George Gurdjieff

In 2022/3, BePeriod will be creating a full-length documentary on George Gurdjieff

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George Gurdjieff

In 2022/3, BePeriod will be creating a full-length documentary on George Gurdjieff

Stay Informed
George Gurdjieff
Part I: The Messenger
In 1912, a short and powerfully built man, with a shaved head and a long, black, curled mustache, set foot in a Moscow cafe…
Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Anna Butkovsky-Hewitt

John Godolphine Bennett (Student of Gurdjieff)

John Bennett

[ANNA BUTKOVSKY-HEWITT] “His manner was very calm and relaxed, and he spoke without any gesticulation.”i

[CHARLES NOTT] “He radiated tremendous power and ‘being’ such as I had never in all my travels met in any man.”ii

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Anna Butkovsky-Hewitt

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Charles Nott

[JOHN BENNETT] “His two eyes were so different that I wondered if the light had played some trick on me.”iii

[JEANNE DE SALZMANN] “The first impression was very strong, unforgettable. He had… an intelligence, a force, that was different… You felt he would see you and show you what you were in a way you would never forget in your whole life.”iv

John Godolphine Bennett (Student of Gurdjieff)

John Bennett

Jeanne de Salzmann (Student of Gurdjieff)

Jeanne de Salzmann

[PETER OUSPENSKY] “I saw a man of an oriental type, no longer young… who astonished me first of all because he seemed to be disguised and completely out of keeping with the place and its atmosphere.”v
Peter Demianovich Ouspensky (Student of Gurdjieff)

Peter Ouspensky

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff startled the European intelligentsia with a comprehensive psychological, philosophical, and cosmological teaching of ancient origin. He seemed to be stepping into the 20th century from another era, bringing with him wisdom that had been all but lost in the floods of time.

He soon attracted a crowd of accomplished people, artists, doctors, lawyers, authors, teachers, many of which had been searching for truth and meaning for years. So, from the very beginning it is clear that they could recognize something in him they had each sought, but had not yet found.

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Charles Nott

Jeanne de Salzmann (Student of Gurdjieff)

Jeanne de Salzmann

Peter Demianovich Ouspensky (Student of Gurdjieff)

Peter Ouspensky

GEORGE GURDJIEFF

(1866-1949)

Gurdjieff’s Formative Years

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Biblical Flood

John Godolphine Bennett (Student of Gurdjieff)

Sumerian Flood Tablets

Gurdjieff was born in 1866 in Alexandropol, present day Armenia. His ancestors were shepherds who had immigrated from Capadocia, Turkey. His father lost his flock during a cattle plague, moved eastward, and became a carpenter.

[GURDJIEFF] “My father was widely known as an Ashokh… a local bard who composed, recited or sang poems, songs, legends, folk-tales, and all sorts of stories.”vi

Peter Demianovich Ouspensky (Student of Gurdjieff)

Gurdjieff’s Father Giorgios Giorgiades

The Flood Myth

One of the legends Gurdjieff hears in his childhood from his father is the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is a 4000 year old story which is the precursor for many of the Biblical myths that come later, and with which we are much more familiar.

The Epic of Gilgamesh had been wholly forgotten for centuries, until the mid-nineteenth century, archaeologists excavated tablets with inscriptions in the site of ancient Nineveh, in present day Iraq. When the texts were deciphered a generation later, their discovery attained worldwide fame. Among them was an account of the flood that predated the Biblical story of Noah.

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Sumerian Flood Tablets

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Biblical Flood

This was in the 1870s, and Gurdjieff mentions reading of this discovery in his youth, in a magazine.

[GURDJIEFF] “When I realized that here was that same legend which I had so often heard as a child… 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.”vi

Gurdjieff couldn’t have known the age of his father’s stories as he was hearing them told. Suddenly he realizes that his father has been preserving a very ancient tradition. If shepherds were entrusted with preserving legends for many generations, then which other truths might exist, handed down mysteriously from one age to another, unsuspected by contemporary mankind? We see here the spark that ignites Gurdjieff’s search for truth. He will dedicate the next twenty years to fulfilling this impulse.

Peter Demianovich Ouspensky (Student of Gurdjieff)

Gilgamesh

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Gurdjieff’s Father Giorgios Giorgiades

Jeanne de Salzmann (Student of Gurdjieff)

Gilgamesh

Gurdjieff on Gilgamesh (Seal)

GILGAMESH

𒀭𒉋𒂵𒈩

Gurdjieff’s Search for Truth

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Human as Three-Brained Being

John Godolphine Bennett (Student of Gurdjieff)

Sacrificing Illusion

Middle East, Central Asia, and Far East

[JOHN BENNETT] “When we come to examine the full range of ideas, doctrines, methods and techniques that Gurdjieff brought to the West, we may well doubt if one man could have accomplished so much. He himself tells us that a group effort was responsible.”vii

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Human as Three-Brained Being

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Development From Multiplicity to Unity

At an early age, Gurdjieff undertakes expeditions in search of hidden knowledge. By one account, he groups with 15 to 20 other ‘Seekers of Truth.’ By another, the group comprises three — out of which one is Gurdjieff himself — and these three gradually attract more members. Within the ranks of these ‘Seekers’, Gurdjieff embarks on journeys to the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Far East.

