False Prophets Part II







Cults and Deteriorated Spiritual Teachings


‘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 pretensions, and indoctrinates the members with his or her idiosyncratic beliefs. Typically, members are dependent on the group for their emotional and financial needs and have broken off ties with those outside. The more complete the dependency and the more rigid the barriers separating members from non-believers, the more danger the cult will exploit and harm its members. (1)


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






Artemis44 July 25, 2019Fellowship 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.


Cult Behavior: An Analysis




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. Diekman’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





Human Givens Institute


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 behavior.



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.



Artemis44July 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 https://www.deikman.com/eval.html


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.



Real and False Spiritual Teachers



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.’



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, 2019Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


Digging further found:


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





Golden Veil May 7, 2019


I found it, too. Fellowship of Friends former member Joel Friedlander is quoted [in the part below] footnoted (22) and William Patterson (24) in “Gurdieff 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 (24), 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.” (22)


A more extreme distortion of the Gurdjieff group dynamic occurs in the case where the leader manipulates students for ego satisfaction or personal gain. (23)  Some of these groups have all the characteristics of a cult. (24)  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. (25)


FOOTNOTES for the above:


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


(23) 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.”


(24) 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).


(25) 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.



Dissemination of the Work During Gurdjieff’s Lifetime


P. D. Ouspensky in England and America
A. R. Orage in America
Jean Toomer in New York and Chicago
The Taliesin Fellowship of Wisconsin
John G. Bennett in England


Gurdjieff’s Successors and Teaching Lines


Jeanne de Salzmann and the Gurdjieff Foundation
The Work in England
The Work in America


Contemporary Status of the Work


Current Gurdjieff Groups and Organizations
The Enneagram Phenomenon
Challenges Facing the Work





Forest Temple of Hard Work
and Rough Food.


by E. C. Bowyer



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





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


Daily News Editor


bowyer new-cult



The Forest Philosophers


C. E. Bechhofer Roberts



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



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


roberts forest-philosophers



A Visit to Gourdyev


Denis Saurat



Professor Saurat visited the 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






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


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


By Johanna Petsche


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





From Biographies

By Peter Holleran


George Gurdjieff – Mysterious Trickster


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

   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?



Gurdjieff and Blavatsky: Western Esoteric Teachers in Parallel


By 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.







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 International Review





By James Moore





International Review


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


Special Issue on P. D. Ouspensky




Rodney Collin


A Man Who Wished To Do Something With His Life


By 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 scientfically 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, writng 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



WhaleRiderApril 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 led 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


The exclusion of family and other outside contacts, rigid moral judgments of the unconverted outside world, and restriction of sexual behavior are all geared to increasing followers’ commitment to the goals of the group and in some cases to its powerful leader. Some former cult members were happy during their membership, gratified to submerge their troubled selves into a selfless whole. Converted to the ideals of the group, they welcomed the indoctrination procedures that bound them closer to it and gradually eliminated any conflicting ties or information.



 ex-cult Resource Center



Insider June 10, 2019 Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog

Focusing only on sex is missing the much larger picture. Yes, for those who were forced into having sex with Burton, i.e. were raped by him, that aspect of Burton and the Fellowship may always be the most important with the deepest scars.


For me the bigger picture is Burton as the lying, manipulating, opportunistic cult leader who, at some point in his cult career (whether from before the FF was founded, as I believe, or during the early years of the FF) understood how great, easy, risk-free, and lucrative this cult/religious business would be, and how much fun, in a sick way, it is to lie.


How easy? In those days (early 70s), with “a Guru on every corner” (from Thomas Farber’s Tales for the Son of My Unborn Child), anyone lacking conscience, and with an ounce of “stage presence,” could organize a meeting, and tell the most outrageous lies about him/herself (“conscious being,” “Man No. 5,” whatever), and see how many in the audience bought it. There’s always a small percentage (think Bonita and Linda Kaplan, for example), who would hopefully form the nucleus of a “conscious school.” But no worries, even if no one bites, nothing is lost, except the cost of a few flyers, and the guru-scammer can try again somewhere else. How many people did Burton try to scam before he hooked Bonita?


