define what is meant by religion. In the system we have heard that religion is different for different people, that there is religion of man No. 1, a religion of man No. 2, a religion of man No. 3 and so on. But how can we define the difference between them? Before coming to definitions we
must understand first of all that the most necessary element in all religions known to us is the idea of God—a God with whom we can stand in a personal relationship, to whom we can, as it were, speak, whom we can beg for help, and in the possibility of whose help we can believe. An inseparable part of religion is faith in God, that is, in a Higher Being, omnipotent and omnipresent, who can help us in anything we wish for or want to do. I do not speak from the point of view of whether this is right or wrong, possible or impossible. I simply say that faith, that is belief in God and in his power to help us, is an essential part of religion. Prayer is also an inseparable part of any religion; but prayer can be very different. Prayer can be a petition for help in anything we may undertake, and also, through school-work, prayer can become help itself. It can become an instrument of work which can be used for reviving ideas of the system, it can be used for selfremembering and for reminding us about sleep and the necessity for awakening. At the same time, the expressions of religious language cannot be translated exactly
into the system language. First, because of the element of faith in religion, and secondly, because of the acceptance in religion and religious language of facts and assertions which in the system are regarded as illogical and inconsistent. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that religion and the system are incompatible
or contradictory; only, we must learn not to mix the two languages. If we begin to mix them, we shall spoil any useful conclusions that could be made on either of the two lines. Returning to the idea of God, an idea which is inseparable from religion and religious language, we must first ask ourselves how religions can be divided in a
general or historical way. They may be divided into religions with one God and religions with many gods. But even in this division it must be remembered that there is a great difference between the ordinary
understanding of monotheism and polytheism and the system understanding of the same ideas. Although there are certain differences between gods—as, for instance, in Greek mythology—in the ordinary understanding of polytheism all gods are more or less on the same level. From the system point of view, which includes the idea of
different scales and different laws on different levels, one has quite a different understanding of the interdependence of gods.
If we take the Absolute as God, we can see that it has no relation to us. The Absolute is God for gods; it has relation only to the next world, that is, World 3. The World 3 is God for the next world, that is, World 6, and also for all the following worlds, but in a lesser and lesser degree. Then the Galaxy, Sun, Planets, Earth and
Moon are all gods, each including in itself smaller gods. The Ray of Creation as a whole, taken as one triad, is also God: God the Holy, God the Firm, God the Immortal. So we may choose on which level we wish to take our God if we want to use the word ‘God’ in the religious sense, that is to say, in the sense of a God having
immediate access to our lives. From the system point of view we have nothing to prove that any of these worlds may have a personal relation to us; but there is a place for God in the system. In the lateral octave which begins in the Sun as ‘do’ there are two quite unknown points about which we have no material for thinking. The octave begins as do in the Sun, then passes into si on the level of the Planets. On Earth it becomes la-sol-fa, which constitutes Organic Life including man. When each individual being in the human, animal and vegetable kingdom dies, the body—or what remains of the body— goes to the Earth and becomes part of the Earth, and the soul goes to the Moon and becomes part of the Moon. From this we can understand mi and re; but about si and do we know nothing at all. These two notes may give rise to many suppositions as to the possible place of a God or gods having some relation to us in the Ray of Creation. Now, remembering all that has just been said, we may come to the study of the Lord’s Prayer.
The first thing is to discover why and when it was given. We know that it was given to replace many useless prayers. The next thing is to note many interesting features in the Lord’s Prayer itself and in its very special construction; and from our understanding of this construction, and particularly from our knowledge of the Law of Three, we may be able to realize that, from the system point of view, there is a possibility of the development of
understanding through our understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. Like many mathematical problems, the study of the Lord’s Prayer must begin with a correct disposition or arrangement of the separate parts of the problem. We notice at once two interesting things: first, that the Lord’s Prayer is divided into three times three, and second, that in the Lord’s Prayer there are certain key-words, that is to say, words which explain other words to which
they refer. We cannot call the division into three times three triads, because we do not know their relation to one another and cannot see the forces. We can only see that there are three parts. If you read the first three petitions together as one part, you will see many things which you cannot see if you read them in the ordinary way.
