False Prophets Part 2



False Prophets and Messiahs, Teachers and Gurus

Cons and Cult Leaders







‘Counterfeit gold exists only because

there is such a thing as real gold.’




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 pretentions, and indoctrinates the members with his or her idosyncratic 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)



(1) Arthur Deikman The Wrong Way Home (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p.1



The deterioration and distortion of a spiritual teaching over time is aptly illustrated by the history of Christianity following the death of Jesus as his message of love, forgiveness and redemption passed through successive stages of deformation:


(1) The being and enlightenment of Jesus Christ: Love and mercy


(2) The words and actions of Jesus as a teacher: Spiritual impact on those who came in contact with him during his lifetime


(3) Recollections of the direct followers of Jesus: The twelve disciples of Christ


(4) Selective oral and written records of his teaching: New Testament and Gnostic teachings


(5) Censorship and removal of the esoteric teachings: Council of Nicaea 325 A.D.


(6) Division and fragmentation: Roman Catholic church vs. Protestant church; splitting of Protestantism into competing sects


(7) Fanaticism; true believers vs. infidels: The Inquisition



From gurdjiefffourthway.org/pdf/CULTS



Artemis44 July 25, 2019 Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


A friend of mine that was also a FOF member and left 10 years ago told me that the book The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society by Arthur J. Deikman was very useful for him to understand why he joined the FOF.


This is the Amazon link:



This is from the book’s commentary on Amazon:


‘The author, a psychiatrist, argues that cult behavior is not limited to members of religious groups but is based on childhood desires for meaning and dependency that we all share. Although we live in a democracy, cult behavior manifests itself in our unwillingness to question the judgment of our leaders, our tendency to devalue outsiders and to avoid dissent. We can overcome cult behavior, he says, by recognizing that we have dependency needs that are inappropriate for mature people, by increasing anti-authoritarian education, and by encouraging personal autonomy and the free exchange of ideas.’


Has anybody read that book? Any comments?



 Joey Virgo  July 25, 2019


Sargan of Akkad reviewed Deikman’s book for 35 minutes in 2016 on YouTube. Most of the views discussed in the review have already been discussed here at the FoF discussion blog. Sargan’s review contains many excerpts from Deikman’s book and at 20:05 or so, Deikman’s description of the cult matches thoroughly with the FoF. A cult follower is not crazy, Deikman says, but he or she has a moral failing in self-reliance or in coping with dependency needs, i.e., immaturity.



I liked Deikman’s idea that the cult leader is as trapped as are the cult followers — to submit to a certain unchanging standard of behavior in order to sustain the fantasy world they both have created.



 Bryan Reynolds  July 25, 2019


I first found out about Arthur Deikman from a book titled The World of The Sufi which is a collection of essays about Sufism edited by Idries Shah. Dr. Deikman’s contribution was an article which outlined how modern psychiatry by focusing on mental illness does not really have answers to questions, “What is the function of a healthy person?” or “What is the sense and purpose of existence?”



“Sufism and Psychiatry”








Treating Former Members of Cults



Human Givens



Exploring the CULT in culture


Following is a revised version (including additional material) of an article by Ivan Tyrrell, first published in 1993, that explores Dr. Arthur Deikman’s enlightening work on cult behaviour.


SOME years ago Arthur Deikman, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco, took part in a research seminar on new religious movements, held at the University of California at Berkeley. Former cult members came to speak to participants. As the seminar progressed, Deikman was struck not only by how normal the people seemed but also by how similar their experiences in cults were to all sorts of every day experiences — in work, politics, psychiatry and traditional religions. Most people regard cults as dangerous but rare: Deikman argues that the patterns of cult behaviour are much more widespread than people think.  He went on to study cults extensively and published his findings in The Wrong Way Home: uncovering the patterns of cult behaviour (Beacon Press) and an updated version of that book called Them and Us: Cult thinking and the terrorist threat (Bay Tree Publishing).



Ocean TigerJuly 23, 2019


Please enjoy these 47 previously unreleased photos of Robert Burton and his associates:





Cult SurvivorJuly 26, 2019


Hello all, I’m back. I replaced the picture of Burton on the FoF article on Wikipedia (that was from 2004) for a more recent one (from 2015) that was part of the set of 47 that Eric/Gaia uploaded to Dropbox. If you have a suggestion of a better one let me know.


wikipedia.org/wiki/Fellowship of Friends



 ton2u  July 26, 2019


Joey V @ 40


Thanks for the video link… I paraphrase a few salient lines from the narrative below… brings me back to my difficulty in leaving the cult… regarding what’s been referred to in the past on the blog as the “invisible fence.” Can’t really blame the folks who stay on – they believe they have no choice but to stay:


Leaving a cult is extremely difficult because cults prey on the emotional instability and dependency of the individual. To an outsider it might seem there is nothing forcing an individual to stay in the cult, ostensibly they have freedom of movement and self-determination, but from the perspective of the person in the cult, the cult is all consuming. Everyone closest to them reinforces cult beliefs and compliance – withholding affection, companionship and support when the individual dissents / diverts from the cult narrative. This puts an individual under tremendous duress – not only will they be unable to pursue their own ‘higher purpose’ through remaining in the group, they will lose their entire social support structure, and in many cases the individual is completely financially dependent on the cult. These pressures can be insurmountable and so people remain trapped in the cult even if they appear to be physically able to leave.



Artemis44 July 26, 2019


I’m finding Dr. Deikman’s writings fascinating – I’m looking forward to reading his book The Wrong Way Home.


I found an article from him online called “Evaluating Spiritual and Utopian Groups” at




Here is an excerpt:


‘It is because the leader’s role is functional rather than magical that genuine spiritual teachers can be seen to obey implicit rules. Despite the general impression that great teachers indulge in any and all behavior, careful attention to traditional teaching stories and anecdotes reveals that there are certain principles that are never violated. For example, I can recall no anecdote depicting a teacher ordering one student to harm another or condoning such an action. Nor are there examples of students being encouraged to compete for the teacher’s attention. There are no examples of teachers entering into sexual relations with their students or enriching themselves with their money. All these examples have been common among current and past “spiritual” groups.


The reason why such examples are absent in authentic spiritual groups is that real teachers do not use their students to advance their own personal interests. In this matter the mystical literature is quite consistent and clear: a spiritual teacher does not have license to exploit students in any way or for any cause – the only legitimate basis for the teacher’s actions is the advancement of the student along the spiritual path. This is not to say that larger purposes may not be served at the same time; indeed, such synchronous activity is said to be the norm but it is never at the expense of the student’s development. The fact is, far from having unlimited license, a genuine spiritual teacher obeys functional requirements that far exceed the restraints most people are accustomed to impose on themselves in the name of religion or common decency. The behavior of many so-called spiritual leaders is a travesty of the authentic situation.’


IMO the term “travesty” for Burton seems very appropriate by the way.



Invictus maneoJuly 29, 2019


50. Artemis44


[Quoting an article] ‘…I can recall no anecdote depicting a teacher ordering one student to harm another or condoning such an action. Nor are there examples of students being encouraged to compete for the teacher’s attention. There are no examples of teachers entering into sexual relations with their students or enriching themselves with their money. All these examples have been common among current and past “spiritual” groups.’


Perhaps because followers of “true spiritual teachers” in the past had better control of the story after the spiritual teacher died. Now, with the internet still somewhat free and open, it is harder to whitewash history. There may never again be a spiritual teacher who was never known to abuse students, in one way or another.


We are all fallible humans who make mistakes and do things we believe to be wrong, including spiritual teachers.












By Jack Kornfield



    No discussion of the perils and promises of spiritual life can ignore the problems with teachers and cults. The misuse of religious roles and institutions by TV evangelists, ministers, healers, and spiritual teachers, both foreign-born and Western, is a common story. As a leader of a spiritual community, I have encountered many students who were painfully affected by the misdeeds of their teachers. I have heard such stories about Zen masters, swamis, lamas, meditation teachers, Christian priests, nuns, and everybody in between.



ton2u July 31, 2019


It’s obvious that cult thinking and behaviors extend beyond the confines of little garden variety cults like the FOF… take a look at Trump political rallies, for example. Bringing “current events” from the political world into the discussion here may seem to some to be getting off track, but there is a parallel with the cult behavior and a type of thinking that manifests in the wider world and in little cults like the FOF.


(Artemis, thanks again for drawing attention to Deikman’s work – it’s right on the mark. I’ll paraphrase a few lines below):


Cults are social organizations and can exist anywhere in society, cult behaviors and thinking are so pervasive, so “baked-in” as to be instinctive, everyone can be considered to be part of various “invisible” cults – almost all people exhibit some form of cult behavior in their daily lives, conforming to group norms, dependence on leaders, devaluing those outside of their groups, avoiding media that does not confirm what they already believe… cult thinking is embedded in society but is usually not so all encompassing as to be thought of as a cult…


The structure of cults is basically authoritarian: obedience and hierarchical power tend to take precedence over truth and conscience…


…certain psychological benefits can make authoritarian groups very attractive – they provide the opportunity to feel protected and cared for…


…cult thinking is the effect of psychological forces endemic to the human mind, forces that operate in the everyday life of each of us, distorting perception, biasing thinking, inculcating a belief structure which includes: compliance with the group, dependence on a leader, devaluing the outsider, avoiding dissent… a regression to a childlike state in which one is cared for by a parental figure so that they can abdicate responsibility for their own wellbeing…


…a regressive wish for security uses the family as its model creating an authoritarian leadership structure (the parent) and a close-knit, exclusive group (the children). Since the leader-parent has many of the insecurities of the follower-child, reality must be distorted by both to maintain the child’s illusion (wish) that the parent can always provide protection, so that he or she has no weaknesses / vulnerability.


Dissent is stifled because it casts doubt on the perfection of the leader and the special status of the group. Group compliance preserves security by supporting the beliefs crucial to the fantasy of superiority, beliefs which also explain the powers and entitlement of the leader can not be challenged.… apostates are excommunicated.


Outsiders, non-believers are excluded and devalued for they do not believe what the group believes; if the group and leader are superior, the outsider is inferior…


At the time they joined the cult most were dissatisfied, distressed or at a transition in their lives. Typically the motivation was desire for a more spiritual life, finding community in which to live cooperatively, wanting to become more enlightened, to find meaning in life by serving others or simply to belong.



Artemis44 July 31, 2019


21. ton2u


Very good points from Dr. Deikman, thank you.


Here is an excerpt from the book The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, another seminal work on cult behavior:


‘Behind the masks of authoritarian power is the idea that there is some greater intelligence that knows what is best for others. What this always amounts to is that someone either claims to have that intelligence, or to have a direct line into properly interpreting it. This can occur in any realm and in differing degrees. Its most extreme forms occur when moral superiority is linked to infallibility. The image of the guru represents the epitome of this construction. Often included in this is the corollary that the authority cares more about your well-being than you do, and can do so because of being selfless. Whether or not a state of ultimate selflessness or infallibility is achievable by anyone can be debated. Then too, there is the question of how anyone could be certain someone else really is in such a state. What is clear, however, is that obeying others because they claim to be morally superior, or to have an inside track to the truth, not only breeds corruption and lies, but removes people from personal responsibility.’



Golden VeilFebruary 12, 2022


The Fellowship of Friends appears to be in the process of rebranding its image as a spiritual school. It’s likely that this strategy, which is implemented through new website design, was instigated by the exposure of the cult’s dark underpinnings in the dramatic and critically acclaimed Revelations podcast on Spotify. The former website image of fellowshipoffriends.com and livingpresence.com expressed elitism and opulence. Images of Robert Earl Burton were prominent and his role as a teacher reverently promoted.


Probably with the aim to recast the cult’s identity, the websites now present a more corporate, almost austere, look. The rich colors are absent and have been replaced with a black and white theme and an image of international flags as the key image on the Home page of each website. Robert Earl Burton’s presence is greatly diminished and he is presented more as a founder than teacher. There is only one book on the Publications page, Robert Earl Burton’s Awakening (2016) and that book appears to be the only book available on Amazon. Fifty Years With Angels (2017) is now listed as out-of-print.


Although only Awakening is currently featured under Publications on the Fellowship of Friends website, there are actually two books by Robert Earl Burton ~ Awakening and Self-Remembering ~ in pride of place on the Recommended Reading page of the Living Presence website. They are included with books by Fourth Way luminaries Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Collin.





Robert Earl Burton and The Fellowship of Friends


An Unauthorized Blogography of “The Teacher” and His Cult





London Meetup a Fellowship of Friends recruiting effort


 [ed. – The Meetup announcement for the group “Gurdjieff Ouspensky – from words to being.” features this photo of a gathering in a private room at Aix in London’s Crouch End. Bistro Aix was established by Fellowship of Friends member Lynne Sanders. The Meetup organizer, Sharon Gordon and attendee Martin Courbet are Fellowship members in the London Center. Another meeting is planned March 6th.


See the Fellowship of Friends London Center Facebook page, A Fourth Way Symposium. With its myriad disguises, the Fellowship can make one’s head spin! (A plentiful supply of wine helps.) In Robert Burton’s Fellowship, “Symposium” has taken on a very special meaning.


To anyone who considers joining a group that claims to possess esoteric or “hidden knowledge,” especially a group guided by a “conscious teacher,” I highly recommend reading Ames Gilbert’s list of questions a prospective member should be prepared to ask. See: Due diligence before making a leap of faith]


Gurdjieff Ouspensky Fellowship of Friends Meetup Bistro Aix





Arts & Living

July 25, 2022


In His Memoir, Spencer Schneider Recounts

A Manhattan Cult Story



By Annette Hinkle


Back in 1989, when an acquaintance invited Spencer Schneider, then 29, to a nondescript unmarked building on lower Broadway in Manhattan for his first meeting, he was not all that impressed. Referred to simply as School, the group adhered to the teachings of two esoteric Russian philosophers, George Gurdjieff and Piotr Ouspensky, and on that first night, Schneider, who had never heard of the pair despite being a philosophy major at Washington University, found the lecture uninteresting and difficult to follow.


In short, nothing about that initial meeting made him think he’d return, and he certainly didn’t think he was on the verge of being swept up into a movement that would become an all-encompassing part of his life.


But that’s exactly what happened.



The Gentle Souls Revolution

Five years in a little cult called “school”, oops, I mean “the study”



APRIL 3, 2012

Chapter 6, Part 2 – Work on the Self:

Psychological ideas [excerpt]


First Line: Work on the Self

First Line: Work on the Self


Think of your daily activities as a linear series of events: make three phone calls, wash the dishes, take Johnny to school, pay bills, commute to work, etc. You might begin to see yourself as a kind of human caterpillar, chomping and crawling through the tasks that make up your days, like a caterpillar chomps through leaves and grass, consuming the necessary fuel to keep consuming, often times to its death.  I have heard that many caterpillars never evolve into butterflies. Those of us who found ourselves in “school” are those who ache to become brightly colored beings flying above gardens, feasting on nectar and spreading seeds of beauty. We hope that our lives can spiral and evolve upwards, so that we do not simply traverse the same circle until we die, consuming and repeating the same activities, day after day; maintaining.


According to “school,” if one makes “sufficient efforts,” s/he will cultivate the ability to rise above and see her/his life as though an impartial observer watching a play.


In its initial classes, school introduces the following psychological ideas. Initially, the ideas and the accompanying “help” can feel like keys to evolution and eventual freedom:


Essence, personality and false personality: 


Once upon a time, every human began as an essence floating in the starry world. Every essence, though, has a fatal flaw that can only be addressed by descending to earth and manifesting as human. This essence chooses the perfect set of parents to address its “flaw” and journeys to earth to be born as a boy or girl. There’s one major problem with this process: over time this young essence develops a shield called the personality. It is meant to protect this vulnerable essence, but as years pass, essence forgets that personality is merely a shield. It falls asleep to its journey and purpose, its true nature.  Personality grows out of control, takes over, and begins to crystallize into “false personality,” that part of ourselves we create for others to see.  Essence recedes further into the background. “School” tells its “students” we come here to reclaim that buried essence. We come here to “remember ourselves”.


Multiplicity as opposed to unity:


In the process of developing false personality, we become psychologically splintered – we develop an internal cast of characters who have their own reactive thoughts, emotional responses and physical responses. “School” calls this having “multiple I’s”. The “I’s” who compose the internal cast of characters compete for the wheel.  Moreover, these characters compete without any awareness of each other. Each one calls itself “I”, believing itself to be one unified “I”. One “I” says it will wake up early; another “I” presses the snooze button in the morning. One “I” begins a diet; another reaches for dessert. With this constant cycle of changing captains, we have no hope of consistently steering the ship toward our destination unless we get “help.” We are a multiplicity.


Liars as opposed to sincere seekers:

Most people believe themselves to be unified, unaware of their internal and constantly changing cast of characters. We are unaware that, in any given moment, any one of these characters could be making decisions that will only be contradicted by another. Therefore, when we speak as though unified – i.e. any time we begin a sentence with the word “I” (like, “I want a relationship.”) – “school” teaches that we are lying: do we really want a relationship? If so, why do some of the I’s in us push relationships away? See? Without the “help” we don’t even know we are lying. “School” tells us only “truth can unbury and grow essence” and only “school” can tell us what the truth is.


Asleep as opposed to awake:

Since we are unaware of our multiplicity, we do not have the knowledge necessary to understand that we are bumbling bundles of skin and bone and emotional, intellectual and physical reaction and contradiction (or as Joni Mitchell once said in an interview, “I was all salt and skin.”) We are asleep to our multiplicity and our reactivity; therefore sleep-walking through our days.


“School” claims the ability to AWAKEN us! This based on the belief that we are rarely, if ever, truly awake. The ideas as translated say that humans exist in four states of consciousness:


  • Literal sleep (in bed, head on pillow, eyes closed)
  • Waking sleep (moving through one’s day without any awareness of our true nature, essence, personality, false personality, multiplicity, etc)
  • Consciousness (living and working with awareness of truth and one’s multiplicity)
  • Objective consciousness (separate and able to observe our programmed responses, as though floating above, able to choose thoughts, emotions and actions that exist in a higher plane)


“School” taught its devotees that, at best, when out of bed and chomping through the day’s events, most live in the state of “waking sleep”.


Mechanical humans as opposed to autonomous individuals:

As humans embodying waking sleep, “school” teaches that we are merely empty machines, programmed to react to events by those messages and experiences we consumed from birth onwards. Put another way, “Man cannot do,” because man has no real free will to choose action, thought or feeling in any given moment. Man simply reacts. But with “school” man may have access to certain tools/ideas that empower his/her ability to do. “School” promises to reveal lost knowledge that will provide true direction, especially through one idea that will constitutes it own chapter in the near future: AIM.


