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G. I. Gurdjieff – Life and Controversy

Posted: June 9, 2016 at 9:46 am

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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


1. Introduction

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

13. Criticism

14. Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'

15. Astrology

16. Beelzebub's Tales

17. An "unknown teaching"

18. Development not possible for all

19. The Fourth Way



1. Introduction

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; Gurdjieff and pets at 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 and Turkish" (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 cloisonn; 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 gains more 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 cloisonn. 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 caf 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 that man is mechanical and effectively asleep in relation to real life. Most men cannot develop or progress, he maintained.

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).

G. I. Gurdjieff - Life and Controversy

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ALL AND EVERYTHING – George Gurdjieff

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FIRST SERIES: Three books under the title of An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, or, Beelzebubs Tales to His Grandson.

SECOND SERIES: Three books under the common title of Meetings with Remarkable Men.

THIRD SERIES: Four books under the common title of Life is Real Only Then, When I Am.

All written according to entirely new principles of logical reasoning and strictly directed towards the solution of the following three cardinal problems:

FIRST SERIES: To destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.

SECOND SERIES: To acquaint the reader with the material required for a new creation and to prove the soundness and good quality of it.

THIRD SERIES: To assist the arising, in the mentation and in the feelings of the reader, of a veritable, non-fantastic representation not of that illusory world which he now perceives, but of the world existing in reality.

[Written impromptu by the author on delivering this book, already prepared for publication, to the printer.]

ACCORDING TO the numerous deductions and conclusions made by me during experimental elucidations concerning the productivity of the perception by contemporary people of new impressions from what is heard and read, and also according to the thought of one of the sayings of popular wisdom I have just remembered, handed down to our days from very ancient times, which declares: Any prayer may be heard by the Higher Powers and a corresponding answer obtained only if it is uttered thrice:

Firstlyfor the welfare or the peace of the souls of ones parents. Secondlyfor the welfare of ones neighbor. And only thirdlyfor oneself personally.

I find it necessary on the first page of this book, quite ready for publication, to give the following advice: Read each of my written expositions thrice:

Firstlyat least as you have already become mechanized to read all your contemporary books and newspapers. Secondlyas if you were reading aloud to another person. And only thirdlytry and fathom the gist of my writings.

Only then will you be able to count upon forming your own impartial judgment, proper to yourself alone, on my writings. And only then can my hope be actualized that according to your understanding you will obtain the specific benefit for yourself which I anticipate, and which I wish for you with all my being.

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ALL AND EVERYTHING - George Gurdjieff

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Gurdjieff Sacred Dance – Movement 11 – YouTube

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Movement 11 - Lord Have Mercy Performance on 25 April 2010 in Gwangju/South Korea by Seekers of Truth. Dance no. 5 of 10. Visit for more information (in Korean) . --------------------------------------------------------------- We don't claim this Gurdjieff Movement presentation to be complete and correct (if such a thing exists). It is not our intention to convey the correct way of performing a Gurdjieff Movement through the internet. Though the movements are extremely beautiful and designed with genius, their technicality is our second concern. For us they are a means to our primary concern, which is the inner process of the people performing them. For us Gurdjieff Movements are a means to be more conscious and aware, a technique of inner growth. If something touches the audience and some seed is planted in them, we are happy about that too. If anyone achieves to more than 20 sec of continuous self-awareness, that is wonderful. If anyone takes up the courage to strive for more than 30 sec on a daily basis, that is good enough to make our efforts worthwhile.

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Gurdjieff Sacred Dance - Movement 11 - YouTube

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November 2nd, 2015 at 4:44 pm

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Georges Ivanovi Gurdjieff – Wikipedia

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Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

Georges Ivanovi Gurdjieff, (in armeno: ?, traslitterato: Georgi Gyowriew; in russo: ?, traslitterato: Georgij Ivanovi Gjurdiev; in greco ), noto nella forma latinizzata francese Georges Gurdjieff (pron. [ rdif]), o G.I. Gurdjieff (Alexandropol, 14 gennaio 1872[1] Neuilly-sur-Seine, 29 ottobre 1949), stato un filosofo, scrittore, mistico e "maestro di danze" armeno.

Di origini greco-armene, visse a lungo in Turchia e in Francia. Il suo insegnamento combina sufismo, scuola mistica dell'Islam (in particolare studi sulle danze sacre dei dervisci), e altre tradizioni religiose (cristianesimo, sikhismo, buddhismo, induismo), esoterismo e filosofia, in un sistema sincretico di tecniche psicofisiche e meditative che cerca di favorire il superamento degli automatismi psicologici ed esistenziali che condizionano l'essere umano.

L'insegnamento fondamentale di Gurdjieff che la vita umana vissuta in uno stato di veglia apparente prossimo al sogno. Per trascendere lo stato di sonno (o di sogno) elabor uno specifico lavoro su s stessi al fine di ottenere un livello superiore di vitalit e consapevolezza. La sua tecnica prevede il raggiungimento di uno stato di calma e isolamento, a cui segue il confronto con altre persone.

Dopo aver attratto a s un consistente numero di allievi e discepoli tra i quali vi erano persone di una certa rilevanza, fond una scuola per lo sviluppo spirituale, chiamata Istituto per lo Sviluppo Armonico dell'Uomo. Gurdjieff fu noto anche come insegnante di danze sacre. La Scuola, una volta a Parigi, prende il nome di Institut Gurdjieff.

Negli anni, l'insegnamento di Gurdjieff ha influenzato diversi personaggi noti della cultura e della letteratura: fra questi, uno dei pi importanti architetti statunitensi del XX secolo, Frank Lloyd Wright, che spos in seconde nozze Olgivanna Hinzenberg, allieva di Gurdjieff e che gli tribut un pubblico riconoscimento durante un congresso svoltosi dopo la morte del maestro. Suoi allievi furono anche la scrittrice Pamela Lyndon Travers, nota per avere creato il personaggio di Mary Poppins e Ren Daumal, scrittore francese che entr in contatto con le sue idee attraverso Alexandre Gustav Salzmann, oltre alla celebre poetessa e scrittrice Katherine Mansfield che, affetta da tubercolosi, volle passare l'ultimo periodo della sua vita accanto al Maestro, vivendo quasi come un eremita in una casetta che Gurdjieff le aveva offerto nella sua tenuta.

L'influenza gurdjieffiana, inoltre, presente anche nella pedagogia grazie al "Modello educativo Etievan", creato da Nathalie de Salzmann de Etievan (figlia di Alexandre e Jeanne de Salzmann) e applicato in diversi collegi del Sudamerica, diffusi tra Venezuela, Cile e Bolivia. Le sue idee hanno anche influenzato diversi artisti, come il cantautore Franco Battiato, e pensatori - tra cui Osho Rajneesh e la New Age - nel corso del XX secolo e in seguito.

Gurdjieff nasce in una data imprecisata (egli avrebbe indicato la mezzanotte all'inizio del giorno del nuovo anno, cio del 14 gennaio) tra il 1866 e il 1877 nella citt di Alexandropol nell'Armenia russa (oggi Gyumri, Repubblica di Armenia) da padre greco (che insieme ad altre professioni anche ashukh, cantastorie) e madre armena.[2] Alcuni autori (come James Moore) optano per il 1866. Sia l'amica Olga de Hartmann che la segretaria Louise Goepfert March, credevano che fosse nato nel 1872. Un passaporto indicava il 28 novembre 1877, ma non coincide con quello da lui sostenuto. Sulla pietra tombale comunque incisa la data del 1872.[3]

Dopo che la famiglia si trasferisce nella citt turca di Kars, Gurdjieff riceve un'educazione religiosa dal suo tutore, il decano Borsh, con cui studia medicina e ingegneria, e prende in considerazione il sacerdozio nella chiesa ortodossa.[2]

Dall'estate del 1885 comincia un lungo percorso in diverse tradizioni spirituali, in particolare quella sufi. Il suo viaggio di ricerca inizi a Costantinopoli (oggi Istanbul) per studiare i dervisci Mevlevi e Bektaschi.[2]

Tra il 1887 e il 1907 forma un gruppo chiamato "Cercatori della verit", compie numerosi viaggi in Medio Oriente, in India, che lo portano dall'Asia Centrale fino al Tibet (dove assiste al massacro dei tibetani da parte dei britannici a Guru e alla successiva conquista di Lhasa). Il motivo (o la suggestione) che lo spinge a continuare il suo pellegrinaggio per vent'anni la ricerca di una misteriosa "Confraternita di Sarmoung", ipoteticamente sviluppatesi nel 2500 a.C. in Babilonia, di cui aveva trovato un riferimento nel 1886. Egli conduce anche ricerche di antichi documenti egizi.[2]

Gurdjieff racconta (in modo romanzato e metaforico) questo periodo della sua vita nel romanzo autobiografico Incontri con uomini straordinari da cui, nel 1978, il regista Peter Brook ricaver l'omonimo film.[2]

Nel 1907, a Tashkent, inizia a insegnare "Scienze Soprannaturali". Nel 1912 forma un primo gruppo a Mosca, e nel 1913 un altro a San Pietroburgo.

Secondo un suo racconto, in questo periodo si sostent anche con lavori bizzarri e talvolta truffaldini, tra cui il venditore di uccelli, in cui spacciava per preziosi canarini uccelli di valore inferiore.[4]

Nel 1915, Gurdjieff accetta Piotr Demianovi Ouspensky (autore del Tertium Organum, un trattato sulla natura dell'universo) come allievo a Mosca. Ouspensky, uomo di cultura e scrittore, fu il tramite per il pensiero di Gurdjieff in Occidente e avrebbe in seguito testimoniato nel libro Frammenti di un insegnamento sconosciuto (tradotto in Italiano da Henri Thomasson) l'esperienza dell'insegnamento di Gurdjieff.

Nel 1916 e 1917 entrano nel gruppo anche il compositore e pianista Thomas de Hartmann e sua moglie Olga Arkadievna de Hartmann. A de Hartmann Gurdjieff detter varie composizioni per pianoforte che vennero pubblicate a nome di entrambi.[2]

Dopo la rivoluzione russa Gurdjieff si rifugia a Essentuki vicino al Mar Nero, dove inizia a sperimentare con alcuni allievi il suo "Laboratorio di Consapevolezza", spostandosi poi in altre localit fra cui Tiflis (oggi Tbilisi), in Georgia. Qui nel 1919 Gurdjieff incontra l'artista Alexandre Gustav Salzmann e la moglie Jeanne Matignon de Salzmann, che aveva studiato danza sotto la guida di mile Jacques-Dalcroze.[2] In collaborazione con Jeanne, Gurdjieff elabora i suoi movimenti, o danze sacre, che presenta per la prima volta a Tiflis nel giugno 1919. Nello stesso anno costituisce l'Istituto per lo Sviluppo Armonico dell'Uomo.[2]

Nel 1920 Gurdjieff e l'Istituto per sfuggire alla guerra civile si trasferiscono a Costantinopoli (oggi Istanbul).[2]

Il 24 novembre 1921 Gurdjieff tiene a Berlino la sua prima conferenza europea. Nel frattempo Ouspensky in Inghilterra aveva divulgato il lavoro di Gurdjieff raccogliendo attorno a s molti allievi. Gurdjieff acquist la tenuta di le Prieur des Basses Loges a Fontainbleu-Avon, alle porte di Parigi, dove si stabilisce nel 1922. Al Prieur fonda una grande Casa di Studi in cui vissero e lavorarono accanto a lui artisti, scrittori, pittori, matematici, filosofi, architetti, musicisti, e ogni genere di individui, impegnati in una seria e profonda ricerca interiore. Qui organizz una vera e propria comunit indipendente con pascoli, coltivazioni, diverse attivit lavorative orientate ad un "intenso lavoro su di se". I "movimenti" o "danze sacre" erano il coronamento del suo insegnamento.[2]

Le serate di musica e danze sacre organizzate da Gurdjieff riscuotono interesse tra numerosi intellettuali anche oltre i confini europei, tanto da organizzare nel 1924, e negli anni successivi, diverse tourne negli Stati Uniti.[2]

Sempre nel 1924 ebbe un gravissimo incidente automobilistico che quasi lo uccise, e al quale fece seguito una lunga e dolorosa convalescenza, assistito dalla moglie e dalla madre (morta di cancro nel 1926). Questo cambi anche l'orientamento del suo lavoro.[2]

Gurdjieff deve lasciare il Prieur nel 1932, e lo perde definitivamente a causa di difficolt economiche nel 1933. Allo scoppio della seconda guerra mondiale, Gurdjieff abita in un piccolo appartamento in Rue des Colonels-Renard al numero 6, e si rifiuta di abbandonare Parigi quando le truppe tedesche la occupano. Pare che sia riuscito a intessere rapporti anche con gli occupanti.[2]

Gurdjieff continua tuttavia a insegnare le sue idee e le sue tecniche nella Parigi occupata e nei frequenti viaggi negli Stati Uniti. Nel 1924 fond dei gruppi negli Stati Uniti diretti da Alfred Richard Orage. Inizi a scrivere una serie di opere con lo scopo di trasmettere i fondamenti del suo insegnamento per le generazioni a venire.[2]

Negli anni 1936-1937 anima il gruppo "La Corda" (The Rope), costituito da scrittrici americane lesbiche, fra cui Margaret Anderson e Jane Heap, che erano state le fondatrici della Little Review a New York.[2]

Dopo la fine della Guerra, dal 1945 l'opera di Gurdjieff volta a riunire tutti i propri allievi sparsi per il mondo (Parigi, Londra, New York), dando vita a un intenso periodo di lavoro nell'appartamento parigino di Rue des Colonels-Renard.[2]

Nel 1948 le sue condizioni di salute si aggravano. Muore il 29 ottobre 1949 all'Ospedale Americano di Neuilly, dopo avere trasmesso le sue ultime istruzioni a Jeanne de Salzmann.[2] lei, a partire dal 1950, seguendo le istruzioni del Maestro, a organizzare i tanti gruppi di allievi nella Scuola diffusa in tutto il mondo e nota ancora oggi sotto il nome Gurdjieff Foundation, i cui centri principali sono Parigi ("Institut Gurdjieff"), New York ("Gurdjieff Foundation"), Londra ("The Gurdjieff Society") e Caracas ("Fundacin Gurdjieff Caracas"), e che presente anche in Italia con il nome di "Associazione o Centro Italiano Studi sull'Uomo G.I. Gurdjieff" e le sedi di Milano, Torino, Roma, Palermo, Cagliari. Dopo Jeanne de Salzmann, sar suo figlio Michel de Salzmann ad occuparsi a livello internazionale della Scuola, fino alla sua morte avvenuta nel 2001.

L'organizzazione denominata The Gurdjieff Foundation dunque l'espressione delle Scuole di Parigi, New York, Londra e Caracas, che vennero create seguendo le dirette istruzioni di Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. Scopo dell'Associazione Internazionale delle Fondazioni Gurdjieff, definita a volte semplicemente come "la Scuola di Gurdjieff", di preservare l'essenza, la specificit e l'integrit dell'insegnamento del maestro.

