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  Who Was Gurdjieff?  
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Included here are (10) reports on and about G.I. Gurdjieff, ranging from 'hero worship' by various indoctrinated students of the Fourth Way to 'myth busting' accounts by people not within the Gurdjieff-followers community.

Gurdjieff's personal story about his father (chapter 2 of Meetings with Remarkable Men) is also reprinted here.


  1. Introduction  
  2. Gurdjieff's Biography | From: Gurdjieff Club  
  3. Who is G.I. Gurdjieff? | From: Gurdjieff Foundation of Austin  
  4. Gurdjieff – The Man and the Literature by James Moore  
  5. Black Sheep Philosophers: Gurdjieff – Ouspensky – Orage  
    From: Gurdjieff International Review | by Gorham Munson  
  6. The Incomparable Mr. G. | From:  
  7. The Sufi Conspiracy | From: Conspiracy School
  8. Scratch a Magus, Find a Spy | From: Iona Miller  
  9. Gurdjieff by Anthony Storr | From: Feet of Clay - A Study of Gurus  
  10. Good Grief! Gurdjieff in Tibet? | From: tibeto-logic  
  11. Was Gurdjieff Irish?? | From: eye of the cyclone  
  12. Meetings with Remarkable Men, Chapter 2 | My Father  
Gurdjieff's Biography  From: Gurdjieff Club

Georgy Ivanovich Gurdjieff was a mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher and one of the most enigmatic figures of the first half of the 20th century. He was born on 28 December 1873-77 in Alexandropol (presently, the city of Gumri in Armenia) into a Greek-Armenian family. His father was an ashok, a collector and performer of ancient epos. The Russian Orthodox priest Borsh engaged himself in the upbringing of young Gurdjieff, having the intention of making a church minister and a doctor of him.

However, prompted by an "unquenchable aspiration to understand the precise meaning of the life process of all the outward forms of breathing creatures on Earth and, especially, the aim of human life" , Gurdjieff along with a group of like-minded associates, calling themselYes "Seekers of the Truth," set out travelling throughout the East in search of ancient knowledge, which possibly survived, having been preserved up to our time. Subsequently, during conversations with pupils who asked him questions about the sources from where he drew his knowledge, Gurdjieff mentioned Tibet, Eastern Persia and Outer Mongolia.

Gurdjieff appeared in Russia sometime between 1911 and 1913. In his background was a complex life which many biographers had tried to decipher. He himself did everything in his power to scatter all the traces, to confuse facts with legends, and sometimes even with absurdities and anecdotes. Some people saw in him a prophet and a bearer of ancient knowledge, while others viewed him as an "enslaver of men" and "seducer of women" and even the devil himself. Gurdjieff himself has made no small effort to create this ambiguous image. He frequently signed his epistles to his pupils as the "The Black Greek," "The Tiger of Turkestan" and "The Nephew of the Prince of Mukhran".

In order to keep his teaching from undergoing conceptual crystallization, Gurdjieff invented various means in order to liberate people from a superfluous grasp of his teaching and directing them along the path of profound comprehension. This comprehension was connected with a change of the system of values and reference points of the human being and was supposed to lead towards a renewal of life, which was the most important sense and aim of Gurdjieff's efforts.

Gurdjieff was able by degrees to attract the attention of the Russian artistic intellectuals, and the appropriate people started gathering around him. However, because of the revolution of 1917 and the Civil War which followed it Gurdjieff's grandiose aims could not be achieved, and he was compelled to depart for the Caucasus. Ouspensky and his other pupils followed him.

In Tiflis Gurdjieff became acquainted with Alexander and Jeanne de Salzmann (A. de Salzmann was a theatrical artist, and his wife Jeanne was a dance teacher following the system of the famous choreographer Jacques Dalcroze) and began his work on the production of his ballet "The Struggle of the Magicians".

Because of the turbulent political situation on the Caucasus Gurdjieff along with a group of pupils set out from Batumi to Constantinople in 1920. Later on, in August 1921 they were compelled to depart for Germany, which in the early 1920S was a Mecca for mysticism. In 1922 Gurdjieff bought the estate of Prieure in Avon, close to Fontainebleau, with the money gathered by the pupils of his follower P.D. Ouspensky in London, and founded the Institute for Harmonious Development of Man there. At that period of time Gurdjieff's work was mainly devoted to the methods of study of rhythm and plastic art.

In December 1923 Gurdjieff organized in Paris in a theater on the Champs Elysees a demonstration of dance and rhythmical movements to special music, composed by him for these aims.

Meanwhile, financial worries did not leave hold of Gurdjieff, who was compelled to search for additional earnings in order to sustain life at Prieure. His trip to America in 1924 became one of his attempts to liberate himself from the insoluble financial snare in which he found himself, and a heroic exploration of virgin territory for his activities.

Upon his return to France, Gurdjieff suffered a car accident: he crashed into a tree when he was driving his automobile back at a great speed from Paris to Fontanebleau. Six months later, recovering his health with great difficulty after the car accident Gurdjieff came up with the decision to liquidate the institute. During the following few years he wrote a number of books, among which was an advertising brochure, "The Herald of coming good," the pseudo-biographical novel "Meetings with remarkable Men" about his childhood, youth and the search for the "lost ancient knowledge" in the East, as well as his fantastic novel "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson".

During World War II Gurdjieff lived in Paris. After the war he started being surrounded, once again, with his former and new pupils, with whom he had conversations, and to whom he gave instructions.

He died on 20 October, 1949 in Paris, leaving his pupils in a state of confusion and perplexity in regards to the subsequent fate of his teachings. However, his closest pupil, Jeanne de Salzmann was able to gather some of them around her and to organize them into the existing Gurdjieff Foundation. Other followers of Gurdjieff went along the path of synthesis of the teaching obtained by them from Gurdjieff and Ouspensky with Christian, Sufi and Hinduist ideas and practices.

A number of "Fourth Way" groups emerged in Russia in the early 1970S on the wave of the religious and artistic revival, which was taking place chiefly in the Russian underground, which, nonetheless, had a considerable amount of influence on the censored cultural life of that time.

At the present time books by Gurdjieff are being published in the West and in Russia in significant runs. His music in the arrangement of the well-known Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann is being published as score albums and compact discs. Among the intellectuals who became adherents of Gurdjieff's ideas mention must be made of George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood... - the list of names of talented people, who have gratefully developed that which they were able to acquire due to their encounter or their direct interaction with the "system", will take fare more than one page. Numerous organizations of his followers, who study his works, practice his teachings and perform the sacred dances and movements created by him, exist in most countries of Europe, Asia and America.

Gurdjieff's return to Russia is taking place not only in the form of translations of his books and a massive all-round interest in his ideas, remarkable dances and music, but also in the form of a purely practical application of his ideas to business and economics. In the West already for several decades many people make use of the universal principles, stated in Gurdjieff's teachings in the sphere of management and monitoring of organizations, for preparation of personnel, and in other spheres.

Who is G.I. Gurdjieff?  From: Gurdjieff Foundation of Austin

  • quote small leftIt is necessary to do everything today. Forget tomorrow.
        With today, you repair yesterday and you give tomorrow the possibility
        of becoming what it should.quote small right - G.I. Gurdjieff

Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was born in eastern Turkey around 1866. The primary source about his early life was written by Gurdjieff himself in his book Meetings with Remarkable Men as well as comments he sometimes made to his students during his life. His life becomes much clearer after 1913, or so, when he appeared as a teacher in Moscow. What seems evident however, was that he was a gifted child with an incredible thirst for knowledge. Considering the time period and area where Gurdjieff was raised, lends greater appreciation to his unique influences as a boy and young man.

After his formal education, he left home as a teenager seeking answers to the questions that had rooted in him. During his travels, he met up with other like-minded "seekers" and continued to journey to areas where he believed answers could be found. It is evident that he travelled throughout many countries in Asia, the middle east and Africa, including Egypt, India, Tibet, Afganistan and Iran. Upon reaching Moscow, he had acquired a formidable body of knowledge and a "science of transformation" formulated, organized, and ready to be presented through oral tradition to the western world. Gurdjieff was in his mid to late 40s and clearly had a mission.

Intense conditions in Europe followed Gurdjieff. The Russian revolution forced him and his students to leave Russia in 1918. Political unrest in eastern Europe forced him westward and eventually Gurdjieff and his students settled in France in 1922. This period of time was well documented in P.D. Ouspensky's book In Search of the Miraculous. Two years after opening his "Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man," Gurdjieff suffered a near fatal car accident. This greatly effected his future plans. He eventually closed the school and meantime began to formulate his teaching into writing. However, he also continued working with smaller groups which now had been established with the help of many senior students including those in America and England. After having first visited America in 1924, Gurdjieff continued to travel to New York numerous times until 1935, the year he also stopped writing. It was well known that he developed a special affinity towards America, visiting, among other places, Boston, Chicago, and California. In France, Gurdjieff continued teaching under great risks during the Nazi occupation. Indeed, students there literally risk their lives to continue to study with him.

After the war, his students could now safely travel and a great influx returned to him from all over Europe and America. His most important book, Beelezebub's Tales to His Grandson had been written and was the touchstone of his teaching, which by then, had evolved and developed further. He visited America again in December 1948 and had planned another in October 1949, but after struggling with fluctuating health, he finally admittited himself to the American Hospital in Paris. He died three days later on the 29th of October and left behind a legacy of written works, movements (including sacred dances) and about 300 music compositions. He was 83.

Gurdjieff's remaining students (often referred to as first generation students) are now few in number, but they continue to pass on his practical work offering their guidance, to a new generation throughout the world.

Gurdjieff – The Man and the Literature  by James Moore

"I have very good leather to sell
to those who want to make
themselves shoes."
G. I. Gurdjieff

Who was George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff? Writer? Choreographer? Psychiatrist? Musician? Doctor? Master Cook? He defies categorisation: though it is clear that he re-united segments of 'acroamatic' knowledge gleaned during a twenty year search in Asia; and brought to the West a methodology for the possible evolution of consciousness, within a cosmology of awe-inspiring scale. His call was radical. Awake! Awake from your unsuspected hypnotic sleep, to consciousness and conscience.

More than a hundred years ago Gurdjieff was a poor boy in the obscure town of Kars, on the Russo-Turkish frontier: today his name is becoming a modish verbal token, which (like Darwin, Marx, Freud, Einstein) is absurdly conceived to be self-explicatory. Those who would now narrowly appropriate him as 'the inspirer of the ecology movement' or 'the initiator of contemporary eupsychian therapies' — though doubtless they glimpse aspects — comprehend neither his scale nor the trajectory of the religious traditions.

For a truer perspective on Gurdjieff we must turn to his circle of devoted followers, who paid for their insights by effort. These were men and women magnetised not by a system of self-supportive notional abstractions but by a human being of Rabelaisian stature; by the fine energies at his disposition; by his compassion; and by his ability to transmit a pratique. Their journals and autobiographies constitute a rich and singular literature: Gurdjieff is assigned his inescapable historicity, yet somehow struggles free, emerging with the cohesion and the presence of a myth.

Encounters with Gurdjieff

No definitive biography of Gurdjieff exists or is remotely in prospect. [1] He was born in Alexandropol c.1866, and first appears on a well-lit stage in 1912 in Moscow. To encounter him was always a test: the first meeting — certainly for those who became his disciples — was the axis on which a whole life turned; then in succeeding years, a human being with all his inherent frailty would answer, more or less truly, to Gurdjieff's insistent demand. There lay the drama. As for us, we can only live here and now; and yet to the degree that we enter into the pupils' experience by an inner act of compassion, their memoirs hold a value above the purely historical.

The composer Thomas de Hartmann (1886–1956) and his wife Olga were Gurdjieff's intimate disciples and companions for twelve years, and it is thanks to him that Gurdjieff's music has reached us. In Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff they share with us the journey they shared with him: from Petrograd, seized by crisis in 1917, across the Caucasus mountains to Tiflis, finally reaching Paris in 1922. Simplicity sometimes approaching naïveté, characterises their writing, but the impression of Gurdjieff is only the more striking. We find him moving impartially, almost invisibly, through scenes of confusion and fratricidal turmoil; welcoming each difficulty and danger as a new opportunity for practical teaching.

In October 1922 Gurdjieff took the Prieuré at Fontainebleau-Avon, a chateau in the grounds of 200 acres; here he rapidly created conditions for self-study, unprecedented in Europe. Gurdjieff had a special rapport with his pupils' children, caring for their education in the word's real sense. Sometimes he challenged them; sometimes he lead them with great delicacy towards a vital insight; always his teaching had an element of surprise and the hallmark of practicality. From eleven to fifteen Fritz Peters (1913–1980) lived at the Prieuré, and in Boyhood with Gurdjieff his fresh and at times uproariously funny memoir, he relives that special experience.

In spring 1924, Gurdjieff visited the USA with prepared pupils, to give public demonstrations of his sacred dances; and their influence upon key intellectuals was far-reaching. The dances also spoke categorically to the young Englishman Stanley Nott (1887–1978) who had a different, simpler background: who had travelled the world working hard at many trades, and whose feelings had been enervated by his sufferings in the trenches. 'Here,' wrote Nott, 'is what I went to the ends of the earth to find.' His allegiance to Gurdjieff proved life-long and undivided; he spent many summers at the Prieuré, and in Teachings of Gurdjieff conveys both his inner and outer experience with Boswellian vigor. He incorporates in full the penetrating (though not definitive) commentary on Gurdjieff's book Beelzebub by his friend A. R. Orage.

The decade 1925 to 1935 Gurdjieff devoted to his writing, achieved in the distracting conditions of the Café de Paix. Here, in spring 1932, he was encountered by the American authoress Kathryn Hulme (1900–1981) later to attain fame with her novel The Nun's Story; she hungered to become his personal pupil, but nearly four years passed before her persistence was rewarded. Her autobiography Undiscovered Country richly evokes her experience in a special group of four women (all sophisticated, avant-garde and single — and some frankly Lesbian) which met daily in Gurdjieff's flat in Rue Labie. At its worst the style is cloying: at its best vibrant. Gurdjieff's humanity and capacity to work with diverse types is strongly conveyed, as is the group's emotional commitment to each other and their teacher. They named their small company 'The Rope' in order never to forget their interdependence in ascent.

Urged to flee Paris before the Germans entered in 1940, Gurdjieff chose to remain in his modest flat at 6 Rue des Colonels-Rénard. Though well into his seventies, he was unsparing of his energies: giving individual counselling; teaching a new series of dances or Movements at the Salle Pleyel; and somehow maintaining in those sparse times the patriarchal hospitality of his audacious feasts. French interest in Gurdjieff — formerly slight — now burgeoned, drawing many intellectuals to him, among them René Zuber (1902–1979) the film director. His slim volume Who Are You Monsieur Gurdjieff? is a calm and fastidious meditation: confronted with the enigma of Gurdjieff and deeply concerned to situate him in relation to Christianity, Zuber is repeatedly brought back to question himself.

Fifteen months before Gurdjieff's death, J. G. Bennett (1897–1974) who had briefly met him in the 1920s, established a more serious — though necessarily intermittent — contact. [2] Elizabeth Mayall (1918–1991) later to become Bennett's wife, was free to live in Paris from January 1949, and thus shared more fully in the unique world of Rue des Colonels-Rénard. Here at Gurdjieff's last suppers, his mysterious ritual the 'Toast of the Idiots' served as the vehicle of a final and intensely individual teaching. Idiots in Paris, the Bennetts' raw unedited diaries, captures with almost painful honesty and immediacy the last hundred days of Gurdjieff's life, and his pupils' poignant struggle for understanding. Gurdjieff died at Neuilly on 29 October 1949.

[1] Attention is however invited to James Moore's subsequent biography Gurdjieff: the Anatomy of a Myth (Element Books Ltd., 1991).

[2] One cannot know how much J. G. Bennett received from Gurdjieff; but the prolixity of his authorship contrasts wryly with the brevity of his actual contact. Nor does the breathtaking catholicity of his subsequent eclecticism suggest a particular or persevering commitment to Gurdjieff's Teaching.

The Teaching

Then what precisely was Gurdjieff's Teaching? Although the question seems to promise clarification, it is spoilt by its very rigour: time deadens authorised versions like hemlock, and Gurdjieff never issued one. 'I teach,' he said gnomically, 'that when it rains, the pavements get wet.' The vivifying power of his ideas entails the moment, the circumstance, the type and state of the pupil. His one constant demand is Know thyself, to which he adduces a metaphysic, a metapsychology and a metachemistry which absolutely defy précis; a human typology, a phenomenology of consciousness, and a quasi-mathematical scale linking macrocosm and microcosm. This complex apparatus is illuminated by one master-idea: that Man is called to strive for self-perfection, in service to our sacred living Universe.

Can we catch echoes of Pythagoras or Plato, Christ or Milarepa; see certain limited parallels with moderns like Mendeleev, Sheldon, Vernadsky, Watson? It is easy to lose oneself and one's search in a labyrinth of comparisons, and in the phylogeny of ideas. Gurdjieff himself was not content with words; his Movements and sacred dances were at once a glyph of universal laws and a field for individual search. When, approaching sixty, he turned to writing, his productions were heuristic rather than expository, and their form totally unexpected: first a cosmological epic of a special kind, then an autobiography of a special kind.

Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson is Gurdjieff's masterpiece and no other book brings us closer to him. Readers who can rise to the double challenge of its profundity and its quite deliberate stylistic difficulty; who can summon again and again the necessary fine attention — will find encoded here all Gurdjieff's psychological and cosmological ideas, and a fundamental critique.

On a long journey by spaceship, Beelzebub good-humouredly conveys his understanding of 'All and Everything' to his grandson Hassein. Through his impartial compassionate eyes we see life on earth as from a great distance, with microscopic clarity. Down millenia and across continents, we see Man deeply asleep, blindly and aimlessly struggling and suffering, torn by war and passion, fouling everything he touches; and yet, through a strange flaw in his nature, clinging ingeniously to the very instruments which wound, the patterns which betray.

A stark picture? Undeniably. And in other hands than Gurdjieff's it might have been cruelly nihilistic; but Gurdjieff is calling us to life. It is his genius to float an objective hope, like an Ark on these dark waters. He bequeaths us the great figure of Beelzebub, whose presence indicates man as he might be: aware with gratitude of the divine spark within him, and striving by conscious labours towards the fulfilment of his true place in the cosmic scheme.

In his next book Meetings with Remarkable Men Gurdjieff evokes the first and least known period of his own life; his boyhood in Kars under the benign influence of his father and his first tutor Dean Borsh; then his early manhood dedicated, in many guises, to an unremitting search for a real and universal knowledge. His language is spare and vivid, 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.

We journey to the interior in company with the friends of Gurdjieff's youth — princes, engineers, doctors, priests — men remarkable not from their surface arrangements but by their resourcefulness, self-restraint and compassion. We see them as though face to face; their words are lodged in us as though spoken directly in a moment of intimate quietness.

So Gurdjieff, having swept the ground clear with the awesome critique Beelzebub, offers us now his material for a new creation — nothing other than our hard diurnal life, but thrust into question and placed at the service of an aim, which, by its intelligence and elevation, is truly human.

Between the years 1915 and 1918, Gurdjieff liberally gave to his Russian groups an astonishing body of exact data, which had cost twenty years to search out. Prominent among his pupils at this time was Piotr Demianovich Ouspensky (1878–1947) journalist, mathematician and intellectual; already famous for his book Tertium Organum. The very epoch, with its mass destruction and savage contradictions, sharpened Ouspensky's lifelong hunger for values and knowledge of a different order.  In Search of the Miraculous was published posthumously; it consists, for three parts out of four, of Gurdjieff's own words, preserved from those days and brilliantly arranged. Endorsed by Gurdjieff himself, this work undoubtedly offers the most accessible account of his psychological and cosmological ideas, while carrying us as near as any book alone can, to the special conditions of a group. The overwhelming sense of shock, excitement and revelation which fired Ouspensky in 1915, will be transmitted through these sentences and diagrams to people of every generation, who (whatever the external conditions with which they must blend) are secretly in search.

Jeanne de Salzmann became Gurdjieff's pupil in Tiflis in 1919, and through thirty years participated in each succeeding dispensation of his Work, even carrying responsibility for his groups during the last ten years of his life. In Views from the Real World she has collated more than forty important talks given by Gurdjieff between 1917 and 1930. We owe their very preservation to the educated memories of his followers, who were forbidden to take verbatim notes. If these are not Gurdjieff's words in every syllable, it is clearly his authentic voice, issuing his unmistakable challenge.

Approaches to Gurdjieff

No-one — whether he responds to Gurdjieff or reacts against him — can measure the voltage of his intellect without receiving a certain shock. His is one of those few effectual voices, which, 'passing through a great diversity of echoes, keeps its own resonance and its power of action'. [3] Then let us briefly hear some precis, 'approaches', thematic and lyrical restatements — recognising them for reverberations, yet acknowledging their profound legitimacy in a living tradition, confided to living men.

After four years as one of Gurdjieff's close pupils, P. D. Ouspensky expounded his ideas in England and America for a quarter of a century. In The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution, he distils from Gurdjieff's integrated Teaching its psychological essence, presenting it without flavour or aroma in only 92 pages. This formulation, based on Ouspensky's lecture notes, is so lucid and balanced that it bids to remain forever unmatched as an introduction and an aide-memoire.

The feeling of a pupil's actual experience — palpably missing from Ouspensky's summary of theory — is supplied in Venture with Ideas by Kenneth Walker (1882–1966). This warm human memoir lightly sketches Gurdjieff's psychological and cosmological teaching, within the biographical context of the author's twenty four years study with Ouspensky in England. Walker's scientific background (he was three times Hunterian Professor of Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons) adds interest to his reception of esoteric ideas.

Men are tragically divided, but all who wish may share the primordial existential questions: who am I, and what is the significance and aim of human life? The great edifice of Gurdjieff's Teaching rests on the unshakable foundation of this innocent interrogation. The theme is calmly developed in Toward Awakening by Jean Vaysse (1917–1975) a pioneer of open-heart surgery and transplantation, and a close pupil of Gurdjieff in Paris. His final chapter outlines for the first time, Gurdjieffian exercises linking attention with bodily sensation.

The mountain, rooted in the earth, its summit reaching towards heaven, is an ancient symbol of man's aspirations and strivings. René Daumal (1908–1944) who studied under Gurdjieff in Paris during the war, wrote his subtle and humorous allegory Mount Analogue in the language of a poet and mountaineer, to remind us of the strange inner ascent to which we are called. Although he died young, his own work sustains its impact on modern French literature.

Coming years must inevitably heighten scholarly interest in Gurdjieff. Because his Teaching is experiential; because there is danger of confusing levels; because an academic with a fundamental misapprehension or even bias, can embroider it so prettily — the prospect is not wholly welcome. [4] And yet some auguries are good; Michel Waldberg in Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas draws intelligently on all major texts, contriving a work of popular synthesis and commentary which sets a real standard.

[3] Jeanne de Salzmann Foreword (p. viii) to Views from the Real World.

[4] A knowledge of Whitall N. Perry's intellectual affiliations with the school of Frithjof Schuon and René Guenon is helpful in situating his 1978 critique Gurdjieff in the Light of Tradition: the unrepresentative quotations, plucked from context and orchestrated with curious animus, mark it as polemical. James Webb undertook fundamental research, largely neglected by Perry, but his vast and more balanced work The Harmonious Circle (1980) is marred by indulgent speculation.

And Now?

Gurdjieff preferred Today over Yesterday; he did not invite us either to anatomise him or to idolise him, but to search for ourselves. Returning again and again to Beelzebub, we seem to catch the author's rich human voice projected toward his 'Grandsons' — pupils of the New Age; rising generations who could not meet him, but who bear the seeds of his ideas into the unknown future. And yet no pilgrimage of reading is sufficient: no book, not even a sacred book, can furnish that unfathomable moment when, in the actual presence of his teacher, the pupil's understanding is amplified and deepened.

Then where to look today? All a man's flair, discrimination and downright commonsense are solicited here, for there are many siren voices and self-advertisements. And yet it was not for nothing that Gurdjieff prepared pupils; not for nothing that he gave indications for the future. And after his death, it was not for nothing that the cherished Movements have been progressed through decades; and a responsible nucleus painfully formed, to maintain the current that had been created.

Where then? [5] For those whose approach to Gurdjieff is practical, this is the question which must prevail. There is first an outer contact to be found: then an inner contact to be renewed and deepened.

[5] James Moore is personally prepared to advise readers seeking a suitable group in England (but wishes to emphasise that he cannot help with American or other international enquiries). Mr. Moore's e-mail address is: 

Gurdjieff; a select bibliography [6]

The Teaching

Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson  by G. I. Gurdjieff (1950)
Meetings with Remarkable Men  by G. I. Gurdjieff (1963)
In Search of the Miraculous  by P. D. Ouspensky (1949)
Views from the Real World  Talks of G. I. Gurdjieff (1973)

Approaches to Gurdjieff

The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution  by P. D. Ouspensky (1978)
Venture with Ideas  by Kenneth Walker (1951)
Toward Awakening  by Jean Vaysse (1980)
Mount Analogue  by René Daumal (1974)
Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas  by Michel Waldberg (1981)

Encounters with Gurdjieff

Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff  by Thomas and Olga de Hartmann (1964, Revised 1983 and 1992)
Boyhood with Gurdjieff  by Fritz Peters (1964)
Teachings of Gurdjieff  by C. S. Nott (1961)
Undiscovered Country  by Kathryn Hulme (1966)
Who Are You Monsieur Gurdjieff?  by René Zuber (1980)
Idiots in Paris  by J. G. and E. Bennett (1980)

[6] Scholars embarked on in-depth Gurdjieff studies are wholeheartedly referred to Gurdjieff: an annotated bibliography by J. Walter Driscoll and the Gurdjieff Foundation of California (New York: Garland Publishing, 1985).

~ • ~

James Moore is founder of the Gurdjieff Studies Group, a small London (UK) centred group practising Gurdjieff's teaching on traditional lines.

Black Sheep Philosophers:  Gurdjieff – Ouspensky – Orage
From: Gurdjieff International Review | by Gorham Munson

ON October 29, 1949, at the American Hospital in Paris died a Caucasian Greek named Georgy Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. A few nights later at Cooper Union, New York, a medal was presented to the revolutionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. After his part in the ceremony was over, Wright asked the chairman's permission to make an announcement. "The greatest man in the world," he said, "has recently died. His name was Gurdjieff." Few, if any, in Wright's audience had ever heard the name before, which is quite understandable; Gurdjieff avoided reporters and managed most of the time to keep out of the media of publicity.

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 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 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.

A Better Grade of Hearsay

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's Secret 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.

The "Black Sheep Philosophers"

Much more is known about Gurdjieff after 1914. A recently published book by P. D. Ouspensky which the author called Fragments 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 of In 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 print [1]. 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 two—Alfred Richard Orage who died in the fall of 1934, and Peter Demianovich Ouspensky who died in the fall of 1947—were 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.

[1] As of February, 1950. Ed.

Alfred R. Orage

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. Orage—slow 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 Château du Prieuré 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.

Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man

At that time Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man was in full swing. With funds provided by Lady Rothermere, Gurdjieff had acquired the historic Château du Prieuré, 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 pupils—English and Russian—and 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.

An Evening with Orage

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 of Hamlet 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 of Strange 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 talk—and 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.

Man Is a Mechanical Being

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 Château du Prieuré 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 the New 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.

Peter D. Ouspensky

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 life—the 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. But Tertium 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 included A 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 essays [2] about it.

[2] Published as Chapter 13 in Priestley's Midnight on the Desert (New York) Harper, 1937.

The "Pocketbook Nerve" and the "Sex Nerve"

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."

Gurdjieff's Last Years

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 Château du Prieuré. 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. Bennett. [3] Bennett is the author of The 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 1948–49 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.

[3] Also by Jane Heap from 1936 to 1964 and by Mme Henriette H. Lannes from 1950 to 1980. Ed.

"A Pythagorean Greek"

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, café 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 Renaissance—men like Roger Bacon, a forerunner, and Francis Bacon and Paracelsus who came at the height—if 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-picture—in 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.

