GURDJIEFF: LIFE AND CONTROVERSY
A critical investigation of a subject who inspired a partisan movement and also much controversy. Gurdjieff has been diversely described as an occultist, a hypnotist, a mystic, a holistic philosopher, and a charlatan.
G. I. Gurdjieff, New York 1924
2. Biographical Factors
3. From Moscow to Constantinople
4. The Carpet Dealer
5. Chateau du Prieure (the Priory)
6. Dr. Young Rejects an Experiment
7. The Issue of Hypnotism
8. New York, Alfred Orage, and Rom Landau
9. Surviving the Second World War
10. P. D. Ouspensky and the System
11. The Philosophical Issue
12. Gurdjieff Versus Aleister Crowley
14. Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'
16. Beelzebub's Tales
17. An "unknown teaching"
18. Development not possible for all
19. The Fourth Way
Georgii Ivanovich Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949) has met with very diverse assessments. In what follows, I will attempt a summary of some biographical features. (1) I have never been a follower of Gurdjieff, and am not committed to defending him where flaws can be detected. In my opinion, an effort to penetrate basic events needs to be conducted outside the antipodal gamut of enthusiast and repudiatory approaches. (2) The bibliographic complement is substantial, (3) and a web article cannot be exhaustive in that respect.
Some critical arguments can amount to: Gurdjieff was charismatic, with an eccentric personality, and his writings are bizarre; therefore, he never said or did anything of relevance. This angle is not convincing. More difficult to overlook is the factor of unpredictability. Gurdjieff often exhibited disconcerting behaviour, and was known to speak or write exaggeratedly to produce an effect. In 1919 he promoted at Tbilisi (in Georgia) his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. In a prospectus, he claimed that his agenda was already operative in cities such as Bombay, Kabul, Alexandria, New York, Chicago, Stockholm, Moscow, and Essentuki (Ouspensky, Search, p. 381). This was very misleading. His teaching had gained a foothold in Moscow and Essentuki, but had not yet reached the other places, insofar as is known.
Many of the critical reactions occurring during Gurdjieff's lifetime were distorting. In the 1920s, the negative image of a "black magician" was created by the press. After his decease, Gurdjieff was wrongly portrayed by a French critic as influencing Nazi ideology (Pauwels, Monsieur Gurdjieff). Other writers created a myth that the subject was identical with a "secret agent" working in Tibet and Russia, namely Aghwan Dordjieff (Landau, God is My Adventure). More ingeniously, Gurdjieff became identified with another "secret agent," Ushe Narzunoff (Webb, The Harmonious Circle), a theory since discredited. Clearly, more care must be exercised in charting the nature of events.
A recent commentator has emphasised the shortcomings in partisan literature. "Writings about Gurdjieff... are often replete with erroneous dates and movements, speculations based on hearsay evidence, and, unfortunately, pure invention." Professor Taylor here refers to the well known memoirs (e.g., Bennett, Nott, and Peters), and also the two biographies by James Webb and James Moore. Taylor comments:
"Unfortunately, the number of lacunae, contradictions and speculations that mark the greater part of these accounts confuse more than inform. Though James Moore cautiously called Gurdjieff's own account of his early life, 1866(?)-1912, 'auto-mythology,' he and other writers on Gurdjieff's life seem to have mythologised the whole of his life.... In fact, much written on Gurdjieff's life after 1912 is pure invention, in some instances speculation paraded as fact. The unwary reader who would trust [partisan] accounts is led into perpetuating error." (Paul Beekman Taylor, Inventors of Gurdjieff)
This challenging diagnosis marks a radical departure. The partisan accounts here become a subjective minefield of opinions and uncertainties, attending facts that require resolution. According to Taylor, "the factual accuracy of recollections by Gurdjieff's pupils are always suspect, since each pupil sees his relationship to the man subjectively. With rare exceptions, those who write from a pupil's point of view either invent a privileged relationship with Gurdjieff or exaggerate the actual one" (article linked above). (4)
There is a huge problem, scarcely possible to overstate, with regard to Gurdjieff's own version of his life. According to Taylor, "whatever Gurdjieff has said of himself is parable; he invented himself.... he was wont to say that truth is served best by lies, and by lies he meant stories that objectify meanings unperceived by those who think they can grasp fact" (article linked above). In the face of such implications, Gurdjieff's "storytelling" has nevertheless been interpreted in terms of biographical data. The pitfalls are very obvious. We know very little about his early life. My own recourse here is to follow through some partisan associations, but in terms of factors, not facts. The pre-1912 phase is largely a blank in terms of clearly confirmed detail.
2. Biographical Factors
Georgii Ivanovich Gurdjieff was born in the Greek quarter of Alexandropol, a Russian garrison town in Armenia, and near the borderline of Anatolia (Turkey). He has been described as an Armenian Greek, a half-Armenian, and also as a Greco-Armenian. His mother was an Armenian, and his father a Greek. The date of birth has been urged by two major biographers (Moore and Taylor) as 1866. The date of 1872 has also been favoured. The contrasting date of 1877 has frequently found currency, being based on a passport; however, the subject resorted to several passports with conflicting birthdates (Moore, 1991, pp. 339-40). We can be quite certain that Alexandropol was renamed Leninakan in subsequent decades, and is today known as Gumri.
Armenia was a southern zone in the mountain country of Caucasia (the Caucasus). To the north were Georgia and Daghestan, and to the east was Azerbaijan. The almost bewildering ethnic diversity of Caucasia meant that the Armenians were only one segment of the population. Numerous languages and local dialects were represented. Some reports say that over eighty languages existed in this region during the nineteenth century; many of these have since vanished. A strong Turkic presence should be emphasised in terms of a population density. The Armenian presence dates back to the sixth century BCE, evolving a high degree of urban culture, and being associated with the ancient kingdom of Urartu. (5) However, it is relevant to understand that in such antiquity, Armenia was a province of the Achaemenian and Parthian empire phases extending from Iran.(6)
Alexandropol was also the name of the surrounding province (Aleksandrapol), which was largely Armenian in terms of ethnic substrate, though a minority of Kurds and Azeris (Azeri Turks, often identified as Azerbaijanis, and not to be confused with Ottoman Turks) existed in the south-eastern pocket at the time of the 1896 Imperial (Russian) Census. This situation contrasted markedly with that of Erivan province, named after the old city, a major urban centre in Armenia. At the end of the nineteenth century, only 37% of the population in Erivan province was Armenian. (7) Over half (53%) was Azeri, meaning the Turkic people who were descendants of the Oghuz Turkmen (alias the Black Sheep Turkmen), a phenomenon originally allied with the Mongol wave during the fourteenth century, and so strongly associated with the city of Tabriz, located to the south in Iran. In addition, 8% were Kurds, both settled and nomadic, a distinctive tribal people who could also be found in Iran and Anatolia.
l to r: Giorgios Giorgiades; Gurdjieffand petsat Olghniki, 1917
Gurdjieff's Greek father was Giorgios Giorgiades, a cattle herdsman who exercised the additional vocation of a bardic poet or ashokh. "He rehearsed through chapped lips his phenomenal repertoire of folklore, myth and legend" (Moore, 1991, p. 9). The antiquity underlying his form of existence can be associated with the oral process that preserved and elaborated the Homeric epics over centuries. Giorgiades spoke a Cappadocian dialect and also the Turkic language employed by the ashokhs.The Turkic oral tradition was a strong factor here (associated with the Azerbaijani dialect spoken by Azeris, deriving from the old milieux of the eclipsed Khanates). It is scarcely possible to understand Gurdjieff without reference to the antique Caucasian scene and cultural convergences. One of the texts with which he became familiar was the Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient literary artefact associated with Uruk in Mesopotamia, and dating back to the early second millenium BCE. (8) This text was apparently a strong early influence upon him.
Reared to beliefs of Armenian Christianity, Gurdjieff was also exposed to elements of Islamic culture via the Turkic repertory. On some evenings, his father "would tell him stories of Mullah Nassr Eddin, or of the One Thousand and One Nights, and especially of Mustapha the Lame Carpenter, an embodiment of resourcefulness who could make anything" (Moore, 1991, p. 9). Mulla Nassr Eddin (Nasruddin) has been described as the wise fool of Turkic folklore, a humorous figure associated to some extent with Sufism. The adult Gurdjieff was to employ sayings of Nasr Eddin in his writings, though he is thought to have "largely invented or adapted" these (ibid., p. 348).
"In his autobiography Meetings with Remarkable Men, Gurdjieff confides an impressionistic version of his early manhood, unrolling the lands of Transcaucasia and Central Asia before us, even while he hints at a parallel geography of man's psyche and the route he followed to penetrate it. Well and good on the level of essential meaning. Yet judged by more straight-laced historical criteria the book is unhelpful. The disciplined biographic mind stands aghast at its contradictions and omissions... frequently enough the entire narrative disappears over the rim of some telling allegory." (Moore, Gurdjieff: A Biography, p. 24)
The British biographer James Moore chose as his sub-title The Anatomy of a Myth. In the process, he made clear that his subject's "four impressionistic accounts... are innocent of consistency, Aristotelian logic and chronological discipline; notoriously problematical are 'the missing twenty years' from 1887 to 1907" (ibid., p. 319).
It is easy to credit that Giorgiades suffered the loss of his large cattle herd due to a plague. The conditions of life in Caucasia were frequently harsh. The pater resorted to a lumber yard, which failed; he then changed to a carpentry shop for a meagre livelihood. Giorgiades decided to move about forty miles away to Kars, the border town in Anatolia (perhaps shortly after the Russians had captured that citadel from the Ottoman Sultan in 1877). While Giorgiades continued his carpentry shop in the Greek quarter, his son gained a further education. The local Christian schools were unsatisfactory, though his parents wished Gurdjieff to become a priest. Private tuition was arranged in secular subjects like mathematics and chemistry. In extension, the keen student resorted to the library of Kars military hospital, and subsequently claimed to have read all the books on neuropathology and psychology.
