Fourth Way on the Web
Why I Review These Books
Fourth Way on the Web
Once upon a time there was no Google at all. Imagine that – all that inconvenience! All those years and lives and generations of mankind without access to the Internet or the World Wide Web!
I have in mind Google, the world-wide search engine (the biggest and the best all-purpose such engine). It permits immediate access to references on the World Wide Web to close to every subject under the Sun. Indeed, in an excess of the spirit of completeness, it even indexes itself. Have you any idea of the number of references to “Google” that appear on Google? On May 3, 2019, I found that there were 2.6 billion references to “Google” on its own search engine. That is billions, not millions! In theory, all these sites are accessible. But who has the time – the lifetimes – to check?
Google describes itself as “the most visited website in the world … the most valuable U.S. brand as of 2017.” It is not bound to the English language but covers to some degree 149 of the world’s languages. It counts 4.5 billion monthly active users. You and I are included among that swarm of users.
As a matter of general interest, I decided to check the number of citations to be found on Google for some subjects of mutual interest. It took me a couple of minutes one rainy morning in May to determine the number of references to Work-related subjects that are there, at our fingertips, day and night, all the time. Here is what I learned:
There are 124,000,000 references to the Fourth Way. There are 3,400,000 references to Gurdjieff. There are 245,000 references to Ouspensky. There are 66,300 references to Madame Jeanne de Salzmann. The Google search engine is no slow-poke. It took less than one second to conduct each one of these four searches, less than four seconds in all.
My vanity is such that I finally checked my own last name to see how many “hits” were recorded. I chuckled because I did rather well in comparison. There are 16,800,000 million references to Colombo. But allow me to add a cautionary note: The overwhelming majority of these references are not to me at all, but to Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon … the home of the late scientist and science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke.
There are two adages that I like to recall that go like this: “You can learn a lot by looking” and “The best place to hide something is in plain sight.” In fact, you can learn a lot about the Fourth Way, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and Madame Jeanne de Salzmann because all the references are in plain sight, seconds away … on the computer screen, the contemporary world’s crystal ball.
I am in no position to access the quality of the information that is conveyed to us by our personal computers. The information is always there and its volume increases by the hour. I wonder if there will come a breaking point when even with all its speed it will be unable to process the amount of information at hand on the World Wide Web in a timely fashion.
In the meantime, there is a whole library of information at one’s fingertips. I decided to draw attention to some of the blogs and sites that are of particular interest. Then I have focused on a handful of other related sites and added some that might be overlooked on YouTube. Finally I have included information on some appropriate webinars.
This site is something of a puzzler. Lovely design and typography along with intelligent commentary and correspondence. If you use the address here, you are granted limited access as a guest. If you register (which I have yet to do), you are required to fill out a form and are then granted membership status, whatever that entails. The text appears in your choice of Russian, German, or English. I clicked the latter language. There might be hidden wonders in the Russian and German texts; there are minor matters of interest in the English text. It is always worth the effort to read someone’s account of objectives in the Work. Even without becoming a member, I was able to access a number of odd and interesting items, including this one:
I read with considerable enjoyment this letter from the Russian writer Arkady Rovner, who writes most engagingly about the Work personalities whom he and his wife had met while traveling around Europe in 2009. I plan to read it again, more closely, with pen and paper in hand, to make notes.
I then changed the ending of the web address and checked en/groups/amerika and found a long list of entries for groups around the world. Seventeen countries are surveyed and information about the groups in these countries is given. I clicked “America” to find no reference at all to “Canada.” But isn’t Canada part of North America? By now this omission is something of a scandal! The oversight should be remedied forthwith. There are numerous active groups in Canada.
The headquarters of the Gurdjieff Club is in Moscow. I have no notion of the nature of the aim of this “club,” except that this statement, which appears here, attributed without source to Gurdjieff, may well be its aim: “Here there are neither Russian nor English, Jews nor Christians, but only those who pursue one aim – to be able to be.”
The Gurdjieff Journal
If the Gurdjieff Club seems to me to be a little “stand-offish,” private-club-like, that is not my criticism of website of The Gurdjieff Journal. Wide-open in the most friendly of American ways, it is a promotion for that journal (which I have subscribed to since its founding in 1992). But in addition to being a promotion, it is also a portal to much information about “The Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation / The Teaching for Our Time,” the overall organization established by William Patrick Patterson to channel his energy and information for people interested in the Fourth Way. I have never met WPP or attended any of his sessions, but I have purchased WPP’s books and videos. Readers who want to know more about him as well as about what he knows would do well to check WPP’s website and, if they have time to spare, turn to my article on “The Journal Known as ‘Gurdjieff’” which appeared in Issue 10 – 1 March 2019 of the present blog.
