— Howarth Gurdjieff Archive

Posted: May 5, 2019 at 5:51 am

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George Ivanovich (G.I.) Gurdjieff was a spiritual leader who advocated for achieving a higher state of consciousness through what he called "The Work" which was internal work on oneself. Born in Russia in the late 19th century to parents of Greek and Armenian origin, Gurdjieff taught in Russia, Georgia, Turkey, France, and eventually the United States.

Gurdjieff taught that the way to experience "The Work," was actual physical labor. He emphasized strenuous labor combined with lectures, music, and sacred dance. His focus was to increase mindfulness and minimize daydreaming. Gurdjieff's choreography, called "Movements," was one method he used to help followers clear and focus their minds. The Movements were not intended for performance, but for spiritual contemplation. Practitioners would repeat movements over and over again until they were perfect and second-nature, allowing them to use the Movements as a form of meditation.

His followers included composer Thomas de Hartmann and his wife Olga, who became Gurdjieff's secretary; Jeanne de Salzmann (who founded the Gurdjieff Foundation in 1949); Alfred Orage (who would eventually supervise The Work in New York); P.D. Ouspensky (one of Gurdjieff's earliest followers) and many others. Among his early pupils was Jessmin Howarth, who became an expert on Gurdjieff's Movements and how they should be performed. Other Movement students included Alfred Etievan and Marthe de Gainernon.


Jessmin Howarth began her career as a dancer in 1912 when she registered at the Institute of Dalcroze Eurythmics in Germany, which eventually led to a job with the Paris Opera in the early 1920s. In Paris, Howarth encountered Jeanne de Salzmann, who introduced her to Gurdjieff. She immediately began studying the Movements and assumed the task of teaching and preserving the Movements as they were created.

On a Movement Demonstration trip to New York in 1924, Howarth discovered she was pregnant with Gurdjieff's child. After giving birth to her daughter Dushka Howarth later that year, she moved to California and then London, returning to the United States at the start of World War II.

After Gurdjieff's death in 1949, Howarth set about compiling accurate Movement notations and recordings and supervised the training of Movement instructors, assistants, and pianists. She travelled to France to assist Jeanne de Salzmann with filming Movements for posterity. She was also a consultant on the 1979 film Meetings with Remarkable Men. She retired from teaching Movements at the Gurdjieff Foundation in 1978, but continued to lead Movement Seminars until her death in 1984.


Dushka Howarth was raised in the United States and London by her mother and had little contact with Gurdjieff as a child, though she learned of his teachings and the Movements. In 1949, she traveled to Paris with five other young women to train with Gurdjieff in the Movements, and went on to lead Movement classes in London. Howarth also worked as a tour guide in Paris, followed by a career as a folk singer under the name "Dushka, the Jet-Set Gypsy."

In 1986, Jeanne de Salzmann's daughter Nathalie de Etievan (wife of Alfred Etievan) asked Howarth to return to teaching Movements and join her in South America to help supervise and establish Movement classes. Howarth went on to visit South America many times over the next ten years and conducted Movement seminars, trained teachers, and recruited new pupils.


Dushka Howarth was a founding member of the Gurdjieff Heritage Society, which sought to preserve the Movements and Gurdjieff's teachings in their original form. To do this, members gathered original notes, photographs, music, and descriptions of Movements from around the world in order to compile definitive instructions for as many Movements as possible. The Society also lent resources and support to others undertaking Gurdjieff preservation projects, such as Gert-Jan Blom's preservation of Gurdjieff's harmonium recordings. As the artistic director of Netherland's Metropole Orchestra, Blom was also able to produce full orchestra recordings of Gurdjieff's music with assistance from the Society.

In 2009, the Gurdjieff Heritage Society published Dushka Howarth's book It's Up To Ourselves: A Mother, A Daughter, G.I. Gurdjieff, A Shared Memoir and Family Photo Album. Howarth researched the material for the book over a ten-year period and used her mother's essays, correspondence, photographs, and the accounts of others to piece together the story of Jessmin Howarth's life and her own experiences with Gurdjieff and his pupils. Dushka Howarth continued to work with the Gurdjieff Heritage Society until her death in 2010.

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May 5th, 2019 at 5:51 am

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