Not only is Burton not, and never was, anything he has always claimed about himself, it is highly likely that many of the key concepts of the 4th Way itself are erroneous and impossible, such as “becoming a conscious being,” i.e. creating consciousness out of matter. (Not to open a can of worms here. Just sharing a personal belief/understanding that Burton is, at best, a novice in matters he professes to be the highest, greatest expert in.)



Tales for the Son of My Unborn Child


Berkeley, 1966-1969


By Thomas Farber


Getting Religion



Just the Facts Ma’am June 18, 2019


Reposting this. Did anyone read the article?
See an additional quote at bottom.


Unmasking the Guru


Our new digital world has made it impossible to believe in infallible teachers. What comes next is up to us.


Interview with Bernhard Pörksen by Ursula Richard
SUMMER 2019 [Tricycle]


Changing cultural attitudes are not the only. . .reason that public revelations of institutionalized sexual abuse have been at the forefront of mainstream consciousness. Abuse is nothing new. What is new is the way it is being revealed to the public—and what the public is doing with the information.


Bernhard Pörksen is a professor of media studies at the University of Tübingen in southwest Germany, with particular research interest in the new media age. His writing regularly appears in both scholarly and popular science publications, and two of his books have been on the bestseller list in Germany. He has written or co-authored books on topics such as journalism, constructivism, and communications and systems theories, and he has received accolades for his direct and engaged appearances as a speaker, talk show guest, interview moderator, and discussion partner on radio and television as well as at conventions and public events.


In the following interview, Ursula Richard of the German magazine Buddhismus aktuell discusses with Pörksen the exposure and aftermath of scandals in Buddhist communities today and how we can understand the emerging role played by digital media.


—The Editors




Or, in print, at a newsstand near you.


Another quote:


“To sum it up: the holy man has become a broken shell, the guru is a sad or pathetic or—worst-case scenario—even criminal figure. And the image of the exalted being has to compete for attention with our personal experience and the online documentation of the guru’s disgrace.”



WhaleRider June 18, 2019


Just the Facts Ma’am:
Excellent article, thanks for reposting. It brings up an important issue touched upon by Cult Survivor:


In conclusion, is there also a maxim relating to abuse issues? Yes. However difficult and painful it may be, at some point we have to accept the unthinkable as thinkable, in spite of our own experience of beauty, tranquility, and kindness. Seeing what is different from you, in all its strange-ness and fearfulness, might be the relevant categorical imperative to guide perception. And then investigate carefully and impartially, and act immediately to empower victims and prevent further suffering.


Since Burton’s current harem were trafficked presumably from a social, economic or political environment far worse than the opulent environment they are currently living in, and although they have been groomed and manipulated into being Burton’s sex slaves and probably living with the fear of deportation and therefore may not complain as a result…has this accommodation of Burton’s fraud and sexual mania cleansed the conscience of his followers and alleviated the suffering of his victims?


IMO, only once the guru is unmasked and demystified, so too is the suffering his victims endured unmasked and demystified.



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.



WhaleRiderJuly 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.



RichSeptember 2, 2021


39. 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


40. Rich,


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 manifesations 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.



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, ie 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: ouspensky.org.uk/final-months-january-to-october-1947



44thWaySeptember 7, 2021


47. 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: amzn.com/0956549780
UK: amazon.co.uk/dp/0956549780/
or search on Martin Braybrooke

Reviews, good or bad, welcome.




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. 98-102)



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.”


  Here, then, is an essential distinction between the obscurantist esotericizers, who continually proclaim to “search the heavens” and the “depths of their souls” for isolated bits of knowledge, and a potentially viable contemporary spiritual teaching. Reductionism, or inflation, can exist on all levels, including the metaphysical. Merely writing in effulgent and self-denigratory terms about an outmoded cosmology is no more relevant to the real development of human knowledge than are psychiatric theorizing or the double-talk of commercial awareness-training groups. That the dead hand of a cold, sterile Metaphysical lnflationism should have touched the students of Gurdjieff – a man, for all his shortcomings, who always sought genuine development – is a great irony.


