Gurdjieff International Review
NEW LIFE CULT.
For "Harmonious Development."
by E. C. Bowyer
[Number 2 of 4]
[The second of four articles by journalist E. C. Bowyer, the Daily News (London) Feb. 16, 1923, p. 1. Bowyer describes the various stages of instruction at the Institute, the participation of children, the practice of movements, and the occasional wonderful feast.]
THE Company of the Harmonious Development, members of the interesting community which I described yesterday, may be divided into three categories. At the moment the majority of the students are in the first and most important groupthose who have placed themselves in the hands of the "master," Gurdjieff, and obey his instructions implicitly in their progress towards perfection. The other two categories, broadly speaking, consist of interested visitors and those who desire to follow only a partial training.
Students in the first group pass through two stagesone a general and the second an individual instruction. On entering the settlement each is subject to a medical examination of a particularly thorough kind, including physiological, psychological, and psychic characteristics. He or she is kept under strict medical supervision during the period of general instruction, and the "historometrical record" of the individual is often not complete until nearly the end of this period, which lasts about 12 months. I was given one of these records, which are extremely detailed. Much importance is attached, for example, to the size, shape, and general condition of the "mouth cavity." This system is rendered necessary by the nature of the instruction given by M. Gurdjieff, who, believing in the value of many Eastern methods, while rejecting others, may enjoin upon an advanced student a fast of as much as three weeks. About a month ago he asked for volunteers for a fast. Fifteen students responded and went without food for a period, under medical care, while continuing to perform their usual heavy manual labour.
M. Gurdjieff's methods are catholic. He uses Eastern and Western ideas without the least prejudice in favour of one or the other. "If a thing is good, I use it," he says. "If it is bad, I do not use it. The words 'like' and 'dislike' mean nothing to me when considering such matters." Thus, while he instructs many of his pupils to practise concentration and the cultivation of the will, the medical annexe now nearing completion is being fitted with the most up-to-date electrical equipment. If he thinks fit, students may receive instruction in Western culture and arts, sciences, languages, and handicrafts. Married quarters are provided in the settlement, and I saw several children happily busy in the garden, for Gurdjieff recognizes a truth often forgotten in more orthodox schools"children really love work." And the youngsters, who at the same time receive instruction in ordinary subjects on a system laid down by the Master, are allowed to work as hard as they like in the grounds. They are constantly under medical supervision, however, like other students here, and skilled doctors are constantly on the watch against signs of over-exertion.
Music forms an important part in the life of the settlement, and M. Gurdjieff has evolved a system of exercises containing over 6,000 different movements. These must all be performed to music, most of which has been composed by him, with the assistance of Professor De Hartmann, a musician who is a member of the colony. The elementary exercises are designed to give physical results only, but as the student progresses they become symbolic. M. Gurdjieff does not wish to keep his pupils with him when they have reached a certain stage of development. After the period of general instruction, during the early part of which the pupil may never be in personal contact with the Master, comes the individual teaching, and rapid progress is then usually made towards a point at which the pupil may leave Gurdjieff, and pursue a further course through life unaided. Gurdjieff's hospitality is Eastern in its lavishness. For one day each student is treated as a visitor to the settlement, and is entertained by the Master. The next, he commences the arduous life of preparation which I have outlined.
This life, however, is occasionally interrupted by wonderful feasts in the "Study-House," at which students are the guests of their chief. Such a banquet was held on Jan. 12the Russian New Year. Lack of means, it would appear, is no bar to the genuine aspirant, and in some cases students are admitted without payment.
Copyright © 1923 Daily News|
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