S4/E36: Gurdjieff: More than just an Idea!

Published March 3rd, 2022

Gurdjieff: More than just an Idea!

In today’s podcast I will share with you a telephone conversation recorded on January 2, 1996, between Russell and a Doctor in Arizona.

For almost a year, Russell had been going to Arizona to work with a group of Fourth Way students, and often stayed with the Doctor in question, and as such, the Doctor quickly took interest in Russell’s teachings, so much so that he began calling Russell every week, in order to learn more. Here is the call he made to Russell one week before coming to Texas.

Welcome to a series of talks about objective consciousness, an objective Universe, and an objective way to awaken, expanding upon the works of George I. Gurdjieff and Russell A. Smith.

In today’s podcast I will share with you a telephone conversation recorded on January 2, 1996, between Russell and a Doctor in Arizona. 

For almost a year, Russell had been going to Arizona to work with a group of Fourth Way students, and often stayed with the Doctor in question, and as such, the Doctor quickly took interest in Russell’s teachings, so much so that he began calling Russell every week, in order to learn more. Here is the call he made to Russell one week before coming to Texas.


Student:  Good evening, Russ, we are back in the country. Did I wake you?

Russell:  No. But in a few weeks, I am going to awaken you! That is, when I show you that Gurdjieff’s work is more than just a nice idea!


Student:  [Laughing] I am looking forward to it.

Russell:  Well, how was your trip to the Homeland? Did you have a good time?


Student:  Yes, we had a great time. Fortunately, nothing went wrong. 

And, how are you?

Russell:  Oh, I am super.


Student:  How was your New Year’s Eve celebration?

Russell:  Our New Year’s Eve celebration didn’t exist.


Student:  You didn’t celebrate New Years?

Russell:  No. Instead, we had a lawyer here from Dallas. 


Student:  He didn’t come for a celebration?

Russell:  Well, we did celebrate his awakening, which you and I will be doing in a few weeks.


Student:  I can’t wait.

My New Year’s Eve celebration was very unconscious!

Russell:  Sorry to hear that, I imagine alcohol was involved. 


Student:  Yeah! It showed how quickly one can drift away, especially with alcohol. We got back the day before our New Year’s Eve party, and oh my gosh, we were not prepared to withstand so much alcohol. 

At one point, we made a rule that if you used wrong Work language you would have to drink a shot! And before we knew it, everybody was totally drunk.  

Russell:  Well, perhaps you should make a different rule next year.


Student:  Yes. Indeed.

What’s going on in Texas? Is it cold?

Russell:  We had two inches of snow last night, but today it’s gone. We let our dog out while it was snowing, and she hid behind the propane tank because she couldn’t understand the things that were hitting her in the face.


Student:  I bet you laughed.

Russell:  Yes, I did.

Okay, back to the present. How has your work been going since we last spoke?


Student:  Well, there was little chance of me doing formal work while I was in Germany, but I knew that going in.

I thought I would have more time alone with my mother, and as such, I would be able to break away and do some exercises; but as it turned out, we were hardly there, and we went to visit my sister. After that, I had very little time alone. Then, there was Christmas, and on the 27th we went to Nuremberg, and before we knew it, we had to get on the airplane and head home. It was a long flight, but at least I was able to read on the plane. I read In Search of the Miraculous … up through Chapter 7.

Russell:  Wonderful. That’s a lot of reading; about two weeks’ worth, and as such, you are way ahead of the game.


Student:  Yeah. Search is quite an interesting book. Russ, have you read much of Ouspensky?

Russell:  Yes indeed. In fact, I read The Fourth Way over 100 times, and In Search of the Miraculous about 35. 


Student:  Wow.

Russell:  The Fourth Way was the second book I read, after reading The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, which I read several times. Then, I found The Fourth Way and In Search of the Miraculous, which I also read several times before reading Gurdjieff’s books: Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, Meetings with Remarkable Men, Views from the Real World, and Life is real only then, when “I Am”


Student:  Oh, okay, that must have been my imagination, I didn’t think you read much of Ouspensky.

