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Gurdjieff International Review

A. R. Orage

Introduction & Bibliography

by J. Walter Driscoll

Equipped with the barest formal education, a formidable natural intelligence and an unquenchable yearning to understand, ALFRED RICHARD ORAGE emerged from British 19th Century working class poverty to survey the significant literary, psychological, political and spiritual trends of the early 20th century. His literary skills and wide range of interests led him to edit the enormously influential journal the New Age from 1907 until 1922 when he moved from London to Fontainebleau to attend Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.

Orage had met P. D. Ouspensky in London in 1914 when the latter was on his way back to Russia, having traveled through Asia in search of the miraculous. When Ouspensky subsequently moved to London in the autumn of 1921, Orage attended his lectures about 'fragments of an unknown teaching' as a student alchemist and helped him gather an audience. In February 1922, Orage met the source of Ouspensky's gold, in the person and teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff who, with a band of followers, had fled the Russian Revolution in 1917 and was considering London as a place to immigrate to.

Gurdjieff established his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man near Paris France, at Fontainebleau on October 1, 1922. That same month, Orage sold theNew Age and surrendered the forefront of intellectual life in London to learn from Gurdjieff while digging ditches at the Prieuré, as the Institute at Fontainebleau became known. Orage invited his friend Dennis Saurat to come to the Prieuré a few months later in February, 1923. Saurat's A Visit to Gourdyev conveys a vivid sense of the turmoil and enormous difficulties everyone experienced as Gurdjieff struggled to establish the Institute. In Teachings of Gurdjieff: The Journal of a Pupil, his record of Fontainebleau, Stanley Nott reports that Orage described this period by saying:

When I was in the depths of despair, feeling that I could go on no longer, I vowed to make extra effort, and just then something changed in me. Soon, I began to enjoy the hard labor, and a week later, Gurdjieff came to me and said, "Now, Orage, I think you dig enough. Let us go to the cafe and drink coffee." From that moment things began to change.

In January 1924, Orage went to New York to help Gurdjieff with his first visit to America. In October, after Gurdjieff had returned to France, he appointed Orage to supervise the Work in America. Then in July 1924 Orage was shocked by news that Gurdjieff was critically injured in an automobile accident and might not survive. Through Gurdjieff's subsequent recovery and decision to turn his attention to writing Beelzebub's Tales and Meetings with Remarkable Men, Orage found himself the de facto leader of numerous Gurdjieff groups and group leaders across America. Among others, Gorham Munson's essays on Orage describe this period in vivid detail.

Having established something authentic in himself as a result of Gurdjieff's teaching and his own conscientious efforts, Orage went on to marry for the second time in his mid 50s and have two children with Jessie Dwight. In May 1930 he returned to England and began to establish a renewed life. He became deeply involved with political issues, was instrumental in rekindling interest in the socialist movement called Social Credit which became a fringe force in politics for many decades. He founded a new journal, the New English Weekly, in April 1932. He was planning to introduce Gurdjieff's ideas in that paper and elsewhere, when he died on the night of November 5, 1934.

On hearing of Orage's death, Gurdjieff issued the following invitation:

November 6, 1934

I have just now learned of the death of Mr. Orage, who was for many years your guide and teacher and my inner world essence friend. I invite you to attend a meeting, to pay homage to him and to speak in his memory, on Friday evening, November 9th, at 9 o'clock, in Miss Bentley's studio in Carnegie Hall, at which time, likewise, will be played some of his favorite music and some of those pieces dedicated to him which were composed by me while he was at the Prieuré.

G. Gurdjieff

A. R. Orage: a brief bibliography

Alfred Richard Orage wrote many hundreds of essays on diverse aspects of philosophy, religion, literature, psychology, history, economics and politics. In addition to playing a major role in rendering Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales into English, Orage edited and influenced or is discussed in an enormous body of literature. This list focuses on material by and about Orage in relation to Gurdjieff's teaching. With the exception of C. Daly King's Oragean Version, these sources are usually in print or available from book finders. For scholars with an interest in the entire body of Orage's writings, Professor Wallace Martin has compiled a comprehensive bibliography.

Material by Orage

Material about Orage

Copyright © 1998 J. Walter Driscoll
This webpage © 1998 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 1998 Issue, Vol. I (3)
Revision: May 1, 2000