Imprisoned as opposed to free and autonomous:

In one of my initial classes, Robert [Klein] recounted the story of Plato’s Cave: prisoners who are chained to the wall of a cave, unable to turn their heads. Behind them, a fire on a raised platform throws shadows on the wall. All they know of life are these shadows; they believe these shadows to be reality. We are, according to “school”, like these prisoners only seeing shadows and believing the shadows real. “School” claims it can show us the difference.


Self-Observations and Three “Centers” or Three Brains:

“School” tells its seekers to approach this work with a “healthy skepticism” and to question these ideas until we have developed our own understanding. Those of us who entered the cave in Billerica heard our “teachers” say, “Verify these ideas for yourself.” One of the ways to verify this idea of our own mechanical-ity is through a tool called self-observations.


“School” teaches that humans have at least three brains or “centers”: intellectual, emotional and moving/instinctive. Each center has its own intelligence and set of reactions to external events. In attempts to verify the ideas above, each student gets a little notebook and begins to record his/her observations throughout the day, in the very specific format below:


“I observe the thought [FILL IN THOUGHT] as a function of the intellectual center, when [FILL IN EVENT].”


“I observe the feeling [FILL IN EMOTION] as a function of the emotional center when [FILL IN EVENT].”


“I observe the sensation [FILL IN SENSATION] as a function of the moving/instinctive center when [FILL IN EVENT].”


In my initial experiences with self-observations I saw my “multiple Is”, my mechanical-ity, and my automated responses to events. I even began to name and categorize my characters. For example, if any of my classmates was presenting as a perfect student, the cast of the film, Clueless, would appear on my internal stage and think things like, “Well, it must be nice to be so perfect.” (insert snotty-teenage girl voice). I began to see that I could separate myself from those petty and jealous girls. If I was having a shitty day and feeling sorry for myself, I could see the self-pity as a “function of the emotional center”. I could say to myself, “This self-pity is not ‘I’.” Self-observations stripped judgment away from any number of things, depersonalizing emotions, thoughts, reactions, allowing one to watch oneself and learn how this “human machine” operates. On occasion, I could separate enough to choose different and new responses. Imagine the wonderful possibilities with this idea!



               The Bait and Switch


Bait and Switch


At the same time, some part of me could see the set-up in accepting that which “school” preached in its hallowed halls: “I do not know myself; I am mechanical; I cannot do; I am not I, just a bumbling cast of characters reacting to external events; I am asleep, blah, blah, blah.” Self observations, i.e. my constant verification of “This woman as mechanical being”, started becoming its own neurosis-induced prison that reinforced the question, “How do I live?” It fed and grew my lifelong self-doubts and lack of confidence and fears. Instead of “remembering myself”, I felt myself slipping farther and farther away. I clearly recall the repetitive thought, “My life is no longer mine” that would plague me every morning during my commute to the job I hated. But instead of listening to my truth and seeing this thought as a siren screaming, “Step away from the cult, ma’am.” I believed that I wasn’t trying hard enough.  “If I try a little harder,” I thought, “I will “remember myself.” That’s what they told me.


Thus began the reliance on “teachers” for guidance on how to live. 



Welcome to “NAW Aware – School or Scam?”


What is NAW Aware?


This web site is here to inform you about a group known by the following names:

  • The New American Wing (NAW)
  • Balanced Life
  • Higher Cosmos
  • Inner Metamorphosis

Their original name was “The New American Wing”, and it was actively used for at least seven years. Since late 1998, they have been using various fake names, but for convenience here they will be called “The NAW”.


The NAW is a consciousness cult based on “The Fourth Way”, a system of psychology and spirituality popularized by P.D.Ouspensky and G.I.Gurdjieff.


This site is necessary for several reasons.


First, it is aimed at current members of the NAW. If you are in the NAW now, you must understand how little access you have to information critical of the group. You are so busy with your chores that there is hardly any time left to do anything, much less read or browse the net. You are increasingly distant from your family, if not cut off completely. You are only allowed to read books sanctioned by the leaders. No one else there speaks out against anything. If you browse the Internet, say, at the office during the day, chances are very high that you limit yourself to searches relating to the Fourth Way, and even then, most of what you find out there is just more of the same propaganda and proselytising which may, even without your knowing, have dramatically limited your thoughts, your actions, and your true evolutionary possibilities. In the small chance that you have stumbled upon this place, you will find information which “the teachers” have intentionally kept secret, and more importantly, you will find a perspective that is highly critical of those leaders and of the entire social structure which has developed.


Secondly, this site is a resource for those of you who are considering the possibility of joining this group. As a new recruit, you will probably not find out about the true nature of the organization until you have been involved for months. By then, you may already feel a powerful sense of belonging, and your critical thinking may be impaired. At that point it may be very difficult to recognize how destructive the cult can be. However in the early stages, you are more likely to seek out information about the NAW, and also less likely to blindly dismiss the information. This site will let you know what you are really getting involved in, while you are still detached enough to listen.


Finally, the NAW is not fundamentally different from other cults. They may give lip service to Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, but their actual behavior has much in common with other groups. Thus, the NAW can be used as a case study for understanding cults in general.


Back to NAW Aware



NAW Aware


Glossary of Fourth Way terms


The Fourth Way system has its own special language which may seem unusual to outsiders. This glossary is meant to help those of you who are not already familiar with these terms.





Reuben Kincaid March 7, 2024Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


This essay, written more than a quarter of a century ago, documents the essayist’s experience in a group called “New American Wing” which has a lineage tie to the Fellowship of Friends:


The Numbers Game in the New American Wing
by JM


I was in a group called “The New American Wing” (NAW), a spinoff of James Randazzo’s “Spiral of Friends” (SOF), which in turn came from “The Fellowship of Friends” (FOF).


The NAW teachers (a married couple, Jim and Carolyn Kuziak, aka “J&C”) had the final word on who was “a five”, who had awakened. I knew two women who told me they “didn’t realize they had awakened” until a couple days later when the teachers told them so. This was an important clue that something was not quite right, because Man #5 is supposed to be objective in relation to himself. Also in my own personal experiences of non ordinary degrees of consciousness, it was obvious to me that my state had changed. These two women had actually believed they had awakened because the teachers told them so.


A few days after a friend of mine supposedly awakened, I asked him about what had happened. He didn’t say much except “it changes your life”, and “the teachers say I am a five when I am self-remembering.”


There was little doubt who the fives were, because during meetings the teachers would occasionally ask the audience, “who here has awakened?” (As though they forgot, as though they didn’t know us each quite well.) Hands would rise into the air, like kids in a classroom. It was a public performance, resulting in a feeling of superiority in those who raised their hands, and a feeling of self-loathing in those who didn’t. On one occasion, a student raised her hand and the teachers scolded her, “you haven’t awakened, you’ve had experiences but you haven’t awakened.”


The NAW has two main “centers” — one in Ann Arbor and one in Lexington KY, overall about 25-40 students combined. Of these, I can recall eleven who claimed to be Men #5. Generally, these were the older students who had dedicated their lives to the school and had bought-in 100% to the game. People usually awakened during one of the major ceremonies we had during the year (Christmas, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving). It also usually occurred during “obligatories” — the ritual movements.


These students had special privileges after their conversion experience. They could attend special private meetings, held only for those who had awakened. They were also given special exercises. At the time I left, I was just starting to be included in these “older student” activities, even though I had not awakened. They were giving me exercises that did not seem to be practical for me — imagining myself the size of the earth, imagining energy and directing it through my body, etc. There was a thrill in receiving these new exercises, because it gave me the illusion of being an advanced student, of being part of the inner circle, etc.


Fives also had a more prominent role during ceremonies and obligatories. They were also allowed to ask less practical questions at meetings — they could ask theoretical questions regarding higher energies, the ray of creation, symbols, etc., and the teachers would entertain those questions now. This was not an explicit privilege, but was a sort of unwritten understanding, as though now the students had enough being for these questions to be considered “practical”.


Strangely, once someone awakened, they were allowed to take much greater care of their instinctive functions. The teachers would not complain if an older student dropped out of some “work octave” because of physical discomfort. If a non-awakened student tried this, the older students and teachers would come down hard on them. “Do not let the instinctive function eat your work”, “learn how to dominate those queen-of-clubs ‘I’s”, “no half efforts”, “once you decide to do something, do it whole hog and twice the postage”, etc. But awakened students were allowed much more sleep, more breaks, less strenuous work, more desk jobs. The rationale seemed to be, “in a higher state, you are much more sensitive to the needs of the instinctive function.” Or, “if you don’t take care of your machine, it will become negative and eat you when in a higher state.” The teachers exemplified this behavior. They received massages and sexual favors from the innermost core of students, took considerable time each day in a hot tub, and spent hours each night laying in a bed with about 15 pillows watching a $3000 wide-screen TV. One particular student, the teachers’ pet, cooked their meals each night with utmost care: only the best organic foods, making handmade ice-cream, all sorts of special dietary requirements, etc. While preparing food for them, we were told that if we were in a negative state while cooking, they could tell from the food itself, as though our negativity had corrupted the food.


But being considered a Man #5 was not all positive… Awakened students were given additional duties and responsibilities, such as being sent out to start centers in new cities. They were also treated more harshly by the teachers, because they had “verified that this was a C influence school” and were now supposed to devote their entire lives to it. The teachers claimed to control the higher states in the fives, “when you awaken you swim in our higher being bodies.” They also used this as a threat, “I’ve got your nickel … once you’ve awakened, you belong to me — do you understand me?”


Outwardly, there were various signs that would indicate one of these students were supposedly in a higher state. Often they would shed tears, sometimes tears of horror and sometimes tears of joy. The state was usually onset by heavy controlled breathing on the part of the student — such as during obligatories, or during a meeting if a student wanted to be seen making a “super-effort”. They often had a far-away look in their eyes, as though they were not interested in the trivial events taking place around them.


They usually would not look directly in your eyes, and others generally didn’t “photograph their instinctive functions” (stare at them) either. If I looked them in the eyes, sometimes I felt waves of shame arise within me, fearing they could see into my horrible feature-ridden soul. This kind of self-hatred was glorified in various subtle ways throughout the school. A common expression was, “you cannot look in the face of something higher” (without becoming extremely identified). This grand suggestion actually encouraged us to become more identified in these situations.


Sometimes they would experience brief twitches, as though bolts of energy were shooting through their system. One student kept experiencing these jolts frequently a few days after he had “awakened”, until the teachers scolded him during obligatories, “you can’t go there every time, now it is time to get serious.”


The fives quickly became more self-confident, especially around non-awakened students. I can remember how quickly one particular student changed after going through this experience — within a couple weeks he changed from being a true wuss into an assertive person able to take what he felt he deserved. (In many ways it was an act and after a few months he gradually returned closer to his original state.) This new self-confidence came from a renewed certainty about their faith, and also seemed to justify their increased outbursts of negativity towards others. In other words, they were now peers with the other awakened students, and, lacking that fear to keep them on-guard, they were more likely to try to control situations with negative emotions. Their new strength, self-confidence, and perceived power gave them a kind of charisma.


The teachers probably liked the idea of having more awakened students too. They validated their credentials, “proof that this school works”. Awakened students were fully crystallized in their devotion to the school — it seemed that these were the students who would do ANYTHING for the teachers (get a divorce, move to a new town, make large payments, sexual favors, hold multiple jobs, etc…) It justified giving these core devotees extra privileges and extra duties. It maintained the hierarchical power system and justified it with a spiritual basis. It gave these students a feeling of increased being.


Older students also took over many of the public responsibilities previously performed by the teachers. By allowing them to hide in their bedroom, with all contact fully controlled and orchestrated, the teachers were able to generate a kind of mystique. In their absence, we had less chance to ‘catch them in the act’, less opportunity to discover if the teachers were truly higher beings. When we finally did interact with them, it was so formalized and so fear-laden that we were easy prey. And with mere fives running most of the show, any faults could be blamed on them, thus protecting the teachers’ facade of perfection. And although fives were supposedly conscious, they were not fully objective to the external world, so their eventual mechanical flubs and failures could still be forgiven without breaking our belief in the actual existence of something higher.


Source: http://www.fourthwaycult.net



Upper Lobby


The Work, The Fourth Way, The Theatre, Cults, Cult Leaders, George Gurdjieff, Sexual Abuse, Beverly, Massachusetts, Gurdjieff Ideas, Work on Oneself, Spiritual Groups, Teacher-Student Relationships, Cumbres, Work Group



Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Disconcerting passages from William Patrick Patterson’s book, Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, The Man, The Teaching, His Mission. At the risk of appearing obsessed with the inappropriate nature of Gurdjieff’s sexual relationship with many of his female students, I present these quotes with the background knowledge that Cesareo also took advantage of many of his male students — at the same time professing to be a teacher in the Gurdjieff Work tradition. What’s the difference?
1916. Finland. “(Dr.) Stjoernval, who has been sitting quietly suddenly exclaims — “Yes! I believe Georgi Ivanovitch is not less than Christ himself!”
28 September 1919. Tiflis. Elizabeth Stjoernval gives birth to a son, Nikolai. Gurdjieff is the father.
31 December 1923. Prieuré. Jeanne de Salzmann gives birth to a son, Mikhail (“like unto God”), though known in France as Michel. Gurdjieff is the father.
3 March 1934. Leysin, Switzerland. At sixty years of age, Alexander Gustav Salzmann dies of tuberculosis. Earlier, living alone in a hotel in Fontainebleau, with Gurdjieff refusing to visit him, he had gathered all his strength and sought Gurdjieff out at the Café Henri IV. To a student sitting nearby, who has brought him halvah and other delicacies, smuggled from the Prieuré, Gurdjieff is “not very kind” to him. (Footnote #23: Why did de Salzmann leave Gurdjieff? Because Gurdjieff had impregnated his wife Jeanne? Gurdjieff had done the same with Dr. Stjoernval’s wife and he had stayed. So was this a test from Gurdjieff’s point of view of his seriousness?) {Blogger’s note: Really? Gurdjieff had sex with one man’s wife and that justifies the use of another’s?}
16 September 1924. Philadelphia. Jessmin Howarth gives birth to a daughter, Cynthia Ann, called “Dushka” (“darling” in Russian). Gurdjieff is the father.
January 1928. Prieuré. Edith Taylor has had an affair with a married man. He is willing to leave his wife but not to marry her. Gurdjieff consoles her and at some point they become intimate.  Not long afterward, Edith discovers she is pregnant.
13 November 1928. Rouen, France. Edith Taylor gives birth to a daughter. Gurdjieff is the father. He names the baby Evdokia, his mother’s name, which is shortened to Eve. Edith calls her “Petey”.
January 1949. New York. Frank Lloyd Wright, Olgivanna and their daughter Iovanna visit. Gurdjieff seats Olgivanna beside him at dinner and the two speak together in Russian the entire evening. Wright had heard the rumor that women followers had to have sex with Gurdjieff if they really wanted to be initiated into his work. The babies were to be “seekers of truth.” When Wright raises this with his wife she tells him, “But, Frank, he was my teacher. It was completely different from two lovers.”
There were at least two other children born to Mr. Gurdjieff and whomever. Who knows how many sexual encounters happened.
I suppose that Mr. de Hartmann, Dr. Stjoernval, Mr. de Salzmann, Dr. Walker, Mr. Orage, Dr. Nicoll and many other young men can take posthumous solace in the fact that Gurdjieff was heterosexual. Had Mr. G been gay, they might have had a tougher time rationalizing some sexual encounters with a man they only loved as a teacher.
Still, it does beg the question: Would you let Jesus have sex with your wife?


October 17, 2011


George I. Gurdjieff, Peter D. Ouspensky and the Fourth Way


. . . Looking at his life and teachings, it is not difficult to determine whether or not Gurdjieff was an honest and sincere guru: he was a self-proclaimed and proud liar, a con man who delighted in remembering, as well as embellishing, his successful frauds and scams. He was an alcoholic tyrant, an avid opium user, a ‘successful’ hypnotist; his personal habits were deplorable to say the least, and he took all kinds of sexual liberties with his female followers by procreating several children with them.





Golden Veil February 1, 2019 Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


Big Fish Teaches Students to Deep Dive in a Small Pond


Apparently a former member of the Gurdjieff Foundation, William Patrick Patterson is satisfying the thirst of some teacher seekers and monetizing his knowledge of the Fourth Way in a seminar next month in Tucson, Arizona.


Love the photo!





Artemis44 July 21, 2019


I downloaded a complimentary issue of Patterson’s ‘Gurdjieff Journal’ (the link is at the end).


I noticed that the free issue was no. 29. Since the current issue with REB on the cover is 79 and it’s a quarterly publication, the complimentary issue is from 2009 or before. The first article is ‘Rosie, Sharon, Alex, Robert & The Work’ which indicates that Patterson has been in a crusade against REB for a while, probably to avoid competition to his online school as WR suggested.





Tim Campion July 21, 2019


A short excerpt about Robert Burton from Patterson’s 1998 book, Taking With the Left Hand and another anecdote about close encounters with Patterson’s group can be found here.



InsiderJuly 22, 2019


Here is the link to Issue #79 of The Gurdjieff Journal:





Gurdjieff & Taking With the Left Hand by William Patrick Patterson (Author) and Barbara Allen Patterson (Editor)



Prologue [excerpt]


GEORGI IVANOVITCH GURDJIEFF, the extraordinary messenger who introduced and established in the West the ancient esoteric teaching of self-development of The Fourth Way, understood thatas with all things in timegaps, intervals, counter currents would appear that could deflect or distort his teaching from its original direction. There would appear self-appointed teachers who would distort or deflect his message and Mr. Gurdjieff would call them “Candidates for Hasnamuss.” They would “take with the left hand,” as it is said in the East, where the left hand is used when toilet paper is lacking.


He had brought this sacred teaching to the West because he realized, as he said, “Unless the ‘wisdom’ of the East and the ‘energy’ of the West was harnessed and used harmoniously, the world would be destroyed.” Being esoteric in the true sense, the teaching, he said, had been “completely unknown up to the present time.”


The deflections and distortions that have occurred have manifested at the margins of the teaching. However noxious, they have had their use in that they served to test a seeker’s desire for spiritual evolution and knowledge rather than power, beauty and sex. Previously, these “takers of the left hand” have been ignored, for whatever is said only brings them attention. And yet a time comes when so much has been taken that the public—the seedbed of the teaching—must be warned against the false posing as the true.


Robert Earl Burton I have never met. I know of him through newspaper accounts, personal contacts with his former students, and his book Self-Remembering. Burton claims his Fellowship of Friends is a school of the Fourth Way. However, Burton’s only teacher was Alexander Horn, a faux-Gurdjieffian, who tried to enter but was not accepted into the teaching.


Of all Burton’s students I’ve met over the years, the only one of his inner circle was Ed Grieve. He was at the dinner Burton held for Lord Pentland. Pentland had contacted Burton because he was having his students put bookmarks advertising the Fellowship of Friends into Fourth Way books and with the film version of Meetings with Remarkable Men, he had students standing outside theaters passing out Fellowship flyers. Grieve told me that Burton believed Pentland was coming to hand over his students to him because he had recognized Burton’s “higher development,” and even bet on this with several students. In fact, Pentland was coming to ask Burton to make a sizable contribution to the film inasmuch as he was falsely profiting by it.