Russell:  Well, I am actually more of an Ouspensky aficionado, than I am a Gurdjieff one. 

It took me a while to get to Gurdjieff because I found Ouspensky’s work so fascinating I wanted to read it again and again, and the next thing you know, I was reading The Fourth Way every week.


Student:  Every week?

Russell:  Yep. I would start reading it on Monday and finish it on Friday. And, as I said, I found it to be so fascinating that I wanted to read it again, so I did. That went on for nearly a year.


Student:  Wow, that must have been one amazing year.

Russell:  Yes, sir. It was.


Student:  Well, I tried to remember myself on the plane. I devised a little system: Every time someone would walk by or they would announce something over the intercom, I would use it as a reminding factor to remember myself.

Russell:  Wonderful, just wonderful. 

Ouspensky said something which really made sense to me, he said, if you wish to remember yourself, simply realize that you do not, and that will bring you to self-remembering. So, I spent a lot of time realizing that I did not remember myself, which brought me to self-remembering.


Student:  Right. To do that, you have to be pretty advanced, in the sense that you do not beat yourself up when you realize that you do not remember yourself.

Russell:  Yes, sir. But by so doing, I was brought to the state of self-remembering, and as such, there was no time to beat myself up, as I was too busy rejoicing!

Okay, back to you, and to your work. It sounds like you have made sufficient efforts since we last talked.


Student:  Well, I hope so. I plan to have my objective prayer finished by the time I get to Texas next week. 

Russell:  Terrific.

It is good to gather the objective moments of one’s life, especially the ones that created positive emotions.


Student:  Yes, it is.

Russell:  Before discovering the concept of having an objective prayer made of positive moments, I would intentionally conjure up negative moments, like my mother or children dying; something that would make me emotional. Then, I would use that emotion to remember myself. That is, to help me focus on my leaks and on my being, instead of identifying with the horrible thought of them dying. I would use their deaths to get my horse running, and then direct the run. 

Do you see what I am saying?


Student:  Yes, I do.

Russell:  Okay, great. We have this wonderful ability to think, and as Mr. Ouspensky said: To not only think, but to think about this or that.  


Student:  Yeah, that is certainly the key. However, identification sometimes makes it hard for me to think about ‘the this’ over ‘the that.’ 

Oh, and on my trip, I didn’t get a chance to do the laying still for one-hour exercise either.

Russell:  Well, how long was your flight?


Student:  The flight was eleven hours.

Russell:  Then, you did the sitting still for eleven-hours exercise, instead. 


Student:  [Laughing] Indeed.

I have a question. Is the time between sleep and awakening a fruitful time?

Russell:  Do you mean when you first wake up in the morning?


Student:  Yes.

Russell:  Then, yes; it can be a very fruitful time, as you are often in only one center, and as such, you will be able to have long thoughts. Thoughts that will hold better and last longer because the other centers won’t be there to interrupt them.


Student:  Yeah, somewhere I read, I think they called it ‘the state of power,’ where it said that in those moments, you have a better chance of having concentrated thoughts, rather than random ones.

Russell:  Yes, in that state, the other centers will not corrupt your thinking, as they are still asleep.


Student:  Yes. Well, of course, when I am in that state, I am not very modest in my thoughts. I often find myself thinking about becoming the president of the world!!

Russell:  Wonderful!


Student:  Wonderful? 

Isn’t that too high of an aim?

Russell:  No. The old saying is: It is better to throw your spear at the moon, and hit an Eagle, than it is to throw your spear at the Eagle, and hit a rock. So, aim high. That is, your reach should always exceed your grasp.


Student:  Oh, I got you. 

Well, I am aiming high. I just bought my tickets for the sojourn to Texas.

Russell:  Oh, great! We are going to have a super, super time. 

Okay, do you have any questions I can answer for you tonight?


Student:  Well, you have already helped me a lot with my Objective Prayer. I think I have a good idea of what to include in it. 

Russell:  That’s terrific! 


