Working with Fourth Way Movements


Gurdjieff Movements are a form of Objective Art

In terms of ‘Fragments of an Unknown Teaching’ (the way Ouspensky describes the ‘Work’), the movements are a very important ‘fragment’. It does not seem possible (or desirable) to be involved in the ‘Fourth Way’ system without having some exposure to these extraordinary dances. The accompanying music is in itself quite ‘out of this world’, and unlike any other. I always feel that I am in the presence of something from a higher world. My ordinary life is a shock by comparison – I see my ‘inner life’ in vivid outline – like a bright light is suddenly shone on all the old reactions, all those aspects of my ‘personality’ which normally demand all my attention. But now my attention is on the movement – on the demand to be precise, trying to allow something new…suddenly everyone on the dance floor moves in harmony, and a unique moment of belonging to a form of ‘objective’ art appears. Then I am connected to something bigger than myself – and for a moment I am not driven by personality. Something inside rejoices – that ‘inner self’ so cut off, driven to hide away by the gross world – I am myself again. Every time I am on a Movements floor, I experience this re-connection.


From Music to Movements

My background gave me a thorough training in music. I started taking piano lessons when I was six years old: received a Scholarship to attend the  Manchester Royal College of Music and Graduated from there.  For a while I was an orchestral player and bassoon soloist, and later became Head of Music in a Secondary School in North Yorkshire,

The 1980s found me in London where I trained to become a Teacher of the Alexander Technique, at the Constructive Teaching Centre. I was lucky enough to have Walter Carrington as my teacher and mentor and he supported me to get involved with the Gurdjieff Work, especially the Movements.

The commonality belonging to both these methods is that they strive to raise consciousness through retraining movement patterns from habitual and mechanical to  patterns which expand awareness, so that we become connected to our bodies and our senses.

When I returned to Yorkshire I ran my own Alexander Technique Practice and started  to play the piano again.

So it was that in the 1990s I met my first 4th Way Teacher, Lillian Massey, who was a direct pupil of J.G.Bennett. She led me to studying 4th Way psychology and encouraged me to play the music of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann.  I had never heard music like this before –  the echoes of something ancient really stirred me and I have become quite passionate about playing ever since.

In the Spring of 2013 I was invited to play at the ‘All & Everything’ Conference in Canterbury where I performed to Movements’  Music of Edward Salim Michael.

My own on-going development is involved with research into Fourth Way Movements from authentic sources, and with a group of Independent Movements Facilitators known as the ’39 Series’ Group.

Jan Ellan Bows   G.R.S.M.  A.R.M.C.M.  Dip. Ed.  A.T.E.    b. 1945

A Long Lasting Awakening

These dances, for me, echo an emotional form that appears to come from my childhood or beyond, but they are not child-like. There is nothing threatening but rather invoking; relating to something other. Because they are danced in a group setting, not doing your own thing, they are communal dances, but there is no question of losing one`s individual humanity or becoming “thing-like”, Everyone is responsible for his/her own work. The style of the movements strives to be precise and this gives the an evocative power. The true meaning cannot be described, the dances have to be watched or danced in order to convey their meaning and this cannot be reduced to words. The music, specifically written for the dances, produces a strong emotional component.There is no short-term “feel-good” factor but a conscious, long lasting awakening.


A Mirror to Myself

The effect of dancing these dances is to produce changing energies which create aliveness and I feel alert and awake. They evoke the unusual, the ancient whilst cleansing and clearing in the “here and now”. They offer a mirror to myself, an opportunity to notice minutiae of internal experience.

I and We: Connection inside my body:

Connection with the whole group:

Connection with rhythm and music:

The group strives towards a common goal and individually we strive for our own perfection.

On the dance floor, I do not know what comes next. How shall I meet it? Can I let go and find the confidence to trust that I will be able to face the task? Will my body show me wisdom?

I do know that I have to let go of critical, internal dialogue; my judgmental inner commentaries, so that I can get on with the task which is to be here “now”, working with myself and with the others.


Here Lies Great Knowledge

In attempting to perform Gurdjieff`s movements one`s whole inner world can be thrown into chaos, and the outer shell of personality is no longer in charge. One has the feeling that here lies great knowledge, but that it can’t be approached in any ordinary way. They are unlike anything else.



One thought on “Working with Fourth Way Movements”

  1. Engaging in the movements can produce in me an experience of real attention. In these moments my mind can become truely quiet.
    With precision and effort I can experience a momentary or prolonged divide of attention.
    When I remember myself in these movements I can experience real self-observation and it is in these moments of observations that I start to see and experience the relationship between my mind, body and emotions.
    In the movements class I can observe the relationship between myself and those participating. In this moment I can experience selflessness and that my connectedness is not just a solitary action within me but to that outside of me; to my fellow participants; to all and everything; to something greater.
    With effort I strive to hold onto this experience for a period of time after a movements class has ended and maybe, if I’m blessed, I might see that within the movements is ‘The Work’.

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