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The Armenian-born mystic, philosopher, and spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949) is an enigmatic figure, the subject of a great deal of interest and speculation, but not easily fitting into any of the common categories of “esoteric,” “occult,” or “New Age.” Scholars have for the most part passed over in silence the contemplative exercises presented in Gurdjieff’s writings. Although Gurdjieff had intended them to be confidential, some of the most important
exercises were published posthumously in 1950 and in 1975.
Arguing that an understanding of these exercises is necessary to fully appreciate Gurdjieff’s contribution to modern esotericism, Joseph Azize offers the first complete study of the exercises and their theoretical foundation. It shows the continuity in Gurdjieff’s teaching, but also the development and change. His original contribution to Western Esotericism lay in his use of tasks, disciplines, and contemplation-like exercises to bring his pupils to a sense of their own presence which could to
some extent be maintained in daily life in the social domain, and not only in the secluded conditions typical of meditation. Azize contends that Gurdjieff had initially intended not to use contemplation-like exercises, as he perceived dangers to be associated with these monastic methods, and the
religious tradition to be in tension with the secular and supra-denominational guise in which he first couched his teaching. As Gurdjieff adapted the teaching he had found in Eastern monasteries to Western urban and post-religious culture, however, he found it necessary to introduce contemplation.
Joseph Azize has the bright idea of collecting the basic exercises given by Gurdjieff and he concludes that their roots are in the Christian Orthodox tradition. A religious component of the Gurdjieff teaching is revealed: Gurdjieff formulated a new practical science of melding the biological emanations with the divine emanations. * Basrab Nicolescu, author of From Modernity to Cosmodernity * This book is remarkable, a serious study of Gurdjieff's ideas and exercises that will be of service not only to students of the fourth way but also to those who wish to better understand mysticism and contemplation in the Christian tradition. It contains unparalleled resumes and analyses of Gurdjieff's exercises and their evolution over the whole period of his teaching life. Azize points out that Gurdjieff not only drew on the work of collaborators such as Orage but he gradually embraced contemplative practice, drawing on Western orthodox methods, citing the idea: Behind 'real I' lies God. The author forcibly expresses the view that the real Gurdjieff exercises have been neglected and obscured and need to be restored and known. His book is one of the most substantial ever written about the actual 'Gurdjieff work' and deserves to be widely read and thought about deeply. * Anthony Blake, author of The Supreme Art of Dialogue * This is an outstanding study of the practical basis of Gurdjieff's teaching that will form a new benchmark in scholarly studies. Through sustained examination of the exercises taught orally by Gurdjieff and his pupils, Azize shows that the 'Work' was primarily created as something to do in everyday life, rather than a philosophical system to be decoded. This masterly account is required reading for everyone interested in how new, alternative and esoteric traditions are actually practiced in the modern world. * Steven J. Sutcliffe, Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion, University of Edinburgh *
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