Esotericism (XXXI): Gurdjieff’s successors (2): JG Bennett

Esotericism (XXXI): Gurdjieff’s successors (2): JG Bennett

- in Esotericism
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1. I met John G. Bennett in the very late 1950’s at his “ashram” Coombe Springs just outside London and, possibly, twice afterwards. We spoke in Greek as well as English. I was a very young and impressionable man. I liked him as a person, his ease and fluency of speech, but I felt he lacked something. So I joined a different organisation in the Ouspensky line.

JB was born in 1897 and, being younger than Ouspensky by 20 years was more fortunate. O started with Gurdjieff at 37 and Orage started with O at 48 (and with G at 49). Changes in mentation and habits are more difficult the older one gets; more time of sincere practice is required. JB was only 27 in 1924 when he decided to remain with O’s group.

2. JB had met both G and O in Constantinople in the summer of 1920. Although he was impressed by the two men having had an out-of-the-body experience while serving in the war and realising that there were other powers in man, he was too attached to his work as an agent of British Intelligence in the Near East. So he let that opportunity pass.

He married in 1919 and had a daughter in 1920. But in the following year he was in Constantinople and at 23 started living with Winifred Beaumont who was 47! His wife petitioned and got a divorce in 1924 and JB married Mrs. Beaumont – who died in 1958. Thereupon he married a third time, Elizabeth Mayall. (I met him just about then.)

He knew Turkish very well and its various dialects spoken in Central Asia. But his knowledge of Parsi and Zoroastrian Scriptures is not as good as is implied in some of his books, while his acquaintance with the Indic culture (Hinduism, Buddhism etc.) seems to have been negligible and superficial.

3. In 1928 O asked JB to leave his groups after some misdemeanor but in 1930 he called him back again. It should be noted however, that JB had spent some weeks in G’s Institute in France in 1923!

Soon after 1941 while the war was on and O was in America, JB decided to begin with his own groups using whatever material he had recorded from O’s lectures. O was angry and asked his students to break fully with JB, who felt deeply hurt.

His picture so far is not of a constant, reliable man. And this would not change but become rather worse.

In 1946 JB bought Coombe Springs (in Kingston-upon-Thames) and continued with his groups introducing new elements into the G-O system. He had a strong liking for Sufism, the mystical aspect of Islam.

In 1948 he joined Gurdjieff in Paris glad to discover that G, the old teacher was not dead, as JB had thought!

4. G hardly remembered him but received him and took him with himself to America. JB promised devoted service. He expressed gratitude and declared he would do anything G asked of him. So he abandons the plan to move with Cecil Lewis into South Africa and set up a safe ashram there.

G then, in January 1949 appointed as his representative in the USA Lord John Pentland, in France Rene Zuber and in England JB who thanks him on his knees! Subsequently JB returns with G in Paris.

G died in October 1949 and JB assumed he was appointed successor to G and certainly G’s chief representative in England. He ignored the fact that Jane Heap had on G’s instigation gone to London in the mid-1930’s and formed a redoubtable group (always under G’s direction) which held now several important people, including director Peter Brooke.

5. JB’s instability continued to manifest strongly until his death, 1975.

He published many books and always paid lip service to G’s genius but always introduced his own notions.

As early as 1950, many questioned his leadership in England and Madam de Salzmann, with the full authority G had invested in her, appointed in the spring of that year Henriette Lannes as her own representative in England. Lannes formed G-groups and headed the Gurdjieff Society in London until her death, 1980.

Meanwhile, JB embarked on travels in the Near East in 1953 and met several eminent sufis and shayks. In 1956 he brought the “system” Subud from Java only to acknowledge his error in 1960 and abandon it fully in 1962. He approached many other gurus thereafter, including Maharish Mahesh Yogi in Rome! In 1971 he founded his very own International Academy for Continuous Education at Sherbourne House, Gloucestershire which closed down after JB’s death. There he invited several “teachers” from different traditions!

Given JB’s erratic character and doings, one wonders at G’s judgment!

1 Comment

  1. Ανώνυμος

    Good evening, Nikodemos.
    Everything seems in the eyes! (Photo)
    Yours sincerely
    JP

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