by George I.Gurdijeff

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, b.1872, d.Oct.29, 1949, founded a movement based on doctrines of enlightenment through meditation and heightened self-awareness that attracted many prominent followers in Europe and the United States.

Of Russian-Armenian origin, Gurdjieff established his ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’ at Fontainebleau, France, where he settled in 1922. He wrote books like “Belzebub’s Tales to His Grandson”, “Meetings with remarkable men” and “Life is real only then, when I am”.

His disciples included architect Frank Lloyd Wright, painter Georgia O’Keefre, writer Katherine Mansfield, and journalist P. D. Ouspensky, whose books helped to popularize Gurdjieff’s teachings.

Note: In the following text, “man” refers not to the male only, but it is used in the sense of “human being regardless of sex, person”

In order to understand what the difference between states of consciousness is, let us consider the state of sleep. This is an entirely subjective state of consciousness.

A man is immersed in dreams, whether he remembers them or not, does not matter. Even if some real impression reach him, such as sounds, voices, warmth, cold, etc., they arouse in him only subjective images.

Then a man wakes up. At first glance, this is a completely new and different state of consciousness. He can move, talk with other people, he can make calculations ahead, he can see danger and avoid it, and so on. It stands to reason that he is now in a better position than when he was asleep.

But if we go a little more deeply into things, if we take a look into his inner world, into his thoughts, into the causes of his actions, we shall see that he is almost in the same state as when he is asleep.

And it is even worse, because in sleep he is passive, but in the waking state he can do something and the results of his actions will be reflected upon him and upon those around him. And yet he does not remember himself.

He is a machine, everything with him happens. He cannot stop the flow of his thoughts, he cannot focus the flow of his thoughts, he cannot control his imagination, his emotions, his attention.

He lives in a subjective world of “I love”, “I do not love”, “I like”, “I do not like”, “I want”, “I do not want”, that is, of what he thinks he likes, of what he thinks he does not like, of what he thinks he wants, of what he thinks he does not want. He does not see the real world.

The real world is hidden from him by a thick wall of uncontrolled imagination. He lives in waking-sleep. He is asleep. What is called “clear consciousness” is actually sleep and a far more dangerous sleep than sleep at night in bed.

Let us take some event in the life of humanity. For instance, war. What does it signify? It signifies that several millions of sleeping people are destroying several millions of other sleeping people.

They would not do this, of course, if they were to wake up. Everything that takes place is owing to this sleep.

Both states of consciousness, sleep and the (false) waking state, are thus equally subjective. Only by beginning to remember himself does a man really awaken.

And then all surrounding life acquires for him a different aspect and a different meaning. He sees that it is a life of sleeping people, a life in sleep.

All that men say and do, they say and do in sleep. All this can have no value whatsoever. Only awakening and what leads to awakening has a value in reality.

How many times have I been asked whether wars can be stopped? Certainly they can. For this it is only necessary that people should awake. This seems a small thing.

It is, however, the most difficult thing there can be because this sleep is induced by our so-called education and maintained by the whole surrounding society.

Artwork courtesy of and copyright by Daniel B. Holeman at Awaken Visions Galleries.