Views of Satan and His Role


Particularly interesting in William Patrick Patterson’s Eating the I is his interpretation of Satan.

The Fourth Way, which George Gurdjieff had brought to the West, was the program Patterson entered, and one of Gurdjieff’s peculiatrities was not emphasizing evil, as many religions teachers do. He said that humans were almost all asleep, and thus were not responsible for the whatever wrongs they committed. He also said that evil was a relative concept: for someone with a real aim, such as waking up from the hypnotic “sleep” which is our usual condition, evil would be anything that prevented him from waking up, while good would be anything that helped him. A much different definition than usual.

Patterson talks about studying the New Testament and becoming fascinated with the idea of Satan. He traced Satan back into the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis, and continuing through Job and the rest. Satan is often treated as a personality, but also as generic. A satan is one who obstructs, persecutes, or perhaps tests. Elaine Pagels think this term came first, and the personification after. Patterson thinks the opposite.

But he points out that the presence of Satan in the New Testament, testing Jesus, makes the story about good and evil, not just about people being asleep. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” is a pretty clear reference to sleep, and Gurdjieff also pointed out that Jesus frequently talked about sleep during his ministry, but people seem seldom to notice this.

The myth of  Lucifer is that he was  already conscious (and considered by some to be Jesus’s older brother) when God ordered him to worship Man,  but refused to do so out of pride and lack of faith, and “fell”, because the vibrations composing him became lower, and he could no longer retain his highest level of consciousness. He remained fallen until he tempted Eve, when he became an obstructor and persecutor, and consciously evil. At least that’s the Christian version.

Gurdjieff, in one of his own books, told of a time when his reflection on the role of Satan gave him a reminding factor that enabled him to stay awake in his sense, free of the hypnotic power affecting most of us.

He thought of how Satan had been God’s favorite son (older than Jesus, according to old tradition), and how he had been punished for the sin of pride. But pride, Gurdjieff reflected, is common to young and immature beings, so his punishment seemed excessive.

Then he thought of what God’s motive for punishing Satan might have been: to send away from himself the being he loved most, so that he would miss him always. It’s an unusual thought that God, though immeasurably greater, should so resemble Man as to need a reminding factor to help him fight sleep.

Another story Gurdjieff told sheds light on the situation. There was once a magician with many sheep, but these sheep would run away, fall into gullies, or get eaten by wolves. Rather than hire shepherds or build fences, he decided to hypnotize his sheep. He told them that he loved them, that nothing bad would happen to them, at least not soon, and that they were not sheep. Some he said were lions, some men, others magicians. He never had problems with his sheep thereafter. This, Gurdjieff said, is very similar to the human condition. We sleep when we think we’re awake, but it’s an uneasy sleep, as we notice inconsistencies in ourselves and others.

This is much the same as the Indian concept of Maya, and Jesus’s temptation is paralleled by the Buddha’s experience when he decides to sit in meditation until he perceives reality. Demons tempt him, but he realizes their temptations are illusory, and refuses to give them attention .

The story of Adam and Eve is similar: God tells them not to eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, knowing that, being young and immature, they will. Patterson meets an enlightened man later in his story, who says that the above was necessary: the drama couldn’t begin until what people call the Fall happened. No one can choose better things without having some experience of worse things.

So if we want to evolve back into the direction towards God, we need to separate the coarse (representing Satan) from the fine (representing God) within ourselves. When done properly, Gurdjieff says, this is what the alchemists spoke of, and has effects on a physical level that we’re usually unaware of. Beginning this process is beginning the process of making a soul, which Gurdjieff says we are not born with, but have the potential to create.

There is energy that comes to us from outside, from God, along what Gurdjieff calls the Ray of Creation, which begins as fully conscious, but becomes increasingly mechanical as it descends to us. This is analagous to the energy we receive from the sun. If correctly trained, we can use this energy to help us create our souls. This Gurdjieff calls involutionary energy.

Evolving energy, which begins as only partly conscious, but has the possibility of ascending and becoming increasingly purified, can be said to oppose involutionary energy, but only (as far as I can see) because it’s going in the opposite direction, trying to reach God instead of directly coming from Him. This is the spiritual path to which many are called, but few are able to travel very far.