The Incomparable Mr. G.  From:

Ouspensky returned to Russia in November 1914, disappointed by his fruitless search for schools. An international journalist, he must have known that war was on its way. Yet like so many others, he had tried to avoid facing its reality. Now that was impossible. “All the mud was rising from the bottom of life,” [1] he said, as the serenity he had found in the sapphire gaze of the Buddha was replaced by the wild rhetoric of war. The culture of barbarism was triumphant, and the fragile threads he had drawn across the globe, linking himself and the bearers of the new consciousness, were severed. All bets were off and everything was thrown into disorder.

“Why on earth did I ever go to India?” he asked Anna when, once again, they began daily appointments at Phillipoff’s Café. “I found nothing there that I have not read before in books, or heard rumored in some way… Nothing new, nothing.” [2] His personal disappointment must have been great, and amidst the confusion and madness of war it must have seemed doubly painful. Here were the antivalues of barbarism, championed by newspapers and politicians, fueling the base passions of hatred, nationalism, and violence. And the one way out of the history of crime, the one escape route from the insanity, seemed closed to him. Did it ever exist? He must have asked himself. Wasn’t it, like so much else he encountered on his journey, an illusion? Wasn’t he simply believing in lies, like the rest? Different lies, certainly, but stories, myths, fantasies all the same?

It would have been easy to drift into cynicism. But Ouspensky’s conviction that the only way out of “the labyrinth of contradictions in which we live” was via some “entirely new road, unlike anything hitherto known or used by us,” was too great. “Beyond the thin film of false reality” there was “another reality” — there was, as he and Anna had told each other time and time again, the miraculous. [3] If nothing else, the failure to find what he was looking for in India allowed him to finely tune his requirements. All that was “fantastic” in his thoughts about schools had now evaporated. Ideas about “non-physical contact” — the possibility of communicating with schools in the ancient past or on some other plane — dissolved. He discarded all such dreams and fantasies as signs of weakness, and recognized them as “one of the principal obstacles on our possible way to the miraculous.” [4] If he was going to find a school, it was going to be real, solid, concrete, and its teachers, however knowledgeable, would be flesh and blood, just as the teachers of any ordinary school would be.

[1] Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe, p. 11

[2] Butkovsky-Hewitt, With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris, p. 31

[3] Ouspensky. In Search of the Miraculous, p. 3

[4] Ibid., p. 5

In the event, the ordinariness of the surroundings in which Ouspensky eventually did find his “school” would prove one of the strangest and most unusual things about it.

He was not, however, entirely free from the normal human reaction to bruised dreams. In the late winter of 1915, during the “generally catastrophic conditions of life in the midst of which we have to live and work,” [5] Ouspensky gave public lectures on his travels at the Alexandrovsky Hall of the Petersburg Town Duma. These were well attended; more than a thousand people came to each lecture, among them, as we’ve seen, members of the Russian avantgarde. The talks seemed to serve two purposes: to distance Ouspensky from the still-prevalent notions that the key to solving the spiritual dilemma of the West could be found by foraging in the East, and to sever his ties with the Theosophical Society. By all reports, he was successful. In its review of Ouspensky’s lectures, the leading Russian Theosophical journal reported:

  • quote small leftP. D. Ouspensky’s three lectures attracted a huge audience, but they evoked perplexity. The lecturer promised to talk about India. In fact he talked only about his disillusionment in seeking the miraculous and about his understanding of occultism at variance with its understanding by Theosophy and the Theosophical Society. With indignation he said that the Theosophists selected ethics and philosophy, not occultism, as their field of effort, and that ethics and philosophy are unnecessary to the Society and unrelated to occultism… He also accused the Theosophical Society of arrogance and sectarianism.quote small right[6] 

It wasn’t only in his search for schools that Ouspensky found India wanting. Hunting for material to fill his newspaper column, he tried to track down evidence of some of the well-known, though less edifying, “miracles” that the mystic East was famous for. But here too he drew a blank. Of the legendary rope trick, for example, in which a fakir throws a rope into the air upon which a young boy climbs, he could find no trace at all. Not only did he find it impossible to locate a fakir capable of such a feat, Ouspensky was unable to find a single traveler who had seen it in person: everyone he questioned knew of it only by hearsay. Even reports from the educated Hindus whom he spoke with about it were not to be believed, not because they wanted to deceive, but because they were reluctant to disappoint yet another European in search of Indian magic. That a phenomenon with no basis in fact should command belief by numbers of otherwise intelligent people suggested to Ouspensky that human beings have a propensity to accept a lie because doing so is easier than seeking out the truth. Ouspensky, however, constantly submitted himself to the acid bath of experiment and observation. His decision to search for a teacher who could lead him to the miraculous was motivated, he admitted, by a desire to avoid what he considered “amateurish attempts at ‘work on oneself.’” [7] As Leslie White announced, “I cannot deceive myself anymore, nor do I want to.” Although he believed in the miraculous, Ouspensky wanted facts.

[5] Ouspensky. In Search of the Miraculous, p. 5

[6] Quoted in Maria Carlson, No Religion Higher than Truth: A History of the Theosophical Movement in Russia 1875-1922, (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1993), p. 75

[7] Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe, p. 9

It isn’t surprising, then, that while in Moscow in December and January of 1914 – 15 Ouspensky cast a bemused eye at a curious advertisement he had found in a newspaper. Doing editorial work for a journal he had written for while in India, Ouspensky spied a notice for a ballet entitled “The Struggle of the Magicians.” The title itself would have caught his attention. Even more intriguing, its author was a “certain ‘Hindu,’” and the performance promised to present a complete picture of all that Ouspensky had just failed to find on his journey. Set against the backdrop of India, the ballet would include fakir miracles, sacred dances, and much more. Having just discovered the “truth” about India, Ouspensky was critical of the advertisement’s claims. But the irony of the coincidence must have amused him. Acknowledging that Hindu ballets were something of a rarity in Moscow, he decided to include the notice in the next issue of his paper, adding to it the caveat that the ballet would provide all that is unavailable in India, but which travelers journey there to see.

Ouspensky’s St. Petersburg lectures had been successful enough that he was able to repeat his performance in Moscow. In India, he told his audience, the miraculous was not sought where it should be sought. The known ways were useless. The miraculous passed us by and we did not notice it. The miraculous, when it appears among ordinary humanity, always wears a mask, and only the very few succeed in penetrating it.

One wonders if Ouspensky was speaking to himself. For as fate would have it, he was about to have an opportunity to put his theory into practice.

During his Moscow lectures Ouspensky was approached by two men, Vladimir Pohl, a musician, and Sergei Dmitrievich Mercourov, a sculptor. They told him of an occult group to which they belonged, and which, oddly enough, was led by the “certain Hindu” — actually a Caucasian Greek — responsible for the ballet scenario “The Struggle of the Magicians,” the notice for which Ouspensky had come across a few months earlier. They spoke of the work the group was engaged in, and of “G’s” — the Greek’s — aims. To Ouspensky it seemed heady, confused, and extremely doubtful material. As a noted journalist, highly successful lecturer, and author of a popular and influential book — which was about to go into a second edition — Ouspensky had heard it all before. Tactfully he listened, but no doubt looked for a polite way to escape. By now Ouspensky had had enough of the kind of self-hypnosis associated with all such occult groups. People, he ruefully reflected, “invent miracles for themselves and invent exactly what is expected of them.” [8] It was all a brew of “superstition, self-suggestion and defective thinking,” and Ouspensky, having just returned from a long, profitless journey, wanted no part of it.

[8] Ouspensky. In Search of the Miraculous, p. 7

Mercourov, however, was persistent, and it was more than likely out of the desire to quiet his entreaties than out of any real interest that Ouspensky finally broke down and agreed to meet the mysterious Mr. G.

It was, without doubt, the most fateful decision of his life.

“Georgei Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was born… And here all pretensions to accuracy stop.” [9] So begins James Webb’s exhaustive biography of the man Ouspensky was about to meet. What proves a nightmare for a biographer is a godsend for someone set on presenting himself as an enigma. As with many gurus, mystic teachers, and occult masters, Gurdjieff’s past is, as the cliché goes, shrouded in mystery. Up until 1912 or 1913, all that we know of him comes from his own hand, and even the most devoted follower must admit that what Gurdjieff tells us about himself is at the very least open to multiple interpretations. Our sources for material on Gurdjieff’s early years are his autobiographical account, Meetings with Remarkable Men; the unfinished Life Is Real Only Then, When I Am; and an earlier effort that, if nothing else, must go down as one of the strangest publications ever to see the light of print, Herald of Coming Good.

Ouspensky’s early years are difficult to piece together, but the difficulty arises out of the normal ravages of time and the dispersal of material: a diligent researcher, armed with patience and a command of Russian, could burrow through the Moscow and St. Petersburg periodical archives and more than likely uncover a great deal of interesting material about Ouspensky’s days as a journalist. The same cannot be said of Gurdjieff. He invented and reinvented himself so many times, left so many false trails, and encouraged so many myths and mistakes about exactly who he was that uncovering the truth about his past would take a lifetime. And very likely the whole dizzying business would leave even the most tenacious researcher wondering if it was not in some way planned. Gurdjieff is a man with no loose ends. There is, it seems, no way into him as there is into Ouspensky or other mystic figures of the Golden Age of Western Occultism, like Madame Blavatsky and Aleister Crowley. Both Crowley and Blavatsky were fond of creating myths about themselves, but these amounted to tall tales and improbable claims, often made with tongue in cheek. Gurdjieff had his share of these, but something more was added: a sense that he wanted, and exerted, an absolute control over his identity. As he once told an impressionable student, C. S. Nott, “the sign of a perfected man… Must be that in regard to everything happening outside him, he is able to… perform to perfection externally the part corresponding to the given situation; but at the same time never blend or agree with it.” Gurdjieff had worked hard and long at so “perfecting” himself, and we are left to wonder exactly when the separation between his inner and outer worlds that he deemed so important began. And unless, like William Patrick Patterson, we accept every word of Gurdjieff’s as holy writ and see him as a “Messenger from Above,” with all the religious overtones such a belief implies, we are also left asking why. Why did Gurdjieff cover his tracks so efficiently? Why was it so important to reach a state where nothing from “outside” could touch him internally? And what does this tell us about him?

[9] James Webb, The Harmonious Circle (New York; G. P. Putnam's Sons,. 1980), p. 25.

The Gurdjieff story, however, is this:

We have, to date, three candidates for the year of Gurdjieff’s birth: 1866, 1872, and 1877; this would make him either twelve, four, or only one year older than Ouspensky. As Gurdjieff himself destroyed all his private papers and documents, including birth certificates and passports, on the eve of a trip to America in 1930, there is no concrete evidence for any one year being accurate. The year 1877 has acquired a certain preference, since it is the date on Gurdjieff’s passport. All the evidence, however, suggests that Gurdjieff could fake a date on a passport, so while official recognition of 1877 gives it some weight, there’s still no guarantee that it’s accurate. The day of his birth accepted by his biographers is December 28, although followers of the Fourth Way celebrate his birthday on January 13, making allowances for the Old Russian calendar.

The ambiguity over the year of Gurdjieff’s birth makes his nationality equally ambiguous. Depending on which year we accept, Gurdjieff was either Turkish or Russian, as the place of his birth in the Caucasus was either called Gumru, and was under Turkish rule before 1877, or Alexandropol, and was under Russian rule after that year. His parents’ nationality is clearer: his father was Greek, his mother Armenian. In 1878, a year (or more) after his birth, his family moved to Kars, a nearby town. Captured by the Russians in 1877, most of its Turkish population had been slaughtered. When it became Russian, a large flood of Russians arrived, while the remaining Turks left. Colin Wilson makes the point that Gurdjieff grew up in an ethnic melting pot, in a society that was by necessity multicultural. While the young Ouspensky suffered personal loss but lived in an ethnically and culturally, if not politically, stable world, Gurdjieff grew up in a world with few or no boundaries and nothing like a Western sense of order. The unpredictability of his surroundings taught him to think on his feet — a lesson that, years later, he would try to pass on to his students.

Gurdjieff’s father was a carpenter whose real love was poetry and storytelling, and Gurdjieff would listen while his father recited from memory one of the epics of the past. He was a bard, and Gurdjieff was impressed when he read in a magazine that archaeologists had recently discovered ancient tablets containing fragments of the epic Gilgamesh; this was one of the traditional tales that Gurdjieff’s father had memorized and often recited. Gurdjieff’s father had been taught Gilgamesh by another bard, who had learned it from one before him, and so on, going back countless generations. This notion of the reality of an ancient oral tradition kept alive for centuries would later play a major part in Gurdjieff’s own teaching.

At an early age Gurdjieff showed a fascination for the occult. Early on, he witnessed a variety of strange phenomena: table-rapping, fortune-telling, faith healing, even vampirism. The death of his sister raised questions about life beyond the grave. When he was around eleven years old (accepting 1877 as the year of his birth), he witnessed a remarkable sight. The sound of screaming brought him to a group of children. There he saw a young Yezidi boy standing within a circle that had been drawn on the ground. The Yezidis are a religious sect — erroneously considered devil worshippers — and are prone to an inexplicable phenomenon: if placed within a circle they are unable to leave it. The young boy was screaming, trapped within the ring the children had drawn around him. When Gurdjieff rubbed out part of the circle, the boy fled. Inquisitive, Gurdjieff asked everyone he knew about the experience, but no one could explain it. Years later he experimented himself, drawing a circle around a Yezidi woman. She too was unable to leave it, and when Gurdjieff and another man finally pulled her from it, she collapsed into a state of catalepsy.

Meetings with Remarkable Men is filled with other, equally unusual experiences. The young Gurdjieff investigated each one, trying to find an answer to its mystery. He read all he could get his hands on and questioned everyone. Finally, he concluded that although human beings seem to understand themselves and the world, they are almost totally lacking in knowledge of either. Just as Ouspensky would conclude years later, Gurdjieff realized that laziness and lack of curiosity allowed people to accept whatever story seemed simplest and freed them from seeking the truth.

Gurdjieff studied for the priesthood, and as the head of his school insisted that all students have medical training, he also studied medicine. Gurdjieff soon manifested a remarkable talent for mechanical work; he was a natural “Mr. Fix It.” He spent a great deal of his adolescence taking things apart and putting them back together. Often times he would see how some machine or tool could be improved and would make the necessary adjustments. As we will see, his later life centered around fixing “machines” as well. As his family was poor, for a time he earned money as a traveling repairman.

Religious questions, the paranormal, and mechanical skills informed Gurdjieff’s early years. To these were added an enviable knack for making money and a cheerful disregard for the legalities involved. As a teenager he worked for a railway company, surveying a proposed route between Tiflis and Kars. He knew in advance which towns were slated for a station, and would approach the town elders suggesting that, for a price, he could arrange for the train to stop there. Naturally the city fathers were pleased, and Gurdjieff’s pockets were filled. On another occasion, Gurdjieff caught sparrows, dyed them different colors, and sold them to gullible customers as a rare breed of “American canary” — making his escape quickly, before a sudden shower washed the dye off. In later years this talent for making money was applied to diverse activities, from selling carpets and curing drug addicts to running cinemas and restaurants.

With a friend, Sarkis Pogossian, Gurdjieff spent long evenings discussing the central questions of human existence. They visited “sacred sites” and through their reading became convinced a “hidden knowledge” existed. They also believed that traces of this lost wisdom could be discerned in the relics of the past — a belief, we know, that Ouspensky had absorbed from Theosophy. After they made enough money to give up their jobs — Pogossian, too, worked for the railway — the two purchased a library of ancient Armenian texts, then moved to the ancient city of Ani. Here they built a hut and plunged into their studies and explorations of the ancient Armenian capital.

They discovered a monk’s cell in an underground passage. Within it were old parchments inscribed in ancient Armenian. They brought these to Alexandropol, hoping to decipher them. It turned out that the parchments spoke of an ancient secret society, the Sarmoung Brotherhood, and they recalled the name from one of the texts in their library. This brotherhood, it seemed, flourished in about 2500 BC; the parchments dated to around 600 AD. Gurdjieff and Pogossian concluded that remains of the Sarmoung Brotherhood might still be found in an area about three hundred miles south of present day Mosul (Iraq). Convincing a society of Armenian patriots to finance their expedition, they embarked on their own quest for the miraculous.

They seemed to be in luck. An Armenian priest who housed them mentioned a map he had in his possession. A Russian prince, he said, had wanted to purchase it, but the priest wouldn’t sell it and only allowed the prince to make a copy. He showed Gurdjieff the map; it turned out to be of “pre-sand Egypt.” Understandably, Gurdjieff was excited by the discovery and, when the priest was out, made a copy of the map. The Russian prince had paid for this privilege, but as Gurdjieff would later tell Ouspensky, it is sometimes necessary for a seeker to “steal” knowledge.

A series of events brought Gurdjieff to Alexandria (Pogossian abandoned the quest along the way). From Egypt he went to Jerusalem, where he worked as a tourist guide. Gurdjieff fails to tell us whether he had discovered any evidence of the Sarmoung Brotherhood or what he made of the map of pre-sand Egypt. But back in Egypt, Gurdjieff sat by one of the pyramids studying the map. A man approached and, peering down at him, with great emotion asked how he had come across it. This, it turned out, was the same prince who had tried to buy the map from the priest.

At this point Gurdjieff became involved with a group of questers, the Seekers of Truth, whose leader was the Russian prince. Their adventures took them to several sites in Asia, some inaccessible to Europeans, where they discovered the “hidden knowledge” the existence of which Gurdjieff had suspected years before. Gurdjieff tells us that he did eventually make contact with the present-day Sarmoung Brotherhood, spending time at their monasteries in the Himalayas and Turkistan. It was there that he learned the ancient secrets of human existence and the methods of achieving a higher state of consciousness.

All of which makes for a wonderful story, the reliability of which is difficult to corroborate.

Gurdjieff’s account of his formative years can be read on a variety of levels: metaphor, allegory, pure tall tale, metaphysical fiction, autobiography, or simply invention. Given the milieu in which he surfaced in Moscow, it’s understandable that he would want to present himself as a mysterious figure with a series of mystical adventures under his belt. He had other accomplishments as well: during this period he may have spent some time as a secret agent working for the Russian government during their political chess match with the British known as the Great Game. [10] He also worked for a period as a professional hypnotist and wonder-worker — a kind of traveling magician, the equivalent today of a television psychic. But the Gurdjieff who targeted Ouspensky and sent his students to draw him in was determined to present himself as one thing and one thing only: a man who knows.

It seems likely that in St. Petersburg in 1913 he presented himself as a certain “Prince Ozay” and made the acquaintance of the Englishman Paul Dukes, a twenty-four-year-old traveler and musician. The friend of Lev Lvovitch — significantly, a professional healer and hypnotist — Dukes, who later knew Ouspensky, was informed that Lvovitch had met the Prince while on military service in Central Asia. The Prince, Lvovitch told Dukes, was a man like no other. Upon meeting him, Dukes had to agree. At a house not far from Nikolaevski Station — a short walk, we know, from Ouspensky’s own apartment — Dukes was led to a large and sumptuously appointed room. Oriental carpets adorned the walls, the windows were covered in rich curtains, and wrought-iron lamps fitted with colored glass hung from the ceiling. The atmosphere was appropriately exotic and oddly reminiscent of the magician’s room in Ouspensky’s novel. A hole in Dukes’s sock prompted the Prince to remark on the virtues of ventilation: “Good thing — nothing like fresh air.” It’s the kind of thing Gurdjieff would say. But more commanding evidence are the occult lessons that Dukes received from the Prince. Most seem to have concerned diet, breathing, sex, and other standard fare in mystical disciplines. The Prince told Dukes the musician that he was a musical instrument and spoke of the importance of being “in tune.” This suggests both Gurdjieff’s later use of musical terms like “octave” and his tendency to approach each student through a subject familiar to them. [11]

[10] For Gurdjieff and the Great Game. see ibid., pp. 48-73.

[11] Strangely, Gurdjieff as Prince: Ozay seems to embody the type of "romantic" guru who Ouspensky at first hoped to meet, but after his failed "search," spoke of only ironically. As we will see, at their first meeting, Ouspensky had a "vision" of Gurdjieff as he may have appeared in his guise as the prince.

But before appearing as Prince Ozay — if indeed he and Gurdjieff were one — Gurdjieff had already made forays into the occult milieu of fin de siècle Russia. Writers on Gurdjieff’s life suggest that by 1909 or 1910 he was ready to make his mark on the world; the only question seemed to be where. From Central Asia he could have gone to Constantinople, where he knew people, knew the language and where — as Ouspensky had found on his first journey to the East — a living spiritual tradition still existed. Instead he chose Russia. Some commentators argue that this is because going to Russia was the greater challenge. Perhaps. But Moscow and St. Petersburg were the most European of Russian cities, and Gurdjieff more than likely aimed at eventually bringing his work to Europe. It’s also true that, as we’ve seen, Russia at that time had a thriving occult market, and devotees of a variety of teachings filled the major cities. Gurdjieff had already tested himself in the spiritualist and Theosophical circles of cities like Tashkent. Like Ouspensky, Gurdjieff had little good to say about his mystical competition, though it’s clear he borrowed liberally from their work. The knowledge that Gurdjieff would present to Ouspensky was without doubt impressive and, in the form Gurdjieff gave it, unique. But it was not absolutely original.

In Tashkent, Gurdjieff’s success as an occult master was considerable. He tells us that within six months he “succeeded not only in coming into contact with a great number of these people (‘occultists’), but even in being accepted as a well-known ‘expert’ and guide in evoking so-called ‘phenomena of the beyond’ in a very large circle.”

No doubt Gurdjieff, with his deep desire to get to the bottom of life, found that many in these circles were simply sensation seekers and bored dilettantes, eager for some distraction. He spoke of the occult hysteria of the time as a psychosis, simply another manifestation of the laziness common to human beings. He also confirmed this in practice; part of his success, he tells us, involved his “skill in producing tricks,” which suggests that he wasn’t above sleight-of-hand when necessary. His aim in infiltrating these circles was to acquire a group of serious students upon whom he could test the knowledge he had acquired during his search. As he himself admitted, he needed guinea pigs.

In Tashkent the types available weren’t sufficient, and his experiments demanded work with a much wider variety. So he moved to Russia after closing down his groups as well as the considerable business ventures he was involved in at the time, the liquidation of which netted him a million rubles. He first went to St. Petersburg where, decked out in the appropriate Oriental garb, he met the world, perhaps as Prince Ozay. Then, for reasons best known to himself, he went to Moscow. Here, too, Gurdjieff looked for types — new guinea pigs — but also for something else. Unlike Madame Blavatsky, or the highly successful Rudolf Steiner, Gurdjieff was apparently uncomfortable presenting himself to the world at large: his predilection for disguise suggests this. [12] But for a man eager to make his mark on the world — and this certainly was Gurdjieff’s intention — a good presentation is a necessity.

[12] Although. as his career makes clear, Gurdjieff had no problem addressing people, he seems to have operated best in small groups, where his personal force could be felt - and be seen to be felt - more immediately. When, for example, his Prieure in Fontainebleau became successful and drew large numbers of students, Gurdjieff began to have doubts about it. Not long after, he was involved in a near-fatal car crash. Although devotees maintain otherwise, none of his books - except perhaps Meetings with Remarkable Men - reach a wide audience or are particularly successful in presenting his ideas. His last years were spent teaching in the intimate setting of a small dining room in his Parisian flat.

What better candidate for the position of Gurdjieff’s public relations man than a well-known, highly respected, supremely talented writer, journalist, and lecturer?

When Ouspensky agreed to the meeting, he had no idea who “G” was. The same was not true of Gurdjieff. He knew precisely who Ouspensky was, and it’s likely he placed the notice for his “Hindu ballet” in the hopes that it would attract Ouspensky’s attention. Certainly he sent Pohl and Mercourov to Ouspensky’s lectures with the express purpose of enticing him to a meeting. Gurdjieff had paid particular attention to Ouspensky’s writings, reading his books and following his articles about his experiences in the mystic East. The papers had made much ado about Ouspensky’s trip, and as he would soon tell Ouspensky, Gurdjieff had even given his pupils the task of reading Ouspensky’s books to determine who he was. In this way, Gurdjieff said, they would know in advance exactly what Ouspensky would find when he got to India. Ouspensky doesn’t tell us what Gurdjieff’s pupils had to say on this matter; as he himself believed he had found nothing, he may not have raised the question. Of the journey to the East itself Gurdjieff had little to say. “It is good to go for a rest, for a holiday,” he told Ouspensky. “But it is not worth going there for what you want. All that can be found here.” [13]

“Here” meaning Russia and Gurdjieff himself.

“This is not an exotic city,” Ouspensky had told Anna. “But there must be someone here of the kind that I am seeking.” [14] Writing sixty years after the fact, it’s understandable that Anna might arrange the pieces of the puzzle so that they fit together more neatly than they may have at the time. But apocryphal or not, Ouspensky’s remark was soon proved true.

[13] Ouspensky. In Search of the Miraculous, p. 15

[14] Butkovsky-Hewitt, With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris, p. 31

The Sufi Conspiracy  From: Conspiracy School
British Strategy to Undermine Islamic Tradition

whirling dervishes 240

Having lost touch with its glorious heritage of classical scholarship, the Muslim world today is divided in squabbles between two opposing camps, who despite their respective deviations, are both attempting to usurp the right to represent orthodox Islam. The Wahhabis and Salafis are the product of a British strategy to undermine Islamic tradition and create fundamentalism. While the Sufis are their most vocal and articulate critics, rightly pointing out their corruptions, they themselves are part of a similar conspiracy, again with close ties to Western intelligence and the occult.

The New Age movement, following the teachings of a leading disciple of H. P. Blavatsky, believes that the coming of the Age of Aquarius will herald the beginning of world peace and one-world government, headed by the Maitreya, who is said to be awaited also by Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, though he is known by these believers respectively as Christ, Messiah, the fifth Buddha, Krishna or Imam Mahdi. The New Age’s expectation of the Mahdi awaited by the Muslims has been nurtured through its relationship with Sufism.

Essentially, the pretext of the occult is that in the future the world will be united in peace by eliminating all sectarianism, when the world will be brought together under a single belief system. The basis of that belief will be the occult tradition, which it is claimed has been the underlying source of all exoteric religions. As such, since at least the middle of the eighteenth century, occultists have marketed Sufism as being the origin of Freemasonry.

According to Idries Shah, the twelfth century Qadiriyya Sufi order was the origin of the Rosicrucians, the most important occult movement after the Renaissance, who later evolved into the Freemasons. As detailed in Black Terror White Soldiers, the Rosicrucians were responsible for orchestrating the advent of Sabbatai Zevi, who took the Jewish world by storm in 1666 when he declared himself their expected messiah. However, Zevi disappointed the vast majority of his followers when he subsequently converted to Islam. Nevertheless, an important segment followed him into Islam as well, and to this day consist of a powerful community of secret Jews known as Dönmeh.

The Dönmeh of Turkey maintained associations with a number of Sufi orders, like Whirling Dervishes founded by Jalal ad-Din Rumi, and the Bektashis. Strongly heretical, the Bektashi venerated Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, repudiated many of the legal rulings of Islam, and combined Kabbalistic ideas with elements of ancient Central Asian shamanism.

Through the influence of Bektashi Sufism, the Dönmeh developed the belief of Pan-Turkism, later adopted by the Young Turks, a Dönmeh and Masonic organization responsible for overthrowing the Ottoman Caliphate in 1908. Pan-Turkism begins with Alexander Csoma de Körös (1784 – 1842), the first in the West to mention mysterious Buddhist realm known as Shambhala, which he regarded as the origin of the Turkish people, and which he situated in the Altai mountains and Xinjiang.

Csoma de Körös’s mention of Shambhala became the basis of the mystical speculations offered by H. P. Blavatsky, which she regarded as the homeland of the Aryan race. Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society, and came to be regarded as an oracle of Freemasonry and the godmother of the occult. Blavatsky became largely responsible for initiating the popularity of Buddhism as a font of the Ancient Wisdom. However, contrary to popular perceptions, Tibetan Buddhism is a strange amalgam of Buddhist ideas, along with Hindu Tantra and Central Asian shamanism, it was for this reason that Blavatsky regarded it as the true preservation of the traditions of magic.

