Saturday evenings [at the Prieuré] there would be communal
Turkish baths first for men and then the women, followed by a feast
and ritual toasting of the Idiots.
Referred to as ′The Science of Idiotism′, Gurdjieff maintained that this was an initiate ritual that had been practiced for 4,500 years and expressed the secrets of the inner life of Man. It was never to be practiced apart from the sacramental meal and always with alcohol, never wine.
There are 21 different Idiots with Gurdjieff being number 18; 19 and 20 are Sacred Individuals performing functions in the whole Megalocosmos; and 21 is the Unique Idiot, our God.
After hearing the toasts to the various Idiots at one meal, at the next Gurdjieff asked students to pick their Idiot, as everyone was one. (The Greek root meaning of the word is ′I make my own.′) They were to choose from the first twelve Idiots.
had its particular designation. The movements of the Idiots was not
forward but backward from the Idiot they chose to Ordinary Idiot. The reason was that only in the recognition of one′s nothingness
could there be true development toward consciousness and conscience.
Otherwise, all forward movement was certain to be stopped by a ′wrong crystallization′, that is a fusion of a particular level of
consciousness on the basis of false personality. If such a
crystallization is not dissolved before a given Idiot is reached, it
may become insurmountable. This is because this very defect, or
defects, was a definite factor in the original ascent.
Interestingly, the limitation of a wrong crystallization is not realized until the results that such a crystallization produces have been observed. Only through work on oneself - the correct remembering and observing of oneself - does one automatically descend to Ordinary Idiot. Once the level of Ordinary Idiot has been recognized and reached, the ascension is also automatic. Every two or three years a new Idiot is reached - Super becomes Arch, Arch becomes Hopeless, Hopeless becomes Compassionate, and so on.
The ritual itself was simple. At the beginning of the meal, the Director proposed a toast, "To the health of all Ordinary Idiots." If a person was present who had chosen or been designated as an Ordinary Idiot, the Director added, "And to your health also," saying the name of the person. Letting a few minutes go by, the Director then proposed a second toast, "To the health of all Super Idiots," and so on.
Marcia Paul contributes:
"Gurdjieff introduced his toast to the Idiots in 1922, and from 1940 gave it increasing emphasis. Although not divesting ′Idiot′
of its pejorative sense, he re-invested it with the meaning of individuality (from a Greek root meaning 'I make my own').
Though idiocy was universal - God himself being the Unique Idiot (No.21) - a subsidiary differentiation afforded a human typology at once ′poetic′ and profound.
Each pupil, relying simply on intuition, was initially required to choose his own Idiot from among the first twelve...
Although Idiots 1-16 might seem to occupy a plateau of being, only differentiate behaviourally, there are hints of a desirable evolution to the proximate type...
Idiots 17-21 constituted a spiritual hierarchy, reflecting progressive gradations of objective reason. Idiot 18 presented the highest development which a human being could reach, but in order to attain it, he had first voluntarily to decent again from 17 to 1, the ordinary idiot. Idiots 19 and 21 were reserved for the sons of God...
The Toast to the Idiots was discontinued immediately on Gurdjieff's death in 1949, it being felt that, without his decisive presence, it stood in danger of becoming a mere form without content."
"Herewith the most complete list possible of Gurdjieff′s Order of Idiots:
Idiots 17-21 constituted a spiritual hierarchy, reflecting progressive gradations of objective reason.
Idiot 18 presented the highest development which a human being could reach, but in order to attain it, he had first voluntarily to descend again from 17 to 1, the ordinary idiot.
Idiots 19 and 20 were reserved for the sons of God.
21 - Unique Idiot (God himself)"
Dushka Howarth studied with Gurdjieff and he chose that category for her when she vacillated too long [Squirming Idiot].
"Soon you must change. Squirming only is passing state for man. Is state like fish out of sea. Man must not stay long - or man die - or obliged be born again."
Gurdjieff told another person: "Squirming Idiot... not yet ready for help."
Everyone who has undertaken to work on himself is considered to participate in idiotism... The final hurdle before attaining the level of Idiot 18 is, Gurdjieff said, that a person reaching a higher threshold must ′consciencely′ descend to No.1 - and, it would appear, retrace his or her steps. ′Consciencely′ tells us that it requires both consciousness and conscience. This enhanced, revitalised reliving of steps, states and/or characteristics becomes necessary for No. 10, Enlightened Idiot, according to Bennett, or No. 17 Idiot (whose name, if given, eludes modern searches) in view of most other Work writers. There′s perhaps a connection between Idiot 17 and Mme de Salzmann's ′going out of Idiocy′.(ibidem)
According to Gurdjieff′s secretary Louise March, in Beth McCorkle′s The Gurdjieff Years 1929-1949, Madame de Salzmann was the only person "going out of idiocy." This is odd in that Gurdjieff said that everyone has an Idiot. He may have meant that at the higher levels of Idiocy one becomes a Unique Idiot, such as Gurdjieff.(ibidem)
Gurdjieff told Kathryn Hulme and others that he had studied seven years to create "science d′idiotisme", ′putting into it all his
knowledge of human typicality, polarity and so forth′...
Gurdjieff once explained, "Everyone is Idiot, even God. But when these Idiots see another who is another kind of Idiot from themselves, they become angry and curse him. This is very characteristic of these Idiots. Now compassionate means that among this company can sometimes exist Idiots who know that all are Idiots together so they pity all and not become angry. These are Compassionate. I am Unique Idiot so I am no more this Idiot Compassionate."
There were two categories of Compassionate Idiot - Sympathetic and Antipathic. The one sees a man lying in the gutter in rags, starving and helpless. He goes to him immediately and helps him in every way, even giving him his own shirt, and the other does exactly the same, but only because his fiancée′s father is looking out of the window.(Rina Hands - Madame Egout Pour Sweet)
Mr.Gurdjieff, drawing a square in the air, paused at the corners, saying, "Sometimes he stop." I wondered how anyone dared choose this, as I thought it meant sometimes he stops being an Idiot, but by asking someone who had chosen it [Square Idiot], I learnt that the accepted interpretation is that such people keep on stopping and changing direction all the time.(ibidem)
There are twenty-one graduations of reason from that of the ordinary man to that of our Endlessness, that is, God. No one can reach the Absolute Reason of God, and only the sons of God like Jesus Christ can have the two graduations of reason that are nineteenth and twentieth. Therefore the aim of every being who aspires to perfection must be able to reach the eighteenth graduation.(J.G.Bennett - Gurdjieff: Making a New World)
Song of the idiot:
sitting at the feet of an idiot,
i saw i was blind.
sitting at the feet of an idiot
there′s nothing to find.
sitting at the feet of an idiot,
i am an idiot
and i really don′t mind.