Sono numerosi gli allievi anziani di Gurdjieff ad aver continuato il proprio lavoro all'interno della Fondazione dopo la sua morte. Fra questi, si ricordano Olga Arkadievna de Hartmann, Henri Tracol, Henriette Lannes, William Segal, John Pentland, Michel De Salzmann, William Welch, Louise Welch e molti altri. In Italia, l'organizzazione stata costituita a partire dai primi anni settanta da Henri Thomasson. Le teorie di Gurdjieff furono trattate anche dal famoso mistico e guru indiano Osho Rajneesh (riprese in particolare l'uso del corpo e del movimento, la necessit di creare meditazioni adatte all'uomo moderno e occidentale e alcuni comportamenti appositamente provocatori), che tuttavia giudic il sistema del filosofo armeno "incompleto".[5]

Fra i discepoli e ammiratori attuali pi noti, vi sono il regista teatrale inglese Peter Brook - il cui film Incontri con uomini straordinari e la sua autobiografia I fili del tempo riportano ampie testimonianze della sua vicinanza all'insegnamento di Gurdjieff -, il polistrumentista e compositore britannico Robert Fripp (fondatore dei King Crimson), il cantautore e regista Franco Battiato (riferimenti alle tematiche del filosofo e mistico armeno si trovano ad esempio in brani come Il Re del mondo, Centro di gravit permanente e Voglio vederti danzare), la cantante Alice, il pianista e compositore Roberto Cacciapaglia, il politico e imprenditore Gianroberto Casaleggio.[6]. Il cantante e compositore inglese David Sylvian.

Gurdjieff afferm che l'uomo non nasce con un'anima, ma che la deve creare durante l'arco della sua vita, altrimenti morir come un cane, ossia senz'anima. Per "anima", egli si riferiva alla coscienza superiore, distinta dalla coscienza ordinaria degli esseri umani, definita come una forma di sonno, sostenendo che gli stati di coscienza superiori sono possibili. Fece riferimento allo strumento dell'attenzione come mezzo per accedere a nuove percezioni ed al "ricordo di s". Insegn attraverso lo strumento delle "danze sacre" o "movimenti" di gruppo, accompagnati da musiche composte in collaborazione con il musicista Thomas de Hartmann, musiche che Gurdjieff compose ispirandosi a ci che aveva sentito e assimilato durante i suoi viaggi.[7]

Gurdjieff propose una sua personale classificazione delle tradizioni spirituali esistenti[7]:

Secondo Gurdjieff[7], le "vie" tradizionali per lo sviluppo interiore dell'uomo risultano inadatte alla vita dell'uomo occidentale, in quanto richiedono l'abbandono della vita ordinaria per dedicarsi interamente ad esse.[7]

La Quarta Via (termine introdotto da Ouspensky, in quanto Gurdjieff usava solo l'espressione "lavoro su di s"), la "via dell'uomo astuto", pone l'accento sull'armonizzazione dell'uomo in tutte le sue parti costituenti, permettendogli di poter continuare la propria vita quotidiana normalmente. La sua particolarit consiste nell'essere attiva nella vita di tutti i giorni, perch propone l'apprendimento di un sapere antichissimo, tramandato esclusivamente oralmente e per pratica diretta, con il quale l'uomo addormentato pu risvegliarsi dal suo torpore profondo, iniziare a conoscere se stesso, ed "aprirsi" a quelle zone luminose interiori, inesplorate e sacre, attraverso il primo raggiungimento di una nuova qualit di Essere.[8]

Piotr Demianovitch Ouspensky lo descriveva cos:

Secondo Pietro Citati, che ha dedicato un saggio a Katherine Mansfield[9], Gurdjieff "emanava una forza sinistra" e "torturava i suoi discepoli". Tra quei discepoli la Mansfield era stata accolta a Fontainebleau, dove incontr anche la vedova del suo autore prediletto Anton Cechov, durante lo stadio terminale della malattia che la condusse alla morte, secondo Citati a causa delle privazioni e delle pratiche "sciamaniche" a cui si sarebbe sottoposta nella comunit di Gurdjieff, su consiglio del maestro. Rest nella comunit per circa tre mesi, fino alla morte, in una piccola casa messale a disposizione.[10]

Ben diversa da quella del saggista italiano la versione dell'eminente anglista Nadia Fusini, che sulla base di documenti autografi (tra cui i diari e le lettere della Mansfield al marito, pubblicate in un Epistolario tradotto anche in italiano) ha pubblicato una biografia accurata della scrittrice (bench inserita in un romanzo che le fa da cornice)[11]. A Fontainebleau tra danze, meditazioni, lavoro duro, incontri, la grande scrittrice neozelandese decide dove e come morire e scrive nelle sue ultime pagine di diario Al Sole va chi morendo pensa al Sole. Gurdjieff venne per accusato gi all'epoca di essere "l'uomo che uccise Katherine Mansfield".[12] Tuttavia autori come James Moore e il contemporaneo (amico di Gurdjieff e conoscente della Mansfield) Piotr Demianovi Ouspensky[13] affermarono che la Mansfield sarebbe comunque morta molto presto dato lo stadio avanzato e incurabile della tubercolosi, e che Gurdjieff rese invece felici e appaganti i suoi ultimi giorni di vita.[14]

Secondo alcuni, Gurdjieff indossava appositamente una "maschera di apparente fraudolenza" per percorrere la via che i sufi chiamano la via di malamat ossia la "via del biasimo", consistente nello scandalizzare appositamente, come un maestro zen, ad esempio comportandosi anche in maniera incoerente o poco consona.[15] Henri Tracol scrisse che per esempio, non ha mai esitato a far sorgere dubbi su s stesso con il tipo di linguaggio che usava, con le sue contraddizioni calcolate e col suo comportamento, ad un punto tale che la gente intorno a lui, in particolare chi aveva la tendenza ad idolatrarlo ciecamente, fosse finalmente costretta ad aprire gli occhi sul caos delle sue reazioni.[15]

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Black Sheep Philosophers – Gurdjieff

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However, there was one kind of publicity that he always got in Europe and America, and that was the kind made by the wagging human tongue: gossip. In 1921 he showed up in Constantinople. "His coming to Constantinople," says the British scientist, J. G. Bennett, "was heralded by the usual gossip of the bazaars. Gurdjieff was said to be a great traveler and a linguist who knew all the Oriental languages, reputed by the Moslems to be a convert to Islam, and by the Christians to be a member of some obscure Nestorian sect." In those days Bennett, who is now an expert on coal utilization, was in charge of a British Intelligence section working in Constantinople. He met Gurdjieff and found him neither Moslem nor Christian. Bennett reported that "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 unmistakably possessed knowledge very different from that of the itinerant Sheikhs of Persia and Trans-Caspia, whose arrival in Constantinople had been preceded by similar rumors. 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 relatively, and also on the psychology of Sigmund Freud."

To Bennett, Gurdjieff didn't look at all like an Eastern sage. He was powerfully builthis neck rippled with musclesand although of only medium height, he was physically dominating. He had a shaven dome, an unlined swarthy face, piercing black eyes, and a tigerish mustache that curled out to big points. In his later years he had a large paunch. But in one respect Gurdjieff's reputation followed the pattern of all the swamis, gurus and masters who have roamed the Western world: his past in the East was veiled in mystery. Only the scantiest facts are known about him before he appeared in Moscow about 1914.

Gurdjieff was born in Alexandropol, an Armenian city, in 1866. His father was a kind of local bard. It is said the boy was educated for the priesthood but as a young man he joined a society called Seekers of the Truth, and went with this group on an expedition into Asia. He was in Asia for many years and then came to Moscow where there was talk that he planned to produce a ballet called "The Struggle of the Magicians."

The rest is hearsay. It has been said that the Seekers of the Truth went into the Gobi desert. It has been said that they were checking on Madame Blavatsky'sSecret Doctrine, and at places where she said there were "masters" they found none; whereas at places unspecified by her, they did find "masters." It has been said that Gurdjieff found one teacher under whom he studied for fifteen years and from whom he acquired his most important knowledge. It has been said that several times he became a rich man in the East. This is all hearsay.

A better grade of hearsay centers around Gurdjieff in Tibet. Was he or was he not the chief political officer of the Dalai Lama in 1904 when the British invaded Tibet? According to Achmed Abdullah, the fiction writer, Gurdjieff was the "Dordjieff" to whom the history books make passing reference, supposedly a Russian who influenced the Dalai Lama at the time of the Younghusband Expedition. Abdullah was a member of the British Intelligence assigned to spy on this "Dordjieff," and when Abdullah saw Gurdjieff in New York in 1924, he exclaimed, "That man is Dordjieff!" At any rate, when there were plans in 1922 for Gurdjieff to live in England, it was found that the Foreign Office was opposed, and it was conjectured that their file dated from the time of the trouble between the British government and Tibet. According to rumor, Gurdjieff counseled the Dalai Lama to evacuate Lhasa and let the British sit in an empty city until the heavy snow could close the passes of the Himalayas and cut off the Younghusband expedition. This was done, and the British hurried to make a treaty while their return route was still open.

Much more is known about Gurdjieff after 1914. A recently published book by P. D. Ouspensky which the author calledFragments of a Forgotten Teaching, but which the publisher has renamed In Search of the Miraculous, gives a running account of Ouspensky's relations with Gurdjieff over a ten-year period. Of his first interview with Gurdjieff, Ouspensky says: "Not only did my questions not embarrass him but it seemed to me that he put much more into each answer than I had asked for." By 1916 Ouspensky was holding telepathic conversations with Gurdjieff. He also records one example of Gurdjieff's transfiguring of his whole appearance on a railroad journey, so that a Moscow newspaperman took him to be an impressive "oil king from Baku" and wrote about his unknown fellow passenger. The greater part ofIn Search of the Miraculous consists of the copious notes Ouspensky made on Gurdjieff's lectures in St. Petersburg and Moscow, which give us the only complete and reliable outline of Gurdjieff's system of ideas thus far in print1. It is plain from Ouspensky's exposition that Gurdjieff attempted to convey Eastern knowledge in the thought-forms of the West; he was trying to bridge the gap between Eastern philosophy and Western science.

For us in America the story of Gurdjieff is the story of three men whom I call the "black sheep philosophers." Gurdjieff was the master, and the other twoAlfred Richard Orage who died in the fall of 1934, and Peter Demianovich Ouspensky who died in the fall of 1947were his leading disciples. I call them philosophers; others would call them psychologists; many have called them charlatans. Whatever one names them, they were black sheep: they were looked at askance by the professional philosophers and psychologists because of the different color of their teachings. Nor were they accepted by theosophists, mystics, or various occult professors. They stood apart and their appeal was to what I shall call, for want of a more inclusive word, the intelligentsia.

It is impossible to assimilate Orage, Ouspensky and Gurdjieff into any recognized Western school of thought. The New York obituaries of Gurdjieff called him the "founder of a new religion." It was said that he taught his followers how to attain "peace of mind and calm." This was an attempt to assimilate him. But Gurdjieff claimed no originality for his system and did not organize his followers; furthermore, he did nothing to establish a new religion. As for "peace of mind and calm" There is the incident of an American novelist who calls himself a "naturalistic mystic." In the middle of a dinner with Gurdjieff in Montmarte, this novelist jumped up, shouted, "I think you are the Devil!" and rushed from the restaurant. The truth is that Gurdjieff violated all our preconceptions of a "spiritual leader" and sometimes repelled "religious seekers."

In my view, the man was an enigma, and that means that my estimate must necessarily be a suspended estimate. The supposition that he was founding a religion will not hold up. And I do not believe he was a devil out of the pages of Dostoevski. There is an old saying that a teacher is to be judged by his pupils, and by that test Gurdjieff had knowledge that two of the strongest minds in our period wanted to acquire. These minds belonged to the English editor, A.R. Orage, and the Russian mathematical philosopher, P.D. Ouspensky. Both surrendered to Gurdjieff. Let us look at the disciples and then come to their teacher.

ORAGE, a Yorkshireman, bought a small London weekly, The New Age, in 1906. From then until 1922, when he relinquished the paper and went to Fontainebleau where Gurdjieff had his headquarters, Orage made journalistic history. He was remarkable for finding and coaching new writers. Among these was Katherine Mansfield, who acknowledged her great indebtedness to him as a literary mentor. Another was Michael Arlen, who once dedicated a novel to Orage in terms like these: "To A.R. Orageslow to form a friendship but never hesitant about making an enemy." Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, G.K. Chesterton, Hilarie Belloc and Arnold Bennett debated with each other in The New Age, and Shaw called Orage a "desperado of genius."

The New Age was more than a literary review. It played a lively role in British political and economic movements. It began by being highly critical of Fabianism, then took a positive turn by advocating National Guilds, or Guild Socialism, as the Guilds movement was popularly called. With A.G. Penty and S.G. Hobson, Orage was one of the prime instigators of the National Guilds movement, but he always had a lingering doubt of the practicability of its platforms and in 1919 he dropped it and joined with Major C.H. Douglas to found the Social Credit movement. With him went many of the more brilliant Guild Socialists, to the mortification of G.D.H. Cole who denounced the "Douglas-New Age heresy."

To literature and economics, Orage added a sustained interest in occultism, and it was this that finally led him to Gurdjieff's Chteau du Prieur at Fontainebleau-Avon. Nietzsche had extended the horizons of Orage's thought during his formative years, and Orage's weekly became a forum for Nietzscheans. He himself wrote two small books on that grossly misunderstood philosopher which remain the clearest expositions yet penned of the superman doctrine. On the spoor of the superman, Orage investigated theosophy, psychical research, and Indian literature, and he wrote one book,Consciousness: Animal, Human and Superman, which hinted at the mental exercises he practiced to enlarge and elevate consciousness. T.S. Eliot called Orage the finest critical intelligence of his generation, which is an assurance to the reader that Orage was no gull in his excursions into mysticism. In 1922, at the age of forty-nine, he cut all ties in England, went to Gurdjieff at Fontainebleau-Avon, and was set to digging trenches and washing casseroles.

At that time Gurdjieff'sInstitute for the Harmonious Development of Man was in full swing. With funds provided by Lady Rothermere, Gurdjieff had acquired the historic Chteau du Prieur, once the residence of Madame de Maintenon, the consort of Louis Quatorze, and in latter years the property of Labori, the attorney for the exonerated French officer, Dreyfus. The institute provided a thorough work-out for the three "centers" of human psychology. Its members engaged in hard physical tasks ranging from long hours of kitchen drudgery to the felling of trees in the chateau's forest. Unusual situations, friction between members, and music insured great activity for the emotional "center." For the mental "center" there were exercises that often had to be performed concurrently with physical tasks. An airplane hangar had been set up on the grounds. This was known as the "study house" and was the scene for instruction in complicated dance movements. There were mottoes on the walls of the "study house." One of them in translation read: "You cannot be too skeptical." This was the milieu the brilliant English editor entered to become a kitchen scullion.

In 1924 Gurdjieff came to America with forty pupilsEnglish and Russianand gave public demonstrations of dervish dances, temple dances, and sacred gymnastics. Orage came along but did not perform the movements, although he had practiced them for a Paris demonstration. Nothing like these dances had ever been seen in New York, and they aroused intense interest. They called for great precision in execution and required extraordinary coordination. One could well believe they were, as claimed, written in an exact language, even though one could not read that language but only received an effect of wakefulness quite different from the pleasant sense of harmony most art produces. When Gurdjieff and his pupils sailed for France, Orage was left in New York to organize groups for the study of Gurdjieff's system, and for the next seven years he was engaged in this task.

Let me call up from memory one of the evenings Orage talked to a group in New York. The place is a large room above a garage on East Fortieth Street. It is Muriel Draper's flat and there is a bizarre note in its furnishings produced by the gilt throne from a production ofHamlet which Mrs. Draper had picked up. In those days Mrs. Draper was the "music at midnight" hostess she had been in Florence and London. By nine o'clock about seventy people had gathered. Let us look around the room. Seated well back is Herbert Croly, the founder and editor of the New Republic, an admirer of Auguste Comte and therefore a rationalist. A few rows in front is Carl Zigrosser, the print expert. Well off to one side is Amos Pinchot, the liberal publicist, and just coming in we see John O'Hara Cosgrave, the Sunday editor of the New York World. Near the front sits Helen Westley of the Theatre Guild, and always on the front row is the historical novelist Mary Johnston. Squatting on the floor up front with an Indian blanket around his shoulders is impassive Tony, the full-blooded Indian husband of Mabel Dodge Luhan, and near him, but seated on a chair is the celebrated memoirist herself; she is reputed to have bought one of the $12,000 "shares" of Gurdjieff's Institute. Now arriving is Dr. Louis Berman, the authority on glands, and just behind him waves the handsome beard of the painter Boardman Robinson. It is the sort of crowd you might find on the opening night ofStrange Interlude, which is currently playing on Broadway. Some of the men you would see at the luncheons of the Dutch Treat Club; some of the women at the meetings of that advanced exclusive group called "Heterodoxy." A worldly crowd, a 1920-ish crowd, for in retrospect the 1920's seems a period vibrating with intellectual curiosity.

