Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 82 Commandments For Living


Cre­ative Com­mons pho­to by Lionel Allorge

If you’re a fan of sci­ence fic­tion or the films of David Lynch, you’ve sure­ly seen the 1984 film adap­ta­tion of Frank Herbert’s cult clas­sic sci-fi nov­el, Dune (though Lynch him­self may pre­fer that you didn’t). And indeed, it’s very like­ly that, by now, you’ve heard the incred­i­ble sto­ry of what Dune might have been, had it been direct­ed ten years ear­li­er by psy­che­del­ic Chilean film­mak­er, writer, com­pos­er, and psy­chother­a­pist Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky. Per­haps you even caught Jonathan Crow’s post on this site fea­tur­ing Jodorowsky’s pro­posed storyboards—drawn by French artist Moebius—for what would most cer­tain­ly would have been “a mind-bog­gling­ly grand epic” of a movie. Alas, Jodorowsky’s Dune nev­er came about, though it did lat­er lead to the doc­u­men­tary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which Matt Zoller Seitz pro­nounced “a call to arms for dream­ers every­where.”

That descrip­tion applies not only to the film about a film that could have been, but also to the entire­ty of Jodorowsky’s work, includ­ing his—thoroughly bizarre and captivating—early fea­tures, El Topo and The Holy Moun­tain, and the cre­ation of a com­ic book uni­verse like no oth­er. Called “The Jodoverse,” the world of his com­ic books is, as writer War­ren Ellis says, “aston­ish­ing­ly beau­ti­ful and total­ly mad”—again, a suc­cinct descrip­tion of Jodorowsky’s every artis­tic endeav­or. Wit­ness below, for exam­ple, the stun­ning trail­er for his most recent fea­ture film, 2014’s The Dance of Real­i­ty. You may find the visu­al excess­es so over­whelm­ing that you only half-hear the nar­ra­tion.

Lis­ten (or read) care­ful­ly, how­ev­er. Jodor­owsky has as much to tell us with his cryp­ti­cal­ly poet­ic pro­nounce­ments as he does with his vision­ary imagery. Do you find his epi­grams plat­i­tudi­nous, sen­ten­tious, Pollyan­naish, or naïve? Jodor­owsky doesn’t mind. He calls, remem­ber, to the dream­ers, not the hard-bit­ten, cyn­i­cal real­ists. And if you’re one of the dream­ers who hears that call, you’ll find much to love in the list below of Jodorowsky’s 82 Com­mand­ments for liv­ing. But so too, I think, will the real­ists. These come from Jodorowsky’s mem­oir The Spir­i­tu­al Jour­ney of Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, and the list comes via Dan­ger­ous Minds, who adapt­ed it from “the bet­ter part of three pages” of text.

As Jodor­owsky frames these max­ims in his book, they orig­i­nat­ed with influ­en­tial Russ­ian mys­tic George Gur­d­ji­eff, and were told to him by Gurdjieff’s daugh­ter, Rey­na d’Assia. Per­haps that’s so. But you’ll note, if you know Jodorowsky’s writing—or sim­ply took a cou­ple min­utes time to watch the trail­er above—that they sound enough like the author’s own words to have been brought forth from his per­son­al store­house of accu­mu­lat­ed wis­dom. In any case, Jodor­owsky has always been quick to acknowl­edge his spir­i­tu­al teach­ers, and whether these are his sec­ond-hand accounts of Gur­d­ji­eff or his own inven­tions has no bear­ing on the sub­stance there­in.

Often sound­ing very much like Bib­li­cal proverbs or Bud­dhist pre­cepts, the com­mand­ments are intend­ed, d’Assia says in Jodorowsky’s account, to help us “change [our] habits, con­quer lazi­ness, and become… moral­ly sound human being[s].” As she remarks in the book, before she deliv­ers the below in a lengthy mono­logue, “to be strong in the great things, we must also be strong in the small ones.” There­fore…

