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Archive for September 2009

Keith A. Buzzell: Man – A Three Brained Being

JOSEPH AZIZE BOOK REVIEWS

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

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Dr Keith A. Buzzell

Dr Keith A. Buzzell

Review
Keith A. Buzzell, Man – A Three Brained Being (Resonant Aspects of Modern Science and the Gurdjieff Teaching), 2nd edition, edited by John Amaral, Marlena Buzzell, Bonnie Phillips and Toddy Smyth, Fifth Press, Salt Lake City, 2007

139 pages, including a glossary of specialist terms, full colour llustrations and a coloured book mark.

Overview        
This book is unique in the Gurdjieff tradition. It is an original contribution to the study of man, and a stepping stone to further study. The quality of thought displayed is so high as to itself provide a subtle and powerful impression. It could have been subtitled “how and why the brains in man form images, what those images do, and how this can be done in either a healthy or an unhealthy way”.

Dr Buzzell’s avowed aim is to “blend a scientific perspective on the physical Universe and on human biology with a perspective on the possibility of self-transformation as taught by G.I. Gurdjieff.” (p.131) These two domains, physical science and Gurdjieff’s teaching (perhaps a species of metaphysical science), have both practical and theoretical applications. It is Dr Buzzell’s privilege (hereafter
“Buzzell”) to explore and relate the practical and the theoretical aspects of each. Buzzell was educated and trained as a physician, musician and scientist, and has put his good fortune to good use, understanding as he does that “the broad spectrum of human experiences that must be lived …” (p. 131, all italics in quotes are found in the original).

Buzzell invites the reader to “probe deeper”; not just to study his (i.e. Buzzell’s own ideas) but to individually apply what they understand in the light of their own lived experiences. His vision is one where many individuals will strive to apply Gurdjieff’s system and method in the groups or alone. Then, on the basis of that experience, they come into relation with each other to “share, to commune with, to support and to come into abiding relationship with each other.” (p.131)

Art and Illustrations  
The cover is thicker than is usual with paperbacks. On the front, a blue netting design stretches over a light grey background. The centre is filled by a diagram in thin white lines, being a large circle with a slightly smaller circle concentrically inside it, filled with an set of interlocking triangles. The three corners of the largest upright triangle are each marked by a blue cluster, roughly circular, but with soft edges. It is as if the blue netting of the background is gathered into the white outlined circles and concentrated at these three corners. The design is redolent of space/time not being uniform, but concentrated by massy objects. We sense harmony, geometry, law, manifestation and peaceful transition in its imagery of simple forms meeting to cause more complex forms and concentrations to arise.

The page before the table of contents bears one of many full colour illustrations. Below it lies the dedication “For All Our Children and Grandchildren”. The ideas in this book are links in a chain which began even before Gurdjieff. The book as a whole fills a place in, and carries forward, a broad tradition which flows down from a great horizon. In a deft manner, the illustrations for this book, but especially the front cover, reflect the insight that both the perspectives of modern science and Gurdjieff’s ideas “herald a startlingly new view of our Universe.” (p. 3).

The book is organized into an introduction and four chapters. Each of these is preceded by a page bearing a few short quotations. Each of those pages is grey with a geometric figure, perhaps one could call it an unfolded triangle, ghosted in white lines. Numerous diagrams, some in colour, are provided. One has only to open the volume to see that the publisher does not just keep a commercial eye on the packaging: as one can fairly say of most presses. Rather, the press, its artists,
editors, author and staff, have collaborated in an endeavour at once
scientific, artistic and crafted.

Contents        
The introduction asks: what is new since the time of Gurdjieff? The answer is found in the “technological application of the principles of relativity and quantum mechanics”, what Buzzell calls “new motions” (pp.3-4). This makes possible, among other things, the new imaging technologies of television, computer terminals, video games, internet and so on. These pump out images which the brain must take as real (pp.5-6), and present reality in a manner and at a speed which is not natural to our three brains. One result is that seeing everything available we want everything now (as stated at p.6). I had already thought that the “entertainment” industry, compressing the events of days, weeks and even years into an “action-packed” 90 minutes has had a part in making us impatient of process (e.g. in
learning). Gurdjieff made similar observations in his chapter on “Art”, but the situation has deteriorated since his time, and Buzzell illustrates how and why. As he states, the ideal or natural “time-of-relationship” for people is slower than what we presently allow (p.7). As Buzzell indicates, the possibility of personal transformation depends upon how the brains intentionally digest the images they form (p.8). And like every process, this has a time. If we squander it, if that time is not respected, nature does not give us that period over again. For example, if the fingers of the developing foetus are not differentiated in time, the body “continues its surge towards overall completion and makes compromises around uncompleted parts”, and each brain does the same (p. 6).

