As I was scanning a list of Nashville-area spiritual Meetup groups, I ran across an unfamiliar term: Gurdjieff. Because Gurdjieff is apparently something relating to the subject of spirituality, I was a little surprised I had not heard of Gurdjieff before. (I still have no idea how to pronounce it.) As usual, Wikipedia came to the rescue.

George Gurdjieff, spiritual teacherGeorge Gurdjieff was an influential spiritual teacher of the early to middle 20th century. He taught that most of us spend our lives in what amounts to hypnosis: a state of waking sleep. Gurdjieff developed a transcendental discipline he called The Work (as in doing "work on oneself") or The System – a set of steps to help people grow beyond their typical waking sleep to a higher state of consciousness and achieve their full potential. Since Gurdjieff’s methods differ from those of the fakir, the monk, and the yogi, the practice has also been known as The Fourth Way. It has also been described as "esoteric Christianity."

Esoteric Christianity refers to a group of spiritual practitioners who view Christianity as a mystery religion. Esoteric Christians follow certain Gnostic-style, secret, esoteric doctrines. Esoteric Christian beliefs are generally hidden from the public, with most of the knowledge being limited to a narrow band of initiates: the enlightened ones (properly educated people). Esoteric Christianity is occult (meaning "hidden") study — what adherents consider to be the "inner teachings" of early Christianity. This Christian esotericism was initially associated with the Essenes (a sect of Second Temple Judaism that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE) and later with the Rosicrucians.

Are we recommending that readers dabble in Gurdjieff, or take up The Fourth Way? No, we aren’t. While George Gurdjieff’s teachings are dead-on in many respects – including the fact that most of humanity merely goes through the motions as if hypnotized, rather than being spiritually connected and genuinely living life – the teachings take a fall, stumbling over the same root most organized fundamentalist religions do: asserting that various supernatural or paranormal events represent fact. (Isn’t this where literalist, fundamentalist religions always start to get flaky? We think so…)

The influence of the Moon upon everything living manifests itself in all that happens on Earth. Man can not tear himself free from the Moon. All his movements and consequently all his actions are controlled by the Moon. The mechanical part of our life is subject to the Moon.
(Source: In Search of the Miraculous, by P.D. Ouspensky [Amazon])

Fakir (also faqir, faqr)

A fakir is essentially a Muslim monk – an ascetic who follows Islam, the teachings of the prophet Mohammad. I first heard the spiritual term fakir in an animated show, of all places – in the fifth segment of the excellent movie Batman: Gotham Knight. In "Working through Pain," we learn what happens when the superhero needs saving. Bruce Wayne travels to the East for rigorous spiritual training and/or enlightenment to better enable him to cope with the stress and pain that inevitably accompanies life as a superhero.

Fakir clip: Working Through Pain

Source: YouTube

Although Bruce Wayne was refused by the teachers from whom he first desired to learn these ancient Eastern spiritual practices, a woman -– a female fakir despised by the men for doing more than a woman "should" -– took him on as a serious student. (I wanted to include a similar YouTube video featuring "Working Through Pain" to the tune of Hurt, a classic Johnny Cash song; however, its author — who apparently approves of using copyrighted movies and songs — has disabled the video’s embedding feature. Go figure!)

Sidetracked again: Gotham Knight rocks

Batman: Gotham Knight (a 2008 animated film) is a splendid movie for some tastes which includes six separate stories, each in a different animation style (anime, actually). Perhaps the best episode – and certainly the most spiritually relevant portion – is "Working Through Pain" in which Wayne becomes a student of a fakir named Cassandra. Bruce’s main goal is to learn how to control pain; Cassandra and the fakirs teach that any pain can be controlled with the application of spiritual power. "Control your internal pain to overcome your external pain." (Adapted from Dream Design, Deploy)

Misguided on usage of occult?

When I hear the word occult, I tend to think of — or even synonymize it with — supernatural or paranormal. While that is basically correct for the term occult when as a noun (as in the occult), it’s not exactly the same for occult when used as an adjective. The latter seems to emphasize the hidden, secret, or mysterious qualities than any supernatural, magic, or paranormal aspects…


[1] Since its 1949 release, In Search of the Miraculous has been hailed as the most significant, accurate, and valuable documentation of Gurdjieff’s thoughts and worldview. To some disciples of Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky was an incomplete mystic; other followers consider Gurdjieff and Ouspensky to be co-gurus.

Resources: Gurdjieff

Resources – Batman: Gotham Knight

Other resources

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Featuring the usual sidetracks & digressions

This post was started on Saturday, February 04, 2012.