CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

CESNUR 2005 International Conference
June 2-5, 2005 – Palermo, Sicily
Religious Movements, Globalization and Conflict: Transnational Perspectives

G.I. Gurdjieff and His Grandson in Kurliyun[1]

PierLuigi Zoccatelli

A paper presented at the 2005 CESNUR Conference in Palermo, Sicily. Preliminary version – do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.

 Tracing the posterity of the “Forest Philosophers”

 This study purports to be the first enquiry into the previously uninvestigated influence of the ideas of the Caucasian esoteric thinker George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866-1949), the creator of what many years ago was defined as the “forest school,” (Sharp, 1923)—on the founder of a specific Gnostic movement of our era, Samael Aun Weor (1917-1977).

We have taken up this task for three main reasons.

Firstly, both esoteric thinkers under consideration gave rise to an extremely complex genealogy of groups, realities, and movements, often in varying degree of conflict with each other, widespread around the globe, with thousands (if not tens of thousands) of followers, to such an extent that we might apply to them the term “hypertrophy of filiation” used by sociologist Massimo Introvigne (1999) in studying the posterity of another leading figure in the contemporary esoteric-occultist milieu, Giuliano Kremmerz (Ciro Formisano, 1861 -1930). In this regard, although there are numerous studies of the filiation and posterity spawned by Gurdjieff’s teaching (Rawlinson, 1997: 282-313; Wellbeloved, 2003: 223-254), no such studies of Samael Aun Weor exist. Indeed, no studies of any kind exist regarding him, except for two essays which we have produced in recent years (Zoccatelli, 2000, 2004). It bears underlining here that this reveals how vast a field remains to be explored in the realm of contemporary esotericism. Within the domain of sociography, we would like to mention here that in summer 2000, while doing field investigation on the “Weorite galaxy” in Italy, we participated in a workshop of several days organized by one of the dozens of “Weorite “ movements (which in this particular case is unpopular with the other movements) together with approximately one thousand people who had come from all over Italy.

Secondly, the hermeneutic and sociological cipher defined by American scholar Jane Williams-Hogan as “the charisma of the book” (Williams-Hogan, 1997) may be applied to both personalities, as it may indeed to most “classical” authors of modern and contemporary esotericism. This is a peculiar yet universal phenomenon which, focusing attention on a deeper level of reality and performing a unifying function by speaking to people beyond barriers of their culture of origin or personal culture, invites individuals to confront their own life and needs, and to find an answer addressed specifically to them in a book. As far as Gurdjieff is concerned, it is well-known that he founded and disseminated his teaching also through his writings (but not only, or especially through them) an opus of sizable magnitude and that the “charisma of the book” engendered by his work is contained within the impressive bibliographic production penned by his pupils (Driscoll, 1985, 2004). In the case of Samael Aun Weor, the teaching transmitted to his pupils also derives from a large quantity of written matter (though it is a matter of controversy whether he wrote 49 or 70 books), and as in the case of Gurdjieff, also entails an oral transmission of more “internal” theoretical and practical teachings.

Thirdly, considering the enormously important role played by Gurdjieff in the panorama of contemporary esotericism, the analysis of Gurdjieff’s influence on Samael Aun Weor throws into relief one aspect of Gurdjieff’s teaching which is not generally held to be either at the center or on the fringes of the “self- realizing” practices performed by the pupils of the “forest school,” or of their theoretical preoccupations, but which, transplanted to Samael Aun Weor’s “Gnostic movement” assumed an absolutely central role, although its source was never disclosed. Here we will anticipate that we are referring to the practice of sexual magic which is the key to the whole Weorite system and which derives from an almost literal adaptation of Gurdjieff’s ideas.

At this point, we are obliged to clarify a few things, since we are perfectly aware that in the teaching of the Greek-Armenian born in 1866 in Alexandropol (today Gyumri in present day Armenia), the theme of “sexual magic” or “ internal alchemy,” or however one prefers to call it, is not given high priority. Yet that is only how things appear to be. Indeed, a more thorough enquiry into the Weorite opus and the attempt to make an overall comparison of it with Gurdjieff’s ideas requires that we hypothesize that this issue was not extraneous to the “heart” of the Fourth Way. Rather it was substantially more central to Gurdjieff’s teaching than has heretofore been evinced. If this should indeed be true, in our view, a deeper investigation of the teaching of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff would be warranted.