Abdul Qadir al Jazairi

abdelqader jazairi
Abdul Qadir al Jazairi

The myth of Sufism as the origin of Freemasonry developed through the influence of Abdul Qadir al Jazairi (1808 – 1883), an Algerian national hero who led a struggle against the French invasion of their country in the mid-nineteenth century. Abdul Qadir was ultimately forced to surrender, and eventually settled in Damacus, Syria, under a generous pension from the French.

In 1860, he attained international fame when he and his personal guard saved large numbers of Christians who had come under attack by the local Druze population. As reward, the French government bestowed on him the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur and he was also honored by Abraham Lincoln. As well, the town of Elkaker of Iowa was named after him.

Abdul Qadir had been initiated into the Naqshbandi, into the Qadiriyya by his own father, and into the Darqawi branch of the Shadhili Sufi order, by the student of its founder, al Arabi ad-Darqawi. The Shadhili was branched to the Akbariyya chain, going back to the “Shaykh Al-Akbar” (Greatest Sheikh), referring to Arab mystic, Ibn Arabi (1165 – 1240). However, Ibn Arabi was condemned by the vast majority of orthodox Muslim scholars as a heretic. The reason Ibn Arabi served the purposes of these Sufi Masons was for his belief in the doctrine of a “Universal Brotherhood,” which was the core of the mission of Freemasonry and Theosophy, and the basis of their pretext of establishing a one-world religion.

Abdul Qadir was also friends with Jane Digby and Sir Richard Burton, the famous British explorer, spy and fellow Freemason, who had been made consul in Damascus in 1869. Digby, or Lady Ellenborough (1807-1881), was an English aristocrat who lived a scandalous life of romantic adventures, having had four husbands and many lovers. Burton and Digby were also close friends of Wilfred Scawen Blunt and his wife Lady Anne, a grand-daughter of poet Lord Byron. Blunt was the handler of British agent Jamal ud Din al Afghani and his disciple, Mohammed Abduh, the founders of the fundamentalist tradition of Islam known as Salafism, from which emerged the Muslim Brotherhood. [1]

rene guenon
Réne Guénon

Burton was also an avid occultist, and like Abdul Qadir, a member of the Qadiriyya Sufi order, because “Sufism,” he claimed, is “the Eastern parent of Freemasonry.” [2] Burton was also a member of the Theosophical Society of Blavatsky, who visited him in Damascus. According to historian K. Paul Johnson, Afghani was one of Blavatsky’s “Ascended Masters,” from whom she learned her central doctrines. Afghani was the reputed head of a mysterious order known as the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (or Light), which exercised a profound influence over the occult societies of the period, culminating in the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) of the scandalous Aleister Crowley.

Most important to the transmission of Sufism to the West was Réne Guénon, a one-time member of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light. Guénon founded the occult school of Traditionalism, which suggests that all exoteric religions share a single underlying occult tradition. Therefore, according to Guénon, one could choose any religion as one’s outward belief, and so he chose Islam.

Guénon’s initiation was effected by Swedish convert to Islam Ivan Aguéli, who was also interested in Kabbalah, and performed under the authority of the friend of Abdul Qadir al Jazairi, Sheikh Abder Rahman Illaysh al Kabir, a Freemason and head of the Maliki Madhhab at Al Azhar University. As a Freemason, al Kabir also aimed to demonstrate the relationship between the symbols of Freemasonry and Islam. [3]

[1] Johnson, Initiates of Theosophical Masters, p. 81.

[2] F. Hitchman, Burton, Vol. I, p. 286.

[3] “Abder-Rahman Elîsh El-Kebîr,” Wikipedia, French edition.

George Gurdjieff

gurdjieff 240
George I. Gurdjieff

Also promoting the origin of shamanism as the source of ancient wisdom was the chief propagandist for the popularization of Sufism within the New Age, George Gurdjieff (1866 – 1949), a charismatic hypnotist, carpet trader and spy of Armenian origin. Gurdjieff’s teaching claimed that human beings were helplessly caught in a “waking sleep” unable to fully perceive reality, but that it is possible for them to transcend to a higher state of consciousness and achieve their full human potential. He developed a method for doing so called “The Work” or “the Method.” Because his method for awakening one’s consciousness was different from that of the fakir, monk or yogi, his discipline is also called the “Fourth Way.” As Gurdjieff explained, “The way of the development of hidden possibilities is a way against nature and against God.” [4]

Gurdjieff’s deceptive and tyrannical ways led to his reputation as a “rascal guru.” He was widely referred to as a black magician, and Rasputin was so fearful of him that he was quoted to have said, “I had been especially careful not to look at Gurdjieff and not to allow him to look into my eyes...” [5] He was criticized by many of his former students as being slovenly, gluttonous and was notorious for seducing his female students and fathering several illegitimate children. P. D. Ouspensky, his leading student, finally broke with him, claiming that he was “a very extraordinary man,” but that it was “dangerous to be near him.” [6] Another of his famous student, J. G. Bennett, warned that Gurdjieff “is far more of an enigma than you can imagine. I am certain that he is deeply good, and that he is working for the good of mankind. But his methods are often incomprehensible.” [7]

haushofer hess
Karl Haushofer & Rudolf Hess

Louis Pauwels, a former student of Gurdjieff, in his book Monsieur Gurdjieff, asserts that one of the “Searchers After Truth” that Gurdjieff speaks of in his book Meetings with Remarkable Men was Karl Haushofer, "the magician, the secret master," who through his student Rudolf Hess, influenced the development of Adolf Hitler's geopolitical strategies. Haushofer was also a leading member of the Thule Society, from which evolved the Nazi Party, and founded by Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorf, who had studied Kabbalah in Turkey under Bektashi Sufis who were also Freemasons. Haushofer was apparently influenced by Gurdjieff's teaching that men are asleep and waiting for a strong leader to force them to wake up and become supermen. Haushofer was supposed to have been with Gurdjieff in Tibet, and it was then that Gurdjieff supposedly advised Haushofer to adopt the symbol of the swastika. [8]

There has also often been the suggestion that Gurdjieff and Joseph Dzhugashvili, later known as Stalin, met as young students while attending the same seminary in Tiflis in the Caucasus. Gurdjieff’s family records contain information that Stalin lived in his family’s house for a while. [9] There are also suggestions that Stalin belonged to an occult "eastern brotherhood," which consisted of Gurdjieff and his followers. [10]

[4] P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, (Harcourt, 1949). p. 47.

[5] Colin Wilson, Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs, (Farrar Straus & Co., 1964), p. 103.

[6] John G. Bennett Witness: The Autobiography of John G. Bennett (Tucson: Omen Press, 1974), p. 126.

[7] Ibid., p. 244.

[8] Gary Lachman, Politics and the Occult; James Webb, The Harmonious Circle (Thames and Hudson: London, 1980).

[9] Luba Gurdjieff, A Memoir with Recipes (Berkely, CA: Ten Spead Press, 1993, p. 3; cited in Paul Beekman Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage: Brothers in Elysium, (Weiser, 2001), p. x.

[10] Margarita Troitsyna, “Joseph Stalin's occult knowledge and experiments,” Pravda (June 23, 2011)

Universal Brotherhood

Gurdjieff’s thought is an amalgam of Theosophy, Neopythagoreanism, Rosicrucianism and alchemy. According to James Webb, author of The Harmonious Circle: The Anatomy of a Myth, the first comprehensive book on Gurdjieff and his movement, Blavatsky’s Theosophy was his single most important source. Additionally, as K. Paul Johnson notes, “a comparison of the teachings of Blavatsky and Gurdjieff leads to the conclusion that both are equally indebted to another source, Ismaili Shi’ism.” [11] According to Johnson, Blavatsky’s likely source for this Ismaili influence would have been Jamal ud Din al Afghani, who was simultaneously the Grand Master of Freemasonry in Egypt, as well as founder of fundamentalist reform group, known as Salafism.

Having studied with the Bektashi Sufis, Gurdjieff also adopted the belief in shamanism as the source of the Sufi tradition. Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way teachings mentioned a “Universal Brotherhood” and also a mysterious group of monks called the Sarmoung (also: Sarman, Sarmouni). Both groups were described as in possession of advanced knowledge and powers, and as being open to suitable candidates from all creeds. In the account of Gurdjieff’s wanderings, Meetings with Remarkable Men, he describes encounters in many parts of the world, including Central Asia, Egypt and Rome. Gurdjieff then ventures to Central Asia to search out and locate the mysterious Sarmoung Brotherhood. The chief monastery of the society was said to be located somewhere in the heart of Asia, about twelve days’ journey by horse and donkey from Bukhara in Uzbekistan.

J. G. Bennett

From the Sarmoung, Gurdjieff learns the sacred dances, much like those of the Whirling Dervishes, which constitute an integral part of his “the work.” According to Gurdjieff’s leading student J. G. Bennett, who was head of British Military Intelligence in Istanbul and his friend Idries Shah, the popular author of Sufism, Gurdjieff’s “Fourth Way” originated with the Khwajagan, a chain of Naqshbandi Sufi Masters from the tenth to the sixteenth century influenced by Central Asian shamanism. According to Bennett, the Sufis are the descendants and spiritual heirs of the old master magicians of Altai, where Central Asia has been their heartland for forty thousand years or more.

As Bennett relates, the Sarmoun became active in the rise of Zoroastrianism, and he connects the influence of the Magi to the Essenes. [12] Gurdjieff believed that the true teachings of Jesus Christ were corrupted by the Christian Church, but that a small group of initiates called the “Brotherhood of the Essenes” were able to secretly preserve them. Likewise, Gurdjieff believed that Islam as well had deviated from the original teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. Gurdjieff believed that the esoteric teachings of Islam were in Bokhara, in Central Asia, which Bennett believes was associated with the Naqshbandi Sufis who had preserved the true teachings of Islam, and which represented a synthesis of the inner meaning of all religions.

In 1953, Bennett had undertaken a long journey to the Middle East, which included a mysterious visit to Abdullah Faizi ad Daghestani (1891-1973), Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi order, in Damascus. [13] Ad Daghestani initiated Gurdjieff and allowed him through a dream to “ascend to the knowledge of the power of the nine points,” which became the basis of his Enneagram. [14] The enneagram is a nine-pointed figure usually inscribed within a circle. Gurdjieff is quoted by Ouspensky as claiming that it was an ancient secret and was now being partly revealed for the first time, though hints of the symbol could be found in esoteric literature. It has been proposed that it may derive from the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, as used in Renaissance Hermeticism, which used an enneagram of three interlocking triangles, also called a nonagram or a nine-pointed figure used by the Christian medieval philosopher Raymond Lull. [15]

[11] K. Paul Johnson, Initiates of Theosophical Masters, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995) p. 141.

[12] Victoria Lepage, "G.I. Gurdjieff & the Hidden History of the Sufis,” New Dawn (March 1, 2008).

[13]  “A New World Sufi Order?” Islamic Party of Britain (Autumn 1993)

[14] Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, The Naqshbandi Sufi Way: History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain, (KAZI, 1995).

[15] James Webb, The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers, (New York and London: Putnam USA, and Thames and Hudson, 2001).


Aldous Huxley

Through the influence of the Romanian Traditionalist historian, Mircea Eliade, brought forward the idea that its mystical feats of the shamans of Central Asian were achieved through the use of drugs, often referred to as “entheogens.” In 1954, Aldous Huxley, who studied Eliade, wrote the The Doors of Perception, which also reflected the ideas of Gurdjieff, and claimed that hallucinogenic drugs “expand consciousness.” Like many of the leading LSD evangelists of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program, including Huxley, Gerald Heard and Alan Watts, Timothy Leary was strongly influenced by Gurdjieff.

Gurdjieff believed that the ascetic practices of monks, fakirs and yogis resulted in the production of psychological substances that produced their religious or mystical experiences. Instead of the torturous practices of these mystics, Gurdjieff proposed that the man who knows the Fourth Way “simply prepares and swallows a little pill which contains all the substances he wants. And in this way, without loss of time, he obtains the required result.” [16] Leary later remarked about receiving a copy of the Fourth Secret Teaching of Gurdjieff:

  • quote small leftFor the past twenty years, we Gurdjieff fans had been titillated by rumors of this Fourth Book, which supposedly listed secret techniques and practical methods for attaining the whimsical, post-terrestrial levels obviously inhabited by the jolly Sufi Master [Gurdjieff]. We had always assumed, naturally, that the secret methods involved drugs. So it was a matter of amused satisfaction to read in this newly issued text that not only were brain-activating drugs the keys to Gurdjieff's wonderful, whirling wisdom, but also that the reason for keeping the alkaloids secret was to avoid exactly the penal incarceration which I was enjoying when the following essay was penned.quote small rightsup> [17]
Timothy Leary

Leary apparently first became interested in psychedelics when he read a 1957 article by Gordon Wasson published in Life magazine titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom,” which brought knowledge of the existence of psychoactive mushrooms to a wide audience for the first time. Wasson, who was a vice president of JP Morgan and served as a chairman to the CFR, and had close ties to CIA chief Allen Dulles. Wasson and Henry Luce—Skull and Bones member and creator of Life magazine—were also long time members of the Century Club, a CIA front, along with John Foster Dulles, Walter Lippmann, and George Kennan. [18] Time-Life was created by Henry P. Davison Jr, also a member of Skull and Bones, who was Wasson's boss at J. P. Morgan.

Wasson was associated with at least six people suspected of being involved in the JFK assassination, including C. D. Jackson and Henry Luce. Wasson’s name was found in the address book that was retrieved from the briefcase of George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, after his death. The address book also contained an entry for “Bush, George H. W. (Poppy).” Although de Mohrenschildt denied any Nazi sympathies, his application to join the OSS during World War II was rejected, because, according to a memo by former CIA director Richard Helms he was alleged to be a Nazi spy. In addition to the Bush family, de Mohrenschildt was also acquainted with the Bouvier family, including Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Gordon Wasson

Wasson is considered the founder of Ethnomycology, the study of psychoactive mushrooms used for spiritual purposes, inspiring later researchers such as Terence McKenna and John Allegro. Wasson wrote in Leary’s The Psychedelic Review that the magic mushroom “permits you to see more clearly than our perishing eye can see, vistas beyond the horizons of life, to travel backwards and forwards in time, to enter other planes of existence, even to know God.” [19] In 1967 Wasson would publish Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, which proposed that the ancient Vedic intoxicant Soma was the magic mushroom. Wasson would later discuss the Eleusinian Mysteries, in The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries, co-authored with Albert Hofmann, the Swiss scientist who discovered LSD, who proposed that the special potion “kykeon,” used in the ceremony, contained psychoactive substances from the fungus Ergot, from which LSD was developed.

[16] Peter Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous (Harcourt, 1949) p. 50.

[17] Tim Leary, Changing my mind among others, (Prentice-Hall, 1982) p. 192-3.

[18] Jan Irwin, “The Secret History of Magic Mushrooms,” Gnosis Media.

[19] R. Gordon Wasson, “The Hallucinogenic Fungi of Mexico,” The Psychedelic Review, vol. 1, no. 1, (June 1963), p. 30.

Invisible Hierarchy

Robert Graves

Wasson was also close friends with Robert Graves, the author of The White Goddess, a key book for modern Pagans and Wiccans, in which he proposes the existence of a European deity, inspired and represented by the phases of the moon, and which is the origin of the goddesses of various European and pagan mythologies.

Graves also wrote the introduction to Idries Shah’s The Sufis. As the secretary to Gerald Gardner, one of the key representatives of Wicca, whose rituals he developed with Aleister Crowley, Shah was responsible for popularizing that European witchcraft, as well as the occult tradition in general, was derived from Sufism.

Irdies Shah
Gerald Gardner

Towards the end of the 1950s, Shah established contact with Wiccan circles in London and served as a secretary and companion to Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, whose rituals he formulated with Aleister Crowley. Shortly before his death, Crowley elevated Gardner to the VII° of the OTO, and issued a charter decreeing that Gardner could perform its preliminary initiation rituals. [20] After Crowley’s death in 1947, Gardner was regarded as the chief representative of the OTO in Europe.

Shah met Graves in 1961, and later wrote to him that he was researching ecstatic religions, and that he had been “attending… experiments conducted by the witches in Britain, into mushroom-eating and so on.” Shah also told Graves that he was “intensely preoccupied at the moment with the carrying forward of ecstatic and intuitive knowledge.” [21] Graves encouraged Shah to publish an authoritative book on Sufism for a Western audiences, which became The Sufis.

Graves’ introduction described Shah as being “in the senior male line of descent from the prophet Mohammed” and as having inherited “secret mysteries from the Caliphs, his ancestors. He is, in fact, a Grand Sheikh of the Sufi Tariqa…” Graves confessed, however, that this was “misleading: he is one of us, not a Moslem personage.” [22]

In June 1962, a couple of years prior to the publication of The Sufis, Shah had also established contact with members of the movement that had formed around the mystical teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. He was eventually introduced to J. G. Bennett, who became convinced that Shah “had a very important mission in the West that we ought to help him to accomplish.” [23] Shah gave Bennett a “Declaration of the People of the Tradition.” Shah declared that the Guardians belonged to an “invisible hierarchy” that had chosen him to transmit “a secret, hidden, special, superior form of knowledge.” It convinced Bennett that Shah was a genuine emissary of Gurdjieff’s “Sarmoung Monastery.”

In The Commanding Self, Idries Shah, contends that the Enneagram is of Sufi origin, and that it has also been long known in coded form as an octagram, two superimposed squares with the space in the middle representing the ninth point. In 1960, Shah founded Octagon Press, which was named after the octagram. One of its first titles was a biography titled Gerald Gardner, Witch, which Shah wrote under the pen name of Jack L. Bracelin.

Shah was also a member of the Club of Rome, a project initiated by the Rockefeller family at their estate at Bellagio, Italy. [24] The founders of the Club of Rome were all senior officials of NATO. These included Aurelio Peccei, the chairman of Fiat who was also chairman of the Economic Committee of the Atlantic Institute, and Alexander King, the co-founder, who was Director General of Scientific Affairs of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

nasr 240
Seyyed Hossein Nasr

In 1965, Shah founded SUFI (Society for Understanding Fundamental Ideas), and dubbed himself Great-Sheikh, not only of the Naqshbandi, but of all Sufi orders. Several presentations were given by scientists like Alexander King to the Institute for Cultural Research (ICR), which was originally founded by Shah in 1965 as the Society for Understanding Fundamental Ideas (SUFI). [25] Other visitors, pupils, and would-be pupils included the poet Ted Hughes, novelists Alan Sillitoe and Doris Lessing, zoologist Desmond Morris, and psychologist Robert Ornstein. Over the following years, Shah established Octagon Press as a means of distributing reprints of translations of Sufi classics. Several of Shah’s books, Mulla Nasrudin, considered a folkloric part of Muslim cultures, were presented as Sufi parables, and which were discussed the Rand Corporation. [26]

dallas 240
Ian Dallas (aka Abdul Qadir al Murabit)

At a November 1977 Lisbon conference sponsored by the Interreligious Peace Colloquium, Club of Rome founder Aurelio Peccei, the chairman of Fiat, conspired with several leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly with Seyyed Hossein Nasr of Teheran University, who was highly active during the Iranian revolution of 1979. [27] Nasr is a Perennialist in the school of Guénon’s Traditionalism. Nasr was initiated into the Darqawi Shadhili by Ahmad al-Alawi (1869-1934), who had been recommended to him by Guénon.

Nasr was a student of Guénon’s leading disciple Frithjof Schuon who established the Maryamiyya branch of the Shadhili in Europe and North America. Some of Schuon’s most eminent students include supposed converts to Islam, Titus Burckhardt and Martin Lings, best known as the author of a very popular and positively reviewed biography of Muhammad, first published in 1983. But according to Andrew Rawlinson, in Book of Enlightened Masters, Schuon was not as a pious Sufi but as a charlatan.

Another known initiate of the Darqawi Shadhili descended from Ahmad Al-Alawi is a Scottish convert to Islam named Ian Dallas, a.k.a. Sheikh Abdalqadir al-Murabit. Dallas, who founded the Murabitun movement, celebrates Hitler as a “great genius and great vision,” praises Wagner as the “most spiritual of men among men in a age of darkness,” and regards the black stone of the Kabbah in Mecca as the Holy Grail. In 1990, he held a symposium in honor of the occultist Ernst Junger, one of the fathers of Nazi ideology, and which ended with a Masonic ceremonial. Also in attendance was Albert Hofmann, the scientist who discovered LSD, associated with the CIA’s MK-Ultra program. [28]

[20] Morgan Davis, From Man to Witch: Gerald Gardner

[21]  Paul O'Prey, Between Moon and Moon – Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1946–1972, (Hutchinson, 1984), pp. 213–215.

[22]  Paul O'Prey, Between Moon and Moon – Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1946–1972, (Hutchinson, 1984), pp. 213–215.

[23] John G. Bennett, Witness: The autobiography of John G. Bennett. (Tucson: Omen Press, 1974), pp. 355–363.

[24] See Robert Dreyfuss, Hostage to Khomeini.

[25] Elizabeth Hall, “At Home in East and West: A Sketch of Idries Shah,” Psychology Today 9 (2): 56 (July 1975).

[26] Idries Shah (Presenter), “One Pair of eyes: Dreamwalkers,” BBC Television, (19 Dec 1970).

[27] Dreyfuss, Hostage to Khomeini, [excerpt:]

[28] Othman Abu-Sahnun the Italian, “The Murabituns & Free Masonry,” Murabitun Files.

Esalen Institute

esalen 240
Nude therapy at Esalen

Gurdjieff and Shah were important inspirations behind the hokey “spiritual” practices endorsed by the Tavistock-affiliated Esalen Institute which, according to Wouter Hanegraaff, in New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, in addition of the Hippies, had been the second major influence of the 60s counterculture and the rise of the New Age movement. [29] Formed at Oxford University, in 1920 by the Round Table’s Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA), the sister organization to the Council on Foreign Relations, the Tavistock Clinic became the Psychiatric Division of the British Army during World War II. A successor organization, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, was then founded in 1946 under a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

According to a former British Intelligence agent John Coleman, Tavistock became known as the focal point in Britain for psychoanalysis and the psychodynamic theories of Sigmund Freud and his followers. Its clients are chiefly public sector organizations, including the European Union, several British government departments, and some private clients. Its network now extends from the University of Sussex to the US through the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Esalen Institute, MIT, Hudson Institute, Brookings Institution, Aspen Institute, Heritage Foundation, the Center of Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown, US Air Force Intelligence, and the RAND Corporation.

And, according to BBC documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, in The Century of the Self, “The ideas and the techniques that were taught there in the 1970s have fundamentally transformed both society and politics as much, or possibly even more, than any right-wing free market theories.” As Adam Curtis explains:

  • quote small left[Esalen] gathered together a group of radical psychoanalysts and psychotherapists and encouraged them to give classes in their techniques. What united them was the belief that modern society repressed individuals inner feelings. Because of this the individuals led narrow, desiccated lives and their true feelings were bent and warped.
  • Esalen taught people how to break out of this prison, how to let their inner feelings out and so become liberated beings. It was a wonderful dream—and thousands of people who had turned away from radical politics in the 1960s came to learn how to change society by changing themselves.quote small right [30]

Esalen’s goal was to assist in a coming transformation by exploring work in the humanities and sciences, in order to fully realize what Aldous Huxley had called the “human potentialities.” Esalen thus represented a fruition of The Human Potential Movement (HPM), whose founding has often been attributed to Gurdjieff, and which arose in the 1960s around the concept of cultivating the extraordinary potential that its advocates believed to lie largely untapped in all people.

[29] Wouter J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, (Boston, Massachusetts, US: Brill Academic Publishers, 1996), pp. 38–39.

[30] Adam Curtis, “The Curse of Tina Part Two: Learning to Hug.” BBC Blogs: Adam Curtis: The Medium and the Message. (October 4, 2011).

Human Potential Movement,

Claudio Naranjo
Oscar Ichazo

Idries Shah’s student, Claudio Naranjo along with Oscar Ichazo, were important figures in the Human Potential Movement, and developed the Enneagram of Gurdjieff into a pseudo-psychological personality profile system. Chilean psychiatrist Naranjo, belonged to the inner circle at Esalen, where he became one of the three successors to Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy.

Naranjo was also a member of the Tavistock-affiliated US Club of Rome, and in 1969 he was sought out as a consultant for the Education Policy Research Center, created by Willis Harman at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Naranjo is regarded as one of the pioneers of the Human Potential Movement, for integrating psychotherapy and the spiritual traditions through the introduction of Gurdjieff’s  “Fourth Way” teachings. [31]

Naranjo was also a close friend of Carlos Castaneda, who is famous for having written a series of books that describe his alleged training in shamanism and the use of psychoactive drugs like peyote, under the tutelage of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan. According to Kripal, what Claudio Naranjo became known for was a creative synthesis of Asian meditation and western psychotherapy. Though his ideas were developed from Tantric Buddhism, he interpreted them in terms of Shamanism, and derived from what he called his “tantric journey” which involved a Kundalini experience, which he compared to both being possessed by a serpent and an alchemical process. As Kripal explains:

  • quote small leftThe “inner serpent” of kundalini yoga is simply a South Asian construction of a universal neurobiology; it is “no other than our more archaic (reptilian) brain-mind.” The serpent power “is ‘us’-i.e., the integrity of our central nervous system when cleansed of karmic interference,” the human body-mind restored to its own native spontaneity.
  • Put a bit differently, Naranjo’s “one quest” is a religion of no religion that has come to realize how “instinct” is really a kind of “organismic wisdom” and how libido is more deeply understood as a kind of divine Eros that can progressively mutate both spirit and flesh once it is truly freed from the ego.quote small right [32]

When Naranjo became disillusioned with Gurdjieff, he turned to Sufism and became a student of Idries Shah. Naranjo co-wrote a book entitled On The Psychology of Meditation (1971), with Stanford University psychologist professor Robert Ornstein. Both were associated with the University of California, where Ornstein was a research psychologist at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. Ornstein, along with fellow psychologist Charles Tart and eminent writers such as Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and Nobel-Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing, was profoundly influenced by Shah. Realizing that Ornstein could be an ideal partner in propagating his teachings, adapting them into the language of psychotherapy, Shah made him his deputy (Khalifa) in the United States.

Ornstein was also president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK), established in 1969, with the aim of publishing books on ancient and new ways of thinking for American readers, and become the sole American distributor of Shah’s works of published by Octagon Press. Ornstein’s The Psychology of Consciousness (1972) was enthusiastically received by the academic psychology community, as it coincided with new interests in the field, such as biofeedback and other techniques to achieve shifts in mood and awareness. [33]

Oscar Ichazo, whose influence at Esalen is legendary, was heavily involved in psychedelic drugs and shamanism, and according to John C Lilly, who had been through the first levels of Ichazo’s Arica training, Ichazo claimed to have “received instructions from a higher entity called Metatron” and that his group “was guided by an interior master,” the “Green Qutb.” [34] Lilly, a friend to Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg, is known for his work on dolphin-human communication, as well as his experiments using hallucinogens while floating in isolation tanks. Lilly apparently gave dolphins LSD and told a story of one dolphin who seduced a man into having sex with her in a holding tank. [35] The 1980 movie Altered States, starting William Hurt, is partly based on his life.

Naranjo, who studied with Oscar Ichazo in Chile, passed on the Enneagram teachings to Jesuit Bob Ochs, who then brought it into Roman Catholic circles at Esalen, where Naranjo taught. However, the Christian tradition derived from Gurdjieff was one that rejected the belief in Jesus as a historical person, and instead insisted that religious experiences were derived from psychoactive substances.

[31] “Claudio Naranjo, M.D..,” Blue Dolphin Publishing.

[32] Kripal, Esalen, America and the Religion of No Religion, p. 177.

[33] David Westerlund (ed.), Sufism in Europe and North America. (New York, NY: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), p. 53.

