The Fourth Way

Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky

~Maurice Nicoll

Deze Psychological Commentaries van Maurice Nicoll bestaan uit vijf delen en vormen belangrijk studiemateriaal voor het gaan van de Weg en het doen van het Werk. In heldere taal beschrijft Nicoll verschillende Werk-principes zoals zelf-observatie, zelf-herinnering, interne en externe consideratie, identificatie en transformatie en nog veel meer principes van de Vierde Weg.

It is very necessary at this moment to understand something of what the Fourth Way means. There are four ways of work on oneself. We belong to the Fourth Way which is the most difficult way of all because it must be practised in the midst of life. The Way of Fakir—that is, the First Way—the Way of Monk, that is, the Second Way—the Way of Yogi, that is, the Third Way, is not our way. We have to speak on the small scale of ourselves, but the point is that we are, even on this small scale, trying to follow the Fourth Way which comes down into external life always when there is a period of special disorder and chaos. Now I would like to say to you all that some of you do not understand the idea of the Fourth Way—for example, you appear to me to expect that the conditions that have existed at one time must or will always exist. This is quite wrong. The Fourth Way must always be related to the varying circumstances of life and can never become fixed and habitual. Suddenly it may be necessary to alter the whole external scheme of things. I want especially at this moment to have around me people who understand this and who can relate themselves to different conditions and still maintain in themselves all the principles and ideas of the work. We have no idea how things will go in the future. But we that people must be able to adjust themselves to completely different external conditions and yet maintain the sense and feeling of the work.

In the Fourth Way the first main achievement is to become No. 4 man—that is, balanced man or all-sided man. Now if some of you have formed an idea of what the external form of the work is from past associations and you find yourselves confronted with an entirely new external state of affairs and become negative you are really useless to me in so far as the Fourth Way is concerned. You must learn that every change in the work externally is always useful to you, whatever form it takes, and all of you must be prepared to follow the work in its changing outer manifestations, and at all moments maintain a clear inner attitude towards it.

I said a long time ago to you and repeated it several times that the work does not necessarily include coming to the Farm and that the Farm was distinct in a sense from the teaching of the work. The work exists through everyone's attitude towards it and no matter what the external situation may be it should make no difference to work in this sense. I am sorry that I have to say this but it is necessary to do so.
For all that I know, we may find ourselves again in quite different circumstances, which again will require a proper understanding, and then again, and then again. People must understand that they are in the Fourth Way and that they must always be able to be "all things to all people" and to develop every side of themselves, in relation to society and to all forms of external life, to a reasonable point; otherwise they do not understand the idea of the Fourth Way which maintains itself right in the midst of life amongst everything that goes on, adjusting itself and yet always maintaining itself internally. The Fourth Way is and must be always the most "flexible" of all, but it requires a most flexible inner understanding and unless a person can be flexible, and yet maintain the feeling of the work, he is a rather difficult subject in connection with this line of work. Every change in circumstances provides a very useful chance for everyone to learn something. When I have sufficient people round me whom I can trust, in the sense of their being able to deal normally with every kind of person they meet and with every situation in life, I will feel that I am able to extend the work in the way that I wish to extend it eventually. And here I will remind you of one meaning of "mechanicalness" in the work. If you cannot relate to one side or another in life you must make this one of your aims. There is not a single thing in life about which a man in the Fourth Way should not be knowledgeable, or capable of maintaining himself in connection with it. This Fourth Way is not romantic and it is no use having romantic feelings about the Farm in Essex. This Fourth Way is quite ruthless and as soon as something is finished—that is, gives no longer any real value, it is abandoned. By this I do not mean that we cannot go back to the Farm, but that this is a great chance for everyone to adjust himself to the external form and physical situation of the work at the moment. This applies equally to those who cannot come here and to those who can.

[Uit Deel I]