As we will see later in this study, the relationship of these two teachings finds its focal point in the shared doctrine of “sexuality as an eminent form of relationship with the transcendent,” and the contact between the two schools, given the influence exerted by Gurdjieff on Weor constitutes the first “discovery” of the research documented here. A second perhaps even more important “discovery” of this study, if we may be allowed a timid tone of emphasis, is the observation that it is possible to consider Gurdjieff’s work also from the perspective of doctrines concerning the transmutation of being through the use of sexual energy. The conceptual coordinates regarding this aspect of the Gurdjieff “Work” have never been adequately emphasized in the extensive “Gurdjieff bibliography,” except in a fragmentary and evasive manner (to such an extent that they have not been taken into consideration by interpretative studies) which we will discuss in due time, as though sexual magic was of no importance to Gurdjieff’s thought.

From these considerations further reflections and interrogatives arise which the limits we have imposed on this study regarding Gurdjieff’s influence on Weor do not allow us to investigate more deeply, but we can give a general outline of them. As we have suggested, in gleaning the traces of “inner alchemy” in Gurdjieff’s teaching, it would seem that in making use of this material Weor did less violence to Gurdjieff’s ideas than we might first suppose. Here another question emerges which we present in rhetorical form. Should we then conclude that Weor was the only one who took note of this aspect of Gurdjieff’s teaching, while most of his more accredited pupils refrained from giving it the emphasis it deserved? Or do the teachings regarding inner alchemy emanating directly from Gurdjieff continue to gush through the streams of Gurdjieffian filiations without ever being rendered public (differently from other movements in which this aspect may not be the most important but is treated more explicitly)? And hence, what role is played in Gurdjieff’s teaching and in the Gurdjieff milieu by the theme “sexuality as the eminent form of relationship with the transcendent”?

A first answer to these questions may be found in a passage appearing in Gurdjieff: Making a New World, by John G. Bennett (1897-1974), famous British pupil of Gurdjieff, in which Bennett (1973: 233) writes:

It is, of course, clear from the chapter “Purgatory” of Beelzebub’s Tales that Gurdjieff regards the sex energy, there called exiohary as the main source of nourishment for the higher bodies of man. His teaching about the transformation of the sexual energy is very personal and he was emphatic that there are no general rules that can be given.

We will return to the reception of this subject in the Gurdjieff milieu later. But we should anticipate here that in the complex doctrinal and cosmological overview presented in “The Holy Planet Purgatory” chapter in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson—where readers unfamiliar with the author’s language might find themselves baffled by notions such as “the Choot-God-litanical period,” “the fifth Stopinder Harnel Aoot of the law of Heptaparaparshinokh,” and “the mechano-coinciding Mdnel-In”—Gurdjieff touches upon the theme of sacred cosmic substances, including being exioehary (ie. “sperm” and the “sum of the substances which arise in beings of the female sex” [Gurdjieff, 1976: II, 384]) and their manipulation within the framework of a wider reference to the “cosmic crystallizations which are formed in the presences of Tetartocosmoses” among which “exioehary” is listed among the six “independent arisings” (Gurdjieff, 1976: II, 353).

Notes on the “Work”

This is not the place to present biographical information concerning Gurdjieff, subject of an impressive literary production of quite recent vintage, the many volumes of which taken as a whole offer a comprehensive “state of the art” (Webb, 1980; Moore, 1991). But given the task we have chosen here, it will be useful to sketch a basic outline of the teaching that combines spirituality, philosophy, cosmology and a complete model of the human being, all bound together in a unified system with an esoteric background. We will do this by following the synthesis of a chapter dealing with Gurdjieff drawn from an encyclopedic project which we have co-directed (Introvigne - Zoccatelli - Ippolito Macrina - Roldán, 2001: 481-488).

The Gurdjieff Work addresses personal evolution, social transformation, and ultimately, a transformation on the cosmic scale. The expression “Work” refers to the effort required in order for the pupil to wake up to the meaning of human existence. The fruits of this “Work,” which begins as an inner work on oneself, must ultimately transform the pupil’s daily life. The “Work” is a form of oral tradition and requires a “school” and “pupils” or “students” willing to submit to a master’s guidance, without which inner transformation is deemed impossible. The human condition as it exists nowadays is far from its original truth and potential. In the modern world, many contradictory “I’s” exist within a person, in competition with each other. This conflict makes unified thought and action impossible. Moreover, in every person two separate natures co-exist which are unable to recognize each other: essence and personality. Freedom, conscious action, and authentic will cannot exist in such a fragmentary state. What we call “action” is merely a mechanical and unconscious phenomenon. This common and everyday state is called “sleep” by Gurdjieff. Personal evolution is the awakening from the state of sleep and the passage from fragmentation to unity. The state of “sleep” not only deprives the person of freedom and responsibility, it also deeply distorts his relationship with the cosmos. Gurdjieff demands, and at times brutally, that we take note of the disharmony and the illusions which prevent us from seeing the reality of the actual human condition.

