Gurdjieff Aphorisms and DOG Tales
First section shows all indexed aphorisms. Second section shows illustrations and explanations.
R. A. Smith DOG Tales
A continuation of the Gurdjieff aphorisms, from the THEDOG school.
0. There is no failure in effort.
39. Only a fool doesn’t take advantage of help that’s available.
40. You may not be able to make another man conscious but you can at least try not to contribute to his sleep.
41. Don’t perceive that a man will understand you, perceive that he will not.
42. Don’t put your suit on ‘til you get to the beach.
43. Let your knowledge precede your actions… then, you will never be troubled.
44. Where there is more, more is added; where there is little, even that is taken away.
45. A man can do remarkable things…if…he has remarkable things to do.
46. Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.
47. When you can make force, make force; no wait ‘til 2 p.m.
48. You can’t call a turtle.
49. The moment you become mechanical is the moment you become mechanical.
50. Always remember the one you forget.
51. To memorize means never having to guess.
52. Freedom…is a whole stick.
53. Don’t forget what you didn’t do, to get here.
54. Everyone does what they can do when they can do it.
55. Self-initiation means never having to blame someone else for your lack of progress.
56. People have the remarkable ability to major in minor things.
57. When there is no more tread left, it’s time to retire.
58. When the knowledge of your thoughts becomes the language of your mouth, you will understand.
59. A school is like a compass; it doesn’t claim to make you go anywhere, it just keeps pointing in the same direction.
60. A man who doesn’t have a question, probably doesn’t have a quest.
61. Maintaining sleep is a tacit conspiracy.
62. There is always one thing you can do.
63. God rested on the seventh day…you ought to at least take one day and do something.
64. A sleeping man will be able to constate the moments he was conscious; a conscious man will be able to constate the moments he was asleep!
65. Intelligence should be an asset…not an excuse.
66. The moment knowledge surpasses being…it is imagination.
67. The truth is: truth applies.
68. Life is not going to make us we have to make ourselves.
69. I don’t have to know it first, I just have to know it lasts.
70. Never ask permission to externally consider.
71. You can’t put someone else in your shoes until YOU are able to wear them.
72. If you forget it was your intention, it never was your intention.
73. The greatest force we have as humans, is the ability to be one!
74. Man can do nothing, ’til he can stop himself…anything else he attempts is only an illusion.
75. Fear lives at the end of the stick — if you can imagine worse, you can conquer fear.
76. Repetition is the mother of accelerated change; but, first, you must do it before you can repeat it.
77. Recognizing that you do not know is probably one of the greatest moments of knowing.
78. Understanding trumps knowledge.
79. The finest tools in the world may do the job perfectly…but not by themselves.
80. Sacred cows function best if fed – or slaughtered.
81. Un-attempted potential is the Universe’s only flaw.
82. Always speak the truth…then you’ll never have to worry.
83. What a man sees when he looks at the world around him says more about the man than it does about the world…
84. Objective concepts often get lost in the minutiae of definition.
85. To be or not to be may be the question; but to be and not to be is the answer.
R. A. Smith DOG Tales Explained
40. You may not be able to make another man conscious, but you can at least try not to contribute to his sleep
Smith DOGTALE #40 – This relates to what G. I. Gurdjieff calls “external considering”. Not contributing to someone’s sleep is externally considering another by using discrimination; for example, if a friend is an alcoholic, and comes by, the one thing you avoid is offering a drink. You don’t support their sleep. Not arguing with another does this too. It takes conscious effort to do this. It builds our being without harming another’s.
39. Only a fool doesn’t take advantage of help that’s available
Smith DOGTALE #39 – This relates to the times when we could have received help, if we asked. We have mechanical habits that make us want to do things on our own, in the face of reason. Like when driving, and not knowing where we’re going, and refusing to ask for directions from help that’s available. Only a fool does that
38. There is no failure in effort
Smith DOGTALE #0 – This DOGTALE relates to what G. I. Gurdjieff told us, that whenever we do anything, we gain something, even when we fail… thus, there is no failure in effort.
G. I. Gurdjieff Aphorisms Explained
Illuminated form and explanations of the aphorisms of George I. Gurdjieff, as inscribed in a special script on the walls of the Study House at The Prieuré, d’Avon, France, where Gurdjieff had established his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Men.
Artwork created by the Dutch artist, Netty Huysman.