Chapter 1 is titled “New Concepts”. In 1915 Gurdjieff’s idea of man as a three-brained being was, “revolutionary”(p.11). In the 1950s, the idea of the triune brain was independently introduced to contemporary science by MacLean, who used the term “mentation” for “a brained process”, just as Gurdjieff did. However, MacLean’s work is not influential in today’s neuroscience (p. 12). The appearance of “brained” beings represents “the Great Turning” (p. 13):

This turning consisted of the evolution of biological mechanisms (one-brained beings) which could construct sensory images of a resonant portion of the forms and energies of the world external to itself. (p. 13)

Both Gurdjieff’s theory of “hydrogens” and modern chemistry recognize the significance of electromagnetic bonding energies in holding “states of matter” together (p. 14). As Buzzell correctly notes, the existence of other galaxies was not recognized until the late 1920s (p. 15), yet other galaxies are acknowledged in the Ray of Creation (e.g. Miraculous p. 80). I agree with him that these anticipations of
modern science are extraordinary. Buzzell takes the study of hydrogens further than I have elsewhere seen, and explains how H48 and 24, can now be seen to represent neural impulses and associative neural nets, respectively, unknown substances in 1915 (pp.16-7). With H12:

… the procreative (or germinative) matter/energy enters. It can also be understood as the first of Gurdjieff’s “spiritual” matters. … At the physical body level of procreation, it is the higher force at the essentially solar level of new creation – in the new, hydrogen-bonded linkages of our DNA. (p. 17)

The role of H12 in the development of individuality gives an objective basis for the analogy between sun and “real I”. It also provides a startlingly concrete dimension to Gurdjieff’s concept, passed on orally, of  “creating sun in oneself.” A table of matters on p. 18 shows how each hydrogen relates to the substances known to science,
for example, H6 corresponds to galactic “cloud” interaction, and H12 to the state of plasma. My study of the ancient solar theology had already shown me that Gurdjieff’s many references to the sun were intended literally as well as metaphorically.

Buzzell also studies one of the most sadly neglected aspects of the ideas, the triads. In particular, he has an illuminating passage about the triad of transformation, 2-1-3 (pp.24-5). I have been collating the diverse indications on the triads, and Buzzell’s exposition absolutely confirms and extends what I have been able to piece together. His insight that “presence has a distinct and unique quality within each of the three forces of the triad …” explains something which is missing in Ouspensky’s account, and which I sensed had to be missing – but I could not see where the gap was. Now I can. This ends chapter 1.

Chapter 2 deals with “The Triune Brain”. Buzzell brings a new perspective to faith and hope, explains “wholing” (pp.30-1), images and resonance (pp.32-3), and while he does not refer to Gurdjieff here, his comments on vision (p. 34) elucidate why Gurdjieff privileged sight (Beelzebub at pp. 468-75, the white ray of light corresponds to the ‘common-integral vibration of all sources of actualizing’, etc). Buzzell goes on to deal with the other senses, both outer and inner, and his treatment of smell is particularly fascinating (pp. 36 and 43). He writes of the “sense of I”, the Great Traditions and their ossification, and the scientific method, summing up the chapter with “life” (p. 59).