The “Work” slowly reveals how the entity of oneself that a person considered unitary, coherent, and free is in reality a contradictory composite of thoughts, emotional reactions, and repetitive mechanisms of self-protection. Becoming aware of this state of confusion is the first step toward awakening. The second necessary step is to accept what has been seen. The first phases of the “Work” propose observation, verification, and acceptance of the truth of the human condition through study, participation in group work, and exercises which involve focusing attention (“self-remembering”). The teaching of Gurdjieff is not organized around a doctrinal system, but rather around a method. He insists that everything must be called into question. By living in a perpetually critical way, the capacity for observation and attention become more finely honed, and the ideas taught by the “Work” find verification in daily life. Gurdjieff taught that his doctrines could not be transmitted in a univocal manner because each individual has an independent and unique path of development to follow, which must be taken into consideration. However, it is also true that—despite the risk of self-illusion—group work with others is indispensable to transformation. By working in a group, self-observation becomes more objective. Furthermore, some exercises are possible only in a group context.

Groups in the “Work” must also develop sincerity, inner strength, and new capacities. Concretely speaking, the “Work” is based on methods of self-observation which have, among other things, the aim of teaching the practitioner to “remember himself.” Observing how one thinks, acts, and feels emotions reveals how the three centers of the human person—intellectual, emotional, and moving—operate at three different speeds and are often in contradiction with each other. The “Work” exercises allow the practitioner to become aware of the relations between the centers and allow him to experience moments in which his mechanical nature is no longer dominant. These moments in which a person emerges from the state of “sleep” are ephemeral, but they gradually become linked one to another, offering a new possibility of integration.

Both music and physical movement could serve the “Work.” Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann (1885-1956) have left a vast musical corpus intended to transmit a practical teaching regarding the relationship linking vibration, the experience of sound, and awareness. Jeanne de Salzmann (1889-1990) in turn transmitted a large number of “sacred dances” or “movements” created by Gurdjieff on the basis of diverse traditions observed during his travels. The music and movements offer opportunities for study and “self-remembering,” creating conditions in which it is easier for the pupil to observe the relationship between his body and the quality of his attention. Through the body different levels and qualities of energy may be experienced.

Gurdjieff describes higher states of personal evolution as difficult but not impossible to attain. Unlike other esoteric systems, Gurdjieff’s system teaches its pupils to integrate what it defines as the two natures of human existence, one which tends towards evolution and the other which tends towards an involution—in order to reach an ideal realm located at the midpoint of these two natures. Only at this midpoint will it be possible to rediscover and nourish the essence, that part of the human being which may reveal the aim of a person’s life. As development continues, the awareness of responsibility also increases and the person may render service to others and to the great cosmic process of evolution. Gurdjieff places the “Work” within a complex cosmology. The aim of life is to transform energy consciously and to participate responsibly in a cosmic process and drama in which humanity has a role in the great chain of being. Individuals who do not attain this state of consciousness also contribute, but passively and involuntarily, by liberating energy which serves to fuel cosmic processes, becoming “food for the moon” (Ouspensky, 1949: 57).

In more religious terms, some interpreters of Gurdjieff’s thought have affirmed that here we find the idea, shared by other esoteric systems, that not everyone has an immortal soul, but only those who are able to construct one consciously through a laborious process which consists in the “harmonious development of man.”

This is the crux of Gurdjieff’s anthropology—Man is not by nature an immortal soul. (Bennett, 1973: 245)

Since this question is so vital to the further development of our analysis, we mention here Thomas de Hartmann’s remarks regarding this aspect of Gurdjieff’s teaching.

