The Gurdjieff work by a former member

My experiences as a member of the Gurdjieff work

George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff is perhaps not a name that is so well known and yet as a mystic and philosopher he had and still has a large following of people interested in learning his system of knowledge.

Gurdjieff was born in Armenia in 1866 or 1877 (even this is not known for certain) and the story goes that as a young man he became fascinated by the unexplained and paranormal mysteries of life and decided he would set out into the world to find out what it was all about. This he did and his travels took him from the Caucusus to Egypt, Asia and to the Himalayas.

He also spent time studying Sufi traditions and eventually formulated a system of knowledge he brought back to teach in the Western world. Gurdjieff's travels were before 1912 when he returned to Moscow but exact details are sketchy because they are mainly based on what he said he did.

Gurdjeff travelled in Europe in 1921 and 1922 but he had a car accident in 1924, which nearly killed him. Whilst recovering he wrote Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson.

Gurdjieff, or G as he was also known, taught that there were four paths to knowledge - that of the monk, the fakir, the yogi and the fourth way, which equated with a new human that he was trying to create.

GI Gurdjieff


Buy Meetings With Remarkable Men

Tribute to Gurdjieff with actual footage of him

PD Ouspensky and The Fourth Way

His avid follower PD Ouspensky pushed the term the fourth way much more than his teacher ever did and went on to write books on the subject including In Search of the Miraculous - Fragments of an Unknown Teaching and The Fourth Way.

Gurdjieff wrote three books in a series known as All and Everything - Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, Meetings With Remarkable Men and Life Is Real Only Then, When I Am. The first of these is a very lengthy work of some 1,000 pages in the form of a Science-fiction story with Beelzebub as an extraterrestrial aboard a spacecraft returning to his home planet. He is telling his grandson Hassan all about the ·"three-brained beings" that breed on the planet Earth and about their pecularities and his time amongst them.

In many ways it was made deliberately hard to read with very long convoluted sentences and a whole vocabulary of bizarre words such as Heptaparaparshinokh and the Common-Cosmic Trogoautoegocrat law. Published in 1950, it deals in the history of the world from Atlantean times up until the modern era and often pokes fun at the customs of people and their belief systems. In fact it is a very funny book in many ways - both funny peculiar and funny ha-ha.

Meetings With Remarkable Men, which was made into a film starring Terence Stamp, details all the people he met (and a dog) that Gurdjieff felt in some way stood out and taught him something he needed to know. Life Is Real Only Then,'When I Am' contains autobiographical material and some lectures he had given. He also wrote The Herald of Coming Good, which came out in 1933.

Gurdjieff was seeking to wake people up from their robotic and sleeping ways and taught a group of followers whom he attracted.He taught that there was such a thing as "super effort" and an example would be you walk from A to B then from B to A and finally from A to B and then you have completed that walk. He also taught complex dance routines.

Gurdjieff focused on how hypnotised and asleep everyone was and how this led to insane conditions like war, which he defined as a "mass human psychosis."

There were and are many things said about Gurdjieff - that he was a master hypnotist, that he had other powers including being able to be in two places at once, that he was actually a spy, that he met and was an advisor to the Dalai Lama, that Hitler met him and regarded him as a "superman" and that Aleister Crowley was also impressed with him and that the two had met. There are also some who have wanted to debunk Gurdjieff and his teachings and say he was a very clever conman and a charlatan with a huge ego and a lot of charisma. Whatever the truth, Gurdjieff remains a true man of mystery.

In around 1976 I became a member of the British Gurdjieff work after seeing a notice advertising for interested people to get in touch. Only a small number were accepted and we had regular meetings in Chapter Arts centre in Cardiff and also weekend all day workshops at a house in Wincanton in Somerset that was owned by our teachers George and Dorothy Philpotts. They had been actual pupils of Gurdjieff.

At meetings we discussed selected passages from the Gurdjieff books and were given mental exercises to do in our own time. I remember one of these was to look out a window at a particular time each day for a week and see what was going on. And another was to be aware of yourself and your tools and your environment whilst working.

That last one I remember because I had been put to work in the garden in Wincanton and was focusing on my spade and the soil and the worms and insects in it. I spoke about it at the group discussion we had that day and I said I felt that I was the earth and the spade for a moment.