Orage comes in a little after nine. Deliberately, he is always a little late, and often he takes a snifter of bootleg gin in Mrs. Draper's kitchen before entering the big room. He is tall, with a strong Yorkshireman's frame, an alert face, an elephantine nose, sensitive mouth, hair still dark. He is a chain-smoker throughout the meeting. He calls for questions. Someone asks about "self-observation," someone wants to know "what this system teaches about death," someone else makes a long speech that terminates in a question about psychoanalysis. After he has five or six questions, Orage begins to talkand he talks well in lucid sentences often glinting with wit. A graduate student in psychology at Columbia objects to one of his remarks. Orage handles the objection and goes on until a progressive schoolteacher interjects a question. It is like a Socratic dialogue, with Orage elucidating a single topic from all sides. Every question eventually gets back to "the method," and by eleven o'clock he has once again illuminated the method of self-observation with non-identification that appears to be the starting procedure prescribed by Gurdjieff for self-study.

Briefly, what Orage has said is that man is a mechanical being. He cannot do anything. He has no will. His organism acts without his concurrent awareness and he identifies himself with various parts of this victim of circumstances, his organism. There is only one thing he can try to do. He can try to observe the physical behavior of his organism while at the same time not identifying his 'I' with it. Later he can attempt to observe his emotions and thoughts. The trouble is that he can only fleetingly observe with non-identification, but he must continue to make the effort. It is claimed that this method differs from introspection. The non-identifying feature differentiates it from an apperception. The man who finally succeeds in developing the power of self-observation is on the path to self-knowledge and the actualizing of a higher state of consciousness. This higher state, which Orage calls "Self-consciousness" or "Individuality," stands to our present waking state as the waking state stands to our state of sleep.

This bare summary will not, of course, explain why so many New Yorkers came to hear Orage between 1924 and 1931. Some came only once or twice out of a weak curiosity, like Heywood Broun who listened through one meeting, then asked, "When do we get to sex?" and shuffled off, never to return. Others were fascinated by the charm and keenness of Orage's literary personality and found such epigrams as "H. G. Wells is an ordinary man with a carbuncle of genius" full compensation for the dissertations on psychology they sat through. But the solid core of his group were probably the people who prefer Plato to Aristotle; that is, people who feel that there is some kind of film over reality and respond to the idea that this film can be penetrated.

In 1931 Orage faced a personal crisis. He had married an American girl and had an infant son. Gurdjieff, a hard task-maker, wanted him to bring his family to the Chteau du Prieur and continue work on the translation into English of the huge book then called Tales of Beelzebub to His Grandson, which Gurdjieff had written partly in Russian and partly in Armenian. Orage neither wanted to leave his family nor to put them in the never-stable environment of Fontainebleau-Avon. He decided to go to London and there founded theNew English Weekly. On Guy Fawkes Day [Nov. 5] in 1934, he who had never addressed more than a few thousand readers addressed hundreds of thousands of B.B.C. listeners with a speech on Social Credit, went home, and died before morning.

THE link between Orage and Gurdjieff was originally P. D. Ouspensky, who came to London in 1921 and started groups for the study of the Gurdjieff system. Orage attended these, as did Katherine Mansfield, and both went to the source at Fontainebleau. As explained by Ouspensky, there were three main ways to a higher development of man: the way of the fakir who struggles with the physical body, the way of the monk who subjects all other emotions to the emotion of faith, and the way of the yogi who develops his mind. But these ways produce lopsided men; they produce the "stupid fakir," the "silly saint," the "weak yogi." There is a fourth way, that of Gurdjieff, in which the student continues in his usual life-circumstances but strives for a harmonious development of his physical, emotional and intellectual lifethe non-monastic "way of the sly man." The accent was on harmonious, all-around development.

Ouspensky was a highly mental type. At his lectures in New York he seemed like a European professor. He was not nervous in manner and he had a peculiar kind of emotional serenity; one felt that it did not matter to him what his listeners thought of him. In his youth he had been fascinated by the problem of the fourth dimension, the nature of time, and the doctrine of recurrence. When only thirty-one, he wrote a book,The Fourth Dimension, which was recognized as a contribution to abstract mathematical theory. He also practiced journalism for a St. Petersburg newspaper. At thirty-four, he completed the book on which his popular fame rests,Tertium Organum. This book had a great influence on the American poet, Hart Crane, an influence Brom Weber has carefully traced in his biography of Crane. ButTertium Organum is a pre-Gurdjieffian work, and much of it has to be reset in a later pattern of Ouspensky's thought, as he implied in a cryptic note inserted after the early editions. Ouspensky also wrote a short book on the tarot cards, which are surmised to contain occult meaning.

The young Russian thinker attempted to be practical about his speculative thinking. He made trips to Egypt, India and Ceylon in search of keys to knowledge. He experimented with drugs, fasting and breathing exercises to induced higher states of consciousness. When he met Gurdjieff in Moscow in 1914, he was ripe for a teacher.

As the years went on, Ouspensky began to make a distinction between Gurdjieff the man and the ideas conveyed by Gurdjieff. Remaining true to the ideas, he finally decided about 1924 to teach independently of the man Gurdjieff. The last chapter of In Search of the Miraculous, deals with this "break," but it is too reticent to make the "break" understood.

Ouspensky held groups in London throughout the 1920's and 1930's, and had a place outside London for his more devoted pupils, some of whom were quite wealthy. When the bombs began to rain on England, he and a number of his English pupils migrated to America and purchased Franklin Farms, a large estate at Mendham, New Jersey. In New York he lectured to shifting groups of sixty or so, while at Mendham his wife supervised the pupils who carried out farm and household tasks as part of their psychological training. Instruction in the Gurdjieff dance movements was also given at Mendham.

Ouspensky's later books have includedA New Model of the Universe, begun in pre-Gurdjieff days but revised and completed under his influence, and a novel,Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, which has a flavor that reminds one of Gogol. Although Ouspensky has written extensively on relativity, the professional physicists appear to have given him a cold shoulder; at least, he is never mentioned in scientific literature. However,A New Model of the Universe produced a great impression on the novelist J.B. Priestly, who wrote one of his most enthusiastic essays2 about it.

GURDJIEFF was by far the most dramatic of the trio; in fact, Gurdjieff as a pedagogue was mainly an improvising dramatist, a difficult aspect of his character to explain briefly. Most people believe that they can make decisions. They believe that when they say "Yes" or "No" in regard to a course of action, they mean "Yes" or "No." They think they are sincere and can carry out their promises and know their own minds. Gurdjieff did not lecture them on the illusion of free will. Instead, in conversation with a person, he would produce a situation, usually trivial and sometimes absurd, in which that person would hesitate, perhaps say "Yes," then change to "No," become paralyzed between choices like Zeno's famous donkey starving between two equidistant bales of hay, and end full of doubt about any "decision" reached. If the person afterwards looked at the little scene he had been put through, he saw that his usual "Yes" or "No" had no weight; that, in fact, he had drifted as the psychological breezes blew.

Often, in his early acquaintance with a person, Gurdjieff would hit upon one or both of two "nerves" which produced agitation. These were the "pocketbook nerve" and the "sex nerve." He would, as our slang goes, "put the bee on somebody for some dough," or he might, as he did with one priest from Greece, egg him on to tell a series of ribald jokes. The event often proved that he didn't need the money he had been begging for. As for the poor priest, when he had outdone himself with an anecdote, Gurdjieff deflated him with the disgusted remark, "Now you are dirty!" and turned away. "I wished to show him he was not true priest," Gurdjieff said afterwards. To go for the "pocketbook nerve" or the "sex nerve" was to take a short cut to a person's psychology; instead of working through the surfaces, Gurdjieff immediately got beneath them. "Nothing shows up people so much," he once said, "as their attitude toward money."

There are legends about how Gurdjieff came by the large sums of money he freely spent. It has been rumored that he earned money by hypnotic treatment of rich drug addicts. There used to be a tale that he owned a restaurant, or even a small chain of restaurants, in Paris. His fortunes varied extremely, and there were times when he had little money. He lost his chateau at Fontainebleau-Avon in the early 1930's. His expenses were large and included the support of a score or two of adherents. He tipped on a fabulous scale. Money never stuck to his fingers but he himself did not lead a luxurious life. He joked with his pupils about his financial needs and openly called his money-raising maneuvers "shearing sheep."

When the Bolshevik revolution struck Russia, Gurdjieff moved south. He halted at various places, notably at Tiflis, to launch groups, but eventually he and his followers crossed the Caucasian mountains on foot and made their way to Constantinople. Via Germany, he reached France where, as related, Lady Rothermere enabled him to found the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Chteau du Prieur. This Institute, Orage once told me, was to have made Bacon's project for an Academy for the Advancement of Learning look like a rustic school. But in 1924, Gurdjieff met with an automobile accident which nearly killed him, and thereafter he turned to the less strenuous activity of writing. The Institute plans were canceled, and he began the tales of Beelzebub as told to his grandson on a ship in interstellar space. This book is a huge parable with chapters on the engulfed civilization of Atlantis, the "law of three" and the "law of seven," objective art, and many riddles of man's history. It purports to be an impartial criticism of the life of man on the planet Earth. In this period Gurdjieff also composed many pieces of music, making original use of ancient scales and rhythms.

In the last year or two of his long life, Gurdjieff finished with his writings and intensified his direct contacts with his followers. Movement classes were started in Paris, and several hundred Frenchmen now come more or less regularly to these and other meetings. In England the exposition of Gurdjieff's ideas is carried on by the mathematical physicist, J. G. Bennett3. Bennett is the author ofThe Crisis in Human Affairs, an introduction to the Gurdjieff system. It is said that Bennett attracts about three hundred to his lectures and that the class in movements numbers nearly two hundred.

Gurdjieff spent the winter of 194849 in New York, as usual unnoticed by the press. The remnant of the old Orage groups came to him, as did the Ouspenskyites from Mendham and many new people. With Oriental hospitality, he provided supper night after night for seventy and upwards in his big suite at the Hotel Wellington, the supper being punctuated by toasts in armagnac to various kinds of idiots: "health ordinary idiots," "health candidates for idiots," "health squirming idiots," "health compassionate idiots." When Gurdjieff drank water, he always proposed, "health wise man." Prepositions were left out of the toasts; Gurdjieff spoke a simplified English that often required an effort to follow. After the supper, Gurdjieff's writings were read until the small hours of the morning. While he was here, he signed a contract with a New York publisher to bring out in 1950 the English version of the 1000-page tales of Beelzebub, under the title All and Everything. It is also expected that after the book appears, his American pupils will give a public demonstration of the dance movements.

Gurdjieff had passage booked for America last October but fell gravely ill. An American doctor flew to Paris, had him removed to the American Hospital, and made him comfortable. "Bravo, America!" he said to the doctor. "Now we can have a cup of coffee." Those were his last words.

How shall I sum up this strange man? A twentieth century Cagliostro? But the evidence about Cagliostro is conflicting, and the stories you will hear about Gurdjieff are highly conflicting. I can personally vouch for his astonishing capacity for work. Two to four hours' sleep seemed sufficient for him; yet he always appeared to have abundant energy for a day spent in writing, playing an accordion-harmonium, motoring, caf conversation, cooking. Those who had to keep up with him were sometimes ready to drop from fatigue, but he seemed inexhaustible after twenty hours and fresh the next morning from a short sleep. He was eighty-three this last winter at the Hotel Wellington. He would retire at three or four in the morning. Around seven the elevator boys would take him down and he would go over to his "office," a Child's restaurant on upper Fifth Avenue. Here, as at a European cafe, he would receive callers all morning.

I have sometimes asked myself what our civilization of specialists would make of certain men of the Renaissancemen like Roger Bacon, a forerunner, and Francis Bacon and Paracelsus who came at the heightif they reappeared among us. I think we would find them baffling, and it would be their many-sidedness that would puzzle us. The biographers and historians have never quite known how to take their scandalous unorthodoxy. To me Gurdjieff was an enigma whom I associate with the stranger figures of the Renaissance rather than with religious leaders. He never claimed originality for his ideas but asserted they came from ancient science transmitted in esoteric schools. His humor was Rabelaisian, his roles were dramatic, his impact on people was upsetting. Sentimentalists came, expecting to find in him a resemblance to the pale Christ-figure literature has concocted, and went away swearing that Gurdjieff was a dealer in black magic. Scoffers came, and some remained to wonder if Gurdjieff knew more about relativity than Einstein.

"A Pythagorean Greek," Orage called him, thus connecting the prominence given to numbers in the Gurdjieffian system with Gurdjieff's descent from Ionian Greeks who had migrated to Turkey. Perhaps this appellation, "Pythagorean Greek," is as short a way as any to indicate the strangeness of Gurdjieff to our civilization, which has never been compared to Greece in its great period from the sixth to the fourth centuries before Christ.

How shall we account for the interest persons of metropolitan culture in the Western world have shown in the Eastern ideas of Gurdjieff and his transmitters, Orage and Ouspensky? One explanation is easy, and it holds for people who seek respite for their personal unhappiness in psychoanalysis, pseudo-religious cults, and the worship of the group (nostrism as manifested in Communism and Fascism). This is the therapeutic interest, and many who have come to the Gurdjieffian meetings have had it. Let us disregard this common interest and ask why Eastern ideas have attracted in these years the interest of sophisticated thinkers like Aldous Huxley who has been remarkable for his typicality. The answer here is that Western culture is in crisis. Ours is a period of two world wars and one world depression. In this period it has been impossible for a thoughtful person not to have been deeply disappointed in his hopes for man. He has seen one effort after another produce an unintended result. World War I made the world unsafe for democracy. The prosperity of the 1920's led to economic drought. World War II turned into cold war. The socialist dream flickered into a totalitarian nightmare. Science becomes an agency of destruction. The doctrine of progress gives place to the feeling the Western man is at a standstill. In a crisis one hopes or one despairs. Gurdjieff, Orage and Ouspensky confirmed the despair but simultaneously raised the hope of Westerners whose mood was disappointment over the resources of their culture. It is said that Aldous Huxley, that modern of moderns, went to a few Ouspensky meetings in London. Eventually Huxley settled for Gerald Heard who draws heavily on Eastern philosophy. In Huxley we may find a symptom of a desperate tendency to turn in our crisis to ideas and teachings that stand outside the stream of Western culture. Orage, Ouspensky and Gurdjieff painted a crisis-picturein one part as black as any school of Western pessimism, in another part so bright as early Christianity. In this balance-by-contrast of the dark and the light is a principal reason for their appeal to moderns.

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Black Sheep Philosophers - Gurdjieff

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Gurdjieff Internet Guide

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Gurdjieff's Movements: The Pattern of All and Everything

G.I. Gurdjieff (1866?-1949) dedicated his life to the pursuit and teaching of an ancient knowledge about Man and the Universe. Gurdjieff's Movements is the name given to the collective body of dances ...