The gist,' he said, 'is this: man on his present level of being does not possess an immortal, indestructible soul, but with certain work on himself he can form an immortal soul; then this newly formed soul-body will no longer be subordinate to the laws of the physical body and after the death of the physical body will continue to exist. (Hartmann - Hartmann, 1992: 6)

Naturally there have been many attempts to identify the source of Gurdjieff’s teachings, which would seem to be an unsolvable problem, or at least part of the Gurdjieff enigma (Bennett, 1966), given that Gurdjieff’s autobiography seems to be written in a deeply allegorical language which characterizes its narration and the factuality of episodes recounted (Gurdjieff, 1963). On the other hand, James Webb (1946-1980) seems to have no doubts (Webb, 1980: 533) that the point of departure for Gurdjieff’s synthesis is to be found in The Secret Doctrine (Blavatsky, 1888), the classic work by the founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831- 1891). This has further been emphasized by Sophia Wellbeloved (2003: 204-206) who locates the influence of Theosophy on Gurdjieff within the prevailing climate of place and time.

When Gurdjieff began teaching in Russia c1912, his cosmological teaching was given in occult terms, the group meetings were held in secret, pupils could not relate what they learned to others outside the group. This was in accord with contemporary interests because the occult revival was strong in Russia, Theosophy and other Western Occult teachings were of great interest to the intelligentsia in general and Gurdjieff’s pupils in particular. (Wellbeloved, 2001)

Journey to Columbia

Unlike the case of Gurdjieff, and for reasons previously mentioned, it will be useful here to outline the main events in Samael Aun Weor’s life in that they help shed light on his ideas.

Víctor Manuel Gómez Rodríguez was born in Santa Fe di Bogotà in Colombia, in 1917. After beginning his education in a Jesuits’ school, he abandoned his studies at the age of twelve, disillusioned by religion. At fourteen he became passionately interested in spiritualism, particularly in Allan Kardec (1804-1869) and his successor Lèon Denis (1846-1927). In 1933, he joined the Theosophical Society, but later withdrew to become a member of Arnoldo Krumm-Heller’s (1876-1949) Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1972: 26) which had begun to spread through South America in 1927. He is said to have personally received an episcopal consecration in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica deriving from Theodor Reusss (1855-1923), although this has been subject to debate and contestation (Introvigne, 1993: 198).

Disappointed by his previous experiences, and after having devoted himself to the study of Eliphas Levì (Alphonse-Louis Constant, 1810-1875), Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), and Max Heindel (Carl Louis von Grasshoff, 1865-1919), he withdrew for a period of meditation, during which he discovered that in his previous lifetimes he had been an Egyptian priest, Julius Caesar, a member of a Tibetan order consisting of 201 monks who sustained mankind, and the equivalent of Jesus on the moon. To save mankind residing on the moon, he had been crucified and entrusted with preparing the coming of the “Fifth race root,” according to the classic theosophical scheme elaborated by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. In any case, when Krumm-Heller died in 1949, Gomez after having assumed the initiate’s name of Samael Aun Weor (the origins of which are partly obscure: “Samael” may be traced by to Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled in which “Samael is Satan” [Blavatsky, 1976: II, 483]), published his first book El Matrimonio Perfecto de Kinder (The Perfect Matrimony) and decided to open the gates of Gnosis to mankind and to found the Universal Christian Gnostic Church in Mexico City. Over the course of decades this was to assume other names, partly owing to the many branching-offs and scissions of the “Gnostic Movement.”

After Samael Aur Weor’s death (in Mexico City on December 24, 1977) a long battle ensued to determine his successor and today dozens of separate branches exist. Although these branches diverge not only concerning Weor’s successor, but also in points of doctrine, they all share a veneration for the writings of Samael Aun Weor and also for her his person as master Kalki Avatar of the Aquarian Age (the New Age which for Samael Aun Weor began on February 4, 1962 between two and three p.m.) (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1960), Buddha Maitreya and Logos of the Planet Mars. His worthiness as an object of veneration further increased after October 27, 1954 when the “Spiritual Advent of Archangel Samael” a “Gnostic nativity” and “cosmic fact” occurred (or rather the final phase in the initiation of Victor Manuel Gomez who from that moment on incarnated Samael Aun Weor in his inner being). Samael Aun Weor’s first disciples were witnesses to that event (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1960).

From a strictly phenomenological point of view, Samael Aun Weor’s Gnosticism, which obtained a rapid and marked success in Latin America, Quebec, the USA, and Europe, combines themes deriving, as we have seen, from the tradition of the Neo-Gnostic Church, Arnoldo Krumm-Heller (and from the leader of the Fraternitas Rosicruciana in Equador, Jorge Adoum known as Magus Jefa [?-1958]), Tantrism, the Theosophical Society, without omitting the Thelemite influences (which we may trace back to Aleister Crowley [1875-1947 ]) and above all, obvious borrowings from the Caucasian esoteric philosopher, G. I. Gurdjieff. Indeed, we must not forget that Samael Aun Weor defined himself as the “Master of Synthesis” for having conceived a corpus of doctrines that synthesizes in a didactic manner the initiatory knowledge possessed by the primitive and esoteric cultures of the earth, associated with an “inner work” of verification through the practice of the astral double, and states of jina (journeys of the physical body in the hyperdimension) etc.