If there do exist so many difficulties in popularizing the fragmentary remains of esoteric tradition – a meditation technique that is sold for everybody, a man screaming for hours effectively brainwashing an audience, or a turgid “metaphysics” – then what might currently be useful in preparing the ground?


Most of the contemporary fragmentary systems suffer from a confusion of the essence of mystical tradition with the original system itself. They often confuse the system with the knowledge, mixing up mistranslated ancient descriptions of “sight” and what can be “seen” with the technical details of an operation designed, say, to remove occlusions. A blind person accustomed to hearing inflated exaltations of the joys of sight may not be prepared when someone introduces technical procedures that are actually useful in an eye operation. “What are these cold hard things I touch?” he may exclaim of the surgical instruments. “What is their relationship to the grandeur of green grass, or to a sunset, of which I have heard so many wondrous descriptions?” Why many people of differing specializations may need to be involved in the task of surgery; why there is a need for antisepsis, for someone to have studied the physiology of the eye (or brain hemisphere, in the case of hemianopia), would entirely escape those who have become diverted from the attempt at seeing into a mere interest and expertise on “the dimensions of spiritual experience,” “techniques of mysticism,” “traditional approaches to the mind,” or “the wisdom of the East.” Such a person wishes for more availability of effulgent and high-minded descriptions of sight: the fragmentary substitute.


This is a continuous difficulty: the confusion of the vehicle with the objective, of the hard technical knowledge available in this area today with romantic descriptions of the universe, “spiritual experiences,” “beings” of all orders, a “cosmic law.” However, current literature, travel writings, and scientific facts all can serve a valid and reconstructive purpose: if properly presented, they can convey to the interested student the rudiments of “sight,” and can aid in developing a more comprehensive awareness of himself and of life. This can occur even though the literature may not directly mention cosmology, God, mysticism, or any of the things most usually, romantically and traditionally, associated with mystical experience. Many of the most important books, then, do not appear in “metaphysical” collections, nor are they used by mystical societies. They may not contain one word of reference to this area, or be labeled “metaphysical.” They are present but are “invisible” to the hemianopic, or to the blind slave of tradition, or to the devotee of the current cults.


Yakoub of Somnan, explaining the function of the literature that he used, said:


Literature is the means by which things which have been taken out of the community, such as knowledge, can be returned.

   The similitude is as of a seed, which may be returned to the earth long after the plant from which it grew is dead, with perhaps no trace of it remaining.

   The learned may he millers of the grain-seed, but those whom we call the Wise are the cultivators of the crop.

   Take heed of this parable, for it contains the explanation of much irreconcilability of attitudes in the two classes of students.



A Gurdjieff Genealogy: Tracing the Manifold Ways the Gurdjieff Teaching has Travelled


By 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.





Gurdjieff’s teaching: for scholars and practitioners


GURDJIEFF AS BLACK & WHITE MAGICIAN: How Gurdjieff’s Four Books relate to each other & his Law of Three





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


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

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

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



Is There “Life” on Earth? An Introduction to Gurdjieff, Stonehill, NY, 1973


 By J.G. Bennett


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 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 . . .





The Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation


The Teaching For Our Time



Golden Veil February 1, 2019Fellowship 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!





Artemis44July 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.



Insider July 22, 2019


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







By Hadrat Bashir M. Dervish

Octagon Press, London, 1982



Chapter 6 – THE CULTS


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

                                    Ghulam Haidar



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.





The Value of E. J. Gold: Unearthing the Real Mr G

By Johanna Petsche
Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 27.3, 2014


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.





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)


By 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. 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.







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 a 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 Gurdjieff, 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 . . .



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


G. I. Gurdjieff (1872?-1949)


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.








By Anthony Storr




The Harmonious Circle


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.



