The Gurdjieff Movements provide a unique opportunity to explore the difference between attempting to change who we are and the nature of transformation. Usually, when we observe something in ourselves that we judge negatively, we try to change – to rid ourselves of the offensive aspect of our behavior or character and to better ourselves. While seemingly noble in sentiment, this drive, based on judgment rather than discernment, gives rise to its own demise. Changing what one appears to be to oneself or to others does not get to the heart of phenomenological mystery of our existence – the mystery of being.
The Gurdjieff Movements offer glimpses of the psychology of our possible evolution. They enable surprising access to the opportunity to witness opposing inner forces that G.I. Gurdjieff called the struggle of yes and no. This witnessing is in service to what J.G. Bennett called transformation and C.G. Jung called individuation. The capacity to bear the commingling of psyche’s opposing forces – the tension of the opposites – is necessary for transformation.
The skill set required includes simultaneous effort and relaxation, striving and surrender, identification and freedom, functioning and being. We allow the realization that we exist on multiple levels simultaneously. We know this, but rarely bear the experience of remaining on the threshold between levels. It requires the capacity to sustain being busy and present, uncomfortable and still, confused and attentive, striving to confirm identity yet finding multiplicity, finding multiplicity yet experiencing the singularity of awareness.
Indwelling within experience – an inner alembic- gives rise to what Jung called the transcendent function. Yet, this is not the goal. Rather, it allows aspects of our nature that have been split in the course of our maturation process to suddenly and concurrently be present and intermingled. Something new arises in our lived experience.
It is here, at the boundary between the accepted and rejected, the known and unknown, the knowable and unknowable, that what is potential in our essence stirs. We find it difficult to not know and to allow uncertainty to open us to organic, systemic transformation. Transformation rewires connections within the organism yet leaves us seemingly and remarkably unchanged. One does not need to change to transform. Transformation is not change.
So, the question becomes: What is required now – in this moment?
The Gurdjieff Movements create a crucible without compare regarding the creation of conditions to dwell within the alchemical vessel of your own inner life.
And, happily, Gurdjieff Movements and Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music are beautiful and evocative
They point toward the possible.
Avrom Altman, Gurdjieff Heritage Society, Board of Directors
Avrom studied with John Bennett at Sherborne England. He teaches movements and lives in California with his wife.