All aphorisms in descending sequence.
38. Here there are neither Russians nor English, Jews nor Christians, but only those who pursue one aim—to be able to be.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #38 – This aphorism relates to identification. To disregard what one believes one is, to drop the labels, and the sense of “I” being something. No religions, no nationalities, just being. The aims from aphorisms #2 and #38 are high ones. To develop the ABILITY to do and to be, not TO DO and TO BE. Merely to be able to blend with what is higher, with nothing that remains of “us” in the way, but us being conscious of this.
37. Man is given a definite number of experiences—economizing them, he prolongs his life.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #37 – This aphorism relates to how we register moments. When asleep, centers acting mechanically, we remember nothing, and looking back, our lives seem short. We remember moments of consciousness, with all centers registering impressions. Not only do we take in more in the moment but recall more. Thus, our real waking lives appear to be longer and more full.
36. Hope, when bold, is strength. Hope, with doubt, is cowardice. Hope, with fear, is weakness.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #36 – This aphorism relates to the hope of centers.
Hope of the Higher Emotional Center, with three unified and mastered lower centers, is immediate and direct in action. It boldly goes and does not wait in earnest.
Hope of the fragmented intellect brings opposing thoughts, and any thought that turns away from the aim and does not face it, is as a coward.
Hope of the emotional center, or emotional parts of centers, brings fear of outcome, either as direct fear of bad, or hidden fear behind good. It leaks energy, and leads to weakness of being.
35. Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #35 – This aphorism is about real faith – knowing through contact through every center.
Conscious faith is three lower centers unified, and both higher centers active, all knowing through direct experience that something is so. One is not tied to any outcome other than what is. Freedom.
Emotional faith is based on the hope, wish or desire of the emotional center, and the emotional parts of the moving/Instinctive and intellectual centers, that something is so, with an opposite of fear that it is not so. It makes the object of desire, and fear, possess us, thus making us slaves to it.
Mechanical faith is simply learned and automatically repeated habits of the mechanical parts of centers – no sense in it at all.
34. Conscious love evokes the same in response. Emotional love evokes the opposite. Physical love depends on type and polarity.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #34 – This aphorism is about the love of the three storeys of a person – lower and higher centers. Conscious love is from the higher emotional center, and is pure external considering with all centers unified. A conscious act or sacrifice or giving, that will arouse a conscious response from those receiving. Emotional love is from the middle storey, is possessive in nature, and will turn 180 degrees eventually. Physical love is the lowest, based on physical urges with little involvement of thought, emotion or conscience.
33. One of the best means for arousing the wish to work on yourself is to realize that you may die at any moment. But first you must learn how to keep it in mind.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #33 – This aphorism concerns the need to arouse a level of emotional response in order to overcome inertia. To realize the impermanence of all things, especially self and others, should begin to arouse conscience,and a sense that we all have finite time. Hold the idea that our work is incomplete, and every moment we are either ascending consciously or descending into sleep. Do not sleepwalk into death. We only remember conscious moments. The more we have, the more life we experience and recall. The more we get this, the more we would fear losing it through sleep or early death.
32. The energy spent on active inner work is then and there transformed into a fresh supply, but that spent on passive work is lost for ever.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #32 – This aphorism relates to the limited and constant amount of energy that is available for conscious work on a given day. Energy is wasted in waking sleep, it blends to nothing and is lost forever. Energy spent on conscious work, works against our lower parts and takes the force from that “animal” and gives it to our being, thus replenishing what was available. Conscious labor and intentional suffering.
31. Sleep little without regret.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #31 – This aphorism is very similar to #30, but the sleep referred to here is waking sleep, not some stoic attempt at sleep deprivation overnight. We rarely are able to make decisions where we totally cut off the choice not made. To decide, comes from the word “to cut”. We decide to do the right thing, to turn away from the lower mind’s desires and fears, but we miss the comfort and familiarity of these. We need to find the opposites in us, to let go of both sides, and regret nothing of the decision to be more awake. A life serving a higher mind will have the lower mind tugging back at it. Each time we listen to it, we succumb to it and feel rueful of what we “lost”. Like what “it” does not like. Stay awake often, with real satisfaction. Sleep little, without regret.
