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JULY 2005 • Vol 2, No 7
Presence • Awakening • Higher Centers • The Beloved • God
Being Present

a publication of the Fellowship of Friends

The System and Schools

The system is an ancient, perfected method that schools since the dawn of humanity have used for developing consciousness. Throughout history, schools used slightly different language, yet the system behind their language is the same. The purpose of being in a school has also remained the same: to learn how to be present and how to prolong presence with the ultimate aim of achieving a permanent state in higher centers.

In this respect, schools of the Egyptians, the Jews, the Hindu, the Christians, the Muslims, the authors of the Tarot deck, the Gothic architects, and the Sufi tradition all had the same knowledge, used the same methods, and were connected to the same objective source.

Mr. Ouspensky said, “When I met this system I very soon became convinced that it was connected with schools and in this way had passed through recorded and unrecorded history. During this time methods were invented and perfected.” It was not until the twentieth century, however, that the system appeared for the first time in its exoteric form when Gurdjieff and Ouspensky introduced these ideas as the Fourth Way. Before that, schools had to conceal their knowledge in symbols and stories.

For example, where we speak openly about lower centers and the machine, earlier schools referred to them as the ‘world’ and ‘earth’. Where we say higher centers, previous schools said ‘Beloved’, ‘God’, ‘Lord’, or ‘Sun’. They knew that higher centers are the divinity within us: a different order of creation, just as the sun is a different order of creation from the earth. The fourteenth-century Sufi, Shah Nimatullah, wrote: “Indeed, the whole world is imagination while God alone is the true reality.” He was speaking esoterically, of course. His use of the word ‘imagination’, however, shows that with the Sufis the system was beginning to emerge in exoteric form.

An earlier, esoteric version of the system—and one of the most complete—is the set of 21 cards from the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck. Robert Earl Burton points out that, whereas the Tarot is subjectively thought to be a way of telling the future, it is really an objective way of telling how to reach presence.

For instance, card number X, the ‘Wheel of Fortune’, depicts our inner world in the second state of consciousness. It shows the many ‘I’s turning mechanically in a state of imagination, with each ‘I’ thinking it is consciousness as it sits momentarily on top of the wheel. Yet each ‘I’ vanishes within three seconds only to be replaced by a new ‘I’ from one of the four lower centers. In other words, without self-remembering, we believe each ‘I’ and become each ‘I’ that appears. As Mr. Burton has said, this card should in fact be named the ‘Wheel of Misfortune’. The Hindu referred to it as the ‘Wheel of Maya’—illusion.

At the end of the sequence of the Major Arcana is card XXI, ‘the World’. Here the female figure represents the higher emotional center having successfully appeared in a state of prolonged presence in the conscious ‘world’ of the third state. The four figures around it symbolize the intellectual parts of centers that are helping promote and prolong presence. These are the four beasts of the apocalypse from the New Testament—and they have the same esoteric meaning.

About this similarity of knowledge among schools, Mr. Gurdjieff said, “It will seem strange to many people when I say that prehistoric Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ; that is to say, that its religion was composed of the same principles and ideas that constitute true Christianity. Special schools existed in this prehistoric Egypt.” And as Mr. Burton said recently, “All schools are the same school.”

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Links of interest
• Videos of Robert Earl Burton teaching
Suggested reading about Fourth Way ideas
• Esoteric keys to understanding The Bible

Introductory lectures — monthly
We offer a series of free introductory lectures in cities around the world. To register:
• Call our USA information line (1-800-642-0212),
Find a center nearest you.

1— An introduction to the system
• The system is ancient, objective knowledge
• The microcosmos man can transcend himself
• Schools use precise methods for awakening

2— The four lower centers (requires lecture 1)
• Observing how the lower centers function
• Recognizing when lower centers displace presence
• Using lower centers to reach higher centers

3— Promoting and prolonging presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• Developing the steward and intellectual parts of centers
• The instinctive center as the ‘mind behind the machine’
• Specific ways to promote and prolong presence

Membership information
The Fellowship of Friends is a Fourth Way school with centers worldwide. Membership is monthly. For details:
Find a center nearest you.
• Email

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

The ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and the ‘World’ cards from the Tarot deck.

About the system and schools
The people who have possessed objective knowledge have tried to express the idea of unity in myths, in symbols, and in verbal formulas which, having been transmitted without alteration, have carried on the idea from one school to another.
George Gurdjieff
Influence C is school influence. A school cannot begin without help from another school, without help from those who escaped before.
Peter Ouspensky
We see the tremendous trace of school in the past—school behind school behind school.
Rodney Collin  
Each school uses the same system in a different form. People in schools always find their own presence more interesting than anything outside of themselves. Schools possess conscious wisdom and their esoteric knowledge is directed towards putting essence in a state of divided attention. Schools are the work of higher school.
Robert Earl Burton
Reason took us as far as the door; but it was presence that let us in.
The work starts, as soon as you open your eyes in the morning.
No day is more lost to you than the day which was passed without presence.
Omar Khayyam
You have to evaluate how you spend every moment: with presence or negligence.
Shah Naqshband

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