Sunday, July 21, 2019
  Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way: A Critical Appraisal      [SOURCE]
Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way: A Critical Appraisal


George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who brought an ancient esoteric teaching to the West, was one of the most important spiritual teachers of the 20th century. The impact of his ideas, teaching methods and powerful personality continue to challenge and fascinate seekers of wisdom more than half a century after his death. His teaching, known as ‘the Work’ - which has come to be called the ‘Fourth Way’ - has greatly influenced spiritual seekers throughout the world.

Assessments of Gurdjieff by students, followers, journalists, critics, scholars and fellow spiritual teachers are bewilderingly diverse, ranging from ‘charlatan’ and ‘black magician’ to ‘extraordinary spiritual master’ and even ‘A Messenger from Above.’

In light of such a conflicting portrait of Gurdjieff there is a real need to examine his life, teachings and influence on the contemporary world based on an objective, balanced approach free from preconceptions or ideological bias.

The intent of this website is to bring together multiple perspectives from a wide range of sources to examine and evaluate the Gurdjieff phenomena, with the hope of stimulating debate and discussion rather than providing any final definitive statement or conclusion.

Search


One of the great mysteries of Gurdjieff’s life is the nature of his extensive and unremitting search for an esoteric knowledge and teaching that would explain the significance and meaning of life.

There has been an abundance of conjecture, conflicting theories and misinformation about this crucial phase of his life.

We know little about which countries and regions he visited, the spiritual teachings and traditions he studied, and the source or sources of the vast system of ideas he brought to the West and transmitted to others for almost 40 years.

    
Gurdjieff's Search for Esoteric Knowledge

  • Validating the Events of Gurdjieff's Life
  • Gurdjieff's Early Life
  • The Seekers of the Truth
  • The Sarmoung Brotherhood
  • Teaching Mission in the West

    
The Inner Circle of Humanity

  • Esoteric Knowledge and School
  • The Innner Circle of Humanity
  • The Fourth Way

    
Sources of Gurdjieff's Teachings

  • Christianity
  • Sufism
  • Buddhism and Hinduism
  • Western Occult Tradition
Controversy


Almost from the beginning of Gurdjieff's teaching mission in the West, he was surrounded by controversy, rumour and speculation.

Critics, outside observers and even some of his own students questioned his intentions, credentials as a spiritual teacher, methods, traditional attitudes and beliefs, use of alcohol, sexual behavior and validity of the ideas he presented.

Was he a genuine spiritual teacher or a charlatan, an ‘Emissary from Above’ or a ‘black magician’?

  
Authenticity as a Spiritual Teacher

  • Conflict with Traditional Religious Beliefs
  • Authority and Mandate to Teach


Controversial Reputation [PDF]

  • Criticism by Journalists and the French Metaphysical Community
  • Criticism by Pupils of Gurdjieff
  • Exaggerated Knowledge and Abilities
  • Gender Attitudes
  • Travelling Adventures

    
Drugs, Alcohol and Food

  • Gurdjieff's Knowledge and Use of Drugs and Alcohol
  • Use of Drugs and Alcohol with Pupils
  • Ritual Meals and Food as Sacraments

    
Sexual Beliefs and Practices

  • Gurdjieff's Beliefs About Sexuality
  • Gurdjieff's Sexual Behaviour

    
Gurdjieff's Psychological Ideas [PDF]

  • System is Fragmentary and Incomplete
  • Pessimistic View of Human Nature
  • Lack of Love
  • Control of Negative Emotions
  • Emphasis on Effort and Struggle
  • Substituting Belief Systems

    
Gurdjieff's Cosmological Ideas

  • Unbelieveable and Incoherent
  • Lack of Scientific Validity
  • Materiality vs. Spirituality
  • Influence of the Moon
  • Planetary Influences
  • The 'Organ Kundabuffer'
  • The Development of a Human Soul
Methods


That Gurdjieff was a powerful and charismatic teacher who employed unusual and challenging teaching methods is indisputable.

But doubts have been raised about the provenance of his provocative teaching style and use of role-playing and blameworthy behaviour.

Did Gurdjieff cross an ethical line in his dealings with some students by his confrontational behavior and excessive demands or was he always acting in the best interests of his pupils?

