Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gurdjieff, the Fourth Way & the Enneagram

G.I. Gurdjieff was an Armenian Greek from the Russian Caucuses who travelled widely through Asia and the Middle East at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Along with a group of Seekers After Truth (as they called themselves) he learned many of the teachings and techniques of wisdom and knowledge found among dervishes, monks and sages throughout the area.

After studying this body of knowledge, he began to teach Western students what he had learned in a form that was appropriate to the time and age in which they were living, and in the context of their current levels of understanding and his own strengths and weaknesses. His teaching is sometimes referred to as The Work or The Fourth Way.

Gurdjieff taught primarily through lectures, music, dances and communal work situations. He also wrote books, in which his stated intention was

"To destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world...

"To acquaint the reader with the material required for a new creation and to prove the soundness and good quality of it...

"To assist the arising, in the mentation and in the feelings of the reader, of a veritable, non-fantastic representation not of that illusory world which he now perceives, but of the world existing in reality."

Gurdjieff and his students and associates, like P.D. Ouspensky and J.G. Bennett, set down much of the foundation for later Western researchers into the area of traditional psychology and ancient wisdom and their applicability to contemporary life. For example, the Enneagram symbol Gurdjieff introduced has, in recent times, through the work of people like Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, become an important factor in the dissemination of esoteric knowledge to the general public.

There are some movies, documentaries and lectures which can give one a partial sense of what the Gurdjieff Work was all about, and how the legacy influenced other people who followed its lead.

Recommended Reading:

Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson - G.I. Gurdjieff

Meetings with Remarkable Men - G.I. Gurdjieff

Life is Real Only Then, When I Am - G.I. Gurdjieff

Views from the Real World: Gurdjieff's Talks to his Pupils - G.I. Gurdjieff

Herald of the Coming Good - G.I. Gurdjieff

In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching - P.D. Ouspensky

The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution - P.D. Ouspensky

The Fourth Way - P.D. Ouspensky

Gurdjieff: Making a New World - J.G. Bennett

Enneagram Studies- J.G. Bennett

Interviews with Oscar Ichazo - Bliebtrau, ed.

Character and Neurosis - Claudio Naranjo

The Enneagram - Helen Palmer

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Spirit of the East

In the last one hundred years, there has been a significant increase in the exchange of ideas between different cultures throughout the world. As those areas traditionally thought of as "the West" began to interact more with the cultures of "the East", certain conceptions on the nature and potential of humankind and its place in the universe became better known to everyone.

While the usefulness of some of these ideas may be limited to the times, places and societies in which they've traditionally circulated, others may be of more general use in the modern world. Additionally, in spite of the widespread diffusion of many of these concepts, some ideas continue to be misunderstood or under-represented. The Spirit of the East playlist explores some Eastern spiritual ideas in the context of their traditional cultures.

Recommended reading:

Shamanism - Mircea Eliade

The Collected Taoist Classics - Thomas Cleary, trans.

Classics of Buddhism and Zen - Thomas Cleary, trans.

Introduction to Zen Buddhism - D.T. Suzuki

The Fighting Spirit of Japan - E.J. Harrison

Magic and Mystery in Tibet - Alexandra David-Neel

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: First Complete Translation - Gyume Dorje, trans.

The Way to Shambhala - Edwin Bernbaum

Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists - Ananda Coomaraswamy

Kalila and Dimna: Classic Fables from India - Ramsey Wood

The Upanishads - Ekniah Easwaran, trans.

The Bhagavad-Gita - Barbara Stoler Miller, trans.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Chip Hartranft, trans.

Occult Science in India and among the Ancients - Louis Jacolliot

The Spirit of the East - Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah

The Book of Oriental Literature - Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah

Lights of Asia - Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah

Oriental Caravan - Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah

Oriental Magic - Idries Shah

The Egyptian Book of the Dead - E.A. Wallis Budge

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Islamic Sufism

An important aspect of Islamic culture is what is known as the Sufi tradition. "Sufi" is the word given to those people within the Islamic world who have refined their consciousness in such a way as to give them access to knowledge of the deepest levels of reality:

"According to the Sufis, human beings are ordinarily cut off from Objective Reality, which is the origin of everything. Human faculties, although perceptive, are limited...

"The perceived world, again according to this assertion, is therefore a distortion. The inability to transcend the barrier of limited senses explains human subjectivity; and secondary effects are usually perceived as primary ones...

"The Sufis further assert that they can penetrate beyond the apparent to the real in this sense, and Sufism is the method, or rather, provides the methods, for this enterprise.

"They further state that theirs is a spiritual path, because their
experience, in their judgment, verifies that the Objective Truth, the First Cause, that which lies beyond appearances, is divine.

"The methods which are adopted to pierce the veil between truth and humankind are, accordingly, those chosen by experienced Sufis... the ones which their own overview tells them are appropriate for the current time, place and people. " -- Idries Shah.