Hic Rhodus, hic salta!

The synthesis of Samael Aun Weor’s Gnostic teachings and of the schools which we may trace back to him may be found in “Three Factors of the Revolution of Consciousness”, the dynamics of which are summed up in three volumes (Weor, 1989, 1992, 1995). These “three factors” are: a) the death of the negative, interior universe of each person (“ego”, artificial aggregates of the psyche which impede the manifestation of being) through self-discovery, understanding, and the disintegration of all other psychological aggregates (blocks, conditioning, identification, fear etc) which hinder the free circulation of energy and the reawakening of “objective consciousness;” b) the birth of internal bodies or superior existential bodies of the human being (astral body, mental body, causal body) indispensable vehicles for higher dimensions above the physical plane, thanks to the transmutation of creative energies (through the practice of Arcanum AZF or rather through the practice of exciting the male sexual organs without the emission of semen and the consequent “cerebralizing” of semen and the “insemination” of the brain) and the elimination of psychological aggregates in order to foster development and total regeneration, reawakening faculties such as clairvoyance, hearing distant voices, intuition, telepathy; c) the sacrifice for mankind by means of the divulgation, in any opportune way, of eternal wisdom, striving to pass on the keys of universal knowledge received through the Gnostic path.

Samael Aun Weor’s aim was to reawaken human consciousness, which begins with self-observation through which a person turns inwards and discovers that he lacks “something.” This process of reawakening is not easy because his consciousness is closed up and impeded (asleep) by a series of negative psychological structures (called “I”). The first task required of the adept is to identify these structures. A person discovers that his interior world is composed of three different elements: his essence, his I’s, which are located in the 49 levels of the subconscious (Weor, 1995: 17), and his personality. The essence is the divine Gnostic spark dwelling within every human being. Despite the presence of this divine element, contemporary man degenerates into violence and cruelty. This occurs because of the “red demons of Seth,” i.e. the “I’s,” psychological structures, defects, vices that are manifested both in a person’s thoughts and behavior. The personality, in turn, is not innate, unlike essence, but comprises all the values received through culture and education. The first task then, without neglecting education which from childhood on should aim to develop essence and personality harmoniously, is to work on the “I’s” which prevent essence from emerging and dominating the personality. In a personality dominated by essence, human will is converted to Christ-will. (The term “Christ” has an esoteric significance here independent of the historical person of Jesus) Dissolving the “I’s” by scaling three mountains, an individual may reach union with the absolute, where duality ceases to exist. Scaling the first two mountains, the initiate creates his “solar bodies” (which however may still be used by the evil “I’s”) and lastly, once these have been dissolved, “golden bodies.” Once he has climbed the third mountain, there are no more bodies, and the Kundalini serpent is swallowed by the eagle, symbolizing the process through which every specific form must die in order to become part of absolute unity.

To reach this aim Samael Aun Weor offers knowledge, an alchemical approach to sexuality, invocations, chains of protection, treatments, as well as a special anointment which consecrates the Gnostic priesthood at the end of a specific course of study. The rituals, divided into seven degrees, are collected in the Gnostic Liturgy (Gnosis: Conocimiento Universal, 1986: 4, 48-59), including a Gnostic mass. As far as specific practices are concerned, after the adept has reached a certain level of understanding of the Gnostic teachings, emphasis is given to the “out of the body” journeys and to the creation of the astral body. For this, the transmutation of the sexual hydrogen SI-12 is necessary.

In all the elements of nature, in every chemical substance, in every fruit, there exists a corresponding type of hydrogen. The hydrogen of sex is SI-12. (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1967: 88)

Anyone even only slightly familiar with Gurdjieff’s teaching will not fail to note that this reference corresponds perfectly to Gurdjieff’s concept of the hydrogens as recorded by Piotr Demianovitch Ouspensky (1878-1947) in Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, held by all scholars to be an eminently authoritative source, which synthesizes the theoretical and practical aspects of Gurdjieff’s teaching. Here is one of many examples:

Hydrogen’ si 12 is the ‘hydrogen’ which represents the final product of the transformation of food in the human organism. This is the matter with which sex works and which sex manufactures. It is ‘seed’ or ‘fruit.’ (Ouspensky, 1949: 255)