At the Wincanton meetings group members were given different tasks such as gardening, cleaning the house or preparing the meals and we would have breaks to talk and share our opinions on the day's work. At the end of the day we had a large meal and most excellent home-made wines were available.

I remember there were rules about the washing up and whoever was doing it had to rinse every item under running water so there were no traces of suds. This served two purposes - to ensure the plates and dishes were as clean as possible, and secondly to make you make the best possible effort in your work. There was the threat of if George or Dorothy inspected it all and found any suds then you had to wash the entire lot again.

I also remember that group members would be inclined to believe that George and Dorothy had special powers and that they could read our minds, for example.

One time I asked about what UFOs were and the answer I was given was that they exist but are not on this "ray of creation" and that basically we should be concentrating on doing all we could to work on ourselves in this one.

I eventually left the group due to various ties and problems in my personal life at the time and will always remember that I was told, as advice for the future, that the only relatively safe pathway to follow besides Gurdjieff's teachings was the work of Krishnamurti.

I feel that I learned a lot in my time in the Gurdjieff work but I never took up studying Krishnamurti for some reason. Many writers and thinkers have been influenced by or have looked into Gurdjieff's work. Kate Bush makes reference to him in her songs. In Them Heavy People she sings:

"They open doorways that I thought were shut for good.They read me Gurdjieff and Jesu. They build up my body, break me emotionally. It's nearly killing me, but what a lovely feeling!"

For more info on Gurdjieff there is a good article here:

And Gurdjieff in Wikipedia:

© 2008 Steve Andrews

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Comments 38 comments

pgrundy 8 years ago

I remember reading "The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin" in college in a class on Existentialism--It's kind of like the movie "Groundhog's Day" only more dark and Russian. What an interesting hub, and what an interesting life you've had. You could make a book out of all of your experiences--CJ said you are in his middle book a lot, I can see why.

I've dabbled in many mystical traditions and never committed to any of them. I think I'm a spiritual tourist. I think it's ok though--I mean somebody has to support the spiritual economy, it might as well be me!

Thanks for this, it's a great read!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for reading it and posting!

I know a couple of Gurdjieff work members who were in it when I was who still are.

I am trying/hoping to write my autobiography if I can find the time! I need to apply some super effort! lol

pgrundy 8 years ago

You should do it! I'll buy it! But I know, it's so much work to put everything down that way. Every so often someone will tell me, you should write your autobiography, and it makes me tired just thinking about it! Anyway, when you get around to it, I'll buy the first copy.

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, pgrundy! I have a rough idea of what goes in and a title too - Seemed a Good Idea At The Time - now all I need is free time to do it, along with finishing the book I'm halfway through on free foods and herbs that grow here and beginning another on pyramids of Tenerife.

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CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

Yes Steve "Seemed Like Good Idea at the Time" is a great title for your autobiography. You should start by posting in on HubPages. Nice to read about Gurdjieff. I read that he lived on Clavados, turkish cigarettes and strong coffee, which I think is miraculous in itself.

rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

"Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" is something I find myself saying almost daily! Based on your hubs, I would definitely read your autobiography.

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I heard that sometimes he and his followers would be having a drink and he would carry on and on as if it was water and had no effect on him at all! In the video you can see him smoking. But this is what I have said before - why is it these so-called enlightened people drink and take drugs and overeat and often die comparitively young? G had a paunch it is reported, Osho was said to be on valium, Hubbard smoked and took drugs and had psychiatric medication in him when he died. And how and why did G crash his car if he was so aware? There is always something which doesn't quite add up, and the same goes for followers of these men and cult members and occult practitioners - they are often not a good example of the powers of what they believe in at all! I have noticed this over and over and over again! In Scientology many of them smoked - that I gave it up wasn't because the others didn't or because Ron said to.

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks, rmr!

And Chris, whilst I thought of writing my autobiography here I then realised some chapters would be really long and would cause the problem you ran into. Not sure how to avoid that or get round it!

Health Conscious profile image

Health Conscious 8 years ago from South Florida - USA

Very Interesting -

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Health Conscious!

lady luck profile image

lady luck 8 years ago from Boston

this is a great bio and very thorough, I will have to check G out !

