George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (Георгий Иванович Гюрджиев, Georgiy Ivanovich Gyurdzhiev (or Gurdjiev); (January 13, 1866? – October 29, 1949), was an Armenian-Greek mystic, a teacher of sacred dances, and a spiritual teacher. He is most notable for introducing what some refer to as "The Work," connoting work on oneself according to Gurdjieff's principles and instructions, or as he first referred to it, the Fourth Way.
At different times in his life he formed and liquidated various schools around the world to utilize his teachings. He claimed that the teachings he brought to the West from his own experiences and early travels expressed the truth found in other ancient religions and wisdom teachings relating to self-awareness in one's daily life and humanity's place in the universe.
His teachings might be summed up by the title of his third series of writings: Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am', while his complete series of books is entitled "All and Everything".
2.1 Self-development teachings
2.2.3 Group Work
3 Reception and Influence
5.1 Works written by Gurdjieff
5.2 Books about G. I. Gurdjieff and The Fourth Way
5.3 Comprehensive biographies
5.4 Videos/DVDs about G. I. Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way
6 See also
8 External links
Gurdjieff's biography is practically unknown until 1912 relying completely on what he himself said. From 1913 to 1949 the chronology appears to stand on the much firmer ground afforded by primary documents, independent witness, cross-reference, and reasonable inference.
Gurdjieff was born in Alexandropol (now Gyumri), Armenia. The exact date is unknown (anything ranging from 1866 to 1877 has been offered), but many authors argue persuasively for 1866 even though his passport states that he was born on November 28, 1877. Gurdjieff grew up in Kars and traveled to many parts of the world (such as Central Asia, Egypt, Rome) before returning to Russia in 1912.
The only account of Gurdjieff's early biography before he appeared in Moscow in 1912 can be found in his text Meetings with Remarkable Men. This text, however, cannot be read as straightforward autobiography.
On New Year's Day of 1912, Gurdjieff arrived in Moscow and attracted his first associates. In the same year he married Julia Ostrowska in St Petersburg. In 1914 Gurdjieff first advertised his ballet, "The Struggle of the Magicians," as well as supervised his pupils' writing of the sketch "Glimpses of Truth." In 1915 Gurdjieff accepted P. D. Ouspensky as a pupil, while in 1916 he accepted the composer Thomas de Hartmann and his wife Olga as students. At this time he had around thirty pupils.
In the midst of revolutionary upheaval in Russia he left Petrograd in 1917 to return to his family home in Alexandropol. During the Bolshevik Revolution Gurdjieff set up temporary study communities in Essentuki in the Caucasus, then Tuapse, Maikop, Sochi and Poti, all on trting in 1929, Gurdjieff made visits to North America where he took over as the teacher of pupils who were at that time being taught by A.R. Orage.
In 1935 Gurdjieff stopped writing All and Everything, having completed the first two parts of the trilogy and only having started on the Third Series (published under the title Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am').
In Paris, Gurdjieff lived at 6 Rue des Colonels-Rénard, where he continued to teach throughout World War II.
Gurdjieff died on October 29, 1949 at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, 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.
Gurdjieff claimed that people do not perceive reality, as they are not conscious of themselves, but live in a state of hypnotic "waking sleep."
"Man lives his life in sleep, and in sleep he dies". Gurdjieff taught that each person perceived things from a completely subjective perspective and stated that wars could not possibly take place if people were more spiritually awake. He asserted that people in their typical state were unconscious automatons, but that it was possible for a man to wake up and experience life more fully.
Main article Fourth Way
In his early lectures G.I. Gurdjieff described his approach to self-development as a Fourth Way.In contrast to the three eastern teachings that emphasize the development of the body, mind, or the emotions separately, Gurdjieff's exercises worked on all three at the same time to promote comprehensive and balanced inner development. Today, Gurdjieff's teachings are also sometimes referred to as "The Work", "The Gurdjieff Work", "Work on oneself" or simply the "Work". Though Gurdjieff never put major significance on the term "Fourth Way" and never used the term in his writings, his pupil P.D. Ouspensky made the term and its use central to his own interpretation of Gurdjieff's teaching. After Ouspensky's death, his students published a book with that name, based on his lectures.
Gurdjieff's teaching mainly addressed the question of people's place in the universe and their possibilities for inner development. He taught that higher levels of consciousness, higher bodies,and inner growth and development is possible.
In his teaching Gurdjieff gave a distinct meaning to various ancient texts such as "Know Thyself" and to parables found in the Bible. He claimed that those texts possess a very different meaning in addition to those commonly attributed to them. "Sleep not"; "Awake, for you know not the hour"; "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within"...are examples of biblical statements that point to a psychological teaching whose essence has been forgotten.
