Gurdjieff's teaching: for scholars and practitioners

G. I. Gurdjieff's teaching, research, books, conferences


Waterford Coastline, Ireland

1. Biographical note
2. Publications
Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales.
Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts
“G. I. Gurdjieff'” in ‘The Astrology Book: The Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences’

3. Journals
Review of Tamdgidi’s ‘Gurdjieff and Hypnosis: a Hermeneutic Study’
Gurdjieff ‘Old’ or ‘New Age’: Aristotle or Astrology?
G. I. Gurdjieff: Some References to Love
Review of Patterson, ‘Taking with the Left Hand’

4. Conference papers
Gurdjieff as Magus
Changes in the Work
The Invoking of Names: a Commentary on Eight Paragraphs from Chapter One, “The Arousing of Thought’’
An Exploration of the Tale of the Transcaucasian Kurd
Numbers the Tales and the Zodiac

5. Online articles
Fathoming the Gist
Brief Notes
Is There an Original Beelzebub’sTales?

6. Lighthouse Editions
Gurdjieff’s America
Gurdjieff  Unveiled
George Adie: a Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia

2007 Practitioners and Scholars in Dialogue
2008 Hidden sources: Western Esoteric Influence on the Arts
2009 The Lure of Secrecy; Western Esotericism & the Arts
2010 Legitimate Forms of Knowledge?

8. Bibliography

9. Links

Waterloo Bridge, Somerset and Strand Campus of King’s College, London

Sophia Wellbeloved was born in Ireland, and is an historian of Western Esotericism, with special reference to 1920s and 1930s Paris, focusing on the life and writings of G. I. Gurdjieff (1866? – 1949). Awarded a Ph D at King’s College, London in 1999 She is the author of research papers and books relating to Gurdjieff, these include Gurdjieff,Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales, 2002 and Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, Routledge, London and New York, 2003. She was the Director of Lighthouse Editions (2005 – 2011) which published books related to Gurdjieff and a co- founder in 2006 of the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Esotericism.


2.1 Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales. Solar Bound Press, New Paltz, NY: 2002

Abstract: the text presents an analysis of the narrative subject matter of ‘Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson’ (Tales), in terms of astrological correspondences. Part One contains preliminary information relating to Gurdjieff’s teaching, to astrology, and to the links which connect them. Part Two contains an analysis of the text.
In Part One the events of Gurdjieff’s life/myth are given in the light of cultural and historical contexts and these are related in general to the forms he gave to his teaching, and in particular to to some of the strategies he employed in the Tales. Gurdjieff’s cosmological Laws of Three and Seven are examined in relation to some of their possible origins in Christian, Western European occult, and Theosophical ideologies. Gurdjieff’s knowledge of astrology is explored, and his cosmological laws are shown to be similar to those of astrological cosmology, and to be largely derived from them. There is an account of zodiacal structure and terminology, and of the system of correspondences used in popular astrology of the 1920s and 1930s.
Part Two consists of an analysis of the Tales. Four sets of twelve chapters are examined. Each set of twelve chapters is analysed in terms of subject matter in correspondence with the twelve signs of the zodiac. The relationship between these set of twelve chapters is explored in terms of the symbolism of the sun, moon and mercury, the functioning of the cardinal, fixed and mutable astrological modes, and in terms of Gurdjieff’s Law of Three. The conclusion reached through this analysis of narrative subject matter is that the Tales is a zodiacally structured text.

2.2 Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts. London and New York: Routledge, 2003
Abstract: This book offers clear definitions of Gurdjiefff’s teaching terms, placing him within the political,geographical and cultural context of his time. Entries look at diverse aspects of his work, including:

  • Possible sources in religious, theosophical, occult, esoteric and literary traditions
  • the integral relationships between different aspects of the teaching
  • its internal contradictions and subversive aspects
  • the derivation of Gurdjieff’s cosmological laws and the enneagram
  • the receptive form of New Work teaching introduced by Jeanne de Salzmann

An accessible and fully cross-referenced A-Z guidebook, this is an invaluable companion for both the newcomer and those more versed in Gurdjieff’s thought and teachings.

Gurdjieff, George Ivanovitch, pp 283,288 The Astrology Book: The Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences. Ed., James R. Lewis, Detroit: Visible Ink, 2003



This is the draft of a review to be published in the forthcoming Volume 5 of JASANAS: Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies


Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0230615074
ISBN-13: 978-0230615076
15 diagrams
Appendix J Walter Driscoll ‘The Textual Chronology of Gurdjieff’s Life’ pp 237-252
Bibliography and Index
Foreword: J Walter Driscoll

First, some background information about the author’s academic interests. From his website I found that Mohammad H. (Behrooz) Tamdgidi is Associate Professor of Sociology, teaching Social Theory at UMass Boston. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology (in conjunction with a graduate certificate in Middle Eastern studies) from SUNY-Binghamton and a B.A. in Architecture from U.C. Berkeley. His fields of theoretical specialization include Sociological Imaginations, Self and Society, World-Historical Sociology, Sociology of Knowledge, Social Movements, and Utopias.
Tamdgidi’s research and teaching are framed by an interest in understanding how personal self-knowledges and world-historical social structures constitute one another. His continuing research on liberating social theory in self and world-historical contexts is pursued via critical comparative/integrative explorations of utopian, mystical, and scientific discourses and practices.
This book about Gurdjieff’s writings in relation to hypnotism is in part an extension of a theme occurring in his doctoral thesis, Mysticism and Utopia: Towards the Sociology of Self-Knowledge and Human Architecture (A Study in Marx, Gurdjieff, and Mannheim), 2002, SUNY-Binghamton Universtiy.
Tamdgidi’s sociological approach addresses two important issues in relation to Gurdjieff’s teachings. The first, evident from his title, is the centrality of hypnosis in Gurdjieff’s teaching, the second is his focus on hypnotism in relation to Gurdjieff’s four published texts. Both these are large themes and difficult to condense into the page limit that the author writes that he was confined to by his publishers. Because of this his text is densely complex as are the intricate diagrams, and this makes a prior knowledge of Gurdjieff’s teaching and texts a necessity, so this is a book for the specialist, rather than the general reader.
In relation to Gurdjieff Tamdgidi writes that he will examine only the written texts (not the oral teachings) and that the aim of this study is to show how, ‘Gurdjieff’s “objective art of literary hypnotism is devised and works.’ fn p.xvi. His interpretive method will be to make ‘an indepth textual analysis and interpret the text using ‘it’s own symbolic and meaning structures’ p. xvi. (author’s emphasis). These we can understand to be Gurdjieff’s cosmological teachings given most succinctly in P. D. Ouspensky’s ‘In Search of the Miraculous’, (1949) and in the symbol of the enneagram, familiar to Gurdjieff students and to a wider readership through more popular books which explore the enneagram in terms of a typology of personality. This method, of employing Gurdjieff’s own terms as a method of interpretation or explanation is also carried out by many Gurdjieff students who look to his texts as a help to explain the cosmology, and call upon the cosmology to illuminate Gurdjieff’s published writings. This does lead to a circularity in making any interpretation of Gurdjieff’s difficult, intentionally confusing and contradictory texts. It also ignores the primary interpretation, the world view that each reader already has already formed and already holds, even if unconsciously. I will give an example of this later.
The author has purposely preserved independence from any formal Gurdjieff organisations, but also writes that he has augmented his intellectual enquiry with helpful meditation practice drawn from other traditions that complement the experiential dimensions of Gurdjieff’s teaching, fn 8 p.16. It would be interesting to know what these practices were but he does not identify them nor tell us how they augmented his analysis of the text.
In relation to his use of the term hypnosis, Tamdgidi acknowledges that there are definitions of hypnosis that he could have referred to, for example in the works of Milton H. Erickson, but he does not wish to enter into these or any other definitions. Instead there is an unstated acceptance that Gurdjieff’s writing and teaching were governed by ‘hypnosis’ in what might be generally understood by the use of the term. For example he refers to the reader of Gurdjieff’s ‘Meetings with Remarkable Men’ ( 1978) as ‘mesmerised’ by curiosity about Gurdjieff p.188. His thesis is that the writings are intentionally hypnotic and thus capture the reader. Given the importance of hypnotism to his whole project it would have been useful if he had dealt with his definition of hypnotism more fully.
As referred to above, Tamedgidi argues that his hermeneutical method is one in which he will interpret the texts by using the text’s own symbolic and meaning structure. One consequence of his interpretative method is that Tamdgidi necessarily takes the stance of a compliant reader. There are difficulties in seeking to be compliant, not least because Gurdjieff makes many contradictory demands of his reader who must be compliant yet not passive,
There are anomalies and contradictions in the texts that Tamdgidi recognises, he interprets and explains these in conjunction with his overall thesis and this makes for a closely argued text. Problems arise for the analysis of any text, let alone Gurdjieff’s symbolic and multivalent texts, that aim to exclude all other possible readings, and though Tamdgidi’s interpretation is largely supported by reference to his own publications, here again, these tend to intensify circularity.
In his usefully contextualising Foreword J. Walter Driscoll gives a definition of hermeneutics and writes that at its highest levels it ‘involves the search for meaning via numinous interpretation, be it of poetry, scripture, philosophy, literature, music, art, law or architecture’ and that ‘Tamdgidi draws for inspiration on all of his relevant hermeneutic options in search of meaning in Gurdjieff’s ideas and writings, p. xii, (Driscoll’s emphasis). Perhaps this aim would be impossible to achieve, but the limitations Tamdgidi has set himself in referring only to Gurdjieff’s own terms, have caused problems for him. He records an experience (before he began writing his book), of awakening to his own hypnotic conditioning to the ideas of Gurdjieff among those of other academic and cultural traditions and as this being ‘deeply shocking’ p. xxi. Anyone involved in sustained exposure to and immersion in Gurdjieff’s writings is highly likely to be hypnotised, and there is, in the general sense that he uses the term, a hypnotic element in Tamdgidi’s text, and in his diagrams.
There are errors arising from a misunderstanding of the narrative structure of the Tales which initially might seem slight or insignificant. For example, according to Tamdgidi, Beelzebub having been pardoned and spoken his last words at the end of the Tales is:
‘on his way to eventually unite with His Endlessness via a transitional stay in the Planet Purgatory to
deal with certain remorses of conscience’, p. 8.