    
Powerful and Magnetic Personality [PDF]

  • Personal Power and Presence
  • Power of Attention and Awareness
  • Psychic and Hypnotic Powers
  • Personality Worship

    
Deception and Role-Playing [PDF]

  • Secrecy and Deception
  • Manipulating Atmosphere and Environment
  • Playing Roles
  • The 'Path of Blame'

    
Challenges and Difficulties for Students [PDF]

  • Experimentation with Students and Others
  • Physical and Emotional Demands
  • Financial Demands
  • Purpose of Testing Students


Negative Effects on Students [PDF]

  • Adverse Consequences of Gurdjieff's Methods
  • Questions and Doubts
  • Separation From Gurdjieff
  • Ouspensky's Break with Gurdjieff
Successors


During his lifetime, Gurdjieff projected his teaching with the assistance of his most gifted students, with decidedly mixed results.

Many of Gurdjieff’s principal pupils faithfully transmitted his fundamental ideas and practices, but others modified and distorted many facets of his comprehensive teaching.

The same pattern continued after his death as some faithfully preserved and shared the essence of his teaching, while others modified and diluted ‘the Work’ through their own subjective interpretations and ambitions.

Today the world is awash with Gurdjieff-inspired or officially sanctioned groups, countless websites, books, journals, music and films, enneagram workshops and multidisciplinary conferences, some of it authentic and valuable, much of it simplistic and often exploitive.

    
Dissemination of the Work During Gurdjieff's Lifetime [PDF]

  • P.D. Ouspensky in England and America
  • A.R. Orage in America
  • Jean Toomer in New York and Chicago
  • The Taliesin Fellowship of Wisconsin
  • John G. Bennett in England

    
Gurdjieff's Successors and Teaching Lines [PDF]

  • Jeanne de Salzmann and the Gurdjieff Foundation
  • The Work in England
  • The Work in America

    
Contemporary Status of the Work

  • Current Gurdjieff Groups and Organizations
  • The Enneagram Phenomenon
  • Challenges Facing the Work
Legacy


When Gurdjieff died in 1949, the direct spiritual impact of his presence and being also ended.

But he left an enduring legacy of priceless value to the contemporary world in the form of his music, movements and sacred dances, and written teachings.

These gifts, created through ‘conscious labours and intentional suffering,’ are food for human spiritual development of the highest order and a bequest for generations to come.

Writings

  • Writings of Gurdjieff
  • Books Written by Students of Gurdjieff
  • Secondary and Ancillary Literature
  • Biographies of Gurdjieff

    
The Music of Gurdjieff and de Hartmann [PDF]

  • Objective Art and Music
  • Source and Creation of Gurdjieff's Music
  • Classification and Description of the Music
  • Influences of the Music on the Listener

    
Gurdjieff's Movements and Sacred Dances [PDF]

  • Significance of Sacred Dance
  • Development and Presentation of the Movements
  • Nature of the Movements
  • Effects of the Movements
  • The Movements Today
Bibliography


A rich and multifaceted literature has been created over the years from the pens of Gurdjieff, his direct students (first generation), pupils of his students (second generation), scholars and researchers, journalists and critics, and biographers.

At best these writings (Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, In Search of the Miraculous) are works of ‘objective art’ which convey, on multiple levels, great spiritual truths and ideas with an undeniable impact on the reader.

At worst they are shallow, ill-informed and misleading, as they attempt to define Gurdjieff and his teachings through the lens of subjectivity, preconception and dogmatic bias.

Taken as a whole, the Gurdjieff literature forms a composite multidimensional mosaic or portrait of this exceptional teacher, his teachings and his students.

The Gurdjieff Literature: An Annotated Bibliography

  • Writings and Talks of Gurdjieff
  • Books Written by Students of Gurdjieff
  • Secondary and Ancillary Literature
  • Biographies of Gurdjieff
Music
The Music of Gurdjieff

The music that Gurdjieff composed with Thomas de Hartmann, along with his writings and the Movements, constitute a threefold legacy of enduring value to the contemporary world. Shortly after the classically trained composer de Hartmann became a student of Gurdjieff in 1916, they began a musical collaboration that lasted a decade. The early pieces were music to accompany the Movements and orchestral works for public performances of the Movements and sacred dances. In their most fertile period between 1924 and 1927, Gurdjieff and de Hartmann created almost 300 pieces of exemplary music drawn from Gurdjieff’s recollections of folk, ethnic, religious and sacred music that he heard during his extensive travels across three continents.