From his parents Gurdjieff had learned Armenian and a Cappadocian dialect of Greek; he was also acquainted, via his father, with the "Turko-Tartar" dialect employed by the ashokh oral tradition. He later acquired familiarity with modern Greek from a refugee priest. Gurdjieff gleaned the Russian language from soldiers, and the Kars milieu enabled his assimilation of Osmanli Turkish. One biographer says that he "grew up communicating easily in all the local languages, including Greek andTurkish" (Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage, p. x). Yet he appears to have spoken Russian and Turkish imperfectly even in later years.
His family was poor, and he tried to compensate for this. The young Gurdjieff occasionally journeyed back from Kars by mail-coach to Alexandropol, where at the home of his uncle, "he set feverishly to work mending locks, repairing watches, shaping stone, and even embroidering cushions" (Moore, 1991, p. 16). This would explain his tendency in later years to industry and improvisation of a practical kind. Ouspensky wrote that Gurdjieff "was an extraordinarily versatile man; he knew everything and could do everything" (In Search of the Miraculous, p. 34).
Circa 1883 he moved to Tiflis, the capital of Georgia; his father wanted him to join the famous theological seminary in that city, but Gurdjieff was disconcerted by what he considered an arid formalism. Instead, at the age of seventeen, he took casual work as a stoker with the Transcaucasian Railway Company. By now, he was despairing of finding due explanations in science for matters elusive to materialist thought. In a religious mood, he studied for three months at the Christian monastery of Sanaine, and made a laborious pilgrimage on foot to the Armenian sacred city of Echmiadzin. Yet these resorts proved unsatisfying, and the mental turmoil continued.
Both religion and science had failed him. The only answer seemed to lie in the past, via bookshops. He and his close friends investigated traditions like Pythagoreanism, Kabbalism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. He visited Constantinople in order to study the Mevlevi and Bektashi dervishes of Sufism. Retiring to the deserted ruins of Ani, an old Armenian capital, he purportedly found ancient Armenian parchments, one of which referred to the "Sarmoung Brotherhood," supposedly existing in the sixth/seventh centuries CE. He came to believe that this community still existed. The basic intention behind the story was evidently to indicate his link with an esoteric tradition believed to derive from ancient Mesopotamia.
His book Meetings with Remarkable Men has been described as "semi-fictional" (Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage, p. x). According to this uncertain account, Gurdjieff joined the "Seekers After Truth," a grouping who travelled extensively between Egypt and Tibet.His quest for the Sarmoung gained legendary proportions. "His itinerary is impossible to confirm or even to discern with perfect clarity, but he certainly tramped through deserts and rocky wastes and made 'journeys to inaccessible places' " (Moore, 1991, p. 26). This pursuit lasted for many years and required funding; his account has been suspected of embellishments in the effort to underline such an independent career.
"He deals shrewdly in antiques, Oriental carpets and Chinese cloisonné; he services sewing machines and typewriters; trades in oil-wells and pickled herrings; cures drug addicts and psychosomatic patients by hypnotism; opens restaurants, works them up, and sells them; remodels corsets; poses as a sword-swallower; and even paints sparrows, offloading them as 'American canaries' " (Moore, Gurdjieff: A Biography, pp. 26-7).
Gurdjieff relates that, along with a companion, he gained access to the major Sarmoung monastery, to which he attributed his deepest inspiration and also the sacred dances he later instigated. A provisional dateline for this event is 1898-9. Access was purportedly achieved (while blindfolded) via a twelve day mounted trek from Bukhara, the Islamic city in Central Asia which had fallen to Russian rule. A link with Sufism is implied, following on from the investigations at Constantinople. The Sarmoung story has been interpreted by some in a literal manner, and by others as an allegory. "The allegorists, perhaps more adroitly, construe Gurdjieff's entire monastery story symbolically, beginning with a wayside episode involving a dangerous rope bridge over a deep gorge" (Moore, 1991, p. 31).
He also claimed to have visited Tibet, an episode which has been allocated to 1901-2. "For a year or more he lingered in Upper Tibet, preoccupied with the 'Red Hat' lamas. He studied the Tibetan language, ritual, dance, medicine, and above all psychic techniques. Long years afterwards he would fan the rumour that he took a wife in Tibet and fathered two children there" (ibid., p. 33). He returned to Tibet not long after, and seems to have reacted strongly to the British incursion led by Colonel (Sir) Francis Younghusband; in 1904, the British guns afflicted 700 poorly equipped Tibetan soldiers in a ninety-second volley. Gurdjieff does not mention the massacre at Guru, and understates by complaining about the shooting of only one man, a lama associated with the lineage of Padma Sambhava. The Nyingmapa tradition of Lamaism is here implied.
Despite Gurdjieff's strong association with both Sufi dervish and Tibetan Buddhist environments, the biographer Paul Beekman Taylor has duly stressed the lack of evidence that Gurdjieff ever appeared as a Muslim or a Buddhist. Gurdjieff has been confused with "secret agents" of a political background, including Lama Aghwan Dordjieff. One story credits him as being a collector of monastic revenue for the Dalai Lama, but this scenario arose from the imagination of Alfred Orage in the 1920s.
Moving on from Tibet to other places, Gurdjieff is strongly associated with Tashkent, the Uzbek stronghold in Central Asia acquired by the conquering Russians. He advertised himself as a hypnotist with the ability to cure alcoholism, drug addiction, and sexual disorders. Plus other specialities in the supernatural. "His venue certainly was appropriate. In Old Tashkent the effects of opium and hashish were harrowingly evident and in New Tashkent vodka was a curse" (Moore, 1991, p. 37). The Russians of New Tashkent were not only addicted to vodka, but to Spiritualist seances and Theosophy. Gurdjieff was averse to both Spiritualism and Theosophy, and apparently regarded himself as a rival. According to his own report, he had earlier vowed to renounce the practice of hypnotism, which he perceived as a danger, except in the pursuit of scientific and altruistic ends.It was Asian hypnotism that he studied, and this subject is associated with his interest in Tibetan and Mongolian medicine.
3. From Moscow to Constantinople
In moving to the big cities of Western Russia, the subject's career gainsmore tangibility. In 1912, Gurdjieff arrived in Moscow; his own report claims that he was a wealthy man by this time, and possessing two valuable collections of rare carpets and porcelain/Chinese cloisonné. He was soon active in St. Petersburg (Petrograd; later Leningrad), where that same year he married or partnered Julia Ostrowska (d. 1926), a Polish woman of humble background and half his age. She proved loyal to him until her death. Gurdjieff made her the chief participant in the "sacred dance" activity that he inaugurated.
l to r: P. D. Ouspensky; Gurdjieff
The major intellectual disciple was Piotr D. Ouspensky, a Russian who first heard of Gurdjieff in 1914, finding a newspaper advert referring to a ballet scenario entitled The Struggle of the Magicians, belonging to a "Hindu." He subsequently discovered that the Hindu was a "Caucasian Greek," namely Gurdjieff. Ouspensky was at first dismissive of the Caucasian, whom he learned was the leader of a group in Moscow which conducted paranormal investigations. He assumed that Gurdjieff was just another occultist, of whom there were many at that time, influenced by Theosophy and other interests. He only agreed to meet the Caucasian after persistent persuasion (Ouspensky, Search, pp. 6-7).
This situation amounted to the fact that Gurdjieff was "an unfashionable provincial" (Moore, Gurdjieff, p. 81), whereas Ouspensky was a published author and metropolitan lecturer with an increasing status amongst the Russian literati. The venue of their meeting was a small café in a noisy backstreet of Moscow. The date was 1915. Gurdjieff wore a black overcoat and bowler hat. Ouspensky subsequently wrote:
"My first meeting with him entirely changed my opinion of him.... I saw a man of an oriental type, no longer young, with a black moustache and piercing eyes, who astonished me first of all because he seemed to be disguised and entirely out of keeping with the place and its atmosphere.... He spoke Russian incorrectly with a strong Caucasian accent; and this accent, with which we are accustomed to associate anything apart from philosophical ideas, strengthened still further the strangeness and the unexpectedness." (In Search of the Miraculous, p. 7)
Ouspensky became Gurdjieff's pupil. The latter requested a thousand roubles from each pupil; this was regarded as exorbitant by outsiders.Yet "in practice he never refused anybody on the grounds that they had no money. And it was found out later that he even supported many of his pupils" (Search, p. 166). At a later period, Gurdjieff said that only "one and a half persons paid" the specified amount (ibid., p. 371).
In 1916, a group was formed in St. Petersburg, over three hundred miles from Moscow, including Ouspensky and his wife Sophie, the engineer Anthony Charkovsky, the musician Anna Butkovsky, the psychiatrist Leonid Stjoernval, the mathematician Andrei Zaharoff, and the composer Thomas de Hartmann. A basic teaching of Gurdjieff was thatman is mechanical and effectively asleep in relation to real life. Most men cannot develop or progress, he maintained.The First World War (1914-18) had started, and during the first few months of that carnage, four million Russian peasant soldiers lost their lives in the lethal struggle against German artillery and sophisticated gunpower. Many of the peasants had no guns, but only improvised bayonets. The Ottoman Turks were another problem; when they retreated from the Russian advance, they resorted to elimination of all Armenians in their territory. The Turkish government enjoined genocide, and the mandate was: "Without pity for women, children, and invalids, however tragic the methods of extermination may be, without heeding any scruples of conscience, their existence must be terminated" (cited in Moore, 1991, p. 84).