But Beelzebub had already been pardoned before the narrative of the Tales begins, pardoned and returned to his home planet Karatas where he meets his grandson Hassein. The tales of the title begin and are told on another spaceship flight from his home planet to and from a conference on a distant planet. The visit to the Planet Purgatory takes place on the return journey to Karatas. There is no suggestion within the text that Beelzebub’s visit to Purgatory is ‘to deal with certain remorses of conscience’, and it would be impossible for Beelzebub to ever be united with His Endlessness, because according to the narrative His Endlessness dwells on the Sun Absolute which is now unreachable by any being other than himself.
There is nothing in Gurdjieff’s text to say that Beelzebub will be united with His Endlessness but we can see that this mystic notion of union might be adopted if ‘His Endlessness’ is regarded as a synonym for God, (and he is referred to as God by Tamdgidi) and also if the notion of divine union was familiar to the writer. In this case the concepts of Purgatory and of ‘union with God’ are ones that have come from Tamdgidi and not from within the text. In my view this is bound to happen as it is quite impossible for anyone to banish their own world view including what may be largely unconscious assumptions. Many authors, (and here I do not exempt myself) who have written about the ‘Tales’ have I think wrongly assumed a conflation of God and his Endlessness. It is true that His Endlessness is represented as the creator of the universe, which suggests this, but he makes mistakes, mistakes with tragic and dreadful consequences one of which is the permanent separation from himself of all beings in the universe, except those on Purgatory whom he visits in order to alleviate their unending suffering.
Tamdgidi concludes, in accordance with Gurdjieff’s own teaching on multiple selves, that Gurdjieff was ‘afflicted with a legion of selves, some high and some low in character’ but that it is possible to ‘cherish the teachings of one Gurdjieff self, while being critical and uncompromising toward another self’, p 235.
This conclusion leads to a possible validation for the many differing interpretations of Gurdjieff and his texts, because each critically uncompromising reader will also be afflicted by similar legions of selves, some choosing certain Gurdjieff selves to cherish and be critical of, and yet other readers choosing differently. But, however readers interpret Gurdjieff’s writings Tamdgidi should be applauded for having focused on a unifying scheme for all of Gurdjieff’s texts, and on hypnotism in relation to Gurdjieff’s writings, a subject which as he rightly says, has been largely ignored by other scholars.
G. I. Gurdjieff, ‘First Series: An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man or Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson’. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950
‘Second Series: Meetings with Remarkable Men’. Trans. A. R.Orage, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul,
P. D. Ouspsensky, ‘In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching’, New York, Harcourt Brace and World, 1949.

Gurdjieff ‘Old’ or ‘New Age’: Aristotle or Astrology?’ JASANAS Volume 1, February 2005
ISBN 978-1-4196-0359-0
In his written teachings, G. I. Gurdjieff (1866?-1949) uses two opposing modes of defining the universe, humanity and their relation to each other, and thus sets up two conflicting sets of instructions for his reader. One set of definitions is Gnostic hierarchical and complex, in which ever more precise definitions are arrived at by the Aristotelian method of classifying things, people, and the world according to their differences. This method of classification answers questions such as, ‘what is special about this, how is it separate from the mass of the all?’ The other mode which Gurdjieff uses is that of astrological correspondences, in which things are defined by their similarity to others. This method leads to an ever widening net of likenesses and answers questions such as ‘how is this thing like other things, how can it be joined to other things and approach closer to the all?’ His texts require the reader to make some reconciliation between these two modes of defining and understanding himself and the world around him. This paper will outline the modes of definition and relate them briefly to Gurdjieff’s references to the ‘Old Age’ Theologies, Philosophies and Sciences of the last two millennia and to the pre-Aristotelian and post-modern ‘New Age’ modes of classification. It will show that while Gurdjieff’s texts seem to provide a rigidly defined frame-work of cosmology and psychology, they are in fact paradoxical and anomalous. The multivalence of these texts reveal a teaching that is more ‘New Age’ than ‘Old’.
G. I. Gurdjieff (1866?-1949) was born in Alexandropol of Greek and Armenian parents, travelled widely in the Middle and Far East, and returned to Russia, arriving in Moscow in 1912. There he began to teach an occult cosmological and psychological ‘system’ of ideas. Leaving Russia because of the Revolution, Gurdjieff travelled, via Tiblisi and Constantinople, to Europe, arriving in France in 1922, where he set up his ‘Institute For The Harmonious Development Of Man’, attracting English and American pupils. He also gave his teaching in a form of sacred dances, and demonstrations of these were open to the public. During the 1920s Gurdjieff had a high profile in Paris and the reputation of a ‘mage’. He took his dancers to America in 1924, but a near-fatal car accident on his return caused him to reassess his mode of teaching. Reducing the activity of the Institute, he began to put his teaching into a written form (see bibliography). He made nine further visits to America establishing his teaching there and spent the 2. World War years teaching in Paris, where he died in 1949. [Ref. 1]
Gurdjieff’s texts and the readings from them formed an important part of his teaching. Their roots in Gurdjieff’s experience of the Turkic oral tradition of his childhood are shown in the way they were composed and also by the way they were read aloud, not necessarily in sequence, and were sometimes preceded by music composed for the purpose by Gurdjieff and his pupil Thomas de Hartmann. [Ref. 2]
In his teachings Gurdjieff uses two opposing modes of defining the universe, humanity and their relation to each other. In the first set of definitions man is defined as separated from the above, (the Absolute, the All or God), subject to involution; time, decay and death. These definitions answer questions about differences: what is special about this? How is it separate from the mass of the all? This Aristotelian mode of definition is the one stressed by Gurdjieff’s pupil P. D. Ouspensky in his account of Gurdjieff’s teaching. [Ref. 3] However, Ouspensky notes, in some bafflement, that Gurdjieff also made use of stories and riddles, and elsewhere we find Gurdjieff stressing that his cosmological ideas should not be taken literally. [Ref. 4]
I will show that Gurdjieff’s second mode of defining humanity’s relation to the universe is embedded in the zodiacal structure of his texts within which humanity belongs in a universe in which the above and below, the macrocosm and microcosm are already inter-connected and these connections are defined by astrological correspondences. These second-mode definitions answer questions about connectedness: how is this thing like other things: how can it be joined to other things and become closer to the all?
Both these sets of thinking have their origins in Mesopotamian astronomy/astrology of the pre-Christian era, but while the first, Aristotelian mode became mixed with Judaic Millenarian thinking and was absorbed into the Christian theological establishment where it is understood that time will come to an end, the second, Mesopotamian thinking on interconnection and recurring cycles of time was rejected by Christian Theology. However, this way of understanding the universe did not disappear but has remained in occult teachings and as a common language of European culture for the past two thousand years.
We will see that Gurdjieff incorporates both modes of definition in his teaching. The first, Aristotelian mode is related to the ‘precise’ language which he says is needed by pupils/readers, in order to define themselves and the universe. The second language is related to myth and symbol, which are multivalent. Myths and symbols must not be defined in a fixed or final definition. Gurdjieff requires both sets of language in order to express both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ knowledge. He defines subjective knowledge as that which we acquire via ordinary means of observation, scientific deduction and which belongs to the ‘subjective’ i.e. our ordinary everyday states of consciousness; this requires a ‘precise’ language. Objective knowledge is that which is based upon ancient methods of observation and which is ‘a knowledge of the All’; it can be expressed via myth and symbol and can be received in a state which we may understand as higher than our everyday state. [Ref. 5]

Language: Gnostic Separation

Gurdjieff’s cosmological and psychological teaching, as recounted by Ouspensky, outlines a complex set of theories and includes Gurdjieff’s teaching on the necessity for a precise language. This is justified on the grounds that, in general, people do not understand one another; ‘the language which people speak […] is full of wrong concepts, wrong classifications, wrong associations.’ [Ref. 6]
Gurdjieff offers his own teaching terms as a way to introduce a universal language based on the principle of ‘relativity’, in which everything is defined in relation to the evolution possible to it; thus man may belong to one of seven levels, each having differing degrees of knowledge, understanding, materiality and life-span. [Ref. 7] Gurdjieff’s cosmic laws and his Pythagorean, Neo-Platonically derived Ray of Creation set out the relation of man to universe, in which the higher is more unified and valuable than the more dispersed lower. In Gnostic terms we are distant from the Absolute, the All or God, imprisoned in matter, helpless, lost, asleep and in need of messengers from above to awaken us. His cosmic, chemical and psychological laws provide labyrinthine but apparently rigid theoretical structures within which we can make sense of ourselves, and through which we may hope to evolve, although in fact Gurdjieff’s teaching constantly subverts this hope by re-defining our human condition in terms which suggest the impossibility of escape. This can make for a kind of snakes and ladders game in which no pupil can rise more than a few squares up the board before being sent sliding back down to the beginning. [Ref. 8]
Gurdjieff seems to use the terminology of science. There are references to physical, medical and psychological experiments in each of Gurdjieff’s texts, and also in the records of his group meetings during WW2. [Ref. 9] He gives ‘friendly advice’ to the reader of the Tales as the result of ‘numerous deductions and conclusions made by me during experimental elucidations concerning the productivity of the perception by contemporary people of new impressions from what is heard and read’. [Ref. 10] He asks his pupils to test the results of their Work through repeated experience, and stresses the necessity for a critical mind. ‘If you have not by nature a critical mind your staying here [at Gurdjieff’s Institute] is useless’. [Ref. 11]
In all this, as well as his insistence on ‘precise’ language, Gurdjieff appears to be adhering to the notions of Aristotelian methods of classification by difference as he defines his theory of cosmic levels, material density, speeds of vibrations, the complex analysis of the digestion of food. However, much of this apparently scientific mode of teaching belongs to ‘occult science’ a re-definition of the occult which arose after the Enlightenment. Where previously the teachings, unaccepted by established Christianity, had become occult religions, these now became occult sciences. Occult teachings, the Work included, have since then tended to re-define themselves as psychologies or philosophies, and some are now, like the Work Foundations, in the process of becoming Traditions, returning, as it were, to a religious fold which had its origins in the pre-Christian era.
Nonetheless, Gurdjieff’s texts show that he had a lively interest in and knowledge of the theory and experimental methods connected with science of his time, especially medicine, and in relation to this narcotics. He demonstrates in the Tales his interest in electrics, and in Meetings his fascination with mechanical devices, the ‘sewing-machines, typewriters, bicycles, gramophones, music-boxes, electric, photographic, medical and other apparatus; gas and oil lamps’ among many of the items which Gurdjieff undertook to repair in his ‘Universal Travelling Workshop’. [Ref. 12]
However, whether it is occult or Aristotelian the language of science is itself subject to change as the established ‘truths’ of one age are replaced by new understandings. Gurdjieff acknowledged that even his own ‘precise’ universal language will be subject to time, and therefore to change. It will become incomprehensible for future generations, thus we have need of another form of language which will survive the destructive nature of time. [Ref. 13]

