False Prophets Part II







Bertrand Russell on Immortality, Why Religion Exists, and What “The Good Life” Really Means


“In human affairs, we can see that there are forces making for happiness, and forces making for misery. We do not know which will prevail, but to act wisely we must be aware of both.”







301 Amazing Stories and How Not to be Fooled © 1993
By Kathryn Lindskoog


Nearly everyone is deceived at one time or another. “Fakes, Frauds & Other Malarkey” is a good-natured yet passionate analysis of deception–from its innocent roots in imaginative play to the poison fruit of the cruelest scams. It offers hilarious and heartbreaking glimpses into the schemes of hoaxers in the fields of art, literature, science, medicine, exploration, education, finance and religion. This book offers special insights into the nature of spiritual fraud in history and in modern America.





Crimes of the Soul, article by Jill Neimark, published on March 1, 1998


Discusses the ties that bind gurus and their followers.


One of the deeper ironies of a life committed to a spiritual teacher is that, though you may flee ten thousand attachments, you end up surrendering your entire existence to a single man or woman.  In the most extreme cases, that surrender leads to absolute powerlessness and death. “There isn’t any power more absolute than the power of a `spiritually enlightened’ human being over his disciples,” points out Joel Kramer, co-author with his wife, Diana Alstad, of The Guru Papers. “That is as absolute as you can get on a psychological level.” To Kramer and Alstad, gurus preach freedom but wear the mask of authoritarian power. “Gurus are actually a metaphor,” says Kramer, “for any human being or system that establishes itself as fundamentally unchallengeable, presuming to know what’s best for others. And that kind of authoritarianism is everywhere in our society.”


Yet if gurus are contradictory straw men dancing to our own epic tale of good and evil, freedom and punishment, selfishness and surrender, it’s because we are contradictory, too. As Eugene Taylor puts it: “The power, danger, and possibility of gurus lies in our projection. A simple human being can inspire you to spiritual ecstasy because of what you believe him to be. Or you can end up totally bamboozled.” We have met the guru, and he is us.


Just who is that, anyway?


“It’s anybody who has ever been vulnerable, lonely, and searching,” says New York psychotherapist Daniel Shaw, CSW.  “For me, following a guru was a way of relieving all my depression and emptiness.”






Cults and Deteriorated Spiritual Teachings


            ‘Counterfeit gold exists only because
             there is such a thing as real gold’  Rumi


   In many countries in the contemporary world, especially in the West, there are representatives of virtually every religion, spiritual teaching, cult and metaphysical system in existence. How can the earnest spiritual seeker distinguish between an authentic teaching and a cult, between a real and a false spiritual teacher? What are the salient characteristics of a genuine spiritual group or organization and what are the warning signs for detecting a spurious or misguided one? Psychiatrist Arthur Deikman provides a succinct working definition of a cult:


    The word cult refers to a group led by a charismatic leader
    who has spiritual, therapeutic or messianic pretensions,
    and indoctrinates the members with his or her idiosyncratic
    beliefs. Typically, members are dependent on the group for
    their emotional and financial needs and have broken off ties
    with those outside. The more complete the dependency and
    the more rigid the barriers separating members from
    non-believers, the more danger the cult will exploit and
    harm its members. (1)









Forest Temple of Hard Work
and Rough Food.


by E. C. Bowyer



Journalist E. C. Bowyer spent a week visiting Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Fontainebleau France, five months after it opened. He begins with an account of the Study House and the student’s spartan daily life. Bowyer interviews his guide, A. R. Orage and describes the various stages of instruction at the Institute, the participation of children, the practice of movements, and the occasional feasts enjoyed by everyone. Returning to London, Bowyer interviewed P. D. Ouspensky. His reports were serialised on front pages of the Daily News (London) 15-19 February, 1923. The word ‘cult’ did not then have a pejorative connotation.  J. W. D.





In the following article a Special Correspondent of the Daily News reveals some of the leading facts relating to a remarkable new cult which has attracted to itself many Englishmen and Englishwomen bearing well-known and even famous names. The leader of the movement is Gurdjieff, an Eastern philosopher-mystic, and the article describes the “Study House” in the historic Forest of Fontainebleau, some 40 miles from Paris, where his disciples follow a course of hard work and harder fare.


Daily News Editor


bowyer new-cult




The Forest Philosophers


C. E. Bechhofer Roberts



Carl Eric Bechhofer Roberts first met Gurdjieff in Tiflis in 1919 and visited Gurdjieff’s Institute several times but “preferred to remain an intimate and disinterested spectator.” The English spelling Gurdjieff / Gurdjiev was not yet fixed.  J. W. D.



Of all the mystics who have become prominent in Europe during the last twelve years or so, and especially since the war, when their numbers have been doubled, I cannot recall that any has attracted so much interest in so short a time as George Ivanovitch Gurdjiev, the founder of the “Institute for the Harmonic Development of Man” at Fountainebleau, near Paris . . . I shall endeavour to set down here the main theories that underlie Gurdjiev’s methods and the form they take in practice. 


roberts forest-philosophers



A Visit to Gourdyev


Denis Saurat


Professor Saurat visited the Prieurè for a weekend in February 1923. He describes contradictory impressions of Gurdjieff who appears alternately contemptuous, provocative, irritable then finally serious and “extraordinarily courteous.” This skeptical article stimulated discussion about Gurdjieff among French intellectuals and journalists. Saurat eventually revised his opinion of Gurdjieff and came to recognize Beelzebub’s Tales as a major work. The English spelling of Gurdjieff’s name was not yet fixed and is here given as ‘Gourdyev’ in keeping with the Russian pronunciation.