Gurdjieff International Review
In Issue 11 – 15 March 2019, of the present blog, there is relevant information about Gurdjieff International Review. It is a delight. It appears in English, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, and Turkish. It is published by Gregory M. Loy and its articles and excerpts from mainstream Work literature are always worth reading and rereading. There are hundreds of articles here, all available, in whole or part, in print or online, and free of charge on the web. Some of the issues have a strong sense of theme, and in this way rather resemble an unillustrated version of the respected, New Age-like periodical Parabola.
Leeds Gurdjieff Fourth Way Group
All I know about this group is that it seems to be quite earnest, it is located in Leeds in England, and it has a modest yet authentic website. Its founding Principle is “Everyone should have an aim” which is attributed to G.I.G. The aim of the group members in Leeds seems to me to be very straight-forward and to appeal to people who are serious about life and Work. It lists as its subjects of interest the following concerns: The Science of Being, Self Remembering, Toward Evolution, Division of Centres, Wrong Work of Centres, The Meaning of Self Study, Can Wars Be Stopped?, What Is the Purpose of Life. Heady stuff indeed! Its Heritage seems to be G.I.G., P.D.O., A.R.O., J. de S., and J.G. B. Worth a visit, whether you are in Leeds in West Yorkshire or merely searching for something to read on the Internet.
Inner City Books, Catalogue
One of the treats of the Web is that it features detailed descriptions of new and forthcoming books, as well as old and reprinted book, that are being promoted by the world’s publishing houses, big and small. You can always learn more about a current book that is being advertised or reviewed by checking its publisher’s catalogue, usually found in full on the Web.
Here is the insignia of Inner City Books, a model of a small and independent publishing house, this one located in Toronto, my home town. It was founded in 1980 by Daryl Sharp, a Jungian analyst and author, and it is the world’s largest publishing house devoted exclusively to books about the work of C.G. Jung. Inner City Books was the first publisher of the therapist Marion Woodman (who died on July 9 last year) and all of its imprints appear under the honorary patronage of Marie-Louise von Franz of Kusnacht, Switzerland. The company has issued more than one million copies of about 150 titles since its founding. The publisher himself has a dab hand with humour. The Jung Lexicon, which Sharp compiled, is a useful encyclopedia-like dictionary of Jungian terms, many of which have passed into everyday use.
Webinars Sponsored by The Theosophical Society in America
It would never have occurred to me to check “the TS” for online webinars on aspects of the Fourth Way. Yet the Theosophical Society in America (notice the use of the preposition “in” rather than the preposition “of”) has an authoritative website, in keeping with its long history and tradition. The Society was founded by H.P. Blavatsky and others way back in 1875). To this day it is known to view through friendly eyes organizations like Anthroposophy which share its essential aims and objectives. Its work has always made me want to visit its headquarters “lodge” in Adyar, India. I have found that Theosophists greatly admire Mr. G.
On this site there are numerous current webinars, available at modest expense. Some of their subjects are the following: Astrological Studies: Spiritual Intuition at Work; Essence of the Advaita Tradition: Exploring the Crest-jewel of Discrimination; At Home with Theosophy: Laws of the Higher Life; The Journey of Self-transformation (this one is delivered by Ravi Ravindra).
Ongoing groups discuss the Theosophical Teachings of Sri Madhava Ashish; Mahatma Letters: Reading and Discussion Group; Non-duality Dialogue; Walking the Theosophical Path: The Road to Spiritual Development; Dream Circle (this one includes contributions by Sy Ginsburg); Friday Gurdjieff Study Group (with Ocke de Boer, Marcel Pardo, Gwynne Mayer, and Sy Ginsburg again).
By no means is this a full listing of current offerings. The TS’s long-standing motto is recalled here: “There is no Religion higher than Truth.” It is not attributed to Mr. G. but it could well have been.
Let me conclude with a reference to YouTube. This video-sharing website, founded in 2005 and now owned and operated by Google, is the first port of entry for photographs and even clips from motion pictures, some of which are directly related to Gurdjieff and Ouspensky (as I mentioned in this blog in Issue 12 — 1 April 2019). The still reproduced here, for instance, depicts beautifully cast actors playing Gurdjieff and Ouspensky as they are having coffee and cigarettes together in the 42.15 minute long dramatic adaptation of In Search of the Miraculous.
Pictures of other personages associated with the Fourth Way are plentiful. In fact, YouTube offers an amazing number of references to the Fourth Way — said to be 297,000,000 “hits.” I find the sum to be unimaginably large, but I assume the majority of the so-called “hits” relates to other uses of the words “fourth” and “way,” but who can be sure? Also available for students of the Work are PDF editions of the texts of The Fourth Way and In Search of the Miraculous and All and Everything and Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am” among the landmark publications. These editions are searchable in their entirety and in some instances are available free of charge. Keyboard your favourite Work-related keywords and you are certain to find interesting, intriguing, and relevant information and insights here.
