Fourth Way

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Fourth Way

The system of mystic and occultist Georgei I. Gurdjieff (1872-1949), which he contrasted to the three traditional ways of mysticismthose of the fakir, the monk, and the yogi. Gurdjieff maintained that human beings are "asleep" (i.e., not living at full potential of awareness and performance). To develop greater awareness requires hard work in removing illusory or limited experience and awakening to higher reality, he said. This evolution can be assisted by special work involving a system of psychophysical exercises including movement, music, and dance. Gurdjieff's system was especially concerned with achieving evolution in everyday life, rather than retreating from society.

An early enthusiast for the work of Gurdjieff was the journal-ist Peter D. Ouspensky. Later disciples included Maurice Nicoll, J. G. Bennett, and Thane Walker, each of whom founded schools concerned with teachings stemming from the philosophy and methods of Gurdjieff. A leading group concerned with Gurdjieff work in the United States is the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York.

Traditional Gurdjieff schools carry on unobtrusively and avoid publicity. There is little centralized organization, and proselytizing attempts are low key. Prospective followers of the Fourth Way are usually expected to have studied books dealing with the life and thought of Gurdjieff.


Bennett, J. G. Gurdjieff, A Very Great Enigma: Three Lectures. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1973.

. Gurdjieff: Making a New World. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

De Hartmann, Thomas. Our Life with Gurdjieff. New York: Penguin, 1972. Rev. ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.

Driscoll, J. Walter. Gurdjieff: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1985.

Gurdjieff, G. I. All and Everything. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950. Reprint, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1963.

. Meetings With Remarkable Men. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1964.

. Views From the Real World: Early Talks in Moscow, Essentuku, Tiflis, Berlin, London, Paris, New York, Chicago as Recollected by His Pupils. New York: Triangle Editions; London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973.

Webb, James. The Harmonious Circle. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1980.