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A New Interpretation
SynopsisGurdjieff belongs to one of the great minds of the 20th century and is considered by some people as a precursor of the "New Age" movement, a father of modern ecology and a person who inspired a new outlook on the development of man's consciousness. Although many people know his name, very few are familiar with his teaching and hardly anybody has read his main work "Beelzebub's Tales". Gurdjieff's teaching has a reputation of being difficult to comprehend, mainly because his writing was very abstruse. This book is an introduction to Gurdjieff's teaching and presents his main theories, his methods of personal development and his biography. My objective was to write a book that presents the most important aspects of Gurdjieff's teaching in such a simple and logical way, enabling an average reader, interested in this field, to comprehend its contents without referring to any other book. The second objective of the book is to show the reader the relevance of Gurdjieff's teaching to contemporary society by explaining the origins of some problems that are faced by modern man. A chapter by chapter summaryIntroductionThe introduction defines who Gurdjieff was, lists some of the main problems facing contemporary man and outlines a new understanding of the origins of these problems. Gurdjieff's main work "Beelzebub's Tales" is introduced and its structure is discussed. An outline of the book is explained and a list of chapters with brief summaries is given. Chapter 1. What is man like?Based on Gurdjieff's theories a description of man's behavior is discussed. Three main illusions of man are outlined and a description of Gurdjieff's model of functioning of man, especially his psyche, is presented. Three centers of functioning of man are identified and their possible malfunctioning indicated. New, higher levels of man's consciousness are introduced and explained. Man's division into three types is introduced and characteristics of each type are given. Some important psychological issues troubling modern man are described and the perception of free will by man is evaluated. A new component of the human psyche such as 'essence' is introduced, and a new concept describing totality of man's life called 'being' is explained. The relationship between the knowledge , understanding and 'being' is discussed.Chapter 2. Why is man like this?The origins of contemporary man's psyche are explained. Two elements determining psyche, i.e. inherited or socially inherited, and resulting from education, are described. The genesis of the inherited element is presented metaphorically as an implanted organ. The consequences of the functioning of this organ on human behavior are discussed. The importance of the second element - education of children - is emphasized and the problems resulting from the shortcomings of modern education are analyzed. A Gurdjieff parable comparing man to a carriage, a coachman and a horse is explained. A list of elements affecting man's life is discussed.Chapter 3. The terror of the situationThe title of this chapter refers to the situation of man on Earth. How man's psyche has shaped his social life is the main theme of this chapter and the development mechanisms of modern social and political systems are discussed. The presentation of these issues is based on Gurdjieff's parable. An ideal, utopian society that could be created by fully conscious people is described. The causes of destruction of this ideal society, leading to the creation of modern society are explained. Issues like freedom and democracy are considered from a completely different point of view, than widely accepted.Chapter 4. The fruits of former civilizationsAnalysis of harmful developments of modern mind that originated in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome is the subject of this chapter. Detrimental influences of these developments on the life of contemporary people is presented. A long quotation from "Beelzebub's Tales" provides a sample of Gurdjieff's writing showing his way of presenting controversial ideas. Two main developments viz. inventing new theories and excessive interest in sexuality are explored. The effects of misuse of the discoveries of modern science on the environment and the life of man are discussed.Chapter 5. Wars and revolutionsWars and revolutions are described as the most abominable activities of man. Especially harmful effects of civil wars are underlined. The causes of revolutions and civil wars are traced to social injustice. The futility of man's efforts to stop theses activities is explained. The absence of effective international organizations that could prevent wars is mentioned. Explanation of psychological causes of mutual mass killings are provided. Relevance of Gurdjieff's analysis to the present political situation in the world is briefly outlined.Chapter 6.Development of religious beliefs and systemsMechanisms and processes of development of man's religious beliefs and doctrines are outlined. The concept of Good and Evil, man's soul and Paradise and Hell are presented and its origins are traced to the Zoroastrian traditions. Two main sources of the contemporary religions are explored and the mechanism of changes of religious dogmas is explained. Brief comments by Gurdjieff on Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Lamaism are presented. New interpretations of some events from the life of Christ are given, and a new evaluation of the role of Judas is discussed.Chapter 7. Ways of man's developmentThe need of man's development is explained and the state of mankind using Gurdjieff's criteria is discussed. Higher levels of man's development are outlined with emphasis on the development of a higher level of consciousness. The traditional ways of man's development are discussed and the new Fourth Way, proposed by Gurdjieff, is explained. Conditions necessary for man's effective development are provided. The second part of the chapter concentrates on the methods of self-development as given by Gurdjieff. These methods including self-observation, struggle with identifications and negative emotions are explained. New concepts of conscious labor and intentional suffering are introduced.Chapter 8. CosmologyA new Gurdjieff's genesis in variance with the contemporary religious or scientific sources is described. The relationship between the Creator and man is outlined, and a new transformation of higher bodies after death is explained. The position of man in the Universe is defined and the purpose of man's existence is given. The fundamental cosmic laws are discussed and illustrated using a musical octave. New concepts such as the Ray of Creation and the elements of energo-matter are explained. Chapter 9. The life and work of GurdjieffThe main events of Gurdjieff's life since his childhood are chronologically presented. His early teaching in Russia and his relationship with Ouspensky is outlined. The creation and the work in the Institute of Harmonious Development of Man is described. Abandoning of teaching by Gurdjieff and his change of direction to concentrate on writing is explained. A separate section focuses more closely on Gurdjieff as a teacher and a person, looking into his relationship with his pupils and his methods of teaching. His behavior is demystified and the rationale behind his ways of treating students is explained.
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