George Gurdjieff

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George_Gurdjieff&chld=H_100&junk=junk.png George Gurdjieff Mars symbol.svg
Birth name George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
Name in Armenian Գեորգի Իվանովիչ Գյուրջիև
Birthplace Alexandropol
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Birth date 13 January 1866
Lived in Gyumri, Kars, Tbilisi
Death place Neuilly-sur-Seine
Death date 1949/10/29
Death year 1949
Profession Mystic
Ethnicities Greek, Armenian
Dialects Eastern Armenian
Major works Fourth Way
Spouses Julia Ostrowska

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (January 13 / January 14, 1866? - October 29, 1949), the Greek-Armenian mystic and 'teacher of dancing' born in Alexandropol, Armenia (then of the Russian Empire, now Gyumri, Armenia), traveled to many parts of the world (i.e. Central Asia, Egypt, Rome) before returning to Russia and teaching in Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1913.

In the midst of revolutionary upheaval in Russia he left Petrograd (St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd September 1, 1914) in 1917 to return to his family home in Alexandropol. During the Bolshevik Revolution he set up temporary camps in Essentuki in the Caucasus, then Tuapse, Maikop, Sochi and Poti, all on the Black Sea coast of Southern Russia where he worked intensively with many of his Russian pupils. In mid-January 1919 he and group of his closest pupils moved to Tbilisi remaining there until late May 1920 when political conditions in Georgia deteriorated. Then, by foot, they walked to Batumi on the Black Sea coast embarking for Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) where Gurdjieff rented an apartment on Koumbaradji Street in Péra and later at 13 Abdullatif Yemeneci Sokak near the Galata Tower. The apartment is near the tekke (monastery) of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis (founded by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi) generally known as 'The Whirling Dervishes'.

Gurdjieff left Constantinople in August 1921 traveling on to Western Europe visiting, lecturing and giving demonstrations of his work in various metropolitan centers such as Berlin and London. In October 1922, he established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man south of Paris at the Prieuré des Basses Loges in Fontainebleau-Avon near the famous Château de Fontainebleau. In 1924 he nearly died in a car accident. After his recovery he began writing All and Everything originally written by him in Russian and Armenian.

He stopped writing in 1935 after having completed the first two parts of the trilogy and only having started on the incomplete Third Series which had been published under the title "Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'". Gurdjieff lived in Paris at 6 Rue des Colonels Rénard in Vichy France during World War II where he continued to teach his pupils throughout the war. He died on October 29, 1949 at the American Hospital in Neuilly, France. His funeral was held at the St. Alexandre Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 12 Rue Daru, Paris. He is buried in the cemetery at Fontainebleau-Avon near the grave of Katherine Mansfield.

Timelines, facts and whereabouts regarding his early biography before he appeared in Moscow in 1913 are uncertain, fictionalised or have been deliberately obscured by him, though some believe that his text, Meetings with Remarkable Men, is an accurate account of his early search.

His teaching which conveys ancient truths known to man is best-known through the published works of his students, such as P. D. Ouspensky (author of In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching), Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, among others. His students included Frank Lloyd Wright, Kathryn Hulme, P. L. Travers and Katherine Mansfield. Three books written by Gurdjieff were published after his death: Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, Meetings with Remarkable Men, and Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'. This trilogy is known collectively as All and Everything. A book of his early talks was also collected by one of his students and personal secretary, Olga de Hartmann, and published in 1973 under the title Views from the Real World: Early Talks in Moscow, Essentuki, Tiflis, Berlin, London, Paris, New York and Chicago, as recollected by his pupils. Gurdjieff's teaching has much in common with the teachings of Zen and other Buddhist and Hindu traditions. He called his teaching Esoteric Christianity and borrowed techniques from Eastern Orthodox hesychasm. His ideas center around the struggle of working on oneself for the purpose of becoming more conscious and more in control of the levels of one's being through various attention focusing exercises, meditation activities and movements that may develop into the all-center-awake practice of self-remembering. Many of his ideas and practices find similar expressions within the various schools of Sufism. He taught that the ordinary waking consciousness of human beings is merely a form of sleep and that higher levels of consciousness were possible, namely subjective consciousness and objective consciousness. The development of these levels of consciousness corresponds to the development of higher bodies (i.e. the astral, causal and mental bodies) that could be developed within the physical body in which ordinary consciousness was found. The development of these higher bodies required work on oneself and is not guaranteed.