Jesus encounters Satan when he’s just beginning his ministry. He’s conscious, but hasn’t entirely completed his development. Satan tempts him to show off his powers: to make bread out of stone, or to jump from the top of the temple. Jesus doesn’t answer in his own words, because that might expose him to the sin of pride, possibly returning him to sleep. He answers that doing these things would not be God’s will. Then Satan gives his final temptation: Jesus can have the whole beautiful world if he will worship Satan.

This puts things in an interesting perspective. Can Satan give Jesus the whole world, or is he lying? Patterson quotes P.D.  Ouspensky (one of Gurdjieff’s students): ” The history of Man is the history of crime.” That’s the primary component of the history we learn, that money and power are the major motivators of almost all the makers of history. Satan COULD give Jesus the world, but Jesus again refuses, and completes his mission.

Nikos Kazantzakis, in The Last Temptation of Christ, has a parallel interpretation: his last temptation is for Jesus to live the much easier life of an ordinary man. And his Jesus rejoices on the cross when he realizes that he had not succumbed to temptation.

This is underlined by Patterson’s teacher, Lord John Pentland (another student of Gurdjieff’s), who says that temptation isn’t about doing or not doing this or that, but about living below the level of which we are capable. Satan fell through defiance, making it impossible for him to live on the high vibratory level he’d attained before. According to Gurdjieff (and modern science agrees), all matter is composed of vibrations (energy, as should be familiar to us from what little we understand of Einstein’s E=MC2). Surely this is a very common human failing. We make mistakes, or take the easy way out, live at an increasingly low level, and eventually have to take the consequences for what we have and have not done.

We may think of Satan as a personality, as a force, or as an archetype. The archetype lives within us, tempting us to do less than we should, or things we ought not to do. If Satan exists as a personality, we are unlikely to meet him at our usual level of consciousness. If we lay claim to a higher consciousness, that will be tested, and so it was with Jesus. Being able to say yes or no consciously, instead of identifying and behaving mechanically, will be the test of whether what we think is consciousness really is.

Patterson also points out that Sufis have regarded Satan (whom they call Iblis) as God’s greatest lover and protector. In a sense, that is why he tested Jesus. Since Jesus passed that test, his consciousness crystallized, which prevented him from ever losing it.

The idea of a fallen world is a very Gnostic one. Patterson tells of a particular Sufi, Sheik Adi ibn Musafir, who  founded the religious group called the Yezidis, who believe Satan created the world, and worship him as the principle of energy, believing him to have regenerated himself, and to have been given control over this world. According to J.G. Bennett, another of Gurdjieff’s students, Yezidis are (or were some 60 years ago) called “devil-worshippers”, but were also thought to be very moral.

Those beliefs are different from those of the Cathars, a Gnostic group that became known in southern France, northern Italy, and elsewhere in the 12th century. They seem to have been directly connected to the Bogomils who had become known in Bulgaria in the 10th century. Both groups became strong, and eventually alarmed the Christian churches in their respective areas. The Roman Catholic Church organized a crusade against them in the first half of the 13th century, and eventually either destroyed them or drove them deep underground. The Orthodox church’s response wasn’t quite as drastic, but eventually the Bogomils were also destroyed (presumably), or at least disappeared.

Both believed the world had been created by Satan, whom they identified with the God of the Old Testament. They believed Jesus had come from the higher God, whom they believed had no power in this world, although he had created human souls. Human souls they saw as being trapped in the material world, and longing to escape to God’s spiritual world. They believed matter was inherently evil, and that souls could get attached to it, especially through sexuality, so their method for getting free of this world was to be chaste, and not to eat animals (fish were allowed, as they weren’t considered to reproduce sexually), and to be nonviolent. But only the upper caste of this group, the Perfecti, were held to that standard. The Credente were the ordinary people, who would live much as ordinary people do, until near the end of their lives. Then they would receive the Consolamentum  ritual conducted by one of the Perfecti, and then would no longer eat meat, and might even fast until they died.

