There are many written works by and about Gurdjieff and his ideas. Unfortunatley, reading and intellectual accumulation of these ideas will never lead to a meaningful understanding of them. It was for this reason that Gurdjieff established an oral tradition for their transmission. But this presents one of the first obstacles for the seeker. Many who engage in serious study may not consider themselves to be "joiners". Many of us are naturally introverted when it comes to sharing our important inner questions with strangers. And as if this were not enough, it also requires a special effort to overcome our inertia, perhaps placing additional demands on already busy schedules. Consequently, many of us have in fact attempted to work on ourselves by ourselves, in some cases for many years. However, those of us who have overcome these initial obstacles have become convinced thruough first hand experience, that if any real and lasting progress is to be made, if true understanding is to be achieved, favorable conditions for the development of one's internal capacity for understanding must be established, and this requires the help of others engaged in a similar struggle. The following excerpts from P.D. Ouspensky's "In Search of the Miraculous" may provide more insights as to why this may be so:
Chapter Ten: Influences, magnetic centers within man, work with others, and "The Way":
"The results of the influences whose source lies outside life collect together within him [the seeker], he remembers them together,
"If the magnetic center works rightly and if a man really searches, or even if he does not search actively yet feels rightly, he may meet another man who knows the way and who is connected directly or through other people with a center existing outside the law of accident, from which proceed the ideas which created the magnetic center.
"Here again there are many possibilities. But this will be spoken of later on. For the moment let us imagine that he has met a man who really knows the way and is ready to help him. The influence of this man upon him goes through his magnetic center. And then, at this point, the man frees himself from the law of accident. This is what must be understood. The influence of the man who knows the way upon the first man is a special kind of influence, differing from the former two, first of all in being a direct influence, and secondly in being a conscious influence. Influences of the second kind, which create magnetic center, are conscious in their origin but afterwards they are thrown into the general vortex of life, are intermixed with influences created in life itself, and are equally subject to the law of accident. Influences of the third kind can never be subject to the law of accident; they are themselves outside the law of accident and their action also is outside the law of accident. Influences of the second kind can proceed through books, through philosophical systems, through rituals. Influences of the third kind can proceed only from one person to another, directly, by means of oral transmission.
"The moment when the man who is looking for the way meets a man who knows the way is called the first threshold or the first step. From this first threshold the stairway begins. Between 'life' and the 'way' lies the 'stairway.' Only by passing along this 'stairway' can a man enter the 'way.' In addition, the man ascends this stairway with the help of the man who is his guide; he cannot go up the stairway by himself. The way begins only where the stairway ends, that is, after the last threshold on the stairway, on a level much higher than the ordinary level of life.
"Therefore it is impossible to answer the question, from what does the way start? The way starts with something that is not in life at all, and therefore it is impossible to say from what. Sometimes it is said: in ascending the stairway a man is not sure of anything, he may doubt everything, his own powers, whether what he is doing is right, the guide, his knowledge and his powers. At the same time, what he attains is very unstable; even if he has ascended fairly high on the stairway, he may fall down at any moment and have to begin again from the beginning. But when he has passed the last threshold and enters the way, all this changes. First of all, all doubts he may have about his guide disappear and at the same time the guide becomes far less necessary to him than before. In many respects he may even be independent and know where he is going. Secondly, he can no longer lose so easily the results of his work and he cannot find himself again in ordinary life. Even if he leaves the way, he will be unable to return where he started from.