Originally posted by vistesd
Welcome back! Don't know a lot about Gurdjieff; did he not purportedly learn a lot from the Sufis?
Shalom, Stephen and Nemesio...unfortunately a full plate these days precludes my being "back" in any real way. But yes, Gurdjieff was likely influenced by the Naqshbandi Sufi order, if John Bennett is to be believed ( he being a student of G. who traveled throughout central Asia researching G's "sources" ).
As a lazy armchair Googler, I don't know too much about Gurdjieff (reading now) but "esoteric Christianity" sets several bells a-ringing, one labelled "Gnosticism". Any connection?
There likely is. There were a few key people and factors in the early 20th century who/that led to the introduction of certain ideas which suggested a particular "system" in which it was possible to undertake a training leading to an awareness of deeper realities.
Gurdjieff's sources were mysterious and he never talked about them in detail, which led some to dismiss him as merely a fertile mind, or worse, a huckster. However anyone reading Ouspensky's magnum opus, "In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching", which chronicles his years with Gurdjieff, would soon realize that these ideas are beyond what a "huckster" would find time to cook up. Ouspensky himself was a formidable intellect, having authored several books on philosophy, and was no mental pushover. He devoted the rest of his life to systematizing G's ideas.
Like many "crazy wisdom masters" G. was given to unpredictable behavior, and he certainly didn't fit the stereotype of the chaste and pure Oriental guru. He smoked, drank, ate meat (and was a superb cook), had mistresses, could be volatile and autocratic, and was at times given to suddenly dropping spiritual discourse to engage in the telling of crass jokes. In short, he was fully human, and made no pretentions otherwise. (Being half Greek, half Armenian didn't exactly hinder that).
But he was also something more, as is clear from the reports of those close to him, and from his writings and ideas. His search for truth was exhaustive and took him to remote regions on the planet that in his time (late 19th, early 20th century) was difficult to do without exceptional resolve.
By "esoteric Christianity", he claimed to have uncovered the "secret teachings" behind Christ's work, and in there, there was a connection to the Eastern Orthodox traditions and the old desert fathers, but also to the Sufis and in particular, to ancient Egypt. The key distinguishing idea in all that was that humans are not automatically "given" a soul, or higher spiritual bodies, they rather have to earn them. And they can only earn them via conscious efforts and appropriate sacrifice.
The idea there is that we can't begin to wake up to our deeper spiritual essence if we're not first willing to give up what doesn't help us in that regard -- we have to literally "sacrifice" the useless attachments and obstacles in our life, the small things that keep us in a spiritually contracted state.
Along with that, it's necessary to cultivate a certain inner friction between "yes" and "no", that is, a willingness to move against the grain, so to speak, of our personal habits that contribute toward keeping us spiritually asleep.
Gurdjieff's great starting point is the idea that human beings are essentially machines, sound asleep, and existing in a fragmented state of multiple "I"s (sub-personalities). This is why everyone is so inconsistent in life -- today I like green, tomorrow it will be yellow, yesterday I liked red, perhaps Saturday it will be purple. So the "Work" (as G. called it) entails developing a rigorous internal honesty in which we begin to self-observe and note our sheer inconsistency with mostly everything.
Of course, this is a difficult task, the business of self-observation, and most people are not interested. We are conditioned to look outside
of ourselves for fulfillment, and this is part of the collective trance condition that humanity has existed in for a long time.