This may not sound too appealing to us, but it offered a much better life for ordinary people than the Catholic Church did. By this time the Church had become obviously corrupt, and was notorious for the wealth and greed of its  priests.The Perfecti offered a stark comparison, and also treated women much better than the Church did. Women could become Perfecti as readily as could men, and ordinary people could get training in crafts (weaving in particular) that would allow them to live in towns and make some money. This, and the belief that THIS world was Hell seems to have been enormously liberating. Catharism became popular quickly, and was a direct challenge to the Catholic Church, which took it as such, and set out to exterminate the Cathars, which they were pretty successful in doing. The Cathars claimed THEY were the true Christians, and not the Catholics. Catholicism couldn’t tolerate that. Besides the military crusade, they organized what would become the Inquisition, and instill fear in virtually all of Europe.

Heretics, if they were found, would be tortured and burned at the stake. Authorities would press them to reveal the names of their associates and fellow believers. Many Cathars refused to tell, endured the torture, and went willingly into the flames, but not all were so strong. Besides the punishment of heretics, the Inquisition laid a burden of responsibility on ordinary people to tell of any they might suspect to be heretics, and on authorities to continually investigate anyone who might have the remotest connection to the Cathars. This was the model imitated 700 years later by the Nazis and Communists, a model which seems to be at least moderately tempting to most governments. In the 13th century and later these tactics created an atmosphere of paranoia which intimidated most, but also led to eventual rebellion.

The Protestant Reformation must have been at least partially influenced by the way in which Catholics had treated the Cathars, and possibly also persecutions of Jews and so-called “witches”, though Protestants also took part in the latter.

Rejection of the supernatural by science, and the consequent controversy between science and at least some forms of religion can probably be better understood from this perspective too.

It’s difficult to reconcile the behavior of the Catholic church to the teachings of the New Testament, though there are some things even there which were taken as precedents, as when the Gospel of John talks about how “the Jews” treated Jesus. The latter is ironic, since the writer of the Gospel was probably Jewish himself. But Hancock and Bauval say that Catholic behavior makes perfect sense from the perspective of the Cathars, who said the church was the representative of Satan in this world.

It seems that most historians think that the Bogomils and Cathars were just phenomena of their time and place, but neither Catholics nor Cathars thought that. Cathars considered themselves heirs of the Gnostics of early Christianity who had been suppressed, and that’s what Catholics thought of them too. Other groups are known of who were similar, and pretty much bridged the gap between the 4th century AD, when Catholicism became the state religion of Rome, and the 10th century, when we first hear of the Bogomils.

Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval in The Master Game speculate that history could have turned out much differently if Gnostic Christianity, which hated the material world, had succeeded in defeating the Roman Catholic Church. Their view is that both capitalism and communism, the main competing systems in the last century, were both materialistic, differing only in how material wealth ought to be divided in abstract, though not as much in practice.

Hatred of the material world can also be a weakness, though. The natural world, though arguably lower on the scale than pure spirituality, can be seen as a sort of machine that fits together beautifully, every part necessary to all the rest of the universe. That was Gurdjieff’s view of unity in diversity and diversity in unity, with everything connected and constantly transforming. The natural world is not evil, and we interfere with its function to our detriment. Hancock and Bauval contrast the attitude of Hermeticism, which they see as the survival of ancient Egyptian religion, and which was another of the underground spiritual currents of the late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and beyond, to that of Gnosticism. Gnostics believed the material world to be intrinsically evil, and human souls to be trapped in it, longing for a way out. Hermeticism taught, instead, that humans have both a lower and a potentially higher nature, because they are a sort of intermediary. Ideally, their spiritual selves will guide them, while their lower selves do the custodial work necessary to the natural world. This is much closer to Gurdjieff’s view.

Literalists see Satan as a personality trying to subvert if not destroy God’s creation. Others see Satan, even as a personality, serving an authentic purpose. George Gurdjieff saw evil as being a relative concept. Relative first to one’s aim, if one had one; and, from the widest perspective, as the negative pole necessary to every phenomenon. To him, good and evil were not absolutes, but part of the mosaic of reality. Neither, to him, was as important as the individual struggle to wake up, which could evoke the third, Reconciling force. That force might, if experienced, lead to a more healthy acceptance of reality, and reconciliation within ourselves of what we both praise and condemn. Acceptance and resolution of our own contradictions could lead to reconciliation with our neighbors, which in the widest sense is all of life. Violence in the pursuit of any agenda won’t serve us in that aim.