On Pentland’s arrival, Burton presented him with an expensive sleeping pillow, his idea of an esoteric joke. Several of Burton’s close students joined the two for dinner, Grieve was one of the servers. “Watching the two of them together,” Grieve said, “there was just no question of who was awake and who asleep, and I left the next day to become a student of Lord Pentland’s.”


I met other former long-term members of the Fellowship when I made cross-country trips to promote one of my books or films. Following a talk I gave at a bookstore in Missoula, Montana, a couple came back with my wife and me to our campsite. The man had been with Burton fifteen years, the woman eighteen. Disillusioned, but not as hurt or angry as many we had encountered, they were trying to put the best face on their “Fellowship experience.” They had learned something, they insisted; it hadn’t been all bad. But the continuing scandals and lawsuits against Burton brought by former male students whom he had sexually seduced had forced them to leave. But they still felt he was teaching The Fourth Way, though they had no other experience of it to inform their judgment. Sitting by the campfire, watching the flickering flames on their faces as they tried to make sense of it all, I wondered how much Burton actually did know, and so on my return I read his Self-Remembering and saw the truth of the matter. There is little that is new in it, almost all a rehash of Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. (I have reviewed the book extensively here in the section on Burton.)


The number of Burton’s students has greatly declined with the continuing sex scandals and lawsuits, but those who believe he is, as he declares, “a goddess in a man’s body,” stay blindly loyal. Always a great merchandizer, Burton has attempted to solve the student problem by creating an online school, headed by a married Israeli student, Burton’s “close friend” Asaf Braverman. So the “esoteric” Fellowship parade continues.



Golden Veil September 12, 2023


A quick glance at the Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation website reveals some congruity between the teachings of William Patterson and Robert Earl Burton / the Fellowship of Friends. Burton has always emphasized the Fourth Way teachings of Ouspensky and Rodney Collin along with his own superstitious, outlandish beliefs, rather than focussing on Gurdjieff, but check out the following page on Patterson’s website. There may be some secondary source cross pollination going on.





Beelzebob September 17, 2023


Golden Veil (#23):


Per his website, Patterson was a student of Lord Pentland (probably in the 1970s). Pentland was in charge of the Gurdjieff Foundation in North America after Mr. Gurdjieff’s death in 1949. The Gurdjieff Foundation has always had a low regard for Ouspensky and takes no notice of Collin at all. The article you referenced is pure Gurdjieff.



Golden VeilSeptember 18, 2023


Beelzebob, you’re definitely right about the Gurdjieff Foundation, not so much, I think, about William Patterson. I see much parity between R.E.B. and W.P. They both set up their own organizations in Northern California with themselves in positions of authority and use the Fourth Way as a basis, mixing in Egyptian and Christianity theology and emphasizing concepts such as the necessity of growing a soul – as exemplified on the link I referenced above in post 23.


It is interesting that Lord John Pentland, who co-founded the first Gurdjieff Foundation center in New York after Gurdjieff’s death, studied with Ouspensky for many years yet with Gurdjieff less than a year, just prior to G’s death. I never met him, but I remember Lady Pentland; she continued to visit the Gurdjieff Foundation centers in the U.S.  A key strength of Lord Pentland’s was as an editor and publisher of Fourth Way books and the journal Material for Thought through his Far West Editions, and his co-founder of the first center in New York, Jeanne De Salzmann’s special strength was as a transmitter of the Movements, as can be seen in Peter Brook’s film adaptation of Gurdjieff’s one truly accessible book, Meetings with Remarkable Men.


As R.E.B.’s physical and mental health decline, his minders do what they can to prop him up as the Fellowship of Friends figurehead. His students help compete with the Gurdjieff Foundation for the “magnetic centers” enthralled by the Fourth Way, casting a variety of nets for new members, with websites such as fourthwaytoday.org/.


I hear that though his teaching skills have lapsed, R.E.B. is still most particular that his underwear is ironed and his sexual needs fulfilled. Didn’t he once say that people will especially manifest their true essence as demonstrated by their interests that remain as they near death?



Bob Patterson September 19, 2023


Golden Veil (#25):


I don’t know much about Patterson except that he is an ex-Foundation member who went “maverick” and formed his own group (and also that he writes bad books).


The concept of the necessity of growing a soul (as opposed to being born with one) is central to Gurdjieff’s teachings.


As I understand it, prior to his death in 1949 Gurdjieff appointed Lord Pentland to lead the Work in “America”, the principal centre of which was then (and still is now) in New York. Pentland took the remnants of the existing Gurdjieff groups in the New York area (amongst others, Madame Ouspensky’s group and the group led by Orage in the early 1930s and various people after that) and established the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York.


In contrast to the FOF, for most of its history the Gurdjieff Foundation assiduously avoided any kind of proselytizing. It was secretive – “magnetic centres” had to find it. I believe that has changed somewhat owing, amongst other things, to the “greying” of the membership and a resultant decline in numbers. It seems younger people don’t resonate with the “Quiet Work” (Madame de Salzmann’s invention) that the Foundation is still peddling.



Reuben KincaidMarch 18, 2024


Gurdjieff’s ideas, “objective knowledge,” bosh. You can criticize them on their merits, AND you can criticize the turkey who trumpeted them. The latter is criticized as ad hominem argument, but it’s really no different than observing what a schmuck Trump is AND talking about what comes out of his mouth. Frank Lloyd Wright heard G to claim 104 sons and 27 daughters; G had at least seven children with six different women. The guy couldn’t keep it in his pants. (Small wonder he stigmatized “a policeman attitude towards sex.”) G was an alcoholic drunk driver who bragged about “shearing sheep,” the people who looked to him for guidance. He painted sparrows and sold them as canaries. He was a con man and had no compunctions about it. At least O., in his fifties, confessed that he thought “the system” was a fraud but he couldn’t give it up because he was addicted to the lifestyle.


The claim that “Gurdjieff’s ideas” are “pure” and Burton “corrupted” them is a weak argument masquerading as strength. If you want to insulate yourself from critical examination of your ideas, describe them as “pure” and “sacred” and make a cornerstone of your system the dogma that “if you disagree, you do not understand.” Weak, weak, weak. Instead of grappling with the claims Gurdjieff’s ideas make about reality, the defender of these ideas becomes the champion of purity and sacredness. It’s a moral stance which inflates its proponent’s conception of himself as an heroic defender of the faith.


The response to criticism of Gurdjieffian ideas is usually a refusal to engage. Seldom if ever does one see Gurdjieffian ideas defended on their merits in a debate. William Patrick Patterson says publicly, “I don’t take criticism of The Work seriously.” The further position he asserts, based on lineage and sacred purity claims, is that people in the Fellowship didn’t really have contact with The Work. But that position misses the boat, because both the Fellowship and The Work itself are defective to the very core of what they purport to be.



From the Skeptic’sDictionary
by Robert Todd Carroll, est. 1994



G. I. Gurdjieff (1872?-1949)


George S. Georgiades was a Greco-Armenian charismatic spiritual leader who was born in Russia but who made a name for himself in Paris as the mystic George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. In Russia, he established what he called “The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man” (1919), which he re-established in France in 1922. It was at his Institute that Gurdjieff promoted a litany of hilarious occult and mystical notions about the universe, which he claimed he was taught by wise men while traveling and studying in Central Asia. He put down his “insights” in books with titles like Meetings With Remarkable Men, All and Everything, and Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson: an objectively impartial criticism of the life of man. Gurdjieff’s obscure musings were presented in more accessible language by his disciple Petyr Demianovich Ouspensky.


To some devotees of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky was an incomplete mystic. Other disciples find Gurdjieff and Ouspensky to be co-gurus. They have much to say about many things, including the moon:

The influence of the Moon upon everything living manifests itself in all that happens on Earth. Man can not tear himself free from the Moon. All his movements and consequently all his actions are controlled by the Moon. The mechanical part of our life is subject to the Moon.*


The moon at present feeds on organic life, on humanity. [In Search of the Miraculous]

What makes a guru such as Gurdjieff attractive as a spiritual conquistador is his seemingly shrewd observation that most human beings who are awake act as if they are asleep. Gurdjieff also observed that most people are dead on the inside. I think he meant by these claims that most people are passive sheep and need a guru to give their lives vitality and meaning. That is to say, I believe Gurdjieff correctly noted that most people are neither skeptics nor self-motivated, and that many are easily duped by gurus because they want someone to show them the way to live a meaningful life. He offered to show his followers the way to true wakefulness, a state of awareness and vitality which transcends ordinary consciousness. He was able to attract a coterie of writers, artists, wealthy widows and other questing souls to work his farm for him in exchange for sharing his wisdom. He offered numerous claims and explanations for everything under the moon, rooted in little more than his own imagination and never tempered with concern for what science might have to say about his musings.


Gurdjieff obviously had a powerful personality, but his disdain for the mundane and for natural science must have added to his attractiveness. He allegedly exuded extreme self-confidence and exhibited no self-doubt, traits which must have been comforting to many people. My favorite Gurdjieff story is told by Fritz Peters. To explain “the secret of life” to a wealthy English woman who had offered him £1,000 for such wisdom, Gurdjieff brought a prostitute to their table and told her he was from another planet. The food he was eating, he told her, was sent to him from his home planet at no small expense. He gave the prostitute some of the food and asked her what it tasted like. She told him it tasted like cherries. “That’s the secret of life,” Gurdjieff told the English lady. She called him a charlatan and left. Later that day, however, she gave him the money and became a devoted follower. He might have hit her with a stick like some Zen master and obtained the same result.


To those on a quest for spiritual evolution or transformation, guides like Gurdjieff and Ouspensky promise entry into an esoteric world of ancient mystical wisdom. Such a world may seem attractive to those who are drifting at sea and rudderless.


The Gurdjieff Foundation has about two dozen centers, mostly in north America.


There are Gurdjieff-Ouspensky Centers in over 30 countries around the world; they are operated by the Fellowship of Friends and are not associated with the Gurdjieff Foundation but with Robert Earl Burton.


See also enneagram and Ouspensky.



Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way:

A Critical Appraisal





Almost from the beginning of Gurdjieff’s teaching mission in the West, he was surrounded by controversy, rumour and speculation.


Critics, outside observers and even some of his own students questioned his intentions, credentials as a spiritual teacher, methods, traditional attitudes and beliefs, use of alcohol, sexual behavior and validity of the ideas he presented.


Was he a genuine spiritual teacher or a charlatan, an ‘Emissary from Above’ or a ‘black magician’?



Associated Press May 7, 2019


Digging further found:


A project of:
Learning Institute for Growth, Healing and Transformation (LIGHT)





Golden VeilMay 7, 2019


I found it, too. Fellowship of Friends former member Joel Friedlander is quoted [in the part below] footnoted (30) and William Patterson (35) in “Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way: A Critical Appraisal” in the section CONTEMPORARY STATUS OF THE WORK, pages 6 – 17, which I have excerpted below. In footnote (33), the Fellowship of Friends is specifically mentioned.


~ ~ ~


The techniques used by some “teachers” to transmit Work ideas can have a powerful and potentially negative effect on students if not properly employed:


“It has been reported that in an effort to provide the ‘friction’ or difficulties that are deemed necessary to the Work, ‘teachers’ have made their unwitting students endure extreme periods of sleeplessness, fasting, silence, irrational and sudden demands, extraordinary physical efforts, and so on.” (30)


A more extreme distortion of the Gurdjieff group dynamic occurs in the case where the leader manipulates students for ego satisfaction or personal gain. (32)  Some of these groups have all the characteristics of a cult. (33)  Psychologist Charles Tart warns of the dangers of becoming involved in such groups:


Gurdjieff’s ideas readily lend themselves to authoritarian interpretations that turn work based on them into cults (in the worst sense of the term), giving great power to a charismatic leader. Some of these leaders are deluded about their level of development but are very good at influencing others. Some are just plain charlatans who appreciate the services and money available from devoted followers. It is dangerous to get involved with any group teaching Gurdjieff’s ideas. It may be led by a charlatan, it may be only a social group with no real teaching effect, it may be riddled with pathological group dynamics that hurt its members. (34)


FOOTNOTES for the above:


(30) Joel Friedlander  “The Work Today”  Gnosis  No. 20, Summer 1991, p. 40.


(32) Frank Sinclair, a past president of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, with many years experience observing various Work groups, writes in Without Benefit of Clergy (Xlibris, 2005, p. 15) that many group leaders are “subject to weaknesses and sins, not to speak of downright ignorance, appalling self-conceit, unexamined arrogance, and presumptuous elitism: how many there are who profess to have been ‘specially prepared’ and singled out (often only by themselves) to carry the torch.”


(33) An example of a cult masking as a Fourth Way group is the Gurdjieff Ouspensky Center, also known as the Fellowship of Friends. The organization refers to its studies as a Gurdjieff/Ouspensky teaching (although Ouspensky is clearly their major inspiration) and claims that it has expanded the scope of these teachings by introducing cultural and philosophical material from the world’s great spiritual traditions and thinkers. This organization differs from most Gurdjieff groups in their active recruitment of followers; and there have been a number of serious allegations about the organization and in particular the leader of the movement, Robert Burton. See James Moore “Gurdjieffian Groups in Britain” (Religion Today, Volume 3(2), 1986, pp. 1-4), Theodore Nottingham: “The Fourth Way and Inner Transformation” (Gnosis No. 20, Summer 1991, p. 22) and William Patterson Taking With the Left Hand (Fairfax, California: Arete Communications, 1998).


(34) Charles Tart  Waking Up  (Boston: Shambhala, 1986), pp. 288-289.


~ ~ ~


Word about the Fellowship of Friends does get around! At times, former members even broadcast their own experiences and raise awareness about “The School” without revealing that they, too, were once members.



Gurdjieff International Review


The Strange Cult of Gurdjieff


An Insider’s Story of the Most Mysterious

Religious Movement in the World


by Armagnac


What has usually been printed about Gurdjieff, who has tried to translate Eastern knowledge into Western psychology, has been highly fanciful and mostly tosh. Practical Psychology Monthly here presents an article, not by a journalist hastily writing up the impressions of a single interview with Gurdjieff, but by a student who for twelve years was a member of the cult1 that attracted so much attention in Paris, London, Berlin and New York. The subject has never before been so thoroughly covered in a magazine article. [Editors of Practical Psychology Monthly, 1937]


Probably you have never heard of G. I. Gurdjieff. It’s largely because the man shuns publicity. The newshawks have descended upon him from time to time; there have been stories in the New York newspapers and in the news-magazines. But the pickings have been scanty. There have been a few articles about his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man when it was functioning at Fontainebleau, France, but they have been written by visitors who stayed there for only a very brief time. Recently a book2 devoted to modern religious leaders carried a chapter about this enigmatic teacher of psychology, but this chapter like most that have been written about Gurdjieff is highly fanciful.


But if little has appeared in print about this man (or superman, as some of his followers think), much has been gossiped about him in the great capitol cities, Paris, London, New York and Chicago. The fantastic tales I have heard! Usually, without a speck of truth in them. But Gurdjieff is like that—a legendary figure. Many people have called him a charlatan; some think he is a hypnotist who exploits his followers; some, including very shrewd and highly intelligent persons, say frankly that he is the greatest man alive. To the present writer Gurdjieff is an enigma, a strange individual about whom it is impossible to make up one’s mind.




A Reading Guide


Edited by J. Walter Driscoll



New Cult: Forest Temple of Hard Work and Rough Food


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.


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 exclude Rasputin from this statement both because his “mysticism” was of a somewhat peculiar nature and because his notoriety was due rather to political than to intellectual influence.

 The wider public first became interested when Katherine Mansfield, the writer, died in the institute; immediately people were interested to know what mysterious sort of place this was where the clever young author had preferred to pass the last months of her life. And yet reliable information has been lacking. Except for one or two vague articles in two London papers, no account of Gurdjiev’s institute has, I believe, yet appeared in print. 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 Prieuré 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 one of Gurdjieff’s illegitimate children. The professor who told me this also assured me that Gurdjieff had left many children around America).”


Although no evidence or documents have certified anyone as a child of Gurdjieff, the following seven people are believed to be his children:

  • Cynthie Sophia “Dushka” Howarth (1924–2010); her mother was dancer Jessmin Howarth. She went on to found the Gurdjieff Heritage Foundation.
  • Sergei Chaverdian; his mother was Lily Galumnian Chaverdian.
  • Andrei, born to a mother known only as Georgii.
  • Eve Taylor (born 1928); the mother was one of his followers, American socialite Edith Annesley Taylor.
  • Nikolai Stjernvall (1919–2010), whose mother was Elizaveta Grigorievna, wife of Leonid Robertovich de Stjernvall.
  • Michel de Salzmann (1923–2001), whose mother was Jeanne Allemand de Salzmann; he later became head of the Gurdjieff Foundation.
  • Svetlana Hinzenberg (1917–1946), daughter of Olga (Olgivanna) Ivanovna Hinzenberg and a future stepdaughter of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


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 | George Gurdjieff



From Episodes with Gurdjieff  by Edwin Wolfe (p. 24)


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 International Review


Further Episodes with Gurdjieff


Related by Edwin Wolfe



Gurdjieff on Sex: Subtle Bodies,

Si 12, and the Sex Life of a Sage


Johanna J. M. Petsche


Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949) was an Armenian-Greek teacher of esoteric doctrine. His rather candid teachings and views on sex and sexuality, which are scattered through his writings and those of his pupils, are seldom discussed by writers on Gurdjieff, though they are intrinsic to Gurdjieff’s overall vision of human beings and their potential for spiritual development. Gurdjieff’s fundamental teaching hinges on the precept that human beings are mechanical, habitually carrying out their lives in a sleep-like state. In his system, this is largely explained by the body’s continual squandering of the potent sexual energy produced by its ‘sex centre’. The ultimate aim of Gurdjieff’s teaching is to harmonise the different ‘centres’ that exist within the individual, so that the individual might ‘wake up’ and break out of their usual somnambulistic, mechanical state and, in this way, develop within themselves subtle bodies. The sex centre plays a surprisingly significant and unique role in this soteriological process, as will be demonstrated.


This chapter will begin with a brief background to Gurdjieff and his teaching. Gurdjieff’s views on the sex centre, which governs mechanical behaviour 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. 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.





The Three Dangerous Magi: Osho, Gurdjieff, Crowley, examines the lives, teachings, and influence of three of the most controversial, important, and interesting ‘crazy wisdom’ teachers of the 20th century. It was published by O-Books (now Axis Mundi Books) in December 2010 and is available in major bookstores and via Amazon.


