In Search of the Elixir of Personal Transformation: The Philosophy of Movements

What is the nature of movement?

Movement and dance are a neglected aspect of philosophy, but here the author explores movement from the perspective of meaning and value.

20th century teachers such as Alexander, Dalcroze, Laban and Gurdjieff have explored avenues ranging from the aesthetic and the healing arts to the spiritual, which effectively elevates movements into the philosophical domain. In this book, Jan Ellan Bows takes us on a journey of exploration, often with direct personal experience of the forms in question.

Movements carry subtle influences, especially when accompanied by music. Schools both ancient and modern, have used music and movement to promote healing through re-establishing harmonic balance (Pythagoras), and have “the ability to transmit an unknown, non-verbal language” (Gurdjieff).

The Way of Inner Alchemy

Gurdjieff Fourth Way

Whilst we may obtain great knowledge about the world, there is another dimension which has been largely lost in our modern society. This dimension is related to one’s ‘inner life’, which remains dormant from childhood, but which can be reawakened and undergo a process of evolution. This is what Gurdjieff called ‘essence’, in other words, who we really are. Essence is related to personality, but distinct from it, and the inner evolution of essence is the real meaning of ‘know thyself’.

P.D. Ouspensky relates a lecture given by Gurdjieff in relation to the ancient maxim ‘Know Thyself’:

The next lecture began precisely with the words: ‘Know thyself’. “These words,” said Gurdjieff, “which are generally ascribed to Socrates, actually lie at the basis of many systems and schools far more ancient than the Socratic.”

From P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, Fragments of an Unknown Teaching.

Introductory Meetings in Leeds and Harrogate will explore the principles and practices of the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff.

For details of meetings, please visit our website: or email:

Leeds Gurdjieff Society

King Crimson

In the Court of the Crimson King

The first incarnation of King Crimson formed in London on 30 November 1968 and first rehearsed on 13 January 1969. The band’s name was coined by Sinfield, though it is not meant to be a synonym for Beelzebub, prince of demons. (According to Fripp, Beelzebub would be an anglicised form of the Arabic phrase “B’il Sabab”, meaning “the man with an aim”.) Historically and etymologically, a “crimson king” was any monarch during whose reign there was civil unrest and copious bloodshed; the album debuted at the height of worldwide opposition to the military involvement of the United States in Southeast Asia. At this point, McDonald was the group’s main composer, albeit with contributions from Lake and Fripp, while Sinfield wrote the lyrics, designed and operated the band’s stage lighting, being credited with “sounds and visions”. The band purchase a Mellotron, and they began using it to create an orchestral rock sound, inspired by the Moody Blues. Sinfield described Crimson thus: “If it sounded at all popular, it was out. So it had to be complicated, it had to be more expansive chords, it had to have strange influences. If it sounded, like, too simple, we’d make it more complicated, we’d play it in 7/8 or 5/8, just to show off”.

King Crimson made their breakthrough live debut on 9 April 1969 by playing the Rolling Stones free concert at Hyde Park, London in July 1969 before an estimated 500,000 people. The debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, was released in October 1969 on Island Records. Fripp would later describe it as having been “an instant smash”. The album received public compliments from Pete Townshend, the Who’s guitarist, who called the album “an uncanny masterpiece.” The album’s sound, including its opening track “21st Century Schizoid Man”, was described as setting the precedent for alternative rock and grunge, whilst the softer tracks are described as having an “ethereal” and “almost sacred” feel. In contrast to the blues-based hard rock of the contemporary British and American scenes, King Crimson presented a more Europeanised approach that blended antiquity and modernity. The band’s music drew on a wide range of influences provided by all five group members. These elements included romantic- and modernist-era classical music, the psychedelic rock spearheaded by Jimi Hendrix, folk, jazz, military music (partially inspired by McDonald’s stint as an army musician), ambient improvisation, Victoriana and British pop.

Read more at the Wikipedia site

Geminid meteors

Geminid Meteors

The Geminid maximum this year occurs just before new
Moon, so there will be no interference by moonlight, enabling many fainter meteors to be seen in addition to the brightest members of the shower. This year, the time of Geminid maximum is especially favourable for observers in Europe, with peak activity expected at about 02h on Thursday, December 14, when the ZHR may again reach 100 to 120 meteors per hour.

