Case Study – Gurdjieff [8w7]

Gurdjieff is fairly often described as an 8. Here I will consider the theory that he’s an 8w7.

In person we can see that he’s quite active, at times combative, and there is a marked tendency toward ‘excess’ or ‘lust’, apparently having a number of affairs with students. He explains his position as not being against sex being disguised as anything else as a ’cause of mechanicalness’, although parts of All and Everything read as somewhat puritanical.
Excess / Lust
He has extremely high alcohol consumption and is rather promiscuous, noting that ‘if I do something, I do a lot of it’.
He talks in ‘Life Is Real Only When I Am’ about a low point, when how when his energy level gets too low, he sinks back into a need for sex and vindictiveness:

I could not attain the state of “remembering myself even sufficiently to hinder the associations flowing in me automatically from certain undesirable hereditary factors of my nature.
As soon as the accumulation of energy which enabled me to be in an active state was exhausted, at once associations of both thoughts and feelings began to flow in the direction of objects diametrically opposite to the ideals of my consciousness.
When I found myself in a state of complete dissatisfaction with food and sex, the leading factor of these associations of mine appeared to be primarily vindictiveness and, in a state of full satisfaction, they proceeded on a theme of the forthcoming pleasure of a meal and sex or of the gratification of self-love, vanity, pride, jealousy and other passions.

Combativeness can be seen at times, e.g. Ouspensky notes in ‘In Search of the Miraculous’:

Gradually, by questioning others, I found out that a strange thing had happened. A very absurd quarrel between G. and some Letts, our neighbors, had occurred. Z. was present at it. G. had not liked something Z. had said or something, and from that day he had completely changed towards him, stopped speaking to him, and, in general, put him into such a position that Z. was obliged to announce his decision to leave.

Other Literature
‘The Struggle of the Magicians’ produces, subjectively, an Eight-ish ‘feel’ when read, but which is very difficult to further define.

All and Everything shows a basic cynicism toward society, which reflects Eight’s trust issues. Robert Heinlein, another 8w7, mounts an attack on civilization and its values in Stranger in a Strange Land which seems similar in some ways.

Wing
Physical addictions are fairly pronounced, so suggesting /w7 is reinforcing these. He also travels frequently (a strong seven indicator), is fairly charismatic and quick-witted, somewhat manipulative, and is very good at a wide range of tasks – Ouspensky for instance notes his working at selling carpets and improvising a device for carpet repair, or starting a repair shop while travelling, as well as knowing a number of languages and being a priest, doctor, etc.
He talks about himself frequently and has apparently high self-esteem, also normal for Sevens, as well as some impulsiveness (e.g. grabbing an apple from a moving car leading to his car accident).
Functions
As probably an 8w7, I would predict an ESTP or EXTP function setup – Se and Ti primary (with some degree of Ne also possible in an eight-function model).
From an MBTI-equivalent, we can see somewhat the ESTP setup, in that his ‘system’ reflects to a degree introverted-thinking (the 5 dominant function) as relatively developed.
In enneagram terms, the Ti auxiliary could also be seen as due to 5s point as both ‘integration’ and ‘disintegration’ points for the 8w7. A Ti-secondary implies an Fe tertiary as well (=2).
As an idea, we could wonder if having 5 as both ‘integration’ and ‘stress’ might be an explanation for why his works shift between deeply insightful [high-5] and occasionally crazy-paranoid [low-5].

Holy Ideas
Gurdjieff’s system itself incorporates a complexity of ideas that make what is ‘his own’ conception of the ‘idea’ hard to determine. It is probably partly his own, in that he to some extent influenced what was present by choosing components from other, older systems. In part its interesting to see what he considers hardest – his system emphasizes the absence of consciousness and conscience in man, but considers the highest virtue to be ‘Objective Reason’ – so impartial mentation [which may be ‘Truth’ in the sense of knowledge?]. In his system full objective knowledge is viewed as a part of the higher mental centre, putting it at the level of ‘man number six’, whereas consciousness and a ‘real I’ are properties of only ‘man number five’, and conscience, ‘man number four’. Potentially his Fourth Way being called ‘the Work’ is emphasizing reflects a seven-ish aspect.
Related Authors

As noted Robert Heinlein would be an 8w7. Ernest Hemingway would be another relatively famous /w7.  See Robert E. Howard for an 8w9 comparison and list of some additional Eights.

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