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Will the Gurdjieff Work disappear?

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

Gurdjieff had said that the Work operates by some unknown law, and appears and disappears as needed. It can never be a perpetual school of instruction or constrained by some institutionalised ideal. And yet, its very survival depends on uninterrupted lines of transmission from one generation to the next.

Gurdjieff's vision of future "Clubs" (composed of three mutually interdependent categories of people working in dynamic, complex and collaborative relationships) were proposed to sustain the inner life of the Work to meet the needs of the 'New Age' - that is, the harmonious 'bringing together' of the energy of the West and the wisdom of the East.


The current state of the World - the tension between West and East - would seem to validate Gurdjieff's view. So, What is needed now? What is the future of the Work?

 

The three categories of people belonging to Gurdjieff's envisioned "Clubs" are: (1) those of the 'exoteric' group or new entrants drawn from the public; (2) the 'mesoteric' group or those with a only a theoretical understanding of the Work; and (3) the 'esoteric' group or those that have both a theoretical and practical understanding.

 

For the author of this post, among other things, there has been a growing question in regards the transmission of a vibrant work from the Gurdjieff tradition. Through consultation with others from around the world, and particularly in Australia, this question has strengthened with the observed, steady decline of new entrants over the last ten to twelve years - paralleling the decline in religious participation in general.


There seems to be many reasons for this – most notably, is the combination of the aging population with the way that younger people (under 40 years) access and engage with searching for spiritual material and communities of practice - Gurdjieff's 'exoteric' category. One impact on this is the scale and pervasiveness of the internet and social media that has brought a greater scepticism of institutions and traditions that has changed, and is changing, generational relationships – for better or worse.


Besides the COVID experience that forced Gurdjieff Groups to meet (or at least consider meeting) online during 2020-21, this author was involved in several initiatives with online and face-to-face groups and public events since 2015 (including this Blogsite since 2020) to explore the nature of this access and engagement. These experiences were cross-correlated working with many young people in industry (particularly Web 3.0 and finance) grappling with the acceleration of technological innovation, and its impacts on society and the individual.


What has also been evident, as far as I can see, is the lack of ability of current Gurdjieff practitioners to engage theoretically with hungry young minds that have developed in the modern world of 'information at your finger tips' - limiting the possibility of genuine exchange at the exoteric (and even mesoteric) category.


While working in the digital domain challenges many traditional beliefs of 'how to do the Work', I am encouraged, and even amazed at Gurdjieff’s foresight in meeting these challenges - particularly in regard to his vision of Clubs.


More importantly, I have verified that the Work’s foundational practices are ideally suited to addressing the 'disembodiment' of the digital world, and others at supporting the distillation of finer materials without spatial or temporal confinement. Truly fascinating.


Overall, without a concerted aim to adapt, to reach out to those of the exoteric category challenged by the enormity of navigating the chaotic socio-digital landscape and finding a way to include these challenges inwardly, the current, major demographic of older to elderly Gurdjieff practitioners will produce a predictable outcome for the survival of the Work in the very near future.


But then again, maybe the disappearance of the Work from the lineage of Gurdjieff is law conformable, and is required in the coming years. Though, I am very thankful that Gurdjieff did not hold that belief.

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