Science vs Religion Again


Reading a post on Facebook about Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s explanation on Cosmos of how wild ducks are able to navigate when migrating, and how creationists are incensed with his explanation let me also to a post on Salon about the late Christopher Hitchen’s book God Is Not Great.

The article is Christopher Hitchen’s lies do atheism no favors, and it’s by Curtis White, of whom I haven’t previously heard. I haven’t read any of Hitchens’ work, though I used to converse with someone who liked it a lot. White states that he’s an atheist himself, at least with relation to the religious fundamentalist version of God, and criticizes Hitchens for intellectual dishonesty.

It’s easy enough to criticize organized religion for religious wars and persecutions, but to say that’s all there is to religion is to ignore religious philosophy that goes back a long way, not only in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, but in a variety of other religions.

Hitchens, says White, enthrones reason, but never really defines it. Not a good way to persuade. I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Wittgenstein, the 20th century philosopher: “I am committed, but I do not know to what.” Hitchens seems also to have been committed, but doesn’t wish to say to what (or so I gather from White’s commentary).

Another criticism is that Hitchens believed that conscience was innate, but didn’t define either what conscience is or what innate means. He seems to have been replying to the idea that conscience is derived from religion, a proposition which superficially seems plausible.

But George Gurdjieff answered these questions in a much more dispassionate fashion than Hitchens. When I recently reread P.D. Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous, I was struck by a quote: “Two consciences can never disagree…” Moralities, however, disagree all the time. The answer to this conundrum is that there are local moralities, but universal laws.

In his semi-autobiographical book, Meetings With Remarkable Men, Gurdjieff cites a friend from his youth who observed that a young Russian woman who didn’t act as hostess to male visitors to her home, serving them food and beverages with her face uncovered would be considered spoiled, and not acting correctly. In a Muslim home (at least at that time and in that area) a young woman who DID do those things would be considered spoiled. There are other obvious examples. Cannibalism has been considered virtuous at various times in various places, as has human sacrifice. We don’t agree with those things now, though.

Gurdjieff said conscience was like a still small voice that could easily be ignored, but if followed would lead one in the right direction, ultimately to God. This definition is of something living, not codified, and thus not subject to the problem of becoming outmoded.

He also said that conscience was at least potentially a very powerful force that could lead us to resolve our individual contradictions in the same way that enough heat can fuse different materials together. This statement is based on his proposition that virtually all of us suffer from something akin to multiple personality disorder: we have different selves, each organized around something specific, and are usually unaware of this, considering ourselves to be one indivisible person. To actually BE such an individual, he said, was a very great accomplishment.

Hitchens’ condemnation of religion, easy enough to make, seems to be a type of projection: he believes in something he doesn’t bother to closely define, let alone defend in any sophisticated way, then condemns fundamentalists for doing much the same thing.

An easy example of this is the Creationist’s dislike of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s explanation of how wild ducks manage to get where they’re going when migrating. It seems to have something to do with electricity: that they sense magnetic currents, and are able to navigate according to that. Why this should be a problem for Creattionists, I don’t know. It seems  to have to do with their condemnation of evolutionary theory, and the idea that wild ducks evolved this ability. Why is that controversial? I suppose because of the idea that God and evolution are incompatible, but I don’t see why that should be so.

DNA research tells us that humans and apes are closely related. Other research seems to tell us that animals are more intelligent than we’ve usually thought. Humans do seem to have more free will than animals, are able to develop further, and aren’t controlled totally by instinct. That gives us freedoms that animals don’t have, but freedoms can be easily misused, especially if we have misconceptions about ourselves and our place in the universe. Our place in the universe seems to be what makes evolution such a touchy subject with fundamentalist Christians.

I have never believed that religion and science had to necessarily be antagonistic. In Europe and America they became so because religion claimed more knowledge than it actually had. Early astronomers got in trouble with the Catholic Church because they said the earth revolved around the sun, though it superficially appeared otherwise. Scientists, many of whom were devout Christians, reacted against the Church making pronouncements in areas in which it had no expertise, while scientists were fascinated with observing how the natural world worked, and coming up with theories to explain it. It wasn’t necessary to exclude God from the scientific view of the world, but it became a political stance. Scientists didn’t observe miracles, and so were tempted to conclude they were imaginary. With Darwin’s theory of evolution, many religious people reacted against science, and there came to be an ever deepening chasm between science and some forms of religion. Not all scientists were alienated from religion, and not all religious people were alienated from science, but enough were to make a great deal of conflict. A conflict that was, in my opinion, destructive for people in general.

