Perspectives from the Gurdjieff Northern Uk Movements Group
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 bight 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. This is the power of Gurdjieff’s Movements. But there is also a struggle – friction – this is the price I have to pay. It is worth it because I know of no other System which can give this kind of ‘inner force’, a force that can change my life. A force that does not require my ‘personality’ to provide an inner change is indeed unique. This process has been called ‘Inner Alchemy’, and I can think of no better way to describe Gurdjieff’s system.
What are the Movements?
They are a series of postures and gestures both unusual and precise, involving arms; feet displacements; spatial orientations; head positions; words and singing.
The effect of such workings on the organism is to produce a non-habitual situation where one can confront the challenge of seeing yourself in a different way.
The aim is to bring about a balanced state between the body-mind-feelings.
We are told that the origin of these movements is very old, maybe as far back as the time of Pythagoras, and they were devised for ritual and ceremonial occasions in the ancient schools of knowledge.
Performing the Movements
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.
Great demands are made of attention in sensing; attention of mind, for example in counting in specific ways rather than day dreaming; and attention on the emotions, for example in an emotional response to the music and being detached from the struggle with negative emotions.
Personal Account (1)
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.
Personal Account (2)
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 a sense of remoteness, from beyond the mind yet familiar; 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.
I feel there are resonances with primitive African or Amazonian tribal rhythms; and at other times Ancient Greek Temple Dances or Dervish Dances of a ceremonial kind; also Indian Dances which contain meaning.
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.