G.I. Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff International Review

Georges Gurdjieff

A Documentary Film

Produced by Jean-Claude Lubtchansky

[This French language documentary film, narrated by Pierre Schaeffer, is interspersed with excerpts from interviews conducted by Henri de Turenne. Produced by Jean-Claude Lubtchansky with the participation of Philippe Cambessédès, Maurice Desselle, Philippe Lavastine, Dr. Michel de Salzmann, Henri Tracol, Dr. Jean Vaysse and René Zuber. Paris, 1976, 50 minutes. Broadcast on September 22, 1978 on TFI (Institute National de l’Audiovisuel). Transcript and translation by Jack Cain and Nicolas Lecerf.]

[While the camera explores the above portrait of Gurdjieff, the following quotation from Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, p. 361, is read by Philippe Cambessédès:]

Faith, Love and Hope

Faith of consciousness is freedom
Faith of feeling is weakness
Faith of body is stupidity.

Love of consciousness evokes the same in response
Love of feeling evokes the opposite
Love of body depends only on type and polarity.

Hope of consciousness is strength
Hope of feeling is slavery
Hope of body is disease.

Pierre Schaeffer:

In the folklore of Central Asia, there is a popular character named Mullah Nassr Eddin, an apparently bumbling figure with an unremarkable manner but abundant common sense. The following story is ascribed to him. One day he is outside looking in the sand under the heat and light of the sun for a lost object, let’s say it’s a key. His neighbours ask him: “Are you sure it’s here that you lost it?” And the Mullah answers magnanimously: “I am certain that it is not here because I lost it at home.” So they ask him, “But then why are you looking here?” The Mullah answers, “Outside there is plenty of light and at home it’s dark—I will find nothing there!”

It is with this image in mind, a vivid image of common sense, full of good-humor, that I wish to dedicate this program to the memory of a man for whom this tale is more appropriate and closer to his true spirit than the reputation based on spiteful, exaggerated stories that have been spread about him and which present him as a kind of white or black magician.

I am speaking of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff…

The fact is, that in television we need a label in order to introduce someone and for Gurdjieff, people have used anything and everything. It is difficult to place Gurdjieff in the usual categories: Is he a writer, a thinker, a poet, a musician, the master of a kind of philosophy or a source of spiritual inspiration? Gurdjieff is all of these, but still officially unrecognized as such in any of these fields. He produced a significant book that we will talk about later, published in a peculiar French that was translated from a strange Russian. Gurdjieff—who inspired René Daumal and Luc Dietrich, to mention only those French writers who are well known—is poorly considered in French literary circles where he is referred to only from hearsay and with more of a predilection for slander than for truth.

In fact, the memory of Gurdjieff—a man who has never been perceived in his true dimension—has been obscured by shadows that are growing more and more dense for a variety of reasons. First of all, external appearances were against him. He was a Russian refugee indistinguishable from many others between the two wars. He sported a heavy Caucasian accent, an originality, a particular manner of action and speech, and a taste for well-seasoned food for which he was rarely forgiven. Can a philosopher, a wise man, a scientist be allowed to cook and regale friends?! Could he really be at the same time a guru? An Indian guru is more distinguished! The way he conducted himself, as well as those around him, which included all kinds of people, was not at all reassuring. In speaking of the various religions, he showed respect for them all but also held them all in question—which meant that his spiritual reputation suffered accordingly. And finally, he appeared all too modern while at the same time being also apparently anachronistic.

He lived with a kind of community surrounding him—people from various disciplines—scientists, doctors, biologists. He was interdisciplinary; which was most striking for the time, not as it would be today when we encounter creativity workshops flourishing in California. We know very well now what it takes to live that way and to be audacious.

[Voice-over quoting one of the aphorisms that were painted on the glass windows of the Study House in Gurdjieff’s Institute at the Château du Prieuré at Avon, near Fontainebleau:]

Here there are neither Russians nor English, Jews nor Christians, but only those who pursue one aim—to be able to be.

Gurdjieff was born in Armenia, in a family of Greek origin. His father was a well known Ashokh or bard who possessed large droves of cattle and lost his fortune through massive epizootic disease. Gurdjieff’s upbringing was thoroughly scientific and religious; while still young he traveled with a mysterious group he called the “Seekers of Truth,” exploring for over twenty years the inner reaches of India, Tibet, and the Middle East—where he probably met some of the truths he later presented. His biography is in three parts. The first part, very hidden, is evoked in the book Meetings with Remarkable Men which provides, covertly, some autobiographical hints and clues. Then, starts his public life in Moscow and St. Petersburg, when he was 37 years old and where he started to transmit a teaching of overwhelming magnitude.…

[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]
Copyright © 1976 Jean-Claude Lubtchansky / INA
This webpage © 2001 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 2001 Issue, Vol. IV (2)
Revision: October 1, 2001