  1. Ground your atten­tion on your­self. Be con­scious at every moment of what you are think­ing, sens­ing, feel­ing, desir­ing, and doing.
  2. Always fin­ish what you have begun.
  3. What­ev­er you are doing, do it as well as pos­si­ble.
  4. Do not become attached to any­thing that can destroy you in the course of time.
  5. Devel­op your gen­eros­i­ty ‒ but secret­ly.
  6. Treat every­one as if he or she was a close rel­a­tive.
  7. Orga­nize what you have dis­or­ga­nized.
  8. Learn to receive and give thanks for every gift.
  9. Stop defin­ing your­self.
  10. Do not lie or steal, for you lie to your­self and steal from your­self.
  11. Help your neigh­bor, but do not make him depen­dent.
  12. Do not encour­age oth­ers to imi­tate you.
  13. Make work plans and accom­plish them.
  14. Do not take up too much space.
  15. Make no use­less move­ments or sounds.
  16. If you lack faith, pre­tend to have it.
  17. Do not allow your­self to be impressed by strong per­son­al­i­ties.
  18. Do not regard any­one or any­thing as your pos­ses­sion.
  19. Share fair­ly.
  20. Do not seduce.
  21. Sleep and eat only as much as nec­es­sary.
  22. Do not speak of your per­son­al prob­lems.
  23. Do not express judg­ment or crit­i­cism when you are igno­rant of most of the fac­tors involved.
  24. Do not estab­lish use­less friend­ships.
  25. Do not fol­low fash­ions.
  26. Do not sell your­self.
  27. Respect con­tracts you have signed.
  28. Be on time.
  29. Nev­er envy the luck or suc­cess of any­one.
  30. Say no more than nec­es­sary.
  31. Do not think of the prof­its your work will engen­der.
  32. Nev­er threat­en any­one.
  33. Keep your promis­es.
  34. In any dis­cus­sion, put your­self in the oth­er person’s place.
  35. Admit that some­one else may be supe­ri­or to you.
  36. Do not elim­i­nate, but trans­mute.
  37. Con­quer your fears, for each of them rep­re­sents a cam­ou­flaged desire.
  38. Help oth­ers to help them­selves.
  39. Con­quer your aver­sions and come clos­er to those who inspire rejec­tion in you.
  40. Do not react to what oth­ers say about you, whether praise or blame.
  41. Trans­form your pride into dig­ni­ty.
  42. Trans­form your anger into cre­ativ­i­ty.
  43. Trans­form your greed into respect for beau­ty.
  44. Trans­form your envy into admi­ra­tion for the val­ues of the oth­er.
  45. Trans­form your hate into char­i­ty.
  46. Nei­ther praise nor insult your­self.
  47. Regard what does not belong to you as if it did belong to you.
  48. Do not com­plain.
  49. Devel­op your imag­i­na­tion.
  50. Nev­er give orders to gain the sat­is­fac­tion of being obeyed.
  51. Pay for ser­vices per­formed for you.
  52. Do not pros­e­ly­tize your work or ideas.
  53. Do not try to make oth­ers feel for you emo­tions such as pity, admi­ra­tion, sym­pa­thy, or com­plic­i­ty.
  54. Do not try to dis­tin­guish your­self by your appear­ance.
  55. Nev­er con­tra­dict; instead, be silent.
  56. Do not con­tract debts; acquire and pay imme­di­ate­ly.
  57. If you offend some­one, ask his or her par­don; if you have offend­ed a per­son pub­licly, apol­o­gize pub­licly.
  58. When you real­ize you have said some­thing that is mis­tak­en, do not per­sist in error through pride; instead, imme­di­ate­ly retract it.
  59. Nev­er defend your old ideas sim­ply because you are the one who expressed them.
  60. Do not keep use­less objects.
  61. Do not adorn your­self with exot­ic ideas.
  62. Do not have your pho­to­graph tak­en with famous peo­ple.
  63. Jus­ti­fy your­self to no one, and keep your own coun­sel.
  64. Nev­er define your­self by what you pos­sess.
  65. Nev­er speak of your­self with­out con­sid­er­ing that you might change.
  66. Accept that noth­ing belongs to you.
  67. When some­one asks your opin­ion about some­thing or some­one, speak only of his or her qual­i­ties.
  68. When you become ill, regard your ill­ness as your teacher, not as some­thing to be hat­ed.
  69. Look direct­ly, and do not hide your­self.
  70. Do not for­get your dead, but accord them a lim­it­ed place and do not allow them to invade your life.
  71. Wher­ev­er you live, always find a space that you devote to the sacred.
  72. When you per­form a ser­vice, make your effort incon­spic­u­ous.
  73. If you decide to work to help oth­ers, do it with plea­sure.
  74. If you are hes­i­tat­ing between doing and not doing, take the risk of doing.
  75. Do not try to be every­thing to your spouse; accept that there are things that you can­not give him or her but which oth­ers can.
  76. When some­one is speak­ing to an inter­est­ed audi­ence, do not con­tra­dict that per­son and steal his or her audi­ence.
  77. Live on mon­ey you have earned.
  78. Nev­er brag about amorous adven­tures.
  79. Nev­er glo­ri­fy your weak­ness­es.
  80. Nev­er vis­it some­one only to pass the time.
  81. Obtain things in order to share them.
  82. If you are med­i­tat­ing and a dev­il appears, make the dev­il med­i­tate too.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Moe­bius’ Sto­ry­boards & Con­cept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

Mœbius & Jodorowsky’s Sci-Fi Mas­ter­piece, The Incal, Brought to Life in a Tan­ta­liz­ing Ani­ma­tion

Moe­bius Gives 18 Wis­dom-Filled Tips to Aspir­ing Artists (1996)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (6)
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  • Sadia says:

    Some of these com­mand­ments are very sim­i­lar to Sufi ideas and beliefs. Did he have a Sufi back­ground or influ­ence in his life?

  • Pustulio Rules says:

    Some rules are made to bro­ken :*

  • Fiacre says:

    Jodor­owsky was involved with Oscar Icha­zo’s Ari­ca Insti­tute, which was influ­enced (per­haps indi­rect­ly) by the work of G.I. Gur­d­ji­eff. That may explain the Sufi influ­ence you see. If mem­o­ry serves, he took the ini­tial course at the insti­tute and had all the cast and crew take it also before shoot­ing The Holy Moun­tain.

  • Bruce James Clyde says:

    If you can find a free herb, whose sage advice is available…eat there­of, and par­don indi­ges­tion…

  • Sam says:

    Fiacre- I actu­al­ly came across this exact list of advice, cred­it­ed to Gur­d­ji­eff. So who knows where this list actu­al­ly comes from.

  • Anonym says:

    These are not Jodor­owsky’s com­mand­ments, but Gur­d­ji­ef­f’s. Wrong title

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