During Gurdjieff’s lifetime only his pupils and followers were exposed to his music, either as accompaniment to the Movements or in private or public performances. The first printed sheet music available to the public was published in Paris in 1950 by Janus. Although phonograph records of de Hartmann playing selections of the music were privately produced in 1951, the first set of albums recorded by de Hartmann for public distribution was not available until 1955 (also released by Janus). In the decades following, albums were released by a variety of pianists, including jazz artist Keith Jarrett, direct students of Gurdjieff such as Carol Robinson and Rosemary Nott, and second-generation students, including Alain Kreminski, Wim von Dullemen, Charles Ketcham, Laurence Rosenthal, and others. The most historically significant releases were The Music of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann in 1989, Harmonic Development (2004), a set of harmonium recordings of Gurdjieff made in 1948 and 1949 and Oriental Suite (2006), contemporary orchestral recordings of the 1923-24 public performances of the Movements and sacred dances in Paris and America.

The music itself has been described as a work of objective art, a "healing balm" whose vibrations have a definite organic and psychological effect on the listener. In the words of Gurdjieff’s pupil Solange Claustres: "Some parts resemble a call which comes from afar and which may resonate in us in a very subtle and profound way. This very special music carries not only a message but also a question and helps us to listen to a voice which speaks directly both to our being and heart and also to our body which registers its effect."

G.I. Gurdjieff Sacred Hymns


Keith Jarrett
ECM Records (1980)

Keith Jarrett is a renowned jazz pianist and composer who performs both jazz and classical music. He is also famous for his highly creative improvisations (notably The Köln Concert). In this homage to Gurdjieff’s music, he plays with great sensitivity and quiet authority, approaching the music with a variety of stylistic interpretations. Some of the pieces are solemn and contemplative (Hymn from a Great Temple), some are stark and dramatic with elements of dissonance (Prayer and Despair), while others are haunting and enigmatic (Holy Affirming-Holy Denying-Holy Reconciling). Reviewer Richard Ginell writes: "Jarrett assumes the proper devotional position, playing with a steady tread but always with attention to dynamic extremes, producing a gorgeously rich piano tone with plenty of bass. The whole record has a serene dignity, even at its loudest levels."

The Music of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann


Thomas de Hartmann
G-H Records (1989)

During the 1950s, informal recordings of Thomas de Hartmann playing the music that Gurdjieff and he composed were taped on amateur equipment at Madame Ouspensky’s farm in New Jersey by her grandson Lonia Savitsky. They were not originally intended for public release as they were for de Hartmann’s personal reference, and some were even taped without his knowledge. In the 1980s, the tapes were remastered and the sound quality improved by sophisticated technical methods. They were initially released publicly as a boxed set of four LP records and four audio cassettes. In 1989 the compilation was re-released as a set of three CDs. These definitive recordings showcase de Hartmann’s prowess as a pianist and composer and are an authentic rendition of the music, as they possess the authority of the composer’s interpretation of his own music. Laurence Rosenthal: "What we have is a clean, quiet recording of performances which, without a doubt, set the standard for the interpretation of these deceptively simple pieces. As a pianist, de Hartmann was not only a superb technician, but played with great depth of understanding and poetic sensibility; and then, of course, it was his own music. Unlike, therefore, any other recording of these works, this one gives the sense of the pianist-composer going to the very heart of each phrase. The music emerges in all its clarity and integrity; the pianist and his personality disappear entirely from the scene. One cannot ask more from any musical rendering." The music is varied, ranging from traditional folk music to deeply evocative hymns of a solemn or contemplative nature similar to Russian Orthodox liturgy. Solange Claustres, a student of Gurdjieff, captures the depth of the music performed by de Hartmann: "Each composition has its own inner rhythm, space and particular state which express together a situation set in a certain context and atmosphere. No two pieces are alike except for their style as a prayer, as music from the Dervishes, a song, a dance, a ceremony, a memory of some event or as a tale." Above all, the music has an enigmatic inner essence beyond the external forms and styles, characterized by a compelling force, ineffable mood and capacity to cast a spell on the listener.