1. Our Father which art in heaven hallowed be Thy name
2. Thy kingdom come
3. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the first petition, ‘Our Father which art in heaven hallowed be Thy name’, the immediate question is, who is ‘our Father’? The key-word is ‘heaven’. What does ‘in heaven’ mean? If we try to answer this question from the point of view of the Ray of Creation we may be able to understand something. We live on the Earth, so ‘heaven’ must mean higher levels, that is, the Planets, the Sun or the Galaxy. The idea of ‘heaven’ presupposes certain forces, or certain mind or minds on those higher levels to which, in some way, the Lord’s Prayer advises us to appeal; ‘heaven’ cannot refer to anything on the level of the Earth. But if we realize that the cosmic forces connected with the Galaxy, the Sun or the Planets are too big to have any relation to us, then we can look for the place of our ‘Father in heaven’ in the do or si of the lateral octave—or we can again leave it to higher regions.
In the words which follow there is nothing personal. ‘Hallowed be Thy name’ is the expression of a desire for the development of the right attitude towards God, and for a better understanding of the idea of God or Higher Mind, and this desire for development obviously refers to the whole of humanity.
The second petition, ‘Thy kingdom come’, is the expression of a desire for thegrowth of esotericism. In
A New Model of the Universe I tried to explain that the kingdom of heaven could only mean esotericism, that is to say, a certain inner part of humanity under particular laws.
The third petition, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’, is the expression of a desire for the transition of the Earth to a higher level, under the direct will of Higher Mind. ‘Thy will be done’ refers to something that may happen but has not yet happened. These three petitions refer to conditions which may come but which have not yet been fulfilled.
The first petition of the second part of the Lord’s Prayer is: ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. The word ‘daily’ does not exist in the oldest known Greek and Latin text. The correct word, which later was replaced by ‘daily’, is ‘super-substantialis’ or ‘supersubstantial’. The correct text should be: ‘give us to-day our supersubstantial bread’. ‘Supersubstantial’ or ‘spiritual’ as some people say, may refer to higher food, higher hydrogens, higher influences or higher knowledge.
The two following petitions in this second part, ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’, and ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’ are the most difficult to understand or to explain. They are particularly difficult because their ordinary meaning, as generally accepted, has nothing to do with the real meaning. When people think about the words, ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’ in the ordinary way, they immediately begin to make logical and psychological mistakes. First of all, they take for granted that they can forgive debts, and that it depends on them whether they will forgive or not forgive; and secondly, they believe that it is equally good to forgive debts and to have their own debts forgiven. This is a fallacy and has no foundation whatever. If they think about themselves, if they study themselves, if they observe themselves, they will very soon see that they cannot forgive any debts just as they cannot do anything. In order to do and in order to forgive one must first of all be able to remember oneself, one must be awake and one must have will. As we are now, we have thousands of different wills, and even if one of these wills wants to forgive, there are
always many others which do not want to forgive and which will think that forgiveness is a weakness, an inconsistency or even a crime. And the strangest thing is that sometimes it is really a crime to forgive. Here we come to an interesting point. We do not know whether it is good to forgive or not, whether it is good to forgive always, or whether in some cases it is better to forgive and in some cases better not to forgive. If we think more about it, we may come to the conclusion that even if we could forgive, perhaps it would be better to wait until we knew more, that is, until we knew in which cases it is better to forgive and in which cases it is better not to forgive. At this point we should remember what has been said about positive and negative attitudes and we should realize that positive attitudes are not always correct, negative attitudes are sometimes necessary for a right understanding. So, if ‘forgiving’ always means having a positive attitude, then forgiving may sometimes be quite wrong. We must understand that to forgive indiscriminately may be worse than not to forgive at all; and this understanding may bring us to the right view of our own position in relation to our own debts. Suppose for a moment that there actually was some benevolent and rather stupid deity who could forgive our debts, and who would really forgive them and wipe them out. It would be the greatest misfortune that could happen to us. There would be no incentive for us to work then, and no reason to work. We could go on doing the same wrong things and having them all forgiven in the end. Such a possibility is quite contrary to any idea of the work. In the work we must know that nothing will be forgiven. Only this knowledge will give us a real incentive to work, and at least prevent us from repeating the same things which we already know to be wrong. It is interesting to look at schools from this point of view and to compare schools with ordinary life. In life people may expect forgiveness, or at least hope for it. In school nothing is forgiven. That is an essential part of a school system, school method
and school organization. Schools exist precisely for not-forgiving, and because of this fact one can hope and expect to get something from a school. If things were forgiven in schools, there would be no reason for their existence. The inner meaning of ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’ actually refers to influences, that is to say, influences from higher levels. We can attract to ourselves higher influences only if we transfer to other people the influences we receive or have received. There are many other meanings of these words, but this is
the beginning of the way to understand them.