Saturday morning, February 17th 1923. The Fontainebleau station.
    Orage comes to meet me when I arrive by train from Paris. Orage is a big Yorkshireman of vague French descent; hence his name is taken from the French word for storm. For fifteen years he has been a power in English literary circles. He owned a half-literary, half-political weekly review, the New Age, which was the most lively intellectual organ in England between 1910 and 1914.
    Orage might have been the greatest critic in English literature, which has produced few critics, and which is dying of that lack, though it revives every time a writer of genius emerges and joins a great tradition. But Orage sold the New Age and went to Fontainebleau: literature interested him no more.
    I am surprised at his appearance. . .


P. 7   
    The disciples add that [Gourdyev] has defined himself as a disseminator of solar energy, which they pretend not to understand.
    Is there a God? I ask.
    ‘Yes and Gourdyev is in communication with Him. Almost like an independent, obstinate minister with his king.’  Women, they say, have no real possibility of acquiring a soul except by contact and sexual union with men.

saurat visit to gourdyev



From gurdjieff-bibliography.com/Current/index.




I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.


• Susan B. Anthony, in an address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1896)






Colin Wilson writes about “…Gurdjieff’s reputation for seducing his female students. (In Providence, Rhode Island, in 1960, a man was pointed out to me as being one of Gurdjieff’s illegitimate children. The professor who told me this also assured me that Gurdjieff had left many children around America).”


In the early 1930s, Gurdjieff publicly ridiculed one of his pupils, Alfred Richard Orage. In response, his wife Jessie Dwight wrote the following poem about Gurdjieff:


    He calls himself, deluded man,
    The Tiger of The Turkestan.
    And greater he than God or Devil
    Eschewing good and preaching evil.
    His followers whom he does glut on
    Are for him naught but wool and mutton,
    And still they come and sit agape
    With Tiger’s rage and Tiger’s rape.
    Why not, they say, The man’s a god;
    We have it on the sacred word.
    His book will set the world on fire.
    He says so – can God be a liar?
    But what is woman, says Gurdjieff,
    Just nothing but man’s handkerchief.
    I need a new one every day,
    Let others for the washing pay.


~ Wikipedia / Gurdjieff



From Episodes with Gurdjieff  © 1973

By Edwin Wolfe


In 1939


I was alone with Mr. Gurdjieff at a table in Child’s Restaurant on Fifth Avenue near 57th Street. It was almost dusk of a winter day. The Child’s Mr. Gurdjieff called his night office. Another Child’s over on Columbus Circle was his day office.

We sat for awhile in silence. He seemed to be looking out the front window at the people passing by in the waning light. It was beginning to snow.

“Wolfe,” he said, “tell. How your handkerchief?”

“Mr. Gurdjieff,” I said, “I’m going to ask you to not speak about Dorothy like that. We are trying to live a good life together. A decent life. We are even trying to learn how to love one another. So, please, don’t call her my handkerchief. Please.”

“I not promise,” he said.

But he never called her that again.




Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way: A Critical Appraisal


 Sexual Beliefs and Practices



Gurdjieff on Sex: Subtle Bodies, Si 12, and the Sex Life of a Sage


By Johanna J. M. Petsche


This chapter will begin with a brief background to Gurdjieff and his teaching. Gurdjieff’s views on the sex center, which governs mechanical behavior but can potentially liberate individuals, will then be examined and positioned within the context of his “three-octave” system of food transformation outlined in Pyotr Demianovich Ouspensky’s (1878-1947) In Search of the Miraculous (1949). Following this, Gurdjieff’s views on heterosexuality, homosexuality, masturbation, and gender, with a focus on his contentious statements about women, will be assessed within the context of his teaching. Finally, Gurdjieff”s own flamboyant and controversial sex life will be considered.1



GURDJIEFF ON SEX (pp. 135-147)


. . . Certainly, in many spiritual and esoteric systems, the orgasm is considered to be a critical moment in human consciousness and the key to magical power and contact with divine energies. American spiritualist Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825–75) saw the orgasm as “the most solemn, energetic and powerful moment . . . on earth,” where “the souls of the partners are opened to the powers of the cosmos and anything then truly willed is accomplished” (Urban 2006, 8–9, 67). For Randolph, if the orgasm is directed toward a higher spiritual end, it leads the soul upward to higher states of spiritual transcendence, but if it is directed toward careless or selfish ends, it leads the soul downward to lower depraved states of corruption and results in psychological and spiritual destruction—to madness, criminality, and damnation (Urban 2006, 67, 73). Gurdjieff commentator James Webb suggests that Gurdjieff derived much of his material from Randolph (Webb 1980, 532–33), whose work on sex magic had a profound impact on later Western esotericism (Urban 2006, 66–67). Interestingly, similarly to Gurdjieff, Randolph explained his teaching as deriving from his travels through the Middle East, particularly from interactions with the Brotherhood of Eulis, groups of fakirs or Sufis, as well as the Ansairi and other Eastern masters among the Arabs, Turks, Syrians, Armenians, and Egyptians (Urban 2006, 66–67).


For Gurdjieff, sexual abstinence can also aid the process of food transformation, as long as the other centers also abstain, and the sexual energy saved is managed consciously and correctly (Ouspensky [1949] 1977, 256). Sexual abstinence must also create space in the organism and a shock, as it breaks the cycle of mechanical behavior. In Tales Gurdjieff speaks of sex energy in terms of “exioëhary,” or sperm, produced by both males and females, which has the potential to nourish higher bodies and which can be used productively but also harmfully through practices of sexual abstinence (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 806–10). In one of the most influential compendia of tantric ritual and iconography in northeast India, the Brihat Tantrasara, composed in the late sixteenth century in Bengal, sexual fluids are similarly considered a source of spiritual power. The goal of the tantric practices it expounds is not pleasure, but rather the harnessing of this power, which is considered potentially dangerous. This power can only be awakened through highly esoteric rituals (Urban 2006, 88–91).