30. Rest comes not from the quantity but from the quality of sleep.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #30 – This aphorism relates to two sides of a stick in our daily Work life. When ready for sleep, be prepared, consciously relax so that the sleeping window is full of quality sleep. When waking, be prepared, plan your day with tasks you can complete, and do them, so that the waking day is habitually charged with intent. Make the waking day conscious and ready and the sleeping night relaxed and ready. Enjoy the sleep. Enjoy the day.
29. Blessed is he who has a soul, blessed is he who has none, but woe and grief to him who has it in embryo.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #29 – This aphorism relates to the state of being before awakening, after one awakens to objective self-consciousness, awareness of self, and after awakening to objective consciousness, awareness of all. The soul here is the higher emotional center, the seat of conscience. Before awakening, life is relatively “free” of the knowledge of or need to work against self. After awakening, one sees one’s flaws, and one begins to purge them, working hard against the habitual nature of the human machine. When complete, one is fully awake, and again free, but truly free.
28. He who has freed himself of the disease of “tomorrow” has a chance to attain what he came here for.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #28 – This aphorism relates to the mind and the being needing to be together, now, and when in different times and places, nothing can be achieved. If not now, then when, if not you, then whom? When you can make force, make force. We only strengthen the lower parts of ourselves, who rejoice in indolence, when we succumb to their desires of “never now, always later”.
27. If you have not by nature a critical mind your staying here is useless.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #27 – This aphorism is about discovering truth for yourself and believing no one but your own critical faculties. Do not believe any old tale. Being increases with knowledge. When knowledge comes again, being is different. Validate and understand everything as if new to you.
26. Only he can be just who is able to put himself in the position of others.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #26 – This aphorism is similar to #9 and relates to the impossibility of true altruism without the function of the Higher Emotional Center. Only when we are free of personal bias and inner considering are we able to see and feel ourselves in others, and thus experience real compassion – the genuine feeling of suffering with another.
25. Remember that here work is not for work’s sake but is only a means.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #25 – This aphorism relates to the avoidance of replacing one fixed belief with another. The Work works if you do it, but only as a boat to carry you across. Let go the boat when on land.
24. By teaching others you will learn yourself.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #24 – This aphorism relates to the impossibility of learning if one thinks one knows all. By teaching others, especially when discussing the real, one quickly comes up against questions which show ourselves we actually know very little.
23. Practice love first on animals, they are more sensitive.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #23 – This aphorism refers to the more sensitive and responsive animal nature, in people and self, not just natural animals.
22. It is better to be temporarily an egoist than never to be just.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #22 – This aphorism relates to the need to focus on oneself first and foremost for any inner work to be successful and then true conscience and external considering can occur. The first step to true altruism is pure egotism without harm.
21. Only conscious suffering has any sense.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #21 – This aphorism relates to the three kinds of suffering: Mechanical, Intentional, and Conscious. Suffering is of the essence. We can suffer in the respective Instinctive center, in the Emotional center, or in the Higher Emotional Center.
The only real suffering, which we should all have, is remorse of conscience. Real suffering occurs when we realize that we are not what we are supposed to be, and becomes a force that can drive us toward self-perfection. Fortunately, we found an objective way to do that… so, if we, rapidly get on with the cure, we will, soon, cease to suffer.
20. Only he who can take care of what belongs to others may have his own.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #20 – This aphorism relates to internal and external considering. Animal nature at its basest, cares not for others and only internally considers. Only when the higher emotional center (conscience) is functional can one truly externally consider, and from this position, rightfully owns what lies below.
19. Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West – and then seek.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #19 – This aphorism is a metaphor for the heart (East) and intellect (West). The law of two thirds applies. Only when the heart and mind are in Union with a solitary aim may the being move forward in conscious evolution.
18 . Consider what people think of you – not what they say.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #18 – This aphorism relates to people saying what they think people want to hear, not what they really think. Ignore what is said from the formatory apparatus, and consider how people are with you. Only a conscious person would tell you what they truly think and perceive, all else is projection of false self. Again, what a person says about the world says more about them, not you.
17. Don’t judge a man by the tales of others.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #17 – This aphorism is fairly clear. An objectively conscious person would not talk negatively about anyone. Only in sleep do we see mirrors but not recognise them. Take people only as YOU find them, when you find them. The way a person sees the world says more about the person than it does about the world.