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Gurdjieff's Early Talks 19141931

In Moscow, St. Petersburg, Essentuki, Tiflis, Constantinople, Berlin, Paris, London, Fontainebleau, New York, and Chicago

With a foreword by Joseph Azize

The talks in this volume are not verbatim ...

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Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology

This is a definitive book on the Sufi way of blame that addresses the cultural life of Sufism in its entirety. Originating in ninth-century Persia, the way of blame (Arab. malamatiyya) is a little-known ...

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Beyond Sufism Travels and Essays [Kindle Edition]

BEYOND SUFISM - TRAVELS & ESSAYS A series of travels and essays in modern Sufism and beyond. These essays cover many subjects; modern sufi spirituality, experiences in painting and colour, a history of ...

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Spiritual Physics

An exploration of the ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff through questions and answers. Compiled by John Anderson & Marshall May. Ships in 6-8 business days.

There is a chapter in this book that introduces Jerry's ...

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The Globalization of Hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer:

The meditative prayer practices known as Hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer have played an important role in the history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. This book explores how these prayer practices have ...

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Breathe, for God's Sake!

This book holds a treasure of deep insights into the great mystery of breathfrom a spiritual perspective. Inspiring discourses, effective and safe practices and beautiful poetry from various traditions ...

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Atmen Sie, um Gottes Willen!

Vortrge ber die mystische Kunst und Wissenschaft des Atems

Dieses neue Buch, dessen Erstausgabe bei Chalice gleichzeitig im englischen Original sowie in einer deutschen bersetzung erscheint, enthlt ...

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The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity

Just as she's done in her previous books, Cynthia Bourgeault asks us to take a look at an idea from traditional Christianitythis time the formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spiritas though we're looking ...

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The Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness: The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, Volume Three

The third volume of this landmark series presents the vajrayana teachings of the tantric path (edited by Judith Lief). The vajrayana, or diamond vehicle, also referred to as tantra, draws upon and extends ...

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Important Notice

Gurdjieff Internet Guide was started on the 7th of August in 2002 ( which was my 60th birthday), and retired after ten years on the 7th of August 2012, when I became 70 years old. What you experiences on the site is "life after death" of the site, as the number of visitors is not going down, but keeping steadily at the reasonable level of just under 10 000 visits a month. In fact, it is not I, but the visitors, who keep the site going!

Against all odds, it was meant to give an idea of the Gurdjieff Work on the internet focusing on what is happening in it, particularly in our time, and without the hush of a "secret teaching". This has been achieved with interviews, articles, videos, book reviews, event listings, forums and other material related to the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff.

Amden, Switzerland, 12 January 2015 Reijo Oksanen

This musis is played by Wim van Dullemen Gurdjieff/de Hartmann: Essentuki Prayer Please push the button to play!

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Gurdjieff Internet Guide

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September 16th, 2015 at 10:00 pm

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Fourth Way – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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For P. D. Ouspensky's book see Fourth Way (book). For the jazz group see The Fourth Way (band)

The Fourth Way is an approach to self-development described by George Gurdjieff which he developed over years of travel in the East. It combines what he saw as three established traditional "ways" or "schools", those of the mind, emotions and body, or of yogis, monks and fakirs respectively, and is sometimes referred to as "The Work", "Work on oneself" or "The System". The exact origins of Gurdjieff's teachings are unknown, but people have offered various sources.[1]

The term was further used by his disciple P. D. Ouspensky in his lectures and writings. After Ouspensky's death his students published a book entitled The Fourth Way based on his lectures.

According to this system, the three traditional schools, or ways, "are permanent forms which have survived throughout history mostly unchanged, and are based on religion. Where schools of yogis, monks or fakirs exist, they are barely distinguishable from religious schools. The fourth way differs in that it is not a permanent way. It has no specific forms or institutions and comes and goes controlled by some particular laws of its own."[citation needed]

When this work is finished, that is to say, when the aim set before it has been accomplished, the fourth way disappears, that is, it disappears from the given place, disappears in its given form, continuing perhaps in another place in another form. Schools of the fourth way exist for the needs of the work which is being carried out in connection with the proposed undertaking. They never exist by themselves as schools for the purpose of education and instruction.[2]

The Fourth Way addresses the question of people's place in the Universe, their possibilities of inner development, and emphasizes that people ordinarily live in a state referred to as "waking sleep", while higher levels of being are possible.

The Fourth Way teaches how to increase and focus attention and energy in various ways, and to minimize daydreaming and absentmindedness. This inner development in oneself is the beginning of a possible further process of change, whose aim is to transform man into "what he ought to be".

Gurdjieff's followers believed he was a spiritual master,[3] a human being who is fully awake or enlightened. He was also seen as an esotericist or occultist.[4] He agreed that the teaching was esoteric but claimed that none of it was veiled in secrecy but that many people lack the interest or the capability to understand it.[5] Gurdjieff said, "The teaching whose theory is here being set out is completely self supporting and independent of other lines and it has been completely unknown up to the present time."[citation needed]

The Fourth Way teaches that humans are not born with a soul and are not really conscious but only believe they are. A person must create a soul by following a teaching which can lead to this aim, or else "die like a dog". Humans are born asleep, live in sleep and die in sleep, only imagining that they are awake.[6] The ordinary waking "consciousness" of human beings is not consciousness at all but merely a form of sleep.

Gurdjieff taught "sacred dances" or "movements", now known as Gurdjieff movements, which they performed together as a group.[7] He left a body of music, inspired by that which he had heard in remote monasteries and other places, which was written for piano in collaboration with one of his pupils, Thomas de Hartmann.[8]

Gurdjieff taught that traditional paths to spiritual enlightenment followed one of three ways:

Gurdjieff insisted that these paths - although they may intend to seek to produce a fully developed human being - tend to cultivate certain faculties at the expense of others. The goal of religion or spirituality was, in fact, to produce a well-balanced, responsive and sane human being capable of dealing with all eventualities that life may present. Gurdjieff therefore made it clear that it was necessary to cultivate a way that integrated and combined the traditional three ways.

Gurdjieff said that his Fourth Way was a quicker means than the first three ways because it simultaneously combined work on all three centers rather than focusing on one. It could be followed by ordinary people in everyday life, requiring no retirement into the desert. The Fourth Way does involve certain conditions imposed by a teacher, but blind acceptance of them is discouraged. Each student is advised to do only what they understand and to verify for themselves the teaching's ideas.

Ouspensky documented Gurdjieff as saying that "two or three thousand years ago there were yet other ways which no longer exist and the ways now in existence were not so divided, they stood much closer to one another. The fourth way differs from the old and the new ways by the fact that it is never a permanent way. It has no definite forms and there are no institutions connected with it.[9]

Ouspensky quotes Gurdjieff that there are fake schools and that "It is impossible to recognize a wrong way without knowing the right way. This means that it is no use troubling oneself how to recognize a wrong way. One must think of how to find the right way."[10]

In his works, Gurdjieff credits his teachings to a number of more or less mysterious sources:[11]-

Attempts to fill out his account have featured:

The Fourth Way focuses on "conscious labor" and "intentional suffering."

Conscious Labor is an action where the person who is performing the act is present to what he is doing; not absentminded. At the same time he is striving to perform the act more efficiently.

Intentional suffering is the act of struggling against automatism such as daydreaming, pleasure, food (eating for reasons other than real hunger), etc... In Gurdjieff's book Beelzebub's Tales he states that "the greatest 'intentional suffering' can be obtained in our presences by compelling ourselves to endure the displeasing manifestations of others toward ourselves"[18]

To Gurdjieff these two were the basis of all evolution of man.


This is to strive to observe in oneself behavior and habits usually only observed in others, and as dispassionately as one may observe them in others, to observe thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging or analyzing what is observed.[19]

The Need for Effort

Gurdjieff emphasized that awakening results from consistent, prolonged effort. Such efforts may be made as an act of will after one is already exhausted.

The Many 'I's

This indicates fragmentation of the psyche, the different feelings and thoughts of I in a person: I think, I want, I know best, I prefer, I am happy, I am hungry, I am tired, etc. These have nothing in common with one another and are unaware of each other, arising and vanishing for short periods of time. Hence man usually has no unity in himself, wanting one thing now and another, perhaps contradictory, thing later.


Gurdjieff classified plants as having one center, animals two and humans three. Centers refer to apparati within a being that dictate specific organic functions. There are three main centers in a man: intellectual, emotional and physical, and two higher centers: higher emotional and higher intellectual.

Body, Essence and Personality

Gurdjieff divided people's being into Essence and Personality.

Cosmic Laws

Gurdjieff focused on two main cosmic laws, the Law of Three and the Law of Seven[citation needed].

How the Law of Seven and Law of Three function together is said to be illustrated on the Fourth Way Enneagram, a nine-pointed symbol which is the central glyph of Gurdjieff's system.

In his explanations Gurdjieff often used different symbols such as the Enneagram and the Ray of Creation. Gurdjieff said that "the enneagram is a universal symbol. All knowledge can be included in the enneagram and with the help of the enneagram it can be interpreted ... A man may be quite alone in the desert and he can trace the enneagram in the sand and in it read the eternal laws of the universe. And every time he can learn something new, something he did not know before."[20] The ray of creation is a diagram which represents the Earth's place in the Universe. The diagram has eight levels, each corresponding to Gurdjieff's laws of octaves.

Through the elaboration of the law of octaves and the meaning of the enneagram, Gurdjieff offered his students alternative means of conceptualizing the world and their place in it.

To provide conditions in which attention could be exercised more intensively, Gurdjieff also taught his pupils "sacred dances" or "movements" which they performed together as a group, and he left a body of music inspired by what he heard in visits to remote monasteries and other places, which was written for piano in collaboration with one of his pupils, Thomas de Hartmann.

Gurdjieff laid emphasis on the idea that the seeker must conduct his or her own search. The teacher cannot do the student's work for the student, but is more of a guide on the path to self-discovery. As a teacher, Gurdjieff specialized in creating conditions for students - conditions in which growth was possible, in which efficient progress could be made by the willing. To find oneself in a set of conditions that a gifted teacher has arranged has another benefit. As Gurdjieff put it, "You must realize that each man has a definite repertoire of roles which he plays in ordinary circumstances ... but put him into even only slightly different circumstances and he is unable to find a suitable role and for a short time he becomes himself."

Having migrated for four years after escaping the Russian Revolution with dozens of followers and family members, Gurdjieff settled in France and established his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Chteau Le Prieur at Fontainebleau-Avon in October 1922.[21] The institute was an esoteric school based on Gurdjieff's Fourth Way teaching. After nearly dying in a car crash in 1924, he recovered and closed down the Institute. He began writing All and Everything. From 1930, Gurdjieff made visits to North America where he resumed his teachings.

Ouspensky relates that in the early work with Gurdjieff in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Gurdjieff forbade students from writing down or publishing anything connected with Gurdjieff and his ideas. Gurdjieff said that students of his methods would find themselves unable to transmit correctly what was said in the groups. Later, Gurdjieff relaxed this rule, accepting students who subsequently published accounts of their experiences in the Gurdjieff work.

After Gurdjieff's death in 1949 a variety of groups around the world have attempted to continue The Gurdjieff Work. The Gurdjieff Foundation, was established in 1953 in New York City by Jeanne de Salzmann in cooperation with other direct pupils.[22]J. G. Bennett ran groups and also made contact with the Subud and Sufi schools to develop The Work in different directions. Maurice Nicoll, a Jungian psychologist, also ran his own groups based on Gurdjieff and Ouspensky's ideas. The French institute was headed for many years by Madam de Salzmann - a direct pupil of Gurdjieff. Under her leadership, the Gurdjieff Societies of London and New York were founded and developed.

There is debate regarding the ability to use Gurdjieff's ideas through groups. Some critics believe that none of Gurdjieff's students were able to raise themselves to his level of understanding. Proponents of the continued viability of Gurdjieff's system, and its study through the use of groups, however, point to Gurdjieff's insistence on the training of initiates in interpreting and disseminating the ideas that he expressed cryptically in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. This, combined with Gurdjieff's almost fanatical dedication to the completion of this text (Beelzebub's Tales), suggest that Gurdjieff himself intended his ideas to continue to be practiced and taught long after his death. Other proponents of continuing the Work are not concerned with external factors, but focus on the inner results achieved through a sincere practice of Gurdjieff's system.

In contrast, some former Gurdjieffians joined other movements,[23][24] and there are a number of offshoots, and syntheses incorporating elements of the Fourth Way, such as:

The Enneagram is often studied in contexts that do not include other elements of Fourth Way teaching.

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Fourth Way - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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September 16th, 2015 at 10:00 pm

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Peter Brook and Traditional Thought – Gurdjieff

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Tradition itself, in times of dogmatism and dogmatic revolution, is a revolutionary force which must be safeguarded.

Peter Brook

~ ~

The continuous investigation of the meaning of theatre, which underpins all of Peter Brooks work, has inevitably led him to an investigation of Tradition. If theatre springs from life, then life itself must be questioned. Understanding theatrical reality also entails understanding the agents of that reality, the participants in any theatrical event: actors, director, spectators. For a man who rejects all dogma and closed systems of thought, Tradition offers the ideal characteristic of unity in contradiction. Although it asserts its immutable nature, nevertheless it appears in forms of an immense heterogeneity: while devoting itself to the understanding of unity, it does so by focusing its concerns on the infinite diversity of reality. Finally, Tradition conceives of understanding as being something originally engendered by experience, beyond all explanation and theoretical generalisation. Isnt the theatrical event itself experience, above all else?

Even on the most superficial of levels, Brooks interest in Tradition is self-evident: one thinks of his theatre adaptation of one of the jewels of Sufi art, Attars Conference of the Birds, of his film taken from Gurdjieffs book Meetings with Remarkable Men, and of the subsequent work on The Mahabharata. Clearly an investigation of the points of convergence between Brooks theatre work and traditional thought is not devoid of purpose.

An important point needs to be made at the very outset: the word tradition (from the Latin tradere, meaning to restore, to transmit) carries within it a contradiction charged with repercussions. In its primary familiar usage, the word tradition signifies a way of thinking or acting inherited from the past1: it is therefore linked with the words custom and habit. In this sense, one might refer to academic tradition, to a Comdie Franaise tradition or to Shakespearean tradition. In theatre, tradition represents an attempt at mummification, the preservation of external forms at all costsinevitably concealing a corpse within, for any vital correspondence with the present moment is entirely absent. Therefore, according to this first use of tradition, Brooks theatre work seems to be anti-traditional, or, to be more precise, a-traditional. Brook himself has said:

Even if its ancient, by its very nature theatre is always an art of modernity. A phoenix that has to be constantly brought back to life. Because the image that communicates in the world in which we live, the right effect which creates a direct link between performance and audience, dies very quickly. In five years a production is out of date. So we must entirely abandon any notion of theatrical tradition2

A second, less familiar meaning of Traditionand one that will be used throughout this essayis a set of doctrines and religious or moral practices, transmitted from century to century, originally by word of mouth or by example or a body of more or less legendary information, related to the past, primarily transmitted orally from generation to generation.3 According to this definition, Tradition encapsulates different traditionsChristian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Sufi etc. (To avoid any confusion between these two accepted uses of the same word, a capital letter will be employed throughout when referring to this latter use).

So in essence Tradition is concerned with the transmission of a body of knowledge on the spiritual evolution of man, his position in different worlds, his relationship with different cosmoses. This body of knowledge is therefore unvarying, stable, permanent, despite the multiplicity of forms assumed in its transmission, and despite those distortions brought about by history and the passage of time. Although its transmission is usually oral, Tradition can also be conveyed by means of the science of symbols, by various writings and works of art, as well as by myths and rituals.

