George Gurdjieff taught that most humans do not possess a unified consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic “waking sleep”, but that it is possible to awaken to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff described a method attempting to do so, calling the discipline “The Work” (connoting “work on oneself”) or “the System”. Gurdjieff used a number of methods and materials, including meetings and lectures, music, sacred dances, writings, as well as innovative forms of group and individual work. Part of the function of these various methods was to undermine and undo the ingrained habit patterns of the mind and bring about moments of insight.
Sympathizers regard him as a charismatic master who brought new knowledge into western culture, psychology and cosmology that enable insights beyond those provided by established science. At the other end of the spectrum, some critics assert he was a charlatan with a large ego and a constant need for self-glorification. Gurdjieff had a significant influence on some artists, writers and thinkers including Walter Inglis Anderson, Peter Brook, Kate Bush, Darby Crash, Muriel Draper, Robert Fripp, Keith Jarrett, Timothy Leary, Dennis Lewis, James Moore, Maurice Nicoll, Louis Pauwels, George Russell, David Sylvian, Jeremy Lane, Alan Watts, Colin Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Zorn and Franco Battiato.