Spring 1999 Issue, Vol. II No. 3
A Focus on Historical Essays
This issue contains several historical essays by some of the students of Gurdjieff and his teaching, including those of J. G. Bennett, A. R. Orage, John Pentland, Louise Welch, A. L. Staveley, and others.
Bennetts study was first published in Riders Review (Autumn 1950), London, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Bennett Books. Bennett grapples with the contradiction of trying to elucidate a book that defies verbal analysis and concludes that Beelzebubs Tales is an epoch-making work that represents the first new mythology in 4000 years. He finds in Gurdjieffs ideas regarding time, Gods purpose in creating the universe, conscience, and the suffering of God, a synthesis transcending Eastern and Western doctrines about humanitys place in the cosmos.
George Bennett (John Bennetts son) recounts the different influences that shaped his fathers search. He recognizes the life-long impact Ouspensky and particularly Gurdjieff had on John Bennett and describes how Gurdjieffs influence shaped the groups Bennett led during the last twenty-five years of his life.
Walter Driscoll reviews Martin Seymour-Smiths last book, The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today. Driscoll observes that Each of the 100 reviews provides a historical background, an overview of the text, the author, and the factors determining the significance of a particular book, as well as analysis of why the book is of enduring significance today. His compilation provides a truly liberal education, especially for independent readers studying outside the shelter of academe.
Chapter 94 from The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today by Martin Seymour-Smith is reproduced in its entirety with the kind permission of Carol Publishing Group. Seymour-Smith points out that Gurdjieffs doctrine is the most convincing fusion of Eastern and Western thought that has yet been seen
This commentary was first published in 1993 as dust jacket notes for the Two Rivers Press facsimile reprinting of the English (1950) first edition of Beelzebubs Tales and is reproduced with the kind permission of Two Rivers Press. Mrs. Staveley comments that This Book is a guide to becoming a real man. Gurdjieff advised us to read, reread and then read this Book again many, many times. Read it aloud with others and read it to yourself. Even if you read it thirty, even fifty times, you will always find something you missed beforea sentence which gives with great precision the answer to a question you have had for years.
Jyri Paloheimo reviews Paul Davies Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature and takes issue with the popular notion that the current science of physics is yet one more Way in harmony with Eastern teachings. In so doing, he draws on Beelzebubs Tales as a source and synthesis of ancient wisdom traditions which are rooted in the idea that the universe has a purpose. This essay was originally published in A Journal of Our Time No. 4, 1986 (Toronto) and is reproduced with the kind permission of the author and publisher, Traditional Studies Press.
Louise Welch, author of Orage with Gurdjieff in America (1982) was in Orages New York Gurdjieff group and was uniquely qualified to write about him. This thoughtful introduction was written for the compilation, On Love and three essays from the Notebook of A. R. Orage, which she edited. It was privately published in a limited edition of 200 copies in 1969 by the Society for Traditional Studies (Toronto) and is reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher.
Between October 1933 and October 1934, A. R. Orage published in The Aryan Path (Bombay) a series of four essays containing a diary of his mature thoughts on a variety of subjects and books. In this first essay, Orage examines the unfortunate alienation that developed between the Aryan cultures of Europe and India because of the pedantic translations through which Indian literature and aesthetics were introduced to Europe. He regrets that Indian culture is regarded as at all exotic and compares the principles of psychology and literature exemplified in both cultures.
Using analogies, Orage comments on: Modern Knowledge and AncientDisappearance of Soul-ScienceCoinsConventional and Intrinsic ValuesThe Absolutely Intrinsic forever UnknowableBio-Chemistry in 600 A. D.Men and Things Radio-Active.
Orage further comments on: Blinds and BreathingA Respectful Suggestion to GandhijiLife, Nature and ArtWestern Materialism an Ancient SchoolLeisure and YogaKali-yuga and Man.
These final entries of Orages diary record his mature thoughts on: The Myth of ProgressUnderstanding and AttainmentThe Self Is or Is NotMen on Earth and Divine PurposeFree Will, Fact or Fiction?Physicists and Psychologists. Orage died on the night of November 5, 1934.
This review by Claude Bragdon of the first edition of Tertium Organum by P. D. Ouspensky is excerpted from The Messenger, Vol. VII (10), March 1920. Several revisions of Tertium Organum have been published since thenthe most recent by Alfred A. Knopf in 1981.
This article by Marie Seton was first published in Quest (Calcutta) No. 34, July/Sept. 1962. The author, a writer and translator who knew Russian, was Ouspenskys secretary and confidante during the 1940s in New York. Although grateful to him for what he taught her, and convinced of his goodness and honesty, she writes pointedly of how she saw the role of guru as a corrupting influence on him during that period.
An anonymous commentary first published in Material for Thought (1977) San Francisco: Number 7 and reissued here with the kind permission of the editors. The reviewer characterizes this book as Collins monumental attempt to reconstruct what he received from his teacher, P. D. Ouspensky. The author points out that while some of the analogies which Collin employs in his attempt to reconcile scientific, religious and astrological cosmologies seem naive; some are breathtaking in the range of vision they suggest.
This obituary of Gurdjieff was printed in The Times (November 12, 1949), London. An astute reporter reflects that Gurdjieff, Having reached the conviction that his researches had led him to a valid conception of the meaning of human existence, and having discovered methods, some ancient, others new, for the development of the powers latent in the human psyche, founded in 1910 in Moscow the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.
The type of verbal formula used by Gurdjieff in All and Everything corresponds precisely to what is regarded by many as the highest ideal of language, in which the meaning of an expression is created by the compulsion of inner experience. In Gurdjieffs hands, this form of language acquires a devastating power.
From the cosmic drama there emerges the miraculous destiny to which man is called if he is willing to pay the price. Since the Universe itself is a perpetual striving, the highest destiny of man is no static beatitude, but the undying fulfillment of an everlasting purpose.
J. G. Bennett
The first important thing to note about this [Gurdjieffs] doctrine is that there is, explicitly, no room at all for anyone in it who does not approach it itself in a truly critical and skeptical spirit.
Gurdjieffs work, his teaching, is not meant for everyoneneither is his Book for everyone. Both the teaching and the Book are meant for those who can and will use them.
A. L. Staveley
The laws which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggest strongly to me that the purpose includes us.
I beg myself as well as my readers not to mistake understanding for attainment; and not to imagine, on the strength of their realization of certain truths, that they possess them, or still less, that they can use them. Our being, in which alone truth is possessed, is still a long way behind our understanding.
A man can only think as deeply as he feels.
A. R. Orage
According to Ouspensky, love is the potent force which tears off all masks, and men who run away from love do so that they may preserve their masks.
One can only conclude that hero-worship under the guise of the guru-devotee relationship is just as often spiritually deadening for both sides as it is spiritually enlightening.
In these chapters [The Theory of Celestial Influence], one feels that Collins aim is to join modern mans central interest in the scientific world to his subtler and until now largely orphaned wish to ponder the great meaning of the cosmos and his place in it.
Copyright © 1999
April 1, 1999
April 1, 1999