(pp. 140-41)


Man is asleep. He must wake up.
    Nothing he thinks or feels or senses is conscious. He is hypnotized, like the sheep whom an Eastern wizard once mesmerized into believing that their procession to the slaughterhouse was both inevitable and good. Man is a machine.
    The universe also is a machine. Everything happens. No one can do anything. They are done to as the forces which move the universe operate in them and the world around them. It hails, it snows; in the same way “it laughs in me.” Over such processes man thinks he has control. He has none. The Great War now in progress: an example of sleep, the hypnotic state in which we are lived rather than live our lives. Such disasters are inevitable in a world of mad machines. 




You do not realise your own situation. You are in prison. All you can wish for, if you are a sensible man, is to escape. But how escape? It is necessary to tunnel under a wall. One man can do nothing. But let us suppose there are ten or twenty men — if they work in turn and if one covers another they can complete the tunnel and escape.

    Furthermore no one can escape from prison without the help of those who have escaped before.



Under the direction of a Man Who Knows, it is possible to escape from prison. A group must be formed which obeys certain rules. Its members can help each other to fathom the working of their machines. They must keep secret what they learn because of the impossibility of transmitting accurately what is said in such groups: this silence is in itself a useful exercise because of the tendency of the human machine to jabber automatically of what most interests it. They must tell the teacher of the group the whole truth, and this is difficult, because the human machine has a horrifying compulsion to lie. Although the teacher of the group cannot be deceived, he can deceive his pupils as much as he wants. It is for their own good.


    In order to wake up, members of a group under a teacher must “work on themselves.” This “work” includes several basic exercises. At first, a man must observe himself, study the working of the human machine. Then he must try to “remember himself,” be conscious of his own being. He must work on what Gurdjieff called “considering,” which takes two forms. Internal considering is being concerned or guided by what other people think of us, and is to be avoided. External considering is to be cultivated and involves taking other people’s feelings into account, not expressing what Ouspensky called “negative emotions.” This exercise was an exercise for the emotions, and work on the emotions — as the most dormant part of unconscious man — formed an important part of Gurdjieff‘s teaching. There are other exercises for the other centers.


    Centers? The structure of the human machine can be diagrammatically represented. Man, Gurdjieff began by saying, has three centers governing his activity: an intellectual center, an emotional center, and a moving center. These are located separately in the body and exist independently of each other. Later Gurdjieff was to refer to man as a “three-brained being.” It was part of work on oneself to harmonize the functioning of these hopelessly discordant centers. It became apparent that the description of three centers was one of convenience, for Gurdjieff eventually defined seven. The “moving centre,” together with the “instinctive centre” and the “sex centre” form the “centres of the lower story.” Above the “intellectual” and “emotional” centers are the “higher intellectual” and “higher emotional” centers, which represent functions present and perfectly developed in man, but which he does not know how to use. They can be used only by higher sorts of man.


    There are seven numbers of man. Man number one has his center of gravity in the moving center, man number two in the emotional center, and man number three in the intellectual center. These are the men we know. Man number four results from work in groups. He has begun to balance his centers and has a permanent center of gravity in his attachment to the work of self-development. Men numbers one, two and three have no such permanent element in their being: all they consist of is a hundred little “I’s,” each with its different demands, likes and dislikes. At any moment “Webb” or “Ivanov” or “Ouspensky” can alter into “Petrov” or a stranger called, say, E. Hamilton Jones. Ordinarily, we “identify” with whichever imaginary “I” happens to be dominant. Men below man number four have no “I”; just a multitude of conflicting tiny selves. But man number four knows where he is going, and in man number five, the permanent attributes are becoming crystallized, for he has attained unity. Man number six is a less perfected form of man number seven, “who has reached the full development possible to man and who possesses everything a man can possess, that is, will, consciousness, permanent and unchangeable ‘I,’ individuality, immortality, and many other properties, which in our blindness and ignorance, we ascribe to ourselves.”


    The seven numbers of man represent a functioning of one of the two fundamental cosmic laws. These are the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. They operate both in the structure of the human machine and in the greater machine of the universe.


(p. 144)


. . . The fourth body is composed of substances much finer than the others and is thus subject to fewer mechanical laws. Man begins to acquire higher bodies by transmuting the finest substance manufactured automatically by his organism. This is “the substance with which sex works.” Much later Gurdjieff made it clear that this is sperm itself, rather than some imperceptible corollary. Abuse of sex makes it impossible to begin transmutation.