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. I
Asian Songs and Rhythms


Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (1995)

The scores of these Gurdjieff/de Hartmann compositions were first published in the 1980s by Schott Musik International under the guidance of Jeanne de Salzmann and John Pentland. Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal, accomplished pianists familiar with the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann corpus of music, were chosen to perform the music which was then recorded in four volumes as Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano. The music in Volume I: Asian Songs and Rhythms reflects Gurdjieff’s early travels throughout the Near East and Central Asia and his familiarity with the musical folklore of the many ethnic groups in these regions. Although many of the titles cannot be taken literally, the music may be taken as an accurate recollection of certain regional melodies which capture the idiom of the locale. Within the folklore genre of the album there is a wide variety of styles suggesting both Eastern and Western influences, notably in the employment of poly-rhythms. "Nearly all the pieces in this album are short, sometimes lasting only a minute, often with only one theme, as if trying to illuminate a certain idea or to evoke a particular feeling. In certain instances the repetition of an entire piece is necessary for its essence to be fully conveyed. Each composition is, in a way, a moment musical, a kind of ‘travel sketch,’ but with an implication of deeper feeling beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered."

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. II
Music of the Sayyids and the Dervishes


Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (1997)

The Sayyids are direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed and are highly esteemed in the Islamic world. Dervishes are spiritual aspirants belonging to various Sufi orders. Although the Sayyids have left no music that can be specifically attributed to them, Gurdjieff has presumably evoked their name to suggest a quality of spiritual feeling drawn from the heart which is emotional yet devoid of sentimentality. The Dervish pieces are drawn from the different Sufi orders and brotherhoods that Gurdjieff contacted during his travels in Central Asia and the Near East. They are characterized by strong dance rhythms and by a spiritual ardour meant to provide a specific rhythmic support for certain breathing and concentration exercises designed to produce an inner awakening. "The intention of the compositions was clearly to evoke the spirit of the Sayyids and Dervishes, rather than to transcribe their music. As in all of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann works, one finds here their unique blend of Eastern and Western musical idioms. However, the exact sources of inspiration for this music, as so often in many aspects of Gurdjieff’s teaching, remain uncertain."

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. III
Hymns, Prayers and Rituals


Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (1998)

Volume III of the Music for the Piano series consists of hymns, prayers and rituals which evoke a sense of the sacred. The pieces are varied in form and style, but they all share the unmistakable mark of the depth of Gurdjieff’s inner feeling and sensitivity. Although some are given titles, others are identified only by number. The hymns are unlike conventional church choir hymns: "They might instead be viewed as expressions of inner states in which man confronts his inmost self – sometimes through a dramatic struggle – to become aware of the different forces which influence both his life and his inner being." Some of the pieces are evocative of the Russian Orthodox liturgy while others are similar to Dervish chants or are expressions of the great laws of cosmic processes (the laws of 3 and 7) on which Gurdjieff’s teaching is based.

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. IV
Hymns from a Great Temple and Other Selected Works


Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (2001)

Sacred hymns, with their unusual nature, comprise perhaps the most important part of the musical oeuvre of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann compositions. Ten of these are subsumed under the title Hymns from a Great Temple and express the heart of Orthodox Christianity with their quality of deep inner questioning and a yearning for spiritual Truth. "In certain of these ten hymns, the quality of the sacred may emerge only after repeated hearings, when the music has been allowed to penetrate beyond our usual associative patterns. And still they may appear cryptic and elusive. Their real meaning seems to remain hidden. And perhaps it is just those hymns that refuse to yield up their secret that finally leave the deepest and most enduring impression." Also included in the album are the enigmatic "The Great Prayer" and a number of pieces drawn from Gurdjieff’s ballet The Struggle of the Magicians, and four early pieces composed in 1924, characterized by a heartfelt and contemplative ambience.