[34] John C. Lilly & Joseph E. Hart, “The Arica Training,” Transpersonal psychologies, edited by Charles T Tart (Routledge, 1975).

[35] Kripal, Esalen, p. 178.

The Naqshbandi Sufis

Bapak Muhammad Subuh

When Bennett, visited Sheikh ad Daghestani in Damascus in 1953, he gave Bennett an enigmatic message relating to the coming to his home in the West of “a Messenger from God,” which Bennett interpreted to mean Bapak Muhammad Subuh, the Indonesian leader of cult named Subud. Bennett believed that the “The Reappearance of Christ” as the “Avatar of Synthesis” prophesied by Alice Bailey must refer to Subud, and Bennett and many followers of Gurdjieff were initiated into the cult. Shah’s first published mention of Subud appears in his book The Way of the Sufi, published in the mid 1960s, claiming that Subud is of Qadiriyya and Naqshbandi origin. Shah slowly separated from Subud and started to gather his own disciples.

When asked as to his cult’s purpose, Subuh himself had said: “What is the purpose of spreading Subud? Well, primarily… it concerns the work people have come to call the… United Nations.” [36] At the time of Subuh’s death in 1987, the chairman of the World Subud Council was Varindra Tarzie Vittachi. In 1973, he had been appointed director of the UN World Population Year, after which he became director of information on public affairs for the UN Population Fund (1974-79). From 1980, until his retirement, he was deputy executive director of UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund.

haqqani 2
Sheikh Nazim Haqqani
Sheikh Kabbani

Gurdjieff’s visit to ad Daghestani and his instruction in the mysteries of the Nine Points was reported by Sheikh Kabbani, Chairman of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order of America, in TheNaqshbandi Sufi Way: History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain, the foreword to which was written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Sheikh Kabbani is the son-in-law and deputy of Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani, leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Order, who had also been a student of Sheikh ad Daghestani, and who went to Britain where made contact with Bennett’s circle from whom he developed his first group of followers. [37]

In 1991, Haqqani made the first of four nationwide tours of the US, in a number of venues, including churches, temples, universities, mosques and New Age centers. Reportedly, during these speeches and Dhikr gatherings thousands of individuals entered the fold of Islam through his efforts. Regrettably, these are not converts to Islam, but are attracted to a hippie-dippy version that is more about Sufism’s vague promises of “spirituality.” The key to Haqqani’s success is his openness to Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and his flexibility towards Islamic law. According to Haqqani, “One is not entitled to refute or object to any of the matters of his sheikh even if he contradicts the pure rules of Islam.” [38]

Haqqani’s liberalism was exemplified in his visit in 1999 to Glastonbury in England, where Joseph of Arimathea was to have concealed the Holy Grail, and which is now a center of alternative spirituality. Haqqani called on the people to aim for eternity without regard of their religion, and acknowledged the local legend that Jesus had visited the site. A Haqqani community subsequently established itself in the town, engaging in Dhikr meetings, which include musical performances, Whirling Dervishes and “Sufi meditation” workshops. Haqqani believes in the coming of the Mahdi is immanent, and gives his followers the impression that he is in spiritual contact with him. [39]

[36]  “A New World Sufi Order?” Islamic Party of Britain (Autumn 1993)

[37] Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, The Esoteric Deviation in Islam, (Cape Town South Africa: Madinah Press, 2003), p. 447.

[38] Shaykh Samir Kadi, The Irrefutable Proof that Nazim al-Qubrusi Negates Islam, p. 4

[39] Itzchak Weismann, TThe Naqshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition, (London: Routledge, 2007) p. 170.

Fanatical Fringes of Islam

Dr. Gibril Haddad
Ramadan al-Bouti

Among the vocal opponents of Wahhabism and Salafism today are important Sufis like Dr. Gibril Haddad and Muhammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti. Haddad, a well-known scholar and religious leader of Lebanese-American background who converted to Islam, was listed amongst the inaugural 500 most influential Muslims in the world. After also exploring Shadhili Sufism, Haddad became a disciple of Sheikh Nazim Al-Haqqani, leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Order.

Haddad was also a former teacher on the traditional online Islamic institute Sunnipath, and is a major contributor to the website, which gives traditional teachings on Islamic spirituality. Sheikh Kabbani supervises, which touts itself as one of the top Islamic websites in the world. Also associated with Kabbani’s wing of Shaikh Haqqani’s Naqshbandi-Haqqani order is Stephen “Suleyman” Schwartz, Jewish convert to Islam and author who has been published in a variety of media, including The Wall Street Journal. Schwartz is also a vocal critic of the “Wahhabi lobby,” having written The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror, and a defense of Sufism titled The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony.

Al-Bouti, a highly popular doctor of Islamic Law from the University of Damascus and a noted critic of Salafism, is listed among the Top 50 of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. Al-Bouti is also affiliated to the Naqshbandi branch in Syria, the only Sufi organization in the country to be allowed freedom of action by the Asad regime, with whom it is closely associated. This is despite the fact that the Asad family are members of the Alawi sect. Sheikh al-Bouti is the leading Islamic scholar in Syria. An active opponent of the Salafis, al-Bouti is the author ofAbandoning the Maddhabs is the Most Dangerous Bid’ah Threatering the Islamic Shari’ah.

Also important to note that Nuh Ha Mim Keller features in this story. Keller belongs to the Darqawi Shadhili tradition, having been initiated by Al Shaghouri, a student of Ahmed al-Alawi, who was a friend of René Guénon, which links him indirectly to Schuon, Seyyed Hosein Nasr.

Although Keller openly denounces Guénon and Schuon, here merely represents a different branch of Traditionalism, having adopted its tradition of al Akbariyya, through the influence of Abdul Qadir al Jazairi, whom he regularly praises. And Keller has repeatedly attempted to justify Sufism as a legitimate science of Islam by referring to Ibn Khaldun, who apparently condoned it, but he fails to mention that Ibn Khaldun heavily chastised much of Sufi tradition as “Biddah” (heretical innovations) and names Ibn Arabi among the chief innovators. Ibn Khaldun also wrote a Fatwa declaring that Ibn Arabi’s books should be burned. [40]

Under the leadership of Ahmad Kuftaro (1915-2004), Grand Mufti of Syria, the Naqshbandi branch in Syria has been closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Kuftaro was on good terms with Shaykh Haqqani, and in particular his deputy Kabbani, who sends some of his key students to him. [41] Kuftaro has been long engaged in interfaith dialogue, and upholds the belief that the three monotheistic religions stem from a common source, and are all different traditions of the one universal religion. Consequently, Kuftaro has been involved in an “Abrahamic dialogue,” advocated by many other leading Christians and Jews.

kuftaro moon 240
Reverend Sun Myung Moon
and Ahmad Kuftaro

Kuftaro was one of the editorial advisors alongside an impressive collection of representatives from all kinds of religions of A World Scripture, that “gathers passages from the scriptures of the various religious traditions around certain topics,” first conceived by Reverend Sun Myung Moon. He also participated in the Assisi interfaith service for peace led by pope John Paul II in 1986.  He has gone as far as praying the Hail Mary with the Cardinal of Baltimore, Cardinal Keeler, who was the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. [42]

In 2000, the UN organized the Millennium World Peace Summit consisting of more than a thousand religious leaders from the world’s religions, funded largely by private foundations such as Ted Turner’s Better World Fund and the Templeton, Carnegie and Rockefeller Brothers foundations. In addition to Kuftaro, the representatives included Francis Cardinal Arinze, president of the Vatican’s council for inter-religious dialogue; Konrad Raiser, secretary-general of the World Council of Churches; Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, the chief rabbi of Israel; Sheikh Abdullah Salaih Al-Obaid of the Muslim World League of Saudi Arabia.

The involvement of the supporters of the most fanatical fringes of Islam in the UN’s interfaith discussions betrays the true nature of their mission. Like Jamal ud Din al Afghani before them, they merely use the language of Islamic fundamentalism to assist their co-conspirators in the West in undermining Islam from within, towards its eventual replacement with a one-world New Age religion. The historical basis of this nefarious cooperation dates back to the relationship between the Templars and the Assassins who, though one being ostensibly Christian and the other outwardly Muslim, both shared not only an identical doctrine, that of the Kabbalah, but also a mendacious modus operandi which recognized the value of employing the guise of religion for manipulating the masses.

[40] Muqaddimah Q I 201-202, and M. al-Tanji’s edition of the Shifa’ al-Sa’il fi Tahdhib al-Masa’il, (Istanbul, 1958), pp. 110-11 quoted from James W. Morris, "An Arab ‘Machiavelli’.”

[41] Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, The Esoteric Deviation in Islam, (Cape Town South Africa: Madinah Press, 2003) p. 632.

[42] Pacific Church News Vol. 153 no. 3, June/July 1997.

Scratch a Magus, Find a Spy  From: Iona Miller
Psychic Battlefield

  • quote small leftBeneath the broad tide of human history there flow the stealthy undercurrents of the secret societies, which frequently determine in the depths the changes that take place upon the surface. – A.E. Waitequote small right

  • quote small leftThe spies hide in every corner, but you can't touch them, you know. – Coldplayquote small right

Spying is the act of obtaining information clandestinely. The term applies particularly to the covert act of collecting military, industrial, and political data about one nation for the benefit of another. In truth the majority of the information collected is not that ‘secret’ but often the interpretation of the synergism is. Espionage is defined as the practice of spying or the using of spies. The defensive side of intelligence activity, i.e., preventing another nation from gaining such information, is known as counterespionage. PSIop is a form of worldview warfare.

The world of ESPionage is all spooked up, in all ways that might apply. Many mages mixed dark ops with the dark arts long before CIA's "Weird Desk" and SRI and Ft. Meade remote viewers  or Men Who Stare at Goats took the occult arts to new heights of diabolical application, including attempted psychic attacks and visualized heart attacks. There are indications MI5's Occult Bureau recruited from The Golden Dawn. James Bond creator Ian Fleming patterned Le Chiefre after Crowley. Many mages, known and unknown to history, presaged the clairvoyants of Operation Grill Flame by centuries. Paranormal ESPionage was an outgrowth of CIA's MK ULTRA mind control research. He who controls the paradigm controls the world.

Many are witting and unwitting participants in Worldview Warfare. Esoterics is at the root of it. Rather than strange bedfellows, occultism and espionage share common ground. The black art of espionage is about obtaining secret information and prophets, witches, psychics and astrologers have always claimed to be able to predict the future and know about things hidden from ordinary people.  The Jesuits spied for their order and the Church everywhere they went. The magi are adept at shifting perception and looking at the top down Big Picture. Information acquisition and analysis remain the basis of trendspotting.

Imagination & Intelligence

It takes intelligence to be a magician, but a magician can also be an active agent of intelligence, figuratively and literally. The real question is, rather, how and why and who and what do these things serve? Restoring self and society is the essential wisdom of the Grail. But this quest can be coopted for narcissistic or pathological ends. The Secret Doctrine can introduce both positive and negative praeternatural forces, intrapsychically and in the world, at large.

Have secret societies and occult brotherhoods been active behind the scenes of world events for thousands of years? Do these guardians of secret wisdom shape the growth of human consciousness and influence the destiny of nations? Are hidden masters of occult knowledge empowering and infiltrating certain political, cultural, spiritual and economic movements, in fulfillment of an ancient plan?

Could it be that man's great upheavals, wars, and revolutions, as well as his pioneering discoveries in science, literature, philosophy and the arts, are the result of a "hidden hand'? Can we decode history and find the mysterious interface between politics and occultism, thereby uncovering the real movers and shakers in our modern world? Did Crowley essentially sink the Lusitania? Were there spies in Shambhala?

Magic and Gold

The German philosopher Oswald Spengler warned of a "mighty contest" between groups of men of "immense intellect" who the "simple citizen neither observes nor comprehends." Back in 1930 Ralph Shirley, the editor of the London Occult Review, Britain's leading journal of esoteric sciences, endorsed "the suspicion that the ranks of occultism are secretly working for disintegration and revolution. Positive proof in the shape of a group of occultists working with this objective in view recently came under the notice of the present writer."

Major-General Fuller, a former disciple of Aleister Crowley, who had links to British military intelligence, wrote about an insidious force using "Magic and Gold" striving "to gain world domination under an avenging Messiah as foretold by Talmud and Qabalah." Fuller's former chief Crowley worked as a secret agent for both Britain and Germany, although his British handlers noted his 'unreliability' warning he should only be used in espionage operations with the utmost care. During the First World War the German Foreign Office secretly requested the occultist Gustav Meyrink to write a novel blaming the Freemasons of France and Italy for the outbreak of war.

A legend was popular in Mongolia, China and Tibet, that a "White Tsar' would come from the North (from 'Northern Shambhala') and restore the now decadent traditions of true Buddhism. He reported to Tsar Nicholas II how "Buryats, Mongols and especially lamas" were always repeating that the time had come to extend the frontiers of the White Tsar in the east.

Badmaev had a close association with a highly placed Tibetan, the lama Agvan Dordzhiyev, the tutor and confidant of the 13th Dalai Lama. Dordzhiyev equated Russia with the coming Kingdom of Shambhala anticipated in the Kalachakra texts of Tibetan Buddhism. The lama opened the first Buddhist temple in Europe, in St. Petersburg, significantly dedicated to the Kalachakra teaching.

One of the Russian artists who worked on the St. Petersburg temple was Nicholas Roerich, who had been introduced to the legend of Shambhala and Eastern thought by lama Dordzhiyev. George Gurdjieff, another man of mystery who had a tremendous impact on Western esotericism, knew Prince Ukhtomsky, Badmaev, and lama Dordzhiyev. Was Gurdjieff, accused by the British of being a Russian spy in Central Asia, a pupil of the mysterious Tibetans?

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.

Russia, geographically the largest country on earth, occupies a unique position in the study of human history furnishing us with a window into the world of secret societies, occult teachers, and subterranean political currents. Ideas and practices drawn from magic and the occult have always been a part of Russian life. In the sixteenth century Tsar Ivan IV consulted magicians and was aware of the occult significance of the precious stones set in his staff. His reign was the culmination of the dream of building a prophetic, religious civilization in the Eastern Christian tradition of Byzantium. Surrounded by secret orders of apocalyptical monks, Ivan saw himself as heir to the Israelite kings and attempted to transform Russian life in accord with his magical view of reality. Ivan was convinced the Russian nation had a special mission to accomplish, nothing short of the redemption of the world.

The Occult Underground

Russian Madame Blavatsky believed the Catholic society of Jesuits had transferred their headquarters from the continent to England where they plotted to plunge man into passive ignorance and institute "Universal Despotism". The founder of the Theosophical Society, a woman of immense intellect and first hand experience of secret societies, warned:

  • quote small leftStudents of Occultism should know that while the Jesuits have by their devices contrived to make the world in general, and Englishmen in particular think there is no such thing as Magic and laugh at Black Magic, these astute and wily schemers themselves hold magnetic circles and form magnetic chains by the concentration of their collective WILL, and when they have any special object to effect or any particular and important person to influence.quote small right

The French Revolution, one of Europe's most important political upheavals, was largely the work of Masonic lodges dedicated to the overturning of the monarchy and an end of the established Catholic religion. St. Germain's warnings to The Queen showed foreknowledge. In Proofs of a Conspiracy, John Robison showed that the political clubs and correspondence committees during the revolution, including the famous Jacobin Club, sprang from these Masonic lodges.

The influence on history of mysticism, the occult and secret societies is generally dismissed by Western academics. Mainstream historians choose to ignore this aspect because they believe it has no real significance to world politics. In fact it is only through acknowledging the role and influence of the "occult underground' that important world events can be fully understood and placed in their real historical perspective.

In 1586, Tsar Boris Godunov offered the huge salary of 2000 English pounds a year, with a house and all provisions free, to John Dee, the English magus and spy master, to enter his service. Dee's son Dr. Arthur Dee, who like his father was an alchemist and Rosicrucian, went to Moscow to work as a physician. Mikhail Romanov, the first Tsar of the Romanov dynasty, allegedly ascended the throne with the help of Dr. Arthur Dee and the British Secret Service. Before their rise to power the Romanovs were accused by their enemies of practising magic and possessing occult powers.

The legendary Count of Saint Germain, described as an alchemist, spy, industrialist, diplomat and Rosicrucian, became involved in several political intrigues in Russia and was, according Nicholas Roerich, "a member of the Himalayan brotherhood." In 1755 he traveled throughout Eurasia to study occult teachings, and may even have visited Tibet. It is said that while studying occultism in Central Asia the Count was introduced to the secret rites of Tantric sex magic which provided him with a technique to prolong his youth. He also engaged in spying operations against the notorious British India Company. Saint Germain founded two secret societies called the Asiatic Brethren and the Knights of Light. As early as 1780 he warned Marie Antoinette that the French throne was in danger from an international conspiracy of "Brothers of the Shadow'.

Special Intelligence Service Files

Founder of Ordo Templi Orientis, in 1885, in England, Theodore Reuss joined the Socialist League as an anarchist. He had been quite involved as a librarian and labor secretary. On May 7, 1886 he was expelled as a police spy in the pay of the Prussian Secret Police. This took place in a sectarian atmosphere, with tensions between anarcho-communistJosef Peukert and the BakuninistVictor Dave where such accusations were often made without substance. However, this accusation came from the Belgian Social Democrats, and was raised here by Henry Charles. Peukert and the Gruppe Autonomie published a rebuttal of these allegations which appeared in the Anarchist, which also accused Dave of being a spy. However, in February 1887 Reuss used the unwitting Peukert to track down Johann Neve in Belgium, who was then arrested by the German police. This was major coup for the police as Neve had been smuggling arms and propaganda into Germany. He died shortly after, in prison, perhaps murdered.

Karl Kellner contacted him and the two agreed to proceed with the establishment of the Oriental Templar Order by seeking authorizations to work the various rites of high-grade Masonry. The French occultist and physician Gérard Encausse (perhaps better known by his pen-name Papus) was one such contact. Although not a member of a regular Masonic order, he had founded two occult fraternities: the Martinist group, l'Ordre des Supérieurs Inconnus and the RosicrucianKabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix. In addition, he was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and a Bishop in a neo-Gnostic church, l'Église Gnostique de France. Encausse provided Reuss with a charter dated June 24, 1901 designating him Special Inspector for the Martinist order in Germany. He also assisted Reuss in the formation of the O.T.O. Gnostic Catholic Church by proclaiming the E.G.C. a "child" of l'Église Gnostique de France, which linked the E.G.C. to French neo-gnosticism.

A search of some secret material released (some still withheld) by the British Government relate to the Special Intelligence Service (SIS), a branch of MI5. These files have been classified by the IOL as Document reference:- IOR: L / P & J / 12 series. They have revealed a few relevant files.

These files are

Document reference:- IOR: L/P & J/12/244 Rabindranath Tagore at Bolpur School.
Correspondence concerning the purchase of a property for use as a school.

Document reference:- IOR: L/ P & J/ 12/358 Swami Yogananda; activities in the USA.
British diplomats report on Yogananda (a British citizen). There are probably files on Yogananda in the archive of the US government.

Document reference:- IOR: L/P&J/12/291 (File 273/26) Nicholas K. Roerich proceedings.
This file dates from February 1926 to March 1934 and is 67 pages and contains telegrams, correspondence and reports relating to Roeriche's movements, his status and reputation as an artist, his relationship to Russia and discussion on whether or not he was a Russian agent. The file on Nicholas Roerich fits in with two other files on him, which are already in the IOL.

These files are

Document reference:- IOR: L/P & S/ 10/ 1145 (File 1229/1925 part I) or on microfilm Document reference:- IOR NEG 16537 Kashmir: The Roerich Expedition to Leh (Lhadak).
This file contains 566 pages, some single, some double sided pages of text and dates from April 1925 to September 1930 and deals with Roerichs movements from Leh, and covering the same themes as the above file. There is considerable doubt about Roerich's veracity because of his apparent reconciliation with Soviet Russia and his continued association with known communists, and he was suspected of being a front for them, but it could not be proved. His standing as an artist is also discussed.

Document reference:- IOR: L/P & S/ 10/ 1146 (File 1229/1925 part II) or on microfilm Document reference:- IOR NEG 16538 Professor Nicholas Roerich. July 1930 to April 1935. 266 pages.
The file contains the same type of information as the two preceding files, but also contains a few pamphlets of the Roerich Museum dated 1930, and copies of correspondence from numerous supporters. One report states "The Roerichs are indefatigable if not very skillful wire pullers" (page 200) as he lobbied to acquire a visa that had been refused. There is also correspondence about a land purchase in India and about Roerichs 'Banner for Peace' movement. These three files represent a considerable record of Professor Roerich. There are probably more which have not yet been released. There are almost certainly files on Roerich in the archive of the US government.

Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard joined the US Navy during the summer of 1941, a few months before the United States entered the Second World War. He applied in March 1941 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade on July 19, 1941, entering permanent active duty in November. He specifically volunteered for "Special Service (intelligence duties)", an assignation recorded on his commission papers. He spent only a brief time in this nominal role with the Office of Naval Intelligence. After four months working in public relations and at the US Hydrographic Office, he spent three weeks at the Third Naval District in New York training for the role of Intelligence Officer. Hubbard's training was curtailed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and on December 18 he was sent to the Philippines via Australia. He was put ashore in Brisbane in January 1942 when his ship was re-routed. He was ordered back to the United States aboard the transport vessel USS Chaumont the following month at the instigation of the US Naval Attaché to Australia, who cabled Washington to complain:

  • quote small leftBy assuming unauthorized authority and attempting to perform duties for which he has no qualifications, Hubbard became the source of much trouble… This officer is not satisfactory for independent duty assignment. He is garrulous and tries to give impressions of his importance. He also seems to think he has unusual ability in most lines. These characteristics indicate that he will require close supervision for satisfactory performance of any intelligence duty.quote small right
Secret Missions

The importance of espionage in military affairs has been recognized since the beginning of recorded history. The Egyptians had a well-developed secret service, and spying and subversion are mentioned in the ‘Iliad’ and in the ‘Bible’. The ancient Chinese treatise (c.500 B.C.) on the Art of War (see Sun Tzu) devotes much attention to deception and intelligence gathering, arguing that all war is based on deception. Whilst Sun Tzu was unknown to Niccolo Machiavelli many of his concepts found new vigour within Machiavelli’s writings. In the Middle Ages, political espionage became important.

Joan of Arc was betrayed by Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais, a spy in the pay of the English, and Sir Francis Walsingham developed an efficient political spy system for Elizabeth I. (See also Francis Walsingham’s acolytes Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon) With the growth of the modern national state, systematized espionage became a fundamental part of government in most countries. Joseph Fouché is credited with developing the first modern political espionage system, and Frederick II of Prussia is regarded as the founder of modern military espionage. During the American Revolution, Nathan Hale and Benedict Arnold achieved fame as spies, and there was considerable use of spies on both sides during the U.S. Civil War; though it was not until the Second World War that the USA convincingly took to espionage. (‘Pearl Harbour’ was the product of the spymasters failure to collect, analyse and then act.)

Secret Missions

Who is served by the Holy Grail of occult knowledge? What is the Grail, and who does it serve? The secret is in the power and the power is in The Secret. It is a meaningless metaphor without the experiential process of self-transformation to back it up. That’s why it can’t be told. It is the panacea, a personal path of recovery for “what ails thee.” The Grail is a metaphor for connection to the mystical Source of everything, the ever-renewing Fount of all manifestation.

All paths lead toward a personal journey of transformation and enlightenment, though not all journeys fulfill the total potential of creativity, compassion, engagement, and spirituality. On a classical “hero’s journey” like Parcival, when you find the Grail, and are called to its service, no knowledge remains hidden for long. Magick was the first transdisciplinarian occupation, drawing on all areas of knowledge. Before science divorced the occult arts it was called Natural Philosophy.

Trump Card 

A Magus is a “worker of magic” which eludes rational definition. The Magus is both a symbol of enlightenment and deception (disinformation) – just like the Tarot card, The Magician, is a card of duality: Wisdom and Folly.

"Now you see it; now you don't" is the forte of the illusionist, the juggler of realities, who is master of Orwellian double-think – holding the tension of the opposites. You alternate between faith and skepticism until you go beyond the ordinary boundaries of both - "slay each thought with its opposite." Myths present themselves as systems of antinomies, or opposites: heaven/hell, good/evil, life/death. The Magus lives at the Paradox.

Traditionally, the Magus is one who can demonstrate hands-on magic: healing, transformative rituals, metaphor therapy, alchemical transmutations, charging of talismans, spirit communication, etc. Magick works on the principle that man is a microcosm.

Arts Magian

A modern Magus is any person who completes the circuit between heaven and Earth, one who seeks to bring forth the divine 'gold' within her or himself. He or she is also a Mentor, an Initiator, divining and reading the signs and revealing deeper purpose and meaning in “the godgame.”

But that is how the outer world sees it. Every Magus has a foot in both worlds. Their inner life is mercurial, a complex psychic layer-cake of inner planes of transcendent experience where quantum leaps of consciousness are possible and messages are exchanged with the Great Unknown.


Perception of what is real and what is not dims and vanishes in a whirlwind of synchronicities. Imagination is reality. Magicians understand the world we live in, or think we live in, is an illusion, a construct of our own perceptual apparatus and a malleable interpretation of our brains.

But the hyperdimensional gifts of the Spirit come at a price. The magician taps into, becomes one with, an essence that pop culture calls The Force. Photons and phonons are quantized modes of vibration. This subatomic vibration of Light and Sound is the enlivening force, which feeds creation and allegedly responds to focused intention. Information controls and patterns energy.

Hermetics is a Spiritual Technology

For masters of the Hermetic Arts, all magick is wrought through this impressionable ether – the Astral Light – a plenum of potential, using true properties of nature, it's laws, forces, and principles. Science now describes it as the scalar physics of subspace. The mage seeks to selectively establish an internal order out of this chaos, then externalize it, according to his vision. He is the soul guide who initiates the transformation process.

The Hermetica included works on magic, alchemy, astrology, healing, gnosis, theurgy, ritual and philosophy. Sympathetic magic contends that like substances sharing an essence can influence one another through resonance effects. Likewise the hypnotic and magnetic qualities of charismatic individuals can create rapport with others to influence them.

Magick Metaprograms

This power card also represents the fine line dividing white magic from black magic, toxic or malignant black ops. Sensory deprivation, loss of equilibrium, confusion techniques, social isolation, physiological stress, severe shock and ceremonial terror tactics were the forerunners of brainwashing techniques.

This is the realm of psychic attack and psychic self defense, of sorcerers stealthily vying with one another for power. Weaponized ESP can affect the body, mind and soul of one's opponent. But it can boomerang back on the sender 3-fold, according to the cautionary prescription.


Power can be used in either a self-serving manner, or one in service to the All. In order for The Magus to achieve his aims, there must be constant awareness and self-examination, pressing on and exploring one’s boundaries, breaking through into the boundless realms.

This is also the Trump of discernment. The Magus can discriminate between various realities and fantasies, between various points of view, without buying into any belief system, literally. The sorcerer orchestrates and works within others’ belief systems.

By molding worldviews, a magician creates the perception, manipulates and defines the perceived reality, creates the structure for self-organizing transformation. He believes no meta-narratives but orchestrates them for others. He is an opportunistic paradigm shifter, shapeshifter, chameleon, trickster. If you assume a role does that make it real? If not, fake it till you make it. Better to be an inspired lunatic than uninspired, or so Crowley’s arc implies.

Veil of Secrecy and Ambiguity

[Editor's note: material relating to Aleister Crowley, Madame Blavatsky, John Dee, Francis Bacon, Nostradamus, St. Germain, and Timothy Leary in the original article is not included in this version.]

gurdjieff 1947 215Gurdjieff - Russian or British Spy?