The third petition of this second part is: ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’. What is our greatest temptation? Most probably it is sleep: so the first words are understandable—’help us to sleep less, or help us to awake sometimes’.
The next part is more difficult. It reads:’But deliver us from evil’. Possibly it should be ‘and deliver us from evil’. There are many interpretations of this ‘but’, but none of them is quite satisfactory as translated into ordinary language, so I shall leave it for the present. The chief question is, what does ‘evil’ mean? One possible interpretation is that in relation to the ordinary temptation, which is only sleep, it means letting oneself fall
asleep again when one had already begun to awake. It may mean giving up the work when one has already understood the necessity for working, giving up efforts after one had begun to make efforts and, as has already been mentioned, starting to do stupid or even harmful things, such as going against school rules and justifying oneself for so doing. Many interesting examples of things of this kind can be found in the actions of people who leave the work and particularly in their explanations of their doing so.
Finally, the third part of the Lord’s Prayer should be taken as referring to a future order of things and not to the present order. 1. For Thine is the kingdom 2. the power 3. and the glory for ever Amen, presupposes that the desire expressed in the first part of the Prayer has already been realized, has already taken place. Actually these words can only refer to the future.
In conclusion, the whole of the Lord’s Prayer can be taken as one triad. It cannot be taken in the sense that one part is active force, another part passive force and a third part neutralizing force, because all relations probably change with the change in the centre of gravity of attention. This means that, by itself, each of these three divisions or parts can be taken as one force and that together they can make a triad. These very big ideas are put in the form of a prayer. When you decipher this idea of prayer, prayer in the sense of supplication, disappears.
Maurice Nicoll was a pupil of both Gurdjieff, with whom he spent a number of months at the Chateau du Prieure in Fontainbleau, and Ouspensky. The psychiatrist Carl Jung gave him his early training. In 1931 Ouspensky told Dr Nicoll to go and form his own groups, which he led until his death in 1953. Nicoll wrote two books on the esoteric interpretation of the Bible: The New Man, published in 1950 at roughly the same time as In Search of the Miraculous and All and Everything, and The Mark, published posthumously. These two books are classics of interpretation.
All sacred writings contain an outer and an inner meaning. Behind the literal words lies another range of meaning, another form of knowledge. According to an old-age tradition, Man once was in touch with this inner knowledge and inner meaning. There are many stories in the Old Testament which convey another knowledge, a meaning quite different from the literal sense of the words. The story of the Ark, the story of Pharaoh’s butler and baker, the story of the Tower of Babel, the story of Jacob and Esau and the mess of pottage, and many others, contain an inner psychological meaning far removed from their literal level of meaning. And in the Gospels the parable is used in a similar way.
Many parables are used in the Gospels. As they stand, taken in the literal meaning of the words, they refer apparently to vineyards, to householders, to stewards, to spendthrift sons, to oil, to water and to wine, to seeds and sowers and soil, and many other things. This is their literal level of meaning. The language of parables is difficult to understand just as is, in general, the language of
all sacred writings. Taken on the level of literal understanding, both the Old and New Testaments are full not only of contradictions but of cruel and repulsive meaning.
Beryl Pogson, Dr Nixcoll’s secretary, describes the beginning of Dr Nicoll’s work on the gospels:
During 1941 Dr Nicoll had completed his chapters on The Lord’s Prayer which were published posthumously in The Mark. The writing of the chapters which were eventually published in The New Man began in a curious way. We often had talks about the Bible characters. One day an idea came to me to me. I collected from the four gospels all that was said about St Peter and arranged the material, as far as possible, chronologically. Then I laid this document on Dr Nicoll’s table with the tentative suggestion that he might like to comment on the character of St Peter and the part played by him in the gospels. This experiment had surprising results, for Dr Nicoll was immediately interested and wrote with the utmost rapidity the chapter on St Peter which was later included in The New Man just as it stood without alteration. We little thought at the time that this was the beginning of a whole book.
