Over thirty years ago, A. L. Staveley, a pupil of Jane Heap and G. I. Gurdjieff, began forming study groups in Portland, Oregon. Mrs. Staveley felt strongly that people interested in self-development would benefit most from circumstances where real work was demanded. She encouraged us, the group members, to look for a place where we could learn to work together. In 1974, we purchased a small farm near Aurora, Oregon. Our studies relate to experiencing the wonders of being human and the ways in which we can discover meaning and purpose through our work together.
What is Life? What does it mean, to be alive?
When I feel this life in me I know that it is a continuous miracle. How can I be other than amazed and grateful for it, yet my attention is often concentrated on the slavery it seems to impose and the negative aspects of its events. We begin childhood instinctively in tune with a different reality, but as we grow up we lose this connection. It has to be this way–what is given must be lost, sacrificed, in order that it can be rediscovered, earned, through the experiences presented in life. Still, for most people, life consists merely in a period of existence as complex machines, unconsciously transforming ordinary energies, and at their deaths they are left practically the same as they were at the start.
Gurdjieff tells us that we are two-natured beings, and that a part of our task is to reconcile these two quite different realities – these different lives – existing in us. The lower nature is of the earth, it is our connection with what Jane Heap referred to as “the thin film of organic life” on this planet. As we are, we live our lives immersed in this duality, but are seldom aware of our higher nature.
Gurdjieff serves as an example of a man who as actualized his higher possibilities. He teaches that, though nature has brought us as far as she can on her own, we can fulfill our destiny as human beings, that we can discover our true nature and find our place in the cosmic plan. What is more, he indicates what efforts are required and how the struggle can be carried out. Gurdjieff has given us a Method by which we can serve not only nature through the mere fact of our existence, but also, through our own efforts and experiencings, we can attain true individuality, and become that which we could be.
This is the legacy Gurdjieff has left to us. The Work. Through his own unrelenting struggle and the efforts of so many others such as P.D. Ouspensky, Thomas and Olga deHartman, J.G. Bennett, Maurice Nicoll, W. Nyland, Jeanne deSalzmann, A.R. Orage, Jane Heap and A.L. Staveley to name just a few of those who devoted their lives to passing on his teaching, those of us who feel a calling to ask questions such as “What does it mean, to be alive?”, have the possibility of finding our own answer. Can there be a greater gift?