Despite the consistent focus and research required to produce a work like this (230,000 words and 714 pages), ultimately it was not hard for me to write, because the subject matter is absorbing and juicy (in contrast to the repetitive dryness of so much of the written material concerning transformational inner work). Crazy-wisdom type teachers, at least those of an impactful and influential nature, are profoundly interesting, if only because they run counter to the mass doctrines of religious programming that in large part is concerned with dividing human beings inwardly via a morally simplistic dualism. This simple-mindedness shows up a great deal in so-called ‘new age’ teachings, with their tiresome ‘warriors of the light’ mentality and tendency to perpetuate standard Christian programming that ultimately reinforces the repression of the nastier, more hidden elements of the ego (what Jung called the ‘shadow’, essentially). The Great Work lies in the uniting of Opposites (a work that often is necessarily antinomian), and more subtly in the embracing of paradox, not in ‘division for morality’s sake’. I address some of these matters in my book Rude Awakening.


As to the matter of what exactly ‘crazy wisdom’ is, the term technically derives from the Tibetan yeshe cholwa, which means roughly ‘wisdom gone wild’. The Indian equivalent of the Tibetan crazy wisdom teacher is the avadhuta, a term that refers to a wandering mystic who flaunts social conventions and whose concern with awakening transcends moral frameworks. The best two treatments of this difficult subject I am aware of are Chogyam Trungpa’s Crazy Wisdom and Georg Feurenstein’s more scholarly Holy Madness.


P. T. Mistlberger | ptmistlberger.com




From Chapter 8: Self-Perfection and the Myth of the Infallible Guru (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’.



From Biographies

By Peter Holleran


George Gurdjieff – Mysterious Trickster

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



     Pema Chodron tells an amusing story of Gurdjieff’s particular manner of teaching:


     “There was a man in his community who was really bad-tempered. Nobody could stand this guy because he was so prickly. Every little thing caused him to spin off into a tantrum. Everything irritated him. He complained constantly, so everyone felt the need to tiptoe around him because anything that might be said could cause him to explode. People just wished he would go away.”


     “Gurdjieff liked to make his students do things that were completely meaningless. One day there were about forty people out cutting up a lawn into little pieces and moving it to another place in the grounds. This was too much for this fellow, it was the last straw. He blew up, stormed out, got in his car, and drove off, whereupon there was a spontaneous celebration. People were thrilled, so happy he has gone. But when they told Gurdjieff what had happened, he said, ‘Oh no!’ and went after him in his car.”


     “Three days later they both came back. That night when Gurdjieff’s attendant was serving him his supper, he asked, ‘Sir, why did you bring him back?’ Gurdjieff answered in a very low voice, ‘You’re not going to believe this, and this is just between you and me; you must tell no one. I pay him to stay here.’” (4a)


     At one time John Bennett believed that Pak Subuh was the “Awakener of Conscience” mentioned in All and Everything who was supposedly destined to complete the work of Gurdjieff. Their teachings are very different, however (which is perhaps why he was to be the completion), and Bennett is not joined in this view by the majority of Gurdjieff students.


     Gurdjieff evidently had yogic powers of a sort, but controversy exists over his morals and ethics, no doubt due to his use of “crazy-wise” methods. 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? Anthony Damiani suggests that the Gurdjieff work did not produce realization of the subject, but only an objective “fourth state,” perhaps a purified ahamkara:


     “If you go to a higher level than this one, it will still be a content of consciousness [rather than consciousness itself]; and if you go up to an even higher level, or even to the level of being itself, there will always be a content of consciousness. Unfortunately this is an idea which neither Ouspensky or Gurdjieff could grasp. Although Ouspensky talks about the fourth state of consciousness, he fails to understand that it could be analyzed just as at the empirical level or any level….This is true of all the seven levels of existence, even if you live in the angelic world. So if someone comes from another level of existence and said, ‘Yes, but your analysis doesn’t hold for my plane of existence,’ I would say, ‘Is it a content? Is it an experience for you? Is it a world that you are perceiving? Is there a perception taking place? You know it? Yes? Then it’s subject to the same analysis.’ That’s how it cuts through everything and that’s why this teaching is direct and the most comprehensive one you will find. This teaching has been around for thousands of years and it won’t disappear.” (8)



Gurdjieff’s teaching: for scholars and practitioners




By Sophia Wellbeloved
(with 13 comments)





A critical investigation of a subject who inspired a partisan movement and also much controversy. Gurdjieff has been diversely described as an occultist, a hypnotist, a mystic, a holistic philosopher, and a charlatan.





Gurdjieff and Blavatsky: Western Esoteric Teachers in Parallel


Johanna Petsche


This article is concerned with the largely unexamined interrelations between the biographies (both factual and mythological), public personas, and teachings of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) and George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949). Although their lifetimes overlap in the late nineteenth century, Blavatsky and Gurdjieff never met.1  The years that most obviously link them are between 1912 and 1916, after Blavatsky’s death, when Gurdjieff was establishing himself as a spiritual teacher and formulating his teachings in Moscow and St Petersburg. At this time Theosophy was flourishing in Russia, particularly in these cities, which were major centres for the occult revival. It will be posited that Gurdjieff capitalised on the popularity of Theosophy by donning a Blavatsky-like image and using recognisable Theosophical terminology in order to attract followers in Russia. 


Blavatsky and Gurdjieff were pioneers in reviving occult traditions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and in introducing Eastern religious and philosophical ideas to the West. Charismatic and controversial, both courted reputations as charlatan gurus,2 impostors, and spies,3 and they remain problematic figures, vilified by some while emphatically honoured by others.





Gurdjieff International Review





James Moore





International Review


Winter 1998/1999 Issue, Vol. II No. 2


Special Issue on P. D. Ouspensky




Gurdjieff International Review


Rodney Collin


A Man Who Wished To Do Something With His Life


 Terje Tonne



Since I first came into contact with Rodney Collin’s writing, his simple and honest approach to life and the Gurdjieff Work has always struck me deeply. Whether it is in his books, collected notes, unpublished manuscripts or his personal letters—it’s always there.


Rodney Collin-Smith was born on the 26th of April 1909 in the coastal town of Brighton, England. His father, Frederick Collin-Smith, had retired early from his business as a general merchant in London and after traveling in Europe and Egypt had settled down in Brighton. There Rodney’s father married Kathleen Logan, much younger than he and the daughter of a local hotel owner. Kathleen was a member of the local Theosophical Society and had a strong interest in astrology, possibly the source of some of Rodney Collin’s later interests. She also worked extensively with transcribing books for the blind.


After boarding school at Ashford Grammar School in Kent, Rodney Collin studied at the London School of Economics, where he received his Bachelor of Commerce degree. He worked as a freelance journalist supplying articles on art and travel to the [London] Evening Standard and the Sunday Referee. In 1930, on a pilgrimage organized by the Christian organization Toc-H, he met Janet Buckley. That same year he read Ouspensky’s A New Model of the Universe. Four years later, Collin and Buckley married in London.


In 1935 Collin and Buckley attended some lectures given in London by Maurice Nicoll. After meeting Ouspensky in September 1936, Rodney Collin knew instantly that he had found that which he had been looking for in his extensive reading and traveling. Robert de Ropp, at that time also a member of Toc-H, was most likely a source for their developing interest in the Work ideas. Regardless of what perspective one assumes for a description or interpretation of Collin’s work, it is not possible to overstate both the direct and the indirect influence of Ouspensky . . .



The Theory of



Man, The Universe, and Cosmic Mystery


By Rodney Collin





Meanwhile, to the ordinary man, interested in his own fate but not particularly in science, it can only be said that perhaps, on closer examination, he may find this book in fact not so ‘scientific’ as it at first appears. Scientific language is the fashionable language of the day, just as the language of psychology was the fashionable language thirty years ago, the language of passion the fashionable language in Elizabethan times, and the language of religion the fashionable language of the Middle Ages. When people are induced to buy toothpaste or cigarettes by pseudo-scientific arguments and explanations, evidently this in some way corresponds to the mentality of the age, and truths must also be scientifically expressed.


At the same time, this is not to suggest that the scientific language used is a disguise, a pretence or a falsification. The explanations given are, as far as it has been possible to verify, quite correct and they correspond to actual facts.3  What is claimed is that the principles used could with equal correctness be applied to any other form of human experience, with equally or more interesting results. And that it is these principles which are of importance, rather than the sciences to which they are applied.


Where do these principles come from? To answer this question, it becomes necessary to acknowledge my complete indebtedness to one man, and to explain to a certain extent how this indebtedness came about. 


I first met Ouspensky in London, where he was giving private lectures, in September 1936. These ‘lectures’ referred to an extraordinary system of knowledge, quite incomparable with anything I had encountered before, which he had received from a man whom he called ‘G’. This system, however was not new: on the contrary it was said to be a very ancient one, which had always existed in hidden form and traces of which could from time to time be seen coming to the surface of history in one guise or another. Although it explained in an extraordinary way countless things about man and the universe, which had seemed hitherto quite inexplicable, its sole purpose – as O. constantly stressed – was to help individual men to awake to a different level of consciousness.
    Any attempts to use this knowledge for other and more ordinary purposes he discouraged or forbade altogether.


    Yet despite the staggering completeness of this ‘system’ in itself, one could never entirely separate it from the ‘being’ of the man who expounded it, from O. himself. When anyone else tried to explain it, the ‘system’ degenerated, lost quality in some way. And although no one could entirely neutralise the great strength of the ideas in themselves, it was clear that the ‘system’ could not be taken apart from a man of a certain quite unusual level of consciousness and being. For only such a man could induce in others the fundamental changes of understanding and attitude which were necessary to grasp it.


3.  Even ‘facts’, however, are not sacred. Of two recognised and reputed scientists, writing in two books published in England in the same year (1950), one states as a ‘fact’ that the moon is moving away from the earth, the other equally categorically that it is moving towards it.


    This ‘system’, in the pure and abstract form in which it was originally given, has been recorded once and for all by Ouspensky himself in his In Search of the Miraculous. Anyone who wishes to compare the original principles with the deductions which have here been made, would do well to read that book first. They will then find themselves in a position to judge whether the applications and developments of the ideas are legitimate. And in fact, from their own point of view, it will be their duty so to judge.


    Personally, I felt myself at a crossroads at the time, and on the first occasion I saw O. in private – at his crowded little rooms in Gwyndyr Road – I told him that I was a writer by nature, and I asked his advice upon the courses which then lay open to me. He said, very simply, “Better not to get too involved. Later we may find something for you to write.”


    It was typical of the strange confidence that O. inspired that this seemed a complete answer to my problem – or rather, I felt that I no longer had to worry about it, it had been taken from me. In fact, as a result of this conversation, for just over ten years I wrote practically nothing at all. There was too much else to do. But in the end O. kept his promise. And the outline of the present book was written in the two months immediately before his death, in October 1947, as a direct result of what he was trying to achieve and show at that time. Later, a second book, continuing where this leaves off, was written after his death.


During the ten years’ interval, O. expounded to us in countless ways – theoretical, philosophical and practical – all the different sides of the ‘system’. When I arrived, many of those with him had already been studying in this way, and endeavoring to penetrate to the result he indicated, for ten or fifteen years, and they were able to help a newcomer like myself to understand very much of what was and what was not possible. O. tirelessly explained, tirelessly showed us our illusions, tirelessly pointed the way – yet so subtly that if one was not ready to understand, his lessons could pass one by, and it was only years later that one might remember the incident, and realise what he had been demonstrating. More violent methods may be possible, but these can also leave scars that are difficult to heal.


    O. never worked for the moment. It might even be said that he did not work for time – he worked only for recurrence. But this needs much explanation. In any case, he quite evidently worked and planned with a completely different sense of time from the rest of us, though to those who impatiently urged him to help them achieve quick results, he would say: “No, time is a factor. You can’t leave it out.”


    So the years passed. Yet although very much indeed was achieved, it often seemed to us that O. was too far ahead of us, that he had something which we had not, something which made certain possibilities practical for him that remained theoretical for us, and which for all his explaining, we did not see how to get. Some essential key seemed missing. Later, this key was shown. But that is a different story.


    O. went to America during the war. In connection with this strange unfolding of possibilities which went by the name of O’s ‘lectures’, I remember how in New York about 1944 he gave us a task which he said would be interesting for us. This was to ‘classify the sciences’, according to the principles which had been explained in the system; to classify them according to the worlds which they studied. He referred to the last classification of the sciences – by Herbert Spencer – and said that though it was interesting, it was not very satisfactory from our point of view nor from the point of view of our time. He also wrote to his friends in England about this task. It was only when the present book was nearing completion, some five years later, that I realised that it was in fact one answer to O’s task.


    O. returned to England in January 1947. He was old, ill and very weak. But he was also something else. He was a different man. So much of the vigorous, whimsical, brilliant personality, which his friends had known and enjoyed for so many years, had been left behind, that many meeting him again were shocked, baffled, or else were given a quite new understanding of what was possible in the way of development.


    In the bitter early spring of 1947, he called several large meetings in London of all the people who had previously listened to him, and of others who never had. He spoke to them in a new way. He said that he abandoned the system. He asked them what they wanted, and said that only from that could they begin on the way of self-remembering and consciousness.


It is difficult to convey the impression created. For twenty years in England before the war, O. had almost daily explained the system. He had said that everything must be referred to it, that things could only be understood in relation to it. To those who had listened to him the system represented the explanation of all difficult things, pointed the way to all good things. Its words and its language had become more familiar to them than their mother tongue. How could they ‘abandon the system’?


    And yet, to those who listened with positive attitude to what he now had to say, it was suddenly as though a great burden had been taken from them. They realised that in the way of development true knowledge must first be acquired and then abandoned. That exactly what makes possible the opening of one door may make impossible the opening of the next. And some for the first time began to gain an idea where lay that missing key which might admit them to the place where O. was and where they were not.


    After this O. retired to his house in the country, saw very few people, hardly spoke. Only he now demonstrated, now performed in actuality and in silence, that change of consciousness the theory of which he had explained so many years.


The story of those months can not be told here. But at dawn one September day a fortnight before his death, after a strange and long preparation, he said to a few friends who were with him: “You must start again. You must make a new beginning. You must reconstruct everything for yourselves – from the very beginning.”


    This then was the true meaning of ‘abandoning the system’. Every system of truth must be abandoned, in order that it may grow again. He had freed them from one expression of truth which might have become dogma, but which instead may blossom into a hundred living forms, affecting every side of life.


    Most important of all, ‘reconstructing everything for oneself’ evidently meant ‘reconstructing everything in oneself’, that is, actually creating in oneself the understanding which the system had made possible and achieving the aim of which it spoke – actually and permanently overcoming the old personality and acquiring a quite new level of consciousness.


    Thus if the present book may be taken as a ‘reconstruction’, it is only an external reconstruction, so to speak, a representation of the body of ideas we were given, in one particular form and in one particular language. Despite its scientific appearance, it has no importance whatsoever as a compendium of scientific facts or even as a new way of presenting these facts. Any significance it may have can only lie in its being derived, though at second hand, from the actual perceptions of higher consciousness, and in its indicating a path by which such consciousness may be again approached.





Lyne, August 1947
Tlalpam, April 1953



WhaleRider April 29, 2019Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


It dawned on me today that one of the reasons the fourth way works so well not only to recruit followers, but to funnel unsuspecting victims who join the cult directly into Burton’s predatory orbit is that Ouspensky’s books focus on both the “efforts” required in the so-called, pseudo-scientific “system” and also a great deal upon Ouspensky’s close relationship with his teacher, Gurdjieff.


To my recollection, Ouspensky doesn’t mention anyone else in his writings in such vivid detail.


It was all about Mr. O. and Mr. G., with musical accompaniment provided by Saltzman.


(Toward the end of Gurdjieff’s life, apparently it was all about the Benjamins…determining who could pay the most to have direct contact with him, of course after he disavowed any connection with Nicoll’s American extension of his cult. All roads lead to Gurdjieff, just like all roads lead to Burton, there are no others.)


So as a result of my intense study of Ouspensky’s three main books (required reading according to my center director) that’s what I was led to expect when I joined the so-called “fourth way school” called the Fellowship of Friends…that I eventually needed to have as close a relationship with my “teacher” as Ouspensky did with his – sans the “expression of negative emotions” – in order to “evolve”.


And in order to be a member and be “photographed” in the fourth way tradition or shown just how “asleep” I was, payment was necessary, the perfect setup for Burton’s (or other’s) predatory sexual, emotional, and financial exploitation.


IMO, that’s what makes the fourth way and supporting “work language” so incredibly toxic.


The more depersonalized I grew through the practice of “self-observation” of “the machine”, the more compliant I became. Any resistance to Burton’s agenda was negatively labeled as “willfulness” or succumbing to “feminine dominance”.


Fourth way ideas are also used by the cult as a self-destructive weapon to turn a person against themself…hence the evolution of “false personality versus true personality” into the FOF’s splitting of a person’s psyche into the “upper self versus lower self”.


Modern Psychology, on the other hand, teaches one to have a more constructive, nuanced, and inclusive relationship with a person’s unconscious parts, generally in an empathetic setting, without mystifying spiritual and delusional superstitious beliefs.


Bear in mind that the language of psychology, i.e. terms like cognitive dissonance, magical thinking, ideas of reference, thought reform, narcissism, ego, personality, sociopathic behavior, etc., are the lens through which the public at large can safely comprehend the cult experience (and many here regularly use to describe and understand our cult experience) without having to join a cult and learn first hand or reduce our cult experiences into a simplistic battle between good and evil.


For example, we look to the work of Margaret Singer, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist, who was a leading expert on the topic, to articulate the underpinning of cult behavior for us.


In other words, psychological language can help a person understand that in order for a pathologically narcissistic personality to thrive in a cult situation, he or she must be surrounded by people with pathologically accommodating personalities who lack healthy narcissism, myself included at the time…the cult milieu functioning as the arena for the interplay between the selfish and the selfless in all of us, without becoming self derogatory about having joined or simply pointing the finger (or giving the finger in my case) at Burton.


And one of the proven methods to deprogram a person from cult indoctrination such as the fourth way is to strongly suggest they “ABANDON THE SYSTEM”…ironically Ouspensky’s famous last words)…and the language associated with it.


(And on the off chance that anyone still in the cult is reading this, that’s your C-influence for today.)



Coming Out of the Cults
Psychology Today, January 1979
By Margaret T. Singer



Nancy GilbertJuly 21, 2019




This article summarizes research on the phenomena of group feel and group think, which are shown to be part and parcel of human and other animals’ inherent neurological wiring. Very interesting in view of how friends, cults and other groups affect and convert our thoughts, feelings, POV, etc. A bit like the discovery that trees and other plants in an ecosystem are all interconnected by complex pathways with mycorrhizae in the soil.



WhaleRider July 22, 2019


Nancy Gilbert:
Thanks for the link. Here’s another aspect of FOF groupthink that can cause a follower to remain a loyal follower, waste years of their lives serving Burton’s narcissism and continue to recruit others to join the cult despite Burton’s history of collateral damage and failed predictions: the Dunning-Kruger effect.