Traditional knowledge was established in ancient times, but it would be futile to look for a source of Tradition. As far as its deepest roots are concerned, Tradition could be conceived to be outside both space (geographical) and time (historical). It is eternally present, here and now, in every human being, a constant and vital wellspring. The source of Tradition can only be metaphysical. By addressing itself to what is essential in mankind, Tradition remains very much alive in our times. The work of Ren Gunon or Mircea Eliade have shown the extent to which traditional thought can be of burning interest for our own era. In addition, increasingly detailed studies demonstrate the points of convergence in structural terms between contemporary science and Tradition.

One can find a precise point of contact between Tradition and theatre in Traditions quality of vital immediacya quality reflected in its oral transmission, in its constant reference to the present moment and to experience in the present moment. Brook himself refers to just this, more or less directly, when he writes:

Theatre exists in the here and now. It is what happens at that precise moment when you perform, that moment at which the world of the actors and the world of the audience meet. A society in miniature, a microcosm brought together every evening within a space. Theatres role is to give this microcosm a burning and fleeting taste of another world, and thereby interest it, transform it, integrate it.4

Evidently, according to Brooks vision, although the theatre is on the one hand by its very nature a-traditional, it could be conceived to be a field of study in which to confront and explore Tradition. The reasons for Brooks interest in the thought of Gurdjieff are also apparent: as we know, Brook devoted several years of work to realising a film version of one of his books. We believe that significant correspondences exist between Brooks work in theatre and the teachings of Gurdjieff: and for that reason Gurdjieffs name will recur throughout this essay.

While resolutely remaining a man of Tradition, Gurdjieff (18771949) managed to express his teachings in contemporary language. He also succeeded in locating and formulating, in a scientific manner, laws common to all levels of reality. These laws assure a unity in diversity,5 a unity beyond the infinite variety of forms associated with the different levels. These laws explain why mankind need not be a fragmented state in a thousand realities, but in one multi-faceted reality only.

Aesthetic reality, spiritual reality, scientific reality: dont they all converge on one and the same centre, while remaining utterly distinct and different in themselves? Hasnt contemporary scientific thought itself (both quantum and sub-quantum) uncovered paradoxical and surprising aspects in nature, formerly entirely unsuspectedaspects which bring it significantly closer to Tradition?6

Theatre work, traditional thought, scientific thought: such a meeting is perhaps unusual, but certainly not fortuitous. By Peter Brooks own admission, what attracted him to theatrical form as well as to the study of Tradition was precisely this apparent contradiction between art and science. So it is not at all surprising that a book such as Matila Ghykas Le Nombre dOr (a discussion of the relationship between numbers, proportions and emotions) should have made such a strong impression on him.

The possible dialogues between science and Tradition, art and Tradition, science and art, are rich and fruitful, potentially offering a means of understanding a world borne down by and submerged beneath increasingly alienating complexities.

We believe that Brooks theatre research is structured around three polar elements: energy, movement and interrelations. We know that the world of appearance, writes Brook, is a crustunder the crust is the boiling matter we see if we peer into a volcano. How can we tap this energy?7 Theatrical reality will be determined by the movement of energy, a movement itself only perceivable by means of certain relationships: the interrelations of actors, and that between text, actors and audience. Movement cannot be the result of an actors action: the actor does not do a movement, it moves through him/her. Brook takes Merce Cunningham as an example: he has trained his body to obey, his technique is his servant, so that instead of being wrapped up in the making of a movement, he can let the movement unfold in intimate company with the unfolding of the music.8

The simultaneous presence of energy, movement and certain interrelations brings the theatrical event to life. With reference to Orghast, Brook spoke of the fire of the event, which is that marvelous thing of performance in the theatre. Through it, all the things that wed been working on suddenly fell into place.9 This falling into place indicates the sudden discovery of a structure hidden beneath the multiplicity of forms, apparently extending in all directions. That is why Brook believes the essence of theatre work to be in freeing the dynamic process.10 It is a question of freeing and not of fixing or capturing this process which explains the suddenness of the event. A linear unfolding would signify a mechanistic determinism, whereas here the event is linked to a structure which is clearly not linear at allbut rather one of lateral interrelationships and interconnections.

Event is another key word, frequently recurring in Brooks work. Surely it is not simply coincidence that the same word covers a central notion in modern scientific theory, since Einstein and Minkowski? Beyond the infinite multiplicity of appearances, isnt reality perhaps based on one single foundation?

In 1900, Max Planck introduced the concept of the elementary quantum of action, a theory in physics based on the notion of continuity: energy has a discreet, discontinuous structure. In 1905, Einstein formulated his special theory of relativity, revealing a new relationship between space and time: it would contribute to a radical reevaluation of the object/energy hierarchy. Gradually, the notion of an object would be replaced by that of an event, a relationship and an interconnectionreal movement being that of energy. Quantum mechanics as a theory was elaborated much later, around 1930: it shattered the concept of identity in a classical particle. For the first time, the possibility of a space/time discontinuum was recognised as logically valid. And finally the theory of elementary particlesa continuation of both quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, as well as an attempt to go beyond both of these physical theoriesis still in the process of elaboration today.

Like both contemporary scientists and Gurdjieff, Brook is convinced of the materiality of energy. Describing the characteristics of rough theatre, he writes:

The Holy Theatre has one energy, the Rough has others. Lightheartedness and gaiety feed it, but so does the same energy that produces rebellion and opposition. This is a militant energy: it is the energy of anger, sometimes the energy of hate.11

Wasnt it Gurdjieff himself who said that: Everything in the universe is material, and for that very reason Ultimate Understanding is more materialist than materialism?12 Of course he distinguishes matter, which is always the same: but materiality is different. And the different degrees of materiality directly depend on the qualities and properties of the energy manifested at a given point.13 So objects would be localised configurations of energy.

But where does this energy come from? What are the laws governing the transformation of non-differentiated energy into a specific form of energy? Is this non-differentiated energy the fundamental substratum of all forms? To what extent can actors and audience at a theatrical performance become implicated and integrated with the formidable struggle of energies that takes place at every moment in nature?

In the first place, we believe that it is important to recognise that, in Peter Brooks theatre research, the grouping text-actor-audience reflects the characteristics of a natural system: when a true theatrical event takes place, it is greater than the sum of its parts. The interactions between text and actors, text and audience and actors and audience constitute the new, irreducible element. At the same time, text, actors and audience are true sub-systems, opening themselves up to each other. In this sense, one can talk of the life of a text. As Brook has said many times, a play does not have a form which is fixed forever. It evolves (or involves) because of actors and audiences. The death of a text is connected to a process of closure, to an absence of exchange. In The Empty Space, we read that: A doctor can tell at once between the trace of life and the useless bag of bones that life has left. But we are less practised in observing how an idea, an attitude or a form can pass from the lively to the moribund.14

Might one not further suggest that the text-actor-audience system possesses another of the important characteristics of natural systems, that of being modules of coordination in the hierarchy of nature?15 Certainly, in that instance when the spectator emerges from a theatre event enriched with new information in the sphere of energy: I have also looked for movement and energy. Bodily energy as much as that of emotions, in such a way that the energy released onstage can unleash within the spectator a feeling of vitality that he would not find in everyday life.16 As the bearer of this feeling of vitality, the spectator could participate in other openings and other exchanges, in life.

But what is essential is elsewherein the recognition, on its own level, of the action of those laws common to all levels. One can conceive of the universe (as in Gurdjieffs cosmology, or scientific systems theory) as a great Whole, a vast cosmic matrix within which all is in perpetual motion in a continuous restructuring of energies. Such a unity is not static, it implies differentiation and diversity in the existence not of a substance, but of a common organisation: the determining laws of the Whole. These laws are only fully operational when systems are mutually open to each other, in an incessant and universal exchange of energy.

It is precisely this exchange that confirms what Gurdjieff called the general harmonic movement of systems, or the harmony of reciprocal maintenance in all cosmic concentrations.17 The opening of a system prevents its degeneration, and ultimate death. In-separability is the safeguard of life. It is well known that all closed physical systems are subjected to Clausius-Carnots principle, which implies an inevitable degeneration of energy, a growing disorder. For there to be order and stability, there must be opening and exchange. Such an exchange can take place between syntheses on one single level, or between systems belonging to different levels.

Almost all of the actors exercises and improvisations in Brooks Centre seem to aim at engendering opening and exchange. First-hand testimonies to this effect are numerous: one thinks of those published accounts of the preparatory processes for Conference of the Birds, Orghast and Carmen.18 Brook has explicitly said himself that, by means of these exercises and improvisations, the actors are trying to get to whats essential: in other words to that point at which the impulses of one conjoin with the impulses of another to resonate together.19 Michel Rostain describes how, during the preparation for Carmen, one singer would turn his/her back on another, in order to try to recreate the gesture accompanying the other persons singing without ever having seen it. Actors sitting in a circle attempted to transmit gestures or words: and in the end the force and clarity of internal images enabled them to be made visible. This is genuinely precise and rigorous research work.

In one exercise during the preparation for Orghast, each actor represented a part of a single personincluding, for example, the voice of the subconscious.20 In another, actors took part in the recitation of a monologue from a Shakespearean text, delivering it as a round for three voices: suddenly the actor bursts a barrier and experiences how much freedom there can be within the tightest discipline.21 And that is what it is essentially aboutthe discovery of freedom by submitting oneself to laws which permit an opening towards the unknown, towards a relationship. To be means to be related was the startling formula of the founder of General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski.22 Exercises and improvisations offer the possibility of interrelating the most ordinary and the most hidden levels of experience,23 of discovering potentially powerful equivalences between gestures, words and sounds. In this way, words, the usual vehicle of signification, can be replaced by gestures or sounds. Going into the unknown is always frightening. Each letter is the cause of the letter that follows. Hours of work can come out of ten letters, in a search to free the word, the sound. We are not trying to create a method, we want to make discoveries.24

So exercises and improvisations have little particular value in themselves, but they facilitate a tuning of the theatrical instrument that is the actors being, and a circulation of living dramatic flow25 in the actors as a group. The theatrical miracle is produced afterwards, in the active presence of the audience, when an opening towards the unknown can be mobilised more fully. But what is the nature of this unknown? Is it another name for the unity of indefinite links in systems of systems, as Stephane Lupasco would say,26 in a paradoxical coexistence of determinate and indeterminate, of discipline and spontaneity, of homogeneity and heterogeneity? How can we best understand the words of Attar when he wrote in the Invocation to Conference of the Birds:

To each atom there is a different door, and for each atom there is a different way which leads to the mysterious Being of whom I speak In this vast oceans, the world is an atom and the atom a world?27

Traditional thought has always affirmed that Reality is not linked to space-time: it simply is. When Gurdjieff talked of the trogoautoegocratic process which assures the reciprocal nutrition of everything that exists, he was proposing it as our infallible saviour from the action, in conformity with the laws, of merciless Heropass28 Once one knows that for him Heropass meant Time, one can understand the sense of his statement: the unity of indefinite links between systems evades the action of timeit is, outside space-time. Time, that unique ideally subjective phenomenon, does not exist per se. So the space-time continuum, when it is considered in isolation, is a sort of approximation, a subjective phenomenon, linked to a sub-system. Each sub-system, corresponding to a certain degree of materiality, possesses its own space-time.

Finally, in certain recent scientific theories,29 descriptions of physical reality have necessitated the introduction of dimensions other than those of space-time. The physical event takes place in all dimensions at the same time. Consequently, one can no longer talk at that level of linear, continuous time. There is a law of causality, but the event occurs in a sudden way. There is neither before nor after in the usual sense of the terms: there is something like a discontinuity in the notion of time itself.

Would it be possible to discuss a theatre event without immersing oneself in an experience of time? One might argue that the essence of a Peter Brook theatre event is in its suddenness, in its unforeseeable nature (in the sense of the impossibility of precise reproduction at will). Brook says that: The special moments no longer happen by luck. Yet they cant be repeated. Its why spontaneous events are so terrifying and marvelous. They can only be rediscovered.30 Meaning never belongs to the past31: it appears in the mystery of the present moment, the instant of opening towards a relationship. This meaning is infinitely richer than that to which classical rational thought has access, based as it is (perhaps without it ever being aware) on linear causality, on mechanistic determinism. At fleeting moments, great actors touch upon this new kind of meaning. In Paul Scofield, for example,

instrument and player are onean instrument of flesh and blood that opens itself to the unknownIt was as though the act of speaking a word sent through him vibrations that echoed back meanings far more complex than his rational thinking could find.32

There is something primitive, direct and immediate in the idea of present momenta sort of absolute liberty in relation to performance, a revivifying sentient spontaneity. The idea of present moment, writes Pierce, within which, whether it exists or not, one naturally thinks of a point in time when no thought can take place, when no detail can be differentiated, is an idea of Primacy33Primacy being the mode of being of whatever is such as it is, in a positive way, with no reference to anything else at all.34

The miracle of Peter Brooks theatre work seems to me to reside in precisely this sense of the moment, in the liberation of energies circulating in harmonic flux, incorporating the spectator as active participant in the theatrical event. Paradoxically we find all of the points of convergence that have been discussed throughout this study embodied not so much in his film Meetings with Remarkable Men, but rather in a play like The Cherry Orchard. A result perhaps of the difference between cinema and theatre, which Brook has underlined: There is only one interesting difference between the cinema and the theatre. The cinema flashes on to a screen images from the past. As this is what the mind does to itself all through life, the cinema seems intimately real. Of course, it is nothing of the sortit is a satisfying and enjoyable extension of the unreality of everyday perception. The theatre, on the other hand, always asserts itself in the present. This is what can make it more real than the normal stream of consciousness. This is also what can make it so disturbing.35 Texts by Chekhov, the dramatist of lifes movement,36 or by Shakespeare, enable every dimension of Brooks theatre work to be revealed. In The Cherry Orchard, there are specific moments when apparently banal words and gestures fall apart, suddenly opened to another reality that one somehow feels to be the only one that counts. A flow of a new quality of energy starts to circulate, and the spectator is carried off to new heights, in a sudden confrontation with him/herself. The marks etched into our memories in this way last a very long time: although theatre is a self-destructive art,37 it is nonetheless capable of attaining a certain permanence.

Another remarkable meeting point between Peter Brooks theatre work, traditional thought and quantum theory, is in their shared recognition of contradiction as the motor of every process in reality.

The role of contradiction is apparent in the changes of direction Brook himself has chosen throughout his career, through Shakespeare, commercial comedy, television, cinema and opera: Ive really spent all my working life in looking for opposites, Brook suggested in an interview with The Times. This is a dialectical principle of finding a reality through opposites.38 He emphasises the role of contradiction as a means of awakening understanding, taking Elizabethan drama as an example: Elizabethan drama was exposure, it was confrontation, it was contradiction and it led to analysis, involvement, recognition and, eventually, to an awakening of understanding.39 Contradiction is not destructive, but a balancing force. It has its role to play in the genesis of all processes. The absence of contradiction would lead to general homogenisation, a dwindling of energy and eventual death. Whatever contains contradiction contains the world, claims Lupasco, whose conclusions are based on quantum physics.40 Brook points out the constructive role of negation in the theatre of Beckett: Beckett does not say no with satisfaction: he forges his merciless no out of a longing for yes, and so his despair is the negative from which the contour of its opposite can be drawn.41

Contradiction also plays a central role in the works of Shakespeare which pass through many stages of consciousness: What enabled him technically to do so, the essence, in fact, of his style, is a roughness of texture and a conscious mingling of opposites42 Shakespeare remains the great ideal, the summit, an indelible point of reference for a possible evolution in theatre:

It is through the unreconciled opposition of Rough and Holy, through an atonal screech of absolutely unsympathetic keys that we get the disturbing and the unforgettable impressions of his plays. It is because the contradictions are so strong that they burn on us so deeply.43

Brook sees King Lear as a vast, complex, coherent poem attaining cosmic dimensions in its revelation of the power and the emptiness of nothingthe positive and negative aspects latent in the zero.44

Contradiction is the sine qua non of successful theatrical performance. Zeami (13631444), one of the first great masters of the Nohhis treatise is known as the secret tradition of the Nohobserved five centuries ago:

Let it be known that in everything, it is at the critical point of harmonic balance between yin and yang that perfection is located if one was to interpret yang in a yang way, or yin in a yin way, there could be no harmonising balance, and perfection would be impossible. Without perfection, how could one ever be interesting?45

For certain traditional thinkers like Zeami, Jakob Bhme or Gurdjieff, as well as for certain philosophers whose thinking is based on scientific knowledge, like Pierce and Lupasco, contradiction is quite simply the dynamic interrelationship of three independent forces, simultaneously present in every process in realityan affirmative force, a negative force and a conciliatory force. Therefore reality has a ternary dynamic structure, a trialectical structure.

