Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

George Gurdjieff, fully George Ivanovich Gurdjieff

Greek-Armenian-Georgian Writer, Philosopher, Mystic and Spiritual Teacher

"Man is a machine. All his actions, words, thoughts, feelings, opinions and habits are the results of external influences, external impressions. Out of himself a man cannot produce a single thought, a single action. Everything he says, does , thinks, feels - all this happens. To establish this fact for oneself, to be convinced of its truth, means getting ride of a thousand illusions about man, about his being creative and consciously organizing his own life, and so on. But it is one thing to understand with the mind and another thing to feel with one’s ‘whole mass’, to be really convinced that it is so and never forget it."

"It is possible to stop being a machine, but for that it is necessary first of all to know the machine. A machine, a real machine, does not know itself and cannot know itself. When a machine knows itself it is no longer a machine, at least, not such a machine as it was before. It already begins to be responsible for its actions."

"It is necessary to distinguish consciousness from the possibility of consciousness. We have only the possibility of consciousness and rare flashes of it. Therefore we cannot define what consciousness is. For most people, the chief obstacle in the way of acquiring self-consciousness consists in the fact that they think they possess it. It is evident that a man will not be interested if you tell him that he can acquire by long and difficult work something which, in his opinion, he already has."

"If you help others, you will be helped, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in one hundred years, but you will be helped. Nature must pay off the debt... It is a mathematical law and all life is mathematics."

"The sole means now for the savings of the beings on the planet Earth would be to implant into their presences a new organ with such properties that every one of these unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests. Only such a sensation and such a cognizance can now destroy the egoism completely crystallized in them that has swallowed up the whole of their Essence and also the tendency to hate others which flows from it - the tendency, namely, which engenders all those mutual relationships existing there, which serve as the chief cause of all their abnormalities unbecoming to three-brained beings and maleficent for them themselves and for the whole Universe."

"Man has no permanent and unchangeable I. Every thought, every mood, every desire, every sensation says ‘I’. And in each case it seems to be taken for granted that this I belongs to the Whole, to the whole man, and that a thought, a desire, or an aversion is expressed by this Whole. In actual fact, there is no foundation whatever for this assumption. Man’s every thought and desire appears and lives quite separately and independently of the Whole. And the Whole never expresses itself, for the simple reason that it exists, as such, only physically as a thing, and in the abstract as a concept."

"Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave."

"There are two struggles - inner-world struggle and outer-world struggle, but never can these two make contact, to make data for the third world. Not even God gives this possibility for contact between inner- and outer-world struggles; not even your heredity. Only one thing - you must make intentional contact between outer-world struggle and inner-world struggle; only can you make data for the third world of Man, sometimes called World of the Soul. Understand?"

"Moments of consciousness are very short and are separated by long intervals of completely unconscious, mechanical living… you can think, feel, act, speak and work without being conscious."

"You will then see that you can think, feel, act, speak, work without being conscious of it. And if you learn to see in yourselves the moments of consciousness and the long periods of mechanicalness, you will as infallibly see in other people when they are conscious of what they are doing and when they are not."

"If you want to lose your faith, make friends with a priest. "

"A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering."

"It is the greatest mistake to think that man is always one and the same. A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. He seldom remains the same even for half an hour. "

"Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening."

"We never reach the limits of our strength."

"He who has got rid of the disease "Tomorrow" has the possibility to attain what he is here for."

"Religion is doing; a man does not merely think his religion or feel it, he "lives" his religion as much as he is able, otherwise it is not religion but fantasy or philosophy. "

"Conscious love evokes the same in response. Emotional love evokes the opposite."

"A "sin" is something which is not necessary."

"A change of being cannot be brought about by any rites. Rites can only mark an accomplished transition. And it is only in pseudo-esoteric systems in which there is nothing else except these rites that they begin to attribute to the rites an independent meaning... Inner growth, a change of being, depends entirely upon the work which a man must do on himself."

"A considerable percentage of the people we meet on the street are people who are empty inside, that is, they are actually already dead. It is fortunate for us that we do not see and do not know it. If we knew what a number of people are actually dead and what a number of these dead people govern our lives, we should go mad with horror."

"All who have come to me must have enema each day."

"A man can only attain knowledge with the help of those who possess it. This must be understood from the very beginning. One must learn from him who knows."

"A good man loves his father and mother."

"A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake."

"A man can keep silence in such a way that no one will even notice it. The whole point is that we say a good deal too much. If we limited ourselves to what is actually necessary, this alone would be keeping the silence. And it is the same with everything else, with food, with pleasures, with sleep; with everything there is a limit to what is necessary. After this "sin" begins. This is something that must be grasped, a "sin" is something which is not necessary."

"A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. He seldom remains the same even for half an hour."

"According to the numerous deductions and conclusions made by me during experimental elucidations concerning the productivity of the perception by contemporary people of new impressions from what is heard and read, and also according to the thought of one of the sayings of popular wisdom I have just remembered, handed down to our days from very ancient times, which declares: “Any prayer may be heard by the Higher Powers and a corresponding answer obtained only if it is uttered thrice: Firstly—for the welfare or the peace of the souls of one’s parents. Secondly—for the welfare of one’s neighbor. And only thirdly—for oneself personally."

"A 'sin' is something which is not necessary."

"All energy spent on conscious work is an investment; that spent mechanically is lost forever."

"All religions speak about death during this life on earth. Death must come before rebirth. But what must die? False confidence in one’s own knowledge, self-love and egoism. Our egoism must be broken. We must realize that we are very complicated machines, and so this process of breaking is bound to be a long and difficult task. Before real growth becomes possible, our personality must die."

"Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness."

"Common aim is stronger than blood."

"By teaching others you will learn yourself."

"Blessed is he who hath a soul."

"Better to die than live in sleep."

"Awakening begins when a man realizes that he is going nowhere and does not know where to go."

"Awakening is possible only for those who seek it and want it, for those who are ready to struggle with themselves and work on themselves for a very long time and very persistently in order to attain it."

"An ordinary man has no ‘Master.’ He is ruled now by the mind, now by the feelings and now by the body. Often the order comes from the automatic apparatus and still more often he is ordered about by the sex center. Real will can only be when one ‘I’ rules, when there is a ‘master’ in the house."

"As long as our ideas are the same, we will never be apart."

"Consider what others think of you, not what they say."

"Do not be affected by externals. In themselves they are harmless; it is we who allow ourselves to be hurt by them."

"Eastern art has a mathematical basis. It is a script with an inner and an outer content. In Persia there is a room in a monastery which makes one weep owing to mathematical combinations of different parts of its architecture. Real art is knowledge and not talent."

"Don't judge a man by the tales of others."

"Every ceremony or rite has a value if it is performed without alteration. A ceremony is a book in which a great deal is written. Anyone who understands can read it. One rite often contains more than a hundred books."

"Every one of those unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as of the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests. Only such a sensation and such a cognizance can now destroy the egoism completely crystallized in them that has swallowed up the whole of their Essence, and also that tendency to hate others which flows from it."

"Everything in the universe has a place in a scale."

"External morality is different everywhere."

"Faith cannot be given to man. Faith arises in a man and increases in its action in him not as the result of automatic learning, that is, not from any automatic ascertainment of height, breadth, thickness, form and weight, or from the perception of anything by sight, hearing, touch, smell or taste, but from understanding. Understanding is the essence obtained from information intentionally learned and from all kinds of experiences personally experienced."

"Faith of consciousness is freedom. Faith of feeling is slavery. Faith of body is stupidity."