Something has gone wrong with the functioning of the human organism and has prevented man’s orderly evolution to higher states. The “line of knowledge” has outstripped the “line of being.” What man actually is has been left behind by what he thinks he knows. In fact, he even knows very little, because “objective knowledge” is possible only for a man of higher consciousness. This division between the line of knowledge and the line of being corresponds to the division in the psyche between false personality and essence. False personality is what a man thinks he is, and his essence is what he is in fact. Personality is an illusion, maintained by sleep and what Gurdjieff called “buffers,” which are mechanisms acquired in order to soften the impact of rare glimpses of the truth. Underneath are all the conflicting “I’s” of man and an essence — the core and basis of what he is — which may have stopped growing in infancy. Whereas personality is subject to the law of accident, a man’s essence is always of a particular and definable type, subject to the law of fate, which can at least be allowed for and predicted. A beginning can be made toward liberating oneself from false personality by struggling not to “identify” too closely with momentary preoccupations; a man must learn to “play a role.” Eventually, he may discover his “Chief Feature”: the most important of the automatisms, which hold him in bondage.


This complex and closely connected body of ideas was summed up in a symbol Gurdjieff called the enneagram. This is based on a circle whose circumference is divided by nine points, connected by lines to give a six-sided figure and a triangle. The enneagram contains and symbolizes the whole universe and Gurdjieff’s explanation of it, including the Laws of Three and Seven and the relationship of all substances to one another. In this symbol Gurdjieff altered his musical analogy by an arbitrary redisposition of the intervals in the octave. If the enneagram is taken as a diagram of possible human evolution, it shows how something is needed to help a man across these intervals. This can be provided only by “shocks” administered by a Man Who Knows.


(pp. 147-48)


What is this state of self-remembering which is so difficult to attain and hold? Ouspensky thought of it as a double-headed arrow indicating that attention was directed both at an object and on oneself — but man has no “I”!  One of the achievements of In Search of the Miraculous is that it manages to lay stress on this central aspect of Gurdjieff’s teaching without being specific about the non-existent “self ” which we are supposed to “remember.” The double-headed arrow, yes; but what is this curious and vivid state it induces for that — “instant in and out of time?”  “I have striven at it for over a quarter of a century,” writes Henri Tracol, “and I admit, I feel myself as unable to define it in a way which fully satisfies me as on the first day.” However, Maurice Nicoll has provided a preliminary description:



. . . all real Self-Remembering is simply forgetting yourself, your ordinary self, your ordinary negative “I’s,” your ordinary forms of internal considering, and all the rest of it, and feeling certain that some further state of yourself exists above all this personal uproar that takes place all day long in each one of you, with which you keep on identifying, and when the Work says that we have Real “I” above us you must understand that this act, so to speak, of separating from False Personality, deliberately at some moment every day, is designed to make it possible for us to come in contact with the first traces of Real “I” which is already there and which is our real goal.




Henri Tracol has tried to describe his own experience. This is what the exercise of self-remembering feels like to perform:


My attention is no longer the same, its power accumulates, its penetration and its freedom make it both larger and more alive. It mobilises in me latent forces, kept until this time in a dormant state. It activates an alteration in the force and the regulation of certain functions, releasing in this way a chain-reaction, through which in the self-same moment there is intensified the global perception I have of myself, a perception which is located far above the plane of perception proper and whose taste could not be confused with any other.

    This general activity coincides with the appearance of the intensest feeling of renewal, a sensation of opening and belonging to the external as much as the internal world, inasmuch as in me they are united.



Ouspensky began to see the practice of self-remembering as the central point of Gurdjieff‘s teaching, and tried unsuccessfully to transfer some of his enthusiasm to his literary friends. His experiments had proved to his own satisfaction that although mankind did indeed exist as a society of sleepwalkers, there was a way out. He may not have realized it at the time, but his attitude had altered considerably since he first met Gurdjieff. “I did not even wish for any changes in myself,” he writes about his setting out for India. But now his efforts were concentrated on “waking up.” The watchword of Gurdjieff’s pupils had become “work on oneself,” and soon their efforts were referred to simply as “the Work.” Only one thing seems definite about this elusive activity. It involves change.