Quidam 8 years ago

I learned about Gurdjieff while researching P.L. Travers. Yes, P.L. Travers, creator of Mary Poppins!

My daughter had asked me if Mary Poppins was a shaman. I hadn't read the books since grade school but from what I remembered of them, it struck me that there were some similarities so I read them again. I'd forgotten a lot and hadn't understood even more! Reading about Traver's background introduced me to Gurdjieff.

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks, Lady Luck!

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I didn't know that, Quidam! Thanks for the info!

Lou Purplefairy profile image

Lou Purplefairy 8 years ago from Southwest UK

Great hub Steve. I came across Gurdjieff a couple of years ago whilst reading some books on Egypt and the Magi by Alan F Alford, who I think studied under Ouspensky. Its been quite difficult for me to come across books in the public library by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky (well where I live anyhow) as they all seem to be hidden away in prison libraries or are consistently out on loan or have a 6 month waiting list. I was even told by one librarian that I needed to be affiliated to a university to be able to take loan of the books! I have yet to read the books for myself as I was interested in his theories, and those writers of esoteric matters that he has influenced.

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Sorry you've not been able to get them from the library, Lou, but not surprised - Cardiff library is crap now and I don't bother here! I once got a new copy of the Kalevala sent to me by some friends in Finland quicker that the library could find the copy they'd mislaid or get a new one! Cardiff library about 30 years back was much better and in fact books by Gurdjieff were there then and Madame Blavatsky, Crowley etc

MsLainieP profile image

MsLainieP 8 years ago from Chicago

I've just started reading Fourth Way teachings and I thank you for sharing your experiences here!

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Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

You are welcome, MsLainieP, and I hope you find what you're looking for in your studies!

Geoff 7 years ago

I was very interested to read this as I was involved in George and Dorothy's group for 22 years, from 1986 (which must have been after you left) until Dorothy died, aged 92, in April 2008 (George died 2 years earlier aged 90). It would have been ridiculous to say that they had super powers, although they lived very disciplined and balanced lives and had a keen insight into what individual people were like essentially. I'm now experimenting with writing about my experiences. I can only say that, for me personally, the experience of being in the group was predominately a positive one.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Hi Geoff! Thanks for posting! Yes, I left in 1978. Perhaps you know Fred Daly, who was still in it last time I saw him?

Geoff 7 years ago

I do indeed know Fred Daly, he's quite a character!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I am pleased to hear it! Say Hello for me if you see him again!

Keith 7 years ago

Hello Mr. Bard.....and Geoff (hope all is well)....I was also involved with Wincanton. For my part I thank George & Dorothy for all their help, although I felt Wincanton became like stagnant water towards the end. I am glad for John and Teresa Cook who are working harder than ever......good move guys.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Hi Keith! I am wondering if your surname is Martin? If so we know each other I do believe! Thanks for posting!

Keith 7 years ago

Hi Mr Bard, I'm sorry my surname isn't Martin, but I'm willing to change it by deed pole, if it helps the thread ;-)

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Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I am pretty sure I knew a Keith with the surname Martin who was in the G work at the time I was involved and that's why I asked!

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 7 years ago from California

I read some Gurdjieff back in the seventies and early eighties. I also read "In Search of the Miraculous," an esoteric view of modern physics, as I recall. Gurdjieff was a mystic, or perhaps he was simply very slick. I think much of mysticism is practicing self-control and utilizing wisdom, which comes with age, of course. Using such logic, everybody should be a mystic by the age of 40 or 50. What say ye, Sir Bard? Later!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Kosmo, I have been "into the mystic" (to use a Van Morrison title) since my late teens and my friend Jessica Schab calls herself Jessica Mystic and she's in her twenties so I think mysticism can start at any age! lol

spirituality profile image

spirituality 6 years ago from The Netherlands

I don't see why you'd have to study Krishnamurti if you've already done serious Gurdjieff work. The two are too similar for there to be any use in jumping from one to the other.

tamtamsxoxox 5 years ago from Ubar

Among all myths I've heard about Gurdjieff one drawn most of my attention. It is that G. was hiding his birthdate, but if some of his high initiates had to know it they had to give a vow not to tell it anyone ever by any price. Also that brotherhoods across Middle East are sworn will take anyone who finds it out for a death sentence.