Chapter 3, “Consciousness as the Coalescence of Images” shows how “awareness of various aspects of the world at and beyond the body surface is the most elemental or simple conscious state” (p. 70). In doing so, Buzzell adds further layers to what he has written about the brain and the senses; noting the sense of smell at p. 66. This chapter brings one to a sense of wonder at the image-making capacities of brained beings, the workings of association, memory, time, and the development of language. Buzzell’s pregnant comments on language at p.75 open new vistas on Gurdjieff’s remarks in Beelzebub and Remarkable Men. Over several pages, Buzzell describes how each brain receives impressions, forms images and associations, contributes to a different experience of time and to the development of human capacities. Then,
at pp. 78-9, he shows how although PET and MRI can show how different parts of the brain act when listening, nonetheless, we are not aware of that process but of the “coalescence of image”. When that image is one of lawfulness in the external world, the scientific method is possible (pp. 79 and 81, and illustrations 8 and 10). At the end of the chapter, Buzzell treats of “attention” and “will”, of which he says:

The Will, when understood as a truly independent source of decisioning … is higher (in potency) than impulse, image, consciousness or attention. We assign the potency of the Will to the em-force itself. (p. 87)

One has the feeling by now, that the black and white outline of the Ray of Creation we know from Ouspensky is being coloured in. Chapter 4 is headed: “The Digestion of Food, Air and Impressions: A Metaphor for Human Transformation.” Perhaps the nub of the book is here. Buzzell stresses that Gurdjieff’s discussion of these topics is metaphorical, and that even the Ray must be understood in such a way. I received a
shock for my understanding when I read Buzzell’s comment on the note SI, “freedom from the past, blending of outer and inner” (p. 94). Then follows an important elaboration of In Search of the Miraculous. First, the magnificent colour diagram on p. 96 does something I should have done for myself long ago, and charts the development of the air and impressions octaves beyond what is in Miraculous. The lengthy treatment of the foods, the processes to which they correspond, and which cosmic phenomena relate to the hydrogens at each level is, to my mind, an essential direction for anyone trying to make Gurdjieff’s ideas practical for themselves. What Buzzell does is clothe the abstract black and white lines of the food diagram from Miraculous in flesh, blood, oxygen, vitamins, hormones, and other things besides.
The treatment of impressions as food probably does not say so much which many of us have not already suspected: but it is put together and explained concisely and with authority.

This last chapter includes some interesting points and quotations, such as one from Tracol (p. 108). It holds together rather nicely, while covering many aspects of food ingestion and digestion, and relating it to the conscious evolution of man, this triune-brained being. One thing which I think might supplement the treatment of breathing (p. 112) is a reference to the subtle pauses in breathing. These pauses, and indeed, the entire rhythm of the breath, are important in the digestion of the air, one’s emotional state and indeed the tempo and state of one’s body. Further, Buzzell appreciates
the importance of Gurdjieff’s exercises (see pp. 112-3 for details). One will not persevere with the exercises, even if one has the good fortune to receive them, unless one knows of their significance and so values them.

Once the three foods have entered the body (and I suspect that the ingestion of impressions actually begins in the atmosphere of the body) the digestive products of the three foods are blended within the body’s inner circulation (pp. 116-7, pointing directly to Gurdjieff’s “blending” exercises). The three food octaves can, with the aid of the first conscious shock, come to the triad RE24, FA24, LA24 (p. 118). Conscious images are made of H24, once can even say that for us H24 is conscious images (extrapolating from pp.119-20). With this shock and its conscious images, there appears a presence or inner witness (p. 119). This leads to the critical point:

The effort to maintain the separation of a presence from the created images is the key to the potency inherent in self-remembering. If one loses this state of separation, identification with the image instantly takes place … (p. 119)

Without this separation, the Sacred Dances, which Buzzell says can represent “attentioned movement” (p. 121) would be gymnastics. The book then moves on to what may be the most important part, the treatment of the second conscious shock.

Corrigenda      
Of course, there are some typographical errors, but not many. The contents reads “coalition” for “coalescence”; p. 55 line 6, read “in” before “vention”; p. 62 paragraph 1, place a full stop after “independently”.

Comments        I consider this an important book. I think that to come to the best practical understanding of Gurdjieff’s ideas and methods possible we must engage with these issues: thus the third Being-Obligolnian-Striving. If this book is found difficult, and it is difficult in parts, that is a challenge. What would be the value of a book on this topic which was easy? Although Buzzell has qualified himself as an Oskianotsner (Beelzebub p. 1122), he cannot fulfil this role without readers who will study not just the book but develop the legacy and apply it.