Gurdjieff became based at Petrograd, and his group increased to thirty strong. In 1917, he retreated from Russia and settled at Essentuki, a town slightly north of the Caucasus. A small group of pupils were invited to his villa from Moscow and Petrogad. These included Ouspensky, who was disconcerted several weeks later when Gurdjieff dispersed the group in August and moved with a few other companions to the Black Sea coast (staying at places like Tuapse and Olghniki). The civil war between the White Russians and Bolshevik revolutionaries eventually percolated this zone. Gurdjieff returned to Essentuki early in 1918, furthering a new phase of discipline, and summoning about forty pupils from the former Moscow and Petrograd groups. There was a new emphasis on "sacred gymnastics" or dance. This and other factors did not suit Ouspensky, who withdrew in a dissident mood.
At this time Gurdjieff had many people becoming dependent upon him. His group at Essentuki swelled to some eighty-five diverse pupils, refugees, and relatives. There was an overflow in neighbouring Piatigorsk. Some of these people faced destitution. Gurdjieff provided food and clothing via strategies such as selling a bale of silk. Money and food were becoming scarce in the chaos of revolutionary Russia (see further de Hartmann, Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff; Taylor, G. I. Gurdjieff: A New Life).
In May 1918, the invading Ottoman Turks shot Gurdjieff's father Giorgiades at Alexandropol; the harmless old man, over eighty years old, had declined to leave for Essentuki, though the rest of the family got clear. By July of 1918, Gurdjieff perceived that the situation at Essentuki was extremely grave, being in fresh peril from the civil war. Not all of his group foresaw the dangers of a subsequent "reign of terror" created by Bolsheviks. Thomas de Hartmann (an officer in the Imperial Rifles) was a case in point, complaining that his wife Olga was too tired to move on. Gurdjieff was unrelenting in his new decision to leave. Had the tired couple remained, "with other Guards officers he [de Hartmann] would have been forced to dig his own grave, then shot and covered with earth alive or dead" (Moore, 1991, p. 113).
Gurdjieff carefully planned the daring departure, which occurred in August. His resourcefulness was considerable, even if the travelling party was relatively small. Many of his associates wished to stay behind. He spread the story that his party would be undertaking an archaeological field study and prospecting for alluvial gold. He actually requested the Bolsheviks (or Soviets) for equipment, and they complied, despite severe shortages. This episode became dramatic when the party of fifteen arrived by rail at Maikop, a town surrounded by warring "White army" Cossacks and "Red army" Bolshevik forces. The Cossacks were victorious, and their military general conducted court martials and hangings in an anti-Bolshevik purge. Gurdjieff then adroitly moved over to the Cossack side, though a few days later the Bolshevik army retaliated with a vengeance, and secured Maikop. Gurdjieff and his party escaped the havoc just in time, with only a day to spare.
Five times thereafter, this tense expedition across the Caucasus had to cross army lines southwards. The problem was to identify which army the sentries and scouts represented. This distinction was crucial. Gurdjieff would twirl his right moustachio as a sign for his companions to produce White papers and conformable manners. If he moved his left moustachio, this meant that Bolshevik papers had to be revealed and peasant manners demonstrated.
Eventually, in October the party reached the port of Sochi, which had been taken by the Georgian republicans. However, the majority of Gurdjieff's companions defected, including Andrei Zaharoff. In this confusion, some journeyed to Kiev, and others moved back to Maikop and Essentuki in a reverse feat. With only five companions, in January 1919 Gurdjieff embarked on a voyage south to Poti in Georgia, and from there he took a train to Tiflis. The five accompanying persons were his wife Julia, Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, and Dr. Leonid Stjoernval (a psychiatrist) and his wife Elizabeta.
There was purpose in this difficult flight south. Georgia was subject to very different political conditions in the wake of a Georgian nationalism consolidating in 1917. The new social democracy, or Menshevik republic, was not afflicted with civil war. Tiflis had been renamed Tbilisi, and Gurdjieff was very familiar with this city via his activities there in former years. Adjoining the Russian quarter was Old Tiflis, where the "Tartar" (Azeri) bazaar was still much the same, being an Asiatic scene where women were veiled and traders did things in the old way. Gurdjieff made a beeline for this locale, being in desperate need of money. His knowledge of rugs and carpets enabled him to resurrect his fortunes, in a productive economic avenue contrasting with the depression found elsewhere in Caucasia. Not only that, but Dr. Stjoernval was able to create a new practice in the Russian quarter, while Thomas de Hartmann became a professor of music at a local academy.
At Tbilisi, Gurdjieff created his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. The founding members were the de Hartmanns, Dr. Stjoernval, and two new pupils, namely Alexandre and Jeanne de Salzmann. Alexandre was a Russian artist, and his wife was a French musician. Jeanne was reared in Geneva, and established her own school of music based on the Dalcroze system. She was a talented dancer, and assisted Gurdjieff with the first public demonstration of his distinctive "sacred dances" at Tbilisi Opera House that same year of 1919. She left a retrospective description of Gurdjieff:
"He had an expression I had never seen, and an intelligence, a force, that was different, not the usual intelligence of the thinking mind.... He was, at the same time, both kind and very, very demanding.... The impression he gave of himself was never the same.... You might think you knew Gurdjieff very well, but then he would act quite differently, and you would see that you did not really know him." (de Salzmann, The Reality of Being, p. 1)
Gurdjieff interviewed all applicants to his Institute. One of these was a young aristocratic lady (born in Montenegro, a kingdom in the Balkans) who had married a Russian architect. Olgivanna Hinzenberg (1898-1985) said that she wanted immortality, and that her servants looked after her. Gurdjieff told her to dispense with servants, and to do everything herself. "You must work, make effort, for immortality" (Moore, 1991, p. 134). She complied, and became a leading performer in the "sacred dance" activity at Tbilisi.
Another new contact at this time was the British traveller and writer Carl E. Bechofer-Roberts (1894-1949), who did not become a follower. A book he authored, namely In Denikin's Russia (1921), included an account of his association with Gurdjieff at Tbilisi.
"He [Gurdjieff] claims to have spent much of his life in Thibet [sic], Chitral, and India, and generally in Eastern monasteries.... No one could be in his company for many minutes without being impressed by the force of his personality.... There was no denying his extraordinary all-round intelligence.... The dances, he declared, were based on movements and gestures which had been handed down by tradition and paintings in Thibetan monasteries where he had been." (text in Journey Through Georgia)
Meanwhile, Ouspensky survived the oppressive Bolshevik occupation of Essentuki by resorting to identity as a "Soviet librarian." In January 1919, he and others were set free by the triumphant Cossacks, but in June he moved to other places like Rostov. There he met Zaharoff, who had arrived from Kiev, and who was in a negative frame of mind concerning Gurdjieff. Talking with Ouspensky convinced Zaharoff that he had been wrong to move at a tangent. Zaharoff resolved to contact Gurdjieff at Tbilisi, but by now had contracted smallpox; in January 1920, he met a miserable death in the bloodstained ruins of Novorossiysk. Soon afterwards, Ouspensky departed for Constantinople (Search, pp. 381-2).
In 1920, the conditions in Georgia were threatened. Refugees arrived in Tbilisi with grim accounts of the Bolshevik victory to the north. The national independence of Georgia grew precarious. Southwards, the Turks again invaded Armenia in January, destroying Baytar, where Gurdjieff's sister Anna and most of her family were killed in a massacre. Only one of her children (Valentin, or Valia) escaped, and he reported that the Turks had raped his mother. Savage nationalism has since repeated in too many instances, abundantly proving that the worst beasts on the planet are men, and that the standard of their education is frequently nil. Valia was rescued by the Bolsheviks, and eventually managed to reach Tbilisi, about a hundred and fifty miles away, though the baby he took with him died (Luba Gurdjieff: A Memoir, p. 18). The boy afterwards became one of Gurdjieff's entourage.
Gurdjieff had already moved on, leading a party of thirty people on foot (in the heat of May) to the Black Sea port of Batoum, from where they voyaged to Constantinople (Istanbul). In desperation, Ouspensky had independently arrived at the same Turkish city a few months earlier. Gurdjieff stayed in this location for just over a year, in the European quarter of Pera.
One of those who encountered him at this juncture was Captain John G. Bennett, then the leader of a British Intelligence unit. Bennett discovered that local gossip was depicting Gurdjieff as a great linguist, a convert to Islam, and the representative of a Nestorian sect. Bennett ascertained the truth, which annulled the gossip.
"His linguistic attainments stopped short near the Caspian Sea, so that we could converse only with difficulty in a mixture of Azerbaidjan Tartar and Osmanli Turkish. Nevertheless, he unmistakeably possessed knowledge very different from that of the itinerant Sheikhs of Persia and Trans-Caspia, whose arrival in Constantinople had been preceded by similar rumours. It was, above all, astonishing to meet a man, almost unacquainted with any Western European language, possessing a working knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology and modern astronomy, and able to make searching comments on the new and fashionable theory of relativity [associated with Einstein], and also on the psychology of Sigmund Freud" (cited in Munson, Black Sheep Philosophers).
Bennett also left a description of the subject at this time. "He was powerfully built - his neck rippled with muscles - and although of only medium height, he was physically dominating. He had a shaven dome, an unlined swarthy face, piercing black eyes, and a tigerish moustache that curled out to big points" (Munson, article cited).