There were and are many things said about Gurdjieff - that he was a master hypnotist, that he had other powers including being able to be in two places at once, that he was actually a spy, that he met and was an advisor to the Dalai Lama. He worked for Lama Aghwan Dordjieff, a high functionary for the DL, but also a spy for Russia or playing Britain and Russia off against one another for Tibet. He also was spied on. 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:

  • quote small leftHitler met him and regarded him as a "superman" and that Aleister Crowley was also impressed with him when they met. There are also some who have wanted to debunk Gurdjieff and his teachings and say he was a very clever conman and a charlatan with a huge ego and a lot of charisma. Whatever the truth, Gurdjieff remains a true man of mystery.quote small right

While freely recounting his many Central Asian adventures in his search for wisdom, Gurdjieff managed to draw a permanent veil of secrecy and ambiguity over all details of these intimate encounters with the dervish tradition. This of course is in line with the extreme reticence of the Sufi orders themselves. Young Gurdjieff may have been the spy Ushe Narzunoff, a player in the "Great Game" - the clandestine struggle between Imperial Russia and Britain for control of India. This claim has been neither proven nor widely dismissed.

The Yezidis of Kurdistan had an ancient infamous grimoire - the Picatrix, (Aim of the Sage; Goal of the Wise), a book of high and low magic. The Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi'l-sihr, or Picatrix, as it is known in the West, is an important Arabic magical text. It is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive of the grimoires, or handbooks of magic, a collection of Arabic texts widely used by mages during the Renaissance period.

James Webb, in his biography of Gurdjieff, The Harmonious CircleThe Harmonious Circle, makes a very strong case that Gurdjieff was a spy in the Imperial Russian secret service, an occupation that enabled him to travel as extensively as he did. Or did he spy for Britain? For quite some time there have been intimations that the ostensible Armenian mage was at one time an agent of the czarist intelligence service, this job allowing him the ability to travel across the globe in his search for secret knowledge, ancient wisdom, and Remarkable Men. Now in to the fray comes quite an interesting speculation. Story goes that Gurdjieff was not actually Russian at all. Rather, he was British and spent almost his entire life passing himself off as Eastern European. I found this speculation quite recently as a commentary on a recent book that contends, based on some circumstantial evidence, that Gurdjieff was Irish. Peter Roberts, the reviewer of said book, however, has his own revelations on the matter:

  • quote small leftThere has always been some mystery about the origins of Gurdjieff. When I read the above on the World wide Web I felt the time had come to reveal the results of my own researches. The reason I have not done so earlier was a fear that it would merely stimulate unnecessary and irrelevant controversy. As to Gurdjieff’s place of birth, Alexandropol, Allahabad or Ashby de la Zouche, what difference does it make? I do not claim to have proved anything, but nevertheless, the results of my researches open up some intriguing possibilities. I will tell the story as it unfolded itself to me, lest I give an impression of certainty and completeness that the results of my researches do not warrant.quote small right

Irish, no. But not Russian either. According to Roberts, he found evidence that Gurdjieff was… cockney. (Advanced apologies for the long quote here):

  • quote small leftAfter spending a year at Mr.B.’s glorious gulag in the Cotswolds, I returned to India for a short time. While I was there I received permission, for reasons which it would be an unpardonable breach of confidence for me to reveal, to examine the archives of the Indian Secret Service for the years before 1922. I found a number of requests for information from a Captain J.G. Bennett [later one of Gurdjieff's more famous students] in Constantinople, and two memoranda from him. However, there is no mention of Gurdjieff, and no file on him. All this left me with the impression that something was being concealed, and for good and obvious reasons. At this point I felt as if I had run into a brick wall and was on the point of abandoning my search in the Indian archives, when I discussed my predicament with a senior archivist who had already been of immense help to me. He pointed out that if there were a file on Gurdjieff, it might be under a code name, and also told me that there were certain secret registers which provided the key to this system of code names, the very existence of which he was not supposed to divulge to me, in spite of my having been given special permission to examine files that were then, and are now inaccessible even to professional historians approved by the Government of India. Knowing that my presence in the archives had been approved at the very highest level and also out of a fatherly affection which he had conceived for me, he agreed to see what he could do to make it possible for me to examine these secret registers, provided that I revealed nothing until after his death. This I swore to do, and I have kept my word.

  • With the invaluable aid of my friend, I examined the register of Russian agents, and the files to which they guided me. I found no mention of a Gurdjieff, and no-one whose description corresponded to him. I was in despair, when my friend asked me why I thought the man I was looking for was a Russian agent. Why not look at the register of British agents? This I did, though in a hopeless mood. There I came across the name of Georgiades. Further search revealed a very thick file on this Georgiades, in which he was described at one point as: “Frederick Dottle”, a Londoner who for many years has been posing as a Russian subject of Anatolian Greek extraction.”quote small right

Now, I don’t know that Roberts expects that anyone would believe his story over that of Larry O’Nolan, the author of the “Irish Gurdjieff” book, or take either story over the usually accepted Armenian/Russian Gurdjieff. I’d be silly to doubt the existence of secret files of agents for any so-called government’s intelligence services. I write conspiracy poetics, after all. Besides that, there’s ample evidence that proves the existence of secret documents. That being the case, though, I’m not necessarily going to believe Roberts based upon secret documents that no one else has ever claimed to see and that neither I nor Roberts have access to. I’m not saying I’m disbelieving Roberts, either. Just suspending judgement until I find out more.

But… suppose for the minute, Gurdjieff was actually Frederick Dottle, a man who had stowed away on a ship when he was young, ended up in Armenia and then was adopted by the man later known as Gurdjieff’s father. Suppose that Gurdjieff never completely erased that past and consequently, became an agent for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Well, that puts an entirely new spin on the legendary, yet cipher-like meeting between the Remarkable Man Gurdjieff and the Remarkable Man… Aleister Crowley.

Gurdjieff and Crowley

Looking at The Meeting of the Mages from a Whole New Angle

Here’s the famous account of the meeting between Gurdjieff and Crowley as written by C.S. Nott, a student of Gurdjieff’s who was present at the time. It can be found at this site, as well as in Nott’s book and in Colin Wilson‘s The Occult, among other places:

  • quote small leftOne day in Paris I met an acquaintance from New York who spoke about the possibilities of publishing modern literature. As I showed some interest, he offered to introduce me to a friend of his who was thinking of going into publishing, and we arranged to meet the following day at the Select in Montparnasse. His friend arrived; it was Aleister Crowley. Drinks were ordered, for which of course I paid, and we began to talk. Crowley had magnetism, and the kind of charm which many charlatans have; he also had a dead weight that was somewhat impressive. His attitude was fatherly and benign, and a few years earlier I might have fallen for it. Now I saw and sensed that I could have nothing to do with him. He talked in general terms about publishing, and then drifted into his black-magic jargon.

  • “To make a success of anything,” he said, “including publishing, you must have a certain combination. Here you have a Master, here a Bear, there the Dragon - a triangle which will bring results…” and so on and so on. When he fell silent I said, “Yes, but one must have money. Am I right in supposing that you have the necessary capital?”. “I?” he asked, “No not a franc.” “Neither have I.” I said.

  • Knowing that I was at the Prieure he asked me if I would get him an invitation there. But I did not wish to be responsible for introducing such a man. However, to my surprise, he appeared there a few days later and was given tea in the salon. The children were there, and he said to one of the boys something about his son who he was teaching to be a devil. Gurdjieff got up and spoke to the boy, who thereupon took no further notice of Crowley. There was some talk between Crowley and Gurdjieff, who kept a sharp watch on him all the time. I got the strong impression of two magicians, the white and the black - the one strong, powerful, full of light; the other also powerful but heavy, dull and ignorant. Though “black”" was too strong a word for Crowley; he never understood the meaning of real black magic, yet hundreds of people came under his “spell”. He was clever. But as Gurdjieff says: “He is stupid who is clever.”quote small right
An Occult Dick-Swinging Contest

And then, there’s the account from the late James Webb’s book The Harmonious Circle, excerpted in an article at

  • quote small left…True to his Caucasian heritage, he dispensed hospitality in abundant qualities. To Aleister Crowley, for example … Gurdjieff showed all due consideration – until Crowley was about to leave.

  • Mister, you go?” Gurdjieff inquired. Crowley assented. “You have been guest?” – a fact which the visitor could hardly deny. “Now you go, you are no longer guest?” Crowley – no doubt wondering whether his host had lost his grip on reality and was wandering in a semantic wilderness – humored his mood by indicating that he was on his way back to Paris. But Gurdjieff, having made the point that he was not violating the canons of hospitality, changed on the instant into the embodiment of righteous anger. “You filthy,” he stormed, “you dirty inside! Never again you set foot in my house!” … Whitefaced and shaking, the Great Beast crept back to Paris with his tail between his legs.quote small right

What if, Gurdjieff was keeping his eye so closely on Crowley for other than magickal reasons? One of the usual explanations is that Crowley, a frequently-relapsing addict to a variety of substances, including the sauce, had heard of Gurdjieff’s success in treating addiction and thus, went to get help banishing his chemical demons. Crowley being Crowley, it’s also suggested, and Nott seems to imply as much, may have also gone to Gurdjieff’s place to suss out the latter’s magickal capacities and challenge him to an occult dick-swinging contest.


Crowley himself was an asset of British intelligence at various times during his life. Perhaps he was already aware of Gurdjieff (and Gurdjieff of him) through these channels, instead of or in addition to those of the occult and mystical undergrounds. If Gurdjieff was a Brit and a spy for the Crown, perhaps Crowley suspected or had heard as much about him and came to check it out – or to blow Gurdjieff’s cover. And if not, perhaps Gurdjieff may have been watching Crowley with hawk-like diligence for fear that this unpredictable, Janus-faced magus might out him.

Lot of intriguing ifs. Who knows the fruitfulness of this line of speculation?

But it would all certainly make for a great novel…

Pre-formatted by Early Life Experience

Webb had high society background, and he had access to old files in the British intelligence agencies. He learned that the British authorities denied a visa to G when he wanted to live in the UK, because they had misgivings about his prior activities spying for the Imperial Russian government in British India and Tibet. My hunch is that Webb was right and that it was during his time as a Tsarist agent, that Gurdjieff learned what it was like to be treated as an object (spies are used and disposed of by thier bosses), he would have learned to live a secret life, and would have learned to identify and play on other peoples weaknesses so as to recruit them and milk them for information. My hunch is that Gurdjieff very much liked being a spy. And he may have had an incentive to use his charisma and his messy bundle of pseudo spiritual teachings as a way to create a society where he could function as the all powerful spymaster and move people around like chess pieces.

My guess is that people who are pre-formatted by certain kinds of early life experience find secrecy, tension and intrigue to be for them, a normal way to live. Some grow up in secret ridden families and then, as adults, gravitate into jobs, relationships and seekers groups that re-enact the intrigue and secrecy of thier childhood.

A charismatic hypnotist, carpet trader, Russian spy and mystic extraordinaire, George Gurdjieff was the son of a Greek-Armenian bard and was deeply impressed by his father’s songs concerning the great spiritual luminaries of a vanished past. The boy apparently began his search for the lost wisdom of the ancients at the early age of fifteen, and maintained it at huge cost to his health and material resources until he emerged, nearly thirty years later, a magus of mysterious yet undeniably charismatic authority. Possessed of enormous personal courage, during World War I Gurdjieff led a large posse of Russian followers across Eastern Europe to safety, through the raging battle lines of Bolsheviks and Cossacks in turn, eventually establishing a school in Fontainbleu, outside Paris, for the study and practice of methods of spiritual self-transformation. These methods, revolutionary in their day, are believed to have included the sacred dance and music exercises of the shamanistic Yesevi dervishes of Kurdistan, a community in which Gurdjieff seems to have received his initial training in Sufi techniques of “soul-making.”

The Yezidis, a secretive Kurdish religious sect from which the Sufi Bektashi order has sprung, live to this day in the foothills north of Mosul in Iraqi Kurdistan pursuing a cult of angels. According to the British baroness E.S. Drower, who in 1940 published a detailed paper on the sect, the chief Yezidi angel is Malek Taus, the Peacock Angel who has some likeness to Lucifer, the fallen angel of Christian fame. A black serpent is also held in special reverence in the Yezidi religion as a symbol of magical potency – no doubt ultimately a symbol of kundalini and the spinal system of energies elaborated in spiritual physiology. While paying lip service to the Muslim faith, the Yezidi have their own unique cosmogony, mythology and ritual practices, which have more commonality with the Magian or Gnostic belief-systems than with either Islam or Christianity. Ceaselessly persecuted and destroyed by Kurdish Muslims and Ottoman Turks as well as Islamic armies of both Iraq and Iran, the once powerful Yezidi tribes have been almost wiped out as heretics of the first order. Only isolated groups are now left. These include small pockets in Central Kurdistan, the Russian Caucasus and in satellite communities in Syria, Lebanon, Anatolia and Iran.

Sheikh Adi, a noted mystic of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, was a Median Magi, and although he is regarded as the founder of the Yezidi faith and an incarnation of the Peacock Angel, both the religion and the tribe are ascribed a far earlier date of origin. They are believed to be heirs to an ancient ancestral tradition going back to Noah. Adrian G. Gilbert comments:

  • quote small leftIt is my belief that they [the Yezidis] are descended from the ancient Chaldaeans. Their own tradition is that they migrated from the South, and they may well be the lost remnants of the Babylonian Magi who disappeared after the time of Alexander of Macedon.quote small right

This is certainly in line with Gurdjieff’s belief that the roots of Sufism lie in a spiritual tradition of extreme antiquity such as is found in the Yezidi faith, and that it was probably centred in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Nevertheless, there is much evidence that Sufism continually developed beyond its initial form and amplified its teachings over the ages.

Spiritual Hybrids

The late Hugh Schonfield, a noted Jewish scholar and author, says that by the third century CE Sufi schools were well established in the Middle East, particularly in Mosul, the heart of the old Assyrian kingdom, under the auspices of the Zoroastrian Magi. There the Sufis were joined by many Jewish refugees from Egypt fleeing Roman persecution. Among these were the Therapeutae, members of an Essene Order of contemplatives strongly imbued with a revolutionary New Covenant with God. The covenant involved a Judaic reformation that forbad militarism and animal sacrifice and embraced the principles of gender equality and an equitable distribution of wealth. The Therapeutae brought to the Sufi tradition not only these enlightened social ideals which were actually already enshrined in its own constitution, but much of the new Hermetic and Kabbalistic mysticism fermenting in Alexandria. Thus, says Schonfield, throughout Egypt and the Middle East,

  • quote small leftthere were religious fusions and amalgamations, and the emergence of spiritual hybrids… Zoroastrianism and Mithraism lent their characteristics to Jewish Essene teaching, and found a Greek expression in the Hermetic and Christian Gnostic. The coverage of the Roman empire right round the Mediterranean carried the cults with it, and opened the way to new blendings.quote small right

In this way Sufism was continually invigorated by new trends and in turn invigorated others. Then, when in the seventh century CE civilisation was in danger of total collapse through the ravages of global pestilence, war, earthquakes and the suppression of all Greek learning by Byzantine Christianity, the Sufi masters transferred their allegiance from Zoroastrianism to Islam, the latter offering the greater hope of rehabilitation for humanity. Thus the wisdom and science of Persia, with its great heritage of Greek learning, passed into the Muslim culture and was carried by Muslim sages into every quarter of the globe. The Dark Ages were halted and Islam, supported by the Sufis, brought about a brilliant revival of the Graeco-Roman arts and sciences.

The conquest of Spain by the Muslim Moors meant Jews, Muslims and Christians were able to live there harmoniously until the fifteenth century, creating a culture of superb beauty and intelligence which lasted until the Jews and Muslims were banished to Byzantium, and which gave Sufism entrance into the rest of backward Europe. During the same centuries Crusaders such as the Templars encountered the rich Saracen culture in the Holy Land and secretly brought back the cream of Sufi thought to Europe to enrich Christian theological scholarship, art and sciences.

The Hidden Directorate

Himalayan Withdrawal

With the Mongol invasions, however, came difficult days for European civilisation as many sources of Sufi wisdom withdrew. The Sufi Masters of Wisdom known in Central Asia as the Khwajagan lineage withdrew at this time to the Trans-Himalayas, where their schools still persist. The Khwajagan were neither savants nor mystical ecstatics. They were practical men who assiduously practiced the breathing and mantric exercise of the zikr, fought their own weaknesses by means of trials based on humiliation and abasement, and during the Mongol depredations of the conquered western cities built new schools, hospitals and mosques. Some say these Masters, who may be synonymous with the Sarmouni, have continued to this day to head the Sufi hierarchy – which Bennett has called the Hidden Directorate – from its hidden Trans-Himalayan headquarters. Meanwhile, the Sufi orders left behind continued to strengthen their ties with other esoteric systems, such as the Magian secret societies in Persia and the Copts in Egypt, and to extend their formidable influence across the world into South-East Asia.

In the Sunda Islands they amalgamated successfully with the indigenous shamans, Hindu-Buddhists and Taoists and were instrumental in establishing in Java one of the most influential schools of Tibetan Kalachakra Tantra in the world. The result was a chain of hybrid secret societies around the globe whose roots were buried deep in a freedom-loving soil compounded of Sufism, Magian wisdom and the Solomonic and Hermetic wisdom of the Egyptian Essenes. It was these pan-religious amalgamations that produced over the centuries initiatic schools like the Templars, the Chartres masters, the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati, the Freemasons and the Theosophists, all dedicated to working for the religious and scientific dawning of a new age free from religious intolerance.

Throughout the long Sufi saga, the West had been unaware of intervention in its affairs, or indeed of the very existence of a powerful organisation in its midst that was monitoring the course of history and at the same time maintaining its own hierarchy, objectives and worldview independently of the visible political and religious structures of society. But the Sufi masters knew that this unconscious condition, mainly imposed on the people by repressive forces outside their control, must end, and that the time of awakening was drawing near.

Sufi Masters and Rosicrucianism

The two Rosicrucian manifestos pseudonymously published in Germany in the early years of the seventeenth century marked the first Sufi venture into the public domain and caused a sensation. The manifestos purported to advertise a mysterious order called the Fraternity of the Rosey Cross which had been founded, it was claimed, by one Christian Rosencreutz; and a third publication called The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, written in high Dutch, came out soon after. The manifestos declared that Fr. Rosencreutz had obtained the inspiration for his brotherhood from Arabia, Fez (the home of Sufic alchemy since the eighth century) and Egypt, all centres of Sufi activity. And Rosicrucian tradition has it that Fr. Rosencreutz was initiated in Palestine by an Arabic sect. Observes Ernest Scott:

  • quote small leftWhen it is realised that the Sufi teacher Suhrawardi of Aleppo had a teaching method called the Path of the Rose and that the Sufic word for a dervish exercise has the same consonantal root as the word for a rose, the Sufic origin of the Rosicrucians may be inferred with some confidence.quote small right

As we now know, the series of Rosicrucian publications with their visionary and reforming talk of an invisible college, a “winged academy” dedicated to a commonwealth of man, created a furore in Europe. Some saw the publications as a hoax, others as a God-given sign of the millennium. As ever, the Sufis were not directly mentioned: but, sweeping like a rejuvenating wind through Protestant and Catholic lands alike, the movement stirred up by the mysterious manifestos became a potent though short-lived catalyst for change. It instigated a religious and intellectual uprising that sought reform in education, religion and science, promising a coming utopia in which the dignity and worth of every man and woman would be recognised.

Frances A. Yates, a foremost Renaissance scholar, believes this period in the seventeenth century can rightly be called the Rosicrucian Enlightenment and that out of its “great reservoir of spiritual and intellectual power, of moral and reforming vision” came the Royal Society and the age of scientific revolution.

Full of Christian mysticism yet also permeated with Hermetic-Kabbalistic angelology and alchemical religious philosophy, the Rosicrucian teachings proclaimed that this age of enlightenment, in which religion and science would no longer be antithetical, was at hand. Great advances were to be made and a reformation of the whole wide world would presage “a great influx of truth and light” into fallen society such as shone on Adam in paradise. For a time, large factions of the Church espoused these ideas, and the Jesuits, themselves of occult and hermetic origin, took over much of the Rosicrucian symbolism and emblematics.

Yet in the event the whole programme was aborted by the fiercely reactionary response of the Spanish Inquisition and its political ally, the Hapsburg dynasty, which instigated the Thirty Years’ War, forcing thousands of religious dissidents to flee with the seeds of the new vision to the New World. The Sufi programme had to incubate in secret for several more centuries.

Gurdjieff by Anthony Storr   From: Feet of Clay - A Study of Gurus

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Gurdjieff – Guru/Con Artist
From: Universal Medicine Accountability

Armenian born spiritual teacher, George Gurdjieff, developed a transcendental discipline he called ‘The Work’ to arouse his followers from the ‘waking sleep’ of their mundane lives. In the following extract from ‘Feet of Clay‘ by British psychiatrist, Anthony Storr, those familiar with Serge Benhayon will recognize a number of parallels.

In Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus, the late Anthony Storr examined the psychological profiles of gurus ranging from the benign, such as Carl Jung and Rudolph Steiner, through the harmful; Gurdjieff and Bhagwan Rajneesh, to the genocidal, David Koresh and Jim Jones.

The traits he found common to these leaders were:

  • a degree of psychological isolation as children,
  • usually with few or no friends,
  • an inability to form relationships in adulthood based upon equality,
  • so they accumulate followers rather than friends,
  • a period of psychological breakdown followed by revelation,
  • as well as certainty of their own ideas – a complete conviction that they ‘know’.

Storr goes on to make the case that harmful gurus are without exception autocratic, imposing their teachings on followers rather than employing interactive or creative means of education.

  • They’re intolerant of dissent or criticism, unscrupulous in their sexual conduct and financial dealings, and inclined to a sense of entitlement – due to their self perception of superiority.
  • Such despotic gurus believe they are not accountable to any form of authority, and arrogantly disregard established experts and scientific facts.
  • They also tend to push their followers to psychological and physical limits and humiliate them by manipulating them into morally and ethically compromising acts (Introductory chapter of Feet of Clay here).

George Gurdjieff is the guru most interesting to compare with Serge Benhayon. In the following extract (full chapter can be found here) you’ll note that Gurdjieff was an admitted confidence trickster.

  • He deliberately kept details of his background, training and early life mysterious.
  • The spiritual development system he devised was typical of New Age beliefs in its exaltation of the individual self and was focussed on attaining an ideal of self-perfection centred around living consciously in the present moment.
  • He professed a larger aim of preparing mankind for the dawn of a new era.
  • He invented a special terminology to express his esoteric teachings, which were obscure, incoherent, cosmically far flung and produced in such volume that Storr believed Gurdjieff hovered on ‘the borderline between confidence trickery and psychosis’.
  • In addition, Gurdjieff enjoyed guruistic power trips and wasn’t averse to humiliating his followers emotionally and sexually and compelling them to part with large sums of money.

From what I can gather, Gurdjieff was not as dangerous as Serge Benhayon. As much as Gurdjieff pushed his followers to extremes to ‘better themselves’, Serge has utterly subverted the concept of healing into a system that is patently harmful to all aspects of being. He also barely conceals his ultimate aspirations to death. (More posts on that soon.)

Due to the strong parallels between the gurus’ methods and doctrines, I imagine Serge’s infamous 1999 dunny-can epiphany was more like a protracted bout of constipation accompanied by a few Gurdjieff paperbacks. In Gurdjieff’s extravagant nonsense, Serge saw a way of hauling himself out of his recent bankruptcy. But it wasn’t the spiritual teachings which inspired him. It was the business plan.

Gurdjieff's Early Years

GURDJIEFF CLAIMS OUR INTEREST because he, or his doctrines as propounded by his disciple Ouspensky, bewitched so many interesting and intelligent people, including the writer Katherine Mansfield, A.R. Orage, the distinguished socialist editor of The New Age, Margaret Anderson, the editor of the Little Review, and her friend and co-editor Jane Heap; the surgeon and sexologist Kenneth Walker; Olgivanna, the third wife of Frank Lloyd Wright; John Godolphin Bennett, later to become something of a guru himself. The psychiatrists James Young and Maurice Nicoll, and the psycho-analyst David Eder were also followers. T.S. Eliot, David Garnett and Herbert Read intermittently attended Ouspensky's meetings. Ouspensky, who first encountered Gurdjieff in 1915, became chiefly based in London and was therefore more accessible to interested English people than the guru himself.

The date of Gurdjieff's birth is uncertain. Some say 1866; others quote one of his several passports, which showed December 28, 1877. James Moore, Gurdjieff's latest biographer and the author of Gurdjieff and Katherine Mansfield, argues that the earlier date is the more probable. Gurdjieff was secretive about this as he was about so many features of his background. He died on October 29, 1949. His birthplace was Alexandropol (formerly Gumru) in Russian Armenia, in the land lying between the Black Sea on the West and the Caspian Sea on the East, south of the Caucasus mountains. His father was Greek, his mother Armenian. Armenian was spoken at home, but he also learned some Greek, some Turkish, and the local dialects. In his autobiographical memoir, Meetings with Remarkable Men, he claimed to know eighteen languages, but there is no evidence to support this. Throughout his life, he continued to speak both Russian and English incorrectly.

Gurdjieff was the eldest of six children; he had a brother and four sisters. One of the sisters died young. In Gurdjieff's early childhood, the family moved to the near-by city of Kars, shortly after the defeat of the Turkish forces there in 1878 by the Grand Duke Michael Niklayevich, brother of the Russian Tsar. The boy Gurdjieff was accepted as a chorister at Kars military cathedral, and being obviously intelligent, attracted the notice of Father Dean Borsh, who helped to educate him. He developed a passion for learning, read widely in Greek, Armenian, and Russian, and began to harbour a wish to find some answer to the problem of "the meaning of life". He resembles other gurus in going through a period of doubt which was succeeded by the revelation which manifested itself in his new cosmogony and his teaching. Why his perplexity was so extreme as to propel him into a search for truth which lasted twenty years is not apparent.

Gurdjieff's esoteric knowledge and status as a guru were attributed to his discoveries during his travels in Central Asia, but we are entirely dependent upon his own inaccurate account. The period 1887-1911 remains unsubstantiated and mysterious. Gurdjieff claimed to have learned much from a three months' stay in "the chief Sarmoung monastery", belonging to a brotherhood which he said taught him secret wisdom derived from traditions dating back to 2500 B.C., including physical techniques for self-transformation, and sacred dances. Gurdjieff was careful never to be specific about the exact location of these teachers of secret knowledge, although he later stated that he had a teacher from whom he was never separated, and with whom he constantly communicated, presumably telepathically. The Sarmoung monastery cannot be identified, and even disciples of Gurdjieff regard his account of it as an allegory rather than literal truth. His own autobiographical account, in Meetings with Remarkable Men, is contradictory and chronologically unreliable. What does emerge from that book is his resourcefulness and his capacity to survive, both physically and financially. He sold carpets and antiques; repaired sewing-machines; bought quantities of old fashioned corsets and remodelled them to suit current taste; traded in oil and fish, and claimed that he cured drug addicts by hypnosis. His prowess as a healer was, he wrote, unprecedented (Gurdjieff never exhibited false modesty). When asked by Ouspensky about his studies and discoveries, he said that he travelled with a group of specialists in various subjects who eventually pooled their knowledge; but he did not vouchsafe their names or say where they were, nor did he answer direct questions about where he had been. "About schools and where he had found the knowledge he undoubtedly possessed he spoke very little and always superficially." It is hardly surprising that there were rumours that he was a secret agent employed by the Russians.

Masters of Wisdom

Gurdjieff established himself as a guru in Moscow in 1912. His principal contention was that man does not know himself, and is therefore not what he should be. He considered that modern civilization had made it difficult to co-ordinate the physical, emotional, and intellectual aspects of personality, which he believed were controlled by three separate centres. He thought that the majority of people were "asleep", and behaved like machines reacting blindly to external forces. His training was designed to awaken selected followers to a higher level of consciousness and a new perception of reality.