Gurdjieff taught people how to increase and focus their attention and energy in various ways, and to minimize daydreaming and absentmindedness. According to his teaching, this inner development in oneself is the beginning of a possible further process of change, whose aim is to transform a man into what Gurdjieff believed he ought to be: A creature made in the image of God who could manifest poperties of a divine nature.
Distrusting "morality," which he describes as varying from culture to culture, often contradictory and superficial, he greatly stressed the importance of conscience. This he regarded as the same in all people, buried in people's subconsciousness, thus both sheltered from damage by how people live, and inaccessible without "work on oneself.".
To provide conditions in which inner attention could be exercised more intensively, Gurdjieff also taught his pupils "sacred dances" or "movements" which they performed together as a group, and he left a body of music inspired by what he heard in visits to remote monasteries and other places, which was written for piano in collaboration with one of his pupils, Thomas de Hartmann. Gurdjieff also used various exercises, such as the "Stop" exercise, to prompt self-observation in his students. Other shocks to help awaken his pupils from constant day-dreaming were always possible at any moment, whether seated around his dinner table, or while accompanying him on car trips to places in France.
Gurdjieff transmitted his ideas through a number of different methods and materials, including meetings, music, movements (sacred dance), writings, lectures, and innovative forms of group work. He was not consistent in his use of these materials through his lifetime; for example, six years in Paris were devoted primarily to writing, while composition of music and movement centered around a few distinct periods. In Russia he was described as keeping his teaching confined to a small circle, , while in Paris and North America he gave numerous public demonstrations.
The Gurdjieff music divides into three distinct periods. The first period is the early music, including music from the ballet Struggle of the Magicians and music for early Movements, dating to the years around 1918.
The second period music, for which he is best known, written in collaboration with Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, is described as the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music. Dating to the mid 1920s, it offers a rich repertory with roots in Caucasian and Central Asian folk and religious music, Russian Orthodox liturgical music, and other sources. This music was often first heard, and even composed, in the salon at the Prieure. Since the publication of four volumes of this piano repertory by Schott, recently completed, there has been a wealth of new recordings, including orchestral versions of music prepared by Gurdjieff and de Hartmann for the Movements demonstrations of 1923-24.
The last musical period is the improvised harmonium music which often followed the dinners Gurdjieff held in his Paris apartment during the Occupation and immediate post-war years, to his death in 1949. A virtually encyclopedic recording of surviving tapes of Gurdjieff improvising on the harmonium was recently published.
In all, Gurdjieff in collaboration with de Hartmann composed some 200 pieces.
Movements, or sacred dances, constitute an integral part of the Gurdjieff Work. Gurdjieff sometimes referred to himself as a "teacher of dancing," and gained initial public notice for his attempts to put on a ballet in Moscow called "Struggle of the Magicians."
Films of Movements demonstrations are occasionally shown for private viewing by the Gurdjieff Foundations, and one is shown in a scene in the Peter Brook movie Meetings with Remarkable Men.
Gurdjieff encouraged people to work together in addition to practising alone, if only to enable a person to see more sides of himself than would otherwise be possible, and therefore he created innovative ways for individuals to come together to pursue his work. Students regularly met with group leaders in group meetings, and groups of students came together where members could discuss and share their difficulties and experiences of trying to become more aware of themselves in their daily lives, or indeed to exchange on any difficulties that they faced.
Groups continue today to be organised by people who have received the teaching from Madame de Salzmann, Gurdjieff's primary pupil who oversaw the continuation of his teaching after his death, while other groups have been set up in Gurdjieff's name by people who have only received a theoretical knowledge derived from books.
Gurdjieff student William Segal recounts periods of hard labor "around the clock" in his autobiography A Voice at the Borders of Silence . Gurdjieff's student John Pentland connects the Gurdjieff group work with the later rise of encounter groups. Groups also often met to prepare for demonstrations or performances to which the public was invited.
Gurdjieff wrote and approved for publication three volumes of his written work under the title All and Everything. The first volume, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, is a lengthy allegorical work that recounts the explanations of Beelzebub to his grandson concerning the beings of the planet Earth. Intended to be a teaching tool for his teachings, Gurdjieff had gone to great lengths in order to increase the effort needed to read and understand the book. The second volume, Meetings with Remarkable Men, was written in a very easily understood manner, and purports to be an autobiography of his early years, but which also contains many allegorical statements. His final unfinished volume, Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am', contains a fragment of an autobiographical description of later years, as well as transcripts of some lectures.
Reception and Influence
Opinions on Gurdjieff's writings and activities are divided. Sympathizers regard him as a charismatic master who brought new knowledge into Western culture, a psychology and cosmology that enable insights beyond those provided by established science. Critics assert he was simply a charlatan with a large ego and a constant need for self-glorification.
