GURDJIEFF ON SEX
[quote=Marnia] Did Gurdjieff have any useful things to say about sex? [/quote]
It is such a plain, straight-shot question, but it has really got me tripping over myself just trying to give you a sensible answer!
Gurdjieff could consider something simple and--through the lens of his vast metaphysical system--reflect something infinitely more complex than one had first imagined was there.
And yet, for the dizzying, all-encompassing depth and scope of Gurdjieff's worldview, he did tend, on the whole, to see things in entirely mechanistic terms. He imagined man as a machine and the universe as an enormous clock-work mechanism. His jaw-dropping feat was to actually describe how such a maddeningly complex system functioned. (The human being, for instance, is described as being composed of seven, semi-autonomous centers, all of which vie for control of his entire being. And the human being is further described as being a conglomeration of thousands of little "selves" which each, in turn, command our attention.)
If Gurdjieff said much about sex, very little of it was written down. The twelfth chapter of "In Search of the Miraculous" (written by Gurdjieff's sometime student, P.D. Ouspensky) contains, to my knowledge, the most complete statement that Gurdjieff ever made on the subject of sex. There he discusses, rather generally, the relationship of the sex center to the our other "lower story" centers (the lower intellectual, the lower emotional, the moving, and the instinctive centers). However, his primary concern, as always, seems to be the creation of a center of gravity (a singular "self" fused together out of all those little "selves") in us, which will, in turn, be able to use that sex center (as well as all of the other centers) properly.
In the chapter I have just mentioned, Gurdjieff argues that "excess or perversion... are comparatively innocent forms of [the] abuse of sex."
What he considers to me be more serious, and suggests may be the cause of a great many of our psychological problems, is the other lower centers co-opting the energy the sex center--which is inappropriate: every center should work with its own energy and in its own "natural" way. He describes the result of other centers co-opting the energy of the sex center:
"The energy of the sex center in the work of the thinking, emotional, and moving centers can be recognized by a particular 'taste,' by a particular fervor, by a vehemence which the nature of the affair concerned does not call for."
For example, he says that the intellectual center, in co-opting the sexual energy, is "always fighting something, disputing, criticizing, creating new subjective theories." The emotional center, under the influence of the sexual energy, "preaches[...] abstinence, asceticism, or the fear and horror of sin, hell, the torment of sinners, eternal fire, all this with the energy of the sex center. ... Or on the other hand it works up revolutions, robs, burns, kills, again with the same energy."
But, according to Gurdjieff, the other centers would not co-opt the energy of the sex center if there were not so much of its energy left unexpended, which is to say, if the sex center were utilized in its proper way. But what is the proper way to use the sex center? Well, unfortunately, he only tells us that the other lower-story centers are not to interfere with it, and we are left to try to figure out the sex center's proper function from that. But before we turn to trying to decipher what that policy of non-interference might mean, is there anything we can glean from his foregoing comments?
As already noted, he considers the impulse to preach abstinence or asceticism to be a symptom of an errant co-opting of the sexual center's pent-up energy by the lower emotional center. And in this we have some agreement: rigid self-denial and self-shaming are certainly neurotic! But that does not mean that the diametric opposite (indulgence and pursuit of orgasm) is the best option either.
And yet, recall Gurdjieff's downplaying of the gravity of "excess or perversion." I think that might indicate that Gurdjieff's view of the proper use of the sex center lies somewhere off the middle path of pleasurable but non-orgasmic sex, namely toward the "enjoy orgasm, but not to excess" end of the spectrum, right before you reach the "you can never have too much sex" position. I think, implied in his idea of an excess of sex energy, is the idea that pent-up semen is dangerous for the human male and that it must be expended in a typical, orgasmic sexual act. And this thinking was, of course, consistent with the contemporary Freudian psychology of his time. Also, I can find nothing in Gurdjieff on the question of seminal emission and whether it is to be avoided. So, presumably, he saw orgasm (as his contemporaries did) as part of the normal and "right" function of the sex center. Also, though I do not wish to dwell on it, I think it is of no small concern that Gurdjieff is believed to have slept with a number of his students and even to have fathered children by a few of them.
As for Gurdjieff's contention that there should be no interference of the other centers (or their energies) in the function of the sex center, let us see if this helps us get an idea of Gurdjieff's notion of a proper function of the sex center.
From this rule of non-interference, I gather that, for Gurdjieff, the ideal sexual intercourse is supposed to be devoid of either sentimentality or mental distraction (as this would entail the involvement of the emotional and the intellectual centers). But perhaps most interesting is that in Gurdjieff's picture of the ideal sex function, there is a complete absence of the influence of the moving and instinctive centers as well. In other words, the act could not be animal or unconscious in any way. In this context, sexual acts are not, perhaps, indulgent. But neither are they loving. They are, for lack of a better analogy, mostly like very carefully conducted laboratory experiments... which is sort of the flavor of the Fourth Way when it comes to most anything.
