The Work

In the early years of the 20th century George Gurdjieff appeared in Russia and began teaching a set of ideas – many of them apparently new – to groups of pupils in Moscow and St Petersburg. He later introduced this teaching to most of the countries of Europe and also to America. Gurdjieff’s method of teaching, aside from his individual interactions with his many pupils, involved: physical work on practical activities, dances (called the movements), music, specific exercises and readings.

Taken together, this set of activities, along with the study of Gurdjieff’s writings, today comprise what is called “The Work.” The Work originated from this one man, which is why it is often called The Gurdjieff Work. It is not known for sure whether he was tasked to introduce The Work by some “master” of whom he was pupil, or whether he simply chose to do so on his own. He hinted that he had gathered his knowledge from multiple sources, but never provided any definitive detail.

The Work embodies such a wide variety of strands that it is difficult to imagine that it all came from one man, and yet Gurdjieff initiated it alone. He had assistance in doing so. He composed piano music in collaboration with Thomas De Hartmann. He taught some movements that he said were temple dances from the East and choreographed many others entirely on his own. His writings were his own, although editing work and translations were carried out under his direction by quite a few of his senior pupils.

Strands of the Work

  • From a practical perspective The Work is a set of techniques and ideas aimed at helping someone to truly know themselves.
  • From a psychological perspective, it is a “spiritual pursuit”; those who are drawn to it, and persist with it, are usually seeking personal development.
  • From a philosophical perspective it embodies a distinct and unusual philosophy concerning the nature of man.
  • From a religious perspective, it does not introduce a new religious doctrine. It respects all faiths, but does not align itself with any particular religion. Those who come to The Work are expected to have a well-developed skepticism and to accept nothing “on faith.” Nevertheless, The Work is not atheistic.
  • From a scientific perspective it includes a set of scientific ideas and theories (“objective science”) that are distinct from modern science in a fundamental way, but it is in agreement with modern science in many areas.
  • From an organizational perspective, there are teachers and groups who maintain, to some degree, the tradition of The Work that Gurdjieff established. Most of these groups can trace a line back to Gurdjieff through one or another individual whom Gurdjieff taught directly.

Further Information

Click on the links below if you wish to read more about The Work.

  • Work on Oneself The Work is a spiritual pursuit, that differs from other serious spiritual pursuits because many of the activities of The ...
  • In The Beginning For any individual The Work must necessarily begin by encountering the ideas of The Work. This most likely will occur ...
  • Sleep – States of Attention Metaphorically, man’s usual state of awareness when he is up and about, can be characterized as a “waking sleep.” In ...
  • The Preparation, Sitting he text below is taken directly from The Tales and can be viewed as providing a brief description of The ...
  • Three Brains The Work offers the idea that the human being can be viewed as having three controlling functions or brains: The ...
  • Three Lines of Work Gurdjieff taught that there are three lines of work. The “Three Lines of Work” are fundamental to becoming involved in ...
  • The Five Obligolnian Strivings “All the beings of this planet then began to work in order to have in their consciousness this Divine function ...
  • To Self-Remember The following is Ouspensky’s description of self-remembering and its possible impact: … at the same time as self-observing, we try to ...

The Legacy

Gurdjieff died in 1949. So much time has passed since then that very few individuals who were directly taught by Gurdjieff are still alive. Consequently those people who lead Gurdjieff Groups depend to some degree upon his legacy:

  • The books he wrote
  • The movements
  • His music
  • Individual exercises
  • Forms of group work