Mind Matters Interview: July 2020

This is the link to the new interview on Mind Matters. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve7j-rGd0SU

I am grateful to Harrison,  Cory, Elan, and Adam for the chance to speak with them on their programme. I only regret my own multiple inadequacies.

By the way, OUP has or had a discount offer for my book on Gurdjieff, Mysticism and Contemplative Exercises: 

Download (PDF, 317KB)

Let me add here some notes about the book which I first posted some months ago. Were I able to revise the book now I would take into account these:

Helpful Comments

First, on page 4. I note how Mme Solange said “Gurdjieff’s teaching is not a search for religiosity …” I have since noticed that in the notes of meetings with Maurice Nicoll in 1953 he says that Gurdjieff’s work is not a religion, but a teaching. I shall be following this up in the future, because there is an interesting question: what type of teaching is it? After all, there is no reason why a teaching cannot be a religious teaching. When you consider the very last paragraph in the book, you will see that I think the question is a subtle one. By the way, I am, in a humble way, proud of that last paragraph, not because I was allowed to write it, but because precisely because I was privileged to be allowed to write it. I cannot think that Gurdjieff would have disapproved.

On the Gurdjieff’s usage of the terms “meditation” and “contemplation,” I wonder if he did not think of meditation as a mental (i.e. one-centred) activity, and contemplation – or more precisely – his “Transformed Contemplation” as a three-centred activity.

Importantly, on p.111 I refer to the hand movement Gurdjieff showed Benson. Later, Gurdjieff gives that exercise using an imaginatively constructed thread. I have tried it with the hand movement – it is powerful. Perhaps each method can be used.

I draw your attention to the quote from J.G. Bennett’s Sacred Influences on p.236. If this is correct, it may explain why Gurdjieff chose just those four ideals in the Four Ideals Exercise: they really did descend from above, while in some sense remaining – as the Maronite Church says about Jesus – and this explains why Gurdjieff says that the Ideals really do exist. I am still digesting Bennett’s statements, and articulating for myself what the implications. This material is very deep.

The article referred to as Azize (forthcoming) was published in ARIES 20 (2020), 1-30 as “Assessing Borrowing: The Case of Gurdjieff.”

I overlooked this significant passage in J.G. Bennett’s Gurdjieff, Making a New World, 175: “… the new exercises that were being introduced in 1930 and the early part of 1931 seem to have been different from the exercises which he had shown people individually at the Prieure between 1924 and 1929.”

I also missed this from Bennett’s Witness, 96: “Gurdjieff spoke of the Great Eternal Reservoirs, which are connected with Sacred Beings who have come to the earth to help mankind. He then passed to another diagram showing how the Will of God in creation acts through energies of different density of fineness. I could see that such sources of help are really present and was aware of the great mistake that we men have made in breaking the contact that we could have with them.” It should be integrated into the “Four Ideals” chapter.

Of great significance, in the 1931 edition of Beelzebub, 459, he wrote of “Essoaieritoorassnian-will” which in its turn can be obtained thanks to always the same being ‘Partkdolgduty,’ that is, to conscious labours and intentional sufferings.” This is clearly almost the same word as  “Aiessirittoorassnian.,” but the place of two of the root-words “Esso” and “are” have been swapped. I cannot yet say exactly what it means – maybe there is no “exactly” but it is clearly not an arbitrary word; and now we have these clues: ESSO from Latin “to be” and related to “essence,” while AEI I think is probably from the Greek and means “always.” It has to do with a permanent quality of being, I suggest.

Brief Explanations

On page 7, footnote 7 refers to the quote from Gurdjieff. The rest of that indented paragraph was written by me.

On pp.86-87, I did not add the materiality of the universe because that is not unique to Gurdjieff. On p.87, my meaning is that no one ever referred to the Enneagram as drawn by Gurdjieff before Gurdjieff, notwithstanding assertions that it was a Sufi doctrine. No Sufis knew this before Gurdjieff.

On p.99, the fact that Shandarovsky referred to an experiment with the Our Father is significant because the Dukes book has that prayer central to his conversations with Prince Ozay.


On p.6, the first paragraph numbered 1, “for the sale” should be “for the sake”

On p.36, first line of the first full paragraph, “One established” should be “Once established”

On p.51, line 6, “her own” should be “his or her own”

On p.67, line 7, “his central” should be “the central”

On p.91, line 4, delete “the” before “Theophan the Recluse”

On p.109, the indenting of the first paragraph should be aligned.

On p.117, line 9, “and external” should be “an external”

On p.137, third line of the indented quote, insert “is” before “already”

On p.203, 8 lines from the bottom, substitute “It” for “This” and delete “than”, so that it reads “It was harder, he implied, to change them for the better …”

On p.251, footnote 11, should refer to pp.235-236 of The Reality of Being, not pp.255-256.