Some people affect to despise theories, they say they just want practice. This is juvenile. Could one imagine any scientist, let alone a Pooloodjistius, who had never studied theory, had no maths no physic no chemistry, but said “let me loose in the laboratory”? Of course both are needed. In fact, even to dismiss theory is to create a theory as to why other theories are useless. As Chesterton said in another context, it is like declaring: “Away with diagnosis, medicines and exercise: just give me health!”

This is a book which makes connections and invites further study and research. For example, what about the role of fasting? Another interesting field lies with this idea that it is the mark of a master to be able to refrain from acting. One of Mr Adie’s former pupils has told me that physiological evidence shows that the “action” of refraining from acting aborts the processes which usually dominate our psyches, and allows new and beneficial processes to take place. Perhaps someone who is qualified shall research it. Another field for Dr Buzzell?

Postscript on the triads (26 September 2009): It is significant that the triads of psycho-transformism are 2 1 3 and 2 3 1 (P.D. Ouspensky, A Record of Meetings, 163). They each begin with 2. The involving triads of destruction are 1 3 2 and crime 3 1 2 (A Record of Meetings, 161 and 185) both end on 2. They can then repeat with great ease, because they proceed mechanically. But, at the same time, precisely
because they end with 2 they offer exactly the right opportunity for commencing one of the triads of psycho-transformism, that is, construction 2 1 3 and self-remembering 2 3 1. I think that with this insight the doctrine of the triads becomes practical, and the understanding of it can then tip the balance when struggles seem unavailing by entering as the third force.

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

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Joseph Azize has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book The Phoenician Solar Theology treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The second book, “Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria”, was jointly edited with Noel Weeks. It includes his article arguing that the Carthaginians did not practice child sacrifice.

The third book, George Mountford Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.The fourth book, edited and written with Peter El Khouri and Ed Finnane, is a new edition of Britts Civil Precedents. He recommends it to anyone planning to bring proceedings in an Australian court of law.

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GEORGE ADIE on the Creator-in-me

JOSEPH AZIZE PAGE


Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

George Adie on the Creator-in-me

[These two pieces were read to us at a combined meeting in Newport. Mr Adie simply read them one after another, yet I feel that he sensed a connection between them. He made an ex tempore comment, which appears at the end, in quote marks. I have added the titles (Joseph Azize, Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com, 18 September 2009)]

creator sun

I. The Sense of the Creator-in-me

So I go about, greatly occupied by turning thoughts. Yet, as I attend to my many duties, am I aware of the great unknowable, the infinity of the Creator-in-me?

“I waited on the Lord. He inclined unto me. He heard my complaint.”1

What can be more important than this? But for my field of consciousness to receive the ceaseless influence of this divine level, I have to be aware of my aim, of the purpose for my life on the level of the external world. I must both contribute and receive on that level also. After all, it is my life, the very life in which I must actualise my possibilities of becoming conscious.

As I go, as I work, let me not allow this awareness to be merely a background, obscured by every occurrence or influence. Let me primarily be aware of the Creator-in-me, of God-in-me. Let the Creator-in-me not be forgotten, so that I may enter the great realm of knowledge and self-certainty.

And now as I remember myself, I increasingly sense a strange self-certainty. I direct attention outwards as may be necessary in payment for my life. I voluntarily manifest this process in me with all that it implies. So let me also live and fulfil my external duties so as to benefit my fellow creatures.

This is the great life of the ceaseless sunrise of creation: may the sense of the Creator-in-me as I move leaven my being, and may my labour be also for my neighbour.
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calm-sunrise

II. Lost Loves: Repairing the Past

When I look back I see a wasteland of lost opportunities, and of repeated failures to understand life’s offerings. There have been so many moments offering possibilities for the rarest exchanges: possibilities lost through indifference, self-importance, coldness. The lost love of friends, of people who made sacrifices on my behalf. All moments of flowering love, but without response from me, so that they withered and died in pain and disappointment.

I collect myself, and I attempt to stop thought, and yet these recollections come and distract me. In the past, it seemed, I could stop thought. It seemed I could turn inside, and find myself. Then I had refreshment so as to continue, but now? How can I understand what is necessary?

Life and creation never cease. I must find my way anew, in this fresh creation of the present moment. I have often proved for myself that the way always mounts before me. It is always there and it always demands more of me, by lawful demand. And so now, more effort is necessary.