In Gurdjieff’s system of food transformation, there is, however, a barrier that most people encounter. As stated earlier, the sex center rarely operates with the fine energy of si 12 due to the typically dysfunctional state of the human organism. Human beings live in a mechanical condition where their centers are off-kilter, which means that the potent sexual energy they produce flows into the wrong centers. Rather than feeding the higher bodies, or producing a child, this energy pours into useless activities such as fighting, disputing, criticizing, playing sport excessively, and acts of destruction (Ouspensky [1949] 1977, 258). This is detrimental to one’s health; in Tales Gurdjieff explains that when sexual energy, exioëhary, cannot evolve in the system of spiritual transformation, it “involves,” creating illnesses and short life spans (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 793). This is why Gurdjieff told Fritz Peters that if one could not use one’s sexual energy in the right way, there is a proper sublimation of sexual energy, and that is to use it for other equally creative activities (Peters 1978, 41; Peters 1976, 164, 227). One finds a similar teaching on the sublimation of sexual energy in Theravada Buddhism (Humphreys 1971, 113).


Thus Gurdjieff viewed sex as both a tool for spiritual transformation and as playing a tremendous role in feeding one’s mechanical behavior. Indeed, he stated that sex is “the chief form of slavery and it is also the chief possibility of liberation” (Ouspensky [1949] 1977, 255). The harmonizing of the centers and proper use of the sex center are imperative to Gurdjieff’s teaching and to the process of spiritual transformation, to the point where he even stated, “Only a person who is completely normal as regards sex has any chance in the work. Any kind of ‘originality,’ strange tastes, strange desires. . .must be destroyed from the very beginning. Modern education and modern life create an enormous number of sexual psychopaths. They have no chance at all in the work” (Ouspensky [1949] 1977, 257). What Gurdjieff considered “normal” and “strange” in regards to sex will now be examined.



Views on Sexuality and Masturbation


For Gurdjieff, sex should simply serve the two intentions of nature—to produce children and to produce energy for spiritual development—and it is “perversion” if it performs any other role (Peters 1976, 227–28). Gurdjieff vehemently advocated sex education for children so that these principles could be known and followed from a young age (Gurdjieff [1963] 2002, 54–57; Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 1032–41; Gurdjieff 1984, 126–27). The ideal sexual union was a heterosexual and honest one, where sex was “conscious of itself ”: “When sex is clearly conscious of itself and does not cover itself up by anything else it is not the mechanicalness about which I am speaking. On the contrary sex which exists by itself and is not dependent on anything else is already a great achievement. But the evil lies in this constant self-deception!” (Ouspensky [1949] 1977, 254–55).


In Tales Gurdjieff describes ideal, perfect beings existing on the planet Modiktheo, who consciously conjoin to produce offspring. These beings exist as three different sexes—Martna, Spirna, and Okina—but a unique form of conception occurs when the beings of each of these different sexes unite. First, they each independently experience a period of gestation where they perform “Partkdolg duty” (where they conduct themselves consciously and intentionally), and then, when the time of birth approaches, they “press close to each other and ultimately almost grow on to each other,” mutually giving birth to offspring with already-formed higher being-bodies. According to Gurdjieff, this conscious, purposeful approach to sex was ignored by human beings, who preferred the pursuit of pleasure, which is detrimental to spiritual growth (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 276–79, 771–73, 791–93).


Gurdjieff condemned the notion of sex for pleasure, as this is contrary to the twofold purpose of sex as outlined above, and thus denounced masturbation, contraception, and prostitution. His aversion to masturbation may have been influenced by advice given to him as a child by 70-year-old “Dean Borsh,” a most influential figure in the young Gurdjieff’s life when he undertook his schooling in Kars, Turkey. Gurdjieff reports that Dean Borsh had lectured him on sexual matters and had said that if, before adulthood, one yields, even once, to the temptation to “gratify lust,” he will lose the possibility of ever being a real man of real worth (Gurdjieff 2002[1963], 54). In line with this view, Gurdjieff stated to pupils that the reason why sexual associations interfere with spiritual work is because of infantile masturbation (Patterson 2000, 46), and in Tales Gurdjieff described masturbation as a harmful affliction and an evil. He even claimed that people were transformed into “psychopaths” by the practice, and endorsed male and female circumcision as a means to prevent masturbation in youth: “‘children’s onanism’ is scarcely met with among the children of those threebrained beings there who observe this custom of ‘circumcision,’ whereas all the children and youths of the beings who fail to observe this custom are without exception exposed to this same sexual abnormality” (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 977–78). Gurdjieff’s negative views on masturbation reflect widespread beliefs in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which were based on the idea that sexual fluids contained precious, vital energy. Unnecessary waste of these fluids through self-gratification was considered a tragic loss for the organism (Urban 2006, 66, 72).


