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Georges Gurdjieff on Acquiring Knowledge October 19, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in Esoteric Knowledge.
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All the people you see, all the people you know, all the people you may get to know, are machines, actual machines, working solely under the power of external influences. Machines they are born and machines they die.

–  Georges Gurdjieff

Georges Gurdjieff on Acquiring Knowledge

© D. Erick Emert


Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff was an Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher who had very distinct ideas about people and knowledge.  One of his pupils, P.D. Ouspensky, met Gurdjieff sometime around March of 1915 in Moscow.  Ouspensky studied under Gurdjieff for a few years, attending meetings both publicly and privately in St. Petersburg and Moscow.  Ouspensky broke away from Gurdjieff after helping him settle in France after WWII, but obtained Gurdjieff’s permission (the only one of Gurdjieff’s students to do so) to put the mystic’s ideas into print.  In Search of the Miraculous was published in 1949, two years after Ouspensky’s death.  It remains the most ‘readable’ presentations of Gurdjieff’s teachings although many other sources, including Gurdjieff’s own published works, are available.One of the basic tenants of Gurdjieff’s teachings on knowledge was that all knowledge was material.  And being material means that knowledge is finite.  He said:

“The quantity of matter in a given place and under given conditions is limited.  If knowledge is material, that means there is a definite quantity of it in a given place at a given time.”

Because of this, Gurdjieff felt that knowledge could not be made available to the masses.  His opinion was that if you made a specific knowledge available to the masses, the majority of people would either not want it or wouldn’t be able to receive it.  This principle can actually be witnessed in our public schools in America today.  Gurdjieff gave an example of how this happens:

“If we take a certain quantity of gold and decide to gild a number of objects with it, we must know, or calculate, exactly what number of objects can be guilded with this quantity of gold.  If we try to gild a greater number, they will be covered with gold unevenly, in patches, and will look much worse than if they had no gold at all, in fact we shall lose our gold.”

He summed this up in the following words:

“The collecting of knowledge by some depends upon the rejection of knowledge by others.”

In other words, the quality of knowledge is determined by the number of people it is offered to.  Hence, small classes are better than large ones.  If knowledge is offered to all, no one will get any.  If it is offered to only a few, each will receive not only enough to keep, but also to increase what he receives.  One thing that Gurdjieff always maintained was that knowledge is always attainable.  There is no such thing as ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ or so called ‘esoteric’ knowledge.  You just need to know where to find it and be able to pay the cost.

The point of cost for or the value of knowledge was very important in Gurdjieff’s way of thinking.  He believed that knowledge must not be easy to obtain.  He said:

“People do not value what is easily come by.  People must show themselves and their valuation of what they have heard.”

Gurdjieff charged 1,000 roubles a year for membership in his groups.  He said his work was not and could not be of a charitable nature.  He felt that people do not value a thing if they did not pay for it.

One can see these principles in our College system.  When students pay their own way, they have more desire to learn and acquire knowledge than those who’s tuition is paid for by their parents or a relative.  Such students tend to party hardy and many fail to even finish their education.

Many people pay for their knowledge through self educations.  They spend their time reading.  This is how I acquired my own education after high school.  To give you an idea of how this worked for me, I never held a job that did not require a college diploma.  The desire for knowledge always trumps a handout.  Of course, I could never be a doctor, lawyer, or any other position that places more importance on a piece of paper rather than actual knowledge.  A hundred years ago and before that this wasn’t the case.  I think we all know people who have acquired a piece of paper who don’t know diddly about their field of ‘expertise.’

It’s funny how the world of the 21st century still confirms the principles of Gurdjieff’s teachings from the early 20th century.