  • quote small leftA modern man lives in sleep, in sleep he is born and in sleep he dies. About sleep, its significance and its role in life, we will speak later. But at present just think of one thing, what knowledge can a sleeping man have? And if you think about it an at the same time remember that sleep is the chief feature of our being, it will at once become clear to you that if a man really wants knowledge, he must first of all think about how to wake, that is, about how to change his being.quote small right

By participating in what became known as "The Work", the fortunate few might become more able to co-ordinate the three centres through self-observation. Instead of living in a dream in which a series of fleeting "I's" succeeded one another, the awakened individual would cease living "in quotation marks", achieve a new unity, and, by means of this, direct his own destiny, or become able to do, as Gurdjieff phrased it. "To do means to act consciously and according to one's will." This change in consciousness, like everything else, has a material basis, which in this case manifests itself as a trace chemical compound in the brain.

The keystone of his teaching, of course, was that no progress, no human progress, that is - can be accomplished except on an individual basis. Group work is valuable only in the sense that it helps the individual to achieve individual self-perfection.

J.G. Bennett, who died in 1974, first met Gurdjieff in 1920. In his book Gurdjieff… Making a New World, Bennett devoted three chapters to Gurdjieff's travels and search for esoteric wisdom. Both J.G. Bennett and James Moore have to admit that it is impossible to trace Gurdjieff's travels with any degree of accuracy. Although careful never to commit himself wholeheartedly, Bennett clearly believed in the literal truth of the tradition that, somewhere in Central Asia, there is a group of wise men or "Masters of Wisdom" who watch over the destiny of mankind and intervene from time to time to alter the course of events by introducing new ideas and new modes of thinking. Bennett suggests that Gurdjieff made contact with such a group; an "Inner Circle of Humanity", perhaps the Sarmoun brotherhood, whose members were highly developed spiritually and able to generate higher energies. Bennett wrote:

  • quote small leftThe true significance of such a group must lie in its mission. The more that one becomes aware of the spiritual realities, the more convinced does one become that a very great action is now proceeding in the world. The task before us is to help mankind to make the difficult and dangerous transition to a new epoch. If we find evidence that Gurdjieff was concerned in this task and moreover that he opened the way for us to participate in it, we shall have gone a long way to connecting him with the "Inner Circle".quote small right

We shall again encounter the idea that mankind is on the threshold of a new epoch when discussing the ideas of Jung.

The Russian Revolution

Bennett was a long-term disciple of Ouspensky, and was therefore at one remove from the master himself. But he remained intermittently in touch with Gurdjieff, and saw him frequently during the last two years of his life. Bennett believed that Gurdjieff's ideas and teaching had transformed his own life, and himself ran groups along Gurdjieffian lines in London, sometimes with dire effects upon participants, as I remember from seeing one or two of them as psychiatric patients. Nevertheless, Bennett followed a path characteristic of those who constantly search for esoteric wisdom without ever quite finding what they want.

Bennett … broke from the Gurdjieffian mainstream in 1955 to pursue eclectic affiliations (being inter alia "opened" into Subud by Hoscin Rofe, initiated by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, received into the Roman Catholic Church, and introduced to the "Invisible Hierarchy" by Idries Shah).

The Russian revolution of 1917 caused Gurdjieff to move to Tiflis in Georgia and then to Constantinople and on to Berlin. His exhausting and sometimes dangerous journeys are chronicled by his biographer, James Moore. His close associates Thomas and Olga de Hartmann joined him in one of his stopping places; Essentuki in the Caucasus. This was in August 1917, not long after Kerensky had been announced as Prime Minister of the coalition government which followed the abdication of the Tsar. Gurdjieff then suddenly announced that he was going to Tuapse, on the Black Sea. The dutiful de Hartmanns followed. Their account of an exhausting nocturnal walk forced on them by Gurdjieff in spite of the fact that they were unsuitably clad and also dead tired is a striking example of the autocratic and unreasonable demands which Gurdjieff made on his followers which they nevertheless slavishly obeyed. Olga de Hartmann's feet were so swollen and bleeding that she could not put on her shoes and had to walk barefoot. Thomas de Hartmann had missed a night's sleep because he had been ordered to stay on guard. Their limbs ached and they were both exhausted; but they went on nevertheless.

  • quote small leftMr. Gurdjieff demanded from us a very great effort, especially difficult because we did not know when it would end. We suffered and would have been only too happy to rest; but there was no protest in us, because the one thing we really wished to do was to follow Mr. Gurdjieff. Beside that, everything else seemed unimportant.quote small right

It was a recurrent pattern of behaviour. The de Hartmanns claim that these demands were made upon them as a way of teaching them to overcome emotional and physical difficulties. Gurdjieff certainly pushed people to the limit of their physical capacities; and some discovered that they had more powers of endurance than they had ever suspected.

When short of money, he survived by dealing in caviar and carpets. He had hoped to settle in England, but the Home Office were suspicious of him and would not permit him to stay unless he did so as a private individual, which would have meant abandoning his nucleus of followers. Eventually, the generosity of Lady Rothermere, the estranged wife of the newspaper magnate, together with funds from other wealthy supporters, made it possible for him to set up his Institute for the Harmonious Development ofman at the Chateau du Prieuré, a large estate near Fontainebleau, in France.

An Elaborate Cosmology: Deliberately Obscure

"The Work" was carried out in groups and included special exercises and dances, exhausting physical work, training in memory and self-observation, together with lectures given by Gurdjieff at irregular intervals. Some of those who participated in the so-called "Sacred Dances" found them more valuable than Yoga or any other training affecting physical awareness. Complete concentration on whatever was being carried out at the rime was an essential part of Gurdjieff's message and of his own behaviour. Insistence on living intensely in the present moment and discarding the concern with past or future which interferes with fully experiencing the here-and-now, is not confined to Gurdjeff's teaching. Zen also treats the past and future as fleeting illusions. It is only the present which is eternally real.

Gurdjieff was a dictator. He had the capacity so completely to humiliate his disciples that grown men would burst into tears. He might then show the victim special favour. He demanded unquestioning obedience to his arbitrary commands. For example, he once suddenly announced that none of his followers might speak to each other within the Institute. All communication must be by means of the special physical movements he had taught them. Gurdjieff sometimes imposed fasting for periods up to a week without any lessening of the work load. His authority was such that his followers convinced themselves that these orders were for their own good. Those less infatuated are likely to think that, like other gurus, Gurdjieff enjoyed the exercise of power for its own sake. There were also dinners at which large quantities of alcohol were drunk, and large sums of money extracted from the diners.

Gurdjieff also developed an elaborate cosmology. His picture of the universe and man's place in it is complex, and unsupported by any objective evidence. It is deliberately obscure and often incoherent. Yet, because Gurdjieff was a powerful guru whose followers included some sophisticated, intelligent people, attempts have been made by his followers to make sense out of what appears to the sceptical reader to be a psychotic delusional system. The task is rendered more difficult by the numerous ludicrous neologisms which Gurdjieff introduced. It is appropriate to remind the reader that chronic schizophrenics often invent words which carry a special meaning for them but which others find hard to understand. Eugen Bleuler, the famous director of the Burgholzhli mental hospital in Zurich and the originator of the term "schizophrenia", quotes a patient who wrote:

  • quote small leftAt Apell plain church-state, the people have customs and habits partly taken from glos-faith because the father wanted to enter new f. situation, since they believed the father had a Babeli comediation only with music. Therefore they went to the high Osetion and on the cabbage earth and all sorts of malice, and against everything good. On their inverted Osetion valley will come and within thus is the father righteousness.quote small right

Another patient referred to being tormented by 'elbow-people'. As Bleuler notes, wording is preferably bombastic. "The patients utter trivialities using highly affected expressions as if they were of the greatest interest to humanity." I am not suggesting that Gurdjieff was schizophrenic, but his use of language resembled that employed by some psychotics.

By Eating Myself, I Am Maintained

For example, Gurdjieff is said to have believed in God, to whom he referred as "Our Almighty Omni-Loving Common Father-Uni-Being Creator Endlessness". This description may fairly be described as bombastic. In the beginning was the "Most Most Holy Sun Absolute" in space which was also endless, but which was charged…

  • quote small leftwith a primordial cosmic substance Etherokilno. Because this nebulous Etherokilno was in static equilibrium, the super-sun existed and was maintained by our Common Father, quite independently of outside stimulus, through the internal action of his laws and under the dispensation termed Autoegocrat (I keep everything under my control).
  •      However, Time, that villain who attacks us all, appeared in the shape of the merciless Heropass, which so threatened to diminish the volume of Sun Absolute that steps had to be taken to forestall this action. Thereupon, Common Father issued from himself a creative Word-God named Theomertmalogos which interacted with Etherokilno to produce our universe Megalocosmos. This creation is maintained by a principle or law named Trogoautoegocrat - by eating myself, I am maintained: "In the cosmic sense, God feeds on the Creation and the creation feeds on God." So God and his creation become separate entities, which are only distantly related to each other, and creation is maintained by new laws; Triamazikamno,, the law of three, and Heptaparparashinokh or Eftalogodiksis, the law of Seven.quote small right

The law of Three is relatively straightforward. "The higher blends with the lower in order to actualise the middle." For example, sperm and ovum merge to create the embryo. This formula can be applied to many situations in which opposites require a third - Moore gives as an example a judge resolving a case between plaintiff and defendant.

The law of Seven is more complex, and, in my view, incoherent. Gurdjieff tried to relate cosmology with the musical scale, believing that every completing process has seven discrete phases corresponding to an ascending or descending series of notes, including the two semitonal intervals, which constitute necessary irregularities. Gurdjieff represented the universe in a diagram called the Ray of Creation which begins with the Absolute and ends with the moon.

Food for the Moon

Gurdjieff taught that a collision between a comet named Kondoor and the earth gave rise to two orbiting bodies, Loondeiperzo (later known as the moon) and Anulios. After the shock a whole commission consisting of Angels and Archangels, specialists in the work of World-creation and World-maintenance, under the direction of the Most Great Archangel Sakaki, was immediately sent from the Most Holy Sun Absolute to that solar system "Ors". Gurdjieff's beliefs about the moon were even more eccentric. He claimed that the moon was still an unborn planet which was gradually becoming warmer and more like earth, just as the earth was becoming warmer and more like the sun. Anulios became forgotten, but the moon required energy to assist its evolution. Sakaki therefore arranged that the planet earth should send to the moon the "sacred vibration askokin". Askokin was liberated when organic life on earth dies. According to Ouspensky's report in In Search of the Miraculous, Gurdjieff said:

  • quote small leftThe process of the growth and the warming of the moon is connected with life and death on the earth. Everything living sets free at its death a certain amount of the energy that has "animated" it; this energy, or the "souls" of everything living - plants, animals, people - is attracted to the moon as though by a huge electromagnet, and brings to it the warmth and the life upon which its growth depends, that is, the growth of the ray of creation. In the economy of the universe nothing is lost, and a certain energy having finished its work on one plane goes to another.quote small right

He then went on to say that the moon influences everything that happens on earth.

  • quote small leftMan, like every other living being, cannot, in the ordinary conditions of life, tear himself free from the moon. All his movements and consequently all his actions are controlled by the moon. If he kills another man, the moon does it; if he sacrifices himself for others, the moon does that also. All evil deeds, all crimes, all self-sacrificing actions, all heroic exploits, as well as all the actions of ordinary life, are controlled by the moon.quote small right

And J.G. Bennett wrote:

  • quote small leftAt a certain point in the history of the earth, it was perceived by the Higher Powers that a very undesirable and dangerous situation was developing on the planet earth which could endanger the equilibrium of the entire solar system and, in particular, the evolution of the Moon.
  •      If men realized that, because they were controlled by the moon, their personal efforts were unavailing, might they not be tempted to mass suicide, and so deprive the moon of the askokin needed for its development? To guard against this possibility, the Higher Powers implanted an organ at the base of man's spine delightfully named by Gurdjieff the organ Kundabuffer. This had the effect of ensuring that man would base his values solely on satisfying his own desires and the pursuit of happiness by making him perceive reality as topsy turvy. So man would serve the moon blindly, unaware that, by embarking on the path of self-development, he could free himself from the moon altogether. Once the moon crisis had passed, the organ Kundabuffer was removed; but the majority of mankind still behave blindly, selfishly, and without insight as if the organ was still there. This is actually necessary if the purposes of nature are to be fulfilled. According to Ouspensky, Gurdjieff said that the evolution of humanity as a whole might be injurious.
  •      For instance, the evolution of humanity beyond a certain point, or, to speak more correctly, above a certain percentage, would be fatal for the moon. The moon at present feeds on organic life, on humanity.
  •      Humanity is part of organic life; this means that humanity is food for the moon. If all men were to become too intelligent they would not want to be eaten by the moon.
  •      The majority of human beings provide askokin for the moon after death, and are then condemned to obliteration. However, some few who follow the path of self-development and self-realization prescribed by Gurdjieff create askokin during life. Such people may finally develop a soul which can survive and may even reach Objective Reason and attain a form of immortality by being reunited with the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute.quote small right
Expert at Deception

How can anyone ever have taken this kind of thing seriously? Some have referred to Gurdjieff's teachings as myths, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh claimed that Gurdjieff was joking about the moon, but J.G. Bennett wrote that Gurdjieff certainly intended his account of the historical appearance and disappearance of the organ Kundabuffer to be taken literally. He also quotes the author Denis Saurat, then Director of the French Institute in London, as believing that Gurdjieff's teaching "could not be of terrestrial origin. Either Gurdjieff had revelations vouchsafed only to prophets or he had access to a school on a supernatural level." Although writers about Gurdjieff tend to distance themselves from his most extravagant propositions, Philip Mairet, an intelligent literary figure who was editor of the New English Weekly, and who was also well acquainted with the works of Freud, Jung, and Adler, is reported as saying: "No system of gnostic soteriological philosophy that has been published to the modern world is comparable to it in power and intellectual articulation." Having read Ouspensky's exposition of Gurdjieff's teaching in his book In Search of the Miraculous, and having attempted to read Gurdjieff's own book All and Everything, I can only wonder at Mairet's opinion. Perhaps I have extracted enough to give the reader some idea of Gurdjieff's picture of the cosmos, and to demonstrate that Gurdjieff's own writings are both voluminous and obscure. Even his devotees say that All and Everything has to be read several times if its meaning is to be grasped; and some claim that Gurdjieff's obscurity was deliberate; a device adopted to ensure that the disciple would have to make a considerable effort at understanding on his own account rather than be spoon-fed with clear statements an doctrines.

At first sight, it is difficult to believe that Gurdjieff's elaborate cosmology was anything other than a planned, comical confidence trick designed to demonstrate how far the gullibility of his followers could be tested. His own account of how he survived his early wanderings reveals how expert he was at deception. Gurdjieff wrote that he coloured sparrows with aniline dyes and sold them as "American canaries" in Samarkand. He tells us that he had to leave quickly in case rain washed the sparrows clean. When people brought him sewing machines and other mechanical objects for repair, he was often able to see that the mere shift of a lever would cure the problem. However, he was careful to pretend that such repairs were time-consuming and difficult, and charged accordingly. He also wrote that he found out in advance which villages and towns the new railway would pass through, and then informed the local authorities that he had the power to arrange the course of the railway. He boasted that he obtained large sums for his pretended services, and said that he had no pangs of conscience about doing so.

We know from J.G. Bennett that, when he and his followers were in danger from the conflict between the Cossacks and the Bolsheviks, Gurdjieff managed to get transport from the Provincial Government by spreading a rumour that he knew of enormously rich deposits of gold and platinum in the Caucasus mountains which would fdl the Government's coffers. Bennett wrote:

  • quote small leftIn all this, he was also demonstrating to his pupils the power of suggestion and the ease with which people could be made to "believe any old tale".quote small right
Shearing Sheep

Fritz Peters recounts an elaborate hoax in which Gurdjieff diluted a bottle of vin ordinaire with water, and then covered it with sand and cobwebs. Two distinguished women visitors were tricked into believing that Gurdjieff was serving them with wine of a rare vintage, and dutifully pronounced it the most delicious which they had ever tasted.

Fritz Peters recalled an occasion on which a rich English lady approached Gurdjieff as he was sitting at a cafe table and offered him a cheque for £1,000 if he would tell her "the secret of life". Gurdjieff promptly summoned a well-known prostitute from her beat in front of the cafe, gave her a drink, and proceeded to tell her that he was a being from another planet called Karatas. He complained that it was very expensive to have the food he needed flown in from this planet, but urged the prostitute to taste some, which he gave her. When asked what she made of it, she replied that he had given her cherries, and went on her way with the money Gurdjieff pressed upon her, obviously believing that he was mad. Gurdjieff turned to the English lady and said: "That is the secret of life". She appeared to be disgusted, called him a charlatan, and went off. However, she reappeared later on the same day, gave Gurdjieff the cheque for £1,000, and became a devoted follower.

He became skilled at extracting money from Americans to support his enterprises at the Chateau du Prieuré, and referred to this activity as "shearing sheep". For example, an American woman travelled from the United States to the Prieuré to seek Gurdjieff's advice about her chain smoking, which she said was a phallic activity connected with her marital sexual difficulties. After a pause for thought Gurdjieff suggested that she should change her brand of cigarette to Gauloises Bleus, and charged her a large fee for this advice, which she gladly and gratefully paid. There is no doubt that Gurdjieff could be a convincing confidence trickster when he so wished and that he did not hesitate to mislead the gullible when it suited him. He was always a wonderful story teller who held his audiences entranced.

He told Peters, "I not make money like others make money, and when I have too much money, I spend. But I never need money for self, and I not make or earn money, I ask for money and people always give and for this I give opportunity study my teaching". However, he contradicted himself a moment later by saying that he owned a business making false eyelashes and another business selling rugs. When he went to New York in 1933, he demanded coaching in the use of four-letter words in English from Fritz Peters before giving a dinner for some fifteen New Yorkers. When the diners had drunk a certain amount, Gurdjleff began to tell them that it was a pity that most people - especially Americans - were motivated only by genital urges. He picked out a particularly elegant woman and told her in crude terms that she took so much trouble with her appearance because she wanted to fuck. The guests were soon behaving in an uninhibited fashion and becoming physically entangled with each other. Gurdjieff then announced that he had proved his point that Americans were decadent and demanded that he be paid for his lesson. According to Peters, he collected several thousand dollars.

Yet confidence trickery cannot be the whole explanation of Gurdjieff's teaching. If Gurdjieff could support himself so easily by deception, why should he bother to invent a cosmogony? Gurdjieff found writing a burden. He was much more impressive as a lecturer than he was as a writer. All and Everything is enormously long, and, although it was dictated to Olga de Hartmann rather than written, it must have demanded considerable dedication to complete. Gurdjieff began his dictation on 16 December 1924. He completed the dictation of Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson (the first part of All and Everything) in November I927. Could anyone devote so much time and energy to creating something in which he did not believe himself, with the deliberate intention to deceive? We hover on the borderline between confidence trickery and psychosis. Gurdjieff's propositions about the universe were totally at variance with the discoveries of astronomers and other scientists, and can only be compared with science fiction, but I think he believed in them, just as paranoid psychotics believe in their delusional systems.

Unashamedly Elitist and Authoritarian

Gurdjieff's arrogance and disregard of established experts were extraordinary. When he visited the caves of Lascaux, he told J.G. Bennett that he did not agree with the Abbe Breuil's dating of the rock paintings at thirty thousand years ago because he had concluded that the paintings were the work of a brotherhood that existed after the loss of Atlantis some seven or eight thousand years ago. He also told Bennett that he intended that his Institute would become "a centre of training and research not only into the powers of man himself, but into the secrets of the solar system". He said he had invented "a special means for increasing the visibility of the planets and the sun and also for releasing energies that would influence the whole world situation".

Gurdjieff's complete disregard for science and for the views of generally accepted experts is narcissistic in the extreme. But he did, at times, show considerable interest in other people, and compassion for those who were suffering. He sometimes exhibited a capacity for intense concentration upon individuals, which was certainly one component of his undoubted charisma. Fritz Peters, whose parents were divorced, was legally adopted by his mother's sister, Margaret Anderson and her friend Jane Heap, who were mentioned earlier as adherents of Gurdjieff. Peters, who was brought to Le Prieuré when he was a boy of eleven and stayed there until he was fifteen, described Gurdjieff's behaviour to himself:

  • quote small leftWhenever I saw him, whenever he gave me an order, he was fully aware of me, completely concentrated on whatever words he said to me; his attention never wandered when I spoke to him. He always knew exactly what I was doing, what I had done. I think we must all have felt, certainly I did, when he was with any one of us, that we received his total attention. I can think of nothing more complimentary in human relations.quote small right

This intense concentration, as we have seen, was an important part of Gurdjieff's teaching. It entered in to everything he did. His ability to mobilize and direct attention may have accounted for his extraordinary effect on other people.

  • quote small leftWhen you do a thing, do it with the whole self. One thing at a time. Now I sit here and eat. For me nothing exists in the world except this food, this table. I eat with the whole attention. So you must do - in everything … To be able to do one thing at a time this is the property of Man, not man in quotation marks.quote small right

In movement, he gave the impression of complete co-ordination and integrated power. "His gait and his gestures were never hurried, but flowed in unison with the rhythm of his breathing like those of a peasant or a mountaineer." Peters writes that Gurdjieff's presence and physical magnetism were "undeniable and generally overwhelming". When, in the late summer of 1945, long after he had left the Prieuré, Peters suffered from severe depression with insomnia, anorexia, and loss of weight, he sought Gurdjieff in Paris. Gurdjieff realized that he was ill, forbade him to talk and at once offered him a bedroom for as long as he needed it. He made Peters drink strong, hot coffee, and concentrated upon him intensely. It seemed to Peters that a violent electric blue light emanated from Gurdjieff and entered himself. Whatever the reason, Peters promptly recovered from his depression.

However, not everything about Gurdjieff was so impressive. His personal habits could be disgusting. One of the jobs that Peters was given when he was still resident at the Prieuré, was to clean Gurdjieff's rooms.

  • quote small leftWhat he could do to his dressing room and bathroom is something that cannot be described without invading his privacy; I will only say that, physically, Mr. Gurdjieff, at least so I gathered, lived like an animal … There were times when I would have to use a ladder to clean the walls.quote small right

Gurdjieff generalized from his own experience in that he set himself up as a teacher who could train others to attain the wisdom and autonomy which he believed himself to possess. But such teaching could only be assimilated by the chosen few. As we saw earlier, Gurdjieff did not believe that mankind as a whole was capable of development, or that it was desirable that any attempt should be made in this direction, lest the development of the moon might suffer. Gurdjieff, like many other gurus, was unashamedly elitist and authoritarian.

Destroying the Predilection for Suggestibility

Gurdjieff"s sexual behaviour was unscrupulous, in that he coupled with any female disciple whom he found attractive, and not infrequently made her pregnant. When Fritz Peters went to the Chateau du Prieuré at the age of eleven, there were about ten other children there, some of whom were undoubtedly fathered by Gurdjieff.

Like other gurus whom we have encountered, Gurdjieff enjoyed the exercise of power. We saw earlier what physical demands he made on the de Hartmanns. He was not directly cruel, but the regime he imposed upon his disciples was rigorous to the point of physical exhaustion.

  • quote small leftThe daily routine was exacting in the extreme. We woke up at five or six in the morning and worked for two hours before breakfast. Afterwards there was more work: building, fetching trees, sawing timber, caring for the animals of almost every domestic species, cooking, cleaning, and every kind of domestic duty. After a quick light lunch and a period of rest, one or two hours were devoted to "exercises" and "rhythms" accompanied by music usually played by Thomas de Hartmann on the piano. Sometimes there would be fasts lasting one, two, three or even up to seven days during which all the work continued as usual. In the evening, there would be classes in rhythms and ritual dances which might go on for three, four or five hours until everyone was totally exhausted.quote small right

It is not surprising that one disciple who was fixing trusses twenty-five feet above the ground fell asleep whilst precariously balanced on a narrow beam and had to be rescued by Gurdjieff.

Bennett does not point out that, whether or not this regime assisted spiritual development, it was certainly a convenient way of obtaining free labour to run the Prieuré. Moreover, Gurdjieff, as an experienced hypnotist, would have realized that physical exhaustion makes people more suggestible, although one of his avowed aims was to discover some means of "destroying in people the predilection for suggestibility". He once ordered Orage to dig a ditch to drain water from the kitchen garden. Orage worked extremely hard for several days. He was then told to make the edges of the ditch quite equal, and did so after more labour. Immediately after he had finished, Gurdjieff ordered him to fill in the ditch because it was no longer needed.

One of Gurdjieff's disciples was Olgivanna Ivanovna Lazovich, who became the third wife of the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. She first encountered Gurdjieff in Russia in 1917 at a time of crisis in her life. She was nineteen years old and was just about to have a child. Her first marriage was failing, her father was ill, her mother far distant. When Gurdjieff moved to the Prieuré, she joined him, became one of his best dancers, and an assistant instructor in The Work. In 1924, Gurdjieff suggested that she join her brother in America for no obvious reason. Shortly after her arrival, she encountered Frank Lloyd Wright at a ballet performance in Chicago and fell in love with him. Gurdjieff visited the Wrights on more than one occasion. Finding that Wright was seriously worried about his digestion, Gurdjieff invited them both out to dinner and served a series of extremely hot and indigestible dishes followed by the inevitable draughts of Armagnac. Wright felt terrible, but woke the next morning to find that his fears about his digestion had disappeared. On another occasion, Wright grandly remarked that perhaps he should send some of his pupils to Gurdjieff in Paris. "Then they can come back to me and I'll finish them off". "You finish. You are idiot", said Gurdjieff angrily "You finish! No. You begin. I finish." It was clear that Wright had met his match.

Wright had many guru-like characteristics himself, so that it is not surprising to learn that these two autocrats found themselves in competition. Even so, Gurdjieff won Wright over. Shortly after Gurdjieff's death, when Wright was receiving a medal in New York, he interrupted proceedings to announce: "The greatest man in the world has recently died. His name was Gurdjieff."

Olgivanna appears to have acquired or developed a number of Gurdjieff's less engaging traits. Draftsmen, apprentices and their wives were supposed to sit at Olgivanna's feet whilst she gave them instructions and mercilessly criticized their failings. They even had to undergo the ordeal of listening to Wright reading from Gurdjieff's writings. As she became older, she became more and more dictatorial, and, after Wright's death, became a "despotic and jealous" widow with whom scholars and institutions preferred not to negotiate.

His Own Answer to the Problem of the Meaning of Life

Adherents of Gurdjieff's teaching recount with satisfaction that he did not bring pressure upon followers to stay with him, and in fact often dismissed them. This is interpreted as indicating his desire that they should become independent of him. In some cases, it may rather have been his perception of impending apostasy: gurus generally prefer to rid themselves of potential dissidents rather than be deserted. Ouspensky, Gurdjieff's most devoted disciple and interpreter, began to lose confidence in him as a person as early as 1917. This seems to have been precipitated by Gurdjieff's arbitrary dispersal of the group he had assembled around him in Essentuki. Ouspensky continued to believe in the authenticity of Gurdjieff's vision and teaching which he accepted as having been handed down from some ancient, esoteric source, but found the man himself more and more intolerable. Ouspensky formally broke off relations in January 1924, and forbade his own pupils to communicate with Gurdjieff or refer to him.

A.R. Orage, the talented editor of the New Age, had abandoned literary life in London for life at the Prieuré, and later moved to New York, where he set up his own Gurdjieffian groups, and whence he sent large sums of money to Gurdjieff. During the seven years of his close involvement with Gurdjieff, he produced practically no work of his own. As John Carswell puts it: "The most notable English editor of his time had become a mysterious exile owing obedience to an Armenian magus." Orage's devotion was tested to the limit by Gurdjieff's incessant demands for money, and by the abuse heaped upon him when he did not instantly obey. His allegiance was further undermined by his wife, Jessie Dwight, whom he married in 1927, and who had hated her visit to the Prieuré. Eventually, Gurdjieff, realizing Orage's disillusion, turned up in New York when Orage was temporarily absent, assembled Orage's group, denounced Orage and required each member to sign a written declaration that they would have nothing further to do with their instructor. Some did so; others refused. Orage, summoned back from England, demanded to see Gurdjieff, and, after remarking that he too repudiated the Orage created by Gurdjieff, signed the document denouncing his own teaching.