Student:  I do have one question though. I heard a story about a grain of sand in an oyster where the oyster didn’t complain about the grain of sand irritating it, but instead, constructed a beautiful pearl around it. Which got me to thinking about my problems … for instance, I have a neck problem from spores, my index finger on my right hand sometimes goes numb, and I at times have pins and needles in my arms, but instead of being irritated, I should make pearls. But I don’t know if I should, because doing so would be artificial.

Russell:  Well, it would be artificial, but we are sly men, and as such, we must take what life gives us and use it. That is, if life gives us something that can act as a reminding factor, that is a good thing. Case in point, have you read Life is real only then, when “I Am”?


Student:  I have. But it was way beyond my understanding.

Russell:  No problem. 

In the first part of Life is Real, there are 6 or 7 italicized pages. Read those pages before you arrive next week. They concern a dissertation that Gurdjieff went through when he wanted to remember himself. He realized that throughout his life there was one constant, the idea of God, and he thought, well, geez, how does God remember himself; maybe I could do the same. 

Pondering that, he realized that God had an ever-present-constant-reminding-factor outside of himself that did just that. Gurdjieff put it this way: God took one of his own beloved sons and gave him powers equal and opposite to Himself - the Devil … the evil … or whatever you want to call it - and by creating such, it constantly reminded Him to remember himself, and so Gurdjieff decided that he should do that. That is, to cast something which he loved, outside of himself, so that he too would have an ever-present-constant-reminding-factor. Which he then did. He cast out his false personality.

So, use your sore neck, your numb finger, and your tingling arm as your ever-present-constant-reminding-factors. That is, if you want to do so.


Student:  Yes, that is a great idea. 

You are saying something, which touches on something that I have often experienced, which is, if I don’t do any work, if I don’t observe myself, then after a while I begin to feel uneasy, it’s like a gut feeling creeps in, an unpleasant feeling of me being lazy or something.

Russell:  It is great that you feel uneasy when you do not make sufficient efforts. Although it is unfortunate that you have discomforts in your life, you are fortunate that they can be used as reminding factors. That is, if you allow them to be a helper, and not just something that, because of the pain, makes you act unkindly to the world. 


Student:  Yes. I can now see how they could be of benefit.

Russell:  Fantastic! Only a conscious man, a sly man, a man who is working on himself can say, “Hey, I’ve got this pain, so I shall use it to remind me to remember myself.” In addition, if you are having a busy day, and all of a sudden, your arm starts to tingle, it is just your arm reminding you to remember yourself, so say, thank you arm, without you I wouldn’t have had that reminder.


Student:  Yes, indeed.

Well, as I would like to be in better physical shape, I am planning on exercising a little bit more. That is, if you think that would be of value. 

Russell:  Yes, of course. Exercise is always a good thing.


Student:  And I would like to couple it with some fourth-way exercises. I haven’t conceived a plan yet, but I could. 

I have been running. Is it still considered running if you are falling forward?

Russell:  You mean like when we walk with momentum and gravity walk?


Student:  Yes, that is exactly what I mean.

Russell:  Well, here is the key. If you go out and run just to run, that is one thing; but if you go out to run and while you are running, you intentionally fill your mind with Work thoughts and do Work exercises that is better. Fortunately, most Work exercises are mental, and as such, they can easily be done while you are doing physical things. 


Student:  I do that. When I run, I occupy my mind with Fourth Way stuff.

Russell:  That’s perfect, just perfect.


Student:  I either focus on a point in my back, run in a certain style, or whatever. Sometimes I say, “Okay, up to that bush, I want to remember myself.” If I have no goal, no marker, I will go into empty running mode.

Russell:  Yes, sir. Well, you have touched on a very important key. You can run for one reason, or you can run for another. If you are running, and using it as an opportunity to work on yourself, that is much better than just running to look spiffy for the women!


Student:  [Laughing] That would be too much work! But, you know, it’s kind of interesting, when you are really working heavily, physically, sometimes you can almost see yourself, and to some extent, you do look attractive.

Russell:  Indeed, you do.


Student:  Okay, I will work on trying not to look too spiffy. 

And, I’ve been using my calculator instead of doing the math long hand. 