Now I have to repair these very bitter past failures which are pressed upon my consciousness in continuing process. I repair them now: now in the present.

In this state I can see and realize with an unimagined clarity that the ghostly pictures which lie behind the recurring memories, just because they still return, can be repaired now. So now I can and must recompense for the past.

At once time vanishes.

I AM, and time is no longer. All is One and I am That.

I look on the ocean, calm after endless days of storm, stretching now blue and serene to the horizon, and I hear in me the words: “Peace, be still, I AM”.2

Now I give thanks for my present pain, which awakens me and tells me just how to fill the void through reparation. I deal with present deeds in the presence of the all-merciful presence, the all-merciful present.

“You know how he spoke about the merciless Heropass? In the now, it’s merciful.”

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Editor’s Comments

Mr Adie assumes that we know both what he means and what he does when he “repairs the past”. This was a reasonable enough assumption with that audience. Besides, if someone did not understand, they could ask. These pieces can possess the power that they do only because so much background material is lift unstated. To fill it in, where necessary, only adds to one’s understanding.

I have already gathered some of his more detailed material on repairing the past for the book George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia. To try and put it simply, without suggesting that this is the only way to approach this mystery, I can repair the past because I am the past, although I am not just the past. The past lives on in me, but it only dominates and determines the man-machine. In so far as I am conscious, I can introduce a new element which is not utterly determined by the past into myself. So, in a way, my direct effort is to repair myself, and yet there is still this indirect result that the past is no longer as it was, because I am always emerging from it, and I am now more conscious.

I can experience states where I stay present before memories. I do not run away or “squirm” – a word Mr Adie used more than a few times, with artistic justice. I remain, and I cognize with the whole of myself, that it could not then have been different. I acted as I did because that was how I was then: less responsible, less understanding, less capable. I feel pity for those whom I have pained (pity, I would say now, is a form of love in which we share the sufferings of others through the legitimate faculty of imagination). In, through and by my presence, the pain is received consciously. Perhaps this is something of what Gurdjieff meant by being-remorse.

Even in ordinary life, past events are seen differently depending on the long-term outcome. In Shakespeare, for example, no good came from Lear’s impulsive and short-sighted actions in Act I. In Cymbeline, however, the king’s folly, and with it the past, was redeemed by the acts of true and faithful Imogen and others, who, although not on her level, yet possessed something of these virtues. They never deserted King Cymbeline’s best interests, although he thought all three of them to be his worst enemies. In repairing the past, Leonatus and Belarius, in particular, worked both for themselves and for others. Perhaps it must always be that way: so bound up are our lives with those of others.

Next, I am particularly struck by the truth of Mr Adie’s saying: “In this state I can see and realize with an unimagined clarity that the ghostly pictures which lie behind the recurring memories, just because they still return, can be repaired now.”

This, to me, is a perfect truth. Usually, I have a painful memory, and I identify with the pain. I react emotionally when I should be using my reason. But, as he says, precisely because the past recurs it can be repaired. After all, I cannot repair the past if I am oblivious of it. Perhaps one can even say that these painful past memories bring a certain “consciousness” with them. If so, okay, let me expand that consciousness. And then, as Gurdjieff said: “By as much as one is conscious, there is no more suffering.”

When Mr Adie says “… now I can and must recompense for the past”, he is referring to another truth, that I am responsible for what I have received. It is the parable of the talents.

Finally, at the Prieure, Gurdjieff taught a movement known as “Lost Loves”. Some notes of it have been preserved. The movements as drawn are very evocative. This fortifies me in the feeling which I have received from this piece that there is something in this concept which is not just silly sentimentality. It is really very hard to face this sort of personal tragedy. But the example of people like Mr Adie both urges those with sufficient understanding, and proves that it is possible.

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Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

Joseph Azize has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book The Phoenician Solar Theology treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The second book, “Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria”, was jointly edited with Noel Weeks. It includes his article arguing that the Carthaginians did not practice child sacrifice.

The third book, George Mountford Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.The fourth book, edited and written with Peter El Khouri and Ed Finnane, is a new edition of Britts Civil Precedents. He recommends it to anyone planning to bring proceedings in an Australian court of law.