Gurdjieff had a strong influence on many modern mystics, artists, writers, and thinkers, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Keith Jarrett, Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Fripp, Jacob Needleman, John Shirley, Peter Brook, P. L. Travers, Robert S de Ropp, Walter Inglis Anderson, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Louis Pauwels and James Moore. Gurdjieff's notable personal students include Jeanne de Salzmann, Willem Nyland, Lord Pentland (Henry John Sinclair), P. D. Ouspensky, Olga de Hartmann, Thomas de Hartmann, Jane Heap, John G. Bennett, Alfred Richard Orage, Maurice Nicoll, George and Helen Adie and Katherine Mansfield.
However one regards Gurdjieff's teaching or his personality, he undoubtedly introduced esoteric ideas into Western society which were previously unknown, or which had been forgotten by western culture. Aside from the central axiom that 'man is asleep', Gurdjieff illustrated his teaching of Man's place in the Cosmos with diagrams, and also a symbol[enneagram]]that he had discovered and had passed on to his students in the course of the exposition of his teaching. The enneagram and many aspects of his teaching have been adopted by others for 'New Age' personality cults, as for example the Enneagram of Personality, which was developed by Oscar Ichazo but which is not related to Gurdjieff's teaching or his explanations of the enneagram.
Gurdjieff had influenced the formation of many groups after his death, all of which still function today and follow his ideas.
The Gurdjieff Foundation, the largest organization directly linked to Mr. Gurdjieff, was organized by Jeanne de Salzmann during the early 1950s, and led by her in cooperation with other direct pupils. The main three branches of the Foundation are The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, The London-based Gurdjieff Society, the Institut Gurdjieff (Paris), and the network of foundations in South America founded by the late Natalie de Etievan, daughter of Jeanne de Salzmann. Connected to these four foundations are numerous smaller groups around the world, collected under the umbrella of the International Association of Gurdjieff Foundations. The president of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York was Lord Pentland, who retained this position until his death.
There are also other groups formed by one or another of Gurdjieff's pupils. Willem Nyland, one of Gurdjieff's closest students and an original founder and trustee of The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, left to form his own groups in the early 1960s. Jane Heap was sent to London by Gurdjieff, where she led groups until her death in 1964. Louise Goepfert March, who became a pupil of Gurdjieff's in 1929, started her own groups in 1957 and founded the Rochester Folk Art Guild in the Finger Lakes region of New York State; her efforts were closely linked to the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. There are also independent groups which were formed and led by John G. Bennett.
There are also third-generation independent groups today such as those of William Patrick Patterson (student of Lord Pentland).
Currently, Gurdjieff's influence has expanded to variants with no relationship to him or his teaching apart from the use of his name.
Criticism of Gurdjieff's system largely focuses on his insistence that people are "asleep" in a state closely resembling "hypnotic sleep". Gurdjieff said, even specifically at times, that a pious, good, and moral man was no more "spiritually developed" than any other person; they are all equally "asleep".
The primary criticism of Gurdjieff's work is that it attaches no value to almost everything that comprises the life of an average man. According to Gurdjieff, everything an "average man" possesses, accomplishes, does, and feels is completely accidental and without any initiative.
Note that "average man" here encompasses everyone who has not made distinct and purposeful attempts at spiritual development. Someone who goes to church on Sunday almost certainly falls under Gurdjieff's category of "average man," as would almost all atheists, agnostics, and similar people. Gurdjieff called adherents of Buddhism lopsided buddhists, because they overtly developed the emotional centre, neglecting the intellectual and physical centre as in Gudjieff's teachings. These claims by Gurdjieff have been interpreted by many to be a total disregard for the value of mainstream religion, philanthropic work, and the value of doing right or wrong in general.
Gurdjieff's detractors, despite his seeming total lack of pretension to any kind of orthodox "guru holiness," argue that the many anecdotes of his sometimes unconventional behavior displayed an unsavory and highly impure character of a man who was simply a brazen and cynical manipulator of his followers.
However, Gurdjieff placed great importance on the need to help one's neighbour and of the 'Obyvatel' - the ordinary householder. Gurdjieff said: "intellectuals very often look down on the obyvatel and despise their virtues, but they only show by this their own unsuitability for any teaching whatsoever." (Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous p 263).
Gurdjieff is best known through the published works of his pupils. His one-time student P. D. Ouspensky wrote In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, which some regard as a crucial introduction to the teaching. Others refer to Gurdjieff's own books (detailed below) as the primary texts.
Accounts of time spent with Gurdjieff have been published by A. R. Orage, Charles Stanley Nott, Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, Fritz Peters, René Daumal, John G. Bennett, Maurice Nicoll, Margaret Anderson, and Louis Pauwels, among others. Many others were drawn to his 'ideas table': Frank Lloyd Wright, Kathryn Hulme, P. L. Travers, Katherine Mansfield, and Jean Toomer.
