In the Esoteric section of the Buzzword site are several books dealing with, or based on, the teaching of G. I Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff pointed out that there is a tendency for everything to slowly become its own opposite. For instance the so-called religion of love of the Christians became warped and institutionalised into an Inquisition that burned innocents at the stake. The profoundly subtle teaching of the Buddha was eventually obscured by a towering edifice of arguments of increasingly ludicrous sophistry. You may draw your own conclusions about Hinduism and suttee, Islam and suicide bombers (suicide is, we believe, forbidden by the Prophet) and other aberrations caused by narrow, self-serving interpretations of the various traditional faiths. A great faith that has been distorted for gain, or to enslave followers, (consider the almost diabolical 'sin' emphasis of the Catholic Church) is troubling to ordinary people because it cloaks its deviation. To be specific, it justifies violence with morality.
One of our readers and correspondents, Keith Petersen - a Gurdjieff student, a former Major in the Engineering Corps and now a Corporate Lawyer sent us this letter recently. We thought it might interest you.The genius of the Work, as brought to us by Mr Gurdjieff, is that one may be of any religion, or none. Excluding, of course, those purportedly religious paths, such as militant Islam, that are premised on exclusivity, intolerance, and violence toward non-believers. Such paths are, of course, not religion, but merely forms of organised crime, and to call them 'religious' is to do violence to the term itself.
At the same time, the Work requires that one should be respectful of genuine belief, and not to be a militant atheist. The latter because first, atheism, being unprovable, is a kind of superstition on a par with primitive forms of religious belief, secondly, because, with its alleged foundation as a response to 'the problem of evil' , atheism represents a form of childish petulance in the face of mechanical forces, and finally, because, to judge by the behaviour observed in its adherents, it effectively elevates ego to god-like status.
Ordinary people, and those who pass for 'thinkers' are only now coming to the conclusion, obvious to any person possessing 'being-Reason', that the essential world-conflict is not between religions, but between those people and groups with a religious attitude, in the true sense, and those whose life and outlook is based on ego, which, at its extreme justifies any action, however criminal.
I say 'conflict', but it is not a conflict to be resolved by force, but rather by persuasion, chiefly persuasion by example. In that regard, the media loves to report terrorism and crime, but the media is not interested in the no less real number of ex-terrorists, ex-criminals, who have 'repented', and who now seek to atone, and to deter others from following their former path. Such people exist.
'Religion' is thus less a matter of cosmological belief than an attitude which is characterised by humility, openness, and an ability to put oneself in the shoes of another, and, as has been said so often, to treat another as one would wish to be treated, and not as one would not wish to be treated. Compared to that, as Rabbi Hillel said, regarding the Torah, 'The rest is commentary.' That is the 'religion' which is the foundation of the paths.
Whether from the aspect of behaviour or belief, it is important to remember Mr Gurdjieff's observation, quoted in Views, that:
'At a certain level, there are no religions, there is only religion.'
From the various paths to the summit, the views are different. From the summit itself, the view is everywhere the same.