Myth and Symbol

A second and opposing ‘language’ offered by Gurdjieff as an aid to our awakening is that of myth and symbol, both of which can transmit ‘objective knowledge’, that is, the knowledge of the All. Realising the imperfection and weakness of ordinary language the people who have possessed objective knowledge have tried to express the idea of unity in ‘myths’ and ‘symbols’. [Ref. 14]
In Gurdjieff’s terminology our emotional and intellectual functioning are represented as ‘centres’ having higher and lower parts. The aim of myth is to enter the higher part of the emotional centre, while symbols are aimed at the higher part of the intellectual centre. In these higher centres the ‘objective’ truth would be free from the distortion and corruption of our attempts to understand from an ordinary everyday level of being. [Ref. 15]
Thus ordinary states of being are connected with the lower parts of our centres which function best with the ‘precise’ language which defines through separation; while the higher parts of centres, operating in non-ordinary states, can receive the ‘objective knowledge of the all’ contained in myth and symbol.
Gurdjieff specifically mentions, magic, alchemy and astrology as symbolic means through which a knowledge of the all may be transmitted, but warns:
a symbol can never be taken in a final and definite meaning. In expressing the laws of the unity of endless diversity a symbol itself possesses an endless number of aspects from which it can be examined and it demands from a man approaching it the ability to see it simultaneously from different points of view. Symbols which are transposed into the words of ordinary language become rigid in them, they grow dim and very easily become ‘their own opposites’ …the cause of this is in the literal understanding of symbols, it attributing to a symbol a single meaning. [Ref. 16]
The mode of definition common to astrology, alchemy and magic, is that of astrological correspondence in which things are defined multivalently by similarities, their connectedness to the All: by which the above and below, the macrocosm and microcosm are inter-related.
Gurdjieff disparaged contemporary thinking and appeared to agree with a late nineteenth century view of the Greeks as originators of a ‘rational’ mode of thinking which destroyed an earlier mode of ‘something akin to mythical thinking based on the use of images’. [Ref. 17] Gurdjieff writes a section of Meetings in ‘a style called “the creation of images without words” ’. [Ref. 18]

Science and Religion

The Western European cultural history of astronomy/astrology from early in the Christian era to our own time, has wrestled with the dichotomy between science and religion, and this divide was re-enforced after the formal establishment of Christianity (at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD). Although this is an extreme simplification, one branch of astronomy/astrology aimed at precise measurement and calculation required by science (Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo), and the other, ‘religious’ side of astrology focused on the myth and symbolism of the zodiacal gods and on astrological correspondences (Pythagoras, Neo-Platonists, Theosophists, Jung). At its most rigid, astrology determined the mechanistic fate of a person’s entire lifespan against which there was no option of change, whilst magical arts used astrological charts (elections), correspondences, and house symbolism to form talismans and spells which sought an amelioration or escape from fate. Both these aspects of astrology remained entwined until after the Enlightenment, and both strands of thinking are discernable in Gurdjieff’s teaching: the ‘mechanistic’ fixed fate of man as he is, and the hope of freedom from that fate via the evolutionary path that he teaches.
The history of astronomy/astrology in the West shows something of how the two kinds of language Gurdjieff refers to came about. While the ‘scientific’ side with its ‘precise’ language has been gradually privileged by the West, the religious side, stemming from Eastern myth and numerology, has remained present in occult teachings and also in Christianity, because, although Christianity rejected the practise of judicial astrology it retained its myth and number symbolism. These are incorporated into paintings, architecture and, most relevantly for our enquiry, in the structure of texts both sacred and secular.
Gurdjieff echoed Blavatsky’s aim to bring the science of the West and the religion of the East together, and one way to understand his approach to this is through his distinction between the kinds of languages he used. [Ref. 20]
Mesopotamian number symbolism is found in the Hebrew scriptures. Number symbolism was used by Philo Judaeus (c 30BC-AD50) as a tool to help find some reconciliation between conflicting Judaic and Platonic cosmologies. ‘Biblical exegesis influenced St Augustine who gave a numerological structure to his Civitas Dei and to the Christian Fathers who used number symbolism to interpret and inter-relate the Old and New Testaments.’ [Ref. 21] Structuring texts according to number symbolism remained a common practice as late as the eighteenth century. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Blavatsky’s Theosophical cosmology, astrology and numerology helped to further an interest in zodiacally structured texts. Theosophical astrologers interpreted Biblical and Greek myths and Archaic Epics in terms of zodiacal patterns, and this interest extended to Modernist writers, for example Joyce and Yeats. [Ref. 22]
Elsewhere I have outlined the astrological origins of Gurdjieff’s cosmological Laws of Three and Seven in the three modes and seven planets of the zodiac, zodiacal structure, his use of astrological correspondences in the Tales, and his use of the zodiac as a source of myth and symbol. [Ref. 23]

Gurdjieff’s Texts

All of Gurdjieff’s four texts, including The Herald of Coming Good, are myths which enshrine his cosmic and psychological teachings in a fictional form, and which, if we regard them in accordance with his own teaching on myth, are offered to some higher part of our emotional centre and thus beyond the interpretation which would give rise to any final or closed reading.
The Tales is a myth that subverts the myths of Western Europe, and among them the Biblical myths of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Revelation; the myth of Atlantis; the myth of the supremacy of Classical Greece, with its scientific and philosophical achievements; the esoteric and occult teachings, as well as the received understanding of the teachings of Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, (the teachers of the religious Traditions are not themselves derided in the text); the modern myths of Enlightenment, Industrialisation, Marxism and Darwinian evolution, notions of ‘progress’ via contemporary science, medicine or education. We might understand some of these myths to have become lodged in the lower part of centres and therefore to have had any true meaning corrupted. The Tales is structured as a forward moving zodiac, that is, from Aries to Pisces, through the ordinary flow of the year. Time is shown in its involutionary and destructive flow from the unity of the all to the diversity of the many. [Ref. 24]
In Meetings Gurdjieff creates a myth of his own life story in which the many, his group of friends become unified into one, a brotherhood of Seekers with a single aim. In his teaching Gurdjieff used the term ‘Philadelphia’, the city of brotherly love, as the necessary destination for all pupils. There are many references in this text to Gurdjieff’s brotherly feelings and to ancient brotherhoods.
This text is also structured as a zodiac. However, unlike the Tales it moves backwards from Aquarius via Capricorn to Pisces (contrary to the flow of the year). A person who travels through the zodiac is subject to time and therefore involution and death; however, if he reverses his direction and moves backwards through the zodiac against time he is on an evolutionary path. [Ref. 25] The narrative of Meetings shows the Seekers relation to time in that they are travelling back away from their contemporary culture, towards ancient cultures, texts and teachings. The past is represented as a higher idealised place, an origin or Paradise which they strive to re-enter. We can understand this myth as directed to the higher part of the emotional centre. Gurdjieff suggests this in his appreciation of the Thousand and One Nights in the Introduction:
anyone hearing or reading this book feels clearly that everything in it is fantasy, but fantasy corresponding to truth, even though composed of episodes which are quite improbable for the ordinary life of people. The interest of the reader or listener is awakened and, enchanted by the author’s fine understanding of the psyche of people of all walks of life round him, he follows with curiosity how, little by little, a whole story is formed out of these small incidents of actual life. [Ref. 26]
In Life Gurdjieff creates a myth, often accepted as a true autobiographical account of events in his life in New York in 1931. Paul Taylor has shown that of the events Gurdjieff records some took place as described, while others took place but on different dates, and some never took place at all. [Ref. 27] In this myth, Gurdjieff has evolved to a place where he is free of the constraints of time; the text takes place in the ‘real’ or eternal present where ‘I am’ is a defeat of time.
Herald, the text which Gurdjieff ‘exiled’ and forbad his pupils to read, is a myth of ruin and exile, in which the exile of the book echoes the exile of Satan from Heaven, or Beelzebub from the Sun Absolute. It shows a myth of Gurdjieff as an occult magician, corrupted by time and subject to devolution and degeneration in which he wishes to cause ‘lasting suffering’ to former pupils alive and dead. [Ref. 28]
We can see that in the Tales and Herald, time divides and separates, the movement is involutional from the one to the many; while in Meetings and Life, love unifies and joins, the movement is evolutional from the many to the one. In the Tales Gurdjieff defines love and time as unlike any other forces in the universe; they are alone in having no separate place of their arising, and are present everywhere.
Time alone […] has no source from which its arising should depend, but like Divine-Love flows always, […] independently by itself, and blends proportionately with all the phenomenon present in a given place. [Ref. 29]
We can connect the destructive element of time with the ‘precise’ language which will corrupt and become meaningless, and the creative force of love with the incorruptible language of myth and symbol.

