Much of Gurdjieff’s life, his ways and his methods are still a mystery but Joseph Azize’s latest book reminds the reader that Gurdjieff was closer to mystic spirituality than anything else. That is if he was to be compared with any teacher or way as Gurdjieff is unique as a person as well as in his own Work.
The founder of the ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’, George Gurdjieff, who states that all men are asleep says that his mission is to wake mankind up out of its reverie.
Joseph Azize brings us a fascinating new book on Gurdjieff, this is my review of it, though subjective. I regard this book on Gurdjieff as very important and instructive, Gurdjieff is a man who does not make his work and writings easy to understand, but Azize explains Gurdjieff’s terminology, reminding us that Gurdjieff himself said that language and terminology was all mixed up these days with many meanings and that he, Gurdjieff wanted to bring a new language, new words which would have a clear and concise meaning.
Azize explains Gurdjieff’s instructions for all his exercises, whether it is reading Gurdjieff’s book series “All and Everything, “An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man.”, or taking part in the mental or physical exercises that were given out. Gurdjieff has instructions for all aspects of his Work.
Azize has made much use of his time with Mr Adie, his own teacher in the Work. George Adie himself was a pupil of Gurdjieff and had his own group continuing the Gurdjieff teaching, which is sometimes called The Fourth Way.
Azize has fully researched the Work of Gurdjieff yet admits that he has to conjecture here and there as to certain aspects in the Gurdjieff timeline, such as Gurdjieff never fulfilled his ambitions with his books because A R Orage, the editor for Gurdjieff’s writings, had left. Azize writes “I shall work through the material thematically rather than chronologically, although, as stated, there are many gaps.”
Joseph Azize is an ordained priest of the Maronite Catholic Church and a professor in Theology so is fully qualified to look at where Gurdjieff may have originally got these exercises, comparing them with various monks’ writings from the past such as Nicephorus the Solitary.
The book is written in such a way as to help the reader understand the sense and significance of the exercises that Gurdjieff gave. Many of these exercises I have heard the name of but never known what they were, how to perform them or where to find them, usually because they had been given to somebody during their time with Mr Gurdjieff, but now Azize has been able to collect them together and put them in one volume.
This book is aimed at those who know of Gurdjieff but it also would suit both beginners and long-term adherents of the work of Gurdjieff. For Gurdjieffians this is an ideal book for recapping. For those new to Gurdjieff they will find a history and explanation of the exercise.
What is most important about this book is that there has not been one like it before, the Gurdjieff exercises have never been looked into this deeply, examined and presented in such a clear and candid way before.
‘Gurdjieff; Mysticism, Contemplation and Exercises.’ By Joseph Azize is available from Oxford University Press in April 2020