Esotericism (XXVIII): Gurdjieff’s magic? (2)

Esotericism (XXVIII): Gurdjieff’s magic? (2)

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1. After August 1916 and the telepathic communication which Gurdjieff sparked off in Ouspensky in Finland, such experiences were not repeated. Neither G nor O, nor any of their students (with two exceptions which I shall examine later), mention anything like them for the rest of the two men’s lives.

This seems very strange to me. How is it to be explained?

For O I don’t have any demands or expectations. But G is quite a different case. His students repeatedly write of the sense they had that he could weigh them up or look into their innermost being and know their deepest impulses. G himself also talks repeatedly as though he has these powers in control and can produce at will such experiences given the right circumstances.

2. Well, from 1916 (Aug) to 1949 (Oct) when G passed away, surely there must have been in those 33 years some “right circumstances”. Let us take events chronologically.

In July 1920 G arrives in Constantinople where he meets a large number of new people interested in occultism and in his work: B. Mouravieff, J. Bennet and his mistress, Mrs. Beaumont, Prince Sabahaddin.

After a year and failing to establish his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, G goes to Berlin in Nov 1921 in a new attempt at establishing his Institute. He meets several important people but nothing comes of this. He visits London as well and lectures there (Feb, March 1922) and meets even more people including A.R. Orage and Dr. M. Nicoll.

Failing both in Germany and England, G settles in France.

3. In late September 1922, the Institute gets established at the Château Prieuré in Avon, some 44 miles from Paris near Fontainebleau. Thereafter a long stream of people, old and new acquaintances who want to study with G, arrive and stay in the large estate.

One of the first to come, in October 1921 on Orage’s recommendation, is writer Katherine Mansfield who suffers from tuberculosis at an advanced stage. In January 1922, while her husband has come for the Russian New Year celebrations, she dies. She had been, if anyone, in need of some special lift and she had gained a new confidence and understanding. But in all her many letters there is not a single out-of-the-ordinary experience. There is much optimism and even a strong belief (31/12/1922) that in 6 months’ time her health will have improved! It did not.

4. Many others stayed at the Institute and followed the rigorous disciplines that G imposed, including, of course, very hard and long physical labour like cutting trees, digging ditches, demolishing or building walls, cultivating plants, cooking, cleaning rooms and so on.

The list is long: the de Hartmanns, Mrs. de Salzmann, Orage, Frank Pinder, M. Nicoll (with wife and child), Dr. J. Young, Mrs. Page, F. Peters and (in Aug 1923) J. Bennett and many others. Most of these people wrote books and, naturally, include this period of their life. Yet not one of them mentions an experience like the one Ouspensky describes in his In Search of the Miraculous, the telepathic communication with G on pp 260-265.

We might not perhaps expect G himself to describe such experiences on his own books. But if it was known that there had been such, then one or other of the numerous books written about him by people who had known him a long period (Bennett, Kathryn Hulme, Orage, Nott etc) would have adverted to it.

5. In August 1924, after a car accident in July in which G was severely incapacitated, G decides to put an end to the Work, shut down the Institute, dismiss the students and sell the estate of Prieuré. G sold it in fact in 1934!

Many more students followed G in France and in the USA. Many formed groups, especially in the USA; others approached him individually in Paris (e.g. K. Hulme). But again there is no record anywhere of notable experiences.

It is very difficult to know why such an event was not repeated. One can only speculate.

a)The one and only occurrence may have been O’s imagination.

b)G might have decided that he should not generate it again.

c)Maybe G lost the power to generate it, if he ever had it.

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