Besides studying the massive work of scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg I have also made a study of the ideas of the 20th century mystic-guru George Gurdjieff. My involvement with Gurdjieff’s ideas and philosophy (for spiritual transformation) were more than intellectual since I had joined a couple of their “work” groups and gained hands-on experience.
Gurdjieff had the amazing ability to teach without saying a word.
Let me relate one particular story to you to give you a “taste” of his startling methods. He had started his “Institute For The Harmonious Development Of Man” just outside of Paris to provide a proper environment for his members to reach their spiritual potential. Gaining new members and raising cash were a constant challenge to the success of his organization.
On one particular evening at a Parisian restaurant, Gurdjieff was promoting his institute to a dinner guest. Several other members of his organization were at the table. Gurdjieff’s sales pitch succeeded in getting the dinner guest to join and even empty his pockets as a financial donation. The guest was not a wealthy man, so it hurt a little to give up that money. But he was convinced of the value of Gurdjieff’s program.
As soon as Gurdjieff received the money he began ordering a lavish feast for all at the table including alcoholic beverages and rich deserts. When the waiter came over to the table to give Gurdjieff the bill he looked it over and declared that it was not correct. Then Gurdjieff continued to order more drinks and desert until he felt that the waiter had presented him with the correct amount for the bill.
The dinner guest was closely observing all this. To his horror, Gurdjieff had run up the bill so that it exactly equaled the amount of money he had just donated. Gurdjieff had splurged the guest’s hard-earned money on a fancy meal.
At first, the guest was highly offended and felt duped. But then something strange happened. He became conscious of the fact that his donation was tied to his own sense of self-importance. Gurdjieff had just given him the opportunity to rise above his false pride. This lesson in humility was worth every last cent he had given to Gurdjieff and as a result he became even more convinced of the effectiveness of this unique and unorthodox teacher’s methods.
When Gurdjieff noticed that someone felt offended, he would often ask that person “who is offended in you?” In other words, one had to carefully search inside to see and scrutinize what the source of this reaction was—self-love or spiritual love.
Gurdjieff has spoiled me. It is my belief that most church ministers are inadequately trained to teach humility no matter how much they talk about it. When a minister tells me he or she simply wants to stress the positive and see the good side of people, how does this get at the core of our spiritual obstacles? I believe such tactics merely end up helping people to drop their guard.
It is my personal observation that more and more people are becoming offended with each other and are throwing away valuable spiritual opportunities by manifesting only anger and outrage.
Please chime in!