We have enough, for the moment, and can touch quickly on a series of
issues, as points of focus, and/or questions, as an introduction to themes to be
considered on the blog.
One obvious consideration with Gurdjieff is the relationship to sufism, and
its history, legacy, and relationship to Islam. At the time of Gurdjieff's
appearance this connection was veiled, although many discovered it soon
It is obvious in retrospect that Gurdjieff was raised in and explored the
field of the sufistic tradtion, managing to find a number of its hidden corners.
However, his 'teaching' is something quite different from what is conventionally
seen as the 'sufi path' (whatever that is). In general the question of sufism is
not easy to map out successfully and suffers from the totalitarian context it is
forced to survive. It is difficult and finally counterproductive to attempt to
embark on such a 'path' armed with nothing more than the public materials of
The figure of Idries Shah has done a great deal to partially illuminate this
tradition, and it is also an open question as to his connections with Gurdjieff.
He has also produced a number of books, one with a pseudonym, attempting to
throw some light on Gurdjieff's 'search'. Mostly his remarks are as
untrustworthy as anything in Gurdjieff's own autobiography, so it is difficult
to draw any conclusions.
J. G. Bennett pursues the distinction between the different sufistic strains,
as between the so-called Kwajagan and straight sufistic/Arabian strains or
schools, and we can, especially given our historical perspective (to be
developed in next chapter) easily see that sufism is being cast between the
poles of monotheistic/gnostic mysticism and the Buddhist influences that had
long before penetrated the field of Central Asia where Gurdjieff was at home.
Don't let all this confusion distract from the basic simplicity of the situation
as it revolves around a Buddhistic and monotheistic dialectic. Scratch an
accomplished sufi and you'll find someone who has cripped notes from Patanjali,
no doubt. Since most sufis 'in place' must bluff their way through a difficult
totalitarian environment, the West has rapidly become a more useful milieu for
the pursuit of sufi issues.
No accurate or reliable accounts exist of either the history or legacy of
Sufism, or of its more recondite manifestations, such as we see in Gurdjieff,
who was, in any case, attempting to create a breakaway tradition of his