For example, Zeami elaborated a law called johakyu, to which Peter Brook often refers. Jo means beginning or opening: ha means middle or development (as well as to break, crumble, spread out): kyu means end or finale (as well as speed, climax, paroxysm). According to Zeami it is not only theatre performance itself which can be broken down into jo, ha and kyu, but also every vocal or instrumental phrase, every movement, every step, every word.46

Zeamis comments are still vitally relevant to us today. One can easily imagine, for example, the boredom provoked by the performance of a tragic play, which begins in climactic paroxysm, then develops through interminable expositions of the causes of the drama. At the same time it would be possible to undertake a detailed analysis of the unique atmosphere created in the plays staged by Peter Brook, as the result of conformity with the law of johakyuin the structural progression of these plays as well as in the actors performances. But the most personal aspect of Brooks theatre work seems to lie in his elaboration and presentation of a new ternary structuring.

Brooks theatre space could be represented by a triangle, with the base line for the audiences consciousness, and the two other sides for the inner life of the actors and their relations with their partners. This ternary configuration is constantly present in both Brooks practice and his writings. In everyday life, our contacts are often limited to a confrontation between our inner life and our relationships with our partners: the triangle is mutilated, for its base is absent. In the theatre, actors are obliged to confront their ultimate and absolute responsibility, the relationship with an audience, which is what in effect gives theatre its fundamental meaning.47 We will return to the central role of the audience in Brooks theatre space in the next section.

Another ternary structure which is active in theatre space can be located if one accepts the notion of centres proposed by Gurdjieff. He believed that what distinguishes mankind from other organic entities in nature is the fact of being tricentric or tricerebrala being with three centres or brains. Indeed a human being could be represented by a trianglethe base representing the emotional centre (locus of Reconciliation), the two other sides the intellectual centre (locus of Affirmation) and the instinctive motor centre (locus of Negation). Harmony stems from a state of balance between these three centres.

It is very clear that the conditions of modern life only favour the functioning of the intellectual centre, particularly of the automated part of that centre, what one could call cerebral activity. This ideational element, which is of course a powerful means in mans adaptation to his environment, has changed from a means into an end, adopting the role of omnipotent tyrant. Therefore the triangle representing mankind threatens to break apart, on account of the disproportionate lengthening of one of its sides. Theatrical space, in turn, cannot fail to feel the consequences of this process.

John Heilpern, who has described the C.I.R.T. actors expedition to Africa, recalled his astonishment when he heard Peter Brook talking about the role of cerebral activity: He pointed to the imbalance within us where the golden calf of the intellect is worshipped at the cost of true feelings and experience. Like Jung, he believes that the intellectualthe intellect aloneprotects us from true feeling, stifles and camouflages the spirit in a blind collection of facts and concepts. Yet as Brook talked to me of this I was struck forcibly by the fact that he, a supreme intellectual figure, should express himself this way.48 As someone who had branded 20th Century man as emotionally constipated,49 Brook sheds no tears for the deadly theatre, which he considers to be the perfect expression of the cerebral element in its attempt to appropriate real feelings and experiences:

To make matters worse, there is always a deadly spectator, who for special reasons enjoys a lack of intensity and even a lack of entertainment, such as the scholar who emerges from routine performances of the classics smiling because nothing has distracted him from trying over and confirming his pet theories to himself, whist reciting his favourite lines under his breath. In his heart he sincerely wants a theatre that is nobler-than-life, and he confuses a sort of intellectual satisfaction with the true experience for which he craves.50

Harmony between the centres facilitates the development of a new quality of perception, a direct and immediate perception which does not pass through the deforming filter of cerebral activity. So a new intelligence can appear: along with emotion, there is always a role for a special intelligence that is not there at the start, but which has to be developed as a selecting instrument.51

A lot of the exercises elaborated by Peter Brook have as their precise aim the development of this state of unity between thought, body and feelings by liberating the actor from an over-cerebral approach. In this way, the actor can be organically linked with him/herself and act as a unified whole being, rather than as a fragmented one. Through such research work, one gradually discovers an important aspect of the functioning of the centresthe great difference in their speeds. According to Gurdjieff,52 the intellectual centre is the slowest, whereas the emotional centre is the quickestits impressions are immediately made apparent to us.

So it is clear in what way the demands of an exercise can enable a discovery of the common rule by mobilising the intervention of the quicker centres. During the Carmen rehearsals, actors were asked to walk while at the same time emitting a sound, then to pass from piano to fortissimo without altering the dynamic and bearing of the walk.53 The difficulty of this exercise revealed the disharmony between centres, a blocking of the quicker centres by the intellectual one. Compare this with another exercise where actors would be required to mark out rhythms in four/four time with their feet, while their hands kept three/three time. Certain exercises allow something akin to a photograph of the functioning of the centres at a given moment to be taken. Fixed in a certain attitude, the actor can discover the contradictory functioning of these different centres, and thereby find, through experiment, the way towards a more integrated, harmonious functioning.

One might want to establish revelatory points of correspondence between the two trianglesthat of Brooks theatre space and that of Gurdjieffs centres. In particular, this isomorphism between the two triangles could well enlighten us as to the role of the audience, in its capacity as catalyst for the emotional centres impressions. But that would lead us far from our immediate concerns here: and anyway no theoretical analysis could ever substitute for the richness of a first-hand experience of immersion in Brooks theatre space.

The most spectacular illustration of the crucial, primary role of experience in Brooks work is perhaps in the preparation for Conference of the Birds. Instead of plunging his actors into a study of Attars poem, or committing them to an erudite analysis of Sufi texts, Brook led them off on an extraordinary expedition to Africa. Confronted with the difficulties inherent in a crossing of the Sahara desert, obliged to improvise in front of the inhabitants of African villages, the actors went inexorably towards a meeting with themselves: Everything we do on this journey is an exercise in heightening perception on every conceivable level. You might call the performance of a show the grand exercise. But everything feeds the work, and everything surrounding it is part of a bigger test of awareness. Call it the super-grand exercise.54 Indeed self-confrontation after a long and arduous process of self-initiation is the very keystone to Attars poem. This kind of experimental, organic approach to a text has an infinitely greater value than any theoretical, methodical or systematic study. Its value becomes apparent in the stimulation of a very particular quality: it constitutes the most tangible characteristic of Brooks work.

His comments on Orghast are as significant and valid for Conference of the Birds, as indeed for all of the other performances: The result that we are working towards is not a form, not an image, but a set of conditions in which a certain quality of performance can arise.55 This quality is directly connected to the free circulation of energies, through precise and detailed (one could even call it scientific) work on perception. Discipline is inextricably associated with spontaneity, precision with freedom.

How can discipline and spontaneity be made to coexist and interact? Where does spontaneity come from? How can one distinguish true spontaneity from a simple automatic response, associated with a set of pre-existing (if unconscious) clichs? In other words, how can one differentiate between an associationperhaps unexpected, but nonetheless mechanicalwith its source in what has been seen already, and the emergence of something really new?

Spontaneity introduces an indeterminate element into an evolutionary process. Heisenbergs celebrated uncertainty relation, or uncertainty principle indicates that spontaneity is effectively active in nature. This principle tells us that the product of an increase in quantity of a quantum events momentum through its spatial extension, or the product of an increase in energy through its temporal extension must be superior to a certain constant representing the elementary quantum of action. So if one were to ask, for example, for a precisely pinpointed spatial localization of the quantum event, the result would be an infinite increase on the level of uncertainty of momentum: just as if one were to ask for a precisely pinpointed temporal localisation, the result would be an infinite increase in the level of energy. There is no need for a high degree of sophistication in mathematics or physics to understand that this signifies the impossibility of a precise localisation in space-time of any quantum event. The concept of identity in a classical particle (identity defined in relation to the particle itself, as a part separate from the Whole) is therefore necessarily smashed apart.

The quantum event is not made up of wave or particle, it is simultaneously wave and particle. The impossibility of precisely locating a quantum event in space-time can be understood as a consequence of the in-separability of events. Their aleatory or probabilist character does not reflect the action of chance. The aleatory quantum is constructive, it has a directionthat of the self-organization of natural systems. At the same time, the observer ceases to be an observers/he becomes, as Wheeler has said, a participant. Quantum theory has its place in the Valley of Astonishment (one of the seven valleys in Conference of the Birds) where contradiction and indeterminacy lie in wait for the traveller.

One could postulate the existence of a general principle of uncertainty, active in any process in reality. It is also necessarily active in theatrical space, above all in the relationship between audience and play. In the formula for theatre suggested by Brook (Theatre = Rra: Rptition, reprsentation, assistance), the presenceassistanceof an audience plays an essential role:

The only thing that all forms of theatre have in common is the need for an audience. This is more than a truism: in the theatre the audience completes the steps of creation.56

The audience is part of a much greater unity, subject to the principle of uncertainty: It is hard to understand the true function of spectator, there and not there, ignored and yet needed. The actors work is never for an audience, yet it always is for one.57 The audience makes itself open to the actors, in its desire to see more clearly into itself,58 and so the performance begins to act more fully on the audience. By opening itself up, the audience in turn begins to influence the actors, if the quality of their perception allows interaction. That explains why the global vision of a director can be dissolved by an audiences presence: the audience exposes the non-conformity of this vision with the structure of the theatrical event. The theatrical event is indeterminate, instantaneous, unpredictable, even if it necessitates the reunion of a set of clearly determined conditions. The directors role consists of working at great length and in detail to prepare the actors, thus enabling the emergence of the theatrical event. All attempts to anticipate or predetermine the theatrical event are doomed to failure: the director cannot substitute him/herself for the audience. The triangle comprising inner life of the actorstheir relations with their partnersthe audiences consciousness can only be engendered at the actual moment of performance. The collective entity that is the audience makes the conciliatory element indispensable to the birth of the theatrical event: (An audiences) true activity can be invisible, but also indivisible.59

However invisible it is, this active participation by the audience is nonetheless material and potent: When the Royal Shakespeare Companys production of King Lear toured through Europe, the production was steadily improving The quality of attention that this audience brought expressed itself in silence and concentration: a feeling in the house that affected the actors as though a brilliant light were turned on their work.60 So it is evident why Brooks research work tends towards a necessary theatre, one in which there is only a practical difference between actor and audience, not a fundamental one.61 The space in which the interaction between audience and actors takes place is infinitely more subtle than that of ideas, concepts, prejudices or preconditioning. The quality of the attention of both audience and actors enables the event to occur as a full manifestation of spontaneity. Ideally this interaction can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers. The C.I.R.T. actors can communicate just as well with African villagers, Australian aborigines or the inhabitants of Brooklyn; Theatre isnt about narrative. Narrative isnt necessary. Events will make the whole.62

Many of the confusions concerning the problem of spontaneity appear to have their source in a linear, mono-dimensional conception of the theatrical event. One can easily believe in the existence of laws such as Zeamis johakyu,67 but that is insufficient in understanding how a theatrical event can take place through the transition between the different elements of johakyu. If one limits oneself to a strictly horizontal view of the action of johakyu (jo, the beginning: ha, the development: kyu, the ending), it is impossible to understand how one might arrive, for example, at the ultimate refinement of the ha part of ha, or to a paroxystic peak in the kyu part of kyu. What can produce the dynamic shocks necessary for the movement not to stop, not to become blocked? How can the necessary continuity of a theatrical performance be reconciled with the discontinuity inherent in its different components? How can one harmonise the progression of the play, the actors work and the perception liberated in the audience?

In other words, horizontal movement is meaningless by itself. It remains on the same level forever, no information is forthcoming. This movement only acquires a significance if it is combined with an evolutionary dynamic. It is as if each phenomenon in reality were subject, at every moment, to two contradictory movements, in two opposing directions: one ascending, the other descending. As if there were two parallel rivers, flowing with considerable force in two opposing directions: in order to pass from one river to the other, an external interventiona shockis absolutely essential. This is where the full richness of the significance of the notion of discontinuity is revealed.

But in order for this shock to be effective, a certain concordance or overlap must exist between the shock (which in itself is subject to the law of johakyu) and the system upon which it is acting. Therefore it becomes clear why each element of johakyu must be composed in turn of the three other elementsin other words, why there has to be a jo-ha-kyu sequence within the jo, the ha and the kyu. These different components enable interaction between the different systems to take place.

Therefore, in order for a harmonious movement to appear, a new dimension must be present: johakyu is not only active horizontally, but also vertically. If each element (jo, ha and kyu) is composed in turn of three other elements, therefore we obtain nine elements, two of which represent a sort of interval. One of these is filled by the shock enabling the horizontal transition to take place, the other by the shock enabling the vertical transition to take place. In this way, one ends up with a vision of the action of Zeamis johakyu which is very close to the precise mathematical formulation Gurdjieff elaborated for his law of Seven or octave law.63

When one considers this two-dimensional vision of the action of johakyu, Peter Brooks insistence on the audiences central role in a theatrical event becomes clearer. The audience can follow the suggestions proposed to it by the playtext, the actors and the director. The first intervalbetween jo and hacan be traversed by means of a more or less automatic exchange, the play can continue its horizontal movement. But the audience also has its own irreducible presence: its culture, its sensitivity, its experience of life, its quality of attention, the intensity of its perception. A resonance between the actors work and the audiences inner life can occur. Therefore the theatrical event can appear fully spontaneous, by means of vertical exchangewhich implies a certain degree of will and of awarenessthereby leading to something truly new, not pre-existent in theatrical performance. The ascent of the action of johakyu towards the plays summitthe kyu of kyucan therefore take place. The second interval is filled by a true shock, allowing the paradoxical coexistence of continuity and discontinuity.

We have described what could be considered to be a first level of perception in a theatre event. This analysis could be further refined by taking into account the tree-like structure (it is never ending) of johakyu. Different levels of perception, structured hierarchically in a qualitative ladder, could be discovered in this way. There are degrees of spontaneity, just as there are degrees of perception. The quality of a theatrical performance is determined by the effective presence of these degrees.

We have also referred to a vertical dimension in the action of johakyu. This dimension is associated with two possible impulses: one ascending (evolution), the other descending (entropic involution). The ascending curve corresponds to a densification of energy, reflecting the tendency towards unity in diversity and an augmentation of awareness. It is in this sense that we have described the action of johakyu until this point.

But one might well conceive of a johakyu in reverse, such as appears, for example, in the subject of Peter Brooks film Lord of the Flies, where one witnessed the progressive degradation of a paradise towards a hell. An ideal, innocent space exists nowhere. Left to themselves, without the intervention of conscience and awareness, the laws of creation lead inexorably towards fragmentation, mechanicity, and, in the final instance, to violence and destruction. In this way spontaneity is metamorphosed into mechanicity.