Gurdjieff also denounced homosexuality, which is perplexing considering that, in Paris in 1936 and 1937, he taught an all-female and mostly lesbian group called “The Rope.” The name came from Gurdjieff’s explanation that to mount the slopes of consciousness group members must be tied together on a cordeé, or rope (Beekman Taylor 2008, 191–92). The group had close, almost daily contact with Gurdjieff, with meetings held in restaurants or at his apartment. Gurdjieff taught them through readings of his texts, assigning exercises, and identifying members’ “inner animals” (Patterson 1999, 92). It is reported that he said to the group in relation to their sexuality, “You very dirty . . . but have something very good—many people not got—very special” (Patterson 1999, 249). And to one member, Solita Solano, he stated, “Something wrong your sex. Sex very important thing is, like light, like air you breathe, food you eat. If you are in five parts, two of your five parts depends from sex. You must more normal live” (Patterson 1999, 138). Pupil Fritz Peters maintained, “He was puritanical, even a fanatic, about homosexuality, and condemned it vigorously . . . He felt that homosexuality—as a career—was a dead-end street; and perhaps, further, one of Nature’s defences against overpopulation . . . He frequently reminded me that Nature would manage to ‘get even’ with Mankind if we continued to fight against rather than with the laws of the Universe” (Peters 1978, 43). Gurdjieff’s views on homosexuality must relate to his firm belief that both male and female components were necessary to create balance, as they contributed active and intellectual (male), and passive and emotional (female) elements. This type of polarity is common to various strands of Western esotericism, from Kabbalah to the Renaissance magic of Marsilio Ficino and the Enlightenment mysticism of Emmanuel Swedenborg; the union of male and female was regarded as the earthly reflection of the union of active and passive aspects of the Godhead (Urban 2006, 1–2). This dichotomous view of the sexes accords with Gurdjieff’s Law of Three, where every phenomenon in the universe is the result of the interplay between three forces; active and passive forces are neutralized by a third force, which creates something new. For example, a male (active force), female (passive force), and sexual force (neutralizing force) can produce a child (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 278). However, two active or two passive forces cannot lawfully operate in this way. Randolph expounded a similar theory, where the sexual instinct is the most fundamental force in the universe as it represents the natural attraction between active and passive forces (Urban 2006, 67).


In the colorful cosmological narrative of Tales, Gurdjieff explained that the “first beings,” called “Polormedekhtic” or “Monoentithis” beings, included both sexes in the same individual body. The splitting of the sexes occurred when the original planet Earth splintered into different parts due to a collision by the comet Kondoor. Human beings then became “halfbeings” from a sexual and procreative standpoint, and since then have needed the other half—the opposite sex—to correctly carry out their lives and roles (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 771). This resembles the story in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad, 1.4.3, where Purusha, the first being, wished to have a companion. As he was as large as a man and woman in close embrace, he split his body into two, giving rise to husband and wife. This is why Yajnavalkya states, “The two of us are like two halves of a block (Upanisads 1998, 13–14). It also parallels the biblical story of Adam being split into two when his rib was removed so that God could create a woman (Genesis 2: 21–23). Gurdjieff’s views on the different sexes and their distinct roles and natures will now be further explored.



Views on Gender


Pupils Peters and Bennett describe Gurdjieff carefully separating the sexes at his institute at Fontainebleau. Peters maintains,


There was no mingling of the sexes in any “immoral” sense. The men and women bathed separately at the bath, and different hours were allotted for male and female use of the swimming pool. There was, in fact, a very strict code of morality in this purely physical sense, and we were highly amused when people sent us clippings from the Sunday supplements of various newspapers which “proved” that the Institute was a nudist colony, or a “free-love” group . . . While it was true that we swam without bathing suits, the swimming pool was equipped with curtains which were always drawn whenever anyone went in swimming. It was forbidden, in fact, for even the small children to swim without drawing the curtains. (Peters 1976, 78)


At the institute, pupils were also housed in a way in which the sexes were separated (Peters 1976, 129), and in the Study House, a large room used for Movements practice and demonstrations, men and women sat on different sides of the room (Bennett 1973, 231). On Saturdays, the men alone went with Gurdjieff to the Russian bath and spoke about things that were not to be repeated to the women. Afterward, they privately dined with Gurdjieff, and Gurdjieff’s ritual toasts to the different types of “idiots” at the table were originally given only to the men, in accordance with traditional dervish practice (Bennett 1973, 231). These toasts were meant to provide a mirror in which pupils could see themselves (Nott 1978, 102).


Gurdjieff believed that the sexes have distinct natures and thus distinct roles to play in life. For example, men have aspiration while women do not. Aspiration compels men to climb mountains, to fly, to write, compose music, and paint, and the fact that women attempt to do these things shows how the world is “mixed up” (Peters 1976, 112–13). Gender roles, according to Gurdjieff, have become confused in contemporary times because women now try to carry out men’s work: “Not necessary for woman do work of man in world. If woman can find real man, then woman become real woman without necessity work. But, like I tell, world mixed up. Today in world real man not exist, so woman even try to become man, do man’s work which is wrong for her nature” (Peters 1976, 113). Gurdjieff stated that a man who does not fulfill his active role, and a woman who attempts to fill this role, are both members of the “third sex,” for whom there is little prospect of transformation (Bennett 1973, 230). At one time he said that a true man and a true woman are not just male and female; they are each a combination of male and female, active and passive (Peters 1976, 113).


In a talk to his pupils, Gurdjieff stated that there are “equal chances” for both sexes in his work (Gurdjieff 1984, 87). However, this is at odds with other statements he made about women and their lack of potential for spiritual development. For example, Denis Saurat reported that Gurdjieff said that women could scarcely hope to come by souls except through sexual contact and union with men (Perry 1978, 76). Similarly, Gurdjieff asserted to Fritz Peters that women did not need his work because the nature of women was such that “self development,” in his sense of the phrase, was something that they could never achieve. The only hope for women to develop, “to go to Heaven,” is with a man (Peters 1976, 112). This view is reminiscent of Asian, Hellenic, and Hebrew traditional lore where, during sex, the woman is thought to draw from the man something of his power (Beekman Taylor 2006, 233). The idea was, however, criticized by Jessmin Howarth, a female pupil who bore Gurdjieff a child: “Why does there seem to be this growing idiocy, the idea that no woman can hope to gain a ‘Body Kesdjan’ unless she has had sexual intercourse with a ‘Master?’” (Howarth and Howarth 1998, 224)