“In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.


People perceive confident individuals as competent and, as a result, promote individuals with higher self-confidence.” ~Wikipedia


“We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead…they are left with the mistaken impression that they are doing just fine.”




Direct lineage to Gurdjieff is neither a measure of intelligence nor competence.


Narcissistic, overconfident individuals who claim to be more “conscious” than others continue promoting the delusional ideas of the fourth way due to their own incompetence in the field of psychology and to compensate for their own lack of self-awareness, IMO.





Dunning–Kruger effect


“To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” Amos Bronson Alcott


The Dunning-Kruger effect (also known as Mount Stupid[1] or Smug Snake[2]), named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger for their seminal paper of 1999.[3] The effect occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence – or specifically, their incompetence – at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence, which robs them of the ability to critically analyse their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves. In simple words: “people who are too ignorant to know how ignorant they are”. When people do not recognize their own mental illness, this is known as “anosognosia”; this is common for people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.[4]


The principle is illustrated indirectly by the common saying that “I’ve learned enough about ________ to know what I don’t know.” The implication is that someone who hasn’t learned much about the subject would have no appreciation for how much there is to learn about it, and so might grossly overestimate their level of understanding.



I’ll Never Tell January 29, 2019


The psychology of narcissism:




Graduates June 13, 2007


Various posts that got deleted from blog eleven:


I had a friend in S.F., an Israeli who went by the name of J. B. (can’t use his name) and one day he told me an interesting story: he had visited an Israeli friend who was working as a psychiatrist in Los Angeles and during his visit he told this old friend who shared an interest in various spiritual ideas that he was a student in a school with a conscious teacher. In point of fact J. B. went to meet with this old friend to “introduce him to the school.” The psychiatrist asked for the name of the conscious teacher and when J. B. said Robert Burton the psychiatrist said sorry but your teacher is not conscious. Being as superstitious and we all once were J. B. was of course rather taken aback. Gathering some composure he asked his friend why he would say such a thing. Without disclosing the name of the client, of course, the psychiatrist told J. B. a story of a young man (barely 20 or so) who was in the FoF for just a few months who was allegedly sexually put upon by Robert Burton during a lengthy encounter while visiting the FoF property. He then left the organization with severe psychological problems. J. B. reported this meeting to Miles Barth forthwith and Miles requested that the psychiatrist ask his client to meet with Miles and tell his story, which then took place. One month or so later Miles Barth left the school without informing the rest of us why he had done so. What if we had all known, I mean all of us, way back then?


Burton on Armageddon (from a circulated memo):


[Florence, Italy, Nov. 2, 1982]


“Revelations: “…the seventh angel…” After the seventh conscious being appears, Armageddon will come.” (Burton believes that his teaching will produce seven conscious men.)


[Nov. 3, 1982]


“C-Influence will ensure that all that is left of culture will be taken to Renaissance [the Fellowship compound] for posterity.”


“Florence, Venice, Siena will probably not be bombed. C-Influence has indicated to me that Naples (home of NATO), Rome, and Milan will be bombed. Neutron bombs may be used. (Neutron bombs destroy only humans.) ”


[Nov. 4, 1982]


“We are founding a new civilization.”


“Armageddon has wrung a school out of the gods.”


“The only error in Christ’s teaching was the statement “my yoke is mild.”


[Nov. 9, 1982]


“My role is to predict the fall of California and Armageddon.”


“People must come to us for souls.”


“Don’t put money into banks after Dec. 1983.”


“The depression will work to our advantage, we will go through it unscathed. We are very well prepared for the coming depression in 1984.”


“California is the artichoke capitol of the world…It means it will choke in 1998.”


“Haley’s Comet is going to ruin it all, this whole decade is not a good decade.”


[Nov. 11]


“We are a very high school on earth, Rembrandt and Goethe are in a higher school. There are angels at this table right now.”


“The 44th president of the US will be in office at the occurrence of Armageddon, 2006.”


[Nov. 14, 1982]


“After the year 2006, Genoa may be the port where art is taken by ship to the East Coast – from there by existing highways to Renaissance [now called Apollo].”


[Nov. 12]


“We are the greatest school since Christ’s.”


From Burton (recorded from early “teachings”):


“The formation that a human’s scale of vision sees as coral may be in reality the earth’s set of teeth. Coral is found near shorelines and what we see as waves is, alarmingly, the earth’s tongue rolling upon the shoreline. The shoreline, then, would somehow be the earth’s lips. As one observes this phenomenon one can easily visualize the waves as a tongue licking the earth’s shorey lips. Storms, which are a strong negative force, are created out of hunger by the earth. The variety of organic death they leave in their wake is washed back into the earth’s main bloodstream, the ocean.”


“As one awakens one sees the earth, humans and organic life on earth objectively, and finds one’s visual properties are of the scale of an electron microscope. What we take for trees and rivers are, surprisingly, the earth’s hair and blood veins. What appears to us as a cloud formation is most probably the earth perspiring. On hot summer days clouds form over mountains, and fog sometimes rolls onto the land masses. Similarly, on hot days beads of moisture emerge from our body or cosmos. We call this noteworthy event perspiration.”


From court records, considers himself a “goddess in a man’s body”:


“Burton explicitly told Troy that the “angels” wanted Troy to disrobe, and the “angels” wanted Troy to submit to Burton’s sexual advances because Burton himself was an “angel”, a “goddess in a man’s body.”




Ex-boyfriends have threatened Burton’s life several times; he travels with an armed bodyguard. On one occasion, it was reported, a young man from Bakersfield showed up at the Fellowship dining lodge armed with a 22 rifle looking for Burton. He was tackled, disarmed and put on a bus. The police were not contacted. At one time guns were not allowed, but now almost every male member of the Fellowship living in Oregon House has a gun. There is an informal militia armed with shotguns, rifles and 44 magnum handguns in order to protect the “Teacher” from the disgruntled ex-members who regret their sexual encounters with Burton.


This is a direct quote from Robert Earl Burton (from an internal memo):


“I am the Avatar, and I was born in 1939. I am not Christ, yet I am the Christ of the age…and I assume I prepare for him.”


“I would like you to take the idea simply. It simply means that of all the humans on the planet, I suffer consciously the most.”


Girard Haven, from Creating A Soul, page 62:


“However, some things can be verified only by adopting the attitude that they are true. For example, to verify that this is a real School, it is necessary to act as if that had been verified and then see if it produces the desired results. This means that we need to adopt attitudes at will without prior verification.”


From Girard Haven:


“Strangely, the shock which bridged this interval for me was the ‘non-depression’ of 1984. On the one hand, it was no longer possible to believe the predictions, for the depression obviously had not occurred as predicted. At the same time, Robert was still my Teacher and I had no doubt that he was conscious, so how could I believe anything else? In particular, I refused to allow myself to disbelieve him, that is, to believe that what he said would not come true. Not only would this have been a denial of my teacher, but it would also be one of the most mechanical responses possible, based as it is on both opposite thinking and feminine dominance in the form of the desire to minimize friction. Being thus unable either to believe or disbelieve, I was left in a state which could best be described as non- or suspended belief.”


Girard Haven, from Creating A Soul, page 576:


“In particular, if he [Robert Earl Burton] knows what he is doing and we don’t, we have no basis for judging or doubting him. Instead, we simply have to trust him, as a child trusts his parents, or dog trusts its master. If he asks us to do things which seem to have no connection to awakening – or even to be ‘wrong’ – we have no choice but to do them anyway.”



Ames Gilbert July 29, 2008


Here is a great PBS (Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S.A.) interview in 2004 with a person who has been in advertising for his entire adult career. He talks about the similarities between brands and cults, the good and the bad, and how marketers use this knowledge of human psychology. There is a brief mention of the Fellowship of Friends and Robert Earl Burton as an example.





Opus111July 29, 2008


I found the interview of Atkin quite interesting and revealing of the FOF cult phenomenon, at least for me.


REB may have innate qualities that made him a natural at manufacturing a cult brand. There were many aspects, features to that brand – intentionality and refinement come to mind – but REB’s own narcissistic, obsessive nature provided the necessary reinforcements for its proliferation and relative success. The creation of centers for instance, while not original in itself, created the tools for diffusion and marketing of the brand. The excruciating attention to details in preparing events, mostly dining events, provided that dazzle and buzz, albeit ephemeral, that keep people going. You package the whole thing in a rather complex and sophisticated system of ideas (rather irrelevant to REB, or so it seems), et voila, you have got yourself a pretty good scam, with plenty of access to money, luxuries and sex, along with the fantasies it provides.


A lot of current members do acknowledge in some ways the brand (as in refinement and intentionality for instance), and in fact are very attached to that lifestyle, to the concept of “FOF family” or “Fellowship of Friends”, but in the process unknowingly have pushed further and further in the recess of their conscience the reality of coercion, corruption, fabrications, etc… let alone the dismissal of 4th way ideas that brought them here. They have replaced the enlightened ideals and ideas of their youth with the cold comfort and grim reality of a self-serving religion.


In a way, much like the supposedly cultivated and self-aware clientele of a Mac cafe (in Atkin interview) who know they are only using a box of electronics, still frown at the PC intruders, so do FOF members scowl at critics of their cult who dare question its validity and show its rot, not because it is not true, but because it is their brand, their family.



brucelevy July 29, 2008



For me the “brand” was already there before I met the FOF and RB. Many people were attracted to the “4th way” as a brand through the series of books, and it only took the existence of an apparent channel that reflected the brand to attract people to something they were innately drawn to aside from RB and his delusions.


As far as I’m concerned, RB bastardized the brand beyond recognition, where it is now simply the cult of utter stupidity, greed and obliviousness.



Opus111July 29, 2008



True. You know how some people will casually say about an object: “I could never live without it”, obviously exaggerating the importance the object has in their existence and knowing perfectly well they would survive just fine without it. Similarly, a lot of current (long time) members say: “I could never leave the FOF”, implying some sort of physical attachment to FOF and perhaps imminent death or other catastrophe if they were to leave. That being said, many testimonials here have revealed it is often difficult to overcome the grief and sense of loss after leaving.


I just think current times are different. The virtual and actual communities of ex and non members seem healthy and supportive, and as Atkin says, the crap that REB is trying to perpetuate does not fly very far before it gets caught in the world wide web.



Traveler July 29, 2008


Rear View Mirror says: In some posts here on the blog, I sense an unquestioned premise that people within the FOF “just wouldn’t hear it” if information were presented to them. I disagree. The information is very cleverly obstructed or distorted or downplayed. And I personally believe that a majority of the people in the FOF still haven’t tuned into the blog for more than a few minutes. Were someone within the FOF to step forward and talk to people at length about what is happening, and present things in very formal way — i.e., hold several meetings in very public locations with many “students” around — it would have a profound effect on the opinions and attitudes of those in the FOF.


Very interesting, thanks for that! I wonder though. If many people in the FOF would hear dissent only when it became the next fashionable thing, has any essential change happened in them? It seems the question is big beyond how much time I want to give it right now, but I would like to hear more thoughts on this if someone else has already done the thinking. Do I want to influence members to make them change their opinions to be more in line with mine, because I know what’s good for them, or do I wish for them to think for themselves and decide independently, regardless of where that brings them at this point in time – and how are these two perspectives related? Many sub-questions…



Rear View Mirror July 29, 2008



People sometimes don’t ‘hear’ information because they receive a preponderance of disinformation. Of course, none of the following will happen, but think of this example: What if the above posts by Ames and Associated Press were printed and hung in huge posters at several locations at “Apollo” and at “teaching houses” around the globe? And left there for weeks? What if talks were given by cult experts every few days? People’s thinking would begin to change.


It’s stimulus-response thinking. And when there’s no stimulus, there’s no response. That’s one reason, as you say, it’s not “fashionable” to hear dissent in the FOF… mainly because dissent doesn’t last very long, is not very persistent, and therefore it doesn’t leave much of an impression. 


You wrote: “do I wish for them to think for themselves and decide independently…” 


Of course. But do we? Does anyone? Those are two other questions. 


It’s very difficult for us stimulus-response humans to think independently when everyone and everything is telling us, “We must go to war. We must go to war. We must invade Iraq. We must invade Poland. We must stay in the FOF. We must not question. We must obey.” 


And by the way, “obey” is a very prominent word in Ouspensky’s “Notes on the Decision to Work.” Whatever we may think about the man, he certainly had us primed and ready for the FOF experience…


“Think very seriously,” he wrote. “Are you really ready and willing to obey, and do you fully understand the necessity for it? There is no going back… Understanding of the necessity for obeying rules and direct instructions must be based on the realization of your mechanicalness and your helplessness… You can see, if you are sincere with yourself, all the blunders and the mistakes which you made when you tried to act by yourself. You cannot think rightly. You cannot feel rightly. You need constant help. And you can have it. But you must pay for it – at least, by not arguing.”



Traveler July 29, 2008


OMG. This is from the Notes on the Decision to Work. To think how highly I esteemed that particular passage, how essential it was to my Work, how I would look down on those who did not take it seriously enough and with sufficient valuation, and how much I WANTED to follow. Mind-blowing.



Rear View Mirror July 29, 2008 



Yes, my sentiments as well. I hadn’t read the passage for years. Apparently, I was vulnerable to such unchallenged premises — that we are weak and helpless, that we need to obey, and so forth. 


“You cannot think rightly. You cannot feel rightly. You need constant help.” We were bombarded by these ideas in the FOF. 


Reminding ourselves that sometimes we do need help — or even that we often need help — is wise for all of us. But there’s very little sound reasoning or “understanding” in Ouspensky’s unchallenged premise that “you cannot think rightly” and that “you cannot feel rightly”. Cannot is a strong word. And if I cannot, the hidden premise is that there is someone out there for me who can think rightly, and who can feel rightly. 


Although….. since I cannot think rightly and feel rightly, it’s a little scary isn’t it? How am I to truly recognize someone who does if I don’t have the same in myself? 


Yes, very mind-blowing that I bought into these ideas.



Notes on Work


Notes on Work, first printed in 1952, consists of three short essays: ‘Notes on Decision to Work’, ‘Notes on Work on Oneself’, and ‘What is School?’ All deal with the degree of individual commitment required from one beginning work in the system. The chief message of Notes on Work is contained in Ouspensky’s opening paragraph: ‘Think very seriously before you decide to work on yourself with the idea of changing yourself . . . this work admits of no compromise and it requires a great amount of self-discipline and readiness to obey all rules . . .’


These five works were once printed in very limited quantities and made available to a small group of people who had devoted themselves for years to the study of Ouspensky’s philosophy. The decision to reprint Memory, Surface Personality, Self-Will, Negative Emotions and Notes on Work for presentation to a larger audience is based on renewed public enthusiasm, much of it taking the form of inquiries about the P. D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection at the Yale University Library. It is hoped that the many scholars and interested lay people who have come to know Ouspensky through that, and other avenues, will gain further insight into P. D. O – and themselves – by discovering this remarkable new collection.


Merrily E. Taylor








Podcast Series 3, Episode 9: Notes on Work


In this episode of our third series, we present two lectures, from P. D. Ouspensky’s book, Conscience. The first lecture is Notes on Decision to Work, and the second is Notes on Work on Oneself. Discussions on the preparation, aims, means, energy, and control for undertaking personal transformation. The transcript for this podcast, can be found on our website at thedogteachings.com under Resources/Podcasts.



Joe Average July 29, 2008


57. Traveler
65. Rear View Mirror 


I remember at the end of a FOF center (it is deprogramming just to spell it the US way) dinner long ago, someone read the “Notes on the Decision to Work”. As it was being read, Michael S-vick started, in a very low voice at first but building to a crescendo, to imitate the sound of a large plane flying low overhead. Initially people seemed to shrug off this markedly unFOFish behavior as just an idiosyncrasy, but eventually someone had the courage to ask him why he did that. He laughed and said “a B-52 loaded with Feminine Dominance dropping a load on us.”


I was able then to understand the remark and find it hilarious and simultaneously to totally accept Ouspensky’s bullshit.


From Orwell’s 1984 (roughly from memory)


“It goes without saying that the members of the Inner Party were the most artful and subtle practitioners of Doublethink.” 


My ability to occasionally recognize the absurdities and manipulation in “The System” and Burton’s psychotic chicken gumbo sauce overlying it and yet still be certain of its higher purpose was classic doublethink and put me in the inner circus. Movement within the hierarchy usually depended on the amount of absurdity/criminality one could recognize or even actively create while still maintaining the delusion.



Rear View Mirror July 30, 2008


Joe Average, thanks for sharing that great story, and for your comments: “Movement within the hierarchy usually depended on the amount of absurdity/criminality one could recognize or even actively create while still maintaining the delusion.”


There’s a type of machismo related to this… The attitude is that I see what RB is doing and what he’s up to, but I am not one of the weak ones. I am strong and undeterred and honorable and loyal to what I believe to be a higher calling. If I see something unsavory, I don’t get queasy like a girl. If someone is hurt along the way, I can’t speak to that. It is out of my hands. I have no choice. I am strong. 


But that person does have a choice. I always thought there was more strength and honor in learning to recognize the truth, and trying to live by it, and in following conscience despite the odds being difficult. To me, that is strength. Taking the viewpoint that people are hopelessly doomed and weak and “asleep” — that is weakness, and just plain stupidity on my part when I believed it. 


The six steps of the “sequence” — shocking news break — are not something new after all. The six steps were cleverly crafted by Burton from Day 1, or maybe Day 2 or 3.


Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. 


(See Notes on the Decision to Work — 56.)



ton July 30, 2008


74 elena “Communication or sharing are aspects of love….”
76 RVM ‘Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey. Obey.’


This reminded me of something I heard on the radio a while back…. one of the interviewees stated: 


“Listening is an act of love…”


There is no real listening going on in the followship…. The dictatorial nature (no pun intended) and existing power structure does not allow for listening, and any claim that it is a “school of love” is completely fraudulent… How can anyone confuse Robert Burton’s form of satyriasis with love? It’s a school of selfishness, “profound” only in how deeply misguided are its adherents. That people are still buying into it is astonishing. 


democracynow.org/2007/12/3/listening is an act of love



lauralupa July 30, 2008 


RVM 54


“Think very seriously,” he wrote. “Are you really ready and willing to obey, and do you fully understand the necessity for it? There is no going back… Understanding of the necessity for obeying rules and direct instructions must be based on the realization of your mechanicalness and your helplessness… You can see, if you are sincere with yourself, all the blunders and the mistakes which you made when you tried to act by yourself. You cannot think rightly. You cannot feel rightly. You need constant help. And you can have it. But you must pay for it – at least, by not arguing.” 