The Story of the Resurrection of Christ


Alain Kreminski
Naïve (2001)

Alain Kreminski orchestrated the sacred dances and choral sections of Peter Brook’s film Meetings with Remarkable Men. His piano performance has a unique quality, notable for a "spiritual touch, vibrant and luminous," which is sensitive to the inner movement of energy of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann compositions. Kreminski eloquently describes this music: "It is lovely, limpid, of great inner simplicity, has some special, indefinable characteristic. With it we begin a journey through countries that are unknown and yet strangely familiar. A feeling of great purity emanates from this music … it gives expression to laws that touch and enlighten us: this music has the undeniable power of restoring us to ourselves." Most of the pieces are spiritual in nature, serene, simple and unadorned in harmony and melody. In its purity it is, in Kreminski’s words, "music of the soul."

Harmonic Development: The Complete Harmonium Recordings 1948-1949


G.I. Gurdjieff
Basta (2004)

In the final years of his life, Gurdjieff instructed his students to record him playing improvised melodies on his harmonium. Most of the pieces were recorded at his apartment in Paris, but some recordings were also made at the Wellington Hotel in New York City (which include several talks and stories told to his students). Gert-Jan Blom, a Dutch musical researcher and producer, was given access in 2000 by Gurdjieff’s family to 44 master tapes containing Gurdjieff’s recorded output. Over the next few years he catalogued, sequenced and used modern electronic technology to complete an audio restoration of the recordings. The resulting 136 pieces amounted to more than 19 hours of music which was formatted as a single MP3 disc. Although Gurdjieff was not a trained musician and his playing lacked technical expertise, the power and impact of his harmonium music is undeniable. His improvisations were usually in minor chords augmented by haunting single notes. The seemingly simple music had a quality unlike any other music his pupils had heard and touched the innermost being of the listener. In the words of Blom: "His style of playing never changed. The music was always described as slow, sad and in a minor key. Technical virtuosity on the instrument was never a big concern for Gurdjieff. His technique consisted of the intensity with which he played. Gurdjieff was a physician of music, a virtuoso of vibrations who changed people’s lives with his music." Pupils concurred. Solange Claustres described "strange, haunting melodies that spoke in an unknown tongue to something buried deep within." And Kathryn Hulme remarked: "This was the music of prayer – haunting, disturbing, indescribably beautiful, a music calculated to arouse the deepest longings hidden in the human heart." The receptivity and consciousness of the listener also plays an integral part in how his harmonium music is received, processed and integrated. Gurdjieff once remarked: "Ears are no good for this music, the whole presence must be open to it." Some have sensed that Gurdjieff acted almost as a channel or conduit to higher spiritual energies when he played. Pupil Georgette LeBlanc: "One can see the music pass through him. He plays it, but is not the player." Gurdjieff himself said that he "put the whole of himself" into the improvised music, so much so that he was often exhausted after playing.

Gurdjieff’s Oriental Suite


Metropole Orchestra and The Little Orchestra
Basta Audio Visuals (2006)

Gurdjieff presented a number of public demonstrations of Sacred Gymnastics and Movements from December 13 to 25, 1923 at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris. Accompanying the performances was music composed by Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann specifically for these events. The music was scored by de Hartmann for an orchestra of 35 members. Later, in January 1924 Gurdjieff gave a series of public demonstrations in New York, Boston and Chicago in which de Hartmann adapted the full orchestral scores for a smaller ensemble of musicians. Under the direction of Gert-Jan Blom (who compiled the Harmonic Development: The Complete Harmonium Recordings 1948-1949) both the Paris and American orchestral and ensemble versions of the music were recorded for the first time by the Metropole Orchestra and The Little Orchestra. The result is a 4-CD recording which is faithful to the original music presented in 1923-1924.

Gurdjieff - de Hartmann


Laurence Rosenthal
Windemere Music (2006)

Laurence Rosenthal arranged and orchestrated selections of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann piano music for inclusion in the musical score of Peter Brook’s film Meetings with Remarkable Men. The current CD contains 21 pieces of piano music, ranging in length from 51 seconds to almost 11 minutes. The 21 selections vary greatly in intent and atmosphere, with titles that allude to Greek, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian, Caucasian and Dervish influences. Rosenthal: "The music ranges from the arcane mystery of some of his sacred hymns, through pieces of subjective and personal expression or grave, ceremonial dancing, all the way to light-hearted evocations of folk songs and dances of the people among whom he lived and travelled."

