Gurdjieff International Review

Book Reviews by Author

Collin, Rodney

The Theory of Celestial Influence

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 Collin’s 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.”

Driscoll, J. Walter

GURDJIEFF: An Annotated Bibliography, a review by Andrew Rawlinson

A review by Andrew Rawlinson of Gurdjieff: An Annotated Bibliography by J. Walter Driscoll and The Gurdjieff Foundation of California (1985) New York: Garland Publishing. First published in Religion Today: a journal of contemporary religions (1987) London, this slightly revised version is issued here with the author's kind permission. Although Driscoll's bibliography went out of print in 1994, we include this review because of Rawlinson's astute and helpful analysis of the Gurdjieff literature.

Gurdjieff, G. I.

Gurdjieff’s All and Everything: a Study by J. G. Bennett

Bennett’s study was first published in Rider’s 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 Beelzebub’s Tales is an epoch-making work that represents the first new mythology in 4000 years. He finds in Gurdjieff’s ideas regarding time, God’s purpose in creating the universe, conscience, and the suffering of God, a synthesis transcending Eastern and Western doctrines about humanity’s place in the cosmos.

The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written — Chapter 94

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 Gurdjieff’s doctrine is “the most convincing fusion of Eastern and Western thought that has yet been seen…”

Commentary on Beelzebub’s Tales

Commentary by Terry Winter Owens and Suzanne D. Smith first issued by University Books in their Mystic Arts Book News No. 78 (1964). Reprinted here by kind permission of the authors. “Despite all the inherent difficulties which Gurdjieff has implanted in the book—complexities in writing and in concepts, the rewards are there also. But in keeping with Gurdjieff’s philosophy, the rewards are commensurate with the reader’s struggle to find them.”

The Struggle to “Fathom the Gist” of Beelzebub’s Tales

An essay from Terry Winter Owens published here first. “For over 30 years, I have wanted to write a follow up to the essay on Gurdjieff’s All and Everything, that I wrote in the 1960’s.… Writing now from a different perspective, I want to specially focus on Gurdjieff’s ‘friendly advice’ to the reader and some issues that arose from a consideration of that advice.”

Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson: Commentary by A. L. Staveley

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 Beelzebub’s 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 before—a sentence which gives with great precision the answer to a question you have had for years.”

The Tales Themselves: An Overview

This revised Fourth Chapter of Dr. Anna Challenger’s Ph.D. dissertation from Kent State University (1990) is reproduced with the author’s kind permission and provides a glimpse of the deeply considered understanding each of us must find in our own reading of Beelzebub’s Tales.

Gurdjieff’s Theory of Art

This revised Third Chapter of Dr. Anna Challenger’s Ph.D. dissertation from Kent State University (1990) is published with the author’s kind permission. She provides a thoughtful analysis of Gurdjieff’s ideas of art, particularly as they apply to his writings.

Beelzebub’s Tales: Fifty Years Later

Denis Saurat visited the Prieuré for a weekend in February 1923 and published a skeptical account in his essay, A Visit to Gourdyev. Saurat later revised his opinion of Gurdjieff and his teaching and came to recognize Beelzebub’s Tales as a major work. Written shortly after its publication in 1950, and, as timely today as it was then, Saurat comments on what he regards as the book’s central themes and speculates about its long term impact.

Beelzebub, a Master Stroke (Belzébuth, un coup de maître)

In this penetrating examination of Beelzebub’s Tales, Rainoird emphasizes that Gurdjieff’s master work “cannot be read as we commonly read our books—and which simultaneously attracts and repels us.” Rainoird’s commentary was first published as Belzébuth, un coup de maître in Monde Nouveau (Paris) October, 1956 as a review of the publication of the first French edition. This translation is the first to offer the complete text in English.

Commentary on Meetings with Remarkable Men

Commentary by Terry Winter Owens first issued by University Books in their Mystic Arts Book News Number 82 [1965]. "It is an adventure of the mind—growing, being formed, setting out after inner knowledge, discovering it and putting it to the test of practice. Thus it is an adventure in two worlds, and it will be the reader's delight and enrichment to discern where one world ends and the other begins."

Gurdjieff’s Self-Revelation: A review of Meetings with Remarkable Men

This review of Meetings with Remarkable Men by Manuel Rainoird was first published in French in Critique (Paris), No. XVI (162), November, 1960, at the same time as publication of Gurdjieff’s book in French. In this first English translation, Rainoird’s thoughtful observations include both Meetings with Remarkable Men and Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.