Reading Gurdjieff’s texts

As readers we may ask whether it is possible to separate everyday precise definitions required by the lower centres from the myth method of a non-interpretive grasping of the all required for the higher centres? We also need to ask how these two approaches to understanding can be related to Gurdjieff’s instructions on how to read his texts.
At first it might seem that the ‘myth method’ of not interpreting the text would be the one for us to adopt as readers, and this is the approach taken by the Gurdjieff Foundations [Ref. 30] . However, this does not accord with Gurdjieff’s instructions to his reader. Gurdjieff requires us to read his books, firstly as we would usually read a ‘contemporary book or newspaper’, secondly as though aloud to another person, and only later, in the third reading, to ‘try to fathom the gist’ of what he is saying. [Ref. 31] If we attempt to read the Tales like this we will find that the advice proves impossible to follow. Gurdjieff’s long complex syntax demands close attention; we cannot read it as we read books and newspapers, because it is not written the way books and newspapers are written. Unless we try to make some sense of the multiple clauses we are not reading at all, merely letting words pass in front of our eyes. Thus, before we reach the second required mode of reading we are already involved in the third. As readers we may embark on this journey in a spirit of enquiry, but Gurdjieff’s complexity of language and ideas calls for considerable investment of time and effort. The longer we stay trying to understand him, the further we become entangled in and confused by his texts. Gurdjieff’s apparently simple instruction proves deceptive, and echoes the paradox of his practical teaching which demands that pupils must make efforts to work on themselves, to struggle to awaken, even though they are machines and have no ‘will’, no central ‘I’ to work on, and no ability ‘to do’.

The Karatasian language of the Tales

We can recognise Gurdjieff’s cosmic and psychological teachings, originally given in an oral form and expressed in the apparently ‘precise’ language, in each of his texts. However, these are made more complex, and less easily grasped in the Tales by his use of ‘Karatasian’, the language of Beelzebub’s home planet. Thus the Law of Three becomes the Law of Triamazikamno, the Law of Seven, the Law of Heptaparaparshinokh. As readers we must retain some knowledge of Karatasian, in order to negotiate the text, and as there is no glossary, and Gurdjieff only defines words once, we need to take notes of the vocabulary. Some Karatasian words suggest possible English and/or other earth language sources and possible interpretations, but they also seem to provide a subversion of the exact language Gurdjieff has earlier demanded. The mode in which Beelzebub instructs Hassein on these laws is also more dense and complex than that in which Gurdjieff instructs his pupils.
Gurdjieff uses other strategies within the narrative: contradictions, inconsistencies, deceptions and humour. These ensure multivalence and make it impossible to have closure, that is, any ‘precise’ definition which would destroy the ‘objective truth’ they contain. [Ref. 32]
On the other hand, as shown above, it is not possible to read the texts or listen to them being read without any sense of meaning at all, i.e. to accept the texts as meaningless to all but the higher part of the emotional centre. Gurdjieff demands a great deal of his reader who needs to have some knowledge of the commonly held Biblical, scientific and religious and other myths on which he drew. If we cannot recognise the references he makes to these origins we will be unable to understand his commentary on them. The reader is left to work out how to make a reconciliation between the two languages Gurdjieff uses, the ‘precise’ and the ‘mythic’.


Gurdjieff’s texts are a critique of the modern, expressing complex laws and sets of information, but also enshrining eternal verities, primarily, love’s defeat of time. This is in essence, the Christian myth where, by the sacrifice of his own life, and through the power of his love for humanity, Christ redeems time and conquers death. However, this myth has its origin in earlier times. Gurdjieff reaches back to Mesopotamian astronomy/astrology and to early Greek number symbolism and myth representing a pre-Greek rational and pre-Christian Western European culture; he also reaches forward into a post-Einsteinian, post-First World War culture, and its willingness to question Christianity, long Europe’s central social, moral and political power, and to question also Enlightenment science and the supremacy of rational thinking. He did this in the context of a European culture that was, and still is, in the process of re-defining time, humanity, the universe, and their inter-relations.
Despite Gurdjieff’s patriarchal tone, apparent or actual misogyny, authoritarian mode of teaching, and admiration of political and spiritual hierarchies; and despite the apparently Aristotelian precision defining his complex ideas, his demand for logical reasoning from pupils, and his own interest in contemporary science technology and medicine; nevertheless, much of the material which Gurdjieff draws on comes from the same underground, subversive occult teachings as those which ‘New Age’ practices are exploring and re-expressing within our culture. These include astrology, alchemy, Kabala and forms of magic and healing. In all of these the fundamental language employed to connect microcosm and macrocosm is that of astrological correspondence.


[Ref. 1] See ‘Gurdjieff’, Lewis, James, R., ed., The Astrology Book: the Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences. Visible Ink PR, 2003 (available in June)
[Ref. 2] Wellbeloved, Sophia, Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales. (G&A), Solar Bound Press, New Paltz, NY: 2002, pp. 27-31.
[Ref. 3] In Search Of The Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (Search). London: Arkana, 1987; 1st pub., New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1949.
[Ref. 4] Search, p. 277, see also Wellbeloved, Sophia, Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts. London and New York: Routledge, 2003, ‘Understanding Literal’ pp. 216-17.
[Ref. 5] Search, p. 278
[Ref. 6] Search, p. 68.
[Ref. 7] see the Language entry, Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts pp. 114-15).
[Ref. 8] Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, pp. 48-50
[Ref. 9] see the ‘Experiments’ and ‘Groups in WW2’ entries in Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, pp 76-7, 88.
[Ref. 10] Tales, p. vi.
[Ref. 11] see Views From The Real World: Early Talks Of Gurdjieff. (Views), London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1976, 1st pub., 1973, pp. 201, 275.
[Ref. 12] Gurdjieff, G. I. Meetings With Remarkable Men, (Meetings), Trans. A. R. Orage,, London: Picadore, 1978; 1st pub., London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, London: 1963, p. 255
[Ref. 13] Views pp. 210-11
[Ref. 14] Search, p. 279.
[Ref. 15] Gurdjieff’s best known visual symbol is the Enneagram, which although it has gone on to acquire a life of its own, is sadly beyond the scope of this paper.
[Ref. 16] Search, pp, 283-84.
[Ref. 17] Kirk, G. S. The Nature Of Greek Myths. London: Penguin, 1976, pp. 285-86 and Welch, Louise, Orage With Gurdjieff in America. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, p. 79
[Ref. 18] Meetings, p. 231-35
[Ref. 19] See Garin, Eugenio, Astrology In The Renaissance: the Zodiac of Life. Trans Carolyn Jackson and June Allen, revsd by the author and Clare Robertson, London: Arkana1990, pp. xi-xiii.
[Ref. 20] Blavatsky ends her Preface to the Secret Doctrine with her aim that the book may ‘show that Nature is not “a fortuitous concurrence of atoms”, and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe; to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all sprung; finally, to show that the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the Science of modern civilisation.’ Blavatsky, H. P., The Secret Doctrine: the Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. 2 vols, London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1888; repr. 1988, p. viii.
[Ref. 21] See Butler, Christopher, Number Symbolism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970, pp. 22-4, 27-8. (1st pub., 1964, Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe, 1900-1916. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994 in Wellbeloved, Sophia, Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales (G&A). Solar Bound Press, New Palz, NY: 2002, p. 55
[Ref. 22] Joyce, James, Ulysses, Shakespeare & Co Paris; 1922, part pub. 1919, 1920.
Finnegans Wake, London: Faber, New York: Viking, 1939, and Yeats, William Butler, A Vision. Revsd edn London: Macmillan 1937, 1st pub., privately 1925.
[Ref. 23] G & A pp. 35-76, see also ‘Gurdjieff’ The Astrological Encyclopedia.
[Ref. 24] See my analysis of the text in G & A
[Ref. 25] For a Theosophical source of this idea, see Bailey, Alice A., A Treatise on the Seven Rays, 5 vols, 5th edn, Esoteric Astrology vol. III, London and New York: Lucis, 1951 pp. 337-38
[Ref. 26] Meetings,18.
[Ref. 27] Taylor, Paul Beekman, Gurdjieff and Orage: Brothers in Elysium. York Beach, Maine: Weiser Books, 2001, pp. 167-172 and more fully in ‘Deconstruction of History in the Third Series’, All & Everything, Proceedings of the International Humanities Conference, ed. by H. J. Sharp and others, Bognor Regis: privately published, 1997.
[Ref. 28] Gurdjieff, G. I. The Herald of Coming Good, Edmunds, WA: Sure Fire Press, 1988; reprint 1st pub., Paris: privately published, 1933, p.76.
[Ref. 29] Gurdjieff, G. I., An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, or Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson. (Tales), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London: 1950, p. 124.
[Ref. 30] The Gurdjieff Foundations were formed, initially, by Gurdjieff’s successor Jeanne de Salzmann in order to protect and disseminate Gurdjieff’s teaching as received by his immediate pupils.
[Ref. 31] Tales p. vi.
[Ref. 32] G&A, pp. 77-83.


Bailey, Alice A., A Treatise on the Seven Rays, 5 vols, 5th edn, Esoteric Astrology vol. III,
London and New York: Lucis, 1951

Blavatsky, H. P., The Secret Doctrine: the Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. 2
vols, London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1888; repr. 1988
Butler, Christopher, Number Symbolism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970, (1st
pub., 1964, Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe, 1900-1916.
Oxford: Clarendon, 1994
Garin, Eugenio, Astrology In The Renaissance: the Zodiac of Life. Trans Carolyn Jackson
and June Allen, revsd by the author and Clare Robertson, London: Arkana1990. 1st pub.,
in English, Routledge& Kegan Paul, 1983, 1st pub., in Italian, Lo Zodiaco delle Vita.
Bari: Editori Laterza, 1976
Gurdjieff, G. I. The Herald of Coming Good, Edmunds, WA: Sure Fire Press, 1988; reprint
1st pub., Paris: privately published, 1933
All and Everything, Ten Books in Three Series:
First Series: An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, or Beelzebub’s Tales
To His Grandson. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London: 1950
Second Series: Meetings With Remarkable Men, Trans. A. R. Orage,, London: Picadore,
1978; 1st pub., London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, London: 1963
Third Series: Life Is Real Only Then When I Am London: Viking Arkana, 1991; 1st pub.,
New York: Duton for Triangle Editions, 1975
Views From The Real World: Early Talks Of Gurdjieff. (Views), London: Routledge
Kegan Paul, 1976, 1st pub., 1973
Joyce, James, Ulysses, Shakespeare & Co Paris; 1922, part pub. 1919, 1920.
Finnegans Wake, London: Faber, New York: Viking, 1939
Kirk, G. S., The Nature Of Greek Myths. London: Penguin, 1976
Lewis, James, ed., The Astrological Encyclopedia, 2nd edition forthcoming 2003
Ouspensky P. D., In Search Of The Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching.
London: Arkana, 1987; 1st pub., New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1949
Patterson, William Patrick, Voices In The Dark. Fairfax, California: Arete Communications, 2000
Welch, Louise, Orage With Gurdjieff in America. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982
Wellbeloved, Sophia, Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales. Solar Bound Press, New Paltz, NY: 2002
Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts. London and New York: Routledge, 2003
Yeats, William Butler, A Vision. Revsd edn London: Macmillan 1937, 1st pub., privately 1925

G. I. Gurdjieff : Some References to Love’. Journal of Contemporary Religion 13(3), 1998: 321-32
Abstract:New developments in the Gurdjieff. teaching (the Work) have raised questions about the authentic line of the teaching. James Moore in his article “Moveable Feasts: The Gurdjieff Work”; (Religion Today 9 (2), 1994: 11-16) argues that, in terms of the dialectic between personal endeavour and supernal grace, Gurdjieff’s teaching is based on making effort rather than receiving grace, working rather than being worked upon. The article looks at some references to love made by Gurdjieff and by some of his pupils. It suggests that, although absent from Work teaching in the Gurdjieff Society in London from the 1950s to the 1980s, grace was an element of Gurdjieff s teaching, and that new practices may serve to restore grace.