Three books 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 Gurdjieff's legominism, known collectively as All and Everything. A legominism is, according to Gurdjieff, "one of the means of transmitting information about certain events of long-past ages through initiates." A book of his early talks was also collected by his student and personal secretary, Olga de Hartmann, and published in 1973 as Views from the Real World: Early Talks in Moscow, Essentuki, Tiflis, Berlin, London, Paris, New York, and Chicago, as recollected by his pupils.
The feature film Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979), based on Gurdjieff's book by the same name, depicts rare performances of the sacred dances taught to serious students of his work, known simply as the movements. The film was written by Jeanne de Salzmann and Peter Brook, directed by Brook, and stars Dragan Maksimovic and Terence Stamp.
Works written by Gurdjieff
All and Everything trilogy:
Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson by G. I. Gurdjieff (1950)
Meetings with Remarkable Men by G. I. Gurdjieff (1963)
Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am' by G. I. Gurdjieff (1974)
Views from the Real World gathered talks of G. I. Gurdjieff by his pupil Olga de Hartmann(1973)
The Herald of Coming Good by G. I. Gurdjieff (1933, 1971, 1988)
Books about G. I. Gurdjieff and The Fourth Way
The Unknowable Gurdjieff, Margaret Anderson, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1962, ISBN 0-7100-7656-8
Gurdjieff: A Very Great Enigma by J. G. Bennett, 1969
Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J. G. Bennett 1973, ISBN 0-06-090474-7
Idiots in Paris by J. G. Bennett and E. Bennett, 1980
Becoming Conscious with G.I. Gurdjieff, Solanges Claustres, Eureka Editions, 2005
Mount Analogue by René Daumal 1st edition in French, 1952; English, 1974
Gurdjieff Unveiled by Seymour Ginsburg, 2005
Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff by Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, 1964, Revised 1983 and 1992
Undiscovered Country by Kathryn Hulme, 1966
The Oragean Version by C. Daly King, 1951
The Gurdjieff Years 1929-1949: Recollections of Louise March by Annabeth McCorkle
Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky by Maurice Nicoll, 1952, 1955, 1972, 1980, (6 volumes)
Teachings of Gurdjieff - The Journey of a Pupil by C. S. Nott, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1961
On Love by A. R. Orage, 1974
Psychological Exercises by A. R. Orage 1976
In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky, 1949 (numerous editions)
The Fourth Way by P. D. Ouspensky, 1957
The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution by P. D. Ouspensky, 1978
Eating The "I": An Account of The Fourth Way: The Way of Transformation in Ordinary Life, William Patrick Patterson, 1992
Ladies of the Rope: Gurdjieff's Special Left Bank Women's Group, William Patrick Patterson 1999
Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship, William Patrick Patterson 1996
Taking with the Left Hand: Enneagram Craze, The Fellowship of Friends, and the Mouravieff Phenomenon, William Patrick Patterson, 1998
Voices in the Dark: Esoteric, Occult & Secular Voices in Nazi-Occupied Paris 1940-44, William Patrick Patterson, 2001
Boyhood with Gurdjieff by Fritz Peters, 1964
Gurdjieff Remembered by Fritz Peters, 1965
The Gurdjieff Work by Kathleen Speeth ISBN 0-87477-492-6
Gurdjieff: A Master in Life, Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch, Dolmen Meadow Editions, Toronto, 2006
Toward Awakening by Jean Vaysse, 1980
Gurdjieff: An Approach to his Ideas, Michel Waldberg, 1981, ISBN 0-7100-0811-2
A Study of Gurdjieff's Teaching, Kenneth Walker, 1957
Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, Sophia Wellbeloved, Routledge, London and N.Y., 2003, ISBN 0-415-24898-1
Gurdjieff, Astrology and Beelzebub's Tales, Sophia Wellbeloved, Solar Bound Press, N.Y., 2002
The War Against Sleep: The Philosophy of Gurdjieff, Colin Wilson, 1980
Who Are You Monsieur Gurdjieff?, René Zuber 1980
Monsieur Gurdjieff, Louis Pauwels, France, 1954. 
The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers by James Webb, 1980, Putnam Publishing. ISBN 0-399-11465-3
Gurdjieff: The anatomy of a Myth by James Moore, 1991, ISBN 1-86204-606-9
Gurdjieff: An Introduction To His Life and Ideas by John Shirley, 2004, ISBN 1-58542-287-8
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
Meetings with Remarkable Men, Peter Brook, 1979
Tribute to G. I. Gurdjieff
Some moments with Mr. Gurdjieff and others, France 1949
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