7-13 May 2019
Why I Review these Books
1. I am frequently asked, “Why are you bothering to read and review all of these books. I assume that you are not doing it for nothing.” I reply, “I am reviewing these books because I really want to read them and respond to them in an organized fashion. In that sense I am not doing it for nothing, though I am certainly not being paid to do it! I am undertaking all this work for the psychological rewards of the effort and the usefulness of the task itself. There is no monetary recompense at all, though certainly there is a lot of work.”
2. One of the psychological rewards is the right that I have to I choose what I will review; no one tells me what to write about, though there are subscribers to the blog who send me their suggestions, which I always consider seriously. I decide on what I will say about the books that I will notice, and of equal importance, I decide how I will express it, elliptically and obliquely or directly and forcefully. The length of the review, the sophistication of the argument, etc., all these are in my hands. I find such freedom to be invigorating, an invitation to explore further!
3. By taking on this assignment – this work-load – I have to force myself to keep abreast of current titles, but then I am able to dawdle a bit and review some non-current titles. That is why I dip into the backlog of blogs commissioned more than a decade ago by Sophia Wellbeloved for her Cambridge-based blog which is still on line and searchable. I should state, too, that my idea of a “new” book or a “new” review is one that the reader has yet to read, regardless of the year of its publication. Hence an ideal issue of my blog is one that includes something old and something new, though I have yet to figure out how to include something that is borrowed and something that is blue … in the words of the old English folk rhyme.
4. My feeling is that the Golden Age of Workbooks has passed. The occasional contemporary classic hoves into view. For instance, the first issue of this blog was devoted to a 4,000-word outline and summary of Gurdjieff Reconsidered, a mammoth work written by Roger Lipsey, which offers a new foundation for Gurdjieff-appreciation. For about a month and a half my review in the first issue of this blog (October 2018) was the sole review of that fine book. Yet outstanding books continue to be published, and here I think of two that are the work of Stephen A. Grant: The Reality of Being and In Search of Being. Some years ago I wrote appreciative reviews of those two books for Sophia’s site, and I certainly hope to examine them again in future issues of this blog. I also hope I will live long enough to read – and long enough to review – a comprehensive biography of Madame de Salzmann, when one is researched, written, and published. Such a book is certainly long overdue.
5. Looking at the canon of these books through both eyes — one critical eye focused on literature, the other appreciative eye attracted to journalism — one is immediately made aware of the fact that All and Everything fits neatly and nicely into European literary history along with some major and epic-style works of literature composed by James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Marcel Proust, for starters.
6. I feel that by writing and publishing all on my own that I am making a characteristic contribution to the Work, and in effect beginning to repay a long-standing debt that I am aware that I owe to a remarkable couple, Mrs. Louise Welch and Dr. William J. Welch, who were associated with the Toronto group in the 1950s and thereafter for decades.
7. It is also my aim “to put Canada on the map.” To this end I wrote or compiled thirty-six separate volumes devoted to accounts of mysterious Canadiana. So I know what Ouspensky wrote about Canada and I also know what Gurdjieff wrote about one Canadian teaching master, so I keep a weather-eye open for more! This is a quirk of mine. I have a Magnetic Centre – otherwise known as a Green Thumb! – for references of this sort. Curiosity might well be my chief feature.
8. These reviews are designed to be regarded as appreciations, not criticisms. I am far from weighing the merits of these books on the Scales of Justice. (The Greek goddess Metis may have inspired my poetry-writing wife Ruth, but Metis has never been my Muse!) I try not to compare one book with another book or to argue with the author about the points that are being made by him or her in good faith and with appreciation and insight.
9. I place whatever reservations I have on record, but generally I include criticism as an aside to the main discussion. Basically I want to enjoy these titles and to draw attention to them. I am neither a teacher nor a course leader, but a writer and a reviewer. There is a Swiss adage that I like: “The wise man is able to learn from the fool, but the fool is able to learn from nobody.”
10. As I mentioned earlier, a book is new if you have yet to read it, despite the year it was first published. The best way to read a mediocre book is … fast. The best way to read an outstanding book is to treasure it, make notes about it, to reread the text, and to refer to it in speech and in print. I have yet to read All and Everything three times, as we are advised or cautioned to do, if only because there are so many other books that tug at my attention and distract me.
11. It is my discovery that you need not understand everything that you read at the time that you read it. But in time you will understand what it is you have read so long as you have read it attentively and in a positive spirit.
12. I understand that there once was a tradition in Lhasa that required the student of Tibetan wisdom literature to hold a great book on the crown of one’s head before, during, or after a session devoted to studying the text. It is done discreetly with the wish that the book’s contents might directly act on the mind of its reader. I have followed this custom on occasion … but never while anyone was watching!
15 April – 13 May 2019