Review of Patterson 1998, Journal of Contemporary Religion 14(2). 1999: 324-6
Taking With The Left Hand: Enneagram Craze, People of the Bookmark, & the Mouravieff ‘Phenomenon’
Fairfax, California, Arete Communications
First and last paragraphs from the review:
Patterson – a long term student in Gurdjieff’s ‘Fourth Way’ teaching – examines the appropriation (‘taking with the left hand’) of Gurdjieff’s teaching by people concerned in the three ‘Fourth Way’ teachings mentioned in the title. The author traces the history of each teaching and outlines how he believes they have deviated from Gurdjieff’s teaching.

The searcher for whom this book is written might wonder why the standards demanded of ‘faux-Gurdjieffian’ teachers are not demanded of Gurdjieff. Why may Gurdjieff lie in order to tell the truth, while Mouravieff may not? Why is Gurdjieff’s brutality condoned as ‘the excising of false personality’ by ‘a Master of Blame’, while the brutality of Burton and Horn is merely abusive? Why is Gurdjieff’s sexual behaviour with his female students unmentioned in the light of Burton’s alleged sexual abuse of his pupils? There may be good reasons for these distinctions, but Patterson does not give them.

Daimonic Imagination: Uncanny Intelligence

Conference kent university: 6th – 7th may 2011

Conflation of Myths, and ‘Lawful Inexactitudes’ in Zora Neale Hurston’s Monkey Junk’
Monkey Junk (1927) is a recently rediscovered short, short story by Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) one of a number of Harlem writers who belonged to a Gurdjieff study group in New York led by A. R. Orage which examined G. I. Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson, (eventually published in 1949). The book itself was regarded by Orage and members of the group as a scripture, providing the necessary spiritual intermediary to enable it’s readers to access ‘higher consciousness’, and so create the soul which, according to Gurdjieff, does not exist in ‘man as he is’. Written in 62 faux-Biblical verses Monkey Junk exemplifies a conflation of Biblical, Gurdjieffian and Egyptian myth, and employs apparent errors and anomalies which invite the astute reader to question the text. This is in accordance with Gurdjieff’s own literary use of what he terms ‘lawful inexactitudes’ a method of concealing a secret or inner ‘objective’ text within his presented text. The notion of a specific and findable lawful inexactitude can be thought of as constituting a Gurdjieffian myth that asks his readers to question the ‘lawfulness’ or ‘exactitude’ of his text. The presence of ‘lawful inexactitudes’ in Monkey Junk demonstrates the influence of the Tales in Hurston’s writing, an influence largely unexplored in critical works which examine her writing.

paper from: sophia wellbeloved and jon woodson

College of Charleston, South Carolina
Gurdjieff as Magus: Omissions and Redefinitions of the Work
Association for the Study of Esotericism’s
Third International Conference at the College of Charleston, South Carolina in June 2008,

Abstract: Gurdjieff as Magus’ looks at G. I. Gurdjieff (1866?-1949) in his role as a magus. He taught pupils the acquisition of will, use of symbolism, inter-relationship of macrocosmos to microcosmos and a manipulation of cosmic laws so as to form a set of new bodies of ever finer materiality and longevity. It shows the centrality of hypnotism to his teaching about consciousness and how hypnotic techniques function in his texts and oral teachings. Gurdjieff used the imagery of black and white magic and reflects the roles of both black and white magician, using alcohol, drugs and intense pressures to entangle pupils usually for short periods of time. Lastly the paper looks at how the teaching has become institutionalise, necessitating omissions and redefinitions of both Gurdjieff and the Work.

Jeanne de Saltzmann
The Spiritual Supermarket: Religious Pluralism in the 21st Century

April 19-22, 2001
CESNUR INFORM Conference LSE, London,
Gurdjieff was born 1866/70? and died in Paris in 1949. He taught that human beings have no central ‘I’, are asleep and need to wake up. His teaching addresses this problem through a variety of methods for the integration of mind, body and emotions.
Change is inherent in Gurdjieff’s teaching because he both embraced and provoked change; in relation to the needs of his pupils and also in accordance with contemporary interests. [1] This has made it difficult for the teaching to be passed on in one form only, and in fact the Work has fragmented into many streams. We will look first at how Gurdjieff embraced change, adapting his teaching to contemporary interests; secondly at how he provoked change; and thirdly at how these changes relate to the continuation of his teaching after his death.
Changes in Form and Mode of Teaching
We will look briefly at two points, in Gurdjieff’s long teaching career, which show how he changed the form and mode of his teaching. When Gurdjieff began teaching in Russia c1912, his cosmological teaching was given in occult terms, the group meetings were held in secret, pupils could not relate what they learned to others outside the group. This was in accord with contemporary interests because the occult revival was strong in Russia, Theosophy and other Western Occult teachings were of great interest to the intelligentsia in general and Gurdjieff’s pupils in particular.
Gurdjieff is quoted as saying that he taught via occultism because it was a subject his pupil had studied, but that there is ‘no need to use occultism as the base from which to approach an understanding of the truth’. [2]However, if we accept Webb’s definition of the occult as anti-rational and anti-establishment we can see that Gurdieff’s teaching was occult, and whatever other changes occurred to the teaching, it remained occult for the whole of his life. [3]
Later, when Gurdjieff came to France, the period he is probably best known for, he opened his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, forty miles outside Paris in 1922, but this was only fully functioning for two years. During this time Gurdjieff had a high profile life, within a matter of months he had the reputation of both charlatan and magician, the Institute became a kind of tourist attraction and on Saturdays there were demonstrations of sacred dancing and of magic. [4]
Then, in 1924, Gurdjieff made another dramatic change in the form of the Work and began to put his teaching into a written form. This was also in accord with contemporary interests because Paris was both an occult and a literary centre. In the 1920s and 1930s there were many English language writers in Paris and the two interests, occultism and literature were intertwined. [5] Gurdjieff’s texts reflect both interests, they contain many occult references and are zodiacally structured. [6] They may also be defined in relation to contemporary modernist literary interests, in the rejection of conventional literature, experimentation with punctuation, and romantic interest in myth and the anti-hero.
The high profile period of Gurdjieff’s teaching from c1922 – c1932 was important because it enabled him to attract large numbers of pupils and because his ideas were also spread by writers, for example: T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, and Aldous Huxley. This would not have happened had he continued teaching in the closed format that he used in Russia. These changes show that Gurdjieff was willing to embrace contemporary interests and to change the form and mode of his teaching accordingly.
Provocation of Change – Fragmentation within the Work
However, Gurdjieff also provoked change. If we looked at what happened after his death, we can see that although he had united the groups of American and British pupils, in Paris after World War Two, he chose not to form a secure line of succession. At the same time he suggested to various pupils that they were the only one who could carry out his teaching after his death and this was a provocation to schism. [7]
Although most of his pupils stayed with Jeanne de Salzmann (b.1889) who remained until her death in 1990 the head of the Foundations set up to transmit and preserve the authentic teaching, at least eight of his pupils, some sooner than others, formed their own institutes or groups which carried on the Work outside the umbrella of the Foundations. [8] Many of these groups, or those which have sprung from them, are still functioning.
The life-myth, which Gurdjieff created for himself in his writings, has also been a cause for fragmentation within the Work. He acknowledged that he drew his teaching from a number of diverse sources, and although traces of Western European Occult traditions, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism can all be detected in his teaching and his texts, he left no information about his sources that we can verify. The obscurity and multiplicity of the sources from which Gurdjieff drew his teaching has allowed for the re-fragmentation of his teaching back towards its possible constituent parts.
As a result there were, and are, strands of the Work in which it has been mixed with, for example: Roman Catholicism (Rodney Collin); Greek Orthodox Christianity (Mouraviev, Robin Amis, UK, The Church of Conscious Harmony, USA); Hinduism (the School of Economic Science, UK); Hinduism and Theosophy (Sri Krishna Prem, Sri Ashish Madhava, India, Sy Ginsburg, USA). Gurdjieff did not provide a clear lineage and so his teaching was open to appropriation by those who claimed to be in touch with his teachers. Idries Shah, for example, said that he was in contact with Gurdjieff’s Sufi origins. [9]
But, while some of those outside the Foundations have sought to take the teaching back to its ‘origins’ others have sought to take it forward, making it in tune with the times, arguing that this is what Gurdjieff himself would do were he alive now. Thus there are the ‘Gurdjieff Ouspensky Schools’ and ‘The Fellowship of Friends’, they operate outside the Foundations, do not have a line from Gurdieff’s pupils, and they do advertise.
Changes to Work Practice introduced in 1960s/1970s in the Foundations
Although the Foundations were set up to conserve the Work, there is a sense in which the teaching was irrevocably changed by Gurdjieff’s death because pupils were now without his charismatic presence. I was informed in personal communications that Jeanne de Salzmann visited spiritual teachers in North Africa and India, researching how to take the Work forward. Whatever she decided, she does seem to have made one important change. In the late 1960s or early 1970s she introduced a new form of passive and receptive Work, where the pupil received love, through the crown of the head, he experienced himself as being worked upon, rather than actively working on himself, (these changes were not introduced in London until 1980). [10] While we cannot be sure that Gurdieff did not introduce this form of Work at the end of his life, there is nothing in his texts nor in the pupil memoirs which suggest this. [11] All of these stress the need for incessant struggle against passivity and sleep.
Gurdjieff reputation in relation to his pupils is mixed. He had much bad publicity during his high profile time, often unfounded, which he did nothing to correct, he was a great destabiliser of his own reputation. The Foundations, in wishing to preserve the teaching, have focused on his role as a spiritual teacher. But to tidy Gurdjieff up is to deny the essential paradoxes that he himself created; in his self-presentation, his mode of teaching pupils, in his theory which is inconsistent, and in his texts. [12]
Destabilising paradoxes, contradictions and anomalies are of value because they arouse questioning and force the pupil to be active in relation to the teaching. These are qualities which Gurdieff valued and it is clear from his writings that he was aware of and valued the irreconcilable elements within his teaching. [13] As mentioned earlier, Gurdjieff’s teaching remained a revolutionary, occult, anti-establishment, anti-rational teaching and this renders any aim to establish it as a tradition, or to conserve one specific form of it problematic.
There are signs at the moment that there is a change in feeling about the nature of the Work. Terms relating to the traditions, ‘meditation’, ‘spiritual teaching’ are now in use by Work pupils, these were certainly not used in London in the 1960s when the Work was presented largely as a psychology. This shift can also be seen in two quotations relating to John Pentland, who was the head of the Foundation in New York from 1953 until his death in 1984. He is described, by a past Foundation member, as a man:

who understood the work and its need for a vehicle uncontaminated with the thought forms of the time. He had resolutely sought to guard the teachings against any and all deviation, so that it might be passed down intact. [14]

We can see that the aims of the Foundation, expressed in relation to preserving the teaching, is very different from Gurdjieff’s own approach where indeed he did use the ‘thought forms of the time’ and taught through them. The second quotation is from Roy Finch’s introduction to a book of Pentland’s group meetings. [15] He refers to Pentland as a spiritual director who is compared to Thomas Merton, among others. [16] This may show the Foundations moving to establish themselves with the Traditions, or at least looking for a more public face than they have had up till now. The Foundations have always followed the quiet mode of teaching of Gurdjieff’s later years, they have never advertised and so the number of new pupils have declined.
Changes to the Enneagram
However, the element of Gurdjieff’s teaching which seems to have separated itself from the main body of the teaching is ‘Gurdjieff’s enneagram’ which has become the ‘enneagram of typology or personality’ widely used in therapies and business studies. Gurdjieff taught that his enneagram was a unique symbol not to be found elsewhere. [17] However, Gurdjieff did adapt ‘his enneagram’ which has a form and a numerology that is connected with the Tree of Life and the zodiac. This makes its connection with the enneagram of personality understandable; the points of the enneagram represent the signs of the zodiac, or the planets. [18] Once again, Gurdjieff’s decision not to reveal the sources of ‘his’ enneagram, opened the way for its appropriation by Oscar Ichazu at his Arica foundation c1960. The ‘enneagram of personality’ arrived, via Claudio Naranjo, at the Eslan Institute and from there information was taken up at seminars in Jesuit theological centres, especially the Universities of California, Berkley and Loyola University Chicago, and thence on into numerous popular publications. [19] A web search (via www. reveals that another religious teaching is forming around the enneagram which involves a prayer practise termed kything. [20]
In conclusion we can see that the changes which Gurdjieff made in his teaching, the inconsistencies and the paradoxes that he presented through the way he taught, through his theory and his teaching texts, have opened the teaching to appropriation and fragmentation. Formal and informal Work groups, some with lineage and some without, groups which focus on past origins and those which focus on present adaptations, both advertised and unadvertised now exist in Australia, China, India, Japan, Malaya, North and South America and Europe in a multiplicity of expressions which continue to fragment and reform.
[1] ‘While the truth sought for was always the same, the forms through which he [Gurdjieff] helped his pupils approach it served only for a limited time’ de Salzmann in Gurdjieff, G. I., Views From The Real World: Early Talks of Gurdjieff. (Views). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976, p. vii.
2. [2] Views, p. 14.
[3] Webb defines the occult as ‘rejected knowledge, that is an Underground whose basic unity’ is that of being in opposition to the established political and religious powers. Webb, James, The Flight From Reason (vol. I of The Age of The Irrational). London: MacDonald, 1971 pp. v-vii, 120-21. Alchemy, astrology, Hermeticism, Gnostisicm and the mystery religions are all forms of occult teaching traces of which can be found in Gurdjieff’s teaching.
[4] Taylor, Paul Beekman. Shadows of Heaven: Gurdjieff and Toomer. York Beach Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1998, p. 9.
[5] Taylor, Paul Beekman. Gurdjieff and Orage: Brothers in Elysium. York Beach Maine: Samuel Weiser, 2001, p. 22-3.
[6] Wellbeloved, Sophia. Gurdjieff Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales. Aurora, Oregon: Abintra, 2001.
[7] Moore, James. Gurdjieff: the Anatomy of a Myth. London: Element, 1991, p. 288.
[8] Paul and Naomi Anderson (American Institute For Continuing Education, USA) John Bennett, (Sherbourne, Combe Springs, UK and Claymont USA), Rodney Collin (Mexico USA), C. Daly King, USA, Louise March (East Hill Farm, USA), Willem Nyland (Institute for Religious Development, USA), A. L. Stavely (Two Rivers Farm, USA), Olgivana Wright (Taliesen, USA), from a diagram in Speeth, Kathleen, Riordan. The Gurdjieff Work. London: Turnstone, 1977, p. 96, (first pub. USA: And/or, 1976).
[9] Moore, James. ‘Neo-Sufism: The Case of Idries Shah’ Religion Today: A Journal of Contemporary Religion 3 (3),n.d. pp. 4-8 and ‘New Lamps for Old: The Enneagram Debacle’ Religion Today: A Journal of Contemporary Religion/ 5, (3) n. date pp. 8-11.
[10] see Wellbeloved, Sophia. ‘G. I. Gurdjieff: some Reference to Love’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 13, No. 3, 1998 pp. 321-332.
[11] see Anderson, Margaret. The Unknowable Gurdjieff. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962;
de Hartmann. Thomas and Olga, Our Life With Mr Gurdjieff, enlarged edn. rev. by C. T. Daly and T. A. G. Daly, London : Arkana, 1992 (first pub. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964). 1964,
Ouspensky, P. D., In Search of the Miraculous: Fragment of an Unknown Teaching. London Arkana, 1987 (first pub. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1949. Peters, Fritz. Gurdjieff. London: Wildwood House, 1976 (Boyhood With Gurdjieff first pub.1964, Gurdjieff Remembered first pub. 1965)
[12] Wellbeloved, 2001 pp. 65-73.
[13] Taylor, Paul Beekman. ‘Decontruction of History in the Third Series’ All & Everything Proceedings of the International Humanities Conference, ed. H. J. Sharp and others, Bognor Regis, privately published 1997.
[14] Patterson, William Patrick. Eating the ‘I’: A Direct Account of the Fourth Way – the Way of Transformation in Ordinary Life. California: Arete, 1992, p. 348).
[15] Pentland, John. Exchanges Within: Questions from Everyday Life selected from Gurdjieff Group Meetings with John Pentland in California 1955 – 84. New York: Continuum, 1997.
[16] Finch, an academic philosopher and long term Gurdjieff student, includes Simone Weil, Baron von Huegel [Hugel], Martin Buber, Frithjof Schuon in the list of spiritual directors with whom Pentland is compared.
[17] (Ouspensky 1950, p. 287).
[18] Wellbeloved 2001, pp. 42-5. Ouspensky (1987, p. 378) shows an ‘astronomical enneagram’ in which seven of the enneagram’s nine points are represented by the seven planets.
[19] Levine, Janet. The Enneagram Intelligences: Understanding Personality for Effective Teaching and Learning. Westport: Bergin & Garvey, 1999, pp. 12, 18).
[20] References for and against kything can be found on the web, for: Savary and Bearne on Kything: The Art of Spiritual Presence, a case against kything is given on the Catholic evangelist Eddie Russell’s Blaze

1997, 1998, 2000


G. I. Gurdjieff

The Invoking of Names: a Commentary on Eight Paragraphs from Chapter One, “The Arousing of Thought’’ The proceedings of the 2nd International Humanities Conference All & Everything 1997

Caucasus Mountains

An Exploration of the Tale of the The Transcaucasian Kurd, in G.I. Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson’. The Proceedings of the 3rd International Humanities Conference All & Everything 1998
Numbers, the Zodiac and the Tales’ The Proceedings of the 5th International Humanities Conference All & Everything 2000.
5. Articles for The Gurdjieff Internet Guide