J.G. Bennett gives a list of close adherents whom Gurdjieff deliberately dismissed. Bennett himself left the Prieuré in 1923 and did not see Gurdjieff again until 1948, the year before he died. Even Fritz Peters, who had been greatly influenced by Gurdjieff in childhood, and who, as we have seen, turned to Gurdjieff when he was seriously depressed as an adult, wrote: "He began to seem to me in a very excellent phrase, a real, genuine phony."

By the beginning Of 1932, it became clear that the Chateau du Prieuré was no longer financially viable. Gurdjieff habitually overreached himself financially and American support fell away after the crash of 1929. The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man finally closed in May. But Gurdjieff himself continued to flourish. He lived in Paris throughout the German occupation of the city during the Second World War. Characteristically, he obtained credit from various food shops by persuading them that an American pupil had given him an oil well in Texas which would ensure that their bills would be settled as soon as the war was over.

Gurdjieff's cosmogony can only be described as fantastic. Reviewing his picture of the universe, it is hard to understand that any intelligent, educated person could believe in it. Yet disciples struggled to read All and Everything as if its incoherence must contain esoteric wisdom; as if it was their fault if they did not understand it rather than the author's inability to construct a credible picture of man and the universe or to write intelligibly. When Gurdjieff had a car accident in July 1924 which nearly killed him, he said that the accident was "the manifestation of a power hostile to his aim, a power with which he could not contend". This suggests an underlying paranoid belief system. In reality, he was so dangerous a driver that his followers avoided being driven by him whenever possible. Perhaps he was referring to the adverse planetary influences which, he claimed, had caused the First World War. Gurdjieff had the bizarre notion that, from time to time, planets might approach each other too closely. The resulting tension would cause human beings to slaughter each other without their realizing that they were merely pawns in a cosmic game.

Although Gurdjieff's picture of the universe can confidently be dismissed as rubbish, it is possible to salvage a few valuable ideas from what he taught. Gurdjieff believed that man had obligations as well as rights. He did not think that the world was made for man, or that progress consisted in further technological domination of the environment. He considered that man had lost touch with the meaning of his existence, which was to fulfil a cosmic purpose rather than merely to satisfy his desires. Now that we realize that we are destroying the earth we live on, Gurdjieff's view that man should serve the world rather than exploit it seems apposite. His notion that most people are "asleep" and are driven by their instincts to behave automatically rather than with conscious intention is probably true of the majority. Some of the charisma which Gurdjieff undoubtedly manifested sprang from his own capacity to live intensely in the moment. One pupil recalled his saying:

  • quote small leftYou live in the past. The past is dead. Act in the present. If you live as if you have always lived, the future will be like the past. Work on yourself, change something in yourself, then the future perhaps will be different.quote small right

Some of those who practised Gurdjieff's techniques for awakening people and transforming them into beings who could direct their own destinies certainly claimed benefit, but Claire Tomalin, in her biography of Katherine Mansfield, is almost certainly right in her summing up.

  • quote small leftWhether Gurdjieff's methods for righting the internal balance of his disciples had much, or any, merit is another matter. Since the whole thing depended on his personality, and made no scientific claims (as psychoanalysis did) or cosmological and moral claims (as most brands of Christianity did), it remained an amateur, ramshackle affair, and although Gurdjieff aroused passionate hate as well as love, his system seems to have done little lasting damage, and obviously allowed some people to change direction in a way that seemed helpful to them.quote small right

As we have seen, Gurdjieff was, by his own admission, an accomplished confidence trickster who had no hesitation in deceiving other people and extracting money from them when he needed to do so. Confidence tricksters are successful at deception because they are more than halfway to believing in their own fictions. Was Gurdjieff anything more than this? I suggested earlier that he could not have constructed his elaborate cosmogony merely in order to deceive. Gurdjieff's picture of the universe, whether learned from esoteric sources or constructed by himself, provided him with his own myth, his own answer to the problem of the meaning of life for which he had sought a solution during his twenty years of travel. This myth was akin to a religious revelation. It gave him the certainty of faith. It was his own conviction that he had discovered the answer which made him charismatic and persuasive. Even if some of his followers could not accept or understand all his cosmic doctrines, they still believed that he knew; a phenomenon which we shall encounter when discussing other gurus.

Good Grief! Gurdjieff in Tibet?  From: tibeto-logic
abdullaha portrait

Did George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866-1949) ever visit Tibet? I recognize the problem that some of you may simply not know why you ought to care, and I empathize with you, but keep in mind that there are people out there who do care, people who may even care far too much. As a Tibetanist they may want to get answers from you. What are you going to tell them?

That's not Gurdjieff here in the frontispiece, and neither is it Dorjiev, but the truth is, Dorjiev and Gurdjieff have been confused in the past. One author, otherwise quite a good one I think, [1] unhelpfully decided that while Gurdjieff in fact isn’t Dorjiev, it’s Dorjiev’s follower Norzunoff that is Gurdjieff. In either case, if either identification were true, it would follow that Gurdjieff did in fact visit Tibet. (Well, since both Dorjiev and Norzunoff most definitely did.)

agwan dorjiev 213
Agwan Dorjiev (ངག་དབང་རྡོ་རྗེ་)
ovshe norzunoff 213
Ovshe Norzunoff
gurdjieff 12 213

There is one person I know of who claimed to know for a fact that Gurdjieff was in Tibet, and that's the smoking man you see up there at the top of the blog. His name was Achmed Abdullah. How did Achmed know Gurdjieff had been to Tibet? Because he (A.A.) had seen him (G.I.G.) there, in Lhasa.

Now surely Gurdjieff was from the general area of Caucasus-Georgia-Armenia-Turkey (his parentage was Greek and Armenian), and not from Buriatia, as is implied in the quote you will see just below. His surname anyway suggests that he or his family must have originated in Georgia.

The name Dorjiev has a quite different origin, since as is the style even today among Mongolians, it is a slightly modified form of the frequent Tibetan name element Dorjé (རྡོ་རྗེ་). [2]

[1] James Webb, The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York 1980).

[2] For a bit on the possessive suffix -ov/-off/-ev/-eff used to form Slavic surnames, try looking here. Like surnames everywhere, they may [among other possibilities] be based on place of origin. Dorjiev's name was formed on the assumption that Dorjé was in some way his surname when of course it was not. It’s an integral part of his given name.

The following quote is taken from Rom Landau (1899-1974), God Is My Adventure (1935?), p. 188:

  • quote small leftI so often hear about his [Gurdjieff’s] experiences in Tibet,’ I replied: “but I am somewhat suspicious of those Tibetan tales. Every other messiah, from Mme. Blavatsky onwards, claims to have gathered knowledge in the mountains of Tibet. How do you know that Gurdjieff has actually ever been there?
  • I happen to possess first-hand proofs. Some years ago there was a luncheon in New York, given, if I remember aright, for Gurdjieff. A number of distinguished men had been invited, among others the writer, Achmed Abdullah, who told me that he had never seen Gurdjieff before, but that he was very much looking forward to meeting this unusual Armenian. When Gurdjieff entered the room Achmed Abdullah turned to me and whispered: “I have met that man before. Do you know who he really is? Before the war he was in Lhassa as an agent of the Russian Secret Service. I was in Lhassa at the same time, and in a way we worked against each other.” So, you see, it is quite true that Gurdjieff had been at the very fountain of esoteric knowledge. Some people say he was in Lhassa as a Secret Service agent, in order to disguise the real purpose of his visit, which was to learn the supernatural methods of the Lamas. Other people maintain that his esoteric studies were only a pretext behind which he could hide his political activities. But who can tell?quote small right

And the following letter is copied from the same book, p. 202:

Captain Achmed Abdullah
Fifth Avenue House
Sunday. New York City

As to Gurdjieff, I have no way of proving that I am right except that I know I am right. When I knew him, thirty years ago, in Tibet, he was, besides being the young Dalai Lama’s chief tutor, the main Russian political agent for Tibet. A Russian Buriat by race and a Buddhist by religion, his learning was enormous, his influence in Lhassa very great, since he collected the tribute of the Baikal Tartars for the Dalai Lama’s exchequer, and he was given the high title of Tsannyis Khan-po. In Russia he was known as Hambro Akvan Dorzhieff; to the British Intelligence as Lama Dorjieff. When we invaded Tibet, he disappeared with the Dalai in the general direction of outer Mongolia. He spoke Russian, Tibetan, Tartar, Tadjik, Chinese, Greek, strongly accented French and rather fantastic English. As to his age well I would say ageless. A great man who, though he dabbled in Russian imperialistic politics, did so I have an idea more or less in the spirit of jest. I met Gurdjieff, almost thirty years later, at dinner in the house of a mutual friend, John O’Hara Cosgrave, former editor of the New York World, in New York. I was convinced that he was Lama Dorjieff. I told him so and he winked. We spoke in Tadjik. I am a fairly wise man. But I wish I knew the things which Gurdjieff has forgotten.

Very faithfully,

I don’t have any definitive disproof of this often-made identification, but I sincerely doubt Gurdjieff ever made it to Lhasa. If you want to pursue this will-o’-the-wisp further, I'd recommend this essay by Paul Beekman Taylor entitled “Gurdjieff and Prince Ozay.” Here the identity problems get, if anything, even thicker.

It’s true that Achmed’s information about Dorjiev is sufficiently accurate and believable, based on what we can know from independent sources. What isn’t so believable is he had sufficient reason to equate him with Gurdjieff. Achmed's accuracy makes me tend to believe that he might have actually been in Lhasa, seen Dorjiev there or at least heard a great deal about him, but his assertion of the single personhood of Gurdjieff-Dorjiev is, as he says, not something he can prove. And this equation our independent sources can disprove, especially now that a number of sources about Dorjiev's last years have been made known to the world at large.

It isn’t even all that clear to me that Gurdjieff unequivocally claimed that he had been in Lhasa or any other part of Tibet proper. What he did claim is that he received ultra-esoteric teachings (that formed the [or a] basis of his own teachings, including the well-known dances) at an almost entirely inaccessible location somewhere in the vicinity of the Pamirs from a group called the Sarmoung Brotherhood. They had yet another ‘sister’ monastery on the northern slopes of the Himalayas called Olman Monastery. I'm not sure if he claimed to go to this Olman Monastery, but even then I am the opposite of clear when it comes to knowing where the “northern slopes of the Himalayas” might be. [3] I’ve seen some say Gurdjieff claimed he had a “Tibetan marriage” and his eldest son became the head of a lamaserie, although I’m not sure how to trace back the authorities for it, or if it’s all that interesting. Is it?

Well, we do all have problems with identity. That much is true and undeniable.

[3] See p. 313 in William James Thompson, J.G. Bennett's Interpretation of the Teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, a Study of Transmission in the Fourth Way, doctoral dissertation, University of Lancaster (1995). The southern slopes of the Himalayas are much more easily located. For all I know the northern slopes of the Himalayas could be all the way up beyond the Kunlun Mountains, somewhere near the palace of the Queen Mother of the West.


Rom Landau, God Is My Adventure: A Book on Modern Mystics Masters and Teachers, Faber and Faber (London 1935, 1941).

Douglas Fairbanks in “The Thief of Bagdad, an Arabian Nights Fantasy,” 1924 movie, its screenplay by Nadir Khan, aka Achmed Abdullah, aka Alexander Nicholayevitch Romanoff, the man who knew how to identify people. Well, I’d say Achmed Abdullah (1881-1945) was a very interesting character in his own right. I think we should take what he said with liberal doses of salt. Name changers see everyone else as name changers, you think maybe? Hollywood people know all there is to know about projection.

In general, I very much admire the acting done on both screen and stage under the directorship of Peter Brook, so if even just for that, I’d much recommend seeing “Meetings with Remarkable Men.” Here you can find what looks like a complete version of the film. Or try here.

And finally, if you are serious about wanting to know something about Dorjiev (1853-1938), I would seriously recommend this and/or the following book or the article by Andreyev. We know how Dorjiev spent the last decades of his life, and No, he did not spend them pretending to be Gurdjieff!

Jampa Samten and Nikolay Tsyrempilov, From Tibet Confidentially: Secret Correspondence of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to Agvan Dorzjiev, 1911-1925, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (Dharamsala 2012).

Alexandre I. Andreyev, An Unknown Russian Memoir by Aagvan Dorjiev, Inner Asia, vol. 3 (2001), pp. 27-39. This has a survey of now-available sources on the life of Dorjiev. Several other works by the same author ought to be listed, if I had more energy, including the book cited in the appendix down below.

For some remarkable historic photographs of the Buddhist temple Dorjiev founded in St. Petersburg, look here. For a sketch of the temple's history, try here.

For the birthplace of Gurdjieff, look here, where it says "Gurdjieff was born in the Armenian city of Alexandropol, which is now called Gyumri." The birthdate would seem to be up in the air.

Appendix: The Death of Dorjiev

Source: Alexandre Andreyev, Soviet Russia and Tibet: The Debacle of Secret Diplomacy, 1918-1930s, Brill (Leiden 2003), p. 361:

  • quote small leftIn January 1937, Dorzhiev, accompanied by his attendant, Lama Dugar Jimbiev, left Leningrad for Buryatia. There he hoped to spend his last days in a solitary retreat as Buddhist monks do, in his house at the medical school of the Atsagat Datsang, near Verkneudinsk. However his hopes were not to be fulfilled. On 13 November the Buryat was arrested in his home and put into prison in Verkheudinsk. He was accused of high treason (spying for Japan), terrorist and subversive activities, preparation of armed rebellion, and several more anti-Soviet crimes. Two weeks later, shortly after his one and only interrogation, Dorzhiev was taken to a hospital ward. There, on January 29, 1938, he died.quote small right

Gurdjieff died during the morning of October 29, 1949, in France. His last words? "Bravo America."

Answer me this: How can two people who are one and the same person die such different deaths?


Layne Negrin – Monday, February 10, 2014
Although identifying Gurdjieff with Dordjieff, Norzunoff, or "Prince Ozay" is erroneous, I've found much evidence suggesting Gurdjieff was in Tibet. My book on the subject will probably take a few more years yet, but I hope to get an article published relatively soon. Best wishes...... Layne

Anonymous – Monday, January 26, 2015
Gurdjieff often used to cook Tibetan meals in his later years and talked to many pupils about his journeys through Tibet. Gurdjieff confessed that he worked as collecter of taxes for the Dalai Lama, in order to gain access to some very secret monasteries in Tibet. Gurdjieff also talked Tibetan, which was reported by pupils.

Dan – Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Dear S.A.,
Thank you for writing. I don't doubt that Gurdjieff told such stories, or that he cooked food he called Tibetan, but what I do wonder about is whether any of his pupils could recognize Tibetan language if they heard it.
Yours, Dan

Anonymous – Friday, February 20, 2015
“Tibet is an example where, ten years ago, all government was in the hands of the monks. But they couldn’t put my ideas into practice, because my teaching was not known to them. My teaching is my own. It combines all the evidence of ancient truth that I collected in my travels with all the knowledge that I have acquired through my own personal work.”
– Gurdjieff quote from Our Life with Mr.Gurdjieff p.182
Tibetan language was taught at the Prieure 1922-24!

Anonymous – Friday, February 20, 2015
“In Tibet he got himself appointed collector of dues from the monasteries for the Dalai Lama, and in this role was able to go into any monastery. He discovered instances of abnormal development, "high elevations", what are called "magic powers", but he says that he found little, apart from something in certain dances and ceremonies, which could be described as objective knowledge. Most of the powers developed by certain monks were diversions from the normal, interesting, but not useful for a method of self-development for people of the Western World, such as he had in mind.”
– A.R. Orage - Commentaries on "Beelzebubs Tales"

Dan – Friday, February 20, 2015
Dear Anon,
I stand corrected, I suppose, although I hope you will forgive me if I tend to scoff at the very idea that a person who spent a year in Tibet could have gained enough knowledge of language, culture and law to be awarded a job as a tax collector for the 13th Dalai Lama. Was it Gurdjieff himself who taught Tibetan at Fontainbleau in the '20's? Or maybe Jacques Bacot came over to help out? I mean, don't you ever get the feeling you might be getting sold a painted sparrow? Why so skeptical of Tibetan wisdom and not the least skeptical of Gurdjieff's travel stories?
Yours, Dan

Dan – Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Dear Anon.,
Don't get me wrong, I'm still trying to learn stuff that might go against my usual ways of thinking. Only recently I found out that one of the most prominent Gurjieffians in the U.S., Paul Anderson (1897-1983) took a group of his students with him to form the core of the Dzogchen Community in Conway Massachusetts in the mid-1980's. Followers of Gurdjieff became followers of Namkhai Norbu. This confirms something I've been thinking for some time now, that those Vajra Dances that seem to be moving to the center of N.N.'s teachings in recent years may owe as much to Gurdjieff's "movements" as to the dream of the Rinpoche. So you could say that Gurdjieff teachings, whatever they may owe to Tibetan inspiration (if you ask me hardly anything), are having an impact on one special stream of Tibetan Buddhism. An interesting matter to contemplate, don't you agree?
Yours, Dan

Was Gurdjieff Irish??  From: eye of the cyclone
Unmistakably Ben Bulben: the Fourth Way in Ireland

Last night a friend lent me an advance copy of a book that is supposed to be published this August in Chicago by Dharma Bums Publishing. It’s called Unmistakably Ben Bulben: the Fourth Way in Ireland and it makes some pretty wild claims. The first part of the book tries to prove that Gurdjieff is really an Irishman by the name of Michael Kiely, from Limerick, who left Ireland at the age of 16 rather than work on the family farm. It also states that Ouspensky left Gurdjieff because he found out the truth, although he never mentioned it for fear of damaging the Work itself.

Apparently, near the end of Ouspensky’s life he told the whole story to one of his students who then told it to Larry O’Nolan, the author of this book. O’Nolan checked what sources he could and then gathered whatever related to both Ireland and the Fourth Way to fill out the book.

He makes much of the episode in In Search of the Miraculous in which Ouspensky meets Gurdjieff’s father and sees a photo of the young Gurdjieff. Ouspensky says that the photo reveals something about the profession Gurdjieff practiced at the time, but Ouspensky decides to keep this to himself. O’Nolan says that Gurdjieff’s Irish origin explains this mystery. O’Nolan produces what he claims is the photo. It shows a young man standing near a horse-drawn cart. The man looks exactly like Gurdjieff with a full head of hair. His very relaxed and strong arm rests on the horse’s neck, and the cart is piled high with peat. In the background is, unmistakably, Ben Bulben. The man identified as Gurdjieff’s father was in reality his first Sufi teacher.

Three Sons: John, James, and Michael (later known as Gurdjieff)

O’Nolan heard the story of Gurdjieff’s flight from Ireland from an old relative still living in the countryside near Limerick. There were three sons born to this farming family: John, James, and Michael (later known as Gurdjieff). One night the father pronounced the destiny of the three boys: John would go to school and become a priest, James was already working at his trade of cabinet maker, and “Michael,” he said, “you shall tend the farm.” The next day the boy was gone. After many travels he ended up in the east where he encountered Sufi and other influences, and the rest is history. (In case you were wondering, John got stuck tending the farm.)

The book goes on to talk about the success and failure of various fourth-way groups, mainly in Dublin. He gives one anecdote I’d never heard – that Gurdjieff sent Orage into Dublin to start a group but then recalled him after a month, saying that he was afraid that Orage would “dissolve” in Dublin.

The book points out Gurdjieff’s Irish traits: his garrulous manner, his love of drink, of long stories and anecdotes, of practical jokes and word play. The book ends by pointing out that Gurdjieff (as Gurdjieff) never set foot in Ireland and always avoided his Irish students for fear of giving himself away.

There has always been some mystery about the origins of Gurdjieff. When I read the above on the World wide Web I felt the time had come to reveal the results of my own researches. The reason I have not done so earlier was a fear that it would merely stimulate unnecessary and irrelevant controversy. As to Gurdjieff’s place of birth, Alexandropol, Allahabad or Ashby de la Zouche, what difference does it make? I do not claim to have proved anything, but nevertheless, the results of my researches open up some intriguing possibilities. I will tell the story as it unfolded itself to me, lest I give an impression of certainty and completeness that the results of my researches do not warrant.

From Mr. Bowen’s Lips

I first heard the name of Gurdjieff during the exceptionally harsh winter of 1947, when I was eight years old. An old friend of my father’s, John Bowen by name, was spending the Christmas holidays with us while on leave from his duties with the Allied Control Commission in Germany. Mr. Bowen, for so I always think of him, was a man of great sweetness of temperament and kindness, and I always looked forward to his visits. Mr. Bowen and my father had met shortly before the First World War, when both were working for Badische Anilin (now known as BASF) at Ludwigshafen. Upon the outbreak of war, my father was arrested as an enemy alien and spent the rest of the war at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians that had been set up on a racecourse just outside Berlin. Mr. Bowen was more fortunate as he was in Budapest at the time. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, being more civilised than the other warring nations, did not intern enemy civilians, but only required them to report at a police station once a week, and not leave the town of their residence without permission. He remained in Budapest after the end of the war as he had married a Hungarian lady, and only left in 1920, on suffering the worst tragedy of his life, the death from influenza of his much beloved wife.

I much enjoyed listening to my father and Mr. Bowen talk, for both had lead unusual and adventurous lives. It was from Mr. Bowen’s lips that I first heard the name of Gurdjieff. I will put what he said as if he were saying it, though of course I do not remember the precise words he used. However, it states all that I learnt from him and does reproduce his style of speaking. &quotIt was only about a day or two after I arrived in Constantinople that I was called in to see some Intelligence chappie. He wanted to know all about Hungary and so forth , and I did my best to oblige him. We hit it off and we spent a lot of time together. He was terribly interested in all that Oriental and Theosophical type of stuff, and he took me along to a number of their meetings. Not really my style, but I suppose I needed a good deal of consolation at the time. We met up again in London, and he was very keen on some Russian fellow called Gurdjieff who had the answer to everything and who had some sort of set up outside Paris. Thought I’d give it a try. By God, what a lot of nonsense! And that Gurdjieff fellow! Had only been there a few days when I accidentally run over his foot with a wheelbarrow. Completely loses his temper and curses me out in the broadest Cockney. Russian indeed! Born within the sound of Bow Bells if anyone ever was. Complete charlatan of course. But he certainly knew how to swear.”

Archives of the Indian Secret Service

I next came into contact with Gurdjieff when I was appointed to a junior position with Structural Communication Systems, a company that Mr. Bennett had just started. He quickly became my teacher as well as employer. I remembered Mr. Bowen, and asked Mr. Bennett if he had met him, relating to him the story I have set down above, omitting Mr. Bowen’s opinion of Gurdjieff. Mr. Bennett indeed remembered him, whereupon I told him that Mr. Bowen was convinced that Mr. Gurdjieff was a Cockney. Mr. Bennett gave me what I can only describe as a look of consternation, and started talking about Tibet, thus successfully distracting my attention. Anybody who knew Mr. Bennett will, I am sure, confirm that if he wanted to distract your attention, he would succeed

After spending a year at Mr.B.’s glorious gulag in the Cotswolds, I returned to India for a short time. While I was there I received permission, for reasons which it would be an unpardonable breach of confidence for me to reveal, to examine the archives of the Indian Secret Service for the years before 1922. I found a number of requests for information from a Captain J.G. Bennett in Constantinople, and two memoranda from him. However, there is no mention of Gurdjieff, and no file on him. All this left me with the impression that something was being concealed, and for good and obvious reasons. At this point I felt as if I had run into a brick wall and was on the point of abandoning my search in the Indian archives, when I discussed my predicament with a senior archivist who had already been of immense help to me. He pointed out that if there were a file on Gurdjieff, it might be under a code name, and also told me that there were certain secret registers which provided the key to this system of code names, the very existence of which he was not supposed to divulge to me, in spite of my having been given special permission to examine files that were then, and are now inaccessible even to professional historians approved by the Government of India. Knowing that my presence in the archives had been approved at the very highest level and also out of a fatherly affection which he had conceived for me, he agreed to see what he could do to make it possible for me to examine these secret registers, provided that I revealed nothing until after his death. This I swore to do, and I have kept my word.

Frederick Dottle

With the invaluable aid of my friend, I examined the register of Russian agents, and the files to which they guided me. I found no mention of a Gurdjieff, and no-one whose description corresponded to him. I was in despair, when my friend asked me why I thought the man I was looking for was a Russian agent. Why not look at the register of British agents? This I did, though in a hopeless mood. There I came across the name of Georgiades. Further search revealed a very thick file on this Georgiades, in which he was described at one point as: &quotFrederick Dottle, a Londoner who for many years has been posing as a Russian subject of Anatolian Greek extraction.” I was overwhelmed by a mixture of relief and excitement. On the very point of giving up, after weeks of nervous strain and physical discomfort, for I had stayed in Delhi through the Hot Weather, I had found what I was looking for! That night I celebrated, and got blind drunk. I woke up with a terrible hangover, and by the time I had recovered from my debauch, the Monsoon had broken. The file on this Georgiades covered the years 1891 to 1907. It ended with a note that henceforth he was to be employed by M.I.6 in London, rather than the Government of India. The picture that emerges from these files is one of a man of infinite resource and fascinating character. At one time he was a starets (a wandering Russian holy man; Rasputin was another), at another a sub-contractor on the Trans-Caspian railway, and a successful and valued agent. His adventures as a British agent merit a book to themselves, and shed a fascinating light on the closing years of the Great Game. His active career came to an end in Tibet, where he was wounded at the time of the Younghusband expedition. He was rescued and brought to India by that same British force, and recovered in a hospital in Darjeeling. At that time there stood to his credit at the Chartered Bank in Calcutta the sum of 14,723 rupees and 9 annas. The last recorded transaction was a substantial withdrawal on January 23, 1906, which left a balance of 108 rupees which stands to his credit to this day.

Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths

On my return to London, I attempted unsuccessfully to gain access to the files of M.I.6, and so I am unable to say anything about his further career as a British agent, or if there was one.

Examination of the Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths in London revealed that a Frederick Dottle had been born in Whitechapel on January 13, 1867. His mother was Margaret Dottle, a barmaid, and the father of the child unknown. Margaret Dottle died on 28 December, 1869, and the boy was admitted to the Stepney workhouse the next day. The life of an orphan in a Victorian was no joke, for harsh conditions were held to be of immense benefit to the poor, not to say the ratepayers. The sufferings of the children and other inmates of the workhouse were all the more as the Warden, a Mr. Aristotle Fringe, was a cruel and vicious man. The young Dottle escaped often, but each time was brought back by the police. His last escape was on March 14, 1879. There was a riot in the workhouse that day, which led to a commission of enquiry being appointed. As a result the warden was dismissed for “excessive cruelty and abominable practices”, to quote the official report. However, young Dottle seems to vanish into thin air. There a no records of arrests, and indeed no record of any kind of his existence in London at all. On June 5, 1879, the unspeakable Mr. Fringe was found with his throat cut at his lodgings at 17 Slime Street, Whitechapel. The culprits were never brought to justice.

At this point the scent appeared to go cold. How could one connect the 12 year old boy Frederick Dottle in London in 1879, with the British agent of the same name in 1891? Was there any connection? Were they the same person? At this point I decided to rely on conjecture, and made the somewhat hackneyed assumption that young Dottle had run away to sea. There followed several months spent finding out which ships were in the Port of London at that time, and in searching for their logs. Eventually I came across the log of the Cruttenden. In it I found the following entry: March !6, 1879. &quotEngaged today a cabin boy, name Frederick Dottle, age thirteen. Strong young fellow and a real cockney imp. A real darkie. Looks like his father was a lascar seaman. We’ll soon lick him into shape.&quotThe Cruttenden was outbound for Constantinople and Batoum, carrying a cargo of machinery. She left London on the morning tide of March 19. She reached Constantinople on 12 April, and left a week later for Batoum. The log records that the cabin boy Frederick Dottle deserted there. Perhaps the licking into shape he was subjected to was not to his taste.