Gurdjieff - de Hartmann Volume 2


Laurence Rosenthal
Windemere Music (2007)

The 25 selections of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann piano music include a spectrum of influences ranging from traditional Eastern folk songs and dances, Western secular music, Christian liturgy, Sufi chants, as well as prayers and sacred hymns from unknown sources. "The range of feeling stretches from the most light-hearted through varying modes of subjectivity and finally to pieces which are completely impersonal, yet of profound inwardness and mystery. These last, as in all music of deep interiority, require from the listener a state of inner silence and immobility in order for the music to be truly received."

Music of the Prieuré


Rosemary Nott
Dolmen Meadow Editions (2011)

Rosemary Nott became a pupil of Gurdjieff in the 1920s at the Prieuré in France where she was introduced to the collaborative musical compositions of Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann. She studied piano with de Hartmann during the 1920s and 1930s and taught the Movements to groups in England directed by P.D. Ouspensky. She also provided musical accompaniments to the Movements on piano. In the last years of her life in 1974 and 1975, she made a number of recordings of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music informally at her London home, which form the content of the current CD. The 20 selections represent a range of music, including hymns, prayers, music for the Movements, and works reminiscent of the Middle East. Her simple and direct playing reflects her connection to the music’s very source.

Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff


The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble
ECM Records (2011)

During Gurdjieff’s travels he heard a wide variety of Eastern music performed on traditional folk instruments, many of which he collected and later displayed at the Château du Prieuré. Most of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music has been played on the piano. What is intriguing about this album is the range of instruments chosen to reflect the regions and cultures that Gurdjieff visited. "Eastern musical traditions are strongly characterized by unique instruments and instrumental combinations, and the character and the ‘soul’ of this music is intrinsically connected to the lands of its birth and the instruments which gave it expression. These indigenous Eastern instruments are capable of producing microtonal intervals, rhythms and other nuances that are essential parts of Eastern music." Musical arranger Levon Eskenian has assembled a 14-member ensemble drawn from Armenia’s leading folk instrumentalists playing a variety of traditional Eastern folk instruments, such as the duduk, aud, santur, tombak, dhal, saz and tar.

Films
Films about Gurdjieff

There have been surprisingly few feature films or documentaries directly devoted to Gurdjieff’s life and teachings. The only feature-length film, released in 1979, is Meetings with Remarkable Men directed by Peter Brook, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeanne de Salzmann. The single exploration of Gurdjieff’s life and essential ideas is William Patterson’s documentary trilogy The Life and Significance of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. Although many popular movies and underground classics have been influenced by Gurdjieff’s teachings (Groundhog Day, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain), his imprint on these films is rarely suspected by most viewers.

Meetings with Remarkable Men


Enterprise Pictures, United Kingdom (1979)

This feature-length film was an ambitious attempt to bring to the screen Gurdjieff’s second volume of All and Everything, his semi-autobiographical Meetings with Remarkable Men. Directed by acclaimed stage and film director Peter Brook and based on a screenplay by Brook and Jeanne de Salzmann, the film was largely shot on location in Afghanistan.The production of the film was beset with many challenges. Writer and student of Gurdjieff, Kathryn Hulme, wrote the original screenplay, but withdrew from active participation in the early stages of the film and distanced herself from the production. The conditions in Afghanistan during filming in the late 1970s, shortly before the Soviet invasion, were dangerous and unpredictable, contributing a tense urgency to the filming. And, as the film neared completion there were numerous changes in the script and editing process. When the movie was released it received a mixed reception from film critics, the general public and followers of Gurdjieff. The general sense was that the cinematic result was uneven, poorly edited and failed to capture the “remarkable” nature of Gurdjieff’s search for esoteric knowledge. Nevertheless, the film has many strengths including an excellent music score by Laurence Rosenthal, the magnificent Afghanistan landscape and ambience, the scene of a traditional musical and singing contest, a young Gurdjieff and his father silently gazing at the night stars, and the memorable depiction at the climax of the film of the initiation ceremony and sacred dances at the mysterious Sarmoung monastery. The latter constitute the most enduring value of the film as they are the only public record of the authentic Gurdjieff Movements.