Fathoming the Gist

Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson
Gurdjieff’s own instructions on reading his texts are to read them three times, each time differently. The first reading should be as we are already mechanized to read, the second as though out loud, and only thirdly should we try to fathom the gist. I connect these three reading modes with Gurdjieff’s law of three, that is, passive, active and reconciling ways of reading. The first two modes may seem achievable, although I doubt that anyone has managed to get through the convoluted sentences of Beelzebub’s Tales without trying to understand what they mean; but what about Gurdjieff’s required third, reconciling mode of reading, attempting ‘to fathom the gist’?
One of the helpful areas in which to begin this quest is with the song-contests of Kars, the city where Gurdjieff grew up. These contests are still going on and there is a useful account of them, valuable for anyone interested in Gurdjieff’s texts in Yildiray Erdiner’s The Song Contests of Turkish Minstrels: Improvised Poetry sung to Traditional Music, New York and London: Garland, 1995. He writes of how the singers, Ashoks, were judged on their abilities not only musically, in singing or playing and improvising, but also in knowing how to throw their competitors of balance through insults, jokes, and sexual innuendo. They had to be familiar with the Koran, able to ask and answer riddles and exploit the weaknesses of their opponent in anyway they could. These contests demanded considerable critical ability, from the singers, the audience and the judges who had to decide on a winner.
Thus we can see that as well as growing up with a story-telling tradition Gurdjieff also grew up with a critical tradition which enabled the listener to evaluate the stories and the performances of the Ashoks.
If we try to fathom Gurdjieff’s texts with the help of this critical ability we can begin to explore his writing in terms, for example, of jokes, insults, riddles, and when we appreciate that the text is constructed using these strategies, in order to provoke specific responses, we can begin to wonder what he intends us to understand.
However, perhaps because he denied writing literature, many readers agree to distance Gurdjieff from literature and so the useful traditions of literary criticism are not often brought to bear on his writing. But Gurdjieff himself demanded a critical mind, see his aphorism 27. ‘If you have not by nature a critical mind your staying here is useless’ (Views From The Real World: Early Talks Of Gurdjieff . London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976, p. 275) and often tells us not to take what he writes literally (see Views pp. 14-5, 201, 260).
Of the many forms of literary criticism available, there are books which explore the Archaic Epic Traditions, (Sumerian, Greek, Turkik) and reading them brings to light many of the themes patterns and methods of setting out stories which can be found in Gurdjieff’s writings. I give some of the titles I have found useful below. I have also included Frye’s work on the Bible, as there are many Biblical references in Gurdjieff’s texts. But if these are not available, or you don’t find them useful, it is worth exploring, seeing what you can find and reading the bits that interest you.
In terms of Gurdjieff’s teaching, that understanding depends on the relationship of knowledge to being, we can see that the knowledge of critical methods is one form of knowledge that is not only useful but necessary for readers to acquire, if they wish to engage in a process of understanding, i.e. of fathoming the gist of his writings.
Frye, Northrop, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature. Harvest Books, 2002
Penglase, Charles, Greek Myths and Mesopotamia: Parallels and Influence in the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod. London: Routledge, 1997
Reickl, Karl, Turkic Oral Epic Poetry: Traditions, Forms, Poetic Structures. New York and London: Garland, 1992
Schein, S. L., The Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer’s Iliad. California: University of California Press, 1984
West, M. L. (ed. and trans.), Theogony, and Works and Days: Hesiod. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1




Brief Notes for All & Everything Conference Seminar on Chapter 14
‘The Beginnings of Perspectives Promising Nothing Very Cheerful’ & story-telling

Looking at the tradition or traditions of stories within which Gurdjieff has decided to frame his narrative enables us, as readers, to place the text outside the confines of his own teaching theory, and read it in relation to the wider context of its own cultural, mythological, scriptural and philosophical origins.
Gurdjieff uses the word beginnings in his title and so we might expect to find some references to origins or beginnings. In terms of myth those which explain/explore the beginnings and origins of, for example, creation, the moon, of man, of the beginnings of agriculture are termed aetiological myths, (from aetiology the science or philosophy of origins and causes).
The word perspectives can mean either an optical instrument, microscope or telescope, or a view as in vista, or a representation of the view, so a means of viewing or a view. Put together this suggests the origins of views which in ‘promising nothing very cheerful, we could understand as ‘unpromising views’, maybe pessimistic views.
Gurdjieff does start this brief chapter with a direct mention of Atlantis, this myth has its written origin in Plato’s Timaeus and has retained a place in story-telling ever since. It is an early story which has itself been the origin of pessimistic views about humanity, civilizations, catastrophic destruction and uncertain futures, brought about by human as well as natural causes.
Concerning the loss of Atlantis, which is what Beelzebub mentions here, its sinking into the sea is likely to be read by a Gurdjieff reader as a reference to his notion that human conscience has sunk into the subconscious. Especially as the sea is often a symbol for the inner deep. But a wider look at the Atlantis myth, as an idealised ‘higher’ civilization which fell due to natural catastrophe, shows it to be within the pattern for other Falls presented in the Tales. The first disaster came about due to the comet Kondoor’s collision with earth, this itself was a cause, which led to the creation of the Moon and Anulios, and to the changes Beelzebub mentions here in the life span and quality of vibrations of earth beings. Later in the Tales Beelzebub will return to the Fall of other great centres of culture, in the past Babylon, in the future Paris.
The notions of recurring catastrophes, comes down through Western European culture from Babylonian astrological thinking of around the third century BC and reflects their ideas about time. They understood that the universe would come to an end recurringly, one end would be by flood, being the result of a line up of planets in the sign of Capricorn, and one end by fire being the result of a line up of planets in the sign of Cancer (these are the solstices, winter and summer).
The flood story is an excellent one to point out how a story can be interpreted to indicate a change of thinking. In the Biblical Fall Adam and Eve’s loss of grace and expulsion is the cause and origin of time, (mirrored in the Tales by the expulsion of time from the Sun Absolute which resulted in the created universe). The Biblical flood myth ends in God’s covenant with Noah that he will never again send a flood, a Christian interpretation of the story might see this as a challenge to the Babylonian cyclical thinking about time, when there will be flood after flood, and that is how it has often been presented by theologians. However, Hebrew thinking about time was as much cyclical as was the Babylonian, and in fact the Bible records catastrophe after catastrophe, Fall, Deluge, Egyptian captivity, division of Israel into Israel and Judah, conquest by Assyria and Babylon. Gurdjieff’s catastrophes, Atlantis included, belong to the Babylonian tradition of thinking about time in relation to cycles and echo Biblical catastrophes.
The notion of the end of time belongs to Millenarianism, in which rather than established ritual adjustments to the cycles of time there is a large scale apocalyptic crisis, brought about by revolt against the established order. After divine intervention, unjust enemies are vanquished, time comes to an end its slavery replaced by the freedom of eternity. Millenarianism has its own sets of stories, (see the Biblical Books of Daniel and Revelation, and early Christianity). The hope of a revolution which will destroy corrupt order and establish a new and better one, has taken many forms including that of Marxist theory.
Revolts and revolutions are interventions to disrupt the cyclical flow of time, both sets of thinking could and did overlap, and both are present in the Tales which tells stories of revolt, stresses the remembrance of mortality, our ‘end’ and expresses a recurring but downward spiral and which seems to suggest a final end. In generalized terms we could understand the adjustments made to accommodate seasons and other natural cycles as an acceptance of time while Millenarian revolt is rejection of time.
Beelzebub tells Hassein of the cause or origin of changes, that is of temporal events. All the causes of change in the beings’ presences occurred after the sinking of Atlantis. The changes they made themselves were the cause of further changes made by Great Nature. These changes explain the origins of men on all land masses. This reference to Great Nature, suggests the Earth as Mother, determined to feed her children the Moon and Anulios, and connects with stories of the Earth as our Mother, from whom we come, our origin.
Then Beelzebub explains the causes, heredity, conception and other factors which mean that the beings exteriors are all alike. He explains that the differences in colour of skin and formation of hair are caused by the place of birth and upbringing. Again these are themes of origins how we came to be similar and how different.
Is There an ‘Original’ Beelzebub’s Tales?