Concerning the modalities for transforming the sexual hydrogen SI-12, Weor writes:

The sexual hydrogen develops inside the human organism according to the musical scale: do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do. The sexual hydrogen SI-12 is found plentifully in sperm. It crystallizes new human bodies and wisely transmuted, it gives form to the astral body. If the sexual impulse is inhibited in order to prevent the ejaculation of sperm, Hydrogen SI-12 receives a special shock which allows it to pass to the next higher octave where it acts in accordance with the scale do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si. No occultist must ignore that the transformation of substances inside the organism acts in accordance with the Law of the Octave. (Weor, 1991: 127)

Gurdjieff’s teaching is almost identical to Weor’s (Ouspensky, 1949: 254-259) even as far as concerns the explanation of the “forming of the astral body” which alchemy defines as transformation or transmutation” (Ouspensky, 1949: 256). Were these the “inner exercises” (Hartmann - Hartmann, 1992: 40) taught by Gurdjieff, which Thomas de Hartmann briefly mentions, adding that he did not feel “authorized” to speak of them? Were these the exercises concerning “sexual energy which he told me never to repeat to others” (Hartmann - Hartmann, 1992: 107). We do not know the answer to this question. However, from this viewpoint it is easy to see what Gurdjieff was referring to when in a brief passage taken from a conversation with his pupils in New York, on February 20th, 1924, published only after his death, even though sexual energy is not explicitly mentioned (which however was the subject of Gurdjieff’s oral comments to his pupils, at least at the end of 1940s [Bennett - Bennett, 1980: 15]) nor are “inner practices.”

Man by himself cannot become a new man, special inner combinations are necessary. When such a special matter accumulates in sufficient quantities, it may begin to crystallize, as salt begins to crystallize in water if more than a certain proportion is added. When a great deal of fine matter accumulates in man, there comes a moment when a new body can form and crystallize in him […] a higher octave. This body, often called the astral, can only be formed from this special matter and cannot come into being unconsciously. In ordinary conditions, this matter may be produced in the organism, but is used an thrown out. (Gurdjieff, 1975: 202)

Most certainly Samael Aun Weor who made Arcanum AZF, sexual magic, the crux of his teaching and consequent practices, was aware that he had “surpassed” Gurdjieff, who is rarely cited in Weor’s work and is never mentioned as a source for his ideas. “We are more revolutionary in psychological teachings than Gurdjieff or Ouspensky” (Weor, 1995: 99), claimed Weor, but simplifying we might say that in Weor’s system, Gurdjieff provided the theory and Krumm-Heller the practice:

The great German sage Krumm-Heller advises: “Instead of coitus which leads to orgasm, one must offer reflexively sweet caresses, amorous phrases, and delicate touches, keeping the mind far from animal sexuality, sustaining the purest spirituality as if the act were a true ceremony. However, the man can and must introduce his penis into the female sex and keep it there […] until both experience a divine sensation which can last hours and withdraw at the moment the spasm approaches in order to avoid ejaculating sperm. (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1960: 137 

Whether Weor “surpassed Gurdjieff” or not, the fact that he drew his theory from Gurdjieff and his practices from Krumm-Heller (in the context of a certain occult Rosicrucianism) is of interest here, for Weor (for Weor secundum Gurdjieff) the main premise underlying both the discourse and itinerary of his teaching is the consideration that man does not possess an immortal soul and that in order to “make one,” he must crystallize a subtle fluid in the human organism by means of a process of transmutation. Moreover, according to both Gurdjieff and Weor, for this soul to become truly immortal, the creation of an astral body is not enough because after attaining that state the adept must concentrate on creating a third body, the “mental body.”

But [the third body] is still not the soul in the real meaning of the word. Only the fourth body completes all the development possible for man in the earthly conditions of his existence. It is immortal within the limits of solar system. (Gurdjieff, 1975: 217; for a comparison, see Weor, 1991: 129-135)