George Gurdjieff, mentioned earlier, came to Russia about 1910 and began teaching students who were interested in philosophy and religion. He expounded another science, one that was not divorced from religion, at least in the same way. This was a science with different premises and different definitions, and was based largely on relativity. He said that matter was composed of vibrations (with which Western science agrees), that everything in the universe was material (including knowledge), but that the higher the rate at which matter vibrated, the finer the material, and that there is matter which Western science has not yet noticed.

Part of the relativity of this science has to do with different worlds, which interpenetrate each other. He pointed out that for us, the earth is the world; but, he said, the earth is also an intelligent being, and for the earth, the solar system is the world. For our sun, however (also an intelligent being, and the clearest example of divinity that we can easily perceive), the Milky Way galaxy is the world.

He stated that God provides us energy in much the same way that our sun does, on a different level, but that as that energy travels to us along what he called the Ray of Creation, it creates worlds that are distant enough from God’s intention (which may not be the right word) that the worlds created become mechanical. Only a little at first, but by the time our world is reached, much more mechanical. The first worlds created in the Ray of Creation are subject to three fundamental laws, the next to six, then twelve, then 24. Our world is subject to 48 fundamental laws, which means we’re relatively far from God, and our life is quite mechanical. We have more freedom than do animals, but less freedom than we often think. Much of the reason for this is the nature of consciousness.

Many religions teach that the “world” is sinful, and often exhort us to be in the world, but not of it. The word for that usually used in Hinduism and Buddhism is nonattachment. Nonidentification might be as good a word. We identify or become attached to things around us or things within us, and consequently lose freedom. Gurdjieff taught that contemporary humans are badly out of balance, and had a formidable array of exercises to, as he said, “…repair broken machines…” and make humans capable of evolution, which he said was an individual choice, not necessary to nature for the purposes for which humans and other organic life exist.

Evolution of the sort he spoke of is not something many people are interested in, and many of those interested may find themselves unable to pursue it very far. But this sort of individual evolution is what can potentially bring individuals and the world back into balance.

One difference in what he taught from traditional religions was that humans don’t automatically possess souls. Starting on an evolutionary path, however, could make it possible to create a soul. The soul he spoke of was similar to the popular conception of the astral body, and he said it was possible to make three additional bodies to the ones we were born with, through specific exercises. He said humans have three foods: the food we usually think of, air, and impressions. The exercise he called “remembering yourself” opened a pathway in the body to allow energies in the air to reach a place in which the “soul” could begin to grow. Without this exercise, these energies would never reach the right area. Another necessary exercise was that of transforming negative emotions.

Both of these had to do with what he called the Law of Seven, a universal law that governs processes. This law was recognized in very ancient times and was applied to music, creating the octave scale, which is the basis for most music in the world, but which applies to other things as well. To keep a process going in the right direction it is necessary that shocks from the outside enter at the right place in the process, and be correctly absorbed. Otherwise, the process can turn back upon itself, and develop in the opposite direction from what was originally intended, which he said had happened to Christianity.

The only person, he said, who could be called a true Christian was one who followed ALL of Jesus’s precepts, which he said was also impossible for most of us as we are. To become truly Christian, we have to be transformed, or “born again”. People may believe they have been born again, but in many cases, it ain’t necessarily so. Because of our imbalances we are in a sense asleep, though it is a waking sleep. Sleep causes us to act like machines, which may serve the purposes of nature, but prevent us from reaching our potential, which might serve the purposes of nature even better.

What are the purposes of nature? Gurdjieff had a very unusual question, which he said had come to him when he was still quite young: what is the purpose of organic life in general, and human life in particular? The answer he arrived at was transformation of energies.

