Hello Claude, in Gurdjieff’s teaching there is talk of visual and auditory impressions, can you tell us more about this?
Here is a summary of Gurdjieff’s teaching on visual and auditory impressions:
Gurdjieff believed that ordinary man lives in a state of “sleep”, mechanically absorbed by external sensory impressions. According to him, most people just accumulate visual and auditory impressions all day long without really understanding them or drawing meaning from them.
Gurdjieff emphasized the importance of developing conscious attention to sensory impressions. One must learn to observe one’s visual (what one sees) and auditory (what one hears) impressions with presence and discernment. This makes it possible to escape automaticity and understand the hidden meaning behind appearances.
For example, rather than just looking around distractedly, one consciously observes visual details and their significance. The same goes for sounds and words heard. This effort of attention transforms the passive nature of perception into a conscious experience.
Through this increased awareness, Gurdjieff believed it was possible to awaken new faculties of understanding and access higher levels of reality beyond material appearances. The work on oneself begins with a voluntary effort to become fully aware of one’s sensory impressions.
A student of Ouspensky, Rodney Collin, deepened this work on impressions, can you summarize it?
Here is a summary of Rodney Collin’s deepening of the work on sensory impressions:
- Our visual and auditory impressions constitute the raw material of our conscious experience. They are the basis of our thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc.
- He distinguishes two types of impressions: selective impressions, which one consciously chooses to pay attention to, and mechanical impressions, passively undergone without intentional choice.
- The goal is to develop the faculty of voluntary attention, so that more and more impressions become selective rather than mechanical. It is a training to direct our attention.
- Collin proposes practical exercises. For example, sitting in a public place and consciously trying to select only the visual impressions related to a randomly chosen color. Or doing the same with auditory impressions related to a particular sound.
- With practice, one learns to intentionally filter impressions, instead of passively suffering the chaotic influx of sensory stimuli. This leads to a change in the level of consciousness and opens access to new understandings.
- Collin emphasizes the voluntary effort required, as well as the need to be guided by teaching to understand the purpose and effects of this long-term work.
Is there also the question of the right choice regarding impressions? For example, to choose to meditate on the paintings of Renaissance artists rather than the paintings and objects created by Joseph Beuys or Gerhart Richter?
Yes, in Gurdjieff’s teaching and its continuators like Ouspensky and Collin, there is the question of the judicious choice of impressions, in relation to their quality and meaning.
The idea is that some sensory impressions can nurture the inner development of the individual, while other impressions can reinforce their mechanicality and sleep.
Thus, they recommended paying attention to impressions carrying meaning, harmony and opening to higher perspectives. For example, the contemplation of classical works of art aiming to reflect universal archetypes and timeless beauty.
In contrast, they warned against overly intellectualized, cerebral or unbalanced artistic forms, which reflect according to them the fragmented state of modern man rather than higher principles of unity.
It is from this perspective that they would probably have recommended immersing oneself in the masters of the Renaissance rather than in modern currents like Joseph Beuys or Gerhard Richter, deemed too conceptual and remote from an art aiming at spiritual synthesis.
The judicious choice of impressions requires discernment and understanding of the purpose of inner development. Not everything has the same qualitative value from this perspective.