Now that’s what I would call a series of dangerous memes! It would be interesting to do a serious study of Fourth Way books by various authors, and explore all the ideas that can be easily employed by ill-willing individuals to create coercive and cultish environments. Also, how these ideas were passed on and in different ways, modified and corrupted as they moved from Gurdjieff to his various followers and on to their followers. In the meanwhile, still playing with the memes idea (meme?), I found this on religion and faith: 


Memes – the skeptic’s dissection of religion 


Among many anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers, it has recently become fashionable to dismiss all religions as memes – parasitic mental processes which propagate in the same manner as chain letters [Dawkins 1989, Dennett 1995]. In this view, religious belief is a self-perpetuating delusion. A meme (rhymes with ‘dream’) may be defined as any self-referential belief system which contains within itself the instructions for its own propagation. Memes are often described as the cultural equivalents of computer viruses.


A meme carries exactly the same fear-driven psychological motivation as a chain letter – “If you propagate me then something nice will happen, if not then something horrible will happen”. In order to justify themselves against attack by reason, memes place absolute reliance on faith, which is seen as being superior to reason. They also contain self-referential or circular claims to the truth such as, “This meme says it is the divine truth. Since it is the divine truth, whatever it says must be true. Therefore, it must be divine truth because it says so and all competing memes must be the work of the Devil”.


These two types of self-referential statements: “propagate me” and “I am the only truth” provide the driving force for memes to invade the minds of their hosts. In addition, many memes contain the instructions: “Help people who believe in this meme, attack people who do not”. These commands being the ultimate cause of all religious hatred, wars, pogroms and persecutions throughout the centuries.


The general defining features of all memes can thus be seen to be self-referential ‘closed-loop’ type of circular statements, and a strong tendency towards hatred and intolerance.


The science of the study of memes, their internal structures and modes of propagation is known as memetics (by analogy to genetics – how biological entities propagate themselves).


More detailed analysis will usually show the following features:


Like a virus – such as rabies – a successful meme must perform two actions:


– Overpower the resistance of its host.
– Bring about the conditions for its spread.


To establish itself in the mind of its host, it will use some or all of the following mechanisms: 


[1]  Promise heaven for belief. This may involve frustrating the host’s normal sexual urges and redirecting them into sexual fantasies of the hereafter.


[2]  Threaten eternal punishment in hell for disbelief.


[3]  Boost the believers’ egos by telling them they are ‘chosen’ or superior to believers in false memes.


[4]  Disable the faculties of disbelief (‘immune response’) by claiming that faith is superior to reason. 


[5]  Establish itself as the One True Meme, usually by some sort of holy book containing a circular self-referential argument such as:


X is the one true meme. We know X is the one true meme because The Source of Universal Truth has approved X. We know The Source of Universal Truth has approved X, because X contains statements which say so. We know what X says is true because X is the one true meme.


Once it has parasitised the mind of its host, a meme needs to propagate itself. A successful meme will contain instructions for some or all of the following:


[6]  Holy war – convert or kill all unbelievers. 


[7]  Intimidation and terrorism – threaten and discriminate against unbelievers.


[8]  Enforced social isolation or even death to apostates. (An apostate is a host which has cured itself of a meme-infection. It is especially dangerous to the meme because it might pass on meme-resistance to others). 


[9]  Fecundism – encourage true believers to breed faster than believers in false memes. 


[10]  Censorship – prevent rival memes from reaching potential hosts (a theological doctrine known as ‘Error has no rights’) and forbid rational analysis of the meme itself.


[11]  Disinformation – spread lies about rival memes. 


from kwelos.tripod.com/memes.htm



44thWay August 26, 2021


My book, ‘The fourth way to nowhere’ is almost ready. Readers of this forum will probably feel that I pull some of my punches, and some may prefer that I would have performed a more overtly aggressive demolition. Certainly some of the material on this forum and on the REB blog would merit that. However, I have explicitly confined my commentary to what I myself witnessed, referring readers to the blog in the footnotes, and I think in the end the demolition is quite thorough. Perhaps it will lure some current members into reading it. I have not used my real name for personal reasons, although I would not be ashamed to be associated with what I have written if that were my only concern. I hope at least some of you will buy the book and post honest reviews on Amazon, even if you hate the book. The files are with the printer and I am aiming for next week for publication.



RichSeptember 2, 2021


44thWay: During the time I was a member of FOF
both my parents died, and this year both my older
brothers passed on. I was never able to repair
the relationship with my family. Good luck with your



44thWaySeptember 3, 2021



I’m sorry to hear that.


One of the points I make in the book is to question whether the FoF (and by extension any similar organisation) is really a Fourth Way school, given that the Fourth Way ‘takes place in life.’ Other Fourth Way schools had similar rules excluding or distancing from non-members, including (according to Joyce Collin-Smith, Rodney Collin’s sister-in-law) the remnants of Ouspensky’s group, later to become the Study Society. I am inclined to think that the Fourth Way lends itself to this kind of abuse, and all manifestations of it tend to become absurdity-factories.


In the book, I make the point that ‘external considering’ is supposed to be the emotional aspect of self-remembering, and yet ‘external considering’ was hardly if ever talked about in relation to our ‘life’ families. I include more than one episode in which ‘external considering’ was either criticised or manifestly not practiced as a direct or indirect result of the requirements of the FoF.


Another point: the foundation of the Work, according to Ouspensky, is ‘good householder.’ FoF was in general not in ‘good householder’ regarding emotional connections with friends and family not in the Work.


We were hypnotised by the gradual and almost imperceptible addition of absurdity to what had seemed at the beginning to be a reasonable starting-point.



WhaleRider September 4, 2021


“…in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that acts of apparently consensual sex, when involving parties marked by a significant power differential, can in fact be instances of harassment. Mechelle Vinson was a young Black woman who said she had given into the persistent pressure to have sex with her boss because she was afraid she would be fired. Vinson’s consent to sex, the court noted, did not mean that her boss’s sexual overtures were welcome, if her consent had been secured by coercion.


… in recent years our interest in consent has become single-minded. The habit of viewing all kinds of exploitative, creepy or troubling sex solely through the lens of consent has left us unable to speak, in many situations, about what is really going wrong.


Teachers, as teachers, understand how to do certain things; students, as students, want to understand how to do those same things. The tacit promise of the classroom is that the teacher will work to confer on the student some of his knowledge and understanding. In the best case, the teacher-student relationship arouses in the student a strong desire, a sense of thrilled if inchoate infatuation. That desire is the lifeblood of the classroom, and it is the teacher’s duty to nurture and direct it toward its proper object: learning. The teacher who allows his student’s desire to settle on him as an object, or the teacher who actively makes himself the object of her desire, has failed in his role as a teacher.


Therapists are taught to anticipate and negotiate the fact that their patients will often develop feelings for them — what Freud called “transference.” They are taught that they must harness those feelings and direct them toward the therapeutic aim — the well-being of the patient — rather than responding to those feelings in kind.


I have tried to explain here, that the absence of consent isn’t the only indicator of problematic sex; that a practice that is consensual can also be systemically damaging; that the pedagogical relationship comes with certain responsibilities beyond the ones we owe one another as persons. I wanted to explain…that it was precisely because pedagogy can be an erotically charged experience that it is harmful to sexualize it.”


“What’s Wrong With Sex Between Professors and Students? It’s Not What You Think”, Professor Amia Srinivasan, New York Times, Sept 3, 2021.



ton2u September 5, 2021


WhaleRider, thanks for distilling the gist of the article… a link for more context: nytimes.com/2021/09/03/opinion/metoo-teachers-students-consent.html


I’ve worked as a teacher for the past 22 years – in the article I recognized the description of a “transference” that can form in some students… I feel that the abuse of power dynamics by Burton during my stint in the FOF has sensitized and informed the way I work with students who seem to be exhibiting signs of “transference.” As a result I’m very careful about the way I interact with students and I’ll add that working in close collaboration with colleagues helps in redirecting the attentions and intentions of students before unhealthy attachments begin to take root.





ton2u September 6, 2021


43 – addendum:


Burton on the other hand, also works with his “colleagues” toward a very different goal… and by “colleagues” in this case, I mean enablers, or as the late-great Bruce L. would say “flying monkeys.” Speaking from personal experience, his enablers were (and probably still are) instrumental in directing and helping to deliver “fresh meat” to the insatiable maw of this so-called “teacher” – a predator preying on naive and gullible youth.



Psychology Today


Posted October 7, 2020 by Claire Jack Ph.D.


Are You a Narcissist’s Flying Monkey?


Are you caught up in a narcissist’s emotional abuse of others?


Anyone who remembers watching the Wizard of Oz as a child will probably remember how horrifying the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys were. These monkeys were sent by the witch to do her dirty work, and the phrase has since become synonymous with people who end up doing the dirty work of a narcissist.


Flying monkeys get caught up in a narcissist’s plan — often to damage the life of another person. The narcissist may use their flying monkeys as piggy in the middle, carrying information from party to party. The flying monkey may use gaslighting tactics, open aggression, and guilt-tripping in order to make another person feel bad and weak, whilst shoring up the narcissist. And they’re often involved in pleading the case of the narcissist. Narcissists love having at least one flying monkey, as it makes them feel important and means they can appear to be above the people below them (on both sides) who are caught up in the messy parts of the drama.



WhaleRider September 6, 2021


Gullible…or vulnerable? Are they the same? Yes and no.


Speaking for myself, having joined at the tender age of 21, there were core elements of the FOF doctrine of which I remained skeptical throughout my tenure, particularly when it came to burton’s warped deployment of the concept of “C influence”, eventually appearing to me as a means to abdicate responsibility for his actions and predictions.


IMO, this is how burton exploits his followers through relying on him to interpret ideas of reference as “shocks” from disembodied spirits, as in the reading of license plates and street signs, etc., instead of acting in the best interest of his students as an ethical teacher like ton2u does in an academic setting governed by rules designed to protect vulnerable students from such sexual predators as burton.


I can honestly say that in my early twenties with the divorce of my parents, alienation I felt from my peers at the time, and identity crisis I was experiencing back then, that I was ripe for cult exploitation due to my vulnerable mental state rather than inherent gullibility and naivety.


At the time I was keenly invested in my personal growth, could not afford college, and due to my emotional vulnerability, easily fell victim to cult “love bombing”.


It seems to me that the FOF’s recruitment efforts in Eastern Europe and Russia after the fall of the Iron Curtain and breakup of the Soviet Union is further evidence that cults prey upon vulnerable individuals who have limited choices to escape the dire circumstances in which they find themselves and thereby causing them to choose in retrospect what would seem like the lessor of two evils.


It’s no wonder that the FOF currently places so much emphasis on the magical thinking that joining a cult guarantees a follower’s entry into “Paradise” after death…(not a prevalent idea during my membership), for isn’t that the internal paradigm that would drive an individual to leave their destitute motherland and transition from their old way of life to the gilded labyrinth of the FOF, believing it to be a better life, only to discover after they have burned their bridges that an insatiable Minotaur resides at its center? That’s exactly how I felt after moving out to the “golden hills of California” from my hometown.


I was only naive insofar as I was uninformed about the nature of cults. I strongly believe that education regarding the honing of sharp critical thinking skills is the antidote. My desire is to educate others to the best of my abilities to avoid the trap and drain the victim pool.


Once I learned first hand what burton was really up to, I left, eventually following the deathbed advice of Mr. O, the original person who led me into that morass in the first place…to “abandon the system”.



John HarmerSeptember 6, 2021


#46 WhaleRider gives a clear account of how it is possible to become entangled in a fourth way cult like the FoF. At the end he quotes the famous Ouspensky advice to “abandon the system”. I remember how FoF members interpreted this phrase as if it were a deep Zen Koan that could unlock wonders, guided by Rodney Collin’s interpretation. However there are documents available that suggest it was more that Ouspensky truly lost his way. I found Marie Seton’s account quite shocking the first time I came across it (it was quoted way back in 2007 on the predecessor of this blog), and in looking for that also came across another account of his final days that suggests the same thing, i.e. that Ouspensky came to see that the fourth way doesn’t result in the benefits he had hoped it would.


Here is Marie Seton’s account:

gurdjieff-bibliography.com/Current/t seton case-of-pdo 2004-07-04.pdf


and here is the account of his final months:




44thWay September 7, 2021


John Harmer,
Thank you for those links. I was aware of the Mary Seaton but not the other link.


In some ways I think Ouspensky is a bit like us: starting out with a belief that there must be some way to a better way of living, seeking some kind of spiritual enlightenment, and becoming sucked in to the first genuinely new ideas he came across in the form of Gurdjieff.


The difference is that he left his teacher after a few years. However, it appears he became trapped by the teaching itself, unable to break free of the mythology he had created and the students who had come to depend on him.


Contrast Krishnamurti, who disbanded the organisation others had set up for him to become the new Avatar.

 I shall not spam this forum, but I hope readers will indulge one more plug for my book, which is available on Amazon today. In it I make a systematic attempt to analyse the fourth way, not just the warped version promulgated by Robert Burton. The fourth way acquired some good advice that you can get easily from other sources, and packaged it together with some core teachings that are simply nonsense. In order to unpack the System it is necessary to acknowledge the fragments that are actually right, and that is one of the things I have tried to do.


The fourth way to nowhere
Publication date 7 September 2021
Book links:
USA: amazon.com/fourth-way-to-nowhere

UK: amazon.co.uk
or search on Martin Braybrooke

Reviews, good or bad, welcome.







(pp. 65-94)



Ames Gilbert September 7, 2021


Hi Martin/44th Way,


I’ve ordered my copy, and am looking forward to reading it.


However it turns out, for me and for you and for other future readers, I commend you for taking on the project, and for the enormous efforts it must have taken you to bring it to fruition. Thank you very much!



44thWay September 9, 2021


Thank you Ames!


For me, the book is an attempt to clarify for myself how I got into this mess in the first place, and by extension how other apparently intelligent people also get sucked in. FoF members for the most part are not dunces. It is not an academic thesis on the Fourth Way, although I have done most of the demolition work that is necessary.


Looking at some of the entries in The Greater Fellowship (ning) site, some ex-members seem still to be pursuing some kind of spiritual path. That might be fine, depending on what is meant by ‘spiritual,’ but the same kinds of questions need to be asked about any spiritual path as should be asked about the Fourth Way.


The link John Harmer gives in 47: to Ouspensky’s last days is from a web site that is generally not critical of the Fourth Way and by implication is saying that Gurdjieff was the real thing. The suggestion emerges that Ouspensky’s mistake was over-intellectualising instead of doing the movements and diving into the living experience.


However, the Ray of Creation, the idea of planets as baby suns, the idea that our souls go to the moon unless we awaken, the possibility of ‘immortality within the limits of the solar system,’ and a number of other ideas are either just plain wrong or else totally without evidence or any method of testing them even in principle.


It also looks as though Gurdjieff got some of his ideas from Ouspensky and made the system up as he went along. That is perhaps material for a future essay by someone.




A Personal Essay


 By Robert E. Ornstein




From Chapter 7: Caveat Meditator (pp. 85-87)


For many people, the first experiences of an extended consciousness have come from newly organized groups. Some of these groups are resolutely commercial, others clannish and secretive. In considering both types of groups, we encounter, again, the difficulties of understanding and conveying an advanced knowledge of human capacities. In observing how these “franchised mysticism groups” promote and maintain themselves, we can note how the original knowledge seems to shrink to fit commercial requirements.





Many people have been associated with both psychotherapy and parapsychology for many years. The advent of trademarked, franchised mystic cults, however, is a more recent development. Some people seize upon them as the latest stage of their own continual self-preoccupation and indulgence; others seek new “experiences” for themselves. Such forms of meditation, and of awareness-training, have usually met with immediate and continued disdain from professional psychologists and educators, sometimes justified, sometimes for the wrong reasons. That these pop cults and organizations exist and thrive is in large part due to the same lag in mainstream awareness that has allowed the psychotherapeutic disciplines to extend their rightful role in our affairs. Along with our cultivation of intellectual skills, and the increasing prominence of those skills in education and professional life (with attendant specialization of function), there has been an almost complete abdication of teachings regarding the person and what could be called wisdom and self-knowledge. The trademarked awareness systems have, therefore, moved into an area of “applied psychology” in disuse within the academic and educational professions.


The systems offer either one special technique or a synthetic amalgam of techniques drawn from many sources. These techniques, in spite of the opinion of most academics, may not be entirely worthless. The “systems” do continue the fragmentation and degeneration of an authentic mystical tradition. Although the piecemeal benefits of these cults may be of scattered and transient use, such benefits are often perverted to the perpetration and dominance of the system, or to the personal service and material benefit of the leader. The process is similar to the bureaucratic encrustation of a new and perhaps useful government program: the original impetus is lost. If quite important traditional teachings about the person and conscious evolution have fallen into the hands of the contemporary guru-superstar industry, then both the organizers of this industry and those responsible for our education share responsibility. After all, if one is denied normal food one will search out alternatives, even food that makes one sick.


In our society, where is one to learn how to calm one’s mind in times of stress, how to improve personal relationships, attain a measure of responsibility for the direction of one’s life, and come to terms with one’s own creation of experience of the world, let alone an intuitive wisdom of the purpose of life? The existence of “instant-weekend” and simpleminded meditation-training systems tells us more about what is missing from contemporary education, even at a rudimentary level, than any amount of professional criticism could do—we are a society of spiritual illiterates, suckers for a quick answer. Many have turned to the showmen/salesmen and to the recycled Indian dropout to make up for the basic shortcomings of our education—and at great, and often unnecessary, cost.


We are lax in the training of personal knowledge. We may spend years perfecting our tennis stroke, yet precious little training is offered on the nature of our bodies or on the personal dimensions of our own experience. Much modern research, for instance, shows our ordinary consciousness to be a construction of the world, a “best guess” about the nature of reality. Yet rarely, if ever, in psychology or education classes is this fact brought home to students and made part of their experience.




(pp. 98-100)



The noncommercial, secretive, esoteric cults are unfortunately similar to the well-advertised consciousness systems. The degeneration of a true religious tradition in the West has left those high-minded “metaphysical people” prey to those who substitute an ancient fragmentary teaching for a unified whole. David Pendlebury describes the current situation:


“Sobriety” and “intoxication” are of course not intended literally; nor are they merely flowery metaphors: these are technical terms denoting twin poles of human awareness, each in its own way indispensable to balanced development. A man has to see the true reality of his situation; he has to take a very sober look at himself. Equally, though, he needs a taste of another condition in which his latent possibilities are recognized. Taken on its own, either pole is sterile, developmentally speaking. There are plentiful examples all around us of such imbalances. Perhaps you, too, had a Calvinist great-uncle who died heartbroken, having succeeded in convincing himself, a. that “the grace of God” was essential, and b. that such “grace” had been withheld from him. Perhaps you, too, have friends whose Ouspensky-oriented understanding of Gurdjieff has left them eternally bewailing the (obvious) facts that “man is asleep,” “man cannot remember himself,” “man cannot do,” etc. Or other friends who have chosen to “freak out,” to “blow their minds”; and are astonished, in rare moments of lucidity, to find themselves inhabiting a “behavioural sink” or “terminal sewer.” Or other friends, perhaps, who inform you in and out of season that: “I was hopelessly at sea, until (name and address supplied) showed me the answer.”