An Appreciation of the Life and Work of James Webb


Compiled by John Robert Colombo



Gurdjieff and de Hartmann’s Music for Movements


Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review, Vol 4, No. 1, 2013


By Johanna Petsche


A large body of piano music was composed in an unusual collaboration between eccentric, hard-edged Armenian-Greek spiritual teacher George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949), who had no classical music training, and his cultivated, aristocratic Ukrainian pupil Thomas Alexandrovich de Hartmann (1885-1956), who was classically trained in composition to the highest of standards. The music they jointly composed is generally overlooked in the vast majority of writings on Gurdjieff’s life and teaching, which is surprising considering the unique nature of the collaboration, and the fact that music and its effects were not only recurring themes but also compulsive interests for Gurdjieff throughout his life . . .





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.


Over the next 13 years, de Hartmann devoted himself to this teacher who claimed to bring the secrets of the East to the enervated West. In the process, de Hartmann also produced stacks of short, dreamlike musical works that presage today’s New Age aesthetic. That music, central to the teachings of Gurdjieff, is being recorded in a comprehensive anthology on Wergo Records and on a second series from Channel Classics, and can be found on a four-volume series from the French Auvidis Valois label. That this curious music, written three-quarters of a century ago for a hermetic cult, should suddenly inspire major recording projects is a small and lovely cultural accident.


Gurdjieff’s legacy is a few volumes of mystical rambling, a trunkload of music, some scattered followers in mostly secretive Gurdjieff societies, and some activity on the Internet. Yet in his lifetime, he had incredible luck making himself an intellectual presence throughout Europe and in the United States. After setting himself up in a rambling old chateau called the Prieuré (outside Fontainebleau, near Paris), intellectuals, artists and the spiritually restless flocked to him . . .



 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


By J. Walter Driscoll



academia.edu/10377508/Gurdjieff & the Fourth Way



In Search of P. D. Ouspensky


The Genius in the Shadow of Gurdjieff  


By Gary Lachman




The Esoteric Experience


By 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.





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 Feuerstein’s more scholarly Holy Madness.







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’.





By Sophia Wellbeloved
(with 13 comments)


Here is a brief look at two specific ways in which Gurdjieff referred to dogs in relation to his teaching. Firstly, he warned his pupils that if they did not perfect themselves they would ‘die like dogs’.


Secondly, as his pupils struggled in an attempt to unravel his long complex and confusing text, he would tell them that he had ‘buried the dog’ in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. Gurdjieff watched his pupils while the Tales was being read aloud to them, and if pupils looked as though they might be understanding something, he would then ‘bury the dog deeper’ altering his text to make it more difficult.


Perhaps confused by their own notions of dogs buring bones, something they wanted to hide from other dogs, his pupils, believing that Gurdjieff’s lack of fluency in the English language had caused him to make a mistake, tried to convince him he meant that he had ‘buried a bone’, he said ‘No,’ he had buried the whole dog.



October 17, 2011


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


. . . During his public activity he spoke Russian and English so poorly that any Mastery he claimed to possess was certainly not linguistic in nature. 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.





Volume 24, No. 4, Nov. 2017, pp. 695-721
Johns Hopkins University Press Article


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


By Cecily Swanson


That the Gurdjieff foundations have suppressed information on Gurdjieff’s association with magic and his administration of narcotics explains some of the secrecy surrounding the publication of The Women of the Rope collection. Sophia Wellbeloved, artist and scholar of Gurdjieffianism, has given a paper that describes the “omissions and redefinitions” of Gurdjieff’s work by later Gurdjieffian societies.





The Bezels of Beelzebub


By Richard Hodges



A study of Gurdjieff’s “Beelzebub’s Tales” using the metaphor of “bezels” as in Ibn Arabi’s “Bezels of Wisdom”.