Also, I've heard that one school of same power but different path had that as the main argument when some of 4th Way ministers were asking them to convert.

It also says that G.'s school was to try to overcome the specific astral influence on Earth, one that makes us follow different paths which can cause lots of damage to students of such schools and people from certain brotherhoods on their paths, astral influence that though we can all progress towards the aim 4th Way has and some other schools, we finish scattered on paths, so G. had a mission to superimpose 4th Way as the only way and the highest esoteric authority.

It would be fun to read G.'s natal chart though he was always trying to designify astrology.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for the feedback!

fen lander profile image

fen lander 5 years ago from Whitstable

Chris Stone gave me a copy of All And Everything and a copy of Meetings Wit...etc. G's train-of-thought and mental capacities (mentation) have taught me things I can't speak of (but he could) because I'm one of the robots he woke-up from hypnotic slavery to despots who still suffers from the habit he mentioned.... about how our whole being is in a rut of habitual reinforced re-enactment scenarios... he said it better but I know what he was on about :-) PS Happy New Millenium

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for posting, Fen! I am glad you know of G's work and have benefited from it too!

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 4 years ago from Wales, UK

Very interesting. I've been persevering through Ouspensky's book for a while now and it is well worth it.

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Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I am glad to hear it!

tamtamsxoxox 4 years ago from Ubar

Thank you fen and electro! I also find Ouspensky's books fascinating, Gs obsession with Mullah Naser-el-Edin amazing, as I grew up in Balkans and I used to listen to old men's stories about Nassradin Hodjah since a tad.

But in my life, before I even could get in contact with local 4th Way teachers I became interested in Wicca and I became a spirit keeper (practice that involves keeping entities like Djinn, genie). i was refused every time.

Christine Darbyson 3 years ago

I would also like to add that anyone from Tenerife- may in fact could have met GIG . Died in the 1940's hmmmmmm.. after 3 shots ( you know what He says) and only the males in the direct family could bury him- hmmmm. Some of the secret schools had master living till? And slow down their heart rate until it apeared dead...

Why was He with the children in the streetson the same day He apparentently died. ??? I don't know. All I know is that He did not NOT DIE!!

I lived - in Tenerife -in the 90's for 31/2 years. I had an experience that changed my lfe. I wanted to go die with the Rawanda childern-after seeing tv after 2- 3 years... I am a Canadian. woman. Long story- He checked our group for awake people ( I was with an International band- playing in a bar) and GIG found me. I translated for Him. - BIG IDEAS. He could not believe that I understood what He was talking about. I was on my jourmey alone for seven years when I met Him and Had just given up on humanity . We talked all night. alone in our little corner of bliss- I was so happy- to find Him. We could not just leave it at that. So, I asked Him out for dinner and we went to El Medino. He picked me up in an old white Mercedes..He voomed down the roads and then went slower. I asked Him why- He said "There is a time to go slow and a time to go fast..." They knew Him at the place we dined. I had no idea who He was (as in GIG HIMSELF until years later and returning to Canada and looking a a picture of the teacher ...instead of dying with the kids in Rawanada- ya- that's what he was dealing with , with me) but he gave me a copy of In Search of the Mir..." byPDO ( in El Med) . We met several times after that and wow- what a friend I found!!! A guru!!! He taught me so may exercises like the the interrupted stepping..the stop exercise- on the beach- He was with me and a friend. To be honest I was in love . I saw his black and white pictures of family members-in a a sparcely furnished place we met , a time share resort stil under construction.... we sat on floor in front of each other and talked and talked... .. ) and I told Him I was surprised others were not there .. meeting to discuss...( He must have been surprised- in hind sight) I remember when he asked me how old I was - 28. ( at the time) - 1995 or so...I asked Him how old He was..and He asked He how old I thoughtHe was. . I said 60 something. The smile on his face was priceless! He said He could not tell me his age... But He gave me an orb... ...

We even danced one night at the p;ace we met on a later date -although it made him every uncomforable- He made an ecxuse that He could feel everyones inners I just didn't know why at the time- ...Oh my!! Now I do!!!

I feel Him with Me all the time,... and hope he shows up at my doorstep one day...

His work with movements is like sign langauge in dance,

Lovely soul

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Bard of Ely 3 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for sharing your memories of and thoughts about G!

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