Observers should also note the most interesting project being organised by Dr Tony Cook of the BAA Lunar Section to capture video of lunar impact flashes as Geminid meteoroids strike the lunar surface on the eastern night side.

See the BAA website for further details.

Gurdjieff Northern UK Group

Self Remembering

On one occasion at the beginning of a meeting Gurdjieff put a question to which all those present had to answer in turn. The question was; “What is the most important thing that we notice during self-observation?”

Some of those present said that during attempts at self-observation, what they had felt particularly strongly was an incessant flow of thoughts which they had found impossible to stop. Others spoke of the difficulty of distinguishing the work of one centre from the work of another. I had evidently not altogether understood the question, or I answered my own thoughts, because I said that what struck me most was the connectedness of one thing with another in the system, the wholeness of the system, as if it were an “organism,” and the entirely new significance of the word to know which included not only the idea of knowing this thing or that, but the connection between this thing and everything else.

Gurdjieff was obviously dissatisfied with our replies. I had already begun to understand him in such circumstances and I saw that he expected from us indications of something definite that we had either missed or failed to understand.

“Not one of you has noticed the most important thing that I have pointed out to you,” he said. “That is to say, not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves.” (He gave particular emphasis to these words.) “You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, ‘it observes’ just as ‘it speaks’ ‘it thinks,’ ‘it laughs.’ You do not feel: I observe, I notice, I see. Everything still ‘is noticed,’ ‘is seen.’ … In order really to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself” (He again emphasized these words.) “Try to remember yourselves when you observe yourselves and later on tell me the results. Only those results will have any value that are accompanied by self-remembering. Otherwise you yourselves do not exist in your observations. In which case what are all your observations worth?”

Adapted from: P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950, Ch. 7.

To purchase this book, please click one of the images below. Please ensure that the book you buy is by P.D. Ouspensky – other titles of the same name have nothing to do with the Fourth Way of G.I. Gurdjieff.

The Science of Being

Ouspensky relates his talks with Gurdjieff about ‘Knowledge and Being’. Gurdjieff said that:

“People understand what ‘knowledge’ means. And they understand the possibility of different levels of knowledge. They understand that knowledge may be lesser or greater, that is to say, of one quality or of another quality. But they do not understand this in relation to ‘being.’ ‘Being,’ for them, means simply ‘existence’ to which is opposed just ‘non-existence.’ They do not understand that being or existence may be of very different levels and categories. Take for instance the being of a mineral and of a plant. It is a different being. The being of a plant and of an animal is again a different being. The being of an animal and of a man is a different being. But the being of two people can differ from one another more than the being of a mineral and of an animal. This is exactly what people do not understand. And they do not understand that knowledge depends on being. Not only do they not understand this latter but they definitely do not wish to understand it. And especially in Western culture it is considered that a man may possess great knowledge, for example he may be an able scientist, make discoveries, advance science, and at the same time he may be, and has the right to be, a petty, egoistic, caviling, mean, envious, vain, naive, and absentminded man. It seems to be considered here that a professor must always forget his umbrella everywhere. “


Gurdjieff’s Mission: Sunday Lecture at the Leeds Theosophical Society

Sunday, January 8th, 2017, 2.30 pm at the Leeds Theosophical Society, 12 Queens Square, Leeds, LS2 8AJ

Bob Bows will discuss the teaching called the ‘Fourth Way’, which was brought to the West in 1912 by G. I . Gurdjieff.
Bob is co-founder of the Leeds Gurdjieff Society, an organisation which employs traditional Fourth Way methods such as Group Meetings, Craft Activities, Readings, Sacred Dances, and Music. This can provide the ‘material’ through which, if rightly used, can lead one to a new way of living in the sense of ‘Being’.
One of Bob’s research interests is to study the correspondences between various subtle energies (Animal magnetism, Orgone, Vril, Odyll and Gurdjieff’s ‘Active elements’ including Okidanokh).
In terms of the energy fields surrounding humans, animals and plants, Bob has studied the effects of various materials following the work of Baron Dr. Carl von Reichenbach and Franz Anton Mesmer.
Bob’s wife Jan Ellan Bows is a professional musician, and is the Movements Instructor for the Society, and was a student of Lillian Massey, a pupil of J.G. Bennett.

