Food for the Moon
Humanity as food for higher creatures? Meaning Isaac Newton's, "I stand on the shoulders of giants" or Gurdjieff's (cosmological) assertation that human life on earth is simpy food for the moon?
"Everything living on the Earth -- people, animals, plants -- is food for the moon. All manifestations of organic life on Earth are controlled by the moon. The mechanical part of our life depends upon the moon, is subject to the moon. If we develop in ourselves consciousness and will, and subject our mechanical manifestations to them, we shall escape from the power of the moon."
And suppose (as Mr. G. did) that the moon was selfish (in a Neo-Darwinist sense) about maintaining its source of supper? What then?
"The forces that are in opposition to the evolution of large human masses are also opposite to the evolution of every man (....). Actually, the moon feeds itself with organic life, feeds itself with mankind (...) that means that mankind is food for the moon. If all men would become too intelligent, they would not like to be eaten by the moon."
[P.D.Ouspensky - G.I.Gurdjieff: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching.]
THE CASE OF GURDJIEFF: MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE
Why does the moon look so big now?
For the past few nights the moon has appeared larger than many people
have seen it for almost 20 years. It is the world's largest optical illusion,
and one of its most enduring mysteries.
It can put a man in space, land a probe on Mars, but Nasa can't explain why the moon appears bigger when it's on the horizon than when it's high in the night sky.
The mystery of the Moon Illusion, witnessed by millions of people this week, has puzzled great thinkers for centuries. There have even been books devoted to the matter.
Not since June 1987 has the moon been this low in the sky, accentuating the illusion even further.
But opinion differs on why there is such an apparent discrepancy in
size between a moon on the horizon and one in the distant sky.
Two main theories dominate. The first, known as the Ponzo Illusion -
named after Mario Ponzo who demonstrated it in 1913 - suggests that the
mind judges the size of an object based on its background.
Ponzo drew two identical bars across a picture of railway tracks which converge as they recede into the distance. The upper bar looks wider because it appears to span the rails, as opposed to the lower bar, which sits between the rails.
In the same way, with a low-lying moon the trees and houses, which are
familiar foreground reference points, appear smaller against the moon,
which appears bigger than it really is.
Sceptics of this theory point to airline pilots who also see the illusion, although they have no ground reference points.
Alternatively, there's the theory that the brain perceives the sky as a flattened dome rather than the true hemisphere it really is.
Try for yourself
The theory runs that we believe things immediately overhead, flying birds for example, are closer than birds on the horizon. When the moon is on the horizon, the brain therefore miscalculates its true size and distance.
Then there are those who scoff that this is an illusion at all. They, at least, can be proved wrong. Hold a coin up to a low-lying moon to and compare differences in size. Any difference will remain exactly the same, as one traces the trajectory of the moon through the night.
Indeed, it's said that by viewing a low moon though a rolled up piece of paper, to block out the surroundings, the illusion immediately vanishes.
But experts have yet to agree on either or, indeed, any explanation. For the moment at least, the real reason for the Moon Illusion remains up in the air.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/06/24 12:45:50 GMT
© BBC MMV
Earth 'air' found on the Moon
The researchers, giving a new interpretative spin on analysis of lunar soil brought home by the Apollo missions, believe that the nitrogen escaped from Earth's upper atmosphere as charged atoms. These ions then washed over the Moon, soon after Earth and its satellite were formed and were close together.
However, this could only have happened before Earth acquired its magnetic field, a phenomenon caused by a "dynamo" of liquid iron that began to circulate in the planet's core, they theorise.
The hypothesis could explain a long-running mystery about the Moon's surface.
The Moon was formed at high temperatures, and should thus be depleted in volatile elements, including nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and the six "noble" gases, helium, neon, argon, krypton, radon and xenon.
However, all these elements have been found in the lunar soil,
which suggests that the source came from elsewhere.
The paper is lead-authored by Minoru Ozima of the Graduate School of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of Tokyo.
Original Application (PDF)- G.I.
