I am in America to shear sheep.

Gurdjieff International Review

Great Harmonizer Tuning Up

Gurdjieff, Levantine Expert on Food, Drink and Idiocies, Picks New York City for Culture.

The New York Sun, January 27, 1931

THE GREAT HARMONIZER received The Sun reporter in Apartment Q, one of the six apartments which he maintains at 204 West Fifty-ninth street. A curious group of folk sat around the long, narrow luncheon table, bare but spread with exotic foods—stuffed vine leaves, pungent soups, bear meat, Asiatic fruits and luscious melons. A bearded man who spoke nothing but Russian, and that only occasionally, sat at one end. Two lovely Oriental-eyed children sat next to him.

The Great Harmonizer, massive and solid, with shaved head and great walrus whiskers, held down the other end, and between were several women, each of a different nationality, each garbed in a colorful costume, one in a sort of flowing Asiatic garment, long earrings and a colorful sari. The Great Harmonizer held aloft a slender glass. "You are just in time," he said, "to drink to the thirteenth variety of idiot!"

The guest did as ordered, and drained the glass of a strong syrupy, foreign liquid. Throughout the luncheon toasts followed in quick succession until the whole twenty-one varieties of idiots which composed the peoples of the world had been properly toasted—the last toast to the Arch Idiots.

Job So Big It Takes a Staff

Conversation flowed merrily—now in this language, now in that, for the Great Harmonizer was having luncheon, prepared by his own hands, for the twelve members of his staff, who are busily engaged in translating his monumental work containing the cream of the world's wisdom into twelve languages.

When English was spoken at all it came in the form of parables, punctuated by outbursts of laughter, a bit incomprehensible to the guest. But there was no lack of hospitality. Melons, which, it was explained came by special boat for the Master, were pressed upon the reporter. Melons and fruits and long slender black cigarettes from the heart of Asia.

"I am in America," said the Great Harmonizer, "to shear sheep."

When luncheon was over the guest, still mystified, was invited to accompany the Master to his Sanctum Sanctorum, the heart of the six apartments which are required to house the Harmonizer in his varied moods. The guest would be allowed the most unusual privilege of reading the observations of Beelzebub to his favorite grandson, as they referred to the life of mankind in that curious country called America, a manuscript in the Master's lighter vein, written in Russian, but already translated into English by the young Oxford graduate on the staff.

Uses Russian in Frivolity

For, it was explained, just as the Master needs a variety of environments, so he needs to express himself in the particular language which best harmonizes with the mood of the moment, and the subject matter. Thus when he is in his light and humorous vein, he writes in Russian. Pure intellectual thought requires Greek. Sharp wit may be expressed best in French. Asiatic languages lend themselves to the more esthetic and esoteric moods. He is equally at home in all of them, but very short on English.

Down a flight of stairs, through various corridors, the guest followed the Master, to the apartment of relaxation, where thick steaming Turkish coffee was waiting on a brass tray, together with still another variety of cigarettes. This apartment contrasted sharply with the rugged simplicity of the first; furnishings were not particularly sumptuous, but it had, nevertheless, a luxurious air, further emphasized by a heavy scent of a most unusual and exotic perfume.

Master Not Discursive

The guest was invited to read from the sayings of Beelzebub to his favorite grandson, which comprises the two hundred and twenty-ninth chapter of the Critical Survey of the Life of Mankind, one of the lighter chapters, and therefore a good one to begin with, entailing not too great a strain on the intellect. The reporter had not been reading aloud long, however, when the Master interrupted.

"Don't read now," said the Master. "You can finish that later."

Now, thought the guest, I shall find out all about this harmonious development of mankind. But unfortunately the Master was not in a mood for discussion. This was the hour for relaxation, and as for as the guest could gather, this harmonious refreshment of body and soul has something to do with freeing the soul from its prison confines.

The Great Harmonizer is George Gurdjieff who already has aroused considerable curious comment in New York, for at certain hours each day he chooses the busiest of a chain of popular restaurants, and with coffee and cigarette to hand, loses himself in his own soul and writes. It is only in the midst of the greatest clatter that he can really concentrate, and not a single one of the six apartments is noisy enough for his purpose. Most of his work was written in the Café de la Paix across from the Opera in Paris, probably the noisiest and most distracting spot on earth.

Women Attend His Words

For some time he gave lectures to his American disciples in Carnegie Hall, where on a previous short visit to America he staged esoteric Eastern dances. But of late he has devoted himself to authorship, content to receive guests and disciples at luncheon and in the evening.

His American disciples, some of them are prominent men and women, mostly women, who have attended his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Mankind at Fontainebleau, near Paris. Many strange stories have been told of this curious colony, where wealthy women scrubbed floors as if their souls required it and where aristocratic men worked in the fields or forests, joining at night in weird Oriental dances or listening, in a lavish setting of Asiatic luxury, to esoteric music brought out of the east in the Masters various explorations.

Among his followers were many artists and writers, among them the late Katherine Mansfield, the sister-in-law of the late Lord Northcliffe, and A. R. Orage, editor of the New Age.

The "harmonious development" consisted of developing each of three distinct personalities or souls which comprise the human being. Most persons apparently suffer from the over-development of one or the other and if we are sound physically and mentally we probably suffer from emotional malnutrition.

Copyright © 1931 The New York Sun
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