The New Man is not without its faults. Since Nicoll is writing for an audience that may know nothing of the work ideas, he tends to labour his point, and at times seems convinced that the reader isn’t going to understand what he has to say. In other places, such as his use of the platonic ideas of the good and the truth, he doesn’t seem to quite hit the mark. But even in these passages, he has clearly identified an esoteric symbolism, in this case the stories of the older and younger brothers, such as Jacon and Esau. The five volumes of Psychological Commentaries, put together from Nicoll’s meetings, also contain a good deal of Bible interpretation. Nicoll stopped short of Gurdjieff’s radical rewriting of the place of Judas in the drama of Christ, but does suggest that Judas played the most difficult part in a conscious drama.
The New Man and The Mark contain much that leads to a genuine esoteric and psychological understanding of the Bible.
Rodney Collin, Ouspensky’s most inspired pupil, moved to Mexico to make a fresh start the year after Ouspensky died. His publishing house, Ediciones Sol, published Spanish translations of The New Man and the Psychological Commentaries soon after they came out in England. Despite this, there is little trace of this kind of interpretation in Collin’s writings, although he could still write, “ The words of Christ have waited two thousand years to be understood. They can be understood at once with clear thoughts and clean minds. The Gospels were not written only for people two thousand years ago. They are always a new force, and it is our duty to relate the situation of each individual to every passage of the Gospels, interpreting it not only with the mind but with the emotions of our hearts.”
Living in Mexico, Collin finally converted to Roman Catholicism in 1955; as a young man he had been involved with the Christian organization Toc H. His pamphlet, he Christian Mystery, published in Spanish in 1953 and in English the following year, puts the entire Christian civilization, along with the gospel drama, and the lives of the body, the soul and the spirit, onto the enneagram. It is written in ecstatic, poetic language, and is not something to be read with the logical mind:
Christ died. Christ lives. The figure grew. Not in intensity but in size, as the ripple expanding. Characters moved to new places for another scale. Others entered. The Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Church. Not thirty years but three thousand. The coiled spring of time, wound beyond breaking point, unwinds again, remaking the Christian mystery in history. In space and centuries. Its body.
The apex God, mystery, and the hidden schools of mystery.
From school in Egypt Jesus returned to his birthplace. Where the Virgin Mother Mary stood, new stands Bethlehem, and all it signifies.
Peace on earth, goodwill towards men. Christmas, humble nativities.
From Bethlehem Jesus went up in triumph to the capital. Where John stood now stands Jerusalem, place of pilgrimage, prayer, bloodied crusaders, quartered among warring sects, all things to all men according to their being.
The second apex Christ loving, crucified, ascended, everywhere.
Paul to the Galatians, John to Patmos and the Seven Churches which are in Asia. Where Mary Magdalene stood new stands Asia Minor, land of Diana and Astarte, the Eastern Church, Byzantium.
Peter and Paul to Rome. “Upon this rock will I build my church”.
Where Peter stood now stands Rome, imperial and eternal Rome, the Vatican and the Popes, the Church Catholic and Militant.
And as between Mars and Venus, so between West and East, Rome and Byzantium, Catholic and Orthodox, two sides of the Christian mystery must wage confederate war till a unity not of time and place be seen again.
The third apex Paul the persecutor, opposer, fanatic, militant, emissary of schools, martyred and ascended also.
The three Maries to Provence, Joseph of Arimathea to Glastonbury.
Where he stood new stands Christian Europe. Monasteries, orders, Knights Templars, chanting in parish church, the devotion of peasants at wayside shrines. Benedict, Augustine, Francis, Luther, More.
Copts to Ethiopia, Jesuits to China, Franciscans to Mexico. Where Judas stood now stands the Christian world. Compound of revelation and betrayal. Courage, martyrdom, love; blood, cruelty, corruption of ancient innocence.
A thousand fantastic sects. Every man’s prejudice and imagination armed with Christianity. Yet none to blame: save the being of unregenerate man, for whom Christ came.
The first apex once again God, mystery, and the schools of mystery, whither the whole circle yearns.
He adds to Ouspensky’s idea of the drama of Christ being a conscious play.