After Gurdjieff. Sexual Magic in Weor

In the preceding pages, we briefly inquired into the sources of Gurdjieff’s ideas, mentioning James Webb’s opinion that he had drawn from Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s doctrines and underlining the analogies between his esoteric teaching and that of the Theosophical Society, as suggested by Sophie Wellbeloved. If the main concern of this study is to determine the unmistakable and detailed influence of Gurdjieff’s teaching on Samael Aun Weor’s system of sexual magic, this observation, it bears repeating, does not necessarily imply an analogous preeminence sexual magic within the “forest school.” Yet methodological rigor requires that we also investigate the source of Gurdjieff’s ideas regarding “inner alchemy.” However, as we have observed regarding Gurdjieff’s sources in general, neither the studies produced so far, nor the primary sources seem to offer a plausible reply. James Webb considers Paschal Beverley Randolph (1825-1875) as an influence in Gurdjieff’s teaching regarding sexual energy (Webb, 1980: 532), but this suggestion, however stimulating (also with regards to the rather tense relations between the Theosophical Society and other occultist environments in which sexual magic surely had a role [Godwin - Chanel - Deveney, 1995]) does not appear adequately clarified, nor do studies of Randolph himself (Deveney, 1997).

Thus all we can do is continue sketching out a red line connecting Gurdjieff’s teaching to that of Samael Aun Weor. A red line, which it seems, not only regards theories of sexual magic, but in general far vaster segments of Gurdjieff’s ideas, as for example, the “Three Factors of the Revolution of Consciousness” previously discussed (in which Gurdjieff’s influence is quite evident). Likewise, the theme of multiple “I’s” so important in Weor’s system derives, as we have noted, from a specific teaching of the Fourth Way (Walker, 1951). Another key concept in Gurdjieff’s ideas, “the Ray of Creation” (Ouspensky, 1949: 82-88, 94-95, 132, 137-138, 167-169, 207, 305-306) finds an exact echo in Weor (1981: 38). (And this is by no means an exhaustive list). The concepts of “Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, Holy Reconciling” in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (Gurdjieff, 1976: I, 138) reappear in Weor (s.d.n.l. 1967: 14), together with the Law of Three, “Triamazikamno” (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1967: 15; for a comparison, see Gurdjieff, 1976: I, 137-148), and the Basic Cosmic Law Heptaparaparshinokh, the Law of Seven (Gurdjieff, 1976: III, 3-60; for a comparison, see Weor, s.d.n.l. 1967: 15).

Moreover, not only did Weor draw heavily on Gurdjieff’s discourse but also on his spiritual itinerary. Indeed, in the original plan for the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man people entering the institute were to be divided into three groups (exoteric, mesoteric, and esoteric [Gurdjieff, 1988: 39]). This hierarchal structure has been adopted by the Weorite movement, as Weor’s most important disciple Joaquin Enrique Amortegui Valbuena (1926-2000), better known as V.M. Rabolù, informs us (Rabolù, 1991: 23-38). The itinerary of approach to Gnostic teachings of the Weorite movement is divided into three cycles, for a total of 50 encounters weekly, corresponding to a program of gradual study. The first chamber (exoteric circle) is composed of three phases (A,B,C) corresponding to important phases of learning the basics (meditation, relaxation, vocalization, mantras) astral journeys, awakening the chakras, self-knowledge (transmutation of energy, etc). The second chamber (mesoteric circle) is for those who after understanding and practicing Gnostic teachings aspire to live according to the “Three Factors of the Revolution of Consciousness”. Lastly the third chamber (esoteric circle) is open to very advanced pupils. The central practice called by the Tantric term Sahaja Maithuna (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1972: 101) consists in a complete sexual act between a man and a woman which allows for the sublimation of sexual energy without reaching orgasm (“inmisio [sic] membri virili in vagina feminae sine ejaculatium seminis” [Weor, s.d.n.l. 1960: 78]) so that the transmutation of sexual energy contributes to open the 49 levels of the subconscious, making all the hidden I’s come forth and allowing Gnostic ascent to occur. This practice differs from coitus interruptus (in that the semen rather than being ejaculated must be put in circulation through an internal pathway) but should allow the transmutation both of male energy, semen, and female secretions, equally important for the reawakening of kundalini.

Further evidence to support the influence of Gurdjieff on Weor as well as Gurdjieff’s presence in Weor’s doctrines concerning “inner alchemy” is to be found in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson where the retention of sperm in the transmuting sexual energy is fleetingly mentioned in connection with teachings concerning “being exioehary” the knowledge of which survived the disappearance of Atlantis 

In these though fragmentary yet nevertheless authentic information, it was very convincingly indicated that by means of the substances Exioehary or sperm formed in them, it was possible to perfect oneself, but unfortunately for them there were no indications in this information which had survived and reached them, what and how precisely this had to be done.

Then certain of them began to think and to strive persistently somehow to understand what was necessary to be done, in order, by means of these substances inevitably formed in their presences to struggle for self-perfection.