Wrong Work of Centres

Each centre has its own memory, its own associations, its own thinking. As a matter of fact each centre consists of three parts: the thinking, the emotional, and the moving. But we know very little about this side of our nature. In each centre we know only one part. Self-observation, however, will very quickly show us that our mental life is much richer than we think, or in any case that it contains more possibilities than we think. At the same time as we watch the work of the centres we shall observe, side by side with their right working, their wrong working, that is, the working of one centre for another; the attempts of the thinking centre to feel or to pretend that it feels, the attempts of the emotional centre to think, the attempts of the moving centre to think and feel. As has been said already, one centre working for another is useful in certain cases, for it preserves the continuity of mental activity. But in becoming habitual it becomes at the same time harmful, since it begins to interfere with right working by enabling each centre to shirk its own direct duties and to do, not what it ought to be doing, but what it likes best at the moment.

In a normal healthy person each centre does its own work, that is, the work for which it was specially destined and which it can best perform. There are situations in life which the thinking centre alone can deal with and can find a way out of. If at this moment the emotional centre begins to work instead, it will make a muddle of everything and the result of its interference will be most unsatisfactory. In an ‘unbalanced’ kind of person the substitution of one centre for another goes on almost continually and this is precisely what ‘being unbalanced’ or ‘neurotic’ means. Each centre strives, as it were, to pass its work on to another, and, at the same time, it strives to do the work of another centre for which it is not fitted. The emotional centre working for the thinking centre brings unnecessary nervousness, feverishness, and hurry into situations where, on the contrary, calm judgment and deliberation are essential. The thinking centre working for the emotional centre brings deliberation into situations which require quick decisions and makes a person incapable of distinguishing the peculiarities and the fine points of the position. Thought is too slow. It works out a certain plan of action and continues to follow it even though the circumstances have changed and quite a different course of action is necessary. Besides, in some cases the interference of the thinking centre gives rise to entirely wrong reactions, because the thinking centre is simply incapable of understanding the shades and distinctions of many events. Events that are quite different for the moving centre and for the emotional centre appear to be alike to it. Its decisions are much too general and do not correspond to the decisions which the emotional centre would have made. This becomes perfectly clear if we imagine the interference of thought, that is, of the theoretical mind, in the domain of feeling, or of sensation, or of movement; in all three cases the interference of the mind leads to wholly undesirable results.

The mind cannot understand shades of feeling. We shall see this clearly if we imagine one person reasoning about the emotions of another. They are not feeling anything themselves, so the feelings of another do not exist for them. A full person does not understand a hungry one. But for the other they have a very definite existence. And the decisions of the first person, that is of the mind, can never satisfy the second. In exactly the same way the mind cannot appreciate sensations. For it they are dead. Nor is it capable of controlling movement. Instances of this kind are the easiest to find. Whatever work a person may be doing, it is enough for them to try to do each action deliberately, with their mind, following every movement, and they will see that the quality of their work will change immediately. If they are typing, the fingers, controlled by the moving center, find the necessary letters themselves, but if they try to ask themselves before every letter: ‘Where is “k”?’ ‘Where is the comma?’ ‘How is this word spelled?’ they at once begin to make mistakes or to write very slowly. If one drives a car with the help of one’s mind, one can go only in the lowest gear. The mind cannot keep pace with all the movements necessary for developing a greater speed. To drive at full speed, especially in the streets of a large town, while steering with the help of one’s mind is absolutely impossible for an ordinary person. Moving centre working for thinking centre produces, for example, mechanical reading or mechanical listening, as when a person reads or listens to nothing but words and is utterly unconscious of what he is reading or hearing. This generally happens when attention, that is, the direction of the thinking centre’s activity, is occupied with something else and when the moving centre is trying to replace the absent thinking centre; but this very easily becomes a habit, because the thinking centre is generally distracted not by useful work, by thought, or by contemplation, but simply by daydreaming or by imagination.