In narrating these travels, Gurdjieff freely bends fact toward myth to convey different principles behind the search itself.

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Sacrificing Illusion

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Struggle Between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’

Principles Behind the Search for Truth

For example, the principle of Payment, that one cannot value knowledge unless one makes effort to obtain it. The principle of Discovery, that the deeper truths about the human being and the world cannot be learned in a classroom, but have to be discovered, the effort of piecing together what one finds itself being the lesson. And the principle of esotericism, that in the broad ocean of the worlds great traditions — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and so forth — there were always small pockets of people who held the keys to the truth.

[GURDJIEFF] “The theory of esotericism is that mankind consists of two circles: a large, outer circle, embracing all human beings, and a small circle of instructed and understanding people at the center. Real instruction, which alone can change us, can only come from this center.”viii

The Seekers of Truth gradually narrow down their search to this inner circle in the form of an ancient Babylonian brotherhood named Sarmoung. Gurdjieff is eventually admitted to the chief monastery of the brotherhood, where we are led to understand that he receives answers to his deepest questions and concludes his search.

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Development From Multiplicity to Unity

Jeanne de Salzmann (Student of Gurdjieff)

Struggle Between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’

GURDJIEFF’S SEARCH

(1890?-1910)

Gurdjieff Begins Teaching in the West

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Helena Blavatsky

John Godolphine Bennett (Student of Gurdjieff)

Olga de Hartmann

When Gurdjieff arrives in Russia, the idea of esotericism is not new. A generation before him, Helena Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophy, has already promoted the idea of an inner circle that she had contacted in Tibet.
Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Helena Blavatsky

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Circles of Humanity

So that mysterious man stepping into a cafe in Moscow was arriving at an opportune time. On the one hand, notions of an Inner Circle of Humanity were already circulating within the intelligentsia, and on the other hand, soon after his arrival, the world would undergo half a century of devastation that would effectively destroy any contemporary relics of ancient knowledge, rendering a man who had methodically gathered them an exclusive distributor.

He imported so many ideas never heard before in the mystical mainstream of the Western World. Ideas about the structure of the human being, about our state of ‘sleep,’ our possibility of awakening, and our place in the greater scheme of the universe.

[PETER OUSPENSKY] “Many things which Gurdjieff said astonished me… I was most of all interested in the connectedness of everything he said. I already felt that his ideas were not detached one from another, as all philosophical and scientific ideas are, but made one whole, of which, as yet, I saw only some of the pieces.”v

[THOMAS DE HARTMANN] “The wish to be with Mr Gurdjieff now became the only reality. Ordinary life, which had been reality, continued, but it seemed almost unreal… My life became a sort of fairy-tale.”ix

Anna Butkovsky Hewitt (Student of Gurdjieff)

Olga de Hartmann

Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Thomas de Hartmann

[CHARLES NOTT] “‘This,’ I felt, ‘is what I have always been searching for. Here is what I went to the ends of the earth to find. Here is the end of my search!’ It was a clear conviction, without a particle of doubt…”ii

[PETER OUSPENSKY] “I thought about that in the night train, on the way from Moscow to Petersburg. I asked myself whether I had indeed found what I was looking for. Was it possible that Gurdjieff actually knew what had to be known in order to proceed from words or ideas to deeds, to “facts”? I was still not certain of anything, nor could I formulate anything precisely. But I had an inner conviction that something had already changed for me and that now everything would go differently.”v

[OLGA DE HARTMANN] “Mr Gurdjieff was an unknown person, a mystery. Nobody knew about his teaching, nobody knew his origin or why he appeared in Moscow and St Petersburg. But whoever came in contact with him wished to follow him, and so did [my husband Thomas] and I.”ix

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Sources

  1. With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris by Anna Butkovsky-Hewitt
  2. Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Pupil’s Journal by Charles Stanley Nott
  3. Witness by John Godolphin Bennett
  4. The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff by Jeanne de Salzmann
  5. In Search of the Miraculous by Peter Deminaovich Ouspensky
  6. Meetings with Remarkable Men by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
  7. Gurdjieff: Making a New World by John Godolphin Bennett
  8. Views from the Real World by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
  9. Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff by Thomas and Olga de Hartmann
Charles Stanley Nott (Student of Gurdjieff)

Circles of Humanity

Jeanne de Salzmann (Student of Gurdjieff)

Thomas de Hartmann

Stay Informed
Stay Informed
Continue Reading:
Gurdjieff on the Three Brains
Part II:
Teaching
Gurdjieff on the Three Brains
Part III:
School
Gurdjieff on Struggle
Part IV:
Initiation
Esotericism shown in a Tibetan Mandala
Part V:
Fourth Way