Institute For the Harmonious Development of Man
Loosely speaking, the first spiritual cyborgs were probably the shamans, those ecstatic technicians of the sacred. But the first modern spiritual teacher to productively exploit the language of mechanism was G.I. Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian teacher known for his harsh wisdom, hypnotic charisma, and very large mustache. According to his own writings, Gurdjieff spent the turn of the century cruising the monasteries, yogi shacks, and mystic schools of the Middle East and Asia -- though it is difficult entirely to believe a man who once packed up and fled a hamlet after a rainstorm threatened to wash the yellow paint off the "parakeets" he was selling about town. But though some skeptics and spiritual leaders continue to write Gurdjieff off as a metaphysical flim-flam man, a close reading of the most important Gurdjieffean texts make it clear that the master not only synthesized a variety of teachings and techniques into an eminently practical form of esoteric work, but that he creatively integrated a number of modern psychological and scientific ideas into the ancient goal of gnosis.
Gurdjieff died in 1949, and throughout his life, he had little but scorn for European civilization and its rejection of the great spiritual traditions of old. But in other ways, he was very much a modern man. He mocked Spiritualism, ignored the gods, enjoyed working with machines, and embraced the seemingly reductionist notion that "all psychic processes are material." Like the theosophists, he adopted a loosely evolutionary notion of cosmic history, though he balanced the external course of material evolution with the corresponding necessity of involution -- the retreat >from the multiple laws that govern material phenomena and the turn towards the liberating cosmic All. Many aspects of Gurdjieff's cosmological system, at least as they appear in P.D. Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous, were grade-A mystical pseudo-science. Ouspensky's text is chock-full of curious psycho-geometric laws, charts of the "higher hydrogens," and descriptions of cosmic chains of command, the latter of which culminated in the amazing notion that the ordinary purpose of humanity's energetic life was to provide "food for the moon."
Gurdjieff was a trickster, and both his eccentric teaching style and eyebrow-raising cosmology seem designed to keep his students and followers on their toes. The same holds for Gurdjieff's withering assessment of human psychology, a vision that basically boils down to the most repellent of axioms: "man is a machine." In our ordinary state, Gurdjieff argues, we are just like motorcars or typewriters or gramophones -- mechanically pushed and pulled by external chance or internal habits, never genuinely doing or realizing anything ourselves. We always react, and never cause. Though he implied that our zombiedom was written into the human condition, he also believed that modern industrial life perpetuated and reinforced this trance. "Contemporary culture requires automatons," he said.
Having diagnosed this condition, Gurdjieff made a pretty good case that the only intelligent thing to do in our predicament is to escape -- an escape that was synonymous with awakening to our non-mechanical essence. Only by upgrading our ordinary, everyday awareness can we genuinely hope to govern and take responsibility for our actions and our desires. As an alchemical modernist, Gurdjieff conceived of this development as an "artificially cultivated" process. Our soul, our non-mechanical essence, is not bor n with us; it is made, and this soul-making runs counter to the course of things. "The law for man is existence in the circle of mechanical influences, the state of the 'man-machine.' The way of the development of hidden possibilities is a way against nature, against God."3 Rather than embracing Gaia's elan vital, the carnal rhythms and imaginative powers beloved by animists and nature-worshippers past and present, the awakening human goes against the grain, shifting control from mechanical forces to the awakening "I." Gurdjieff was a gnostic Promethean, seeking to realize the self in an opus contra naturam divorced from any myths of divine intervention. For all his traditionalism, he was the spiritual godfather of the Extropians.