Just as we haven’t identified all matter in the universe, we haven’t identified all energies existing around us and affecting us. We see the transformation of energies on the material level: seeds growing into plants which can then be eaten, animals eating the plants, and other animals eating the herbivores. There exist, according to this theory, energies generated by lower levels of life that support the higher levels energetically, where we can’t readily observe. All life thus supports other life, which Gurdjieff calls “Reciprocal Maintenance”, and which works against entropy, in which a closed system eventually loses energy. We like to think of ourselves as separate, even isolated, but we are not. We depend on life around us, and higher forms of life depend on us.

A lot of people won’t care for this interpretation of life either. I recently posted on a conservative website that destroying God’s world for profit is a really stupid idea. Someone replied, saying that God told us in the Bible to subdue the world. I asked if he or she KNEW that God said this, or if this was a later interpretation.

Saint Paul has commentary that bears on this point, though it has more directly to do with our actions as individuals, which support or do not support collective actions taking place in the world.

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law, that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would do I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do….I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me.”

There are a number of ways to interpret this, and one of them is dualistic: the body is inherently evil, and only the spirit is good. Gurdjieff is NOT saying this. The body needs to be disciplined and trained, and though it can fall into bad habits (and usually does), it is NOT inherently evil. It is our habits, our unconsciousness, and lack of will that produces bad results.

It can also be interpreted as the necessity to develop the higher bodies, or soul, which are able to do good in ways that our undeveloped selves can not.

It can also be interpreted in terms of another cosmic law Gurdjieff taught: the Law of Three. This says that any compete phenomenon consists of three forces: an affirming or positive force, a negative, passive or denying force, and a reconciling force. None of these forces are inherently one thing or the other, except in relation to each other. It is tempting to believe that we live in a black and white world, good on one side, evil on the other, but that is not the case. If the negative force (however defined) is necessary to the construction of the universe, it can never be destroyed, and is only negative in specific instances. That makes the reconciling force, about which we rarely hear, and the functioning of which we know little of, most important to learn about.

When we try to do what we consider good (from whatever perspective) we act through what we think of as ourselves, which are not genuine. “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” If what we act through is not genuine, how can it produce good results? The answer that William Patrick Patterson, in Eating the I, comes to is that the further we refine ourselves, the more God can act through us. We are then empty in a positive way.

J.G. Bennett, another of Gurdjieff’s students, speaks about this in the sense of self-sacrifice. To allow one’s self to die is to no longer be subject to the limitations of existence. The crucifiction of Jesus is the archetype of self-sacrifice in our culture, but the history of it can be traced back much further. Many agree that on the spiritual path selves must die not once, but many times.

The question of whether science or religion is correct about evolution is trivial compared to this vision. From my perspective it’s foolish for religious people to reject the scientific view of evolution. There’s no necessity for it to conflict with a spiritual vision, though western science is itself only a partial view. And the religious views that we know are also only partial views. For them to be more complete it’s necessary for us to expand our consciousness so that we can see more broadly, deeply and clearly.

Gurdjieff brought a way to the west that promised to do this for anyone willing to work hard enough to achieve it. It’s a difficult way, and different from western science in that our bodies and minds are the laboratories. External laboratories have little to do with this. This is an alchemical enterprise in which the person strives to separate the coarse from the fine, and transmute what they have into what is priceless.

This is a vision of the world that transcends politics and is the opposite of a meaningless world of accident. That the world could have come into being by accident and exist as we see it now I find no more believable than that it was created by an old man with a long white beard who is petty and vindictive, more interested in finding excuses to punish us than anything else. The world depicted in the Book of Genesis may contain scientific principles (recognizable or not), but is not to be taken literally, unless one simply doesn’t want to understand.

Scientists do want to understand, but are as liable to blind spots as anyone else. The process of science is meant to eliminate these blind spots, but may take some time to do so.

Many religious people also want to understand, but are as liable to stumble over dogma as anyone else. Dogma is, after all, not confined to religion.

So why not approach religion scientifically? Rather than consider the Bible completely unhistorical and unscientific, consider that it may contain truths unclearly stated that  may be difficult to test in traditional ways.

There are, however, spiritual practices that CAN be tested, and in the writings about George Gurdjieff and the system he brought to the west we find testimony that these led to many unusual experiences. Testing and understanding may not be easy, and approaches may have to be changed, but why not opt for understanding instead of excluding any knowledge with which we’re uncomfortable. Arguably, that’s exactly the knowledge and understanding we need.