Gurdjieff made other contentious statements about women. He said to Orage that “the cause of every anomaly can be found in women” (Beekman Taylor 2001, 243), and in Tales he cites wise Sufi philosopher Mullah Nassr Eddin’s repeated assertion that “the cause of every misunderstanding must be sought only in woman” (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 274). He even said to Peters that most relationships were merely that of man and “handkerchief.” “For him,” he said, “this very convenient; he suddenly feel need or wish to blow nose—and always he have this handkerchief with him” (Peters 1976, 216). There is also a bizarre story in Tales where men and women were separated for a time: the men turned to onanism and pederasty, and the women sought sexual activity with beings of other forms. This led to the existence of the species of apes, which resemble human beings, and their psyches resemble that of the female sex (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 274–81).


In any assessment of Gurdjieff, one must constantly be mindful of the fact that his teaching was based on the belief that people need to be severely “woken up” and challenged if they have any hope of transforming spiritually. He demonstrated an ongoing interest in creating opportunities for pupils to struggle and face conflict so that they could understand his teachings experientially. Thus any of the above statements could have been meant as shocks, or appeals, for pupils to stay alert and keep on their guard, actively questioning everything. He did, after all, warn pupils not to take him literally (Nott 1978, 75). In any case, the above statements seem at variance with the fact that at the end of his life, Gurdjieff’s chosen successor was a woman, Jeanne de Salzmann, and also that he probably had more female than male pupils. Gurdjieff certainly encouraged women to commit themselves to his work, and many of his female pupils later played significant roles in perpetuating the teaching, particularly the Movements. Bennett even states that Gurdjieff’s female pupils were among the most successful of all the pupils, some occupying very important and decisive positions, and attained perhaps more than most of the men (Bennett 1973, 231).



Gurdjieff’s Own Sex Life


Gurdjieff’s conservative, uncompromising views on sex might appear to conflict with his famously flamboyant character, vulgar sense of humor, and liberal relationships with women, some of them his pupils. There is a well-known incident recounted by sculptor and writer Rom Landau, who met Gurdjieff in New York in 1934. Landau was dining with a female friend, while Gurdjieff was seated at another table. He pointed Gurdjieff out to her, and Gurdjieff immediately caught her eye and suddenly began to inhale and exhale in a particular way. Landau’s friend turned pale and had an orgasm. She claimed to have been “struck right through my sexual centre. It was beastly!” (Landau 1935, 244).


Of Gurdjieff’s sex life, Bennett states,


His sexual life was strange in its unpredictability. At certain times he led a strict, almost ascetic life, having no relation with women at all. At other times, his sex life seemed to go wild and it must be said that his unbridled periods were more frequent than the ascetic. At times, he had sexual relationships not only with almost any woman who happened to come within the sphere of his influence, but also with his own pupils. Quite a number of his women pupils bore him children. (Bennett 1973, 231–32)


It is known that pupils Jessmin Howarth, in 1924, and Edith Taylor, in 1928, bore Gurdjieff daughters, and Elizaveta de Stjernvall, in 1919, and Jeanne de Salzmann, in 1923, whose husbands were working with Gurdjieff at the time, bore him sons. His affair with the married Lili Galumian produced a son in 1927. There is also some evidence that Gurdjieff made sexual advances to pupils Olga de Hartmann and Jessie Orage in 1930. Paul Beekman Taylor, who lived with Gurdjieff as an infant at the Prieuré in the 1920s, and worked with him in 1948 and 1949, states that in his presence Gurdjieff spoke of ten children, though in interviews he boasted of over one hundred (Beekman Taylor 2008, 18–19, 233).


Accounts given by pupil Jessmin Howarth and her daughter to Gurdjieff, Dushka Howarth, indicate that there was camaraderie between Gurdjieff’s children and between the mothers (Howarth and Howarth 1998, 204, 206). They paint Gurdjieff as a fairly generous, kind, and protective father (Howarth and Howarth 1998, 204–205, 248). On one occasion Gurdjieff told Dushka that he would not allow pupil Alfred Etievant to fall in love with her because she was “Miss Gurdjieff” and was too good for him. She was to treat him like a “louse that one makes chik” (crushes between one’s thumbnails). When she questioned this, Gurdjieff was adamant that he was her father and expected obedience, to which Dushka replied that she had only known him (Gurdjieff) for three weeks and had learned to be independent in her 24 years. Gurdjieff had apparently informed her casually one day that he was her father (Howarth and Howarth 1998, 204–205). It seems that some of the mothers of Gurdjieff’s children, such as Jessmin Howarth, Edith Taylor, and Jeanne de Salzmann, preferred to withhold this information from the children, while Gurdjieff was eventually upfront with them about it (Howarth and Howarth 1998, 205, 207, 213). Amusingly, Dushka admits that she and Petey Taylor, another of Gurdjieff’s daughters, had found Michel de Salzmann the most attractive man they had ever met, until it was revealed to them several days later that he was their half brother (Howarth and Howarth 1998, 213).