Unlike the Extropians, however, Gurdjieff believed that modern people were so hypnotized by technologies, intellectual concepts, and the mounting waves of information churned out by journalists and scientists that they had lost their potential for recognizing and realizing the deeper levels of consciousness where the essential self awaits. As Jacob Needleman argues, Gurdjieff was the first esoteric thinker to describe the object of spiritual work as "consciousness," though he did not romanticize consciousness like so many New Agers today. Instead, he treated it as a basically materialistic force that could be shaped and transmuted by psycho-spiritual techne -- what students call "the Work." And the Work begins with ruthless self-observation, a cold-hearted analysis of "our machine." Somewhat like the Theravadan Buddhist practitioners of vipassana, or mindfulness, the budding Worker is encouraged to notice and register her own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors -- an objective process of discrimination that Gurdjieff describes as "recording." This is not the recording of the ancient scribes, but the unforgiving recording of the camera or the research scientist, gazing through a microscope at a wiggling germ. After recording ourselves for a while, one of the first things we realize is that we have no permanent and unchangeable "I." As Gurdjieff explained, "Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking 'I.' And each time his I is different. Just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly. Man is a plurality. Man's name is legion."4 Here lies our fundamental inauthenticity -- the "I" that makes one promise is not the "I" that breaks it. Needless to say, the notion that we have "hundreds of thousands of separate small I's," oftentimes ignorant of and in conflict with one another, runs counter to our existential sense of a stable self. But Gurdjieff argued that if we committed ourselves to ruthless self-observation, we would come to realize that this ordinary sense of unified being is a sham.
Gurdjieff's psychological vision owed much to his metaphor of the "man-machine," for the principle of the machine is the assemblage, the soulless conglomeration of subsystems, working parts, and shifting points of energy and production. Many decades later, the hardheaded mechanists working on the problem of human cognition would bring this "assemblage" model of the mind into popular consciousness. Though possessing considerable variety, most of the models in cognitive science imagine the mind as a construction created through the struggles and alliances of myriad small and densely interconnected symbolic sub-systems and agents, a vision that the artificial intelligence wizard Marvin Minsky calls the "society of mind." More recently, other cognitive scientists have served up less hierarchical or symbolically-dependent models; these picture the mind as the product of even more primitive and "asocial" mechanisms of sensation, perception, and memory. The ego, the self, the conscious sense of "me," is seen as an "emergent property," a vaporous afterimage of the complex computer-like machinations of glandular data gates, neurochemical sparks, and the logical structures that whir and buzz beneath the surface of thought.
Gurdjieff was hardly the only spiritual thinker to anticipate what seems at first to be a uniquely modern, technological deconstruction of the self. Buddhist psychology also holds that there is no core essence, no atman, no singular "I." Instead, traditional Buddhists divide the self into a number of "heaps" (skandas) that are composed of a shifting array of perceptions, judgements, mental categories, thoughts, and awareness. The material in these heaps is constantly shifting around, pushed and pulled by habit, desire, and the constantly changing causes and conditions of the world. Behind this ceaseless activity lurks no fixed platonic forms or eternal souls, but only the empty flux of constant change. Because this groundless flow terrifies us, Buddhist shrinks reasoned, we build castles out of the shifting sands of consciousness, and proclaim them stable, real and eternal. Within our minds, we reify an essential self, whose inability to respond spontaneously to the flux of things, or to recognize the emptiness in its heart, helps generate the delusions and sufferings of samsara.
Indeed, Gurdjieff sounds a bit like a dour Buddhist when he says that "to awaken means to realize one's nothingness, that is to realize one's complete and absolute mechanicalness and one's complete and absolute helplessness." However, even this depressing analysis contains the seed of hope, a seed that Gurdjieff believed lay in our very capacity for realization and awareness. By paying attention to our own mechanical routines, we cease to identify with them, and this de-identification shifts our attention towards the higher "I" that observes its own process and directs, as best it can, its own inner growth. This transcendence-through-feedback separates the essential self from the automatism of the machine, and creates a crystal of consciousness capable not only of genuinely directing its own activity, but of actually surviving death.