I could add that Gurdjieff claimed that the sex center, used in the proper way, could aid one in forming that new center of gravity from which would emerge that culmination of the "Great Work": a fused, singular "self." But then, the whole point of the Fourth Way is that it uses all of the centers, so naturally the sex center would be included somehow...
He also says, very much in passing, that the sexual center would naturally dominate the human being if not for the presence of a number of psychological buffers which keep it from acting up. (Again, I am hearing the contemporary Freudian psychology of the day.)
So, in summary, while I think he incorporated the subject of sex into his anthropology in a very interesting way, I don't think that Gurdjieff said much about sex that is really "useful" for our purposes. But he certainly left some room open for later students to develop more complex doctrines about sex and its relationship to the "Great Work."
GURDJIEFF & WEOR
Now, on that point, you also asked:
[quote=Marnia] Let me know what you think of Weor. I find him a bit extreme...and a bit too likely to produce shameful feelings...but his work is immensely popular in Latin countries. [/quote]
Weor was a brilliant synthesizer, not unlike Gurdjieff and many other influential teachers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is interesting to mention Weor in the context of Gurdjieff. After having read about a third of "Perfect Matrimony," I can confidently assert that Weor borrows several of Gurdjieff's unique ideas wholesale, even employing Gurdjieff's unique terminology. He talks for instance of the four ways, even giving them the same names: the way of the fakir, the way of the monk, and the way of the yogi. Weor even describes his method as the "fourth way." Also Weor describes our sense of identity as illusory, and says that we are fractured into hundreds of thousands of little "I's" which need to be fused into one "I." This is taken verbatim from Gurdjieff's system.
Though Weor conveniently employs the most recognizable tools and images of several occult systems (the Qabalistic tree of life, the tantric chakra system, the Roman Catholic church's hierarchical structure, etc.) Weor explicitly states that without sexual magic, it is all for nought and will accomplish nothing. So, while he depends upon, for example, Fourth Way metaphysics to explain his own system, Weor then turns around and says that all gurus (including, presumably, Gurdjieff) who did not employ sexual magick as a part of their systems, will have to be taught it by the Great White Lodge brotherhood on the Astral plane...
WEOR & SHAME
Weor adopts a very authoritarian tone. I think the very best of what Weor says is already embodied in the aim of this website and in "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow."
Weor talks like a prophet: someone delivering a message from on high. Rarely do messages from on high come in the form of a friendly suggestion or a colorful, witty anecdote. So, naturally, there is a kind of polarizing effect when Weor adopts such a traditional modality for his communication. Invoking the image of a prophet lends a certain ambience and authority to his message. But I agree that he can also come across, at times, as condemnatory. I think that that is unfortunate, even if the core of his message (love and non-orgasmic sex) is wonderful.
You and Gary, on the other hand, are just honest, ordinary people, sharing your experiences and observations. That is a much more amiable tone and it is probably better suited to this millennium.
It is interesting to note that, while Gurdjieff apparently didn't develop the doctrines surrounding sex beyond what we have already discussed, one of his students most certainly did. Boris Mouravieff wrote an amazing three volume treatise called, simply, "Gnosis." In it, he lays out a more complete account of the Fourth Way system than any other ever published (and I include Ouspensky's "In Search of the Miraculous" here). Instead of crediting Gurdjieff as the originator of the system, Mouravieff claimed that his work derived from esoteric Greek Orthodox Christianity. Gurdjieff too, was known to call his system "esoteric Christianity" from time to time. (Nevertheless, it is beyond question that Mouravieff had contact with Gurdjieff during the period when Gurdjieff was living in Constantinople.)
As for what Mouravieff contributes to the doctrine of sex, after describing the fourth way in detail, Mouravieff then describes what he calls the "fifth way" which he explicitly identifies with (in his own words) "courtly love." The bulk of his three volume work, then, is about how the polar couple must work together to achieve immortality and the creation of respective fused "selves." (And this is described within the framework and metaphysical terminology originally introduced by Gurdjieff.)
Brilliant though he was, Mouravieff can be as authoritarian as Weor in places. But what I find most objectionable in his work is his insistence that we must find our perfect polar compliment, and then, even if we happen to be married to someone else, find some way to be with this person, carefully untangling the gordian knot of our lives to accomplish this feat without producing too much damage for all concerned. I would say that this is a serious drawback to his conception of courtly love, but I will refrain from analyzing it further.
MOURAVIEFF & WEOR
It seems that Weor knew nothing of Mouravieff or his brilliant developments of the Fourth Way doctrines. Weor uses Gurdjieff's terminology without modification, for instance, but never makes mention of a "fifth way." On the contrary, he explicitly identifies his methodology with the "fourth way." And Weor never even mentions the idea of needing to find one's exact polar compliment, whether to endorse or condemn such a notion.
So, now you have my answers to two of your questions, Marnia, and then some.