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  • Shreyas Prakash

George Gurdjieff — The Rascal Saint

While casually surfing Youtube, I came across this lecture on Gurdjieff by the Theosophical Society.



For those of you who have not heard of Gurdjieff, he was commonly called as the 'rascal saint', for his very drastic methods which did crazy things with people. He sometimes acted crazy too, acting drunk, throwing away wine glasses from the table and even picking up fights with passersby.


George Gurdjieff also commonly called as the Rascal Saint, was born on the border of Russia and Ottoman empire. He grew up in pastoral conditions where there was a great deal of folklore circulating. His father was a bard who used to recite songs as a bard, mostly about Gilgamesh. He had his first philosophical encounter when he came across this very mystical brotherhood of Sufism from Afghanistan. And just around the outbreak of the first World War, he started collecting a group of students in Moscow who later perpetuated his works.


The core message was an invite to wake us up from our deep slumber. That we dont' remember ourselves. With this as the premise, going out of sleep was a core objective of Gurdjieff and his followers.


He asks us to imagine this carriage which is heavily beaten up by the roads. The horse is starved and abused. The driver is also drunk. The carriage corresponds to the body. The horse corresponds to the soul and emotions. The driver is the mind. And when we may ask, Who is the master?


For most of us, the master is not even there. As we are wandering in an hypnotic stupor, we dont even perceive the 'I' in us. Gurdjieff wants us to draw these three centers together (mind, body and soul) through the art of self-remembering.

The way I chose to interpret Gurdjieff's philosophy is by seeking novelty in the mundane. If you look at our own interpretation of time, our childhood seems to be everlasting with its own share of plentiful novel experiences. But as we get older, life gets routinized — we stick to the same few places of residence, the same few relationships and jobs — and the novelty tapers off. Even though this seems like a better alternative, it could lead to another worser problem of existential overwhelm.


Much of our life would most probably be somewhat routine, with some opportunities for exotic travel here and there. An alternative to this school of thought could be to pay attention to every mundane moment. This is easier said than done, but Gurdjieff's notion of self-remembering, where we plunge more and more deeply into the life we already have.


Meditation could help us get there. Unplanned walks. Trying new different routes to office everyday. Trying to brush our teeth with our other hand. Walking backwards. Bird watching. Nature journalling, there could be more!

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