What is the sense and significance of life on earth, and human life in particular?

This was George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff's question. At an early age he had realized a high degree of being. Experiencing the mindless mechanicality of man, the wars, the destruction, the misery, the question arose in him: Why is there life on earth, what purpose does it serve, if any? Gurdjieff studied orthodox religion and science but their answers didn't satisfy him. He came to intuit that the wisdom societies of ancient civilizations held the key to man's true identity and purpose. Humanity, he recognized, was in dire need of this knowledge, for humanity had entered a crucial period in its development."Unless the wisdom of the East and the energy of the West," he said, "could be harnessed and used harmoniously, the world would be destroyed."

In 1911 Gurdjieff took a vow to awaken people to a new level of being, of consciousness, of conscience; in a word, to a new type of man. He vowed to introduce and establish in the West the esoteric teaching of self-transformation he had discovered, one he said that was completely unknown up to the present time. He called it The Fourth Way.

In his talks, Gurdjieff gave a keen analysis of the modern dilemma. "There is a growth of personality at the cost of essence, that is, a growth of the artificial, the unreal and what is foreign, at the cost of the natural, the real and what is one's own. We see everywhere a preponderance of vulgarity and stupidity of all kinds, and in life, we only see new divisions, new hostility, new misunderstandings. To avoid a complete disaster, it was necessary to achieve world harmony as soon as possible. It could not be achieved by politics, philosophy, religion or any organized movement that treated man in the mass. It could only be accomplished through the individual development of man. If enough individuals could develop themselves, even partially, into genuine natural beings, each such individual would then be able to convince and win over as many as a hundred others who would, each in his turn, be able to influence another hundred and so on." What Gurdjieff was saying was that everyone, like Atlas, would hold up, be responsible for, their own world and thus the larger world.