The Prieuré at Fontainebleau

Gurdjieff International Review

The Forest Philosophers

by C. E. Bechhofer Roberts


[Journalist Carl Eric Bechhofer Roberts first met Gurdjieff in Tiflis in 1919. His In Denikin's Russia and the Caucasus, 1919-1920, contains the first description of Gurdjieff published in English. He warmly recounts being guided by Gurdjieff on an unusual tour of Tiflis, especially the baths and restaurants. Roberts notes that this "curious individual named Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff… was still surrounded by this strange entourage of philosophers, doctors, poets and dancers. He was not exploiting them; on the contrary, several of them were living on his diminishing means." Later in this journey, Roberts describes listening to his long-time journalistic acquaintance, P. D. Ouspensky's engaging renditions of light-hearted Moscow and Essentuki adventures while they shared a bottle of vodka that Ouspensky prepared from pure white spirit and orange peel. Subsequently, out of curiosity, he made several visits to Gurdieff's Institute at the Prieuré but "preferred to remain an intimate and disinterested spectator." This account of life at Fontainebleau was first published in Century Magazine (New York) in May 1924 and in The World Today (London) in June 1924.]

Among the many bizarre cults to which disillusioned men and women have turned since the war for spiritual stimulation, none has obtained more disciples of note than the so-called "Institute for the Harmonic Development of Man" at Fountainebleau. Mr. C. E. Bechhofer Roberts, who in his novel "The Brahmin's Treasure" dealt with part of the "mysticism" underlying this symptom of a disordered epoch, has here written the first full description of the colony of esoterics. [the Editors of The World Today, June 1924.]

OF all the mystics who have become prominent in Europe during the last twelve years or so, and especially since the war, when their numbers have been doubled, I cannot recall that any has attracted so much interest in so short a time as George Ivanovitch Gurdjiev, the founder of the "Institute for the Harmonic Development of Man" at Fountainebleau, near Paris. I exclude Rasputin from this statement both because his "mysticism" was of a somewhat peculiar nature and because his notoriety was due rather to political than to intellectual influence.

The wider public first became interested when Katherine Mansfield, the writer, died in the institute; immediately people were interested to know what mysterious sort of place this was where the clever young author had preferred to pass the last months of her life. And yet reliable information has been lacking. Except for one or two vague articles in two London papers, no account of Gurdjiev's institute has, I believe, yet appeared in print. I shall endeavor to set down here the main theories that underlie Gurdjiev's methods and the form they take in practice.…

[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]

Copyright © 1924 Century Magazine
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