Constantinople was flooded with Russian refugees at that time. A reconcilement occurred between Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. The latter had gained his own group of Russian students, which expanded to some thirty people, whom he now generously allocated to Gurdjieff.The latter often visited Ouspensky at the island of Prinkipo. Together they visited the bazaars and also the Mevlevi dervishes. "He (Gurdjieff) explained something to me that I had not been able to understand before. And this was that the whirling of the Mehlevi [sic] dervishes was an exercise for the brain based upon counting, like those exercises that he had shown to us in Essentuki" (Ouspensky, Search, pp. 382-3).
Ouspensky and Gurdjieff made several visits together to the Mevlevi dervishes, attending the mukabele or turning ceremony at the Galatahane tekke. They both appreciated the proceedings, but viewed the ceremony differently. Gurdjieff was far more in affinity with sacred music and dance, while Ouspensky resisted what he considered to be an emotional allurement. The mathematical mind of Ouspensky tended to view the ritual in terms of a planetary model, whereas Gurdjieff "strove to awaken his pupil's feelings to the totality of the experience" (Moore, 1991, p. 144).Nevertheless, both of them were later represented by the British press (in 1923) as believing that the dervishes had lost almost all knowledge of the true significance of their dances (in the sense of exercises associated with resolution of problems and acquisition of faculties).
Gurdjieff revived his Institute in October, and gave lectures twice a week, "in Russian, Greek, Turkish or Armenian according to the audience" (ibid., p. 146). Three doors away, he gave much attention to his sacred dance exercises, and more specifically the Struggle of the Magicians. His aggressive deportment and admonition here included bad language, though reserved for the "black magic" dancers who performed an evocative counter to the "white magic" complement.
Ouspensky withdrew when the Institute opened, but "the inner relationship between us remained very good" (Search, p. 383). In the spring of 1921, by special invitation he began to give weekly lectures at the Institute, with Gurdjieff supplementing his explanations. In May, Gurdjieff closed the Institute as a result of diminishing public interest, and retired to Prinkipo, maintaining contact with Ouspensky. The Russian ex-pupil disclosed his plan to write a book recording the talks of the Caucasian in Petrograd. Gurdjieff "agreed to this plan and authorised me to write and publish" the projected account (ibid.). Nevertheless, when these two left Constantinople in August, they parted company. Gurdjieff suggested that Ouspensky accompany him to Germany, but the offer was declined. "In the first place I did not believe it was possible to organise work in Germany and secondly I did not believe that I could work with Gurdjieff" (ibid., p. 384).
The misgivings about Germany were proven correct. Ouspensky maintained an underlying resistance to Gurdjieff's projection; he moved to London, where he commenced to lecture successfully. In contrast, Gurdjieff's plans for Germany met with obstruction. Yet Ouspensky's wife Sophie Grigorievna refused to accompany him to London, instead remaining with Gurdjieff's party. Madame Ouspensky is noted for the loyalist assertion: "No one knows who is the real Georgy Ivanovitch, for he hides himself from all of us" (Moore, 1991, p. 153).
Gurdjieff was certainly a robust and charismatic entity. His background was to become legendary. In Constantinople, a visitor (Boris Mouravieff) asked Gurdjieff about the source of his teachings. According to Professor Taylor, the flippant reply was "I stole them." This would indicate the derived nature of his concepts, from a pre-existing tradition or traditions. The matter is obscure, because Gurdjieff did not elaborate. Mouravieff subsequently claimed that Gurdjieff borrowed from Eastern Orthodox Christianity (section 17 below). In contrast, other writers have insisted that certain Sufi teachings were utilised. Ouspensky is on record for saying that he and others in the early Russian phase would ask Gurdjieff several times a day about the origin of his teaching, and the replies were evidently circuitous.
4. The Carpet Dealer
In eighteenth century Caucasia, local Turkic Khans ruled in their territories such as Shirvan, Karabagh, Baku, Kuba, and Erivan. Yet these kingdoms were eliminated by 1830, when the militant Russian incursion from the north extended the Empire of the Czars.The process of Westernisation was encouraged by the Russian presence. Yet artistically, the old traditions were diehard. "The region was a repository for the arts of Sassanian Iran and of Byzantium, the influences of Arabia and Islam, the customs of Central Asian Turks, the cultures of the Seljuk, Ottoman, and Safavid empires, and the Europeanising influence of Imperial Russia. All are interwoven in Caucasian textiles." (9) Textiles are applicable to Gurdjieff's mercantile tendencies during the early decades of the twentieth century, during the phase when rugs and carpets were woven for export demand, including the destination cities in Russia, America, and Britain.
Ouspensky supplied details about a practical and mundane role exercised by Gurdjieff. The Armenian Greek possessed a mercantile skill, and had evidently acquired a close knowledge of Eastern rugs and carpets (and not just the Caucasian variety, it is possible to deduce). "He told me a great deal about carpets which, as he often said, represented one of the most ancient forms of art" (Search, p. 35). (10)
Recent textile scholarship has intensively classified Eastern rugs and carpets on an ethnographic basis. The general findings have concluded that specific attributions of design significances are frequently arbitrary, motifs being customarily preserved amongst weavers in terms of a folk art and urban commercial activity. However, some ancient connections are discernible, and tangibly going back to the earliest known pile weavings, such as the Pazyryk rug. In terms of design influences, even the relevant gauge of which came first (nomadic or urban design) has been strongly debated, and involving the scenario of early Turkish carpets versus Persian court luxury weavings. Nevertheless, one argument is that "a number of motifs in tribal and village rugs of the nineteenth and even the twentieth centuries may be traced to sources that are even older than the Pazyryk [rug]."(11)
Pazyryk rug, featuring borders with horsemen and deer
In 1949, a Russian archaeologist discovered the now famous Pazyryk rug, which had been preserved for nearly two and a half thousand years by the enveloping ice layer. The site was a tribal tomb in the Pazyryk valley, located in the Altai mountains of Siberia. This is a technically accomplished weaving, comparing well with more recent finely knotted examples. Arguments arose about the source of this weaving, one theory urging an Achaemenian origin in Iran, and another maintaining a nomadic origin. The theory has since been streamlined. Certainly, the proficiency of weaving indicates a far earlier phase of development. The complex ethnographic data and arguments relating to the Pazyryk rug are generally lost in popular coverage. (12)
Gurdjieff's theme of an ancient carpet art is justified. His form of assessment was quite rare in his day, and perhaps even unique. Eastern rugs and carpets were generally purchased merely for their decorative value, and vast numbers of them have worn out under the impact of unsympathetic feet. In the West today, a more informed knowledge of these weavings has developed, with much attention given to tribal and village environments, in addition to well known urban centres of production like Tabriz and Isfahan. The weavings in tribal communities, rural areas, and many urban locales were made by women, though men customarily sold the loom products. This rather basic fact has afforded extra interest.
Ouspensky seems to have been puzzled when Gurdjieff purchased carpets (and/or rugs) in Moscow and sold them in Petersburg (Petrograd), where they commanded higher prices. The Russian intellectual attributed this activity to the factor of "acting." Ouspensky himself obviously knew little about rugs/carpets, and was not a businessman. Many woven artefacts were small rugs rather than large carpets, and the former were far easier to transport. Most Caucasian pile weavings were rugs, not carpets, though one could easily credit Gurdjieff with a knowledge of expensive Persian carpets.
The intellectual was evidently fascinated by the procedure involved. Gurdjieff would place an advertisement in a Petersburg newspaper, and "all kinds of people came to buy carpets" (Search, p. 34). In these situations, the customers assumed that Gurdjieff was merely a Caucasian rug/carpet dealer. "I often sat for hours watching him as he talked to the people who came" (ibid.). The clientele must have been wealthy middle class/upper class persons, like the lady who selected "a dozen fine carpets" and bargained relentlessly for more.
"With these carpets, in the role of travelling merchant, he again gave the impression of being a man in disguise" (ibid.). Ouspensky relates how one day Gurdjieff paid close attention to the technique of a Persian carpet restorer whose services he utilised. Carpet repair is skilled work, and even Gurdjieff had not yet learned the art. The Persian would not sell the tool that he used, and Gurdjieff improvised a replica from the the blade of a penknife, which he filed to size. The next day, Ouspensky found that Gurdjieff "was sitting on the floor mending a carpet exactly as the Persian had done" (Search, p. 35).
Ouspensky was absent when another incident happened in Petersburg, involving "an 'occultist' of the charlatan type." The dubious visitor said that he had heard much about Gurdjieff and his arcane knowledge, and therefore wished to make his acquaintance. The response is worth citing:
"With the strongest Caucasian accent and in broken Russian he [Gurdjieff] began to assure the 'occultist' that he was mistaken and that he only sold carpets; and he immediately began to unroll and offer him some. The 'occultist' went away fully convinced he had been hoaxed by his friends" (In Search of the Miraculous, p. 34).
l to r: Rug shop in Tiflis, c. 1910-11; Tiflis bazaar, late nineteenth century. In the photo to the left, an old Azeri sits in the centre; the other trader might be Armenian, and sits behind a Kurdish flatweave. Some Caucasian pile rugs are included in the display. The other photo reveals a number of Azeris and others; a restorer sits to the left.
A few years later, and after many vicissitudes, Gurdjieff revived his lost wealth at the Old Tiflis bazaar (section 3 above). In 1919, he found that rug dealers in this locale were jubilant, being able to fuel the export drive to Constantinople, where an undiscriminating market existed for mediocre rugs and flatweaves. A primary support for that market was the beginner taste of young military officers in the Allied Occupation Force. Even inferior handmade rugs can be very attractive. "Perhaps no one in Tbilisi in 1919 knew his carpets more intimately than Gurdjieff" (Moore, 1991, p. 126). Some acquaintances loaned him money; he purchased his first rug cheaply and sold it high. He afterwards found willing assistants, and taught them to search for rugs, how to clean them, and how to repair them.