In Search of the Miraculous


Fairway Films, Australia (1998)

This short (42 minutes) black and white film is based on P.D. Ouspensky’s book of the same name. It combines archival historical footage of the period (1914-1924) with re-enactments of crucial events in Ouspensky’s search for objective knowledge under the guidance of Gurdjieff. Most of the dialogue and commentary are taken directly from Ouspensky’s book. This modest film is surprisingly effective in capturing the ambience of the period and the compelling nature of Ouspensky’s life-changing encounter with Gurdjieff and his powerful ideas.

The Life and Significance of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff


Arete Communications, United States (2003)

This documentary film trilogy was a seven year Work project led by William Patterson who wrote, directed and narrated the three films. Each won an award at the WorldFest International Film Festival. They were filmed on location in Egypt, Russia, France, England and the United States and combine archival footage redolent of the times, contemporary scenes of significant places connected with Gurdjieff’s life and expositions of Gurdjieff’s core teachings and ideas. Overall the trilogy is informative, intelligent and well produced, and constitutes a major contribution to documenting Gurdjieff’s life, ideas and importance to contemporary and future generations. A few minor criticisms are warranted: the technical quality of the films (sound recording, editing) are sometimes amateurish, the script is coloured by Patterson’s strong opinions of some of Gurdjieff’s principal students, and there is a little too much of Patterson himself – who seems to constantly dominate the screen.

Gurdjieff in Egypt: The Origin of Esoteric Knowledge

Part I of the trilogy is both a visual tour of Egypt and an exploration of the origins of Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way teachings. It examines the work of scholars of ancient Egyptian history such as Issa Schwaller de Lubicz, John Anthony West and Robert Schoch, explores the myth of Atlantis and presents the theory that an ancient form of esoteric Christianity originating in "pre-sand Egypt" was the wellspring of Gurdjieff’s teachings.

Gurdjieff’s Mission: Introducing the Teaching to the West

The second part covers the period from 1912 to 1924 when Gurdjieff first introduced his Fourth Way teachings to the Western world. We are introduced to major students such as P.D. Ouspensky, A.R. Orage and John Bennett, and gain insights into how Gurdjieff challenged his pupils to develop their highest spiritual potential. The scenes shot in Moscow, Constantinople, London, Paris and New York provide an overlay that gives a sense of Gurdjieff’s intensive struggle to establish his teachings in the Western world.

Gurdjieff’s Legacy: Establishing the Teaching in the West

The final part of the trilogy begins with his serious automobile accident in 1924, an incident that completely changed the direction and arc of his work in the West. It details his decision to transmit his teachings in written form as a ‘legominism’ – Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson – and his intensive group work with students in Paris and America during the 1930s and 1940s. The last few years of his life show Gurdjieff teaching his pupils through the ordinary activities of daily life and preparing his senior students to carry on his legacy following his death.

Gurdjieff 1949 “Home Movie”

This may not be the video referenced
as Gurdjieff 1949 “Home Movie”


Available in MP3 format in G. J. Bloom’s Gurdjieff: Harmonic Development
Basta Audio Visuals, Netherlands, 2004
[Also available on YouTube]

In the summer of 1949, shortly before Gurdjieff’s death, student Evelyn Sutta recorded various motor trips throughout the French countryside with her camera. The short silent colour film is accompanied by a soundtrack of Gurdjieff’s harmonium music and is decidedly amateurish, with shaky camera work and abrupt changes of scene. We see images of Notre Dame cathedral, the French Alps, picnics by the roadside and Gurdjieff and his entourage leaving on their trips. The film is one of the few publicly available visual records of Gurdjieff during his lifetime and for that reason has historical archival significance, but little value beyond that.