To the mothers of his children, Gurdjieff was variable. Jessmin Howarth reports that at one Saturday lunch, “Edith and I would be put through the same old routine of disapproval. We were not to call our daughters ‘Petey’ and ‘Dushka’ (but Eve and Sophia)! One time we would be shouted at ‘Svolotch!’ ‘Balda!’ [approximately: ‘lowest of the low!’ and ‘dullard!’] Another time treated with much special attention, extra food and commands to the girls to ‘love their mothers’” (Howarth and Howarth 1998, 206). At the time of some of his affairs with pupils, Gurdjieff was married to the Polish Julia Osipovna Ostrowska, who was around twenty-three years his junior. Ostrowska’s background is unknown; she may have been a countess and lady-in-waiting to Alexandra Feodorovna, or even a prostitute (Moore 1991, 67–68). According to de Hartmann she was tall and beautiful, “but not at all like those women of the cultured class who habitually interest themselves in new philosophical teachings. Our first impression was that she was rather remote from her husband’s affairs. But we came to see how deeply and seriously she valued the Work of Mr. Gurdjieff. We grew to love her, deeply and sincerely” (de Hartmann and de Hartmann 1992, 17, 19). Gurdjieff and Ostrowska were married from around 1909 to her death in June 1926, though she never took the name of Gurdjieff, always remaining “Madame Ostrowska.” Gurdjieff commentator James Webb posits that this was because they were never legally wed and that Gurdjieff already had a wife living somewhere in Central Asia (Webb 1980, 137). Beekman Taylor discounts this, stating that in Russian society married women frequently retained their maiden names after marriage for informal use, and that on occasion she was listed as “Gurdjieff” on official documents (Beekman Taylor 2008, 18, 40).


Gurdjieff had deep affection for Ostrowska (Gurdjieff 1999, 36–40; Peters 1976, 76–77), and she occupied a privileged position in his work, taking lead roles in his Movements. He was devastated by her death to cancer at age 37, as is revealed in a story in Tales that reflects the circumstances surrounding Ostrowska’s death. In the chapter “The Bokharian Dervish Hadji-Asvatz-Troov,” Gurdjieff tells of a European man whose wife was diagnosed with cancer. This man himself had discovered a cure for cancer, but had a road accident, which prevented him from putting his cure into effect in time. When he recovered, it was too late to use his method on his wife, so he decided not to spare himself and channeled his energies into his wife’s body to slow down the cancer, managing to keep his wife alive for two years (Gurdjieff [1950] 1964, 910–14). Gurdjieff was attentive to his wife when she was ill and explained that, even though doctors had put her under sentence of death, he had been able to extend the time limit through his own efforts. Olga de Hartmann claimed that once during Ostrowska’s last days, Gurdjieff caused a marked improvement in her condition by making her drink a glass of water that he had held for a few minutes in his hands (Webb 1980, 315–16).


When Ostrowska died, Gurdjieff retired to his room, shattered, seeing no one for two days. However, his behavior in the period that followed confused pupils. Gurdjieff devoted the day of the funeral to embarrassing the archbishop and preventing expressions of grief over Ostrowska’s death. He described to pupils what he considered a traditional funeral custom from more enlightened times, where the friends of the deceased spent three days remembering the evil deeds their acquaintance had committed and concentrating on their own mortality. At the funeral feast, Gurdjieff repeatedly cursed God (Webb 1980, 316). Further, shortly after Ostrowksa’s death, Gurdjieff was living with a married woman, whom he made pregnant (Peters 1976, 114). Beekman Taylor suggests that this was pupil Lili Galumian, who gave birth to her son Sergei in 1927 (Beekman Taylor 2006, 132).


Gurdjieff displayed a reverential and protective attitude toward his wife, mother, and other female blood relatives, and seems to have associated Ostrowska with his mother. He described them as being in rapport with nature and communicating in a silent language (Gurdjieff 1999, 36–39). They were buried together in Avon in Fontainebleau. Ostrowska was, perhaps, somewhat of an Earth Mother figure to Gurdjieff and to his pupils, a similar role to that played by L. Ron Hubbard’s third wife, Mary Sue, for Hubbard and members of the Sea Org. Ostrowska must have turned a blind eye to Gurdjieff’s affairs. She never bore Gurdjieff a child, and accounts suggest that they had separate rooms at the institute in Fontainebleau (Peters 1976, 28; de Hartmann and de Hartmann 1992, 248).


As discussed, Gurdjieff displayed quite a different attitude toward other women in his life. In his memoirs Fritz Peters is candid about Gurdjieff’s promiscuity, stating that at the institute there were rumors that “a great deal more went on in his rooms other than drinking coffee and Armagnac. The normal state of his rooms after one night indicated that almost any human activity could have taken place there the night before. There is no doubt that his rooms were lived in, in the fullest sense of the word” (Peters 1976, 28). At times Gurdjieff used sex to shock individuals and demonstrate something of his teaching. Peters describes a dinner party that Gurdjieff held in 1933 at his New York apartment for 15 well-mannered New Yorkers. Over dinner Gurdjieff made provocative remarks about sex and gave accounts of his own sexual abilities and highly imaginative mind, declaring that he was capable of sustained sexual acts of incredible variety. He then launched into a detailed description of the sexual habits of various races and nations. The night resulted in an orgy (it is unclear whether Gurdjieff took part), and Gurdjieff then stated that he would gladly accept from them checks and cash in payment for this lesson, which demonstrated the soundness of observations he had made earlier that evening concerning the sexual motivations of Americans. Apparently, Gurdjieff received several thousand dollars that night (Peters 1976, 201–206).


Pupil Thomas de Hartmann recounts his first meeting with Gurdjieff, which took place, on Gurdjieff’s suggestion, in a café frequented by prostitutes, where Gurdjieff made the coarse observation, “There are usually more whores here” (de Hartmann and de Hartmann 1992, 8). Gurdjieff must have known that de Hartmann was a Guards officer at the time, and had he been seen at the café, he would have had to leave his regiment (de Hartmann and de Hartmann 1992, 7). According to de Hartmann, Gurdjieff did everything he could to create unfavorable conditions for this meeting, interpreting this as a technique in compelling de Hartmann to remember his “true aim” (de Hartmann and de Hartmann 1992, 74). Fritz Peters also states, “Gurdjieff frequently used sex as a kind of shock factor in dealing with individuals,” remembering a time when Gurdjieff wished for an egotistical woman at his institute to leave. At three in the morning, he propositioned her, and, utterly insulted, she immediately left the institute (Peters 1976, 228–29).