Gurdjieff doubtless bartered at shops resembling that in the left photograph above, where many piles of rugs could be found, and where merchants of diverse ethnic breeds were quick to seize a profit. Armenians, Jews, and Azeris were a competitive milieu. Within only three weeks, Gurdjieff had made enough money for all his group to live on, and with a substantial amount still in hand. His former collection of valuable rugs had been plundered by the Bolsheviks at Essentuki, though two of these items were recovered later.
When Gurdjieff left Tbilisi in 1920, due to the political climate, he sold his Institute assets and invested the proceeds in twenty rare weavings. When his party arrived at the port of Batoum, a detachment of military police confiscated the rugs, although the refugees were not prevented from leaving. Eastern rugs reappeared in his later activities, along with closely affiliated businesses.
When Katherine Mansfield first met Gurdjieff at the Priory in 1922, she thought he looked like "a Turkish carpet dealer." His astrakhan hat and handlebar moustache assisted this impression. She subsequently discovered that he really was a carpet dealer. She records that, during the early days of the Priory phase, Gurdjieff purchased 63 rugs for his new Study House. "The carpets which were displayed one by one in the salon last night are like living things - worlds of beauty. And what a joy to begin to learn which is a garden, which a café, which a prayer mat, which 'l'histoire de ses troupeaux' and so on." See Fontainebleau.
Garden carpets and prayer rugs are well known to textile enthusiasts, though café rugs are obscure. A "record of the flocks" is decipherable in terms of the animal portrayals on some rugs, but a café design requires imagination. Gurdjieff had apparently found his favoured milieu represented by weavers. He spent much time in cafés and restaurants, using this zone as a business venue, a meeting place, and even as a writing environment.
Some puzzlement attaches to the fate of the Study House, which ten years later was in chronic ruin. The rugs were left inside, at the mercy of rodents and animal droppings. By 1932, prayer rugs were being chewed by rats (Taylor, Gurdjieff's America, p. 147). It is tempting to feel that Gurdjieff was neglecting Eastern artefacts, much as Westerners often do. To his credit, the Study House was not a business venture, but he might at least have sold on the contents rather than allowing such deterioration.
In 1923, a journalist told Professor Denis Saurat that he was a connoisseur of carpets, and that those in the Study House "must be worth over a million francs." Even taking into account conceivable exaggerations, the weavings acquired by Gurdjieff must have been valuable. "The partitions and floor [of the Study House] are completely covered with them, sometimes to a thickness of several layers" (quotes from A Visit to Gourdyev).
5. Chateau du Prieure (the Priory)
Early in 1922, Gurdjieff made a brief visit to London. He had recently delivered a lecture at Berlin, but the British episode proved more pivotal. Ouspensky was now giving lectures at a Theosophical Hall in Warwick Gardens, West Kensington. Admirers of the Russian became aware that his obscure teacher was also in Europe, having departed from Constantinople. They wanted to meet Gurdjieff, and sent letters to Berlin. The consequence was a talk by Gurdjieff given in Warwick Gardens on 13 February 1922. Sixty British intellectuals gathered for the occasion. "Never before had Gurdjieff addressed such a concentrated sample of the establishment" (Moore, 1991, p. 160). He did not disappoint, despite the fact that he spoke in Russian, translated by Olga de Hartmann. Quite clear was the enjoinder that: "You must find a teacher."
A significant member of the audience later stated: "I knew that Gurdjieff was the teacher." Ouspensky was eclipsed in the mind of Alfred Richard Orage (1873-1934), who was to become a leading disciple of the Armenian Greek. Orage came from Yorkshire, and had been influential in the British literary world since 1907, being the editor of New Age, a weekly London review which George Bernard Shaw had described as "the best magazine of literature and ideas England had produced since the eighteenth century" (Nott, Teachings of Gurdjieff, p. 1).(13)
The general enthusiasm for Gurdjieff resulted in his further visit to London a month later. The friction between Gurdjieff and Ouspensky became highlighted in a private reflection, expressed by the former in Russian. A verbatim report is lacking, but the gist is known. Gurdjieff said that Ouspensky was not qualified to expound his teaching after only three years of contact with him. The accusation was made that Ouspensky knew nothing of his music, and was an outsider to the sacred dances in process. The ex-pupil was also admonished for lacking an essential element of feeling. Furthermore, "if Ouspensky still sincerely wished to assimilate Gurdjieff's work in his essence and not merely in personality, he must (like his wife Sophie) postpone any pretension to teach and re-dedicate himself as a pupil" (Moore, 1991, p. 163).
Both Ouspensky and Gurdjieff delivered a lecture on the same occasion at Warwick Gardens on 15 March 1922. The latter chose the subject of "Essence and Personality," and Ouspensky objected to the translation of some sentences. Gurdjieff retaliated, affirming the translation to be correct. He then repeated the content of his private critique (of Ouspenky), while still on the platform. The ex-disciple "could never forget Gurdjieff's attacking him in front of his own pupils" (ibid., p. 164). Gurdjieff now won strong support from Ouspensky's followers (including Lady Rothermere), and thereby gained a new contingent of English pupils.
Chateau du Prieure (the Priory)
Later that same year, Gurdjieff found haven in France. In October 1922, he acquired (via Lady Rothermere and subsequent mortgagees) the Chateau du Prieuré (or Prieuré des Basses Loges), a mansion at Fontainebleau-Avon, some forty miles from Paris, and with almost 250 acres of ground attached. English speakers often referred to this site as the Priory, which is a due translation. Originally a luxury chateau of the upper class (and visited by Louis XIV), the property subsequently became a Carmelite Priory, though reverting back to a private house in the nineteenth century. In 1922, the property had not been occupied for several years, and the grounds had been neglected.
The historic mansion became Gurdjieff's headquarters for a decade, with a new identity in terms of: Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. He had acquired two contingents of pupils, Russian and English, but was unfamiliar with the English language (and French, which he struggled to learn). Gurdjieff generally spoke in Russian, and used an interpreter during interviews; he never went beyond the stage of broken English. Rather varied memoirs describe this period, which has the semblance of a mosaic.
The Prieuré (or Priory) became an unusual retreat setting. The "Fourth Way" Gurdjieff had taught in Russia now underwent a modification. He had formerly stressed ordinary life as the setting for this approach. The Prieuré cannot be viewed in that context. "The milieu he [now] created by no stretch of the imagination mirrored ordinary life: it was removed; it was enclosed; it was quite special in its intensity" (Moore, 1991, p. 173).
A sympathetic and partisan article of this period compared the Priory with the school of Pythagoras, and referred to Gurdjieff's ideal of "Never identify," involving the redirection of emotional energy via elimination of negative emotion. "A few minutes of irritation... may expend energy that would have written an article or sustained us through a marathon race.... To stop 'imagination' even for a week - which is extremely difficult - brings an astonishing gain of what we usually call psychical energy." (14)
Gurdjieff now had to find provisions for about seventy people living at the Priory. In pursuit of his obligations, he repeatedly visited Paris, now his second home, where he conducted varied fund-raising activities. He created two restaurants and sold them to Russian refugees, who were now swarming to the French capital. In Paris also, he maintained his earlier role as a "physician-hypnotist," acquiring a paying clientele of alcoholics, drug addicts, and others.
He had no time for leisure, and would sometimes "return to the Prieuré exhausted" (Moore, 1991, p. 176). Yet he was an unusually robust man, and could quickly recuperate, becoming noted even in later years for only a few hours sleep. (15) He demonstrated ability as a jack-of-all-trades. When he gave orders for a Turkish bath to be installed in the Prieuré grounds, he "improvised the boiler from an old cistern and tackled most of the brickwork entirely on his own" (ibid., p. 177).
Gurdjieff and Alfred R. Orage
Manual work became a frequent activity of residents and visitors at the Priory. Alfred R. Orage attributed his "first initiation" to this activity. Having sold the New Age review and renounced his prestigious literary career in England, Orage (a chain-smoker) arrived at the Prieuré in October 1922. Gurdjieff allocated him a simple room, prohibited him from smoking, and delegated him to a manual role. The visitor was tall and quite sturdy, but not in the habit of exercise. His own account relates:
"I sold the [magazine] New Age, gave up my literary life and Ouspensky's groups, and went to Fontainebleau. My first weeks at the Prieuré were weeks of real suffering. I was told to dig, and as I had had no real exercise for years I suffered so much physically that I would go back to my room, a sort of cell, and literally cry with fatigue. No one, not even Gurdjieff, came near me.... When I was in the very depths of despair, feeling that I could go on no longer, I vowed to make extra effort, and just then something changed in me. Soon I began to enjoy the hard labour, and a week later Gurdjieff came to me and said, 'Now, Orage, I think you dig enough. Let us go to café and drink coffee.' From that moment things began to change." (Nott, Teachings of Gurdjieff, pp. 27-8)
In 1924, Orage also commented on certain disparities for which he gave an explanation: "You get from the Prieuré just as much as you can give in work on yourself - that is, according to real effort. There are people living there now to whom the place is no more than a maison de santé." (Nott, Teachings, p. 29) Orage was referring to hangers-on, people who lived at the Prieuré for diverse reasons, including White Russian refugees and an English Theosophist.