Introduction to Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way:
From Selves to Individual Self to the Self


Arete Communications, United States, 2011

At a three-day seminar at the St. Francis Retreat Center, San Juan Bautista, California, William Patterson presented an introduction to the Fourth Way teaching of Gurdjieff. The theme was explored through guided meditation, Conscious Body-Breath Impressions, dialogues and private interviews. The video opens with an Introduction followed by three seminar dialogues: ‘Images of God and Machines,’ ‘Science of Being’ and ‘Faith of Consciousness.’ Completing the video is a short vignette, ‘Mr. Gurdjieff’s Celebratory Dinner,’ showing the preparation and execution of a formal meal celebrating Gurdjieff’s birthday on January 13.

Introduction to Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way Vol. 2:
The Movement from Sex to Love


Arete Communications, United States, 2016

The second volume of Introduction to Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way documents three days of “probes and dialogues” at a California retreat led by William Patterson exploring a wide range of topics related to the Fourth Way. Patterson clearly articulates key psychological ideas including the human being as a bio-plasmic machine, self-observation and self-listening, embodiment exercises, the challenge of living in the present, conscience and ‘being-Partkdolg-duty,’ unconscious and conscious love, sexuality, and gender identity. Also addressed are important cosmological concepts such as ‘reciprocal maintenance’ and exchange of energies, the origin of the universe, and the relationship between cosmic harmony and disharmony. Patterson serves up a menu of stimulating Fourth Way ideas that both challenge and illuminate the viewer.

Spiritual Pilgrimage: Mr. Gurdjieff’s Father’s Grave


Arete Communications, United States, 2016

The film, written, produced and narrated by William Patterson, was awarded the Gold Medal in the Religion-Ethics-Spirituality category at the 2016 WorldFest International Film Festival. In Meetings with Remarkable Men, Gurdjieff devotes a chapter to his father, an amateur poet and bard, who had a deep spiritual impact on his son. At the end of the chapter, Gurdjieff admonishes “any of my sons, whether by blood or in spirit” to seek out and visit his father’s grave. These words inspired Patterson to initiate a 21-day pilgrimage to Gurdjieff’s father’s final resting place in Gyumri, Armenia. Starting with a visit to the Prieuré and Gurdjieff’s own grave in Avon, France, Patterson travels backward in time to Turkey where Gurdjieff and his students lived, and where he often visited P.D. Ouspensky. From there Patterson travels to Tiflis, Georgia where Gurdjieff first opened his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Returning to Turkey, he visits Kars where Gurdjieff lived in the medieval quarter and Kars Military Cathedral where he studied as a youth. After a visit to Ani, Turkey, the ancient city where Gurdjieff discovered the Sarmoung manuscript, Patterson arrives in Armenia. There he seeks out Gurdjieff’s birthplace in Gyumri before finally paying homage to Gurdjieff’s father at his grave in Gyumri’s Old Cemetery. The film has high production qualities and is expertly narrated by Patterson. Many of the visual backdrops are stunning and capture the colour and atmosphere of the Near and Middle East.

Further Explorations


Gurdjieff brought a vast system of psychological and cosmological ideas to the West specifically suited for the spiritual needs and possibilities of the contemporary world. The psychological ideas in particular were expressed in a very exact language which resonates with the reality of everyday life and can be verified by personal experience. These powerful teachings on human transformation are congruent with the wisdom embodied in the esoteric heart of many spiritual traditions such as Taoism, Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta and Sufism.

Further Explorations is intended to illuminate many of Gurdjieff's essential teachings by enlarging the perspective to include the voices of other authentic spiritual teachers and teachings.

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Critical Appraisal

Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography A rich and multifaceted literature has been created over the years from the pens of Gurdjieff, his direct students (first generation), pupils of his students (second generation), scholars and researchers, journalists and critics, and biographers. At best these writings (Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, In Search of the Miraculous) are... Read more

Contemporary status of the…

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Evolution: A Critical Appr…

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Authenticity as a Spiritua…

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Gurdjieff's Search for Eso…

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Sources of Gurdjieff's Tea…

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Gurdjieff's Cosmological I…

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The Inner Circle of Humani…

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Gurdjieff – Drugs, Alcohol…

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Gurdjieff – Sexual Beliefs…

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Gurdjieff and the Fourth W…

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