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Mozart's The Magic Flute

(Die Zauberflöte)

Levels of Consciousness per G. I. Gurdjieff


Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1877-1949) was an Armenian-Greek mystic who was born in the Caucasian Region of the Russian Empire. In 1922, after many travels, he settled in France, first near Fontainebleau and later in Paris. The teachings which he brought to the West were derived from his studies among the Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi masters that he encountered during his travels in Central Asia. His studies focused upon techniques necessary to obtain self-awareness and understanding of humanity's place in the Cosmos. The techniques do not require withdrawal to a monastery, but may be utilized while participating in ordinary life. These Gurdjieff techniques came to be referred to collectively as the "Fourth Way."

He offered sophisticated and realistic teachings about the human condition and human potential. Gurdjieff advocated a method of human psychological transformation through the practice of intense, holistic and unadulterated psychological exercises directed toward awakening higher levels of consciousness while continuing to function in the activities of everyday life. Today, many years after his death in 1949, his teachings are being kept alive by many Gurdjieff organizations around the world.

More information on Gurdjieff and his teachings may be found at the Gurdjieff International Review and the Gurdjieff Internet Guide.

G. I. Gurdjieff in 1949


In the book by P. D. Ouspensky entitled In Search of the Miraculous, at Chapter Eight, pages 141-141, Gurdjieff is quoted as follows:

In all there are four states of consciousness possible for man. But ordinary man, that is, man number one, number two, and number three, lives in the two lowest states of consciousness only. The two higher states of consciousness are inaccessible to him, and although he may have flashes of these states, he is unable to understand them and he judges them from the point of view of those states in which it is usual for him to be.

The two usual, that is, the lowest, states of consciousness are first, sleep, in other words a passive state in which man spends a third and very often a half of his life. And second, the state in which men spend the other part of their lives, in which they walk the streets, write books, talk on lofty subjects, take part in politics, kill one another, which they regard as active and call 'clear consciousness' or the 'waking state of consciousness.' The term 'clear consciousness' or 'waking state of consciousness' seems to have been given in jest, especially when you realize what clear consciousness ought in reality to be and what the state in which man lives and acts really is.

The third state of consciousness is self-remembering or self-consciousness or consciousness of one's being. It is usual to consider that we have this state of consciousness or that we can have it if we want it. Our science and philosophy have overlooked the fact that we do not possess this state of consciousness and that we cannot create it in ourselves by desire or decision alone.

The fourth state of consciousness is called the objective state of consciousness In this state a man can see things as they are. Flashes of this state of consciousness also occur in man. In the religions of all nations there are indications of the possibility of a state of consciousness of this kind which is called 'enlightenment' and various other names but which cannot be described in words. But the only right way to objective consciousness is through the development of self-consciousness. If an ordinary man is artificially brought into a state of objective consciousness and afterwards brought back to his usual state he will remember nothing and he will think that for a time he had lost consciousness. But in the state of self-consciousness a man can have Hashes of objective consciousness and remember them.

The fourth state of consciousness in man means an altogether different state of being; it is the result of inner growth and of long and difficult work on oneself.

But the third state of consciousness constitutes the natural right of man as he is, and if man does not possess it, it is only because of the wrong conditions of his life. It can be said without any exaggeration that at the present time the third state of consciousness occurs in man only in the form of very rare flashes and that it can be made more or less permanent in him only by means of special training.

For most people, even for educated and thinking people, the chief obstacle in the way of acquiring self-consciousness consists in the fact that they think they possess it, that is, that they possess self-consciousness and everything connected with it; individuality in the sense of a permanent and unchangeable I, will, ability to do, and so on. 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. On the contrary he will think either that you are mad or that you want to deceive him with a view to personal gain.

The two higher states of consciousness—'self-consciousness' and 'objective consciousness'—are connected with the functioning of the higher centers in man.

In addition to those centers of which we have so far spoken there are two other centers in man, the 'higher emotional' and the 'higher thinking.' These centers are in us; they are fully developed and are working all the time, but their work fails to reach our ordinary consciousness. The cause of this lies in the special properties of our so-called 'clear consciousness.'


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