That's the plan anyway. In a sense, the Gurdjieffean Work can be seen as an explicitly "spiritual" analog of the Extropians' brash commitment to master the sluggish body, control the emotions, and reprogram themselves for immortality and self-realization. Like the Extropians, the Gurdjieff Work can also be accused of being elitist, antinomian, and pretty thin on universal compassion and those other "myths" that remind us of our indissoluble links to the human community and the physical biosphere. At the same time, the Work possesses a psycho-spiritual sophistication entirely lacking among the gonzo Extropians, and it s transcendental thrust is tempered by Gurdjieff's insistence on a pragmatic engagement with ordinary life. Students are encouraged to live and work in the everyday world, and to refine, expand, and integrate the levels of consciousness associated with the body and emotions -- not to leave these "lower" apparatuses rusting in the Darwinian trash heap. But one of the principle dangers of the Work is not shared by the fiercely individualistic Extropians. Gurdjieff insisted that only an awakened teacher can help students snap out of their most intractable hypnotic habits, and that serious Work thus requires strict fidelity to an external master. As the history of new religious or esoteric movements demonstrates all too well, such situations often degenerate into those dangerously authoritarian patterns of behavior we associate with cults. A number of the groups which picked up the Work after Gurdjieff's death did not escape the clutches of this kind of tyranny. On the other hand -- and here's the rub -- one person's cult is another person's community of awakening. At one point during In Search of the Miraculous, a group of students tel l Gurdjieff that their old friends believe that they have become colorless and boring, nothing more than parrots of Gurdjieff, veritable "machines." (Today we would say that they were "brainwashed.") Gurdjieff laughs enigmatically. "There is worse to come."
Gurdjieff's chuckle arises from the fact that when we are dealing with religious counter-cultures, which call into question the assumptions of mainstream society, awakening and hypnosis often appear as two sides of the same coin -- and it's not always easy to tell which side you're on. "Liberating" your outlook and behavior through psycho-spiritual means does not erase the problem of power and control; waking up from the troubled sleep of ordinary delusion, one runs the risk of simply swapping the old familiar archons for obscure and potentially more maniacal ones. At the same time, if the consensus reality world we work in daily (and tune into nightly) does indeed generate the kind of mechanical trance Gurdjieff describes, then awakening from this condition might make one more aware, and even obsessed, with the subliminal forces of control. Suddenly, the whole social and symbolic arena of social reality, that rather haphazard carnival of soap-box cranks, snake-oil salesmen, and sideshow distractions, takes on the appearance of a vast, if unconscious, conspiracy. Such paranoid spectres often dog subcultures that self-consciously slip outside the mainstream, but they can be particularly tenacious along those cyborgian paths that integrate modern ideas about thought programming, Pavlovian trigger signals, and hypnotic trances into their worldview.
A Journey to Inaccessible Places
(to different G. groups staking a claim in domain-name-space.)
inscribed in a special script above the
walls of the Study House at the Prieuré
1.Like what “it” does not like.
2.The highest that a man can attain is to be able to do.
3.The worse the conditions of life the more productive the work, always provided you remember the work.
4.Remember yourself always and everywhere.
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.
6.Here we can only direct and create conditions, but not help.
7.Know that this house can be useful only to those who have recognized their nothingness and who believe in the possibility of changing.
8.If you already know it is bad and do it, you commit a sin difficult to redress.
9.The chief means of happiness in this life is the ability to consider externally always, internally never.
10.Do not love art with your feelings.
11.A true sign of a good man is if he loves his father and mother.
12.Judge others by yourself and you will rarely be mistaken.
13.Only help him who is not an idler.
14.Respect every religion.
15.I love him who loves work.
16.We can only strive to be able to be Christians.
17.Don't judge a man by the tales of others.
18.Consider what people think of you—not what they say.
19.Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West—and then seek.
20.Only he who can take care of what belongs to others may have his own.
21.Only conscious suffering has any sense.
22.It is better to be temporarily an egoist than never to be just.
23.Practice love first on animals, they are more sensitive.
24.By teaching others you will learn yourself.
25.Remember that here work is not for work’s sake but is only a means.
26.Only he can be just who is able to put himself in the position of others.
27.If you have not by nature a critical mind your staying here is useless.
28.He who has freed himself of the disease of “tomorrow” has a chance to attain what he came here for.
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.
30.Rest comes not from the quantity but from the quality of sleep.
31.Sleep little without regret.
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.
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.
34.Conscious love evokes the same in response. Emotional love evokes the opposite. Physical love depends on type and polarity.
35.Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.
36.Hope, when bold, is strength. Hope, with doubt, is cowardice. Hope, with fear, is weakness.
37.Man is given a definite number of experiences—economizing them, he prolongs his life.