‘Imagination’ is one of the principal sources of the wrong work of centres. Each centre has its own form of imagination and daydreaming, but as a rule both the moving and the emotional centres make use of the thinking centre which very readily places itself at their disposal for this purpose, because daydreaming corresponds to its own inclinations. Daydreaming is absolutely the opposite of ‘useful’ mental activity. ‘Useful’ in this case means activity directed towards a definite aim and undertaken for the sake of obtaining a definite result. Daydreaming does not pursue any aim, does not strive after any result. The motive for daydreaming always lies in the emotional or in the moving centre. The actual process is carried on by the thinking centre. The inclination to daydream is due partly to the laziness of the thinking centre, that is, its attempts to avoid the efforts connected with work directed towards a definite aim and going in a definite direction, and partly to the tendency of the emotional and the moving centres to repeat to themselves, to keep alive or to recreate experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, that have been previously lived through or ‘imagined.’ Daydreaming of disagreeable, morbid things is very characteristic of the unbalanced state of the human machine, After all, one can understand daydreaming of a pleasant kind and find logical justification for it. Daydreaming of an unpleasant character is an utter absurdity. And yet many people spend nine tenths of their lives in just such painful daydreams about misfortunes which may overtake them or their family, about illnesses they may contract or sufferings they will have to endure. Imagination and daydreaming are instances of the wrong work of the thinking centre. Observation of the activity of imagination and daydreaming forms a very important part of self-study.

The next object of self-observation must be habits in general. Every grown-up person consists wholly of habits, although they are often unaware of it and even deny having any habits at all. This can never be the case. All three centres are filled with habits and a person can never know themselves until they have studied all their habits. The observation and the study of habits is particularly difficult because, in order to see and ‘record’ them, one must escape from them, free oneself from them, if only for a moment. So long as a person is governed by a particular habit, they do not observe it, but at the very first attempt, however feeble, to struggle against it, they feels it and notice it. Therefore in order to observe and study habits one must try to struggle against them. This opens up a practical method of self-observation. It has been said before that a person cannot change anything in themselves, that they can only observe and ‘record.’ This is true. But it is also true that a person cannot observe and ‘record’ anything if they do not try to struggle with themselves, that is, with their habits. This struggle cannot yield direct results, that is to say, it cannot lead to any change, especially to any permanent and lasting change. But it shows what is there.

Without a struggle, a person cannot see what they consist of. The struggle with small habits is very difficult and boring, but without it self-observation is impossible. Even at the first attempt to study the elementary activity of the moving centre a person comes up against habits. For instance, one may want to study one’s movements, may want to observe how one walks. But they will never succeed in doing so for more than a moment if they continue to walk in the usual way. But if they understand that their usual way of walking consists of a number of habits, for instance, of taking steps of a certain length, walking at a certain speed, and so on, and try tries to alter them, that is, to walk faster or slower, to take bigger or smaller steps, they will be able to observe themselves and to study their movements as they walk. If you want to observe yourself when you are writing, you must take note of how you hold your pen and try to hold it in a different way from usual; observation will then become possible. In order to observe yourself, you must try to walk not in your habitual way, but must sit in unaccustomed attitudes, must stand when you are accustomed to sit, must sit when you are accustomed to stand, and you must make with your left hand the movements you are accustomed to make with you right hand and vice versa. All this will enable you to observe yourself and study the habits and associations of the moving centre.

In the sphere of the emotions it is very useful to try to struggle with the habit of giving immediate expression to all one’s unpleasant emotions. Many people find it very difficult to refrain from expressing their feelings about bad weather. It is still more difficult for people not to express unpleasant emotions when they feel that something or someone is violating what they may conceive to be order or justice. Besides being a very good method for self-observation, the struggle against expressing unpleasant emotions has at the same time another significance. It is one of the few directions in which we can change ourselves or our habits without creating other undesirable habits. Therefore self-observation and self-study must, from the first, be accompanied by the struggle against the expression of unpleasant emotions. If you carry out all these rules while you observe yourself, you will record a whole series of very important aspects of your being. To begin with you will record with unmistakable clearness the fact that you actions, thoughts, feelings, and words are the result of external influences and that nothing comes from yourself.