But it is this latter, the Gospel, which must represent the perfect example—the classical
performance as it were—of such a play… The background of Christ’s drama is much
more familiar. The strategic outpost of a great bureaucratic empire, nervous officials and an irresponsible mob, political oppression and the shadow of revolt—all this is by no means ‘sympathetic’. Yet it shows that the possibility of a general ‘move’ in level of consciousness, which may in the end affect hundreds of thousands or millions of men, does not at all depend on conditions that from an ordinary point of view we would call favourable. The familiar evil of life may even be ‘used’, as a kind of fulcrum, to give higher forces a purchase against which to work and attain their ends. Despite such differences of scene, the types of such a drama appear permanent. The Roman centurion who suddenly sees through the political crucifixion to burst out, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’ is the same character as Socrates’ jailer who, bringing the poison, begs forgiveness of ‘the noblest and gentlest and best of all who ever came to this place.’ At the same time, each role may be played with individual differences depending on the particular actor and the particular production. The innkeeper who serves Buddha the rotten food from which he dies is introduced as a quite minor character,
whose critical action is almost ‘accident’. In the Christian drama, on the other hand, Judas is taken as the personification of evil, and though he finally repents, is still required to hang himself. Even here, however, there is a curious suggestion of collusion at the Last Supper and in Christ’s phrase at the betrayal: ‘Friend, wherefore art thou come?’
For we have to accept the idea that in all such dramas, each conscious actor must eventually learn to play all parts, with the idea that he may one day even qualify for the central role itself. In the Gospel drama, for example, there are many hints that Saint John—’the disciple whom Jesus loved’, who alone stayed with him at the crucifixion, to whose care he entrusted his mother, whose gospel reveals the deepest emotional understanding, and above all, who later as an old man in Patmos himself described the experiences of an electronic body—was, so to speak, ‘understudying the Christ’. ‘The imitation of Christ’ is in fact the ultimate task of every player in the Christian mystery. All such parts, however, are but subsidiary. For the real significance of the whole play must lie in the transfiguration of the chief character into the electronic world, his achievement of spirit. And all the miraculous events and manifestations which follow his death may in one sense be seen as a demonstration that the play has succeeded, the tremendous miracle has been accomplished.
Rodney Collin felt that that he spent with Ouspensky at the end of his teacher’s life was also a conscious drama, albeit on a smaller scale. Collin himself had a dramatic death in 1956 when he fell from a tower of the cathedral in Cuzco, Peru.
Maurice Nicoll’s secretary, Beryl Pogson, continued to teach some of the remnants of Maurice Nicoll’s books. Her main literary monument is her esoteric explanation of Shakespeare’s plays, In The East My Pleasure Lies. She read the Gospel of Thomas in 1959, the year it was first published in translation. Her comments on it can be found here, http://www.bardic-press.com/thomas/pogson.htm
She also wrote a short book, Commentary on the Fourth Gospel. The Fourth Gospel is the Gospel of St John. Here is her interpretation of Christ walking on the waters:
“When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them: ‘It is I; be not afraid’. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. (John VI: 15-21) It was after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand that Christ walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee, shewing that He could walk on the waters of life. This is the fifth Sign. Without His presence the disciples were tossed about in their boat on the waves. But when they were aware that Christ was present, and heard His words:
Ego Eimi” – “It is I” – their fear was dispelled and they were immediately taken where they wanted to go. This is again an eternal experience that is described, taking place within the Circle of Eternity. When a man’s consciousness is araised so that he is aware of the approaching Presence it is the I, the Real I, which takes over, and the waves are stilled, the fear cast out, and the Master directs the course. The multitude now seek Jesus and find Him at Capernaum. It is here that He tells them: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger and he that believeth on me shall never thirst”. He is trying to teach them what He can give if they will only ask for it. The bread of life is the symbol of this energy of consciousness, which is inexhaustible, as the saints have found when they have drawn upon it to do what is impossible to their own strength.
The comment made by Jesus, “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and
were filled”, may mean that because the people had once been nourished by this bread they were moved to seek the Giver again. They were not necessarily seeking sensation after witnessing a miracle.
In the Fourth Gospel there is not the same account of the Last Supper as in the Synoptic Gospels. There is no trace of laying down a ritual to be enacted. But in this Gospel there is interpretation of the meaning of the bread that Christ offers to those who can receive it, the substance which is Himself, His consciousness, which can transform a man, so that his whole substance is changed, so that after death he can inhabit his immortal body, the Body of Resurrection. All this is implied in the words: “This is the bread of life which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die… I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world”. “Flesh” in the New Testament is a technical word meaning the psychology of a man, not the body. Thus it is that “flesh” can nourish the inner bodies of a man, while “blood” can cleanse.