Although on matters of sex Gurdjieff taught the conservative values that he must have felt would benefit his pupils, personally, he clearly preferred not to live by them. In a study of the sexual behavior of contemporary spiritual teachers, American teacher of Vipassana meditation Jack Kornfield interviewed a broad cross-section of spiritual teachers from a variety of traditions and found that their sex lives, preferences, and experiences reflected those of the average person. He concluded that “teachers are likely to have active and complex sex lives. We have to re-examine the myth that enlightenment implies celibacy, and that sexuality is somehow abnormal or contrary to the awakened mind” (Kornfield 1985, 28).


This apparent contradiction between Gurdjieff’s theory and practice could be considered within the broader context of his life and teaching, which can essentially be viewed as continual experiments and improvisations; Gurdjieff commentator Peter Washington views improvisation as vital to Gurdjieff’s method (Washington 1993, 254). That is, all accounts of his life reveal that he was highly unpredictable and adaptable, constantly testing new methods of teaching, and using to the fullest any person, situation, and opportunity that came his way. This approach to life reflects his teaching aims; improvising his way through life might well have been Gurdjieff’s attempt at living “consciously” and keeping his movements challenging and unpredictable, for himself and his pupils. His sex life, “strange in its unpredictability,” as Bennett describes it (Bennett 1973, 231), could be considered in this way.








From Biographies

By Peter Holleran


George Gurdjieff – Mysterious Trickster


Proponent of “The Fourth Way”, George Gurdjieff taught a hard school of self-understanding.

   Many students were pushed to extremes of discipline, and a few went over the edge. This might be looked upon as the mark of a good teacher, using forceful means for the benefit of his disciples, but many thought otherwise. Rom Landau wrote:


   “Some of his pupils would at times complain that they could no longer support Gurdjieff’s violent temper, his apparent greed for money, or the extravagance of his private life.” (5)


John Bennett said that


   “(Gurdjieff) spoke of women in terms that would have better suited a fanatical Muslim polygamist than a Christian, boasting that he had many children by different women, and that women were for him only the means to an end.” (6)


   Every teacher has his detractors, particularly those teachers who make bold, dramatic use of the energies of life for teaching purposes, but it is not our intent to criticize character. Teachers can make mistakes, however, and the ways of any one teacher are not necessarily the way for all students. Gurdjieff used strong and shocking means to reveal his students to themselves, and he particularly liked to hit upon the “sex nerve” and the “pocketbook nerve”. He said that “nothing shows up people so much as their attitude toward money”, and through casual incidents he delighted in awakening people to the hypocrisy of their gentile ways. He liked to keep people on the edge of financial ruin, creating one disaster after another, saying that if they felt too comfortable they would not grow.


   The “crazy-wise” teaching methods have a long history, and must always be seen in context. What works for some, may not work for others, and cannot be imitated. What is most important to remember about a teacher, says Arthur Deikman, is this:


   “Teachers will be imperfect. What you need to be able to count on is them doing their job.” (6a)


Gurdjieff apparently had yogic powers, and it is said that he purposely helped to delay the death of his wife a few more days because she was close to enlightenment. Through his help it is claimed that she would not need to come back to this world because she did in fact attain awakening.


   As mentioned earlier, Gurdjieff (because of his obscure writing style) is better understood through his interpreters. Indeed, when writing All and Everything, Gurdjieff continually changed his wording in this long book whenever he saw that disciples understood what he had written! Again, this was an example of his “burying the dog.” He felt that the work was more useful when one was kept in a state of confusion on the level of the mind, forcing one to dig deeper for the truth.


John Bennett summarizes his basic form of argument:


   “You think you know who you are and what you are; but you do not know either what slaves you now are, or how free you might become. Man can do nothing: he is a machine controlled by external influences, not by his own will, which is an illusion. He is asleep. He has no permanent self that he can call ‘I’. Because he is not one but many, his moods, his impulses, his very sense of his own existence are no more than a constant flux…Make the experiment of trying to remember your own existence and you will find that you cannot remember yourselves even for two minutes. How can man, who cannot remember who and what he is, who does not know the forces that move him to action, pretend that he can do anything?” (7)


The “Fourth Way” was Gurdjieff’s term for the way taught in his system. According to him, there are three traditional paths, those of the faqir, the monk, and the yogi. The faqir works on disciplining the physical body with harsh austerities. The monk works on his emotions with prayer, fasting, and meditation. The yogi attempts to discipline his mind and alter his state of consciousness. “The fourth way” is that of simultaneously working on the other three dimensions (which correspond with the three bodies: physical, emotional or astral, and mental (which Gurdjieff called the spiritual) while applying the process of self-observation to make oneself less mechanical. This is the way of the “cunning man”, who thus surpassed the faqir, the monk, and the yogi and came to know the true “I” which was the presiding ego, the ‘divine’ body, the owner of the other three bodies. With this language, almost theosophical in character, one can see the possible limit of Gurdjieff’s teachings in encompassing the higher non-dual philosophy. How many of Gurdjieff’s followers found the Self, as opposed to the “I” or ‘ego-soul’?  How many knew the ‘I AM’?  Did Gurdjieff himself attain such realization?