38.Here there are neither Russians nor English, Jews nor Christians, but only those who pursue one aim—to be able to be.
Be here now
The Life and Adventures of G.I. Gurdjieff.
In 1922, A.R. Orage, a noted London-based literary figure of the time, sold off his literary journal, "The New Age", to become a pupil of Armenian mystic George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. When he arrived at Gurdjieff's "Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man" at Fontainebleau, France, Gurdjieff promptly handed him a spade and told him to dig the garden. Unused to manual labour, Orage soon found the long days of digging so exhausting that he regularly retreated to his room to fight back the tears of fatigue and self-pity. But then he resolved to put greater effort into his allotted task, and suddenly found himself intensely enjoying the digging. A week later, Gurdjieff went up to him and said: "Now, Orage, I think you dig enough. Let us go to the cafe and drink coffee."
Gurdjieff's apparently harsh treatment of Orage induced in him a kind of "ecstasy of the present moment". Gurdjieff recognised that Orage - whose life revolved around literature and academia - predominantly lived in his "head". To counterbalance this, Gurdjieff purposefully gave him physical work to do, in a bid to shock him out of his accustomed habits and ways of going on. At first this was thoroughly unpleasant and exhausting. But eventually Orage discovered a "freshness" to what he was doing. Rather than thinking in worlds and pictures, as we all habitually do, he was now focusing on the "here and now" of digging; his attention was attuned solely to the input of his senses, unclouded by the distractions of mentation. He was alive to the moment.
To "be here now" was at the root of Gurdjieff's system of attainment. Referred to as the "work", it involved physical, emotional and intellectual training, and embodied many aspects of Eastern mysticism, carefully tailored to make them appropriate to Western practitioners. At Fontainebleau, the work focused on encouraging students to act rather than to analyse. One of Gurdjieff's favourite maxims was: "The highest that man can attain is to be able to do."
Although many of the details of Gurdjieff's life are sketchy, the common consensus is that he was born in 1866 in Alexandropol (now Gumri), Armenia, in Russia, a region which had a diverse mix of Eastern and Western cultures. For details of his early years, we have to rely on his own account given in his philosophical memoir "Meetings With Remarkable Men." (1963).
In the book, Gurdjieff describes what first stimulated his interest in the mystical path. His father was an "ashokh" (bard), and one of the poems he used to recite concerned Gilgamesh, a Sumerian king during the 3rd millennium BC. When the young Gurdjieff read in a journal that the tablets of the Gilgamesh epic had been found at the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, he became very excited at the idea that a poem sung by his father had been handed down verbally for thousands of years. It made him wonder whether perhaps other knowledge - esoteric knowledge - may have been handed down orally through the ages.
Other events also stimulated the young Gurdjieff's interest in the mystical side of life. In one instance, Gurdjieff came across a young man who seemed able to predict the future with amazing accuracy. He did this by sitting between two candles and staring at his thumbnail until he went into a prophetic trance. He correctly foretold that Gurdjieff would develop a painful sore spot on his right side (it turned out to be a carbuncle that had to be removed), and that he might have a gun accident (he was later shot in the leg when out hunting).
Gurdjieff also witnessed a young man, who was completely paralysed down one side, crawl up hill, fall asleep beside a religious shrine at the top, and then wake up cured. On another occasion, he saw a girl dying of consumption healed overnight by drinking rose hips boiled in milk after the Virgin Mary had told her in a dream that this would cure her. He also attended a special church service for rain (in which all the churches of the particular town participated) which was followed by an immediate downpour.
Because science had no adequate explanations for such phenomena, Gurdjieff decided to try and track down the secret oral wisdom he had long suspected existed, in the hope that it might offer insight into the strange events he had witnessed. To this end, Gurdjieff set out on a long series of travels, lasting from 1887 to 1911.
According to his account in "Meetings With Remarkable Men", he visited monasteries all over Europe and Asia, and even joined an expedition to look for a hidden city in the Gobi desert (it turned back when one of the party died from the bite of a wild camel). But it was during a three month stay in what he called "the chief Sarmoung monastery", that he may have learnt the secret wisdom that he had sought for so long.