On p.272, third line from the end of the page, “Brockman” should be “Ripman”

On p.303, line 10, “competed” should be “completed”

On the back cover, attribution should be to “Basarab Nicolescu.”


Joseph Azize, 3 January 2020 to 14 May 2020



  1. Mr Azize, it seems to me that your training and function of priest set you in a difficult position to think the Gurdjieff teaching as I can see it reading that you speak in your book of the connections of Gurdjieff with the mysticism and the neoplatonism. Like said Paul Beekman Taylor writing his book The Philosophy of G.I. Gurdjieff, G. was not a mystic but a philosopher (the words “theology”, “theologian”, “mysticism” and “mystic” do not appear in Beelzebub which mentions “philosophy” and “philosopher” 28 times, and “reason” and reasonable” 535 times) ; and being an immanentist (“the real God as we sometimes call our common Megalocosmos”, Beelzebub 39), G. had no link with neoplatonism which thought that the “One”, the “Intellect” and the “Soul” were transcendent to the world (which is not the case, the Logos or rationale being the intelligibility of the experience of the life which is inner to the world). G. taught “esoteric christianism”. But precisely the God of the Bible didn’t support a theological hermeneutics but only a philosophical interpretation of the Scripture and of the religion in general, this word of religion coming from the latin “religere” (“to link”) alluding only to 3 phenomenon : 1. The unification of the 5 human centers (“moteur”, “sexuel”, “instinctif de conservation”, “émotionnel”, “intellectuel”) inside the anthropos ; 2. The union of this anthropos with the kosmos which is God (as seen above), God being in the world the Spirit (“centre émotionnel supérieur”) and the Being (hebrew YHVH ; called “centre intellectuel supérieur”) ; 3. The metaphysical unity of all the principles constituting the Logos (unity existing between anthropology, psychology, pneumatology, ontology, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, pedagogy, religious sociology, and eschatology). The Gurdjieff teaching, which was philosophical, has no connection, nor with mysticism, nor with neoplatonism (which is a mystic). To think that gurdjievism was a mystic was the error of Mme de Salzmann denounced by G.

  2. I don’t think we can make hard distinctions between mysticism/transcendence and philosophy/immanence. Akbarian mysticism, for example, (based on the thought of the sufi Ibn Arabi) sees God as both immanent AND transcendent, as does a more modern philosophy/theology like that of Whitehead and Hartshorne. You can find statements by Gurdjieff hinting at both, e.g., the vast distance and remoteness of God from humanity (transcendence), and the immanence of ‘real I’ as divine. It’s actually the immanence implicit in G’s teaching that suggests its mysticism, IMO – the idea that one can have a direct connection with the divine through transformation/theosis.

  3. 1. Certainly as you say, a lot of authors have justified the notion of a transcendence of God to the world. But my point of view here is not that of the authors : it is both the living and natural point of view of the phenomenology (prophetic “seeing” or contemplation of the intelligibility of the experience of the life that we can call also the natural revelation), and the cultural point of view of Gurdjieff which reflects this natural intelligibility, his teaching being that of the philosophical (and not theological) and transforming gnosis.
    2. From the point of view of the natural revelation, that I contemplate since 1976, the intelligibility of the experience of the life, that esoteric tradition calls “God”, is not transcendent to the world ;
    3. and G. has definitely denounced all mysticism in the chapters 35 (which calls Mme de Salzmann Salzmanino) and 36 of Beelzebub (where the “Germans” make allusion to the first name of Mme de Salzmann : “Jeanne Allemand”).
    4. We must also remember the warning of Heidegger in the Letter on humanism : we must first understand what is “Being” before becoming able to understand what is the “sacred”, after what we will be able to understand successively what is the “deity” and finally what means the word “God”.
    5. You can disagree this because the understanding is a grace and progressive and the more important for each person is to identify what he can perceive himself in the moment of his day. Also I shall cease here to argue unnecessarily with you about these matters or subjects. Peace on you.
    6. Ultimate complement to my previous post : When a man (or woman, or gurdjieffian) has “UNIFIED” inside himself his 5 human centers, he can “UNITE” himself with the 2 non-human centers (called “superior” to man), after what he can understand the metaphysical “UNITY” of all the philosophical principles of the Logos, which in the end will allow him to “UNITE” himself with a certain number of people in the world, teaching them ethically and pedagogically the Work, this fourth element (sociological) being the fourth and last aspect of the meaning of the word religion (which means “linking” ; here : the sociological union of a master with his or her pupils).

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