It should be noted that spontaneity and sincerity are closely linked. The usual moral connotation of sincerity signifies its reduction to an automatic functioning based on a set of ideas and beliefs implanted into the collective psyche in an accidental way through the passage of time. In this sense, sincerity comes close to a lie, in relation to itself. By ridding ourselves of the ballast of what does not belong to us, we can eventually become sincere: recognising laws, seeing oneself, opening oneself to relationships with others. Such a process demands work, a significant degree of effort: sincerity must be learnt.64 In relation to our usual conception of it, this kind of sincerity resembles insincerity: with its moral overtones, the word (sincerity) causes great confusion. In a way, the most powerful feature of the Brecht actors is the degree of their insincerity. It is only through detachment that an actor will see his own cliches.65 The actor inhabits a double space of false and true sincerity, the most fruitful movement being an oscillation between the two: The actor is called upon to be completely involved while distanceddetached without detachment. He must be sincere, he must be insincere: he must practice how to be insincere with sincerity and how to lie truthfully. This is almost impossible, but it is essential66

The actors predicament is reminiscent of Arjunas perplexity when confronted with the advice that Krishna gives him, in the Bhagavad Gita, to reconcile action and non-action: paradoxically, action undertaken with understanding becomes intertwined with inaction.

At every moment, the actor is confronted with a choice between acting and not-acting, between an action visible to the audience and an invisible action, linked to his/her inner life. Zeami drew our attention to the importance of intervals of non-interpretation or non-action, separating a pair of gestures, actions or movements:

It is a spiritual concentration which will allow you to remain on your guard, retaining all of your attention, at that moment when you stop dancing or chanting, or in any other circumstances during an interval in the text or in the mimic art. The emotion created by this inner spiritual concentrationwhich manifests itself externallyis what produces interest and enjoyment It is in relation to the degree of non-consciousness and selflessness, through a mental attitude in which ones spiritual reality is hidden even from oneself, that one must forge the link between what precedes and what follows the intervals of non-action. This is what constitutes the inner strength which can serve to reunite all ten thousand means of expression in the oneness of the spirit.67

It is only by mastering the attitudes and associations produced in this way that the actor can truly play parts, putting him/herself in others places. At every moment, wrote Gurdjieff, associations change automatically, one evoking another, and so on. If I am in the process of playing a part, I must be in control all the time. It is impossible to start again with the given impulse.68 In a sense a free man is one who can truly play parts.

In the light of all that has been said so far in this essay, would it not now be possible to state that there is a very strong relationship between theatrical and spiritual work? Whether one agrees or not, a clear and important distinction between theatre research and traditional research must be made in order to avoid the source of an indefinite chain of harmful confusions, which in any case have already coloured certain endeavours in the modern theatre.

Traditional research addresses itself to man as a whole, calling into play a wide range of aspects, infinitely richer than that of theatre research: after all, the latters end is aesthetic. Traditional research is closely linked with an oral teaching, untranslatable into ordinary language. Isnt it significant that no traditional writings ever describe the process of self-initiation? In his Third Series, faced with the impossibility of the task, Gurdjieff preferred to destroy his manuscriptwhat was eventually published as Life is real only then, when I am is only a collection of fragments from that manuscript. On several occasions, Saint John of the Cross announced a treatise on the mystical union, but no trace has ever been found of such a work. Finally, Attar devoted the major part of his poem Conference of the Birds to the story of the discussions between the birds and a description of the preparation for their journey: the journey itself and the meeting with the Simorgh only take up a few lines.

Theatre research clearly has another end in mind: art, theatre. Peter Brook himself has strongly emphasised the need for such a distinction: theatre work is not a substitute for a spiritual search.69 In itself the theatrical experience is insufficient to transform the life of an actor. Nevertheless, like a savant, for example, or indeed any human being, the actor can experience fleetingly what could be a higher level of evolution. Theatre is an imitation of life, but an imitation based upon the concentration of energies released in the creation of a theatre event. So one can become aware, on an experiential level, of the full richness of the present moment. If theatre is not really the decisive meeting with oneself and with others, it nonetheless allows for a certain degree of exploration to take place.

This fundamental ambiguity recurs in Grotowskis approach, at least such as it is described by Brook: The theatre, he believes, cannot be an end in itself: like dancing or music in certain dervish orders, the theatre is a vehicle, a means for self-study, self-exploration70 According to Brooks conception of the theatre, it cannot lay claim to unity, in terms of its end. Of course one can arrive at certain privileged moments; At certain moments, this fragmented world comes together, and for a certain time it can rediscover the marvel of organic life. The marvel of being one.71 But theatre work is ephemeral, subject to the influences (both evoluted and involuted) of the environment. This impermanence prevents it from leading to points of dynamic concentration. In answer to a question about Orghast, Brook replied that theatre work is:

self destructive within waves You go through lines and points. The line that has gone through Orghast should come to a point, and the point should be a work obviously there is a necessary crystallising of the work into a concentrated form. Its always about thatcoming to points of concentration.72

When A.C.H. Smith asked him about the possibility of a universal language, Peter Brook dismissed the question as being meaningless.73 His response reflects a fear of the stifling of a vital question by endless theoretical considerations, by deforming and maiming abstractions. How many prejudices and cliches are unleashed automatically simply by pronouncing the two words universal language? And yet Brooks entire work testifies to his search for a new language which endeavours to unite sound, gesture and word, and in this way to free meanings which could not be expressed in any other way. But above all this research is experimental: something living emerges into the theatre space, and it matters little what name one gives to it. What happens, Brook asks, when gesture and sound turn into word? What is the exact place of the word in theatrical expression? As vibration? Concept? Music? Is any evidence buried in the structure of certain ancient languages?74

The fact that, by themselves, words cannot provide total access to reality has been well known for a long time. In the final analysis, any definition of words by words is based on indefinite terms. Where does linguistic determinism begin, and where does it end? Can it be characterised by a single value, by a finite number of values or by an infinite number? And if, according to Korzybskis famous phrase, the map is not the territory,75 it nevertheless has the considerable advantage of a structure similar to that of the territory. How can this similarity become operative? The word is a small visible portion of a gigantic unseen formation, writes Brook.76 Starting with this small visible portion, how can one gain access to the gigantic formation of the universe as a whole? A theatrical event, as has already been suggested, determines the appearance of a laddered structure of different levels of perception. How can any single word encapsulate the sum of these levels?

The relativisation of perception has enabled us to specify a phenomenons place in reality, as well as how it is linked to the rest. A word, a gesture, an action are all linked to a certain level of perception, but, in the true theatrical event, they are also linked to other levels present in the event. Relativity allows us to uncover the invariance concealed behind the multiplicity of forms of phenomena in different systems of reference. This vision of things is close to that implied by the principle of relativity formulated by Gurdjieff.77

Relativity conditions vision: without relativity there can be no vision. The playwright who takes his/her own reality for reality as a whole presents an image of a desiccated and dead world, in spite of any originality that he/she might have shown. Unfortunately the playwright rarely searches to relate their detail to any larger structureit is as though they accept without question their intuition as complete, their reality as all of reality.78 Death itself can be relativised in an acceptance of contradiction. Brook cites the example of Chekhov: In Chekhovs work, death is omnipresent But he learnt how to balance compassion with distance This awareness of death, and of the precious moments that could be lived, endow his work with a sense of the relative: in other words, a viewpoint from which the tragic is always a bit absurd.79 Non-identification is another word for vision.

Theatre work can be the constant search for a simultaneous perception, by both actors and audience, of every level present in an event. Brook describes his own research in this concise formulation:

the simple relationship of movement and sound that passes directly, and the single element which has the ambiguity and density that permits it to be read simultaneously on a multitude of levelsthose are the two points that the research is all about.80

The principle of relativity clarifies what an eventual universal language could be. For Gurdjieff, this new, precise, mathematical language had to be centered around the idea of evolution: The fundamental property of this new language is that all ideas are concentrated around one single idea: in other words, they are all considered, in terms of their mutual relationships, from the point of view of a single idea. And this idea is that of evolution. Not at all in the sense of a mechanical evolution, naturally, because that does not exist, but in the sense of a conscious and voluntary evolution. It is the only possible kind The language which permits understanding is based on the knowledge of its place in the evolutionary ladder.81 So the sacred itself could be understood to be anything that is linked to an evolutionary process.

This new language involves the participation of body and emotions. Human beings in their totality, as an image of reality, could therefore forge a new language. We do not only live in the world of action and reaction, but also in that of spontaneity and of self-conscious thought.

Traditional symbolic language prefigures this new language. When talking about different systems which convey the idea of unity, Gurdjieff said:

A symbol can never be taken in a definitive and exclusive sense. In so far as it express the laws of unity in indefinite diversity, a symbol itself possesses an indefinite number of aspects from which it can be considered, and it demands from whoever approaches it the capacity to see it from different points of view. Symbols that are transposed into the words of ordinary language harden, become less clear: they can quite easily become their own opposites, imprisoning meaning within dogmatic and narrow frame-works, without even permitting the relative freedom of a logical examination of the subject. Reason merely provides a literal understanding of symbols, only ever attributing to them a single meaning.82

The fact that a symbol possesses an indefinite number of aspects does not mean that it is imprecise at all. Indeed it is its reading on an indefinite number of levels which confers on it its extreme precision. Commenting on the theatre of Samuel Beckett, Brook writes:

Becketts plays are symbols in an exact sense of the word. A false symbol is soft and vague: a true symbol is hard and clear. When we say symbolic we often mean something drearily obscure: a true symbol is specific, it is the only form a certain truth can take We get nowhere if we expect to be told what they mean, yet each one has a relation with us we cant deny. If we accept this, the symbol opens in us a great wondering O.83

It is clear therefore why Brook believes Chekhovs essential quality to be precision, and why he states that today fidelity is the central concern, an approach which necessitates weighing every single word and bringing it into sharp focus.84 Only then can words have an influence: they can become active, bearers of real significance, if the actor behaves as a medium, allowing words to act through and colour him/her, rather than him/her trying to manipulate them.85

By forgetting relativity, language has become in time inevitably narrower, diminished in its emotional and even intellectual capacities. It has been necessarily bastardised: one word is taken for another, one meaning for another. The Orghast experiment showed in a startling way that a return to an organic language, detached from the dread bonding of abstraction to abstraction, is possible. Words invented by the poet Ted Hughes and fragments performed in different ancient languages acted as catalysts to the reciprocal transformation between movement and sound, as an expression of an inner state, meaning no longer needing to be filtered solely through cerebral activity. In an interview with American Theatre, Brook emphasised that actors, whatever their origin, can play intuitively a work in its original language. This simple principle is the most unusual thing that exists in the theatre86

Evidently the relativisation of perception demands hard work, a considerable effort, an inner silence that is a sort of penitence. Silence plays an integral part in Brooks work, beginning with the research into the inter-relationship of silence and duration with his Theatre of Cruelty group in 1964, and culminating in the rhythm punctuated with silences that is indefinitely present at the core of his film Meetings with Remarkable Men: In silence there are many potentialities: chaos or order, muddle or pattern, all lie fallowthe invisible-made-visible is of sacred nature87 Silence is all-embracing, and it contains countless layers.88

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Georges Gurdjieff[2] (1866[1] - 1949) est un aventurier et une figure de l'sotrisme de la premire moiti du XXesicle.

Surnomm le nouveau Pythagore[3] et considr par certains comme dtenteur d'un savoir traditionnel trs ancien, ce personnage controvers sera vu par d'autres comme un dangereux escroc et un charlatan.

N Alexandropol, aujourd'hui Gyumri, en Armnie, d'un pre grec et d'une mre armnienne, le 27 dcembre 1866[1], mort le 29 octobre 1949 l'hpital amricain de Neuilly-sur-Seine, il est enterr au cimetire d'Avon en Seine-et-Marne.

Cette partie de sa vie, essentiellement connue par le tmoignage qu'il en laissera dans le livre Rencontres avec des hommes remarquables, est mal connue et sujette caution[4].

An d'une famille de 3 enfants, Gurdjieff passera son enfance et sa jeunesse dans la rgion de Kars. D'abord aise, sa famille sera ruine pendant la petite enfance de Gurdjieff[5], contraignant son pre quitter Alexandropol pour exercer le mtier de menuisier Kars[6]. C'est l que Gurdjieff suivra des tudes l'cole grecque puis au collge russe. Sa famille voulant le voir tudier en vue de la prtrise orthodoxe, il entrera ensuite au sminaire[7],[8],[9].

Son pre, qui exercait l'activit de barde, aura une grande influence sur Gurdjieff, notamment en lui contant longuement les lgendes anciennes telle celle de Gilgamesh[10], et en lui inculquant des notions de spiritualit et des considrations sur la vie[11] qui se retrouveront par la suite dans son enseignement[12].

Nanmoins, les propres intrts de Gurdjieff rsidaient dans ltude de la science et de la technologie. Un prtre local lui aurait alors suggr de suivre la fois le sminaire et les tudes mdicales, afin quil puisse "gurir la fois lme et le corps"[13].

Gurdjieff a finalement rejet tout ce qui prcde en raison de sa fascination pour loccultisme. Lastrologie, la tlpathie, le spiritisme et les tables tournantes, la divination, et la possession dmoniaque, tout cela accaparait son intrt de jeune homme. Il ne voulut pas couter les avertissements de son prtre au sujet de ces choses, et ne trouva pas non plus les explications de la science trs satisfaisantes. Par consquent, dans les dernires annes de son adolescence, il se serait mis poursuivre ltude de ces sciences occultes, voyager travers lAsie centrale, le bassin mditerranen, lgypte, le Tibet et lInde. Lobjet spcifique de sa recherche tait lcole sotrique Sarmouni(en), prtendument fonde Babylone aux alentours de 2500 avant Jsus-Christ. Il laurait lu dans un livre ancien armnien et se serait senti attir par la dcouverte de cette cole.

D'aprs son propre tmoignage, Gurdjieff se prend lui-mme en charge tout au long de cette aventure spirituelle avec des affaires lgitimes (par exemple: la vente de tapis) et des entreprises frauduleuses (par exemple: la coloration de moineaux avec de laniline, les qualifiant de canaris amricains, et les vendant avec un grand profit). Son sens des affaires lui permet d'accder une grande aisance financire.

Gurdjieff raconte que lors d'un voyage en Afghanistan, vers 1897, un derviche l'aurait prsent un vieil homme de la secte Sarmouni la recherche de laquelle il stait mis. Celui-ci aurait organis une expdition pour mener Gurdjieff au monastre Sarmouni dans le centre du Turkestan, o il aurait appris leur danse mystique, leurs pouvoirs psychiques, et lennagramme. Pour les Sarmounis lennagramme serait un important moyen de divination, ainsi quun outil de reprsentation des processus vitaux, tels que la transformation personnelle. Ils lutiliseraient galement comme symbole des tats conscients et inconscients des tres humains. Ces utilisations vont devenir une part de lenseignement spirituel de Gurdjieff quand il fonde sa propre cole pour atteindre lillumination.

Aprs avoir quitt le monastre Sarmouni, Gurdjieff aurait form un groupe, les "Chercheurs de Vrit", ses compagnons dans la qute de lillumination et de la (pleine) conscience. Il raconte quils se seraient rendus au Tibet pour prendre contact avec le cercle intime veill de lhumanit et apprendre la sagesse des tulkas, les lamas tibtains (moines) soi-disant rincarns. Plus tard, Gurdjieff se serait faufil lintrieur de la Mecque et de Mdine, les centres de lIslam, mais il ne russit pas trouver l la vrit intrieure. Puis il se serait rendu Boukhara, o vivrait le groupe de soufis Bahaudin Naqshbandi.