John Gurdjieff

The obvious thing to do was to go to Batoum and examine the archives there. This I did in 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet state made it possible. Fortunately, Batoum has escaped most of the ravages of war that have afflicted Russia, and the archives are reasonably complete. In the police records for 18 April (Old Style) there appears the following entry. &quotArrested: young vagrant, about twelve or thirteen years of age, without papers. Stocky build, dark hair and complexion. Looks Armenian. Does not understand that language or Russian. Speaks English, but gives no name. Possible deserter from an English ship. Ordered to be taken under armed guard to the British Consul for identification. Escapes en route.” I consulted the port records for that day, and found that there were three English ships in the harbour. The Cruttenden and the Olive outbound from London, and the Toutley from Bristol.

It is not impossible that John Georgiades or Gurdjieff, the man known as Gurdjieff’s father would visit Batoum, which is about 150 miles from Kars. I therefore looked for evidence of his presence in Batoum at this time and I found it, though it was of the saddest kind. The records of the Greek Church there show that on 17 April 1879 (O.S.), George, the son of John Georgiades of Kars, age 12, had been buried. The cause of death was given as fever. This is confirmed by the official register of deaths, which gives the date of death as !5 April, and the cause of death typhoid fever. The father is named as John Gurdjieff, a resident of Kars. Perhaps John Gurdjieff had taken his sick son to Batoum in the hope of finding a doctor who could save him.

This, to my mind, is sufficient to demonstrate that the man known to the world as G.I. Gurdjieff, the son of John Gurdjieff or Georgiades of Kars, was somebody else. At this point we have to rely on conjecture. The bereaved father could have run into the fugitive cabin boy Dottle, and taken him back to Kars. They each had something which the other could provide; one needed a son, and the other, at the very least needed someone to help him escape from Batoum. Of course, there is no absolute proof that the father was not another inhabitant of Kars, with the same name as Gurdjieff’s father, and that the boy who died was not likewise. But to continue our conjecture, Frederick Dottle was young enough to have learnt Greek and Armenian, the languages of his new home easily, and at the same time old enough not to have forgotten his mother tongue, English. If we suppose that G.I. Gurdjieff was the adopted and not the natural son of John Gurdjieff, it makes it easier to understand why he seemed to have no native language. He spoke Russian with a thick Caucasian accent, as Ouspensky noted, and J.G. Bennett says of him only that Armenian was the language he was most at home in. His great loyalty to his family is not surprising when one considers that they were the first people to have shown him any affection.

England: the Obvious Place for his Institute

If we make the assumption that the Frederick Dottle who deserted his ship at Batoum in 1879 was the same Frederick Dottle who was a British agent in 1891, and that in the interim he was adopted by John Gurdjieff, this raises another question. Why didn’t the man we know as G.I. Gurdjieff declare himself to be a British subject after he had escaped from Russia? It seems likely that he could have been issued a British passport in Constantinople, thus saving himself and to some extent his followers the problems that arose from being stateless. In 1922, when he was granted permission to reside in England, most of his pupils and supporters, apart from those he had brought from Russia with him, were English, so England would seem to be the obvious place to set up his Institute. There is also the question of whether he remained a British intelligence agent after 1922, and whether this was the reason, or part of it, why he stayed in Paris during the German occupation.

However, it must be remembered that the question of Gurdjieff’s origins is a secondary one at best. It is his work that matters, and nothing that has been written here is relevant to that. One can only surmise that he did not reveal himself as Frederick Dottle on his escape from Russia because of the effect it might have on his loyal Russian followers, and also because it would attract to him a useless sensation that would overshadow his work, and tend to discredit it in the minds of some. It will be interesting to see if anyone feels the same way today.

Peter Roberts.

Meetings with Remarkable Men, Chapter 2 | My Father

From: eye of the cyclone

My father was widely known, during the final decades of the last century and the beginning of this one, as an ashokh, that is, a poet and narrator, under the nickname of ‘Adash’; and although he was not a professional ashokh but only an amateur, he was in his day very popular among the inhabitants of many countries of Transcaucasia and Asia Minor.

Ashokh was the name given everywhere in Asia and the Balkan peninsula to the local bards, who composed, recited or sang poems, songs, legends, folk-tales, and all sorts of stories.

In spite of the fact that these people of the past who devoted themselves to such a career were in most cases illiterate, having not even been to an elementary school in their childhood, they possessed such a memory and such alertness of mind as would now be considered remarkable and even phenomenal.

They not only knew by heart innumerable and often very lengthy narratives and poems, and sang from memory all their various melodies, but when improvising in their own, so to say, subjective way, they hit upon the appropriate rhymes and changes of rhythm for their verses with astounding rapidity.

At the present time men with such abilities are no longer to be found anywhere.

Even when I was very young, it was being said that they were becoming scarcer and scarcer.

I personally saw a number of these ashokhs who were considered famous in those days, and their faces were strongly impressed on my memory.

I happened to see them because my father used to take me as a child to the contests where these poet ashokhs, coming from various countries, such as Persia, Turkey, the Caucasus and even parts of Turkestan, competed before a great throng of people in improvising and singing.

This usually proceeded in the following way:

One of the participants in the contest, chosen by lot, would begin, in singing an improvised melody, to put to his partner some question on a religious or philosophical theme, or on the meaning and origin of some well-known legend, tradition or belief, and the other would reply, also in song, and in his own improvised subjective melody; and these improvised subjective melodies, moreover, had always to correspond in their tonality to the previously produced consonances as well as to what is called by real musical science the ‘ansapalnianly flowing echo’.

All this was sung in verse, chiefly in Turko-Tartar, which was then the accepted common language of the peoples of these localities, who spoke different dialects.

These contests would last weeks and sometimes even months, and would conclude with the award of prizes and presents — provided by the audience and usually consisting of cattle, rugs and so on — to those singers who, according to the general verdict, had most distinguished themselves.

I witnessed three such contests, the first of which took place in Turkey in the town of Van, the second in Azerbaijan in the town of Karabakh, and the third in the small town of Subatan in the region of Kars.

In Alexandropol and Kars, the towns where my family lived during my childhood, my father was often invited to evening gatherings to which many people who knew him came in order to hear his stories and songs.

At these gatherings he would recite one of the many legends or poems he knew, according to the choice of those present, or he would render in song the dialogues between the different characters.

The whole night would sometimes not be long enough for finishing a story and the audience would meet again on the following evening.

On the evenings before Sundays and holidays, when we did not have to get up early the following morning, my father would tell stories to us children, either about ancient great peoples and wonderful men, or about God, nature and mysterious miracles, and he would invariably conclude with some tale from the ‘Thousand and One Nights’, of which he knew so many that he could indeed have told us one whole tale for each of the thousand and one nights.

Among the many strong impressions from these various stories of my father’s, which left their mark on my whole life, there was one that served for me in later years, perhaps no less than five times, as a ‘spiritualizing factor’ enabling me to comprehend the incomprehensible.

This strong impression, which later served for me as a spiritualizing factor, became crystallized in me while, one evening, my father was reciting and singing the legend of the ‘Flood before the Flood’ and there arose between him and a certain friend of his a discussion on this subject.

This took place at the period when, owing to the dictates of life circumstances, my father was compelled to become a professional carpenter.

This friend of his often dropped in to see him at his workshop, and sometimes they would sit all night long pondering on the meaning of the ancient legends and sayings.

His friend was no other than Dean Borsh of Kars Military Cathedral, the man who was soon to become my first tutor, the founder and creator of my present individuality, and, so to say, the ‘third aspect of my inner God’.

On the night when this discussion took place, I too was in the workshop, as well as my uncle, who had come to town that evening from a neighbouring village where he had large market-gardens and vineyards.

My uncle and I sat together quietly on the soft shavings in the corner and listened to the singing of my father, who was chanting the legend of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh and explaining its meaning.

The discussion arose when my father had finished the twenty-first song of the legend, in which a certain Ut-Napishtim relates to Gilgamesh the story of the destruction by flood of the land of Shuruppak.

After this song, when my father paused to fill his pipe, he said that in his opinion the legend of Gilgamesh came from the Sumer-ians, a people more ancient than the Babylonians, and that undoubtedly just this same legend was the origin of the account of the Flood in the Hebrew Bible and served as a basis of the Christian world view; only the names and some details had been changed in certain places.

The father dean began to object, bringing forward many data to the contrary, and the argument became so heated that they even forgot about sending me off to bed as they usually did on such occasions.

And my uncle and I also became so interested in their controversy that, without moving, we lay on the soft shavings until daybreak, when at last my father and his friend ended their discussion and parted.

This twenty-first song was repeated in the course of that night so many times that it was engraved on my memory for life.

In this song it is said:

I will tell thee, Gilgamesh, Of a mournful mystery of the Gods:
How once, having met together,
They resolved to flood the land of Shuruppak. Clear-eyed Ea, saying nothing to his father, Anu,
Nor to the Lord, the great Enlil,
Nor to the spreader of happiness, Nemuru, Nor even to the underworld prince, Enua,
Called to him his son Ubara-Tut;
Said to him: ‘’Build thyself a ship, Take with thee thy near ones,
And what birds and beasts thou wilt;
Irrevocably have the Gods resolved To flood the land of Shuruppak,’

The data formed in me, during my childhood, thanks to the strong impressions I received during this discussion on an abstract theme between these two persons who had lived their lives to old age relatively normally, led to a beneficent result for the formation of my individuality which I first became aware of only much later, namely, just before the general European war; and from then on it began to serve for me as the above-mentioned spiritualizing factor.

The initial shock for my mental and feeling associations, which brought about this awareness, was the following:

One day I read in a certain magazine an article in which it was said that there had been found among the ruins of Babylon some tablets with inscriptions which scholars were certain were no less than four thousand years old.  This magazine also printed the inscriptions and the deciphered text — it was the legend of the hero Gilgamesh.

When I realized that here was that same legend which I had so often heard as a child from my father, and particularly when I read in this text the twenty-first song of the legend in almost the same form of exposition as in the songs and tales of my father, I experienced such an inner excitement that it was as if my whole future destiny depended on all this. And I was struck by the fact, at first inexplicable to me, that this legend had been handed down byashokhs from generation to generation for thousands of years, and yet had reached our day almost unchanged.

After this occurrence, when the beneficent result of the impressions formed in my childhood from the narratives of my father finally became clear to me — a result that crystallized in me a spiritualizing factor enabling me to comprehend that which usually appears incomprehensible — I often regretted having begun too late to give the legends of antiquity the immense significance that I now understand they really have.

There was another legend I had heard from my father, again about the ‘Flood before the Flood’, which after this occurrence also acquired for me a quite particular significance.

In this legend it was said, also in verse, that long, long ago, as far back as seventy generations before the last deluge (and a generation was counted as a hundred years), when there was dry land where now is water and water where now is dry land, there existed on earth a great civilization, the centre of which was the former island Haninn, which was also the centre of the earth itself.

As I elucidated from other historical data, the island of Haninn was approximately where Greece is now situated.

The sole survivors of the earlier deluge were certain brethren of the former Imastun Brotherhood, whose members had constituted a whole caste spread all over the earth, but whose centre had been on this island.

These Imastun brethren were learned men and, among other things, they studied astrology.  Just before the deluge, they were scattered all over the earth for the purpose of observing celestial phenomena from different places.  But however great the distance between them, they maintained constant communication with one another and reported everything to the centre by means of telepathy.

For this, they made use of what are called pythonesses, who served them, as it were, as receiving apparatuses.  These pythonesses, in a trance, unconsciously received and recorded all that was transmitted to them from various places by the Imastuns, writing it down in four different agreed directions according to the direction from which the information reached them. That is to say, they wrote from top to bottom communications coming from localities lying to the east of the island; from right to left those from the south; from bottom to top those which came from the west (from the regions where Atlantis was and where America is now); and from left to right communications transmitted from the place now occupied by Europe.

As I have happened, in the logical course of the exposition of this chapter devoted to the memory of my father, to mention his friend, my first tutor, I Dean Borsh, consider it indispensable to describe a certain procedure established between these two men who had lived normally to old age, and who had taken upon themselves the obligation of preparing me, an unconscious boy, for responsible life and deserve now, by their conscientious and impartial attitude towards me, to represent for my essence ‘two aspects of the divinity of my inner God’.

This procedure, as was evident when I later understood it, was an extremely original means for development of the mind and for self perfecting.

They called it kastonsilia, a term derived, it seems to me, from the ancient Assyrian, and which my father evidently took from some legend.

This procedure was as follows:

One of them would unexpectedly ask the other a question, apparently quite out of place, and the other, without haste, would calmly and seriously reply with logical plausibility.

For instance, one evening when I was in the workshop, my future tutor entered unexpectedly and, as he walked in, asked my father:

‘Where is God just now?’

My father answered most seriously, ‘God is just now in Sari Kamish.’ Sari Kamish is a forest region on the former frontier between Russia and Turkey, where unusually tall pine-trees grow, renowned everywhere in Transcaucasia and Asia Minor.

Receiving this reply from my father, the dean asked, ‘What is God doing there?’

My father answered that God was making double ladders there and on the tops of them he was fastening happiness, so that individual people and whole nations might ascend and descend.

These questions and answers were carried on in a serious and quiet tone — as though one of them were asking the price of potatoes today and the other replying that the potato crop was very poor this year. Only later did I understand what rich thoughts were concealed beneath such questions and answers.

They very often carried on conversations in this same spirit, so that to a stranger it would have seemed that here were two old men out of their senses, who were at large only by mistake instead of being in a mad-house.

Many of these conversations which then seemed to me meaningless grew to have a deep meaning for me later when I came across questions of the same kind, and it was only then that I understood what a tremendous significance these questions and answers had for these two old men.

My father had a very simple, clear and quite definite view on the aim of human life. He told me many times in my youth that the fundamental striving of every man should be to create for himself an inner freedom towards life and to prepare for himself a happy old age. He considered that the indispensability and imperative necessity of this aim in life was so obvious that it ought to be understandable to everyone without any wiseacring. But a man could attain this aim only if, from childhood up to the age of eighteen, he had acquired data for the unwavering fulfilment of the following four commandments:

First — To love one’s parents.

Second — To remain chaste.

Third — To be outwardly courteous to all without distinction, whether they be rich or poor, friends or enemies, power­ possessors or slaves, and to whatever religion they may belong, but inwardly to remain free and never to put much trust in anyone or anything.

Fourth — To love work for work’s sake and not for its gain.

My father, who loved me particularly as his first-born, had a great influence on me.

My personal relationship to him was not as towards a father, but as towards an elder brother; and he, by his constant conversations with me and his extraordinary stories, greatly assisted the arising in me of poetic images and high ideals.

My father came of a Greek family whose ancestors had emigrated from Byzantium, having left their country to escape the persecution by the Turks which followed their conquest of Constantinople.

At first they settled in the heart of Turkey, but later, for certain reasons, among which was the search for more suitable climatic conditions and better pasturage for the herds of domestic cattle forming a part of the enormous riches of my ancestors, they moved to the eastern shores of the Black Sea, to the environs of the town now called Gumush Khaneh.  Still later, not long before the last big Russo-Turkish war, owing to repeated persecutions by the Turks, they moved from there to Georgia.

In Georgia my father separated from his brothers and moved to Armenia, settling in the town of Alexandropol, the name of which had just been changed from the Turkish name of Gumri.

When the family possessions were divided, there fell to my father’s share what was considered, at that time, great riches, including several herds of domestic cattle.

A year or two after he had moved to Armenia, all this wealth that my father had inherited was lost, as a result of a calamity independent of man.

This happened owing to the following circumstances:

When my father settled in Armenia with all his family, his shepherds and his herds, he was the richest cattle owner of the district and the poorer families soon gave into his charge — as was the custom — their own small number of horned and other domestic cattle, in exchange for which they were to receive from him during the season a certain quantity of butter and cheese. But just when his herd had been increased in this way by several thousand head of other people’s cattle, a cattle plague came from Asia and spread all over Transcaucasia.

This mass pestilence among the cattle then raged so violently that in a couple of months or so almost all the animals perished; only an insignificant number survived, and these were merely skin and bones.

As my father, in accepting the care of these cattle, had taken upon himself, as was then also the custom, their insurance against all kinds of accidents — even against their seizure by wolves, which happened rather frequently — he not only lost all his own cattle by this misfortune, but was forced to sell almost all his remaining possessions to pay for the cattle belonging to others.

And in consequence my father, from having been very well off, suddenly found himself a pauper.

Our family then consisted of only six persons, namely, my father, my mother, my grandmother, who had wished to end her days with her youngest son, and three children — myself, my brother and my sister — of whom I was the eldest. I was then about seven years old.

Having lost his fortune, my father had to take up some business, since the maintenance of such a family, and, what is more, a family which until then had been pampered by a life of wealth, cost a good deal. So, having collected the remnants of his former large and grandly maintained household, he began by opening a lumber-yard and with it, according to local custom, a carpenter’s shop for making all kinds of wooden articles.

But from the very first year, owing to the fact that my father had never before in his life been engaged in commerce and had in consequence no business experience, the lumber-yard was a failure.

He was finally compelled to liquidate it and to limit himself to the workshop, specializing in the production of small wooden articles.

This second failure in my father’s affairs occurred in the fourth year after his first big calamity. Our family lived in the town of Alexandropol all this time, which happened to coincide with the period of rapid reconstruction by the Russians of the near-by fortress-town of Kars  which they had taken.

The opening up of good prospects for making money in Kars, and the added persuasions of my uncle, who already had his business there, induced my father to transfer his workshop to Kars. He first went there alone, and later took his whole family.

By this time our family had already increased by three more ‘cosmic apparatuses for the transformation of food’, in the form of my three then really charming sisters.

Having settled in Kars, my father first sent me to the Greek school, but very soon transferred me to the Russian municipal school.

As I was very quick at my studies, I wasted very little time on the preparation of lessons, and in all my spare time I helped my father in his workshop.  Very soon I even began to have my own circle of customers, first among my comrades, for whom I made various things such as guns, pencil-boxes and so on; and later, little by little, I passed on to more serious work, doing all kinds of small repairs in people’s houses.

In spite of the fact that I was then still only a boy, I very well remember this period of our family life down to the smallest detail; and in this setting there stands out in my memory all the grandeur of my father’s calm and the detachment of his inner state in all his external manifestations, throughout the misfortunes which befell him.

I can now say for certain that in spite of his desperate struggle with the misfortunes which poured upon him as though from the horn of plenty, he continued then as before, in all the difficult circumstances of his life, to retain the soul of a true poet.

Hence it was, in my opinion, that during my childhood, in spite of great want, there constantly reigned in our family unusual concord, love and the wish to help one another.

Owing to his inherent capacity for finding inspiration in the beauty of the details of life, my father was for us all, even in the most dismal moments of our family life, a source of courage; and, infecting us all with his freedom from care, he engendered in us the above-mentioned happy impulses.

In writing about my father, I must not pass by in silence his views on what is called the ‘question of the beyond’.  Concerning this he had a very particular and at the same time simple conception.

I remember that, the last time I went to see him, I asked him one of the stereotyped questions by means of which I had carried on, during the last thirty years, a special inquiry or quest in my meetings with remarkable people who had acquired in themselves data for attracting the conscious attention of others. Namely, I asked him, of course with the preliminary preparation which had become customary to me in these cases, to tell me, very simply and without any wiseacring and philosophizing, what personal opinion he had formed during his life about whether man has a soul and whether it is immortal.

‘How shall I put it?’ he answered.  ‘In that soul which a man supposedly has, as people believe, and of which they say that it exists independently after death and transmigrates, I do not believe; and yet, in the course of a man’s life “something” does form itself in him: this is for me beyond all doubt.

‘As I explain it to myself, a man is born with a certain property and, thanks to this property, in the course of his life certain of his experiencings elaborate in him a certain substance, and from this substance there is gradually formed in him “something or other” which can acquire a life almost independent of the physical body.

‘When a man dies, this “something” does not disintegrate at the same time as the physical body, but only much later, after its separation from the physical body.

‘Although this “something” is formed from the same substance as the physical body of a man, it has a much finer materiality and, it must be assumed, a much greater sensitivity towards all kinds of perceptions.

The sensitivity of its perception is in my opinion such as — you remember, when you made that experiment with the half-witted Armenian woman, Sando?’

He had in mind an experiment I had made in his presence many years before, during a visit in Alexandropol, when I brought people of many different types into various degrees of hypnosis, for the purpose of elucidating for myself all the details of the phenomenon which learned hypnotists call the exteriorization of sensitivity or the transference of sensations of pain at a distance.

I proceeded in the following way:

I made from a mixture of clay, wax and very fine shot a figure roughly resembling the medium I intended to bring into the hypnotic state, that is, into that psychic state of man which, in a branch of science which has come down to our day from very ancient times, is called loss of initiative and which, according to the contemporary classification of the School of Nancy, would correspond to the third stage of hypnosis.  I then thoroughly rubbed some part or other of the body of the given medium with an ointment made of a mixture of olive and bamboo oil, then scraped this oil from the body of the medium and applied it to the corresponding part on the figure, and thereupon proceeded to elucidate all the details that interested me in this phenomenon.

What greatly astonished my father at the time was that when I pricked the oiled place on the figure with a needle, the corresponding place on the medium twitched, and when I pricked more deeply a drop of blood appeared on the exactly corresponding place of the medium’s body; and he was particularly amazed by the fact that, after being brought back to the waking state and questioned, the medium remembered nothing about it and insisted that she had felt nothing at all.

And so my father, in whose presence this experiment had been carried out, now said, in referring to it:

‘So, in the same way, this “something”, both before a man’s death and afterwards until its disintegration, reacts to certain surrounding actions and is not free from their influence.’

My father had in connection with my education certain definite, as I have called them, ‘persistent pursuits’.

One of the most striking of these persistent pursuits of his, which later produced in me an indisputably beneficent result, acutely sensed by me and noticeable also to those with whom I came in contact during my wanderings in the various wilds of the earth in the search for truth, was that during my childhood, that is, at the age when there are formed in man the data for the impulses he will have during his responsible life, my father took measures on every suitable occasion so that there should be formed in me, instead of data engendering impulses such as fastidiousness, repulsion, squeamishness, fear, timidity and so on, the data for an attitude of indifference to everything that usually evokes these impulses.

I remember very well how, with this aim in view, he would sometimes slip a frog, a worm, a mouse, or some other animal likely to evoke such impulses, into my bed, and would make me take non-poisonous snakes in my hands and even play with them, and so forth and so on.

Of all these persistent pursuits of his in relation to me, I remember that the one most worrying to the older people round me, for instance my mother, my aunt and our oldest shepherds, was that he always forced me to get up early in the morning, when a child’s sleep is particularly sweet, and go to the fountain and splash myself all over with cold spring water, and afterwards to run about naked; and if I tried to resist he would never yield, and although he was very kind and loved me, he would punish me without mercy.  I often remembered him for this in later years and in these moments thanked him with all my being.

If it had not been for this, I would never have been able to overcome all the obstacles and difficulties that I had to encounter later during my travels.

He himself led an almost pedantically regular life, and was merciless to himself in conforming to this regularity.

For instance, he was accustomed to going to bed early so as to begin early the next morning whatever he had decided upon beforehand, and he made no exception to this even on the night of his daughter’s wedding.

I saw my father for the last time in 1916.  He was then eighty-two years old, still full of health and strength. The few recent grey hairs in his beard were hardly noticeable.

His life ended a year later, but not from natural causes.

This event, sorrowful and grievous for all who knew him, and especially so for me, occurred during the last great periodic human psychosis.

At the time of the Turkish attack on Alexandropol, when the family had to flee, he was unwilling to leave his homestead to the mercy of fate; and while protecting the family property he was wounded by the Turks. He died soon after, and was buried by some old men who had happened to remain there.

The texts of the various legends and songs he had written or dictated, which, in my opinion, would have been his most fitting memorial, were lost — to the misfortune of all thinking people — during the repeated sackings of our house; yet perhaps, by some miracle, a few hundred of the songs he sang, recorded on phonograph rolls, may still be preserved among the things I left in Moscow.

It will be a great pity for those who value the old folklore if these records cannot be found.

The individuality and intellectuality of my father can, in my opinion, be very well pictured in the mind’s eye of the reader if I quote here a few of his many favourite ‘subjective sayings’, which he often used in conversation.

In this connection, it is interesting to remark that I, as well as many others, noticed that when he himself used these sayings in conversation, it always seemed to every hearer that they could not have been more apt or better put, but that if anyone else made use of them, they seemed to be entirely beside the point or improbable nonsense.

Some of these subjective sayings of his were as follows:

Without salt, no sugar.

Ashes come from burning.

The cassock is to hide a fool.

He is deep down, because you are high up.

If the priest goes to the right, then the teacher must without fail turn to the left.

If a man is a coward, it proves he has will.

A man is satisfied not by the quantity of food, but by the absence of greed.

Truth is that from which conscience can be at peace.

No elephant and no horse  even the donkey is mighty.

In the dark a louse is worse than a tiger.

If there is ‘I’ in ones presence, then God and Devil are of no account.
Once you can shoulder it, it’s the lightest thing in the world.

A representation of Hell — a stylish shoe.

Unhappiness on earth is from the wiseacring of women.

He is stupid who is ‘clever’.

Happy is he who sees not his unhappiness.

The teacher is the enlightener, who then is the ass?

Fire heats water, but water puts out fire.

Genghis Khan was great, but our policeman, so please you, is still greater.

If you are first, your wife is second;
if your wife is first, you had better be zero;
Only then will your hens be safe.

If you wish to be rich, make friends with the police.
If you wish to be famous, make friends with the reporters.
If you wish to be full — with your mother-in-law.
If you wish to have peace — with your neighbour.
If you wish to sleep — with your wife.
If you wish to lose your faith — with the priest.

To give a fuller picture of my father’s individuality, I must say something about a tendency of his nature rarely observed in contemporary people, and striking to all who knew him well.  It was chiefly on account of this tendency that from the very beginning, when he became poor and had to go into business, his affairs went so badly that his friends and those who had business dealings with him considered him unpractical and even not clever in this domain.

And indeed, every business that my father carried on for the purpose of making money always went wrong and brought none of the results obtained by others. However, this was not because he was unpractical or lacked mental ability in this field, but only because of this tendency.

This tendency of his nature, apparently acquired by him when still a child, I would define thus: ‘an instinctive aversion to deriving personal advantage for himself from the naivete and bad luck of others’.

In other words, being highly honourable and honest, my father could never consciously build his own welfare on the misfortune of his neighbour.  But most of those round him, being typical contemporary people, took advantage of his honesty and deliberately tried to cheat him, thus unconsciously belittling the significance of that trait in his psyche which conditions the whole of Our Common Father’s commandments for man.

Indeed, there could be ideally applied to my father the following paraphrase of a sentence from sacred writings, which is quoted at the present time by the followers of all religions everywhere, for describing the abnormalities of our daily life and for giving practical advice:

Strike  and you will not be struck.
But if you do not strike  they will beat you to death, like Sidor’s goat.

In spite of the fact that he often happened to find himself in the midst of events beyond the control of man and resulting in all sorts of human calamities, and in spite of almost always encountering dirty manifestations from the people round him — manifestations recalling those of jackals — he did not lose heart, never identified himself with anything, and remained inwardly free and always himself.

The absence in his external life of everything that those round him regarded as advantages did not disturb him inwardly in the least; he was ready to reconcile himself to anything, provided there were only bread and quiet during his established hours for meditation.

What most displeased him was to be disturbed in the evening when he would sit in the open looking at the stars.

I, for my part, can only say now that with my whole being I would desire to be able to be such as I knew him to be in his old age.

Owing to circumstances of my life not dependent on me, I have not personally seen the grave where the body of my dear father lies, and it is unlikely that I will ever be able, in the future, to visit his grave.  I therefore, in concluding this chapter devoted to my father, bid any of my sons, whether by blood or in spirit, to seek out, when he has the possibility, this solitary grave, abandoned by force of circumstances ensuing chiefly from that human scourge called the herd instinct, and there to set up a stone with the inscription:


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Sense and Significance

Sense and Significance

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Who Was Gurdjieff?

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Gurdjieff, Beelzebub, and Zecharia Sitchin

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