Pendlebury mentions the Caucasian “mystic” George Gurdjieff, whose followers unfortunately have come to represent the fragmentation of much of contemporary esoteric studies. Although by many accounts Gurdjieff was a man who personally could awaken a sense of life and action in his associates, his work has become the captive of his most doctrinaire and severe followers, who seem to cherish their incompleteness and merely shout “I must wake up” while reading obsolete doctrines. A fragment of a coherent approach has become honored among those who look to each new teacher for the secret that will allow them to turn away from their morbid self-preoccupation and experience the wholeness of life.


This kind of esoteric school serves to promote the abnormality of those involved. Thus, the continuous search for “true teachers” of mysticism often leads enthusiasts to an examination and popularization of the past, of teachings inappropriate for our time and culture. Outmoded books on alchemy, ancient mysticism, commentaries on Gurdjieff and other mystics are all scoured by the devout in their hope of finding “the key” which will unite all. One of Gurdjieff’s teachers describes this process to one who sought out the teachings of the East: “You are scrabbling about in the sands, looking for bits of mica to piece together to make a mirror, not realizing that the sand itself is capable of being transformed into the purest glass.”



From HERALD of COMING GOOD: First Appeal to Contemporary Humanity, initially published by Gurdjieff 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

By J. G. Bennett, Stonehill, NY, 1973


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 Prieuré 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.” 


Part I of III



The Counterculture and the Occult


From The Occult World (Routledge, 2014)


By Erik Davis


Perhaps the single most important vector for the popularization of occult spirituality in the twentieth century is the countercultural explosion associated with “the Sixties”—an era whose political and culture dynamics hardly fit within the boundaries of that particular decade. A more useful term was coined by the Berkeley social critic Theodore Roszak, who used the word “counterculture” to describe a mass youth culture whose utopianism and hedonic psycho-social experimentation were wedded to a generalized critique of rationalism, technocracy, and established religious and social institutions. As such, the counterculture significantly overlapped, though also sometimes resisted, the parallel rise of the New Left and its ideological and occasionally violent struggle against more-or-less the same “System.”


Within a few short years after its emergence in the middle of the 1960s, the counterculture had transformed social forms, creative production, personal lifestyles, and religious experience across the globe. Though the counterculture was a global phenomenon, its origins and many of its essential dynamics lie in America, which will be the focus of this essay.







By Hadrat Bashir M. Dervish

  Octagon Press, London, 1982




Chapter 6 – THE CULTS


A dervish said to a devil: ‘Why are you sitting
there making no mischief?’ The demon replied
sadly: ‘Since the would-be teachers have
appeared in such numbers, there is nothing
left for me to do.’

                              Ghulam Haidar








By Anthony Storr




Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 27.3, 2014.


The Value of E. J. Gold:

Unearthing the Real Mr. G.

Johanna Petsche

University of Sydney




In the 1960s, the highly elusive Eugene Jeffrey Gold (b. 1941) fashioned himself as a spiritual teacher and established a number of spiritual schools, most notably his Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being (IDHHB), echoing Armenian-Greek spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff’s (c.1866-1949) Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Little is known of Gold’s background and career due to his penchant for role-playing, practical jokes, fabricating facts, and mythologising details of his life. What is clear, however, is that Gold’s core teaching and eccentric pedagogic approach are largely modelled on those of Gurdjieff.


In fact, in his Autobiography of a Sufi (1977) and Secret Talks With Mr. G. (1978), Gold goes so far as to blatantly mimic Gurdjieff: his teaching, mode of expression, idiosyncratic terminology, and the very format of his publications. In Autobiography of a Sufi Gold even describes specific events in Gurdjieff’s life, passing them off as his own autobiographical accounts, while on the cover of Secret Talks With Mr. G. (a book deliberately meant to confuse readers into believing that ‘Mr. G’ is Gurdjieff) there is a photograph of Gold impersonating Gurdjieff in a false wig and beard. This paper aims to shed some much-needed light on the fascinating figure of E. J. Gold, and interrogate the bizarre ways in which he employs, copies, and unashamedly steals core aspects of Gurdjieff’s persona and teaching.





Literature & Aesthetics, Vol. 21, No. 1, June 2011, pp. 72-97.


An Enlightened Life in Text and Image: G. I. Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men (1963) and Peter Brook’s ‘Meetings With Remarkable Men’ (1979)


Carole M. Cusack




This article considers the ‘autobiographical’ memoir by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866[?] – 29 October 1949), Meetings With Remarkable Men (hereafter Meetings), which was published posthumously in 1963 under the aegis of Jeanne de Salzmann, Gurdjieff’s designated successor. Almost all known about the Greek-Armenian Gurdjieff is open to question, from his birth date (variously given as 1866, 1872 and 1877), to the ‘Work’, as his teaching is called. The Work has been jealously guarded as a modern initiatory tradition by first-and second-generation disciples, and is controversial in terms of its sources, meaning and interpretation.1  The 1979 film, “Meetings With Remarkable Men”, with a script co-authored by Madame de Salzmann, directed by Gurdjieffian theatre and film auteur, Peter Brook (b. 1925), depicts the young Gurdjieff’s spiritual quest reverentially.




Carole M. Cusack is Associate Professor in Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney.


1 Sophia Wellbeloved, ‘Gurdjieff, “Old” or “New Age”; Aristotle or Astrology?’, Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies, vol. 1 (2005), pp. 75-88.


Literature & Aesthetics 21 (1) June 2011, page 72





Meetings With Remarkable Men







The Lives and Work of

 G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky,

 and Their Followers


By James Webb




From Chapter 6: The Inner and the Outer Revolutions (pp. 134-36)


Ouspensky’s doubts were dissipated by his first meeting with Gurdjieff. They were replaced by other doubts, of a quite novel sort. Gurdjieff answered his questions precisely and neither stumbled nor prevaricated. But there were some strange inconsistencies. Ouspensky’s description of this first encounter is probably the most famous portrait of Gurdjieff:


We arrived at a small cafe in a noisy though not central street. I saw a man of an oriental type, no longer young, with a black mustache and piercing eyes, who astonished me first of all because he seemed to be disguised and completely out of keeping with the place and its atmosphere. I was still full of impressions of the East. And this man with the face of an Indian raja or an Arab sheik whom I at once seemed to see in a white burnoose or a gilded turban, seated here in this little cafe, where small dealers and commission agents met together, in a black overcoat with a velvet collar and a black bowler hat, produced the strange, unexpected, and almost alarming impression of a man poorly disguised, the sight of whom embarrasses you because you see he is not what he pretends to be and yet you have to speak and behave as though you did not see it. He spoke Russian incorrectly with a strong Caucasian accent; and this accent with which we are accustomed to associate anything apart from philosophical ideas, strengthened still further the strangeness and the unexpectedness of this impression.


They talked of Ouspensky’s travels and his interest in narcotics. Then they went together to a meeting of Gurdjieff’s pupils, which was to take place, Ouspensky gathered, in an apartment which had caused Gurdjieff great expense, as was only fitting for an undertaking in which many “professors” and “artists” were concerned. Gurdjieff refused to say precisely who among the intelligentsia were intrigued by his work; and it emerged that the meeting was to be held in the sort of barely furnished flat Ouspensky recognized as probably belonging to a municipal schoolteacher, with an audience drawn from the poverty-stricken lesser intellectuals. He was read the story, Glimpses of Truth, and noticed a reference to The Struggle of the Magicians, which he too had seen advertised in the press. About the actual work which went on in the group he could learn little. Gurdjieff had said that it was something to do with chemistry, and the schoolteacher types talked indefinitely of “work on oneself.” Despite the absence of the professors and artists, and despite Gurdjieff’s refusal to identify the “famous dancers” who would appear in his ballet, Ouspensky was fascinated by the evening. He had the conviction that he must at all costs arrange to meet Gurdjieff again. He was caught.


I felt myself very strange — a long reading which I very little understood, people who did not answer my questions. G. himself with his unusual manners and his influence on his people, which I all the time felt produced in me an unexpected desire to laugh, to shout, to sing, as though I had escaped from school or from some strange detention.


For the next week he continued to meet Gurdjieff in the same shabby cafe. He rapidly came to see that Gurdjieff deliberately created unfavorable conditions for such conversations, and that over ideas which Ouspensky felt to be profoundly true would take pains to spread a gloss of apparent shiftiness. For example, they were talking about money. Gurdjieff said that his fee for a year’s work was a thousand roubles. To Ouspensky this seemed a large sum for someone who did not have private means. Gurdjieff replied that he could not have many pupils and ought not to spend his own money on “the work.” People who could not provide such a sum, he said, were probably weak in life and therefore might be weak in the work. Knowledge was not valued unless it was paid for. Ouspensky assented to all these propositions, yet with a sense that Gurdjieff was overacting a part. “I was surprised at G.’s apparent desire to convince me of something in connection with the question of money when I needed no convincing.”


When the week was past, Ouspensky returned to St. Petersburg where he had to prepare books for the press, including a new edition of Tertium Organum and his Occult Tales. Gurdjieff had let him know that he sometimes traveled to St. Petersburg and would contact Ouspensky if he did come. The war went badly, and Ouspensky buried himself in his work, consoling himself that if necessary, he could always go to Gurdjieff. Then in the autumn of 1915 he was telephoned by Gurdjieff, who was on one of his periodic visits from Moscow. From this renewal of contact with the man who had almost imperceptibly become his Master, sprang the “St. Petersburg group,” a group whose activities during the next eighteen months are chronicled by Ouspensky. The internal revolution which he records was paralleled with an extraordinary exactness by the events of the outer world.


It was Ouspensky who was chiefly responsible for creating Gurdjieff’s following in St. Petersburg. In 1937 he told his pupils that there had been an explicit understanding that he should screen prospective recruits. By his own account it was largely through his material support that the groups could exist at all, and his new prestige as author and lecturer made him an ideal channel through which people infected by war weariness and ennui could pass to Gurdjieff. An account of this period has recently been published which bears out the impression that Gurdjieff was using Ouspensky as his second-in-command and front man.





An Appreciation of the Life and Work of James Webb


Compiled by John Robert Colombo



Gurdjieff and de Hartmann’s Music for Movements


Johanna Petsche


Between 1919 and 1924 Armenian-Greek spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949) and his devoted Ukrainian pupil Thomas de Hartmann (1885-1956), two men of utterly distinct characters, backgrounds, and musical abilities, composed music to accompany Gurdjieff’s ‘Movements’ or sacred dances. In following years they went on to compose more music for other purposes. This article attempts to establish basic academic groundwork on the music for Gurdjieff’s Movements. It assesses the unique process of its composition, examines the sources and styles of the music, and analyses the various ways in which the music interacts with the physical gestures of the Movements. It also considers the orchestrations of this music, and the recordings and sheet music that have been released both publicly and privately. The distinctive role of the music in Movements classes and its significance in light of Gurdjieff’s teaching will also be discussed. Finally, as Gurdjieff and de Hartmann worked together on music to accompany Gurdjieff’s ballet The Struggle of the Magicians in the same period as their music for Movements, there will be an exploration of the ballet and its music.





The Washington Post

March 26, 2000


The Composer, The Cult and the Musical Guru



By Philip Kennicott


Early one morning, a young man woke Socrates and tried to persuade the old master to attend a discussion by the hot-flavor Sophist of the moment, Protagoras. In Plato’s dialogue of the same name, Socrates gives the young man a warning: “If then you chance to be an expert at discerning which . . . is good or bad, it is safe for you to buy knowledge from Protagoras or anyone else, but if not, take care you don’t find yourself gambling dangerously with all of you that is dearest to you.”


In 1916, a very promising Russian army officer—with money and connections, a beautiful and brilliant wife, and a burgeoning career as a composer—gambled all he held dear, and apprenticed himself to the Armenian-Russian guru George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. Thomas de Hartmann was poised to be a player in the tumultuous world of avant-garde music, a composer with the skill and worldliness to build a career in St. Petersburg, Paris or both. Instead, he signed on with Gurdjieff, a seer and mystic who promised that his guidance, known as “the Work,” would bring his students a new enlightenment, a greater level of consciousness, a deeper sense of what it means to be in the world.



 G. I. Gurdjieff:

The War Against Sleep


By Colin Wilson





The Magician



Introductory Note


IT WAS in 1951, a year after the publication of In Search of the Miraculous and Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, that I first came across the ideas of Gurdjieff. I was instantly aware of being in touch with one of the great minds of this century. I wrote about him for the first time in 1955, in the concluding chapter of The Outsider, where he figures (with Ramakrishna and T. E. Hulme) as one of the few men who have glimpsed a solution to the ‘sickness of man in the twentieth century’. Since then I have written about him in several books — notably The Occult and Mysteries.


When the publishers of the present book suggested that I should write about Gurdjieff, I experienced misgivings; it would involve repeating a great deal that I have already written. But then, my own views on Gurdjieff have changed and evolved over the years, and the idea of getting them between two covers was an interesting challenge. So I brushed aside my doubts, decided to repeat myself where necessary, and wrote the book. And in repeating myself I discovered an entirely new set of meanings and implications in Gurdjieff.


It was an interesting lesson in the difference between ‘grasping’ and merely ‘knowing’ — a distinction that lies at the heart of Gurdjieff’s thought.


Which is why I make no apology to those who have read me on Gurdjieff before. His ideas will bear repetition.







The Secondary Literature:
A Selective Bibliography


J. Walter Driscoll



academia.edu/10377508/Gurdjieff & the Fourth Way





The Genius in the Shadow of Gurdjieff  


By Gary Lachman




The Esoteric Experience


Mike Rush


This article is based on a dissertation written for the MA in Religious Experience run by the then University of Wales, Lampeter, 2008. It was published in Paranthropology, Vol. 2, No. 3, http://paranthropologyjournal.weebly.com


What kinds of spiritual experiences are reported by people involved with esotericism and occultism? Are experiences, and their outcomes, negative or positive? This approach was based upon that of William James, author of the seminal Varieties of Religious Experience (James, 1902), who advocated judging spiritual experiences by their fruits. The three traditions selected were Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophy, G.I. Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way movement, and Mathers’ Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.


Sources of written accounts of spiritual experiences were collected from published texts, the archive of the Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC), and from contemporary practitioners. It was found that esoteric or occult spirituality can be a source of positive experiences and outcomes. This is contrary to the popular conception of these traditions. Finally, there is no esoteric experience per se that can be characterised from the data. The experiences reported, whilst differing in emphasis, tend to be similar to accounts from other traditions.







On the writings of G.I. Gurdjieff




Posted on April 24, 2015 by in Abstracts, Past Conferences



Research Article   Correspondences 7, no. 2 (2019): 441-464


The Concept of Human Self:

George Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson


Makhabbad Maltabarova





The Greco-Armenian spiritual master George I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949) has remained an important figure in twentieth-century Western esoteric thought. Gurdjieff claimed that people do not have a stable self-identity or, more radically, a soul, but instead comprise a set of personalities. There is only an opportunity for further gradual and conscious development of the highest parts of human existence. Depending on personal effort and choice, this opportunity can be used or not. However, being under the influence of different personalities, people do not live but involuntarily react to external events. Such automatism, according to Gurdjieff, is the result of abnormal conditions for human existence, which in turn are the outcome of a lack of knowledge of biological and cosmic laws. This article studies Gurdjieff’s discourse on the human self, initiated in his book Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, which was published in 1950 as the first part of the trilogy All and Everything. This study is not only a useful tool with which to illuminate Gurdjieff’s understanding of spiritual progress in the frame of Western esoteric thought but also a means to approach his concept of the self within so-called “self-spirituality.”





Playing Pretend with People and Places:

Gurdjieff’s Father Evlissi’s Alleged

Connection with the Essenes in

Meetings with Remarkable Men (1963)


By Ronald V. Huggins


Did the so-called Sarmoung Brotherhood, from which George Ivanovich Gurdjieff claimed to have learned so much, exist? What about their monastery he said was somewhere in the “heart of Asia”? It’s hard to say because neither is attested outside Gurdjieff. Still, Gurdjieff does provide in the same book where he speaks of them (Meetings with Remarkable Men [1963]) other opportunities to test his general veracity on such subjects. I refer to another secret “brotherhood” with another monastery of which Gurdjieff claims to have had both direct and indirect contact, namely, the Essenes whose main monastery he claimed was on the shores of the Dead Sea. Gurdjieff tells how his old teacher Father Evlissi (or Bogachevsky) was himself an Essene and assistant to the abbot of the main monastery on the Dead Sea. The only problem is, the Essenes and their monastery ceased to exist in ancient times, rendering almost everything Gurdjieff says about them and Father Evlissi not only fanciful but impossible.








By Omar Michael Burke


The Octagon Press

London, 1973


 An account of travels in Asia and Africa,

and four years studying the Dervishes,

Sufis and Fakirs, by living among them. 


Speaking several Oriental languages, traveling as a dervish pilgrim, O. M. Burke lived and studied with ancient communities in the Near and Middle East. This first-hand report is no ordinary book of travel.


O. M. Burke’s modern-day pilgrimage begins in a school built like a medieval rock fortress hidden in northern India. From there he takes the reader to monasteries where ancient lore is still taught, along the pilgrim road to forbidden Mecca and into the heart and mind of Asia.




From Chapter Two: Solo to Mecca  (pp.  35-37)


Although most historians deal only with individual orders of Sufis, these splinters are not in fact the main centres of Sufi activity. United congregations, their members drawn from several of the fraternities, are today’s rule among the Sufis, whether of Arabia, Africa or Central Asia.


Sheikh al-Jabri was born in Tunisia. After attaining initiation into five or six Orders, he was finally accepted as a teacher of a ‘united lodge’. This Zawiia regarded itself as purged of the drawbacks of the personality-cult Orders and concentrated upon human self-improvement as part of a combined effort.


It was in this company that I learned about the inner circle in Sufism. In the presence of strangers or members wedded to maintaining the name or identity of any particular Order, the members will behave as if they belong to that Order. They will use its hoary rituals, speak only of its venerated founder, wear its distinctive headgear. But when operating as an inner circle, the entire ‘lodge’ will revert to what they call the ‘activity’ of the original Way, sometimes called the Working of the Foundation, or Fundamental Work. This phrase is extremely difficult to translate, because it can also mean such things as ‘the work of the archetypes’, which means in turn the group regards its activities as being identical with the parallel actions of an extraterrestrial force which guides them.


Sheikh al-Jabri was learned both in the traditional lore of the Four Ways and also in modern methods of thought. Unlike the saintly type of North African mystic which is so common in the Great Maghreb, his earliest studies had been carried out in Europe, and had not been theological at all. It was only after he was thirty years old that he started to attend the great teaching centres of Kairawan and Mulai Idriss.