Adapted from ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ by P.D. Ouspensky


Division of Centres

It is possible through self-observation to begin to see how we limit ourselves and only use the weakest part of our organism. Ouspensky outlines the situation when he discusses ‘parts of centres’:

“I want to tell you a little more about centres which will help you to understand the situation. Some centres are divided into two halves— positive and negative. This division is very clear in the intellectual and the instinctive centres. In the intellectual centre it is ‘yes’ and ‘no’, affirmation and negation. All the work of the intellectual centre consists of comparing. The division in the instinctive centre is quite plain: pleasure—pain. All instinctive life is governed by this. At a superficial glance it seems that the emotional centre also consists of two halves— pleasant and unpleasant emotions. But it is not really so. All our violent and depressing emotions and, generally, most of our mental suffering has the same character—it is unnatural, and our organism has no real centre for these negative emotions; they work with the help of an artificial centre. This artificial centre—a kind of swelling—is gradually created in us from early childhood, for a child grows surrounded by people with negative emotions and imitates them.
Q. Are instinctive emotions not negative?
A. They may be negative, but they are rightfully so. They are all useful. The negative half of the instinctive centre is a watchman warning us of danger. In the emotional centre negative emotions are very harmful. Then each half of a centre is divided into three parts: intellectual part,
emotional part and moving or mechanical part. The moving part of each centre is the most mechanical and the most often used. Generally we use only the mechanical parts of centres. Even the emotional parts are used only occasionally; as to the intellectual parts, they are very seldom used in ordinary conditions. This shows how we limit ourselves, how we use only a little part, the weakest part, of our organism. It is very easy to distinguish these three parts when we begin to observe ourselves. Mechanical parts do not need attention. Emotional parts need strong interest or identification, attention without effort or intention, for attention is drawn and kept by the attraction of the object itself. And in the intellectual parts you have to control your attention. When you get accustomed to control attention, you will see at once what I mean. First the character of the action will show you which centre you are in, and then observation of attention will show you the part of centre. It is particularly important to observe the emotional parts and to study the things that attract and keep the attention, because they produce imagination. Study of attention is a very important part of self-study, and if you begin to observe this division of centres into parts, in addition to the division of centres themselves, it will give you the possibility of coming to smaller details and will help you to study attention.”
Extract from ‘The Fourth Way’, P.D. Ouspensky.

Toward Evolution

From the moment we recognise that there is something wrong or something lacking in us and therefore that something has to be changed, a work on ourselves can be undertaken toward evolution. And the first question that arises for us, is how to undertake work which will give us the power to see ourselves as we really are.

The entire world is seen only in terms of one’s self, while this self has no meaning except in terms of the world. At one and the same time we feel ourselves to be the navel of a world which we see from our point of view, while for the world we are nothing – not so much as a speck of dust.

Studying could begin from one side or the other, and our first inclination is to begin with the study of the world around us. But in that world, where we are nothing, we have no capacity either; we have nothing with which to see its eternity or its infinity. We are lost in an immensity beyond our reach and in an analysis which our whole lifetime would not be long enough to encompass, or enable us to complete, in order to synthesize it all. Even if this synthesis could be reached, it would still be necessary to include ourselves within it and find our proper place there. And yet it is just this approach, this endless analysis that modern science has undertaken, with a certain practical efficiency, which has led at the same time to dispersion and specialization, that is, to limitation, without any direct concern for the person who are themselves engaged in it.

However, it is we ourselves who are in question in this search; it is we, first and foremost, who need it. It is a matter for us, a matter of our inner being, our plane, our conflicts, our evolution, and, from this moment on, of the whole of our life. What is more, for us nothing is seen except through our own eyes.

So, if the study begins with ourselves, it is quite another matter. We are always there, available to ourselves and in the place which we occupy. Perhaps we believe we know ourselves and know this place. Our entire education leads us to think so. Nevertheless, our doubts, our conflicts, and our ignorance are also there: if we knew ourselves as well as we think, these would not exist, and there would be no question about who we are.

Adapted from Toward Awakening, by Jean Vaysse

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