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Written by SOPHIA WELLBELOVED

September 18, 2009 at 6:41 pm

DISCOVERING GURDJIEFF: Dorothy Phillpotts 2008

JOSEPH AZIZE BOOK REVIEWS

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

Dorothy Phillpotts

Discovering Gurdjieff, Dorothy Phillpotts, 2008, AuthorHouse, Central Milton Keynes, ISBN 9781434388711 (soft cover), 9781434388728 (soft cover)

Overview

This worthy addition to the Gurdjieff bookshelf is the memoire of a lady who joined Bennett’s groups during WWII, and thus had the good fortune to meet Gurdjieff in 1948, and to study with him until his death. It falls into two parts, the Bennett years, and then in Paris with Gurdjieff. Throughout, the book is full of instruction, insight and delights. Some slender biographical details hold the storyline together. However, the emphasis is placed not on her life, but on the discovery of Gurdjieff’s ideas, initially as theory with practice, and then as practice with theory.

Details

There is a dedication to her late husband, George, a portrait photograph of Gurdjieff (one of the famous set which was taken, I am told, by Michael Currer-Briggs), a page of acknowledgements, a list of photographs, then a table of contents, a two page foreword by Peter Brook, a two page preface, 239 pages of text, about 26 pages of further thoughts on topics touched in the text (‘Origins’, ‘Movements’ and ‘Behaviourism’), and reviews of three books: MacKenna’s translation of Plotinus, Man & Time by Priestley, and Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity, by Richard Temple. Finally, there is a short but useful bibliography which takes one beyond Gurdjieff related literature.

The volume is nicely presented. My copy is a paperback, 6 by 9 inches. The left hand side (about two fifths of the cover) depicts five Russian dolls. The lowest and smallest doll is in the clearest focus, and the top doll is largest, but is also the haziest. This wide margin is separated from the balance of the cover by a firm scarlet border which picks up the scarlet of the dolls. On the right hand side, the names of the volume and the author are clearly presented, in different colours (white for the title and a spearmint green for the author) over a rich, almost olive, green background. The back cover has a handsome photograph of Phillpotts as a young woman in the 1940s, once more, upon an olive green field. The right hand side, probably the right sixth, is plain white, once more, with a scarlet border. The spine is the same shade of white, with the title of the book in scarlet and the author’s name in olive green. It is simply and elegantly conceived.

There are some six photographs, including the splendid portrait of the author on the back cover, and at p. 240, a photograph of her shortly before her death in 2008 at the age of 92. This photograph is no less striking than the one on the back, lacking only its antiquarian charm, but compensating in conveying something not ephemeral. The book would, indeed, be a worthwhile purchase if all one did was read those two photographs taken 60 years apart.

Background

Dorothy and George Phillpotts were in Group IV in London in the early 1950s. Mr Adie was one of those who regularly sat in front of Group IV, and their names appear in some of his papers. I do not recall that he ever mentioned them to me, but he always had a special affection for the old group, and significantly, he had too much respect for them to ever speak of the group as ‘his’. Other than that, all I know of them is what appears here. The Phillpotts founded a continuing group in Bristol and Cardiff, and I gather that one of those group members greatly assisted Phillpotts over the 18 years it took her to get it to this form. Phillpotts had been a sort of secretary for Bennett before the Gurdjieff years. If I read her discrete account correctly, after Gurdjieff’s death her major contributions were to the London group. So I guess that she did not remain with Bennett, who rather shortly left the inner sanctum, let us say, of that association.

The Contents

The book opens with a question: “Who was Gurdjieff?,” and then launches into the discovery which yielded the title. Phillpotts builds from the ground up, describing Gurdjieff’s appearance, then his speech, his nationality and his background. She lightly, but correctly, stresses that he was a Greek of Asia Minor (a fact which, I think, says more about the origin of his system than is realized). Phillpotts mentions his education as “physician for the body and confessor for the soul”, and then she answers her own question: “Gurdjieff was to become a great religious teacher and healer – not in his own country, but in the countries of the West” (italics added). This is the essence of that first discovery. The balance of the book develops this illumination through the prism of her personal experience, and yet, details of her life which are not pertinent to her search and discovery are not mentioned. It is not so much that she is silent or reticent about these topics as that her perspective is focussed elsewhere.