Boris Mouravieff was an associate of both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. He knew Ouspensky fairly well, and grudgingly admits the influence of In Search of the Miraculous at the beginning of his extensive three volume work, Gnosis. He claims, somewhat vaguely, to have gone back to some mysterious Orthodox Christian source for his extension of the system ideas. In the following, which is one of my favourite sections of Gnosis volume 1, he shows that the do-re-mi notation actually derives from Latin terms that describe the Ray of Creation.
The esoteric teaching, formerly reserved for the initiated only, was known not only in the Orient but also in the Occident. We can see the evidence of this by analyzing the names of the notes of the musical scale, established, as we know, by Guido of Arezzo, an Italian Beneictine (c.995-1050). To do this, he utilized the hymn to St. John the Baptist, composed two years previously by Paul Diacre or Warnefrid, a historian of Lombardy (740-801). The latter was a secretary to the king of Lombardy, Dider, and after that lived at the court of Charlemagne, then in that of Benevent, to retire finally to the monastery of Monte Cassino, where he ended his days. The hymn to St John the Baptist goes like this:
UT queant lixis
We see that this hymn was composed by Paul Diacre in hermetic form. Such a procedure was always favoured in esoteric teaching. Comparative study of the diagram of the Great Octave, and the hymn of Paul Diacre, leaves no doubt that he knew this diagram quite veil. So did Guido of Arezzo who, two centuries after Paul, chose that hymn amongst all others, to introduce it into the musical gamut.
We can even see for ourselves why Paul Diacre utilized the syllable UT, instead of DO, to designate the first note. We should carefully note that he conceived this hymn as an ascending gamut, although the Great Octave naturally represents a descending gamut. From the meaning of its content, this hymn tends from the lower to the higher, from the coarse to the fine, in other words, from the human plane toward the divine plane. But he stops, without reaching the latter, at the note SI, consecrated to St John the Baptist, Let us say in passing that the Precursor enjoys a very particular veneration in the Tradition, and is placed above the Apostles. On certain Byzantine icons he is represented as winged, having two heads, one quite severed and bloody, and he bears it with his own hands on a platter.
If Paul Diacre had wanted to prolong his hymn by one more line, he would have had to consecrate it to Jesus, and consequently to start it from the syllable DO. But he did not do that. His eminently human gamut, having begun with man as he is, born of woman in all his imperfection, could obviously not start with DO, which really stands for Dominus. He chose the syllable UT, from the word uterus, the organ of gestation, precisely in order to underline that imperfect condition which is as common to all the devout as to all men, in order to direct them on the track of St John, of whom Jesus said: “Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of woman there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist..”
Thus UT—uterus—symbolises the door of birth according to the flesh and SI, the door of the second birth, according to the spirit, without which man cannot see the kingdom of God.
The ascending gamut of Paul Diacre thus comprises an octave of regeneration, going from birth on earth to birth in the heavens.
That is the explanation of this hymn, closely conforming to the sense of the mystical traditions of the past.
An exhaustive examination of the names of the notes that form the musical octave shows direct correspondence with the notes of the Great cosmic Octave, as can be shown from the following diagram:
(UT – UTerus, born of woman)
DO – God. The Absolute manifest. The central Sun. DOminus
SI – Starry sky. Ensemble of all Worlds. SIderus orbis
LA – Our Great World, the Milky Way. LActeus orbis
SOL – The Sun. SOL
FA – The Planetary World, to which our antiquity attributed direct influence on our destiny. FAtum
MI – Earth, our imperfect world, under the mixed rule of Good and Evil.
RE – The Moon, ruler of human fate according to the Ancients.
Mouravieff’s works were retrieved from obscurity largely through the efforts of Robin Amis. In addition to publishing and helping to translate Gnosis, Amis has wrote A Different Christianity, a sincere and well-informed attempt to further Mouravieff’s ideas connecting the origin of Gurdjieff’s teaching with the Orthodox tradition. Amongst the few additional works on the fourth Way and esoteric Christianity in recent years are A Point in the Work, a rather dreary collection of sermons by someone who seems to be in the line of Beryl Pogson and Maurice Nicoll, my own small book on the Gospel of Thomas, and Richard Smoley’s Inner Christianity. This last is an eclectic exploration of material on esoteric Christianity, ranging from Gurdjieff and Mouravieff to A Course in Miracles.