It is our view that it is critically important for the future of mankind that a continuing effort be made to understand the depths of Gurdjieff’s “new conception of God in the world.” The historical concepts of God, extending back at least five thousand years, have always been primary determinants of the personal, social and political values of the time. They have contributed majorly to sexual and family values, beliefs and manifestations in every society on Earth, have been fundamentally involved in endless wars and persecutions
and, conversely, have been the major sources supporting healing, compassion and inquiry into the nature of both our inner and our outer worlds. Viewed historically, they (the variable “concepts of God”) have been the greatest positive and negative influences on the personal and social life of mankind.
A major shift in the predominant influence of these concepts entered the life of man with the gradual appearance, and the sudden expansion, of the secular and rational forms of inquiry which have become known, especially over the past five hundred years, as the “scientific perspective.” The initial entry of this perspective into western Europe provoked a violent and sustained negative reaction, in particular by the Roman Catholic Church, against the emerging views of the natural world that ran counter to the previously accepted concept of God.
The emerging scientific views led, quite lawfully, to the secular, intellectual / emotional revolution that came to be called the “Enlightenment.” The state of great personal / societal tension continued, reaching a climax in the second half of the nineteenth century with the work of such figures as Faraday and Maxwell, Michaelson / Morley, Darwin, Roentgen, the Curies and Planck. With Einstein’s special theory of relativity and the emergence of quantum mechanics, a pinnacle of scientific inquiry was reached that had enormous impact on the social, political and religious life of Europe and America (which rapidly spread throughout the world).
The expansion of the scientific enterprise, and the explosive technological outflow from the knowledge acquired, marks the entire 20th century. The atomic and hydrogen bombs, jet planes, satellites, computers, internet–each and many other technological innovations have widened the gulf between the historical, religious concepts (Christian, Hebrew, Islamic) and the secular, scientifically-based views of man and the Universe. Gurdjieff appeared at the apex of this tension between the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds of man — a gulf which contributed in essential ways to the outbreak of the World Wars of the past century.
What is ‘carried’ by the force of the Gurdjieff teaching in regard to this gulf of our ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds?
A new conception of God in the world must truly be vast and all encompassing. It must encompass the what, how and why of everything from fundamental matter to the starry heavens; it must explain the appearance and roles of life and especially of human life; it must give form to all the mysteries confronting man and present resolutions to those mysteries. It must provide guidance and methodology for fulfilling the purposes and ‘laws’ of higher worlds. It must comfort, enliven, correct, guide, discipline and reward the individual and the collective.
For millennia, these spiritual concepts, initiated and given form by the Great Messengers, were, far and away, the predominant sources of the concept of God that held sway over the minds of mankind. That they did not include a deep penetration into the mechanisms of the material world is evident. At best, they were descriptive and classifying of types of structures (mountains, forests, rock formations, plants and animals), saying little about underlying, physical principles or laws that could be verified by experiment. The Great Messengers were powerful motivators of behavior, the source of the motivations being ‘spiritual’ influences that lay beyond the comprehension of ordinary men. How to reconcile this seemingly unbreachable gulf? This is the question which, we maintain, was Gurdjieff’s most fundamental aim to address.
Excerpted from Keith A. Buzzell’s A New Conception of God: Further Reflections on Gurdjieff’s Whim, Fifth Press, 2013.