The feature film Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979) directed by Peter Brook and starring Terence Stamp is based upon the book of the same name and was made under the direction of Jeanne de Salzmann and depicts rare glimpses of sacred dances taught to serious students of his work and known simply as 'the movements'.

A recent film which is the 1st in a trilogy detailing his life and teaching has been released for private distribution by the French Gurdjieff Institute in Paris, and is called "The Seekers of Truth".

His teachings have been called 'The Work' or 'The Fourth Way' which is also the title of a book by P. D. Ouspensky, one of his early pupils. Gurdjieff's teaching methods have been preserved by various groups formed after his death including the Gurdjieff Foundations in New York, Paris, and London established under the direction of Jeanne de Salzmann. Various people who came into brief contact with Gurdjieff formed autonomous organisations bearing his name after his death, but the only groups sanctioned by Madam de Salzman were those established under her direct authority.

She attended to Gurdjieff in his dying days and was his most important pupil for many years from the time he left Russia until his death in 1949. Many Westerners continue to discover Gurdjieff's life and teachings and endeavor to contact individuals and groups under the guidance of those taught by his direct pupils.

This search for a guide in itself requires a critical mind and is no easy matter when one considers the number of organisations that claim to promote Gurdieff's teaching.

A short bibliography

  • Introduction to Gurdjieff's Work
    • Gurdjieff: Anatomy of a Myth A Biography by James Moore (1991, 1999)
    • The Harmonious Circle by James Webb (1980)
    • Gurdjieff: Making a New World by John G. Bennett (1973)
    • The War Against Sleep: The Philosophy of Gurdjieff by Colin Wilson (1980)
  • Works by Gurdjieff
    • Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson by G. I. Gurdjieff (1950) ISBN 0919608124
      • In Russian: ISBN 0919608116
      • Audio recording (in mp3 format) as read by William J. Welch: ISBN 0919608167
    • Meetings with Remarkable Men by G. I. Gurdjieff (1963)
    • Life is only real, then, when "I am" by G. I. Gurdjieff (1974)
    • The Herald of Coming Good by G. I. Gurdjieff (1933, 1971, 1988)
  • The Gurdjieff Teaching
    • In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky (1949)
    • Eating The "I": An Account of The Fourth Way: The Way of Transformation in Ordinary Life by William Patrick Patterson (1992, 1993, 1997)
    • Ladies of the Rope: Gurdjieff's Special Left Bank Women's Group by William Patrick Patterson (1999)
    • Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship by William Patrick Patterson (1996, Second Edition 1998)
    • Taking with the Left Hand: Enneagram Craze, The Fellowship of Friends, and the Mouravieff Phenomenon by William Patrick Patterson (1998)
    • Voices in the Dark: Esoteric, Occult & Secular Voices in Nazi-Occupied Paris 1940-44 by William Patrick Patterson (2001)
    • The Oragean Version by C. Daly King (1951)
    • The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution by P.D. Ouspensky (1978)
    • Toward Awakening by Jean Vaysse (1980)
    • Mount Analogue by René Daumal (1974)
    • Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky by Maurice Nicoll (1952, 1955. 1972, 1980, 6 volumes)
  • Gurdjieff as recounted by his pupils
    • Monsieur Gurdjieff by Louis Pauwels (1954)
    • 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)
    • A Study of Gurdjieff's Teaching by Kenneth Walker (1957)
  • Videos/DVDs about G. I. Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way
    • Gurdjieff's Legacy: Establishing The Teaching in the West, 1924-1949 Part III
    • Gurdjieff's Mission: Introducing The Teaching to the West, 1912-1924 Part II
    • Gurdjieff in Egypt: The Origin of Esoteric Knowledge Part I

External links

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