According to Gurdjieff, the monastery belonged to a brotherhood whose knowledge and wisdom derived from traditions dating back to 2500 BC. This knowledge included physical techniques for self-transformation (possibly similar to the yoga exercises of India) and sacred dances. The Sarmoung Monastery, however, has never been identified, leading some to conclude that Gurdjieff's account of it could have been allegory, rather than literal truth.
Once his travels were over, Gurdjieff set himself up as a spiritual teacher in Moscow around 1912. He firmly believed that the knowledge he had obtained during his travels would be of major benefit to mankind, and therefore set himself the task of transmitting it to the world. In 1915, he gained an important pupil - the Moscow-born philosopher P.D. Ouspensky (1878-1947). Ouspensky had travelled the East in search of wisdom, but unlike Gurdjieff had not found the wisdom he sought. Although he had reservations about Gurdjieff - considering him something of a confidence trickster - Ouspensky genuinely believed that, deep down, Gurdjieff had the archaic wisdom he craved.
Ouspensky went on to produce a comprehensive account of Gurdjieff's early teachings called "In Search of the Miraculous" (first published 1949), which to this day is the primary source book for the study of Gurdjieff's methods.
Due to a breakdown in civil order in Russia (which would eventually result in the Russian Revolution of 1917), Gurdjieff and a small band of dedicated pupils, including the talented Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann and his wife Olga, made perilous journeys to the Crimea and to Tiflis in Georgia. After a brief period in Constantinople, Gurdjieff and his group of pupils made their way through Europe and finally settled in France where, in 1922, the "Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man" was established.
The Institute attracted numerous artists and literary figures from both England and America, including Margaret Anderson, Jane Heap, and Katherine Mansfield. At this time, the focus of Gurdjieff's training was on the sacred dances, which he had allegedly learnt at the Samoung monastery. In theory, the wild dervish-like dances served a similar purpose to the manual labour Orage was put to; they shocked people out of habitual behaviour patterns and brought them into awareness of the present moment.
Psychic stage shows
In early 1924, Gurdjieff took forty of the Institute's students to New York, where they put on displays of the sacred dances. The shows also featured apparently genuine telepathic phenomena. A pupil would sit among the audience and be shown an object; he or she would then telepathically transmit the name and shape of the object to the pupils on the stage.
Even more startling, the pupil in the audience would then transmit to Thomas de Hartmann, sitting at a piano, the name of an opera and he would play an extract from it. These could, of course, have been "tricks" - and the shows certainly consisted of, as Gurdjieff put it, "tricks, half-tricks and true supernatural phenomena." Which were which was left up to the audience to decide.
After a serious car accident in 1924, which debilitated him for a time, Gurdjieff decided to convey his teachings in a series of three books, known as the "All and Everything" series. The first was an allegorical novel called "Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson"; the second was his memoir "Meetings with Remarkable Men"; and the third was a collection of talks and essays called "Life Is Real Only Then, When I Am".
In spring 1935, however, Gurdjieff suddenly stopped writing, leaving the latter book unfinished. He then went on to resume teaching his followers directly, rather than via written works.
The year 1946 marked the last phase of his teaching. Over the following three years new adherents and old pupils alike flocked to his small flat in Paris to listen to a reading of one of the manuscripts from the "All and Everything" series, and to hear him play, on a small hand accordion, the music he had composed to go with the books.
In addition to this, Gurdjieff oversaw practises of the sacred dances that were an essential part of his teaching. But then on 14 October 1949, Gurdjieff collapsed at a dance class, and though he struggled back to some sort of health for a short while, he died on 29 October at the American Hospital at Neuilly.
The days following his death were rife with contradictory rumours. Some
said that the great mystic's body had been heard breathing after death;
others that he had not really died but had gone elsewhere, leaving a substitute
corpse in his place. Whether there was any truth in these rumours or not,
the funeral took place in the Russian Orthodox Church in Paris, and was
attended by a large congregation.
