“Man remains a mystery to himself,” writes Jeanne de Salzmann in The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff. “He has a nostalgia for Being, a longing for duration, for permanence, for absoluteness–a longing to be. Yet everything that constitutes his life is temporary, ephemeral, limited. He aspires to another order, another life, a world that is beyond him. He senses that he is meant to participate in it.” Madame de Salzmann, the foremost pupil of Gurdjieff, had her own strong, direct way of speaking. Those who listened to her in person had the impression that she knew exactly what she wanted to say about the experience of consciousness–and said it, even if it seemed imprecise. Her seemingly simple words express the awakened state that she calls Presence (needless to say, that capitalization is intentional). They have the kind of concentration people usually associate with poetry, only more so. They have the power to lead readers forward towards that other life she mentions to the extent that they are ready to see and hear.
What does that path lead ultimately? Coming from me, it can only be ordinary words–to the realization of our interconnection with the whole of life, to the love that flows from the marriage of being and knowing, to freedom. Perhaps it’s best that I stick with one word from the very beginning of the book, “nostalgia.” This choice seemed a little odd to me at first because I associate the word with the yearning for what is past, often in an idealized form. I looked it up and learned that the word is a learned formation of Greek compounds, consisting of “nostos,” meaning “returning home,” a Homeric word, and “algos,” “pain” or “ache.” Anyone with even a glancing knowledge of Homer’s tales knows that the desire to return home is the most powerful and galvanizing of all longings. According to this great teacher, we humans wish for Being the way Odysseus yearned to see his wife and house and homeland again. May all beings have that much determination and courage and creativity and skill (certainly Jeanne de Salzmann did). May all beings know inner freedom. May all beings find their true home.