A. R. Orage
The text of Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson emerged over a period of time as the result of a set of processes which are closer to the oral tradition of story-telling than to the contemporary notion of a writer sitting down to write his text from beginning to end. Although we do not have an exact record of the many steps through which the Tales came into being we do know that there there were a variety of languages, translations, alterations in response to readings, and a continual process of translation, not only from from other languages into English, but also re-translations from English back into other languages, (some of these processes are mentioned in the notes below). Thus there cannot be said to have been any ‘original’ version of the Tales from which the final English language version sprung.
I am grateful to Paul Beekman Taylor who gave me much additional information about the processes that led to the 1950 published version of the Tales and which I have incorporated in what follows. Gurdjieff wrote brief notes from which he gave extended dictations, so even if we had the notes they would not give an ‘original’ text. He destroyed all the notes. Olga de Hartmann says that she took down all of the Tales from Gurdjieff in Russian, but there is no evidence for this and there is evidence to the contrary. Gurdjieff also dictated to Lilly Galumnian in Armenian. When Gurdjieff was in cafes writing notes from which to dictate, he wrote in several different languages, and he never minded mixing languages together.
In Orage Gurdjieff had an editor who served him well, Gurdjieff discussed every single piece of the text with Orage who records that Gurdjieff knew exactly what he wanted.
The Russian notes/text may not have been approved by Gurdjieff as it was an intermediate stage of the writing, part of the process through which the Tales progressed into English. In 1927 Gurdjieff decided that he did not want to have a Russian text at all. He referred to the Russian notes sometimes with de Hartmann and Orage for finding correct vocabulary.
In regard to the published Russian text there is another complication, Paul Beekman Taylor told me that Gurdjieff knew pre-Bolshevik Russian, whereas the published translations are in post-Bolshevik Russian, which has different constructs, the pre-Bolshevik for example has no adverbs. This means that a detailed examination of the text in post-Bolshevik Russian would not be helpful in analysing what Gurdjieff wrote, even if it was exactly what he had written.
In relation to Gurdjieff’s comments in the first ‘Arousing of Thought’ chapter, concerning which language he ought to write in, Gurdjieff himself advises us that we should not take what he says or writes literally. Readers tend to choose specific bits of the Tales that they want to regard as ‘literally true’, but all readers do not chose the same bits to be ‘true’. Thus Gurdjieff’s written remarks about the language he uses ought not to be taken literally.
If Gurdjieff’s text is taken as literally true, then there really was a space ship in the sky in 1921, containing Beelzebub, Hassein and Ahoon. If we do not accept that then we have to go for an interpretation of the text in its entirety. Thus his language, in whatever ‘original’ language he wrote or thought is primarily something to interpret, a symbolic, mythic or metaphoric truth. In all these cases we the readers must interpret what is written. The English language version, which is the only one Gurdjieff saw and approved just before he died is the one which was most important to him because his teaching was directed towards America and the English speaking Americans.
Here are some further notes on the processes involved in creating the text taken from ‘Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub’s Tales’. New Paltz, NJ: Solar Bound Press, 2002, pp. 28-30.
“There are conflicting dates given for when Gurdjieff began the Tales. According to Olga de Hartmann Gurdjieff started to write the Tales on 16 December 1924. Taylor writes that in August or early September, Gurdjieff had already mentioned writing the Tales, and suggests July or early August as a starting date. Gurdjieff himself gives 1 January 1925.
After several false starts, in which he intended to write short scenarios with the aim of spreading his ideas through the cinema, Orage told Nott that Gurdjieff began the Tales after a moment of revelation:
“he had a revelation of the book from beginning to end. In two or three hours he dictated a sort of synopsis and sent it to me. I said that it was utterly unintelligible and could not be shown to anyone.”
The English language text of the Tales is the product of a long process that is situated somewhere between the literary and the oral traditions of story telling. The creation of the Tales involved many people, both individually and in groups. Descriptions of the process of writing and translation vary and so the process itself also probably varied. Louise Welch, an American pupil of Gurdjieff’s, writes:
Orage’s work that summer (1925) and the next in Fontainebleau was to translate into English the material Gurdjieff had ready. First it had been translated from Gurdjieff’s Russian to pidgin French, then into approximate English. Orage worked over the manuscript under the sharp eye and acute ear of Gurdjieff.
However, Nott reports Orage as saying:
“Gurdjieff is constantly re-writing and revising. […] He writes in pencil in Armenian; this is translated into Russian, and then into literal English by Russians: it is then gone over by one or two English and American pupils at the Prieuré who have only a rough knowledge of the use of words. All I can do at present is to revise the English when it obscures the sense.”
Peters recounts that:
“an Englishman had been assigned to make a rough, preliminary translation from the French version of the book, and my job was to listen to it and read it and to make suggestions as to vernacular and Americanisms that would correspond as clearly as possible to the French version which I was also to read.”
Taylor records that:
“those I have talked to who were there [at the Prieuré] in those years – Nick Putnam (who made an entire translation into English on his own), my mother, Philip Lasell, Bernard Metz […] and Jessie Orage […] say that Gurdjieff rarely wrote, but dictated most of his book, though he endlessly scribbled notes for dictation in cafes. What Orage received was then, not only written in broken English but at two removes from the original.”
Thus the writing ‘required the organisation and training of a number of teams.’ Orage and Jean Toomer were entrusted with the task of editing and polishing the literal English.
Gurdjieff worked on the Tales indoors and in the garden at the Prieuré, in cafes in Paris and Fontainebleau and during expeditions by car. Sections of the Tales were read aloud to individuals and groups, to Gurdjieff’s old and new pupils and friends, ‘to chance acquaintances and even to complete strangers’. ”
The following books are referred to and recommeded further reading:
Taylor, Paul Beekman, ‘Deconstruction of History in the Third Series’, All & Everything, Proceedings of the International Humanities Conference, ed. H. J. Sharp et al, Bognor Regis: privately pub., 1997
Shadows of Heaven: Gurdjieff and Toomer. Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1998
de Hartmann, Thomas and de Hartmann Olga, Our Life With Mr Gurdjieff . enlarged and revised C. T. Daly and T. A.G. Daly, London: Arkana, 1992, (1st pub. New York: Cooper Square, 1964)
G. I. Gurdjieff, The Herald Of Coming Good. Edmonds: Sure Fire, 1988, (1st pub. Gurdjieff, G., The Herald Of Coming Good: First Appeal to Contemporary Humanity, Paris: privately pub., 1933.
All and Everything, Ten Books in Three Series: First Series: An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man or Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950
Second Series: Meetings With Remarkable Men, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977, (1st pub., 1963)
Third Series: Life Is Real Only Then When “I Am” New York: Triangle, 1975
Nott, C. S., Teachings of Gurdjieff: The Journal of a pupil. An Account of Some Years with G. I. Gurdjieff and A. R. Orage in New York and at Fontainebleau – Avon, London: Arkana, 1990, (1st pub. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961)
Journey Through This World: the Second Journey of a Pupil, Including an Account of Meetings with G. I. Gurdjieff, A. R. Orage and P. D. Ouspensky. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969
Peters, Fritz, Gurdjieff (Boyhood with Gurdjieff 1st pub.1964, and Gurdjieff Remembered 1st pub.1965), London: Wildwood House, 1976
Welch, Louise, Orage With Gurdjieff In America. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982
Bennett, J. G., Gurdjieff: A Very Great Enigma. Coombe Springs: Coombe Springs Press, 1963
Witness: The Story of a Search. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1962
Gurdjieff: Making a New World. London: Turnstone, 1976
Patterson, William Patrick, Ladies Of The Rope: Gurdjieff’s Special Left Bank Women’s Group. California: Arete Communications, 1999
Webb, James, The Occult Underground. London: Opencourt, La Salle, 1971 (a)
The Flight From Reason: Vol I of The Age of the Irrational. London: Macdonald, 1971(b)
The Harmonious Circle, The Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and their Followers. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980
The Occult Establishment. La Salle: Open Court, 1985
Moore, James, Gurdjieff And Mansfield. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980
Gurdjieff: The Anatomy of a Myth, London: Element, 1991
6. Lighthouse Editions



Gurdjieff’s America: Mediating the Miraculous, Paul Beekman Taylor, 1st published POD 2004
This book provides a wealth of new information and stories about Gurdjieff, setting him within the cultural and social contexts of America Between 1924 and 1935more accurately and more fully than earlier biographies.

Author: Seymour B ginsburg
Gurdjieff Unveiled: an Overview and Introduction to the Teaching, Seymour B. Ginsburg, 1st published POD 2005
This book is a concise overview and introduction to Gurdjieff’s teaching, intended for “the beginning student, the inquiring seeker and the simply curious.”From the start the student can integrate theoretical knowledge with practica; experience and gain a taste of what it means to work on oneself by following six lessons entitled:
who am I? – what we must ask in order to approach the teaching
the expansion of consciousness – the Furdjieffian method
the transmutation of effort – an introduction to Gurdjieff’s cosmology
the conservation of energy – an examination of  energy leaks
meditation – the technique used in many gurdjieff groups
Gurdjieff  groups – finding or establishing a study group

Seymour B. Ginsburg

Seymour B. (Sy) Ginsburg was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1934, and graduated from Northwestern University with degrees in accountancy and law. He was a founder of a predecessor business and the first president of Toys R Us, and afterward a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. On a private visit to India in 1978, he met the guru, Sri Madhava Ashish, who advised him: “If you want to study in a Western way the path that we follow here at Mirtola, you need to study and work with the Gurdjieff teaching.” Sy is active in the Theosophical Society and was president of the Theosophical Society in South Florida for many years. He was a founder of the Gurdjieff Institute of Florida, and has been a student of Theosophy and of Gurdjieff’s teaching for more than twenty-five years. With his wife Dorothy, he currently divides his time between South Florida and Chicago where he periodically gives this introductory course on Gurdjieff’s teaching to introduce the teaching to those who may be interested.
Joseph Azize, 1st published POD 2000
Joseph Azize introduces us to George Adie, Gurdjieff’s pupil who led the Work in Australia from 1966 to 1989. There are extracts from the Adie diaries, papers, meetings and table talk and photographs. Azize’s introduction gives a personal picture of Adie and his wife Helen, which reveals an innovative and compassionate teaching, faithful both to what was learned from Gurdjieff and to an awareness of the need to make the teaching ever new and fresh.

(From the back cover)
The  book reveals how Adie’s practical mysticism helped his students to live Gurdjieff’s ideas
recollects P. D. Ouspensky and G. I. Gurdjieff
remembers his wife Helen, a foremost interpreter of Gurdjieff – de Hartmann music
includes Adie’s writings, with notes on the appearance and the materialization of the astral body
with introductory chapters by his pupil Joseph Azize
tells the story of the Work in Australia from 1965-1989

From the Introduction: the tenor of the man- clear, direct and above all, caring – resonates throughout the pages.
Dr Andrew Rawlinson The Book of Enlightened Masters
At last an important account of ‘The Work’ or ‘the Gurdjieff tradition’ in Australia!
And it is a crucial primary source; diary materials and workshop notes skilfully woven and developed into a highly readable book.
Professor Garry Trompf University of Sydney
A page turner – rare in serious work books.
John Scullion
Scholarship will be advanced by the publication of this important source.
Dr Carole Cusack University of Sydney
Helen was an important figure in her own right both as a concert pianist,
composer, and, in effect, co-leader of the Adie group.
Seymour B. Ginsburg Gurdjieff Unveiled
This book will be of interest not just to the Gurdjieff devotee and the scholar of new religions, but also to the general reader fascinated by the goings on in such groups and the minds of their members. It is a worthy testimony to the life of George Adie.
Dr Daren Kemp co-editor Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies
Joseph Azize has successfully straddled that perilous territory between academic objectivity and active participation, deftly managing to reconcile these often hostile viewpoints.
Dr Helen Farley University of Queensland


7. The CambridgeCentre for the Study of WesternEsotericism
CCWE was co-founded by Dr Sophia Wellbeloved and Andrew James Brown in Cambridge in 2006 and is a transdisciplinary organisation independent of any academic or esoteric communities, with the aims to:

  • To engage with scholars from a variety of academic disciplines and to encourage their researches into Western Estoricism through the medium of conferences, seminars and publication on our websites.
  • To host conferences and seminars that will lead to a greater understanding and exploration of some of the roles Western esotericism has played, especially in relation to the arts and to European social, political and economic culture since the establishment of Christianity in 313AD, with special reference to the modern era and to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
  • To host seminars that will address and enable the need for a wider dialogue between scholars and practitioners in the field of Western Esotericism and for the provision of a secular space in which an interdisciplinary network of scholars and practitioners can thrive.

Websites: in conjunction with these aims there are three wordpress blogs. which gives information about our own conferences, acts as an information channel and network giving details of conferences dealing with allied or similar academic subject matter at universities in the UK, USA and Australia and India. is also an independent though more specialist site focusing primarily on giving both academic and practitioner news and reviews of events, books and conferences in relation to the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff see here for details of  conferences and  information for academic and practising poets and writers.
These three sites  cover overlapping but separate issues relating to Western Esotericism.
We have held three conferences and a seminar
2007 Practitioners and Scholars in Dialogue,
2008 Hidden sources: Western Esoteric Influence on the Arts,

PROGRAMME: HIDDEN SOURCES: Western Esoteric Influence on the Arts

2009 The Lure of Secrecy; Western Esotericism & the Arts,
Legitimate Forms of Knowledge?
13 May 2010, in Girton College, Wolfson Court, Cambridge. Practitioners and scholars of magical and other esoteric teachings  asked how do we define legitimate forms of knowledge?
See entries on this website for details of the above  conferences



October 2, 2010 at 3:14 pm

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