Some 25 years ago now, the Journal of Contemporary Religion published an interesting article by Sophia Wellbeloved, titled: “G. I. Gurdjieff: Some References to Love” (Vol. 13, No. 3, 1998, 321-332).
It is a particularly well-written article, and gathers together some material you will not easily find elsewhere, especially from people who met Gurdjieff and spoke about his practical love. It cites extensively from Views from the Real World, a volume which has, in those respects, been superseded by Early Talks. I shall not repeat what Sophia wrote in that article, but shall add some references to materials published since 1998.
First, in Early Talks, comes this absolutely central saying: “Make love your aim and begin to look for direction” (424). With that, everything Gurdjieff says elsewhere about love finds its place. It also reinforces that the concept of aim is fundamental to Gurdjieff’s practical system. Of course, one hardly make love one’s aim without some attempt at formulation. The search does not end with the formulation, and it can (even should) include symbolism and imagery, music and other artistic forms, or at least ramify into them.
Second, there is the undated Paris meeting known as “Number 19.” It is in Transcripts of Gurdjieff’s Wartime Meetings, but is not, so far as I can tell, in either the 1943 or 1944 volumes. It has some important material on love, but first of all, Gurdjieff also says this: “Always have an immediate aim. This is your objective e. You must achieve this. There are many zigzags on the way. Do not delay. Always see the aim. Know where you are going and you will find the means to get there. … the aim should be clear and always with you” (101).
This is especially important because, as we have seen, Gurdjieff said: “Make love your aim …” Now, a little later in the same meeting, Gurdjieff says this:
Real love is the basis of all, the foundations, the source. The religions have perverted and deformed love. It was by love that Jesus performed miracles. Real love joined with magnetism. All accumulated vibrations create a current. This current brings the force of love. Real love is a cosmic force which goes through us. If we crystallise it, it becomes a power – the greatest power in the world. Later you will study magnetism in books, no matter which, it will give you material. And with love as a basis, you will be able to cure paralytics and make the blind see (103-104).
However, over and above all this, significant as it is, are those aspects of the system which relate to love but do not expressly mention it. This applies to the practical aspect of the teaching even more than the writings, although it is not absent there. For example, the epitaph for Gurdjieff’s father, from Meetings, is a message of love, tells us something of its true nature, and tells it all the more effectively for pointing, so that we look for ourselves. Love is not explicitly mentioned in the titles of the music, or in the Movements (with the sole exception, so far as I am aware, of “Lost Loves.”) Yet, how could it be absent from these?
Mr Adie never liked us to use a word time and again without a sense or feeling of its significance. We had to be present to ourselves and to have an inner state corresponding to the word, if we dared to use one, especially a sacred one, in his hearing.
For those who wish to take this further, of course it is by working with the system that one does so. Some of Gurdjieff’s pupils wrote some important things about this topic. I would single out Nicoll (especially in the final volume of his Commentaries), Orage in the essay on love (stimulated by a conversation with Gurdjieff), Bennett (in various places), and above all, Ouspensky in Tertium Organum.
Addendum: the article I referred to did not mention that, in Beelzebub, Gurdjieff wrote: “Love of consciousness evokes the same in response. Love of feeling evokes the opposite. Love of body depends only on type and polarity” (361). It also has “the eighteenth personal commandment of our COMMON CREATOR which declared: Love everything that breathes” (198). There are other important statements at 310, 321, and 355, among others. Noteworthy, too, is the statement that self-love (meaning false self-love) is our inner god (1016).
In Diary of Madame Egout pour Sweet (1991), Rina Hands recalled that, once in Paris:
All the time he was talking to me, I felt very strangely that a quite different conversation was taking place between us. He was really telling me what I wanted to know about objective love. I began to understand how the greater does not preclude the lesser, but includes it and, in fact, the greater could not exist without the lesser. I saw how his love was not at all a personal love, but love for all humanity, for all living beings, perhaps even for all creation. Although this was something quite beyond anything I could aspire to or attempt to understand, when I came into contact with it, as I did now, it could only appear to me as personal love, answering the personal love that was the best I had to offer. (78)
She goes on to say that she started to think she had imagined all this, but Gurdjieff left her in doubt that it had happened.