Then follows a chronological account of how she came to discover herself, beginning with the desire for understanding of the universal issues which gripped her as a child. This second discovery, of her own true voice, is the subject of the epilogue:

One of the most difficult things Gurdjieff had brought me to, which was ultimately more useful than anything else, was the necessary capacity to doubt. … I had looked for adequate answers to partial questions, and instead I found myself facing an abyss. I leaned over, I shouted, and a voice came back from the other side. It was not another voice that came back, it was my own.

Trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, to reject and compress the parts that would not fit into my idea of an ideal life, I nearly lost what life I had. But he had turned me around. Pulling the string of my awkward perseverance sharply, and to the limit, he had then walked away for ever, secure in the certainty that I would indeed never give up until I had inherited at least an echo of his truth, of his impeccable inner life, and a fragment – infinitely small – of his unquenchable courage and daring. [239]

These simple words hearken back to chapter “Russian Easter” (of 1949), where she recounts how she first came to Gurdjieff’s apartment, and Gurdjieff remarked: “Guest here for the first time … see how she doubt, what she doubt?”[198]. On the next page, she remembers how, at that Easter, Gurdjieff said that he would give her a present (cadeau). The gift, he said, was half of what she needed, but that she must obtain the other half of it later. What happens next sheds, for me, a great light on Gurdjieff, his method and his manner of teaching:

“You come back soon, you remember. Maybe one month. Maybe one year, maybe two. You persevere. You never give up. You not satisfied till you get other half.”

It was very quiet in the room. Aware that the conversation had left me while I needed silence to accustom myself to the challenge of the cadeau, little by little I began to listen to Gurdjieff talking about Easter Mass at the Russian Cathedral. He asked a question. “Some of us would be going to the Rue Daru tomorrow? This feeling experience – such good thing … [198]

So that is, I think, the secret of this book: it is the story of how through discovering Gurdjieff she discovered her essential self.

But while this tells us about the whole of the volume, there is much to be found in the parts which make it up. For example, the texts of Bennett’s lectures on the seven brains are a revelation: as an introduction to the work of the centres I am not sure that they rank very far below Ouspensky’s, if at all. Further, Bennett included otherwise unknown quotes from Gurdjieff such as this one: “in the work of the Emotional Part, you always have the sense of discovering America.” [36] And the allegory of the election of Deputy Steward is a masterpiece, improving the one in Miraculous. Listen, if you will, to this:

It is through the Emotional Centre that the Steward appears. The Intellectual Part of the Emotional Centre is the seat of conscience. Without conscience we should never be able to work by ourselves without help. … This means that, until the Intellectual Part of the Emotional Centre wakes up, we have no infallible sense of values by which to judge ourselves as a whole. Conscience has been called by Mr Gurdjieff the voice of the Steward. The Steward speaks to us in a quiet voice, which we cannot hear amid the vociferous clamour of the many ‘I’s … [53]

Each single sentence casts a light for me on something I had seen partially, or confirms an experience which I had not fully understood. But of course, this material is the ground for the fullness of the Gurdjieff chapters, which seem to fill more than the limited space allotted to them. And I am sure that this was even truer of the role of Gurdjieff in their lives. That year and two months with Gurdjieff must have been fully a half of the plenitude of their life of awareness.

I have mentioned those chapters, and while I could go on quoting from them, I actually feel that this review has now done its work, and it is time to move on. I mean that for both of us. I could expand this review, but I would not be deepening it, and you could go on reading that expanded material, but you now have enough to decide whether the book sounds like one which you might buy.

In the end, this volume introduces us to a wonderful and wise woman, and deepens our admiration of Bennett’s almost innate understanding.

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com
2 September 2009, corrected for accuracy on 22 September 2009.

Joseph Azize has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book The Phoenician Solar Theology treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The second book, “Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria”, was jointly edited with Noel Weeks. It includes his article arguing that the Carthaginians did not practice child sacrifice.

The third book, George Mountford Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.The fourth book, edited and written with Peter El Khouri and Ed Finnane, is a new edition of Britts Civil Precedents. He recommends it to anyone planning to bring proceedings in an Australian court of law.

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