Arte Objetivo

Gurdjieff said that after 20 years of exploring Central Asia and the Middle East, he brought back three things: first of all, a system of esoteric knowledge; second, a set of Sacred Dances and exercises; and lastly, musical pieces, many of which he considered objective art. People who worked closely with him for a number of years said that Gurdjieff considered these three things equally important as vehicles for his teaching. It is not possible to speak of Sacred Dances without making reference to the music that accompanies them and the knowledge that they embody.

Although many people nowadays consider Gurdjieff to be basically a philosopher, the importance that he gave to Sacred Dances illustrates the fact that he frequently described himself as a dance teacher, and, according to his own words, "a rather good teacher of temple dances". In fact, in many European circles in the 1920s, he was not considered so much a philosopher but one of the greatest experts on ancient Sacred Dances from the East.

The difference between objective and subjective art lies at the heart of Gurdjieff´s teaching on the nature and the purpose of music. He understood that much of the music we listen to is just subjective art, an entirely accidental phenomenon that appears from the fluctuating subjective state of the composer at the moment of composing and affects the listener according to the state, also totally subjective, in which the latter happens to be when hearing it. Objective art, on the other hand, is the product of Consciousness and does not contain any accidental element in its creation or effect. It is a universal language which acts the same way on everyone according to their level of being.

Gurdjieff once said:

"I measure the merit of art by its consciousness. A work of objective art ought to be a book, the only difference being that the artist transmits his ideas not directly through words or signs, but through certain feelings which he excites consciously and in an orderly way, knowing what he is doing and why he is doing it."

The Western System sees the universe as a flow and transformation of energies. Much of Gurdjieff´s music and many of the Movements express, in non-verbal form, the interaction of the two great universal laws – the Law of Three and the Law of Seven or Law of Octaves. The Law of Seven governs the unfolding of all phenomena or cycle of events and demonstrates the principle of discontinuity of vibrations. The musical scale is an expression of this law. The other great law, the Law of the Three Forces, determines the genesis of any new occurrence.

Gurdjieff composed several hundred Movements in his lifetime. He said:

"In ancient times, Dance was a branch of real art and served the purpose of higher knowledge. The limits of the dancers were expanded through the combination of non-natural and non-habitual movements. Through their practice, they obtained a new quality of attention and a new direction of the mind, all with a definite intention. Through the strict patterns represented by the participants, certain laws became visible and intelligible."

Regarding the combination of the Law of Three and the Law of Seven, tradition states that it is necessary to experience these two great Laws in movement, in order to obtain the fullest understanding from their interaction. The Movements comprise an anthology of objective physical activities to work with attention, designed to balance the intellectual, emotional and physical centers and to open the higher parts in them. They involve the three aspects of human endowment which can simply be referred to as Head, Heart and Hand.

The most superficial meaning of the word attention could be to direct the mental powers towards the understanding or the improvement of a particular physical activity like shooting an arrow or centering a piece of pottery. At a deeper level, it is possible to know "what is" before it becomes "that". If properly done, with the correct attention, the Movements may reveal truths in a new way. Such discoveries are the privilege of those who practice them, being the result of a conscious effort for the right type of movement. This effort is used to attempt to reach the heart of the maze.

Fundamentally, the Movements deal with learning – learning about the Source. One begins by learning the details of the outwardly correct form, which will be followed by learning the true meaning of each movement, gesture or posture, depending on each person’s process. There are different ways of learning. This can be a great discovery in itself. The learning and practice of The Movements should be regarded as an objective activity. That is, they are supposed to have effects according to universal Laws and must never be subjected to personal psychology.

The practical lessons of the Movements show individual differences. Some people them more easily than others, and often people have preferences regarding them. Ease of learning, of course, has nothing to do with Aim. The learning process frees us from our own subjective interferences – from the part of us that makes things up and justifies and takes pride in self-expression. The need for inner stillness is the same as in Meditation. The Movements offer opportunities to create a situation in which our personal psychology can be taken by surprise. Something new is then possible.

The Movements and their accompanying music are a means through which we can begin a process in which our efforts to remember ourselves are linked to a sense of service to the divine.