Filmed in Afganistan in the 1970s, this film starts out with Gurdjieff as a young boy going to a special competition between musicians that occurs every 20 years in a remote, mountainous and empty location. The competitors very solemnly take turns attempting to get the rocks to respond to their music. Only a sound of special quality will make the stones vibrate. One of the contestants succeeds and then everyone goes home. For those familiar with modern string theory in physics, this takes on additional meanings about how life exists in the universe. All of creation, from rocks to plants to humans are at the deepest level of existence vibrating strings. We are all united. It is fascinating that this competition is being described a century before string theory was developed! Later we see one of his friends that is studying the effect of a string instrument on the growth of plants. Ahhhhh…the mysteries of life! At the most profound levels of our spiritual being we find mystery, the ineffable, the mystical, the wondrous. So, do we just move on with the recognition that we will never understand life, or do we move on with an appreciation for the mystery and a desire to explore it further? Gurdjieff is clearly letting us know from the beginning that it is the journey that counts, not the destination, the exploratory process, not some goal that counts.
Gurdjieff is portrayed as a relatively normal young man, interested in science and trying to understand the world. He is also very interested in young girls and willing to fight a duel, with cannons no less, to establish just how committed he can be to his goals in life.
The film takes us on a journey where we will meet remarkable
men. We see a child who cannot leave a
circle, a dead man who has returned and must be killed a second time. We don't get answers, we only have our
thirst, our desire for answers heightened by these experiences. What is he looking for? He tells us that: "I want to know why I
am here?" At times he collaborates
with like-minded seekers while at other times he must go it alone. But, he never stops seeking. Early on in his studies he learns about the
"Samung" Monastery where for centuries the secrets of the mystical have been developed. He strikes out to find this place. At first he is with a friend. However, the friend stops the journey as he wants to more fully understand machines---this is what excites him at this moment. They part friends. He comes across a Russian Prince and later a Professor. They go on a journey across the desert to find a city hidden under the sands where the answers may be hidden. The journey is a disaster but Gurdjieff and the Professor go on alone and finally find another monastery. This is where the Professor has found what he desires and he stays there. Gurdjieff goes on and finally finds his way to the Samung Monastery and also is reunited with the Prince. The Prince has three years to live and moves on to a monastery high in the Himalayas. Gurdjieff stays and studies until he is able to hold the wisdom in his deepest inner soul and then he will return to civilization. In short, each of us is on a journey. There is no one place that is right for everyone to stop in this venture. Each of us will find the right place; each of us will know when we arrive there that this is where we are meant to pause to learn more, to evolve.
The movie makes it abundantly clear that the journey is fraught with danger. Gurdjieff is shot at, attacked by fierce dogs and desert winds that will quickly suffocate if you are not prepared for such an event. So you must anticipate challenges along the route of your journey. Hardships will occur. You must be willing to persevere in the face of these hardships and challenges. And, you must be willing to accept that the results will at best be ephemeral. As the Prince who tutors Gurdjieff says to him: "Knowing happens directly when not even a thought separates you from knowing."
When he does reach the Samung Monastery we see that they practice various arts. They learn to tune their bodies so that they vibrate with the mystic inner voices of our souls. They dance, sing, chant and balance their physical bodies so that their minds are liberated from fear and distractions and can then find God. Their practices are designed to help balance the lamb and the wolf within. These two forces must learn to live together. What are the lamb forces in you? What are the wolf like forces within you? How do you need to find a balance between the two?