Russell:  That is fine. I could have asked you to do it the hard way and told you to use a slide-rule.


Student:  [Laughing] I used to use one. 

However, I do your math in my head; I will write down the answers and then use a calculator to check them. I am kind of impressed that the calculator always gives me the same answers that I figured out in my head. Is it okay to use a calculator or should I keep working it out in my head?

Russell:  It is good that you have done the math in your head, because once you discover that you are able to do the math in your head, you can be a sly man and use a calculator. 

In fact, when you get here, we are going to be doing a lot of calculations, and as such, we shall apply one of my famous sayings, which is, “Only a fool doesn’t take advantage of help that’s available.” So, if you have a calculator, you would be a fool not to take advantage of it.


Student:  Indeed. 

Okay. What do you want me to read next?

Russell:  Other than the italicized pages I mentioned, you could also review the chapter in Views that we talked about on the 19th, concerning chemico-physical and associative influences.


Student:  I am not sure I finished that chapter.

Russell:  Well, no problem. It is a short chapter. So, add that to your reading list as well. 

You will like that chapter, because it will tell you exactly what you must do in order to free yourself, if you find yourself under one of those influences. Amazingly, to free yourself, only one of two things must be done; it is either A or B. I suggest you learn them well before you next go running up the mountain.


Student:  [Laughing] Yes, I will. I will read them both tonight.

Russell:  Terrific! Those will be good things to read several times before you arrive.


Student:  One more thing: What is the best way of steering a conversation away from things that you do not wish to hear about?

Russell:  Easy. The best way is to ask them about something they also have interest in; something that you wouldn’t mind hearing about. By doing so, they will most likely become immersed in the latter, and as such, they will stop talking about the former. 


Student:  Right. I got it. 

One more thing: Is there anything I can contribute to our Work group?

Russell:  There will be, after we have our time together.


Student:  Okay.

Russell:  That is your next big adventure; to sit down with me for eight days and allow me to guide you page by page through my book. Then, I will take you through The Objective Exercise: An exercise that will show you how to awaken. After which, you can go back to Phoenix with a permanent passenger in your carriage, and as such, you will be able to objectively contribute to the Work of your group. 


Student:  Oh my God. I am so much looking forward to that!

Russell:  I know you are. 

And, I will get it done, just like I got it done with the lawyer who left here yesterday. Before he came, he too was a very busy man, so much so that his big question was, “Do I even have the time to do this?”


Student:  Yep, I know that question.

Russell:  Law-conformably, after we did Chapter 3, he stayed up until 3:00 in the morning, he didn’t want to go to bed. He just kept saying, “I can now see it, I can now see a possibility that I have never seen before. I can actually see it happening.” 

Needless to say, he was tickled pink. The idea of him awakening Steward, after we completed Chapter 3, became a reality. He saw that waking up was something that he could do. Once that happened, my job became easy. All I had to do was guide him to completion.


Student:  Did he have others behind him, like a group?

Russell:  No, he found the Work on his own. When he did, he realized that there was more to life than just being a successful lawyer, and as such, he hunted me down. And when he found out that I lived close by, he came out every weekend; and after six months, he finally said, “Russ I need to come out and stay for 10 days so that you take me through the process, because at present, I’m between two worlds, part of me wants me to work on myself, and the other part wants me to be a lawyer. But I’m not really happy only doing the latter, especially after meeting you, because you have convinced me that higher things are possible, and as such, I would be remiss if I did not pursue them.”


Student:  Yep, that is exactly how I feel.

Russell:  So, he spent 10 days here. He came up as a lawyer and walked away as a conscious human being. It was glorious. 

But you will be here next week, and as such, you will discover that on your own. That is, once I get you isolated, and you have no place to run!  


Student:  [Laughing] I can hardly wait.

Russell:  It will be terrific.

After meeting the Lawyer from Dallas, everyone here is excited to meet the Doctor from Phoenix. 


Student:  [Laughter] I look forward to meeting them as well. 

Thank you, Russ. See you in a week.

That completes today’s podcast.


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