16. We can only strive to be able to be Christians.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #15 – This aphorism is similar to #2, and does not refer to literal Christianity. The etymological source is a long chain from Christos, meaning anointed, meaning to be made sacred, meaning to be holy, meaning to be “made whole”, unfragmented and impartial. We can only strive to be whole.
15. I love him who loves work.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #15 – This aphorism relates to the real I, with ourselves taking the lower seat with conscious labor. The higher blends with the lower to actualize the middle.
14. Respect every religion.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #14 – This aphorism doesn’t mean just religious beliefs, but any belief structure that someone in sleep is tied to. You may not be able to make another person conscious but you can at least try not to contribute to their sleep. Don’t challenge another. Gently and softly be the truth you wish to impart. Do not push it onto anyone. Natural law dictates that every force will be met with an equal and opposite one and you will get nowhere without the third force of reconciliation.
13. Only help him who is not an idler.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #13 – This one means that truth will not grow in one who will not intentionally suffer through conscious labor on self, so spread it wisely
12. Judge others by yourself and you will rarely be mistaken.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #12 – This refers to psychological projection. We first cognize it in ourselves then re-cognize it in others. The stones that are cast are beliefs and ideas, not real stones
11. A true sign of a good man is if he loves his father and mother.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #11 – The majority of our false personality inexactitudes come from Harnel Miaznel blendings from our parents or parent models. To be free of those is to understand the mechanicality of our heritage.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
10. Do not love art with your feelings.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #10 – This was written in very non-diverse times. Read as “a good person, if they love their parental caregivers”. The majority of our false personality inexactitudes come from blendings from our parents or parent models. To be free of those is to understand the mechanicality of our heritage. So, forgive them, for they know not what they do. They too were raised by sleeping people. We cannot bear to see our own mechanicality in others. We will see many of our own in our parents. Only when we are free of all false personality, of all mechanical thoughts and feelings, will we feel nothing but love for those that raised us.
9. The chief means of happiness in this life is the ability to consider externally always, internally never.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #9 – We cannot bear to see our hidden mechanicality in others. To be free of those is to be empty of ourselves. Then we are the masters of the puppet we call “I” and can pull those strings for the benefit only of others. Then nature pays its debt to us in non material ways.
8. If you already know it is bad and do it, you commit a sin difficult to redress.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #8 – Sin means “without consciousness and missing the goal”, not evil deeds. If we succumb to the lower desires and know that, we deviate from the ultimate goal and it will need twice as much effort to get back on track.
7. Know that this house can be useful only to those who have recognized their nothingness and who believe in the possibility of changing.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #7 – This “house” is our being, not a building. We must first eradicate all false belief and opinion and simply “be” as an impartial witness to our life. Become nothing and then allow untrammeled growth toward truth.
6. Here we can only direct and create conditions, but not help.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #6 – You cannot make a horse drink water, you cannot compel a person to believe or change, they must see the value of it for themselves or they are under yet another external influence and remain unfree. Be the example you wish others to follow and allow them to walk freely with you.
5. Remember you come here having already understood the necessity of struggling with yourself – only with yourself. Therefore thank everyone who gives you the opportunity.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #5 – “Here” means where you find yourself now, when awake. The only real struggle is with false belief and desire. A being attracts its own life, so be grateful someone has mirrored you and shown your own weakness and inexactitudes. It’s a gift not a curse. This is what the Greater Jihad means in Islam. Intentional suffering for inner evolution.
4. Remember yourself always and everywhere.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #4 – The self in this case is the Real I. If not here then where, and if not now, then when? Lose ideas of a personal self and remember what you really are. Nothing.
3. The worse the conditions of life the more productive the work, always provided you remember the work.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #3 – The only growth we get comes from struggle and suffering but only when we look inwards and see why we react negatively. Point the arrow of attention inwards and you will be grateful for any hardship that arises. Our mechanical life brought them, so be happy you now see why.
2. The highest that a man can attain is to be able to do.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #2 – This is about blending of the Higher and the Lower (our three animal centres we inherited of mind, emotion and body). Be free of all desire and fear, to be able to be anything that is needed for a higher direction. A person cannot do. We are machines. We can only be available to do. Thy Will be done, not our own.
1. Like what “it” does not like.
Gurdjieff Aphorisms #1 – “It” is the false personality. We can only like what it does not like if we are something else looking inwards. Learn to work against your habitual beliefs, opinions, desires and ideas, and by separating become that which rejoices in freedom.
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