Sam Shepard: changing the world from within
Acclaimed American playwright and actor Sam Shepard is a follower of the principles for self-transformation set out by Russian-born mystic G.I. Gurdjieff. But like all those involved in "the work", as it is called, he refuses to speak about it in public. Shepard came to prominence in the 1960s with such plays as "The Unseen Hand", "Forensic and the Navigators", and "Operation Sidewinder".
Contrary to the alternative mores of the time, many of his early plays basically say that it is pointless to try to change the world because it either goes on as usual (as in "Unseen Hand") or destroys itself (as in "Forensic" and "Operation Sidewinder") and that despite the best efforts of left or right politics, the young or the old, or of activists in general, change is only possible from within.
Shepard's literary attitude in this respect may have been influenced by the teachings of Gurdjieff, whose books outline a quest for self-knowledge through distinguishing the "real" (inner) world from the "illusory" (outside) world.
Gurdjieff himself may have had innate psychic abilities. On one occasion he invited a Russian family to his "Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man", in France. They had a daughter and Gurdjieff told his assembled pupils that he would demonstrate an Eastern method of hypnotism on her, which would depend on her susceptibility to music, especially to certain chords. At a certain climatic chord, he said, the girl would go into a trance.
The Russian family were brought into the room, and the girl sat beside Gurdjieff. During the music, played on the piano by composer Thomas de Hartmann, she was obviously moved, and at the climactic chord, seemed to faint. It took a long time to bring her round, and the Russian family were so alarmed it took considerable effort to persuade them to stay.
After this, Gurdjieff persuaded the girl to perform the demonstration several times. One of Gurdjieff's pupils later wrote that when the girl came out of the trance her hysteria was "too obviously genuine" for the whole thing to have been a "put-up job".
The Australian-born novelist, Pamela Lyndon Travers, was a pupil of Gurdjieff's. Although she worked as an actress after moving to England at the age of 19, she is best remembered for her children's book "Mary Poppins" (1934), which was an international success, and was later adapted into a movie of the same name in 1964, starring Julie Andrews.
Of Gurdjieff, whom she first met in 1938, she said: "He was a serene, massive man who looked at one with a long, contemplative, all-knowing glance. I felt myself in a presence. He had a certain quality that one might call mythological. Later, when I came to be his student, I always felt the same way: He was a man whom you recognised but you didn't know what you were recognising... When we were in Gurdjieff's presence, we felt his energy infused in us. He could deliver this to anyone in the room. He had something very high and not within our ordinary comprehension."
A movie portraying the formative years of Gurdjieff's life was released in 1979. It was shot two years earlier on location in the rarely photographed mountains of Afghanistan. It was directed by Peter Brook - a dedicated follower of Gurdjieff's system of self-transformation, as well as being an acclaimed theatre director - and boasted an international cast, including Terence Stamp, Dragan Maksimovic, and Warren Mitchell.
The film was based on Gurdjieff's philosophical memoir "Meetings with Remarkable Men", which details the quest for esoteric knowledge that led him from his native Armenia to study Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism, and other Eastern religions - all of which directly contributed to his later use of sacred dance and meditation.
Jeanne de Salzmann, who was one of Gurdjieff's closest pupils, was a
co-writer of the film and also acted as advisor. In particular, she choreographed
the Gurdjieffian sacred dances seen at the end of the film.
Wild Bird Seed
"Tibetan incense, medicinal powder, and Tibetan 'precious pills' are in
great demand here," said one police officer who asked not to be named.
"People believe that it can prevent the virus. And SARS hasn't spread to Tibet."
Radio Free Asia-May 7, 2003
"If you care to go to school go to the honey bees, fowl, cats, dogs, goats, mink, calves, dairy cows, bulls and horses and allow
them to teach you their ways, you will gain an insight into physiological and biochemical medicine not to be learned from medical
books. Verified by observing results in animals, this medicine, which is passed from generation to generation by word of mouth
enables great numbers of Vermonters to continue carrying heavy daily work loads and to go on well past the Scriptural
three-score-and-ten years into good physical and mental vigor, good digestion, good eyesight and good hearing, avoiding senility
to the very end." Dr. D.C. Jarvis