George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (January 14, 1866? – October 29, 1949) was an influential spiritual teacher in the early twentieth century. He called his discipline the Fourth Way, describing his teaching as “esoteric Christianity.” From his own experiences, study, and travels, Gurdjieff unveiled to the West the universal truths found in ancient religions and wisdom teachings, truths that related to self-awareness in daily life and humanity’s place in the universe. Among the Gurdjieff books are Life Is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am’, All and Everything, Meetings With Remarkable Men and Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson.

Gurdjieff on As Above so Below

Gurdjieff admitted his presentation had deep roots leading as far back as Hermetic Egypt. He quoted from the Hermetic Tablets and pointed out the absolute of looking outside in order to see within:

Esoteric knowledge is knowledge of the whole, ordinary knowledge is composed of single particular ideas taken separately.

It is impossible to study a system of the universe without studying man. At the same time it is impossible to study man without studying the universe. Man is an image of the world. He was created by the same laws which created the whole of the world. By knowing and understanding himself he will know and understand the whole world, all the laws that create and govern the world. By simultaneously studying the world and the laws that govern the world he will learn and understand the laws that govern himself. In this connection, some laws are understood and assimilated more easily by studying the objective world, while others man can only understand through studying himself. The study of the world and the study of man must therefore run parallel, one assisting and furthering the other.

The reason for the lack in complete scientific understanding in our age likely stems from a disparity in this special form of interdisciplinarity.

George Gurdjieff reiterated the Hermetic meaning of as above so below in the twentieth century, as documented by his pupil Peter Ouspensky. His approach criticized and augmented modern scientific studies that delved deep into many areas of the material world while neglecting the internal cosmos of man. The macro-cosmos world surrounding man was only to be studied, Gurdjieff felt, in so far as it shed light on the micro-cosmos of the human being.

As within so without: certain phenomena are more readily observed inside man, while others more so in the world around him. To gain complete knowledge, one therefore had to pursue these dual lines of investigation. Failure to do so would result in purely theoretical knowledge, as the scientist who knows the galaxies but remains ignorant of himself, or the physician who cannot heal himself.