Another new pupil who queried the role of Ouspensky was Dr. Maurice Nicoll (1884-1953), a psychiatrist of Harley Street, and formerly a close acquaintance of C. G. Jung, with whom he did not find the answers he was seeking. Nicoll was one of over twenty English visitors to the Prieuré in late 1922. When he arrived in November, along with his wife and daughter, he was elevated to the role of kitchen menial. Dr. Nicoll had to get up at 4.30 am, light the boilers, and wash large numbers of dirty plates without hot water (Moore, 1991, pp. 177-8). He found the new teaching far more dynamic than the Jungian worldview, which he discarded. Subsequently, Nicoll was again influenced by Ouspensky, effectively becoming the latter's pupil. In the 1930s however, Nicoll conducted his own group in England, teaching another version of the "Work." He authored the influential and multi-volume Psychological Commentarieson the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.
Piotr D. Ouspensky also arrived at the Prieuré that autumn, having been invited by Gurdjieff. His wife was already there as a resident. The guest stayed only for a few weeks (although he returned a number of times the following year). In his major book, Ouspensky briefly asserted that "there were many destructive elements in the organisation of the affair itself" (Search, p. 389). He does not specify the nature of these. The resident Madame Ouspensky was evidently not in agreement, and would not leave the Priory of her own accord.
Piotr Ouspensky is thought to have been averse to manual work and the dance movements. He was disconcerted by Gurdjieff's unpredictability (and apparently by a disregard for conventional morality, which some more recent critics also find disturbing). What Ouspensky seems to have most wanted was a tranquil discussion atmosphere; Gurdjieff evidently had no intention of catering for such requirements, and did not administer a set form of teaching at the Priory. His Institute had no obvious curriculum in the academic sense; some say that he preferred to teach in real life situations.
Gurdjieff in 1922, Katherine Mansfield
Much distortion befell the episode of Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), a writer from New Zealand, who died at the Prieuré in January 1923. Ouspensky reports that Gurdjieff "was very good to her, he did not insist upon her going [to the Prieuré] although it was clear that she could not live" (Search, p. 386). Mansfield had attended Ouspensky's talks in London, and was introduced to Gurdjieff by Orage. In other directions, an extremist story gained widespread circulation over the years. "Many of these people will say, when Gurdjieff's name is mentioned: 'Oh, yes, he's the man who killed Katherine Mansfield!' " (Peters, Gurdjieff, p. 300)
In reality, Katherine was terminally ill from tuberculosis; Gurdjieff kindly allowed her to stay at the Prieuré in October 1922, despite the near death prospects mentioned by a medical doctor. He gave instructions for a room in the loft above the stable to be improved for the daily recreational use of the invalid; Eastern rugs were included in the decor. Katherine wanted to gain a spiritual orientation, and was pleased when the Russians accepted her as an equal. The lively dancer Olgivanna was often her companion, and so also was Orage. She derived much inspiration from events at the Prieuré, and could have lived longer but for an unfortunate event that was nothing to do with Gurdjieff. Her husband John Middleton Murry made a visit to the Priory in January 1923. He reported that "she seemed a being transformed by love." Katherine was determined to show the visitor that she could climb stairs unaided, but the effort produced a lung haemorrhage; she died in thirty minutes, with three doctors in attendance(see Moore, Gurdjieff and Mansfield; Jones, Katherine Mansfield). See also Mansfield Archive.
In her last letter, Katherine Mansfield wrote. "My thoughts are full of carpets and Persia and Samarkand and the little rugs of Beluchistan" (Moore, 1991, p. 186). Her interest in Eastern wool craft was derived from the new Study House, which Gurdjieff created in the grounds of the Prieuré. This large and distinctive building was not formally opened until a few days after the death of Mansfield, but she was familiar with the industrious preparations.
The Study House did not signify bookish study, but was instead used for Gurdjieff's music and the dance exercises which he supervised. This structure has been compared to a nomadic tent and to a dervish tekke. Many Eastern rugs were hung on the walls, while the floor was strewn with the same category of weavings. The Mansfield reference to the Baluch tribal rugs of Iran and Afghanistan indicates that Gurdjieff had become a collector of these, though in general they were not considered valuable until some time after his death. Many Baluch rugs soon wore out on Western floors. (16)
The French authorities were influenced by a hostile story depicting Gurdjieff as a Freemason who practised hypnotism. They actually placed him under surveillance on this account. The evidence for Gurdjieff as a Freemason is slight. (17) The allegation of hypnotism was sustained by detractors for the rest of his life, and does have some basis in his writings (section 7 below), though interpretations vary.
An early report came from Carl E. Bechofer-Roberts, who had met Gurdjieff at Tiflis but did not became a follower. He made several visits to the Priory, and remained a "disinterested spectator." He acted as an interpreter, being able to speak Russian. He says that he found sixty or seventy people in residence, and that "perhaps nearly half" of these were Russians, meaning pupils from the Tiflis phase and other refugees who had come from Berlin and London. Most of the remainder are described as English. He says that women predominated in both contingents. See further The Forest Philosophers (1924).
"If a man is proud, Gurdjiev [Gurdjieff] humiliates him deliberately before all the other pupils; if he has a special affection or aversion, it has to be eradicated." This is evidently why Bechofer-Roberts wished to remain disinterested. Gurdjieff evidently demanded obedience, which is reminiscent of Eastern monasteries and Indian ashrams. Yet he was not a celibate (section 13 below), and perhaps innovative in other respects also. If he appropriated Eastern concepts, there is no guarantee that he got everything right. His recourse in the elimination of aversions can be offputting, to say the least. A sensitive man who loathed the sight of blood "was at once set the task of slaughtering the animals for the stock-pot." This can seem an offensively literal version of moving between the opposites. If Orage had not been a chain-smoker, would he have been made to smoke? Does a teetotaller have to get drunk?
Bechofer-Roberts is critical, but occasionally makes a concession to Gurdjieff. "In his own field I should rank him high among contemporary ballet-producers." The commentator refers to the dance movements performed in the evenings, and informs: "Occasionally, but rarely, Gurdjiev varies the proceedings with a lecture that is rather a number of replies, more or less oblique, to questions put to him by the more inquisitive and sceptical of his pupils." This was the only formal teaching in evidence; everything else was at the action level. In this respect, some of the Russian men took every opportunity to evade the manual tasks allocated.
The account of Bechofer-Roberts mentions that many of the Russians were supported by Gurdjieff. To set against this factor, he had received considerable sums of money from English supporters, and perhaps sufficient to explain his visible assets such as cattle, carpets, and automobiles. The same writer records the disagreement with a medical doctor (evidently James Carruthers Young, section 6 below) concerning the symptoms of a female resident who received an operation in London. Gurdjieff gave a different diagnosis to the doctor, who was proven correct concerning an internal ulcer. However, the commentator is misleading in the instance of Katherine Mansfield, saying that she "was so confident of recovery" a few days before her death; he fails to mention how she died, which was due to a complication caused by the visiting husband.
The same commentator confounded a major accusation of critics. The notion "that he [Gurdjieff] is a deliberate charlatan, is not for an instant to be credited by anyone who has come into personal contact with him."However, Bechofer-Roberts did question the role of Gurdjieff as a genuine mystic, believing that he was too promotional and too concerned to acquire funds.
A far more partisan assessment came from Dr. Mary C. Bell, an English medic and psychologist who abandoned Jungian therapy. She transferred from the Ouspenky circle to the Prieuré. Many years later, she wrote an account of activities there during 1922-3, and in which she participated. She depicts the amiable contrast between the Russian and English contingents. Dr. Bell made a preliminary visit in December 1922, liked what she found, and returned in March for a much longer period. She describes evening sessions in the Study House, which Gurdjieff would conduct from about nine pm until about two am. The varied components of this gymnastic programme included: "Seated on the floor we would learn the most complicated exercises, involving in one exercise the simultaneous use of legs, arms, heads, expression of emotions and one or more sequences of words in any language." (18) Such exercises made for a very active routine, bearing in mind the daily occupations.
Most guests were allocated work by Gurdjieff, but some were left to choose their role. The Russian women generally did the cooking and housework, while the English women worked outside in the grounds. All the men likewise worked outside, performing manual labour, including building and felling trees. The English women attended to laundry, the animals (geese, chickens, goats, cows), and other tasks. The inmates were not made to work slavishly, and could go at their own pace, though periods of more intensive activity did occur. "We were soon taught that pointless, slogging work was of no avail." Gurdjieff commented to one Englishman (Frank Pinder), while barrow loads of stone were being moved, that "one stone consciously moved is worth all this pile."
Gurdjieff disliked any tendency to "wiseacre," which could mean superficial talk about subjects uncomprehended. Dr. Bell relates: "To prevent idle talk... great use was made of memory work and lists of words." In this manner, for instance, hoeing was not just a physical activity or an excuse for chatter. The diet was very variable. Fasting occurred at one period, but this was voluntary. This innovation nevertheless aroused much enthusiasm, and some participants were disappointed when they were told (by Gurdjieff) to stop at the end of a week. Others fasted for three weeks, and quite severely it seems, as fluids only are mentioned. As a precaution, Dr. Bell was enjoined to weigh the abstainers and to take their pulse rate two or three times daily. She herself fasted, and reports: "I could sit and talk with equanimity to people eating the well known English dish of eggs and bacon." Thoughout this fast, the physical work, plus the exercises in the Study House, were continued as usual. "One of my memories of the fast is of vastly improved complexions." See further Memories of the Prieure.
In contrast, many absent English literati disliked Gurdjieff, though largely reacting to rumours and gossip. Wyndham Lewis called him "the Levantine psychic shark," while Vivienne Eliot achieved a memorable error in her beliefs about "that asylum for the insane called La Prieure where she [Lady Rothermere] does religious dances naked with Katherine Mansfield" (cited in Moore, 1991, p. 188). The situation was entirely imaginary. Lady Rothermere was a benefactor of Gurdjieff, assisting him to obtain the Priory (ibid., pp. 359-60). She made only brief visits to the Priory, perhaps because she was accustomed to far more luxurious accomodation. A major source of distortion was apparently the novelist D. H. Lawrence, a friend of Mansfield who indulged in "numerous bilious attacks on Gurdjieff, although he had never met the man" (Linda Lappin, cited in Mansfield Archive).On his own part, Gurdjieff viewed the "intelligentsia" with acute reserve, deeming them to represent the false and mechanical life which misses any true perspective.