Ces soufis Naqshbandi, galement appels les Khwajagan ou Matres de Sagesse, prtendraient tre la Fraternit du Monde, compose de toutes les nationalits et religions, enseignant que tous taient unis par le Dieu de la Vrit. Ces Naqshbandis possderaient une lgende sur un cercle intrieur dhumanit qui constituait un rseau de personnes trs volues ayant des connaissances particulires. Ces personnes auraient veill sur la race humaine et dirig le cours de son histoire. Les Naqshbandis croyaient aussi en une hirarchie spirituelle perptuelle dirige par le Kutb i Zaman ou Axe de lge, un esprit personnel recevant les rvlations directes du dessein divin. Cet esprit transmet soi-disant ces rvlations lhomme par lintermdiaire dautres esprits appels Abdal ou les Transforms. Gurdjieff et ses disciples croyaient que ces esprits, essences dmiurgiques dun niveau suprieur lhomme, sont responsables du maintien et de lvolution de lharmonie plantaire bien que leur action ne ft pas forcment propice la libration des individus. En dpit de leur hostilit potentielle, Gurdjieff et ses partisans maintenaient le contact avec ces esprits.

L'existence de Gurdjieff jusqu sa quarantime anne relve du mythe invrifiable. On sait seulement de manire certaine quil sinstalle, en 1912, Moscou comme marchand de tapis orientaux, et quil commence grouper autour de lui des disciples recruts dans les milieux occultistes et plus particulirement thosophes. Ceux-ci se structurent en Institut pour le dveloppement harmonique de lhomme. Toutefois, Moscou devient vite un lieu qui ne convient pas un millionnaire; aussi, en 1915, retourne-t-il en Armnie. Larrive des bolcheviks en Armnie signife lexil pour un capitaliste peu frquentable tel que Gurdjieff, qui dmnage successivement Istanbul, Berlin, Dresde, et enfin, en 1922, Avon o il ouvre nouveau son Institut, puis Paris, au 6 rue des Colonels-Renard[14],[15],[16] o Gurdjieff dcde en 1949.

Paris, et dans la succursale de New York de lInstitut, qui ouvre en 1924, il enseigne un christianisme sotrique avec un programme pour aider les lves atteindre les plus hauts niveaux de conscience. Sa doctrine dinspiration soufie/gnostique englobait la croyance que chacun dispose de trois centres personnels; le mental, situ dans la tte (le chemin), lmotionnel situ dans le cur (oth), et le physique situ dans le ventre (kath). Une premire cause pour que les gens soient spirituellement " endormis " ou " mcaniques " serait le dsquilibre de ces trois centres au sein de chaque personne. Ses danses soufies et ses autres exercices sont conus pour rtablir lquilibre de ces trois centres et amener la personne au plus prs dun tat spirituel alerte.

Beaucoup de groupes Gurdjieff se forment aprs sa mort, tels les centres Gurdjieff Ouspensky, le Fellowship of Friends de Robert Burton, le Thtre de Toutes les Possibilits, et lInstitut pour le dveloppement de ltre humain harmonieux. Il convient de citer aussi la formation Arica (du nom dune ville dans le nord du Chili), un programme de potentiel humain fond par Oscar Ichazo, impliqu surtout dans la propagation de lennagramme.

Son uvre est galement diffuse par des disciples de Gurdjieff, tels que Henri Tracol, Vra Daumal, femme de Ren Daumal, ou Jeanne de Salzmann, lpouse du peintre Alexandre de Salzmann.

Le noyau de la doctrine de Gurdjieff a trait lintgration de toutes les forces vitales pour les mettre en harmonie les unes avec les autres ainsi quavec lordre cosmique, de sorte que chaque individu apprenne tre. La vraie connaissance, selon lui, est une fonction de ltre. Ce que connat un homme est en lien direct avec ce quil est.

Gurdjieff fait une distinction entre ltre essentiel et la personnalit superficielle, et assigne ses lves des exercices divers ayant pour but daffaiblir les conditionnements. Ces mthodes relevaient dun travail psycho-physique et de la thrapie de groupe.

Il a introduit la figure de l'ennagramme

Ouspensky le dcrivait ainsi: Exercices rythmiques accompagns de musique, danse de derviches, exercices mentaux, tude des diverses faons de respirer et ainsi de suite. Parmi les plus astreignants taient les exercices dimitation des phnomnes psychiques: lecture de pense, clairvoyance, manifestations mdiumniques, etc. Avant de commencer ces derniers, Gurdjieff nous avait expliqu que ltude de ces trucs, comme il les appelait, tait obligatoire dans toutes les coles orientales, parce que, avant davoir tudi toutes les imitations, toutes les contrefaons possibles, il tait inutile de commencer ltude des phnomnes de caractre supranormal ... Cependant notre effort portait surtout sur la rythmique, et sur dtranges danses destines nous prparer faire par la suite des exercices de derviches. Gurdjieff ne nous disait ni ses buts ni ses intentions, mais daprs ce quil avait dit auparavant, on pouvait penser que tout cela tendait nous mener vers un meilleur contrle du corps physique.

Katherine Mansfield crivait (Elle avait t accepte dans le travail la suite de son insistance rpte, alors qu'elle se trouvait en phase terminale de la tuberculose): Il ny a certainement pas dendroit sur cette plante o lon puisse recevoir lenseignement que lon reoit ici. Mais la vie nest pas facile. Nous avons de grandes difficults, des moments douloureux. Thoriquement cest merveilleux, mais en pratique cela implique des souffrances.

Boris Mouravieff crivait (ami d'Ouspensky, il eut des contacts avec Gurdjieff sans jamais faire partie de ses instituts): Sur les gens qui tombaient dans son orbite, Gurdjieff exerait son influence d'une manire trs simple, voire brutale. Le contenu du message mis part, ce fut ce qu'il appelait le Travail. Ce travail, abstraction faite des conversations et des exercices, consistait persuader ses disciples qu'ils taient littralement zro en chiffre. Il leur disait sans ambage - et en face -, chacun d'entre eux - qu'ils n'taient ni plus ni moins que de l'ordure. (...) Et - il faut que le lecteur le sache - l'influence hypnotique, comme toute influence de la nature, est inversement proportionnelle au carr de la distance. Distance physique et psychique ou l'une ou l'autre. Or, les effets de cette influence de Gurdjieff sur son entourage immdiat taient visibles. Il pouvait proposer ses disciples n'importe quelle absurdit - voire n'importe quelle monstruosit, sr d'avance qu'elle serait accepte avec enthousiasme comme une rvlation. Dans l'tat psychologique ainsi cr, les gens ne raisonnaient plus. Tout tait bon, parce qu'ainsi parlait Zarathustra.. (...)[17]

Les mthodes de Gurdjeff visaient promouvoir lauto-observation et le rappel de soi afin que ses lves sortent, selon lui, de leur profond sommeil et deviennent conscients de leur vrai moi. Alors seulement, ils cesseraient dtre des machines humaines. Ce concept de rappel de soi tait selon lui la cl d'une vraie vie, d'une conscience relle du vrai moi. Sans cette capacit de rappel de soi, de conscience totale et libre, un homme ne serait qu'un ensemble de ractions automatiques programmes par son ducation, ses acquis et son illusion de choix, soit une vritable machine quelle que soit son envergure intellectuelle.

Jean-Franois Revel raconte dans Le Voleur dans la maison vide, Mmoires (Plon, 1997) qu'il fut disciple de Gurdjieff autour de 1947. Il le dcrit comme un imposteur et un escroc, dont l'aplomb esbroufeur n'aurait pas d me cacher l'indigence intellectuelle. Revel mentionne les rumeurs qui prtaient Gurdjieff une part de responsabilit dans la mort prmature de Katherine Mansfield, car le vieux charlatan prtendait dtenir aussi des secrets mdicaux, issus d'une mystrieuse tradition, cense tre plus efficace que la plate et intellectuelle mdecine occidentale.

Louis Pauwels indique qu'aprs deux ans d'exercices qui m'ont la fois clair et brl, je me suis retrouv sur un lit d'hpital: thrombose de la veine centrale de l'il gauche et quarante-cinq kilos. (...) Il me semble que le pch de Gurdjieff est de ne s'tre pas retir temps[18].

Selon l'analyse du site Prvensectes, la plupart des groupes initis par Gurdjieff ou ses disciples seraient des sectes[19]. Pourtant, l'organisme officiel gouvernemental Miviludes n'a jamais class les groupes Gurdjieff comme sectes, pas plus que CICNS, Centre d'Information et de Conseil sur les Nouvelles Spiritualits.

Par ordre alphabtique d'auteurs puis de titres (de nombreux ouvrages ont t traduits par Henri Tracol):

1960 En Franais dans le texte. Dbat anim par Louis PAUWELS consacr Gurdjieff et ses enseignements, avec Yvette ETIEVANT, Arnaud DESJARDINS, Ren BARJAVEL, Pierre SCHAEFFER[20].

1954 L'homme qui ne dort pas ou l'extraordinaire monsieur Gurdjieff. - mission de la radiodiffusion franaise du 15/02/1954 (1h14'), prsente par Louis Pauwels [21]

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George Ivnovich Gurdjeff (en armenio: , en griego: , en ruso: , Gueorgui Ivnovich Giurdzhyev Alexndropol, 14 de enero de 1866 Neuilly-sur-Seine, 29 de octubre de 1949) fue un maestro mstico, escritor y compositor armenio, quien se autodenominaba como un simple Maestro de Danzas.

George Gurdjieff naci a finales del siglo XIX en la Armenia del entonces Imperio ruso, su principal obra fue dar a conocer y transmitir las enseanzas del Cuarto Camino en el mundo occidental. Una personalidad misteriosa y carismtica, con un agudo sentido crtico, y una elevada cultura tradicional, acapar la atencin de muchos, guindolos hacia una posible evolucin espiritual y humanitaria. Falleci el 29 de octubre de 1949 en Neuilly-sur-Seine, Francia.

Segn los autores[1] que han estudiado su obra, sus planteamientos constituyen un conjunto de ideas interrelacionadas muy innovadoras, que tienen el objetivo de producir la evolucin consciente en el hombre.

Gurdjeff mostr que la evolucin del hombre [...] es el resultado del crecimiento [y desarrollo] interior individual; que tal apertura interior es la meta de todas las religiones, de todos los caminos, [...] pero que requiere un conocimiento directo y preciso, [...] pero que slo se puede adquirir con la ayuda de algn gua con experiencia y a travs de un prolongado estudio de s y del trabajo sobre s mismo.

Introduccin de Perspectivas desde el mundo real. Mlaga: Ed. Sirio, Espaa, pg 8.

El sello Naive ha completado en el ao 2001 la publicacin del conjunto de la obra pianstica de Gurdjieff-De Hartmann en 9 CD.

El verdadero significado del trabajo de Gurdjeff es fuente de discusin. Igualmente es reconocido como un maestro carismtico, que fundamentalmente desarroll un conjunto de atrayentes ideas msticas y esotricas.

Gurdjeff introdujo y disemin algunas de sus ideas al mundo occidental. Ha sido y es motivo de debate si stas habran sido producto de su mera maquinacin con el fin de lucrarse y ganar fama o bien si realmente fueron originadas por l mismo en base a sus investigaciones sobre mtodos y enseanzas elaboradas por sociedades secretas o esotricas, que dataran de tiempos inmemoriales, para preservar conocimientos arcanos y beneficiosos para facilitar el desarrollo de las potencialidades humanas, como un estado superior de conciencia y la prolongacin de sta ms all de la muerte. Gurdjeff presenta conceptos en Europa Occidental, como por ejemplo el Eneagrama del Cuarto Camino, que fueron muy poco difundidos dentro de sta, ya sera por cuestiones polticas o por motivos religiosos.

Sin embargo, las investigaciones de Gurdjeff carecen de continuidad, es decir, no se han desarrollado. Gurdjeff supo cautivar y atraer la atencin de personalidades prominentes de su tiempo que decidieron estudiar sus difciles mtodos y parece ser que lo hicieron con seriedad y por largos periodos de tiempo[citarequerida]. Este es el caso del famoso arquitecto norteamericano Frank Lloyd Wright. Remedios Varo, Eva Sulzer y Leonora Carrington eran tambin seguidoras de su doctrina, impartida por su discpulo Ouspensky.[5]

Tanto Gurdjeff como sus mtodos, a pesar de muchas vicisitudes y de sus detractores, cuentan con muchas publicaciones y exhibiciones en diferentes partes del mundo. Incluso se ha filmado una pelcula que describe la bsqueda, casi arqueolgica, que emprende Gurdjeff en pos de la verdad, que l se propona encontrar en los conocimientos y tradiciones que atesoraran los antiguos templos y monasterios del Asia, adems de sus interacciones con personajes con quienes l se encontr a lo largo de esta travesa; el film se basa en la segunda serie de sus escritos y comparte el mismo nombre: Encuentros con hombres notables, pelcula dirigida por Peter Brook.[citarequerida]

A pesar de lo antes dicho, el Trabajo de Gurdjeff no se basa exclusivamente en aspectos metafsicos o esotricos. Lo metafsico y lo mstico son caractersticas propias de la obra de Gurdjeff, pero estos aspectos no constituyen todo su trabajo y esencia. Tambin incluye enseanzas sobre el hombre y su relacin con la vida material.

Descendientes de sus discpulos como Nathalie de Salzmann de Etievan, disearon un modelo educativo terico.[6] En este contexto, el Sistema de Gurdjieff intenta ser aplicado para educar mentes pequeas. Se pretende que el pequeo "desarrolle" lo que Gurdjeff consideraba las principales esferas del ser: el cuerpo, el intelecto y las emociones.

En Amrica Latina hay varios colegios que siguen el mtodo Etievan, basado en la informacin de Gurdjeff. Esta informacin va dirigida a adiestrar en nios y jvenes su conciencia, llevndolos a "amar su trabajo, a esforzarse, a conocerse, a desarrollar su voluntad, a responsabilizarse por sus actos asumiendo las consecuencias de stos, a expresar su sentir, a buscar la verdad dentro de su ser, a centrar su atencin y a formar su conciencia, para cada da ser mejores y poder enfrentar las vicisitudes de la vida de una manera positiva".

Se considera que el Sistema de Gurdjeff puede tornarse peligroso si se aplica incorrectamente. Gurdjeff mismo advirti esto en varias ocasiones. A pesar de los peligros, muchas escuelas continan captando nuevos discpulos manteniendo un halo de misterio y atractivo para los incautos o interesados en el tema.

Otros discpulos sealan que una verdadera escuela de Cuarto Camino no hace demasiada publicidad, sino que debe ser encontrada. Esta es considerada la primera condicin para poder entrar. El psiquiatra britnico Anthony Storr, incluye un captulo sobre Gurdjeff y su Trabajo en su libro intitulado en Ingls "Feet of Clay: Saints, Sinners, and Madmen".[7]

A principios de los 70s, haba una escuela de Gurdjeff en la isla caribea de Carriacou que funcionaba como granja y monasterio, siguiendo los preceptos espirituales de Gurdjeff. Pero fue destruida por la intervencin del gobierno comunista de Cuba despus de la revolucin de 1977.[8]

Gurdjeff sostuvo que existen tres caminos principales para llegar a desarrollar los poderes latentes del hombre: el camino del faquir, el camino del monje y el camino del yogui, cada uno de los cuales requiere que el candidato abandone el mundo para poder hallar el sendero luminoso. Gurdjeff asegura que todos los dems caminos artificiales que existen en Occidente no conducen a nada ni llevan a ninguna parte, y de no ser porque existe un Cuarto Camino, la gente de Occidente no tendra la menor oportunidad para desarrollarse internamente. Las escuelas de Cuarto Camino ofrecen al buen padre de familia la oportunidad de un desarrollo interno en los aspectos fsico, intelectual y emocional, en el mismo ambiente cotidiano en que vive.[9]

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