Although Sufis have been associated with Islam for several hundred years, they themselves assert that their Way is the essence of all religion. However, traditionally, the inner teaching is tailored to the cultures in which it is operating, and Islamic Sufism in general is embedded within the context of Islam. The Sufi sage Bahaudin Naqshband* explained the Sufi method of adaptation over 600 years ago, showing how it is based on the ancient aphorism, `Speak to Everyone in Accordance with his Understanding':

"The task of the teacher is to teach. In order to teach he must take into account the present preoccupations and fixed ideas of his pupils. He must, for instance, use the terms of Bokhara with the Bokharan and the terms of Baghdad in Baghdad.

"If he knows what he is teaching, he arranges the outer form of the means of teaching it, like building the physical shape of a school, in accordance with this. Also involved are the nature and descriptions of the disciples, and their potentiality."

While some assert that this kind of esoteric spiritual path cannot be practiced outside of the generally accepted religious frameworks, others contend that it can also adapt itself to circumstances by using symbols, formulas and frameworks which are not traditionally religious. Some possible historical examples of esoteric formulations not traditonally religious include the teachings of Alchemy, Chivalry, and certain Masonic secret societies which have operated in the West.

For more about the Sufi tradition within the world of Islam, as well as its connection with other traditions, the following works are recommended:

Studies in Early Mysticism in the Near and Middle East - Margaret Smith

The Mystics of Islam - Reynold Nicholson

Islamic Sufism - Ikbal Ali Shah

The Sufis - Idries Shah

The Way of the Sufi - Idries Shah

The Elephant in the Dark: Christianity, Islam and the Sufis - Idries Shah

Sufi Essays - Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Sufi Expression of the Mystic Quest - Laleh Bakhtiar

First Among Sufis: The Life and Thought of Rabia - Widad El Sakkakini

Life, Personality and Writings of Al-Junaid of Baghdad - Abdel Kader, trans.

Passion of Al-Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam - Louis Massignon

Hujwiri's Revelation of the Veiled - Reynold Nicholson, trans.

The Mystical Philosophy of Ibn Masarra and his followers - Miguel Asin Palacios

Masters of Wisdom - J.G. Bennett

The Alchemy of Happiness - Al-Ghazzali - Claud Field, trans.

The 99 Beautiful Names - Al-Ghazali - Burrell & Daher, trans.

Conference of the Birds - Fariuddin Attar - Dick Davis, trans.

Revelation of the Unseen - Abdul Qadir Jilani - Muthar Holland, trans.

Layla and Majnun - Nizami - Gelpke, trans.

The Walled Garden of Truth of Hakim Sanai - David Pendlebury, trans.

The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam - Omar Ali-Shah and Robert Graves, trans.

Rose Garden of Saadi - Omar Ali-Shah, trans.

The Bostan of Saadi - Mirza Aquil Hussein Barlas, trans.

Mystical and Visionary Treatises of Suhrawardi - W.M. Thackston, trans.

Man of Light in Iranian Sufism - Henry Corbin

Leaven of the Ancients - John Walbridge

A Dervish Textbook: Suhrawardi's Gifts of Deep Knowledge - Col. Wilberforce Clarke,

Journey of the Soul - Ibn Tufail - David Pendlebury, trans.

Journey to the Lord of Power - Ibn Arabi - Rabia Terri Harris, trans.

The Meccan Revelations - Ibn Arabi - Chittick & Morris, trans.

Sufism and Taoism - Toshihiko Izutsu

Oriental Mysticism - E.H. Palmer, trans.

A Glossary of Sufi Technical Terms - al-Qashani - Pendlebury, trans.

Treatise of the Pool - Obadyah Maimonedes - Paul Fenton, trans.

Signs of the Unseen: Discourses of Rumi - Thackston, trans.

The Mystical Poems of Rumi - Arberry, trans.

Teachings of Rumi (The Masnavi) - E.H. Whinfield, trans.

The Hundred Tales of Wisdom - Idries Shah, trans.

Legends of the Sufis: Aflaki's Acts of the Adepts - James Redhouse trans.

The Book of Wisdom of Ibn Ata Illah - Victor Danner, trans.

The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazal from the Diwan of Hafiz - Elizabeth Gray, trans.

The Secret Garden - Mahmud Shabistari - Jonathan Pasha, trans.

Revelation of the Secrets of the Birds and Flowers - Al Muqaddasi - Irene Hoare and Darya Gayly, trans.

Jami's Yusuf and Zulaikha - David Pendlebury, trans.

Four Sufi Classics: Hakim Sanai's The Way of the Seeker, Al-Ghazali's Niche for Lights , & Jami's Salman and Abdal and the Abode of Spring - Idries Shah, ed.

The Religion of the Sufis - David Shea & Anthony Troyer, trans.

The Sacred Knowledge - Shah Waliullah of Delhi - Jalbani & Pendlebury, trans.

Sufism and the Islamic Tradition - Shah Waliullah of Delhi - Jalbani & Fry, trans.

Quatrains of Khalilullah Khalili

*quoted in The Way of the Sufi.