From Gurdjieff’s HERALD of COMING GOOD: First Appeal to Contemporary Humanity, initially published by the author in Paris and 1933; later published by Samuel Weiser, Inc., NY, 1973


Only now, having prepared, in my opinion, by means of everything already set forth in this booklet, a corresponding, so-to-say, “ground-work” for depicting before the inner eye of every reader different outlines of the essence of this booklet of mine, called by me “The-First-Appeal-To-Contemporary-Humanity”, I consider it right, before other things, to announce in the hearing of all that, although I undertake at last the publication of my writings, I have decided to promote their circulation not by the usual ways, but in accordance with a definite plan worked out by me.

This plan, newly formed by me, consists in taking all possible measures to prevent my writings, with the exception of the first series, from becoming at once property “accessible-to-everybody”.

This decision of mine, made during the last years in the course of my observations of those who listened to the readings of my current work, is the result of long consideration, and is a conclusion contrary to my original hope of the possibility of making some more, generally available contribution to the healing of man’s psyche, which has already become, during the last centuries, almost completely abnormal.



Is There “Life” on Earth? An Introduction to Gurdjieff © 1973

By J. G. Bennet


From Chapter 2, Gurdjieff – The Man and His Work


Gurdjieff came more and more clearly to see that the ways of helping people which have been used in the past are no longer applicable — because modern man cannot even listen to what is most necessary for him to hear. Notwithstanding so many years of profound study of the human psyche, Gurdjieff reached the conclusion, as late as 1927, that a new and more penetrating approach to the problem must be undertaken. He accordingly imposed on himself a way of life that would, as he says, “cause each person to take off the mask kindly provided by their papa and mama,” and disclose the depths of his or her nature. The procedure adopted he describes as “finding the most sensitive corn of each person from whatever class or race he might come and whatever position he might hold, and treading on it rather violently.” It can well be imagined that such a procedure made him many new enemies and even scandalized many old friends. Since he carried his procedure into every kind of relationship, it is not surprising that stories of a most damaging nature should have begun to spread at his expense.


Very few people were able to see the necessity or sense of his actions and there is no question that many obstacles were created to the acceptance of his teaching. Nevertheless, for anyone who has felt the obscurity of the human psyche, it is obvious that what he did was indispensable – partly to establish the facts which it was necessary to know and partly, also, for the further aim – equally important and necessary – namely, to try and recover his own health.  Not only was his bodily strength almost destroyed by the automobile accident, but he carried the results of many serious diseases contracted in the course of his travels in different parts of the world.


In 1931, he again visited New York and, before the outbreak of the Second World War, paid several further visits to America. The Prieurè was finally closed down in 1932, and in 1934 he settled in Paris.


The period from 1939 to 1948 was one of utmost difficulty and privation for himself and his work. Those who were directly in contact with him were fewer in number than in the past, while those who misunderstood his ideas and mistrusted his methods had increased. Very much misunderstanding existed. Only a few who knew him well and had worked closely with him had some understanding of his aim.


So it came about that in the summer of 1948, many people who had not seen each other for many years, and others who had never met at all, began to arrive in Paris and went round to see him in his little flat, re-establishing contact first with him and then with one another. Everything seemed to be going normally as if work with him would continue as before, when again, there was one of these automobile accidents which, with bullet wounds and disease, make a terrifying pattern in his life.  Once again, by all ordinary standards, he should have been killed.



“I am Gurdjieff. I will not die.” Oct 1, 2017


Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation Archives


Gurdjieff International Review


Gurdjieff: Teacher of Radical Transformation –  Oct 8, 2009


Gurdjieff – Feed the Wolf  – Feb 24, 2017


Love Your Beast – Jun 17, 2017



The Three Dangerous Magi: Osho, Gurdjieff, Crowley © 2010
By P.T. Mistlberger


Introduction – p. 5


. . . Gurus who are thought to be some sort of emissary from the higher worlds, or even ‘lord’ of the world, or the next messiah, or the messiah, etc., are a dime a dozen. Spiritual or religious leaders who get mired in scandal and are subsequently accused of being corrupt, depraved, or evil, are equally common. Were this to be a book about such gurus it would have to be a ten volume encyclopedia.



Chapter 8: Self-Perfection and the Myth of the Infallible Guru – p. 213


. . . Concerning Gurdjieff’s 1 through 7 scale, Ouspensky, in In Search of the Miraculous, quotes Gurdjieff as follows:


    Man number one, number two, and number three, these are
    people who constitute mechanical humanity on the same
    level on which they are born. Man number one means man
    in whom the center of gravity of his psychic life lies in the
    moving center. This is the man of the physical body…Man
    number two means man on the same level of development,
    but man in whom the center of gravity of his psychic life
    lies in the emotional center, that is, man with whom the
    emotional functions outweigh all others…Man number three
    means a man on the same level of development in whom
    the center of gravity of his psychic life lies in the intellectual
    center…Every man is born number one, two, or three…man
    number four is not ready made…he becomes four only as a
    result of efforts of a definite character. Man number four is
    always the product of [inner] school work. Man number five

    has already been crystallized…He has now one indivisible I
    and all his knowledge belongs to this I…the knowledge of
    man number six is the complete knowledge possible to man;
    but I can still be lost. The knowledge of man number seven is
    his own knowledge, which cannot be taken away from him;
    it is the objective and practical knowledge of All.


P. 218


A bleak fundamental of Gurdjieff’s teaching is that man is not born with a soul – and that without one, he will ‘die like a dog’. (Gurdjieff’s reference to ‘dying like a dog’ is interesting in that the dog is a symbol of death in many cultures – not least of which was in ancient Egypt, where Anubis, generally recognized as a canine-type god, is a chthonic deity of embalming and death). Consistent with some elements of ancient Egyptian mysticism, he believed that the soul could only be created by working on oneself – by becoming, at the least, a ‘man number four’.












By Anthony Storr





   PART  I    II   III