The result of these serious ponderings of theirs was that the conviction first arose in them that this self-perfection could probably be actualized by itself, by abstaining from the ejection from oneself in the customary manner of these substances formed in them called sperm, and certain of them decided to unite and exit together in order to convince themselves in practice whether such abstinence could indeed give the supposed results. […] So from that time it began and automatically continues that such followers organize themselves in separate groups. (Gurdjieff, 1976: II, 399)

Differently from other esoteric environments, Samael Aun Weor considers sexual alchemy as the only legitimate path of development. All others are rejected and even attacked as diabolic, and even believed to be under the control of a Black Lodge (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1956: 69). Samael Aun Weor teaches that through the practice of Sahaja Maithuna, a third force, Cherubim, is produced by the union of male and female. Cherubim is part of the Great Divine Mother, a creature of fire who acts for a limited amount of time, but long enough to burn away the “I’s” against which her force is directed. Drawing from a Tantric tradition with a long history in Eastern spirituality and Western esotericism, Samael Aun Weor claims that by avoiding the emission of sperm sexual energy rather than being dispersed towards the outside, travels towards the deepest fiber of being and consciousness, which is then awakened. Unmarried disciples, although not in all branches of the Gnostic movement, are taught a transmutation exercise also known by a Tantric term, Vajroli Mudra (although in Tantra this term carries different meanings (White, 1996), as does Sahaja Maithuna). This exercise consists in special postures followed by a firm massage of the sexual organs (Weor, 1983: 136-145).

Confirming a non-Libertine approach to sexuality which must be experienced with absolute chastity of the mind, Samael Aun Weor stresses that the fatal antithesis of the Vajroli Mudra is “the abject and repugnant vice of masturbation,” which leads to the “abyss and second death” (Weor, 1983: 142) described in the Apocalypse. Here lies a special key to the whole Weorite Gnostic system which considers sexuality as an eminent form of relationship with the transcendent. “Sex is the creative function through which the human being is a true god” (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1950: 34) and “sexual alchemy is the science of the New Age of Aquarius” (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1950: 37). Weor teaches that the dispersion of sexual energy is “a vice the Lucifers have taught us” (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1956: 68). These Lucifers are esoteric rivals who have deviated from the main road of sexual magic and are the root cause of the loss of internal faculties, illness, old age, degeneration of vital functions, loss of memory and even death itself, given that “the tenebrous advise the ejaculation of sperm” (Weor, s.d.n.l. 1956: 62).


At the beginning we stated that the objectives and limits of our enquiry focused on an investigation of the influence of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff’s teachings on Samael Aun Weor, given the extraordinary impact of Gurdjieff on the panorama of contemporary esotericism, to say nothing of the influence, as widespread as it is unknown, he has had on contemporary literature, art, architecture, and music. Specifically our enquiry concentrates on Gurdjieff’s definite impact on the theoretical practical system that Weor created in the 1950s.

Through the comparison we have adopted on both philological and interpretative terrains, we do not intend to attribute to Gurdjieff what properly belongs to Weor. Yet having made this distinction, we can but suggest that an attentive reading of Weor will lead us to “reread” Gurdjieff from a perspective not usually taken by the many and often in-depth studies regarding him. Yet there is something else which enhances the meaning of our small undertaking, and which would be missing from our study if we were unable to go beyond a mere textual comparison. This “something else” reveals how all teachings, doctrines, practices, cognitive schemes, conceptual sophistications, based on the idea of “sexuality as an eminent form of relationship with the transcendent,” and on transformation or transmutation of being to a higher state through the use, manipulation, intelligence of sexual energy, understood in terms of its micro-macro cosmic relations, are a sort of “signature” of a far greater number of modern and contemporary esoteric and occult groups than is generally held.

This “something else” invites us to reflect on this particular underground river whose premises, coordinates, geographies, histories remain to be systematically organized. Were we capable of a leap of intellect, it might reveal itself to be a peculiar persisting of Gnosis, a return to Gnosis or Neo-Gnosticism, though we must keep well in the mind that the scholar must distinguish between Gnosticism, Neo-Gnosticism, new Gnosticism, between the reawakening of Gnosis and the return of gnosis, eschewing any improper assimilation by current cultural myths.


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[1] The original version (in Italian) of this paper has been published as follow: PierLuigi Zoccatelli, «Note a margine dell’influsso di G. I. Gurdjieff su Samael Aun Weor», Aries. Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, Brill Academic Publishers, vol. 5, n. 2 (2005), pp. 255-275.