Click here to listen to a reading of Rumi's Masnavi

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Islamic Culture

The Waystation's playlist on the subject of Islamic and Middle Eastern Culture is inspired by the work of several individuals and groups over the last hundred years who have attempted to build bridges between Western culture and the Islamic world.

Below are some recommended books written and published by these individuals and groups, as well as some additional videos and talks on the subject.

"In the light of recent world events, the necessity to bridge the gap between Western and Eastern traditions and to provide an accurate exposure and understanding of one tradition to the other has become vital." -- the ISHK

Islam and the Divine Comedy - Miguel Asin y Palacios (1926)
Legacy of Islam - Arnold & Guillaume, ed. (1931)
Muhammed: The Prophet - Ikbal Ali Shah (1932)
Selections from the Koran - Ikbal Ali Shah (1932)
Alone in Arabian Nights - Ikbal Ali Shah (1933)
My Khyber Marriage - Morag Murray Abdullah (1934)
History of the Arabs - Philip K. Hitti (1937; 2002)
The Controlling Minds of Asia - Ikbal Ali Shah (1937)
Destination Mecca - Idries Shah (1957)
Arabian Sands - William Thesiger (1959)
Afghanistan: Cockpit in High Asia - Peter King (1966)
Life of Muhammed - Sir John Glubb (1970)
Escape from Central Asia - Ikbal Ali Shah (1980)
Islamic Philosophy - M. Saeed Sheikh (1982)
The Golden Caravan - Ikbal Ali Shah (1983)
Kara Kush - Idries Shah (1986)
Adventures in Afghanistan - Louis Palmer(1990)
My Life from Brigand To King - Amir Habibullah (1990)
The Middle East Bedside Book - Tahir Shah, ed. (1991)
Travels in the Unknown East - John Grant (1992)
Valley of the Giant Buddhas - Morag Murray Abdullah (1993)
Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines - Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1993)
An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan - Jason Elliot (2001)
Islam - Karen Armstrong (2001)
The Battle for God - Karen Armstrong (2001)
Muslim Neo-Platonists - Ian Netton (2002)
The Storyteller's Daughter - Saira Shah (2003)
The Muslim Jesus - Tarif Khalidi (2003)
The Ornament of the World - Maria Rosa Menocal (2003)
Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years - Royal Academy of Arts (2005)


A documentary by Saira Shah about Afghanistan under the Taliban:


Click here to listen to a talk by Tahir Shah given at the ICR about the importance of Islamic science in the Middle Ages.

Saira and Tahir Shah are part of a family that "for three generations... have worked to explain the East to the West."


Professor Jim al-Khalili explores the innovations in science which took place within Islam from the 9th to 13th centuries A.D. and their legacy in the modern West.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cultural Research

The Waystation's Cultural Research playlist is inspired by the activities of the Institute for Cultural Research:

"The Institute for Cultural Research was founded in 1965 by the writer and thinker Idries Shah. Its aim is to stimulate study, debate, education and research into all aspects of human thought, behaviour and culture.

"The Institute seeks to facilitate the spread of ideas, information and understanding between cultures. It also seeks to make the fruits of academic research accessible to society as a whole, and to academics from different fields.

"It supports projects in parts of the world where education and the free flow of ideas are under threat. For example, it helps fund UNICEF's female educational projects in Afghanistan.

"The Institute holds regular lectures and seminars and publishes books and monographs. It may also award bursaries, grants and prizes. All its activities are available to the public.

"ICR is a registered educational charity in the UK."

Some recommended reading related to the ICR:

Godmen of India - Peter Brent (1972)
Myth of the Master Race - Richard Cecil (1972)
Symposium on Consciousness - Robert Ornstein, et. al (1974)
Vico: A Study of the New Science - Leon Pompa (1975)
Ritual Cosmos - Evan Zuesse (1976)
The Knight in Panther Skin - Shota Rustaveli (1977)
The King's Son - Robert Cecil & David Wade, ed. (1980)
The Nature of Religious Man - D.B. Fry, ed. (1982)
Cultural Encounters - Robert Cecil, David Wade ed. (1990)
Cultural Research - Tahir Shah, ed. (1993)
The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe's Way toward a Science of Conscious Participation in Nature - Henri Bortoft (1986)
From Atlantis to the Sphinx - Colin Wilson (1996)
Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines - Jim Al-Khalili (1999)
Sorcerer's Apprentice- Tahir Shah (2001)
Eurekas and Euphorias - Walter Gratzer (2002)
Trail of Feathers - Tahir Shah (2003)
Them and Us - Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat (2003)
Human Givens - Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell (2003)
Time Bites - Doris Lessing (2005)
Critical Mass - Philip Ball (2006)
and ICR Monographs 1971-present.

More videos related to the ICR:

The Human Givens Diploma Course - introduction from Mindfields College on Vimeo.


Brian Goodwin on the Complex Language of Living Processes:


Prof. Chris French on The Placebo Effect: Myths, Muddle and Methodology and Belief in the Paranormal.


Rupert Sheldrake, on What if Telepathy Really Happens?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Amidst the Ruins....

... there are some books...