Dissatisfied with the answers of contemporary religion and science, Gurdjieff intuited that the wisdom societies of ancient civilizations held the real key to his question. And so with a group of like-minded friends who called themselves the Seekers of Truth, he made many journeys into remote and dangerous areas with the aim of rediscovering this ancient knowledge.
In the ruins of Ani, the ancient Armenian capital, Gurdjieff and his friends discovered correspondence that spoke of an esoteric brotherhood called Sarmoung. The brotherhood had existed in Babylon in 2,500 B.C., and subsequently migrated northward to the Izrumim Valley. Some believe the Sarmoung to have been a sixth or seventh century Aisorian school located between Urmia and Kurdistan. There is also in Tibet a group of monasteries known as Surmang. The tenth Trungpa Tulku, their supreme abbot, died in 1938. Tibetans believe he reincarnated as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the eleventh Trungpa Tulku, who came to America in 1970 and often spoke of Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff certainly did travel to Tibet and speaks about his experiences there. See Voices in the Dark.
Gurdjieff set out for the valley hoping to contact the Sarmoung, but on the way he unexpectedly came upon a map of 'pre-sand Egypt.' Immediately, he changed course and in 1895 arrived in Egypt. What did Gurdjieff see on the map of 'pre-sand Egypt' that caused him to immediately break off his search for the Sarmoung and go directly to Egypt?
He worked as a guide at the Giza Plateau outside Cairo, and then traveled up the Nile to Upper Egypt and into Ethiopia. He lived for a time in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the desert necropolis on the west bank of the Nile opposite the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes, modern-day Luxor. Located just south of the city and considered the most remarkable religious complex ever built by man, Karnak's pylons, temples, chapels, obelisks, columns, statues and man-made lake are situated on 250 acres. Among its sites is the great hypostyle hall where 134 columns are surrounded by more than 120 pillars. Stone slabs (now gone) served as the roof, with carved stone windows allowing light to penetrate the area. The Karnak King List, discovered on the site, contains the names of more than 60 of Egypt's ancient rulers.
It was there in Egypt"only not from the Egypt we know," Gurdjieff said, "but from one we do not know "that he discovered "the true principles and ideas" of the ancient teaching that could show Man his place on earth and the reason and meaning of his existence.
Gurdjieff realized that elements of this teaching over time had dispersed northward into Babylon, the Hindu Kush, Tibet, Siberia and the Gobi desert. He set out on a second journey to re-collect them. See the documentary video Gurdjieff in Egypt.
In his travels Gurdjieff visited many monasteries, some of which were Sufi. He also spoke with many learned beings, some of whom were Sufi. He had a great respect for the Sufis and it would seem likely that he may have been initiated into several of their orders. A selection of the music he introduced was Sufi in origin. This, however, does not mean he was a Sufi. He had already found the principles and ideas of a Christianity before Christ and was only looking for elements of this prehistoric esoteric teaching that had migrated northward over time.
The Fourth Way teaching predating all teachings and religions, it is not surprising that there would be similarities to Sufism, as well as other approaches. For a discussion of Sufism as it relates to The Fourth Way, see "Neo-Sufism: The Case of Idries Shah."
Having the true principles and ideas of the teaching, he was then able to reformulate these elements into a practical and powerful teaching for modern mentality. He called it The Fourth Way.