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Gurdjieff and Ouspensky

John Lerwill

The late John Bennett (a Kings College, Wimbledon-educated military man) was a pupil of Gurdjieff, and has written several accounts of the origins of Gurdjieff's work and of working under Gurdjieff. All very fascinating reading. Gurdjieff himself wrote amazingly little, but is well known for one work in particular, Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, an apparently allegorical (and teaching) work, a copy of which I have in my possession.

John Bennett tried to identify the source of Gurdjieff's learning, but seems not to have come up with completely concrete answers, although Tibetan Buddhism, Mevlevi Darwish(ism) and Naqshbandi Sufism figure largely in his hypothesis. Gurdjieff (an Armenian or Georgian by birth, I think) was an immensely travelled person, including India, Tibet and much of Asia Minor before and around 1900. Subsequently to these travels, he went to Moscow, established a 'school' and later established a link with Ouspensky.

These two later fell out on some matter, and Gurdjieff moved his 'school' to Fontainebleu, near Paris, where he remained until he died. Ouspensky went to America. My simplistic impression is that Gurdjieff's method was a 'fluid' type, as opposed to a more 'scientific' method favoured by Ouspensky. Certainly, from my reading of the matter, and discussion with some former pupils, there do seem to be definite links with Sufi methods and objectives, but I feel his teachings are certainly what might be described as a collection of 'pick and mix' varieties. Dance, enneagram-based science, meditation and hard physical work were intertwined in Gurdjieff's teachings towards the task of 'dieing before you die'....the merging of the soul with the Absolute in one's own lifetime.

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content by John Lerwill
posted to the Donmeh forum Fri, 4 Jun 1999
page uploaded 5 June 1999, last modified 16 November 2003