An informative article was contributed by Professor Denis Saurat (1890-1958), director of the French Institute in London. He was invited by Orage to visit the Priory for a weekend in February 1923. Saurat could not understand why Orage had turned his back on the literary world in order to live at the Priory. This was at a time when journalists had been alerted to the death of Mansfield, and were attempting a coverage of the mysterious Caucasian innovator. Gurdjieff entertained a lifelong dislike of the press. "Twenty years later, he would still scour journalists from his house as if they were rats" (Moore, 1991, p. 188).
In his article A Visit to Gourdyev (1934, originally published in French), Saurat relates how he arrived at the Priory on Saturday, 17 February, 1923. His old acquaintance Alfred Orage had become thin from manual work, having formerly been overweight at two hundred pounds. He was now lithe and strong "but looks unhappy." A severe regimen involved rising at four in the morning, and working in the Priory grounds. Orage related that "often Gurdjieff makes us spend a whole day digging an enormous ditch in the park, and then he has us spend the next day filling it up again." The perplexed Saurat asked the reason, but Orage did not know. Gurdjieff was not in the habit of communicating, and "had not said a word to him." Gurdjieff gave orders in Russian, a language Orage could not speak. The English pupil believed that the director possessed supernatural powers.
Saurat learned from the Russian residents that Gurdjieff "frequently flew into a rage and used language that would make Lenin himself blush." He says there were about seventy Russians and twenty English at the Priory, figures discrepant with certain other accounts. He also wrongly assumed that the deceased Katherine Mansfield had lived all the time in a stable, and says: "Mansfield died, and no one dared ask the Master why." Fortunately Orage and others did know the circumstances of her death. "The Russians are much more terrified and docile in the face of the Master than the English are."
During lunch in the large dining room, Gurdjieff entered without warning. Wearing a heavy fur coat, he was carrying in his arms a lamb, at which he gazed tenderly, though "his face has an expression of habitual ferocity." Ignoring the human company, he walked with long strides across the room and exited by another door. Saurat and other guests were told by residents that "he didn't look at you, but he saw you; he knows you all completely."
Orage wanted to show Saurat the grounds outside, and they arrived at the "Turkish baths," where men and women would go separately (segregation was thorough, it seems). There they found Gurdjieff, who was responding to the fraught situation of a collapsed entrance and a burst boiler (Moore, 1991, p. 189). The heat prevented any close access to the boiler, and Gurdjieff rapidly aimed balls of cement at the problem crack. At his side, one man was mixing the mortar, and Saurat says that he "has the attitude of a slave."
In the evening after dinner, Saurat went to the room of Orage, and sat talking for hours with a few Englishmen. Gurdjieff sent a bottle of vodka to them, and Saurat learned that this was a special honour. Yet the recipients were tense. Nobody wanted to drink more than a small amount, and Saurat proposed that half the bottle should be tipped out of the window, so that Gurdjieff would believe the whole amount had been consumed. This suggestion was rejected. "They are afraid of Gourdyev [Gurdjieff]."
This small English gathering comprised Orage, the Harley Street doctor James Carruthers Young, a lawyer, and several writers. Saurat had been told that Gurdjieff would grant him an interview the following afternoon via an interpreter; nothing of this kind had formerly occurred. The Englishmen requested him to put questions to Gurdjieff on their behalf. A basic problem was that, although they had been resident for several months at the Priory, Gurdjieff "has never spoken to them." The manual work was too much for them, comments Saurat. Later in the evening, they were told that Gurdjieff had organised a special movements session in the Study House for Sunday night, and that he had arranged for a journalist to be present. The English were puzzled at this innovation.
On Sunday afternoon, Saurat was granted a two hour interview with Gurdjieff. The interpreter was Olga de Hartmann, "who speaks English." Saurat reproduces a summary of the conversation. One of his questions was: "Do you know that many of these people here are close to despair?" The reply is given as: "Yes, there is something sinister in this house, but that is necessary."
The Englishmen had begged Saurat to ask a particularly pointed question. "What is the purpose of all this physical labour, and is it going to last a long time?" The reply is given as: "To make them masters of the exterior world. It is only a temporary phase."
In that interview, Gurdjieff denied belonging to any "school," and instead referred to his former role in "a group of friends", who had spent some years in Central Asia. They had reconstructed an ancient doctrine from "the remains of oral traditions, from the study of ancient customs, folk songs and even from certain books." The impression conveyed is that this doctrine was an improvement upon the incomplete version of "certain groups and castes." His meaning was that "the doctrine has always existed, but the tradition has often been interrupted." Gurdjieff also stated: "I want to create a type of sage who unites the spirit of the Orient and the technique of the Occident." He clearly meant Oriental mysticism and Western science. "Only Occidental methods are good in history and observation."
Saurat relays that Gurdjieff exhibited "extraordinarily courteous manners." Furthermore, "during this conversation he does not in any way give the impression of being a charlatan; he seems to be trying to explain himself in the most rational possible manner and does not refuse to answer any questions." Some points of his teaching were mentioned, including the controversial theme:
"Few human beings have a soul. Nobody has a soul at birth. One must acquire a soul. Those who do not succeed in this die. The atoms disperse and nothing remains [after death]. Some make a partial soul and are then subject to a kind of reincarnation that permits them to progress. Finally, a very small number of men succeed in possessing immortal souls."
There was an extension about women relayed by Saurat, and without quotation marks. Women "have no real possibility of acquiring a soul except by contact and sexual union with men." This theme will not win the approval of feminists, and was evidently at the root of Gurdjieff's sexual activity that has invited criticism. Briefly, it is obvious that he believed himself to be assisting several short term partners via the act of sexual union. Strong exception can be taken to this feature of his theory and activity. See section 13 below.
After the interview, Saurat reported the contents to his English friends. "They are extremely disappointed." However, what irritated them most of all was Gurdjieff's statement that the esoteric doctrine could be found in books. Dr. Young commented: "If the tradition is in books, what are we doing here?" Another person denied any secret tradition. which might have sounded Theosophical. "They decide that this is impossible, that I misunderstood, or that the interpreter translated badly." However, they took consolation from the message that the manual work would not last permanently. Nevertheless, "they are afraid of being exploited by Gourdyev in his occult intentions."
That evening in theStudy House, Saurat was influenced by the attitude of the guest journalist, who reacted to "the perfume, the atmosphere, the coloured lights, the rich carpets, the strange [dance] movements." Saurat informs: "To reassure the journalist I tell him that I am a professor at the University of Bordeaux and that all these people are crazy."However, this journalist later repeated those words (of Saurat) to Orage, "who is vexed and did not begin to pardon me until ten years later."
In subsequent years, Saurat tended to converge with the Oragean view of Gurdjieff, and privately commended Beelzebub's Tales as a major work.See section 16 below. Furthermore, in a letter to Louis Pauwels, the French academic stated: "I maintain that he [Gurdjieff] is an extraordinary highly developed spiritual teacher." By that time, Saurat was a Professor of French Literature at King's College, London. He also attributed to Gurdjieff the status of lohan, an Oriental word whose significance tends to fuel the controversy over classification. (19)
Gurdjieff and his sacred dance
In 1923, Gurdjieff gave much attention to supervising the "sacred dances." The venue was the new Study House, a large hall laboriously constructed in the grounds of the Priory. Every week apparently, there was an open evening in this building, at which local dignitaries, artistes, and others attended the dance performances. Some responses were enthusiastic, including the instance of Sergei Diaghilev, who offered to incorporate the "sacred dances" in his own well known ballet season. The American commentator Sinclair Lewis was disconcerted, declaring that "some of the dances are imitations of Oriental sacred temple rights, some of them stunts requiring a high degree of muscle control ... But it must be a hell of a place to live" (cited in Moore, 1991, p. 192).
A private session of dance movements would occur every evening at the Study House, with Gurdjieff presiding as an exacting choreographer. An adaptation of dervish dance and Tibetan sacred ritual was believed to be in process. Gurdjieff emphasised that this application was an important form of trainingin the coordination of body, emotion, and mind.Prior to 1928, these dances were often called "exercises." They required much concentration and stamina from the participants, being viewed as a means to conscious "evolution." A large number of these movements were created during Gurdjieff's lifetime (ibid., pp. 351ff.).
Photographs dating to the 1920s reveal male and female performers. The cast was largely Russian, and included Gurdjieff's Polish wife (or partner) Julia; they certainly achieved an elastic fitness, which stunned some observers. The four key performers were women: Julia, Olgivanna, Jeanne de Salzmann, and Elizabeta Galumnian. The full details about this situation include Gurdjieff's (apparently brief) sexual relations with two of the performers alongside Julia, namely Jeanne and Elizabeta, a factor which can evoke strong criticism (section 13 below).
Other residents and guests at the Priory also learned some movements, but were not performers. It is thought that Ouspensky reacted to the dance scenario; he seems basically to have regarded the proceedings as a distraction. The teaching he had known in Russia had gone into suspension, and been replaced by gymnastics.
An accompaniment was the pianist activity of Thomas de Hartmann, and later, in 1925, Gurdjieff commenced with this Russian pupil a two year period of musical composition. The result featured haunting melodies associated with sacred music; an Armenian element is said to have been incorporated. "As an adult he acquired an intimate knowledge of Middle Eastern and Central Asian traditional and religious music.... In all, Gurdjieff composed around 300 pieces.... None of these compositions is a slavish pastiche of ethnic music. Rather Gurdjieff transmutes and recanalises the subtle essence of an ancient tradition, delivering it to modern man as a summons to awaken" (Moore, 1991, p. 350).
