We will look first at how Gurdjieff embraced change, adapting his teaching to contemporary interests; secondly at how he provoked change; and thirdly at how these changes relate to the continuation of his teaching after his death. When Gurdjieff began teaching in Russia c, his cosmological teaching was given in occult terms, the group meetings were held in secret, pupils could not relate what they learned to others outside the group.
Later, when Gurdjieff came to France, the period he is probably best known for, he opened his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, forty miles outside Paris in , but this was only fully functioning for two years. During this time Gurdjieff had a high profile life, within a matter of months he had the reputation of both charlatan and magician, the Institute became a kind of tourist attraction and on Saturdays there were demonstrations of sacred dancing and of magic. Then, in , Gurdjieff made another dramatic change in the form of the Work and began to put his teaching into a written form.
This was also in accord with contemporary interests because Paris was both an occult and a literary centre.
In the s and s there were many English language writers in Paris and the two interests, occultism and literature were intertwined. This would not have happened had he continued teaching in the closed format that he used in Russia. These changes show that Gurdjieff was willing to embrace contemporary interests and to change the form and mode of his teaching accordingly.
However, Gurdjieff also provoked change.
If we looked at what happened after his death, we can see that although he had united the groups of American and British pupils, in Paris after World War Two, he chose not to form a secure line of succession. At the same time he suggested to various pupils that they were the only one who could carry out his teaching after his death and this was a provocation to schism.
Although most of his pupils stayed with Jeanne de Salzmann b. The life-myth, which Gurdjieff created for himself in his writings, has also been a cause for fragmentation within the Work. He acknowledged that he drew his teaching from a number of diverse sources, and although traces of Western European Occult traditions, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism can all be detected in his teaching and his texts, he left no information about his sources that we can verify. The obscurity and multiplicity of the sources from which Gurdjieff drew his teaching has allowed for the re-fragmentation of his teaching back towards its possible constituent parts.
Gurdjieff did not provide a clear lineage and so his teaching was open to appropriation by those who claimed to be in touch with his teachers. I was informed in personal communications that Jeanne de Salzmann visited spiritual teachers in North Africa and India, researching how to take the Work forward. Whatever she decided, she does seem to have made one important change. In the late s or early s she introduced a new form of passive and receptive Work, where the pupil received love, through the crown of the head, he experienced himself as being worked upon, rather than actively working on himself, these changes were not introduced in London until Gurdjieff reputation in relation to his pupils is mixed.
He had much bad publicity during his high profile time, often unfounded, which he did nothing to correct, he was a great destabiliser of his own reputation. The Foundations, in wishing to preserve the teaching, have focused on his role as a spiritual teacher. But to tidy Gurdjieff up is to deny the essential paradoxes that he himself created; in his self-presentation, his mode of teaching pupils, in his theory which is inconsistent, and in his texts.
Destabilising paradoxes, contradictions and anomalies are of value because they arouse questioning and force the pupil to be active in relation to the teaching. These are qualities which Gurdieff valued and it is clear from his writings that he was aware of and valued the irreconcilable elements within his teaching. There are signs at the moment that there is a change in feeling about the nature of the Work. This shift can also be seen in two quotations relating to John Pentland, who was the head of the Foundation in New York from until his death in He is described, by a past Foundation member, as a man:.
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As well as musicians actors have always found a home in the lodge and some Masonic plays even found their way onto the public stage as did some operas. At this time he had around thirty pupils. An occultist technique is implied. Young does not mention the Katherine Mansfield episode; he knew very well that her death was not the fault of Gurdjieff. They also demand the immediate cessation of such defense once the threat is over.
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Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub's Tales Paperback – November 30, This book presents an analysis of the narrative subject matter of Beelzebub’s Tales in terms of astrological correspondences. It contains preliminary information relating to Gurdjieff’s teaching, to astrology. Sophia Wellbeloved completed her Ph.D. in the Theology Department at King's The second revised edition of her thesis, Gurdjieff, Astrology & Beelzebub's.
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