Why was Gurdjieff worried about Kant?

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:54 pm

It is interesting to realize the concealed theme of Kant in the Gurdjieff legacy, a point that is obvious from Ouspensky’s Tertium Organon, a fairly typical effort in the line of works attempting to ‘beat the rap’ against metaphysics.
But with Gurdjieff there is a suspicious strain (as in his incoherent discussion of ‘conscience’) of ‘Kant avoidance’.
One of the great tools of self-defense is to consider, then, the austere points of Kantian ethics ( a very difficult subject, find some introductory work), and to see how Gurdjieff, and for that matter many other New Age figures, is trying to bypass the issues of the categorical imperative. Lucky for him, the general public is too ignorant to realize how they are being manipulated, and simply gape at the wonders of the magicians as these steal attention from the blatant lie that fronts the whole game.

No ‘consciousness’ doesn’t override ethics.


  1. Danny said,

    09.28.08 at 12:02 pm

    “No ‘consciousness’ doesn’t override ethics.”

    Can you explain this please?

    In my thought about this subject consciousness and ethics are on one and the same playground, while you seem to refer to it as if the one is unrelated to the other, or that those are two separate issues. Isn’t there a direct connection between the way you use your freedom and your subsequent level of consciousness, in such a way that we can say they are directly related?

  2. nemo said,

    09.28.08 at 12:50 pm

    You are right, this isn’t very clear. The idea is that people in a higher state of consciousness are somehow exempt from ordinary ethical rules, a view that is like saying that intoxication makes you a better driver. If you lookat Gurdjieff’s legacy (and the same for much New Age discussion) it is all about the mechanics of consciousness and the changing of consciousness, never solid subjects that might clarify, among other things, the issues of ethics. The same behavior is characteristic of politicians. The reason, of course, is that such people are often lying, or violating ‘categorical imperatives’.
    Kant’s ethics has been challenged many times, and many so-called students of tradition end up in a kind of Nietzschean take on ethics, pure nihilism disguised behind spiritual language, sometimes with a garbled version of the Buddhist void.
    Such spiritualities to me show the bankruptcy of these so-called traditions: they aren’t traditional.
    Keep in mind that the original Buddhist Sangha had a list of rules that would surprise you. You would have a hard time remembering them, what to say of following the discipline.
    Many of these gurus have never studied such questions, and aren’t so much dishonest as wary to stay within the traditional gag lines of gurus.

  3. Joseph said,

    11.20.08 at 5:50 pm

    I have some limited acquaintance with fourth way work. On this point about ethics — I think G. said there are two kinds of morality, what he termed objective and subjective (he said the same thing in relation to art, but that’s another topic). Subjective morality being a kind of localized cultural belief of right and wrong (I eat dogs over here; you’re a vegeterarian over there) and objective meaning an innate human sense of justice, a transcendent inbuilt feeling that crosses all cultures and countries (it’s not right to murder children).
    All this talk of Kant and Nietzsche seems to forget that they were not believers, whereas G. believed in God, that is, in the existence of universal objective values. So there wouldn’t be a need in his system of thought to have to define ethics but rather a method of working on individual consciousness, as you put it, in order to truly access these existing values. In other words as you come closer to God you know right from wrong more and more clearly; wickedness being that which leads one away from It.
    What gets tricky in G.’s “way of the sly man” is that one can appear to be doing “wrong” things while in actual fact doing a lot of good. As in the gnostic version of the gospels where Judas is in fact the hero since he, to borrow G.’s term, helped to set up a “current” that is still passing through history. Or the way that G. might have been cruel to a student in order to teach a lesson that was for there ultimate benefit . . . A complex topic to try and squeeze into an internet box.

  4. The Gurdjieff Con » Kantian ethics and autonomy said,

    11.23.08 at 7:29 pm

    […] Comment from Joseph […]

  5. Donovan said,

    05.15.18 at 5:45 pm

    I spent many years in a sort of “sangha” devoted to “union with the whole of nature” as Spinoza put it, or the conjoining of Atman/Brahman in the Vedantic expression.

    Spinoza’s most famous work, “Ethics,” reduces the question to this: Whatever serves this aim of attaining “blessedness” is “good.” That which impedes of obfuscates it is “bad.”

    According to Spinoza, we can know “a thing in itself.” That “thing” is ourself, our inmost nature as it follows from divine necessity. Kant didn’t see this as a possibility. Metaphysics must be nonsense, otherwise it couldn’t be irrational and important.

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