Gurdjieff arranged for the first major public demonstration of his music and dance in December 1923, the venue being the Theatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. Applause followed each dance, although the French audience were "divided between excitement at the originality of what they had seen, and disgust at what to them had seemed the severe discipline of the exercises" (ibid., p. 196).
In January 1924, Gurdjieff took his dancers to New York. The first performance lasted for four hours, and evoked diverse reactions. Newspapers typically expressed superficial accounts. A sequel performance in Greenwich Village attracted a more intellectual audience, and was successful in creating a strong interest. "All that spring and into the summer months the question of Gurdjieff - a new Pythagoras or a charlatan - was the most controversial topic at intelligentsia gatherings" (Gorham Munson, The Awakening Twenties, 1985, quoted in Moore, 1991, p. 20). Munson was one of those who became a pupil of the new Pythagoras; he also stated that "nothing like these dances had ever been seen in New York.... they called for great precision in execution and required extraordinary coordination" (Munson, Black Sheep Philosophers).
Various other performances (or demonstrations) followed, the culmination occurring at Carnegie Hall in early March, and to a packed auditorium. This was the only occasion when Gurdjieff charged for tickets. More free performances were given at Boston and Chicago. Although he had become an impresario of dance, Gurdjieff proved that he was not a commercialist. Furthermore, he never again gave a public performance.
In April he established a New York branch of his Institute. When he returned to France in June, some new American admirers sailed with him; eighty Americans had requested to work at the Prieuré that summer. Another new pupil was the Englishman Charles Stanley Nott (1887-1978), who penned a description of the first performance of "sacred dance" in America, at Lesley Hall.
Tertium Organum: The Third Canon of Thought, a Key to the Enigmas of the World. Translated from the Russian by Nicholas Bessaraboff and Claude Bragdon. Rochester, N.Y.: Manas Press, 1920, 344p.; New York: Knopf, 1922; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1923, 1934; 3rd American edition, New York: Knopf, 1945, 306p. A revised English translation by Eugenic Kadloubovsky under Ouspenskys supervision, limited edition of 21 copies, Cape Town: Stourton Press, 1950, 192p. An Abridgement of P. D. Ouspenskys Tertium Organum, by Fairfax Hall, Cape Town: Stourton Press, 1961, 276p.; revised translation by E. Kadloubovsky and the author, New York: Knopf, 1981, 298p., index.
Ouspenskys experimental efforts to enter higher states of consciousness proved to him that an entirely new mode of thought was needed by modern man, qualitatively different from the two modes (classical and positivistic) that have dominated Western civilization for 2000 years.Tertium Organum is a clarion call for such thought, ranging brilliantly over the teachings of Eastern and Western mysticism, sacred art and the theories of modern science. With the publication of Tertium Organum in Russian, in 1911, Ouspensky became a widely respected author and lecturer on metaphysical questions. The American translation of Tertium Organum in 1920, won him widespread recognition in England and America, where he lived from 1921.
A New Model of the Universe: Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art.Translated from the Russian by R. R. Merton, under the supervision of the author. New York: Knopf, 1931; London: Routledge, 1931, 544p.; 2nd revised edition, London: Routledge, 1934; New York: Knopf; 1934; reprinted 1943, 1961, (Knopf) and 1971 (Random House), 476p.; London: Routledge, 1949, 534p.
A collection of twelve wide-ranging and penetrating essays dealing with esotericism, symbolism, science, religion, higher dimensions, evolution, superman, eternal recurrence and other topics that anticipate many of the most significant psycho-spiritual questions of the twentieth-century. Most of these extended essays were published separately in Russian before Ouspensky translated them to English and published this anthology in London in 1931 for the general purpose of attracting those interested in such questions.
Psychological Lectures: 19341940. Privately printed and distributed. London , 90p., limited edition of 125 copies. Six introductory lectures, issued by Ouspenskys Historico-Psychological Society at 46 Colet Gardens in London. Posthumously published in five lectures as The Psychology of Mans Possible Evolution. New York: Hedgehog Press, 1950, 98p.; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1951, 95p., index; New York: Knopf, 1954, 114p.;2nd edition enlarged [with a preface by John Pentland], New York: Knopf, 1974, 128p. (This edition contains a reprint of the article Notes on the Decision to Work and a previously unpublished autobiographical note.) London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978, 95p.(Contains Ouspenskys 1945 introduction.) 3rd edition, New York: Random House, 1981, 128p. (This edition contains a publishers note in place of the introductory note written for the 2nd edition. The two selections added to the 2nd edition are replaced by a lecture of Sept. 23, 1937.)
These private introductory lectures were written, not for publication, but to provide Ouspenskys students with an account of the direction his work had taken since the publication of Tertium Organum and A New Model of the Universe. Ouspensky indicates in his 1945 introduction to these lectures, that they are an invitation to follow the advice and indications given which referred chiefly to self-observation and a certain self-discipline. Not simply a synopsis of the knowledge Ouspensky had learned from Gurdjieff, these deeply considered lectures present the authors struggle to transmit a living system in the hope of attracting the supportive attention of the same higher sources from whom Ouspensky believed Gurdjieff had received his teaching.
Strange Life of Ivan Osokin. Limited edition of 356 copies. London: Stourton, 1947, 179p.; New York and London: Holme, 1947, 166p.; London: Faber & Faber, 1948; New York, Hermitage House, 1955, 166p.; London: Faber & Faber, 1971, 204p.; Baltimore: Penguin, 1971 ("The Penguin Metaphysical Library;" reprinted with a foreword by J[ohn] P[entland]), 1973, 204p.New York: Arkana/Methuen, 1988, 162p.
Written in Russian in 1905 as a cinema-drama, and first published as Kinemadrama (St. Petersburg, 1915), Ouspenskys novel is base on the theme of "eternal recurrence." It tells the story of how the young Ivan Osokin is unable to correct his past mistakes, even when given the chance to relive his life. The last chapter powerfully portrays a mans shock at the realization of his utter mechanicality and characterizes both the promise and the demand of an esoteric school.
In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949, 399p.; London: Routledge, 1949, 399p. Paperback edition, New York: Harcourt, Brace, no date [196?].
Ouspensky met Gurdjieff in Moscow in 1915. Undertaken in 1925, with Gurdjieffs approval and in progress for many years, parts of the manuscript were read to Ouspenskys groups in the 1930s but it remained unpublished at his death in 1947. It was brought to Gurdjieffs attention by Mme Ouspensky and with his encouragement, published in the Fall of 1949 as a precursor to Beelzebubs Tales. This book is the precise, clear result of Ouspenskys long work in recording in an honest and impersonal form these Fragments of an Unknown Teaching which he received from Gurdjieff. Remains unparalleled as a lucid and systematic account of Gurdjieffs early formulation of his ideas.
These three posthumous collections, The Fourth Way , Conscience and A Further Record, offer selections of Ouspenskys talks and answers to questions, transcribed at private meetings in England and the United States, from 1931 to 1946. These are edited and arranged to elucidate the ideas Ouspensky was transmitting on the system.
Autobiographical Fragment. Written in 1935, this brief sketch was first published in the second enlarged edition of his The Psychology of Mans Possible Evolution (1974) Knopf, then in Remembering Pytor Demianovich Ouspensky 1978) a brochure compiled and edited by Merrily E. Taylor for Yale University Library. It was subsequently issued as an appendage to A Further Record: Extracts from Meetings, 19281945 Q.V. (1986) Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Ouspensky sketches his childhood, family, early studies, travel, the development of his philosophy and his relationship with Gurdjieff.
A significant contribution "to the small number of genuinely valuable modern works of spiritual direction and guidance. [It] concentrates on one main question: finding within ourselves what we have (this time almost irretrievably) lost: our reality, wholeness and significance as the human kind of being in the universe." from the foreword by Roy Finch
Presentations, questions and answers at the third Far West Institute lecture series held in San Francisco in 1978. Ten speakers examine the role of increasing technology in their personal and professional lives as they struggle with how to live according to conscience in a rapidly changing world. Jacob Needleman and Richard Baker-Roshi, Abbot of the Zen Center in San Francisco, lead the first discussion.
The fifth set of lectures sponsored by Far West Institute in San Francisco. These six lectures, delivered in the Spring of 1982, featured a publisher, a painter, an Indian medicine woman, a poet and storyteller, a Cistercian monk, a drama and voice teacher and Jacob Needleman, professor of philosophy. Each speaker offers a candid examination of the search for meaning in their private and their professional lives, then fields questions at a colloqium the next day. John Pentland is a frequent participant in five of the discussions.
This anthology of programs from the early days of public sponsored radio includes the transcript of a very informed roundtable discussion about Gurdjieff's then recently published Meetings with Remarkable Men. Participants are John Pentland, Roy Finch and Larry (L.S.) Morris, all senior Gurdjieff students. Pentland points out that what is quite original about the book is that it presents "the complete organic picture of a man's possible growth, particularly man's emotional growth. A new way of living for the sake of understanding life."
John Pentland speaks candidly about how he worked with Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, as well as his role in the transmission of Gurdjieff's teaching in America and the challenge of establishing stable groups of people with committment, organizational intelligence and an intense seriousness about their inner search.
John Pentland was uniquely qualified to write about his longtime teacher. He offers an informed, original synopsis of Ouspensky's important contributions as an independent thinker, writer and leading disseminator of Gurdjieff's teaching.