His father had been in Turkish service, and sent the boy to Paris, where he attended school and later the University of Paris. He had absorbed Western ways of thought and graduated in French literature. He knew a great deal of English, besides, because he was an import-export merchant carrying on a flourishing trade with Britain and the Commonwealth.


The Sheikh was married to a Lebanese woman, and his sons had attended the American University in Beirut.


He advised me to study not Sufism alone, but the attitudes, opinions and way of life of the people of the East and of the West. This, he said, was because otherwise I would simply equate Sufism with the East. I would not be able to descry the thread of Sufi thought and ‘being’ in both cultures unless I knew what was not Sufism.


‘My son and brother,’ he smiled, stroking his white beard and looking at me through brilliant Berber-blue eyes, ‘too many Westerners become orientalised. This is sometimes because they seek spirituality in the East and think that therefore everything in the East is for them or can teach them something. Do not be like them.’


 I asked him what, in the West, we could cultivate and emulate, in order to make our own tradition stronger. He gave me some strange examples. The first was team-spirit. This enabled man to understand what it was to work with others in harmony. The second was not democracy but a preparation for it. This enabled one to value democracy which itself was the prelude to understanding the real equality of man. The third was respecting other people. This, he said, enabled one to respect oneself. ‘But you cannot respect yourself unless you respect others. This is a great secret.’


I was to be very sure, he stressed, that I realised that these three valuable secrets were points of development which were already deeply rooted in my own culture. It was for me to help them grow, to defend them, to work on them.


‘Unless you have the three things in your heart, you are a hypocrite if you say that you are looking for a teacher.’


We had many talks, and I many times attended the sessions of the Sufis who were with Sheikh Jabri. One day he said to me: ‘I cannot teach you, though you sometimes ask me, things which you demand to know . . . But I can help you towards learning some of these things, perhaps by an unfamiliar route. Are you ready to travel?’


Although I did not really want to leave this companionship, I said that I was. ‘Very well. See how life is for some of your fellow men. Go to Tunisia, see some friends of mine. Perchance you will see something about man through their eyes.’



From Chapter Eight: The Followers of Jesus (pp. 109-110)


Sufi Abdul-Hamid Khan, Master of the Royal Afghan Mint and something of a polymath – military engineer, calligraphist, sage and expert on rhythmic exercises – must have been over ninety years of age. A follower of the Mir of Gazarga, he could remember in considerable detail the events which had taken place eighty or more years ago.


A frequent visitor to Kunji Zagh, he had spent many years in Bokhara, and it was there that he had come across the redoubtable Gurdjieff, whose studies of Eastern metaphysical systems were introduced into Europe about the time of the First World War.


Although the people of Kunji Zagh called Gurdjieff ‘The Russian Tatar’, Sufi Abdul-Hamid said that he was in reality partly Mongolian, part-Russian, part-Greek. According to the Sufi, this Jurjizada (Son of George) had once been a Theosophist, had also studied in an Orthodox seminary, and ‘was responsive’ to the Sufic ‘waves’ – could, in other words, contact the mental activity which emanated from the ‘work’ of the dervishes. This, together with a curiosity about the occult, led him to the shrine of Bahauddin, the Naqshbandi teacher in Bokhara.


Here another Bahauddin, known as Dervish Baha, had taught him certain ‘secrets’. Among them were the ‘sacred dances’ or movements made by the dervishes, the rules of the Order and the ‘inner interpretation’ of the Sufi texts. Then he sent him on a tour of the centres of the Sufis, some in Egypt, some in Syria, some in India.


Seeing the strange effects of the Sufi practices, Gurdjieff decided that he would find out how they worked. In order to do this, he and a number of friends collected as much of the material used by the Order as they could, and fled with it ‘to the West’.


‘Unfortunately,’ continued Abdul-Hamid, ‘Jurjizada was at too early a stage to do anything final with the material. He had not yet learned, for instance, that the exercises and the music had to be carried out with special people at certain times in a special order of events. As a result he propounded the theory of the Complete Man without being able to take it into practice.’


 Further, Gurdjieff tried to make the method work by trying out the exercises on a large number of people. The result?


‘Here in Afghanistan we still receive, like faint radio messages, the influence of the minds of the pupils of Jurjizada, coming from far away. They must still be carrying on the exercises, but they don’t know how, when or with whom to do them.’


As soon as I got back to Europe, I found that some at least of this information might be true. After the first War, the Russian and a disciple of his, the philosopher Ouspensky, settled in France and England respectively. They set up teaching groups, and – I was told – several of these still existed. But they remained fully secret. Probably, like the custodians of any secret knowledge which had become reduced in quality, they would continue to operate, perhaps for generations.



International Journal for the Study of New Religions, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2013


A Gurdjieff Genealogy:

Tracing the Manifold Ways the Gurdjieff Teaching has Travelled


Johanna Petsche




This article examines the diverse routes that G. I. Gurdjieff’s (c.1866-1949) work has traversed, from the time of the very first Gurdjieff-based groups established in his lifetime in England, America and France, to the new groups that formed around the world after his death. Focus is inevitably paid to the dramatic changes made by Jeanne de Salzmann after Gurdjieff’s death, when she took the reins from Gurdjieff and restructured groups, forming a network of orthodox, hierarchical ‘Foundation’ groups that taught Gurdjieffian principles and exercises in a formalised manner. These Foundation groups and their core practices will be examined. Not all of Gurdjieff’s followers amalgamated into this network; an assortment of Gurdjieff-based groups remain outside of it. These can be considered ‘independent’ and ‘fringe’ groups, and will also be considered. An in- depth study of the existence and development of these Gurdjieff-centred groups has never before been attempted, and is crucial to an appreciation of the influence and relevance of Gurdjieff today. It is primarily through these groups that Gurdjieff’s work has been carried on, expanded, modified, preserved, and/or assimilated with other religio-spiritual teachings.





The J. G. Bennett Foundation


Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J. G. Bennett


(This public talk was given at Caxton Hall in London, on November 22, 1973. Previously unpublished, it was reproduced in the Spring 1989 Impressions Journal. Used by permission of Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett.)


Very young children, two or three years old, often ask the question, “Why?” and sometimes “Why am I here?” Or, if they get the idea of life, they will say, “Why am I alive?” And because people don’t know how to answer these questions, they put them off with foolish answers and soon children stop asking the question. Probably children don’t grasp the depth and difficulty of the question “Why?,” but that they ask it is an indication that somewhere deep down in us this question is there even before we begin to think, even before we are taught anything about ourselves and the world. But this question “Why?” gets covered up and very few people continue to pursue it.


The man, about whom I am going to speak tonight, George Gurdjieff, never gave up seeking the answer to the question “Why?” and it is this that gives him a peculiar significance for our present time . . .



Modernism/modernity, Volume 24, Number 4, November 2017, pp. 695-721 (Article)


Published by Johns Hopkins University Press


“The Language of Behavior”: Gurdjieff and the Emergence of Modernist Autobiography


Cecily Swanson


Russian-Armenian mystic George Gurdjieff was a controversial and intriguing figure when he arrived in New York in January of 1924.1 A year before, he had caused an uproar when Katherine Mansfield died of tuberculosis under his care at Le Prieuré, his spiritual retreat near Fontainebleau. Gurdjieff capitalized on this attention, sending his appointed proselytizer, A. R. Orage — former editor of the influential London literary journal, The New Age — to New York a few months ahead of his own arrival to drum up interest. Orage’s introductory talks ensured captivated crowds at Gurdjieff’s mystical dance performances at Carnegie Hall and Lesley Hall. Newspapers reported celebrity sightings at these “cult” events at which “Psychic Secrets of the Ancient East” were divulged: Theodore Dreiser, Rebecca West, Gloria Swanson, and John O’Hara Cosgrave were counted among the notable attendees.2  Soon, Gurdjieff’s transatlantic following of writers and artists had grown to include Jean Toomer, Frank Lloyd Wright, P. L. Travers, Michael Arlen, Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson, Waldo Frank, Gorham Munson, Lincoln Kirstein, Zona Gale, Muriel Draper, Mable Dodge Luhan, Kathryn Hulme, Solita Solano, Dorothy Petersen, Aaron Douglas, Carl Zigrosser, and Israel Solon.








Notes of Meetings in Paris and New York 


1935-1939 and 1948-1949



Gurdjieff International Review


No Harem


Gurdjieff and the Women of The Rope


by Rob Baker


“No harem, no hysteria, no ogling,

just a very wise old man

in his rich pantry of food and thoughts.”


Janet Flanner on visiting G. I. Gurdjieff in Paris after WW II.



During most of the Thirties and Forties in Paris, an extraordinary group of strong-willed women, mostly writers who also happened to be lesbians, became students of the spiritual teacher, G. I. Gurdjieff, meeting privately with him as a small band that called themselves “The Rope”. Their ties with Gurdjieff radically changed their lives, their writing styles, and their relationships to each other.



Gurdjieff’s teaching: for scholars and practitioners





Solita Solano


1935 -1939/40
Gurdjieff was teaching ‘the Rope’, a group of women pupils in Paris, seeing them once or twice every day. According to Gurdjieff’s pupil J. G. Bennett, this group progressed at a much faster rate than earlier pupils. Bennett attributed this to the use of drugs (Bennett 1976: 232). Bennett writes that Gurdjieff carried out ‘a very extraordinary experiment, making use of methods that brought them into remarkable psychic states, and developed their powers far more rapidly’ than those of earlier pupils. He saw memoirs but is not allowed to quote from them; he hopes they will be published as they throw light on Gurdjieff’s methods as a teacher and upon ‘his use of drugs as a method of developing not only psychic experiences, but also opening hidden channels of the human psyche’. Although he was castigated for making this suggestion, there are diary entries concerning courses of injections, which Gurdjieff himself gave to the pupils, recorded in:


Notes taken by Solita Solano from October 1935 – April 1939 in Paris, with additional notes about Gurdjieff’s visit to New York in 1948 (Janet Flanner and Solita Solano Papers, Library of Congress, folder 6 box 6).


There are twenty-three direct references to piqures (injections) and courses of injections that Gurdjieff gave Solano and other members of the Rope group. He gave inner exercises for them to do related to the injections.


Solano quotes Gurdjieff saying:


‘After a certain age this effort [his teaching] is very difficult and often impossible. There is an artificial aid by means of physico-chemical substance… for example, a substance can be injected which will furnish artificial help for prayer … If the effort and the amount of the chemical are not balanced, it becomes a dangerous poison for the organism.’ (In January, 1936, p. 18)


He had already given her ‘My first piqure and my first exercise’ (16th November 1935).


These notes are greatly abridged and there is no mention of the actual substances he was injecting, but he did take blood and urine samples from the group to check what adjustments to make to their medications. The exercises are not given in the Notes, and the results of the injections are not referred to in detail, Solano reports feeling better after the first course. Later the group are strongly affected by the injections, two of them cry and feel suicidal, Solano fears loosing her memory. Another time she asks about an increase in menstruation which Gurdjieff attributes to the injections; this last suggests injections of hormones (Notes 39-40).


The group also take other medicines given them by Gurdjieff (Notes July 18, 1936, 42-43).


There are references to magic, in the first (June 18th 1936) Gurdjieff refers to ‘the mag’, Solano writes in brackets after mag (magus, adept, master) and says that


‘The mag (magus, adept, master) is cunning.


… The mag is the highest that man can approach to God because only he can be impartial and fulfil obligation to God. In old times the mag was always made the chief because he had cunning. Other mags could do either white or black magic, but the mag who had cunning and canning could do both white and black and was the chief of the Initiates. Man with real cunning is man without quotation marks. Angel can do only one thing. Devil can do all.’ (July 18th 1936, Notes, 42-43)


A month later he says: ‘Both cunning and canning are necessary to all things. This is why there are two magics. Black magic is cunning – often also is cunning and canness – you understand the difference? Black magic is ideal for being. Cunning and can-ness is like conscious and unconscious, or like two words used in Bible for meaning two kinds of evil voluntary and involuntary sin.’ (Notes 49)


Gurdjieff continued to teach pupils his mix of esoteric ideas and occult practices. He was at pains to present himself in his writings and in his oral teachings in the roles of both Black and White Magician. He never sought to present himself as solely good, or other than he was, which was capable of both constructive and destructive relations with his pupils. I suggest that this duality is fundamental to his teaching because he is an embodiment of his Law of Three, showing the good and bad possibilities open to a human being and how these may be reconciled.


Some of the methods that Gurdjieff used to hypnotise and entangle his pupils were:
intense pressures
conflicting demands
contradictory teachings
exhausting physical efforts
lack of sleep
use of alcohol and drugs
and fasts


The demands of both Gurdjieff’s writings and oral teachings entangle the reader or listener in hypnotic paradox and contradiction. The demand for students to observe themselves was contradicted by the teaching that they were mechanical and unable to ‘do’. The statement that pupils must have a critical mind was subverted by belonging to a regime in which they had agreed to be incapable of ‘doing’ and therefore of being critical. The constant demand for ‘making effort’ was reinforced by Gurdjieff’s instruction that leaving the teaching before having reached a certain stage would be injurious. It would be better for pupils to die making ‘super-efforts’ than to continue living their mechanical lives. He stressed that the teaching was dangerous. Pupils could not avoid danger, they had to face either the danger of the teaching, or of leaving it. Gurdjieff’s teaching always took place in the last chance saloon.


But he did repeatedly warn pupils against taking his cosmological ideas literally (Wellbeloved, 2003: 216-17). He also gave clues. The astute reader or listener will find the contradictions and begin to question the texts and maybe also the teaching. The process of freeing themselves from this hypnotised state might also free pupils from much of their usual mechanically hypnotised state and allow them to connect with their subconscious (Webb 1980: 560-573). Entanglement and liberation are two ends of the same stick. One of the properties that Gurdjieff defined as belonging to the subconscious is ‘confrontative criticism’ (Tales 568). Or to express it differently, they might be able to define themselves and the world around them in terms other than those used by Gurdjieff.


Ignoring the contradictions, both those created by him and those arising in his life, the pupil may defeat the point of the teaching. Gurdjieff himself usually made sure the pupil ‘got it’, that is could not ignore the contradictions inherent in his teaching, by ‘orphaning’ pupils, sending them away, behaving to them in such a way that they chose to go, or by simply disbanding the whole group. This forced pupils to reassess him, the teaching and themselves (The Fourth Way, i.e. Gurdjieff’s teaching is never permanent, Search: 312).


Present day omissions and redefinitions of the Work

Once the Magus dies, his presence as embodiment is no longer there and his teaching ends. Thus, he has to be reinvented and his teaching restructured, and this has happened. Gurdjieff and his teaching have inevitably been institutionalised and redefined.


Today, in foundations (organisations set up after Gurdjieff’s death by his successor Jeanne de Salzmann) and other groups, as far as I have discovered, there is no focus on Gurdjieff’s use of:
Narcotics and other drugs.


While the teaching was defined by Gurdjieff as a dangerous but quick way to acquire knowledge, membership is now for long periods, or for life. The effort required is not ‘dangerous’. The pupil is focused on ‘searching’ rather than ‘finding’, ‘receiving’ rather than ‘stealing’ or ‘making efforts’ (See https://gurdjieffbooks.wordpress.com/ “Doing and Not Doing” on the Joseph Azize page where he gives examples of the passive form of language used in the 1980s by a Foundation work teacher). Gurdjieff is generally presented in a version ‘cleansed’ of occult practices. For example, the website of the New York Foundation does not include Herald in its list of Gurdjieff’s writings (http://www.gurdjieff-foundation-newyork.org/work2.html).


The foundations have remained secretive and closed to general scrutiny. There are ‘not for public release books and videos’; one of the videos I have seen presents Gurdjieff in a romanticised sepia vision of his life as related in Meetings, where none of the contradictions of his life or teaching are mentioned. The Work has now spread out and become more widely known in versions that are entwined with other teachings. (See Wellbeloved ‘Changes in G. I. Gurdjieff’s Teaching ‘The Work’ http://www.cesnur.org/2001/london2001/wellbeloved.htm. A paper presented at The 2001 Conference (CESNUR-INFORM) in London.)


What we might ask now is: Why is there a reluctance to mention occult practices, magic, hypnotism and the use of drugs in this teaching, not only by the teacher/practitioners but also by scholars? This is a question that is important for the establishment of the discipline of western esotericism as a whole.


Traces of Gurdjieff as Magus can be found in pupil memoirs and in Chaos Magic.
He remains fully alive in his roles as both black and white magician in his texts.



Solano, Solita, unpublished Notes taken by Solita Solano from 1935 – 1940 in Paris, Beinecke Library, Kathryn Hulme Papers YCAL MSS 22 Box 19, folders 484-93 Solano, Solita 1951-75, n.d.



Books about 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
  • The Fellowship: The Untold Story of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman, 2006, (includes especially extensive documentation on “the strong influence the occultist Georgi Gurdjieff had on Wright and especially his wife Oglivanna.”[62])
  • Gurdjieff Unveiled by Seymour Ginsburg, 2005
  • Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff by Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, 1964, Revised 1983 and 1992
  • IT’S UP TO OURSELVES, A Mother, A Daughter and Gurdjieff, a Shared Memoir and Family Photo album by Jessmin and Dushka Howarth, Gurdjieff Heritage Society, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9791926-0-9
  • 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
  • Spiritual Survival in a Radically Changing World-Time, William Patrick Patterson, 2009
  • 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: An Introduction To His Life and Ideas by John Shirley, 2004, ISBN 1-58542-287-8
  • 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. [63]
  • “Ouspensky, Gurdjieff et les Fragments d’un Enseignement inconnu”, by Boris Mouravieff, in Revue Mensuelle Internationale “Synthèses”, N°138, Bruxelles, novembre 1957.
  • “Ecrits sur Ouspensky, Gurdjieff et sur la Tradition ésotérique chrétienne”, Inédit, Dervy Poche, Paris, September 2008.
  • Gurdjieff Seeker of the Truth, Kathleen Speeth, Ira Friedlander, 1980, ISBN 0-06-090693-6


Comprehensive biographies

  • Gurdjieff: Making a New World posthumous work by John G. Bennett, 1973, Harper, ISBN 0-06-060778-5
  • 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’s America: Mediating the Miraculous by Paul Beekman Taylor, 2004, Lighthouse Editions, ISBN 1904998003. Reissued as Gurdjieff’s Invention of America 2007, Eureka Editions.
  • G. I. Gurdjieff: A New Life by Paul Beekman Taylor, 2008, Eureka Editions, ISBN 978-90-72395-57-3


Videos/DVDs about G. I. Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way



wikipedia.org/wiki/G. I. Gurdjieff



Theodore Nottingham

October 16, 2021


Gurdjieff: An Epic Life


The life and teachings of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff by Theodore Nottingham and Reijo Oksanen Weekly Teachings for subscribers: http://www.tednottinghamteachings.com/



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