Via Tecta (Sacred Way)

Mister Gurdjieff On Food

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Mister Gurdjieff, on a road trip near Lascaux, France, in 1949.


Quote 1: ‘All the substances necessary for the maintenance of the life of the organism, for psychic work, for the higher functions of consciousness and the growth of the higher bodies, are produced by the organism from the food which enters it from outside. The human organism receives three kinds of food:

The ordinary food we eat.
The air we breathe.
Our impressions.
It is not difficult to agree that air is a kind of food for the organism. But in what way impressions can be food may appear at first difficult to understand. We must however remember that, with every external impressions, whether it takes the form of sound, vision, smell, we receive from outside a certain amount of energy, a certain number of vibrations; this energy which enters the organism from outside is food. Moreover, energy cannot be transmitted without matter. If an external impression brings external energy with it into the organism it means that external matter also enters which feeds the organism in the full meaning of the term.

For its normal existence the organism must receive all three kinds of food, that is, physical food, air and impressions. The organism cannot exist on one or even two kinds of food, all three are required. But the relations of these foods to one another is not the same. The organism can exist for a comparatively long time without a supply of fresh physical food. Cases of starvation are known lasting for over sixty days, when the organism lost none of its vitality and recovered very quickly as soon as it began to take food. Of course, starvation of this kind cannot be considered as complete, since in all cases of such artificial starvation people have taken water. Nevertheless, even without water a man can live without food for several days. Without air, he can exist only for a few minutes, not more than two or three; as a rule, a man dies after being four minutes without air.

Without impressions, a man cannot live a single moment. If the flow of impressions were to be stopped in some way or if the organism were deprived of its capacity for receiving impressions, it would immediately die. The flow of impressions coming to us from outside is like a driving belt communicating motion to us. The principal motor for us is nature, the surrounding world. Nature transmits to us through our impressions the energy by which we live and move and have our being. If the inflow of this energy is arrested, our machine will immediately stop working.

Thus, of the three kinds of food the most important for us is impressions, although it stands to reason that a man cannot exist for long on impressions alone. Impressions and air enable man to exist a little longer. Impressions, air and physical food enable the organism to live to the end of its normal term of life and to produce the substances necessary not only for the maintenance of life, but also for the creation and growth of higher bodies.’


Quotation 2: “One day, Mr. Gurdjieff arrived in the midst of a lively debate in which the vegetarians in our group were fiercely defending their cause. Among them was Mrs. N., the wife of a banker. Actually, this lady was not a vegetarian; she could not stop talking and involved herself in everything in order to be noticed. She never missed an opportunity to show her eccentric opinions, or defend ideas that she thought were highly original.

‘Gyorgi Ivanovich’, she said, ‘It really isn’t necessary to kill animals to feed ourselves, is it? Can we live perfectly well on grains, milk, fruit and vegetables?’

‘Yes’, Mr. Gurdjieff replied, ‘it is quite possible, because everything required for the physical and spiritual life of man can be found in the vegetable kingdom.’

Mrs. N. Was radiant. ‘ You see’, she said to the others, ‘I was right!’.

‘Yes’, Mr. Gurdjieff added. ‘You would be right if our human experience was limited only to the spiritual, but it isn’t. Meat is necessary when there is hard physical work or in a very cold climate, or when edible plants cannot be found. Besides, our canines teeth as well as other biological characteristics show that our digestive system has been adapted by nature to assimilate meat. Animal flesh provides all the substances we need, both for the intensive working of our organism and for maintaining a normal temperature in cold climates. So, you are right, and at the same time, you are not right’.

I particularly liked such moments when, with an objectivity infused with tolerance, Mr. Gurdjieff widened the perspective of our exchanges.”


Quotation 3: ‘From Mr. Gurdjieff’s teaching it was obvious that we receive a food from everything around us, from everything that we receive at all levels. All is impressions-food: Our activities, our environment, our personal relationships, our feelings, our thoughts, the air we breathe, and our physical food.

Mr. Gurdjieff used to say that one ‘is’ what one receives in the way of impressions, and that it is necessary to work at knowing the quality of what we receive from these different impressions-foods, including human relationships, business, leisure interests, reading, as well as edible foods, and to learn to discriminate according to this criterion.

Mr. Gurdjieff stated that concentrated attention takes a lot of energy and substances. That we should eat the best energy foods, nutritious and rich in vitamin. He added that, we must understand what is received as finer ‘food’ in impressions coming through ideas, perceptions, feelings, images, sensations, actions.’


Source: Quotation 1: From ‘Fragments of an Unknown Teaching’, as recorded by Piotr Demianovitch Uspenskii. Page 181-182, Penguin Arkana edition. Quotation 2: From ‘Gurdjieff, a master in life’. Recollections of Tcheslav Tchekhovitch. Dolmen Meadow Editions. Toronto. Page 36-37. Quotation 3: From ‘Becoming conscious, with G.I.Gurdjieff’.’ By Solange Claustres. Eureka Editions. Page 72-73.

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