Howarth, Dushka

Itís Up To Ourselves, a review by Michael Benham

“Jessmin Howarth, one of the accomplished women who contributed to the transmission of Gurdjieffís practical teaching, known as the Movements, rarely talked about herself and her own personal life, and as her daughter Dushka Howarth recalls in this book, particularly not to her. It is therefore fortunate that in the later part of her life she began to write down some of her reminiscences and inner thoughts as neatly typed hand-bound essays that she gave to her daughter on birthdays and other special occasions. From these essays, private letters, family scrapbook fragments and the accounts of others Dushka has assembled the story of her motherís life (in Jessminís words) and expanded it with comments, historical background and her own recollections of later events. To this she has added an account of her own life, including her experiences with Gurdjieff in his last years and her meetings and work with his senior pupils from the 1950ís to the present day.”

Ouspensky, P. D.

In Search of the Miraculous

A synopsis by Dr. Jacob Needleman originally presented at the 1980 national meetings of the American Academy of Religion and first published in an expanded form as “Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Esoteric Philosophy” in Consciousness and Tradition (1982) New York: Crossroads. This revision is published with the author’s kind permission. Professor Needleman offers a thoroughly considered synopsis of the cosmological and psychological ideas contained in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous.

The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution

An anonymous commentary first published in Material for Thought (1974) San Francisco: Number 5 and reissued here with the kind permission of the editors. It provides informed analysis with many astute, original observations about the book, as well as about Ouspensky’s purpose and methods during the last few decades of his life.

Strange Life of Ivan Osokin

A commentary by John Pentland first published in Material for Thought (1972) San Francisco: Number 4, and subsequently published as the foreword to the Penguin Metaphysical Library Series edition of Ivan Osokin (1973). It is published here with the kind permission of Mrs. Mary Rothenberg. Lord Pentland provides valuable and original commentary on Ouspensky’s writings.

On Man's Place in the Scheme of Things

This review of P. D. Ouspensky's, In Search of the Miraculous, by Bernard Metz was first published in The Christian Register in January of 1950. Bernard Metz was one of Gurdjieff's translators and personal secretaries at the Prieuré for about a decade.

The Romance and Mystery of Tertium Organum

First published in Merely Players (1929) Knopf, a collection of Claude Bragdon’s essays, this article describes how Bragdon and Nicholas Bessaraboff came to translate Tertium Organum, which paved the way for Ouspensky’s favorable reception in the West.

Considering Fragments

Other than Mr. Gurdjieff's own writings, “what other written material has the real stamp of authenticity? Of particular note in this regard is P. D. Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching. However, given Ouspensky's early break with Gurdjieff, one might reasonably ask how reliable and complete Fragments is as an introduction? After all, the conversations Ouspensky records—more than two-thirds of Fragments consists of direct quotes from Gurdjieff—took place in Russian almost a century ago. Not only did Ouspensky have to remember his conversations with Gurdjieff but he had to translate his personal notes into a language that he learned later in life. Fortunately we have published appraisals of Fragments from several sources including some of Mr. Gurdjieff's most senior students.”

Pentland, John

Commentary on Exchanges Within

A review of John Pentland's, Exchanges Within. A long-time student of John Pentland, Dennis Lewis points out Pentland's "remarkable ability to translate Gurdjieff's teachings into the exact language needed to help each seeker experience herself or himself as a living question in the face of the unknown."

Sinclair, Frank

Without Benefit of Clergy, a review by Müge Galin

“In this largely autobiographical account of his several decades in the Gurdjieff Work, or what he calls his ‘personal indulgence,’ Frank R. Sinclair shares some moving reflections on his inner and outer experiences in that pursuit. . . While recounting his search for meaning and his struggle to live in two worlds—the sacred and the profane—Sinclair courageously tells on himself, so to speak, as well as on others. In the end, he exposes the same human being full of contradictions, strengths and weaknesses, within us all.”

Without Benefit of Clergy, a review by Anthony De Marinis

“Provides a recent assessment of the Gurdjieff teaching as it exists in its institutional setting today, written by someone who is in a position to speak of it. Sinclair is the president of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, one of the four founding foundations that comprise the International Association of Gurdjieff Foundations. As indicated in the book’s subtitle, Some Personal Footnotes to the Gurdjieff Teaching, Sinclair provides commentary on what practitioners call ‘the Work’ as it exists today, as well as offering an engaging memoir of the life of a seeker—a seeker of truth.”

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Revision: August 27, 2010