Customer Review

230 of 254 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Single Best Book on the Gurdjieff Work, October 16, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: In Search of the Miraculous (Harvest Book) (Paperback)
Having read just about everything written by or about Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Collin, Orage, Nicoll, and countless disciples, spin-offs, Sufis, etc., etc., and having been drawn by them into spending years in a Gurdjieff "school," and being familiar with the traditions on which the Gurdjieff approach was based, I take a lot of the "fourth way" material with a large grain of salt. The core of the "work" is a powerful methodology, but no more so than, say, vipassana, zen, dzogchen or other solid, meditation-based tradition. There is nothing about the fourth way that is any more "esoteric" than these other traditions (that's right, nothing). The biggest difference is that Gurdjieff left behind a legacy of fraudulent teachers and cults, whereas there are many Buddhist and other groups that are reliable. (Certainly, Buddhist and other groups, being made up of people, have their flaws, and there are things to be learned in some (not all!) Gurdjieff groups, but decades of hard-won experience allows me to say that the Gurdjieff tradition is peculiar in attracting power-hungry charlatans who exploit the "rascal sage" idea to gather suckers around themselves. It happens in other traditions, but there, it tends to end in disgrace. In fourth way groups, duping people seems to be a point of pride.) Even groups that are not necessarily exploitative or fraudulent tend to attract people who especially like the idea of being "esoteric," to use a term Ouspensky used, but which was far more appropriate eighty years ago than it is today. That is, they like to imagine they've contacted the "real" inner work--as opposed to those fools who imagine any other traditions can lead to awakening. In other words, the ego-driven, cult mentality that turns useful information into its opposite. The "my fourth way group is more esoteric/Gurdjieffian/cooler than your fourth way group" dynamic is out of control.

Regardless, I strongly recommend In Search of the Miraculous. It's the single best book on Gurdjieff's work ever written. It's reasonably comprehensive on the important theories and methods. It's clear--no Beelzebub's Talesian mumbo-jumbo. It includes enough of Ouspensky's personal comments and experiences to make an entertaining story, but it isn't a self-indulgent book about the author ("and then he said this to me, and then I said that to him.") I find Ouspensky's other works overly dry and intellectual, but this one is both fun and profound. (And if you happen to buy a copy that has a bookmark in it from a purported Gurdjieff "school" -- toss the bookmark. Trust me about that.)
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 5, 2007 7:04:19 PM PDT
When the writer of this review speaks of fraudulent cults, he is exactly correct. In spite of knowing of this danger, that recommending the book could lead a naive student to involvement in one of these travesties, we hardly endorse this magnificent read. This book by Ouspensky is marvelous, absolutely marvelous, which is why we recommend it at . (Tom)

Posted on Jan 2, 2008 11:02:34 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 3, 2008 2:31:46 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2008 12:01:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 2, 2008 12:04:53 PM PST
Poogy says:
Maybe so, but I've heard some credible criticisms of many other Gurdjieff groups (everyone in one likes to say that HIS group is a "school"), including the Gurdjieff Foundation. Personally, I'd stick with a Buddhist group with a good teacher, since there's nothing in the Fourth Way (which I've studied for over 30 years) that isn't found in true Buddhism. But there are many who believe Gurdjieff must be "better" because he seems somehow less establishment, know...clever. But, of course, sixty years after his death, he's quite establishment. You pays your money and you takes your choice. The arrogant, "I possess the true esoteric wisdom, which you will find only in this or that true school" attitude in this comment is very typical of today's Gurdjieff disciples; you can't tell them anything, they know it all. A few decades later, they're still trying to remember themselves, still telling themselves (and everyone else on Amazon) that they found the Way. I've seen it many times.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2008 2:13:04 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 4, 2008 4:33:01 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2008 6:19:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 3, 2008 6:23:33 PM PST
Poogy says:
I agree with much of what rash67 says, but the comment "You won't find them, but they might find you" unfortunately displays the "I'm so esoteric" attitude so typical of Gurdieff groups of all sorts--the assumption that a group can't be "real" unless it's "hidden" is childish baloney, designed to inflate the egos of members and make membership seem more alluring to seekers. The truth does not need to be hidden--as Gurdjieff pointed out, people who aren't ready for it won't accept it even if it's right in front of them. Throughout history there have been great teachers readily accessible to anyone interested in working with them, and in most cases, few people are really that interested. Similarly, the statements: "True Work groups do not prosletyze, all work is voluntary, they have no employees, they do not charge, except minimal sharing of expenses, they all shun attention, they don't advertize. They aren't in the phone book or the Internet" does not come from rash67's experience, but from his/her desire to impress the reader with his/her supposed knowledge of how "real" groups operate--as though rash67 had personally experienced so many groups that he/she can confidently tell us all the rules. More baloney, more ego from an immature Gurdjieff "expert." This is one reason I personally got tired of the Gurdjieff trip and went back to Buddhism; Buddhists and all the rest of us have our own ego trips, no doubt, but the "hidden esoteric school that has secretly trained the masters of the universe since time immemorial with special movements, etc." nonsense that permeates the "Fourth Way" gets old after a while.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2008 2:31:09 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 26, 2008 6:17:06 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2008 6:45:46 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 25, 2008 6:47:54 PM PST
Poogy says:
rash67, your statements are the perfect illustration of why people should avoid Gurdjieff groups--their members just can't help themselves from wanting to impress others with how much more they think they know.

Your point in telling us it's been 20 years, I assume, is so we'll be impressed at how much you must have learned in all that time. I started in a Work group 30 years ago. That and 50 cents will get us a phone call.

In 20 years you've heard about "lying"--saying things that you cannot know, as though you do know. Such as that the "real groups" descend from students taught personally by G and O. And you know this to be a fact because...? You've personally verified that there can be no other real Work group? And that all groups descended from G and O are "real"? I don't think so. All you can say is you're a dutiful follower of a group that descended from G and O--or claims to--and that you believe it's "real."
And that bit about the exercises. Which exercises, exactly, are the ones without which "one" can get "nowhere." And you know that because...? You've somehow personally verified that there is no other way to understand the cosmic truths you are now privy to? I don't think so.

Yes, I try not to be attached to anger and so forth, and I also try not to let smug, self-satisfied wannabes dissuade me from calling it as I see it.

That it helped you I wouldn't presume to question. Why not just leave it at that, and leave the pretentious twaddle?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2008 4:35:27 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 2, 2008 4:35:59 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2008 9:36:00 AM PST
Dammit, but you sound exactly like the people you condemn...and you do not even realize it! You did manage to have rash67 remove his/her opinion...congratulations, what a victory................not.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2008 2:04:39 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2008 2:08:50 PM PST
Poogy says:
Christopher, rash67 removed all of his/her comments without any effort on my part--he/she has the habit of leaving provocative comments and then quickly deleting them, so that no one can assess for himself whether the comments had any merit. I find it silly and cowardly, but you may find it "esoteric."

As for what I "realize"--how do you know?

How about you write a few reviews of your own, Christopher, so we can see how well you do it without attracting criticisms from the peanut gallery.
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