Gurdjieff Internet Guide Newsletter © Copyright 2003
We are celebrating our one year birthday!
I want to say that I am amazed and very pleased at the support from our visitors and the people who have contributed to the site during this hectic year with so many things happening.
In July there have been visitors from 82 countries with 12500 visits.
The aim of GIG is to put Gurdjieff properly on the internet. This is a task that is not easy and never complete.
Many people have written to me and said that if Gurdjieff lived in our time he would use the internet.
When Ouspensky said that people are turning into machines, but if they tried to think they could not have been such fine machines. Gurdjieff answered: "Yes, that is true, but only partly true. It depends first of all on the question which mind they use for their work. If they use the proper mind they will be able to think even better in the midst of all their work with machines." Fragments, p. 18.
It is a constant challenge!
The Russian Connection
Recently I received an e-mail from Andrei Stepanov in Russia.
An interview is under work with related articles, translations and information also from other people following Gurdjieff's ideas in Russia.
Andrei has told that the Russian School, called 'Academy of Harmonious
Development of Antropos', also known as 'Ship of Fools', can claim to have a direct line of transmission from the early times, before the 1917 revolution. This work continued all through the Soviet times, but had to go underground. With the new political developments in Russia the situation is rapidly changing.
The School has not only branches in different parts of Russia, but also in Europe.
Oxana from St. Petersburg wrote: "In this respect Russia is intuitive and mystical and it needs intellect and logic of Western Europe. And their union can only be accomplished through people. The idea is simple - Russians and West Europeans should meet, communicate and go through different experiences - internal and external - together. Only through such practical contact there can be born unified understanding and even common being. And this is what our school is trying to do".
I will post this interview in the course of August.
Interview with Jim Belleau by Guy Hoffman
Jim Belleau runs a picture framing business in Oneonta, New
Belleau returned to creative filmmaking in 1994 and has produced a
series of documentaries that address the issues of meaning and purpose
combined with images of beauty. Experiences With The Sacred Movements
is the latest documentary released under the name of his video
business, Acorn Productions.
It is made in co-operation with the Movements Foundation in Holland. In this video nine people talk about their experiences with the Gurdjieff Movements. Jim is interviewed in New York by Guy Hoffman, who with his zen-like laughing makes these interviews alive.
Guy: I’m very happy, Jim, to be here with you. I first heard about you from David Kherdian and I sent away for the video you did on him called, The Dividing River The Meeting Shore: The Poetry of David Kherdian. I have since seen your video, Hills’ Gold, a documentary about Oneonta, the town where you live in upstate New York, the CD-Rom, The Art Of The Sacred Movements, and your latest film, Experiences With The Sacred Movements. Just yesterday, I looked again at The Dividing River The Meeting Shore, and I was aware how the poetry of your filming had such a beautiful blend with the poetry of David. So, my first question is how did you meet David Kherdian?
Jim: The way I met David was very interesting. I found a copy of Beelzebub when I was twenty-five or twenty-six. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I could see that there was something there. As I began to explore Gurdjieff a little more, I found In Search of the Miraculous. I couldn’t believe what was between those covers. It absolutely floored me. That was really the turning point in my life. And so, I had these very powerful ideas floating around in my head for a couple of years, and I was trying to work on myself. And I was beginning to feel my own helplessness. I could see more and more that I couldn’t do the Work. I was getting like kind of desperate. So, I’m also the type to want to lead, astrologically I am a Leo, and I am kind of a know-it-all, and so I have to admit the embarrassing fact that I decided to start and lead a group.
Guy and Jim: (laughing)
Jim: As for the Gurdjieff work, I live in an isolated community and there was no one else around and I just decided to have a group because I was reading Ouspensky and I thought I could answer questions as well as he could. It was so ridiculous, it is amusing now, but there was a design involved. So I plastered Oneonta with flyers announcing that a Gurdjieff group was now forming. Just at that moment, before I received any calls or inquiries, David Kherdian walked into my picture framing shop and said, are you the one putting up the flyers?
Jim: I said yes. He told me the bookstore owner directed him to me. And then he asked me a few questions about my authority to start a group. He was very kind, he didn’t laugh out loud or faint. He had just spent nine years living full-time in a Gurdjieff work community in Oregon and had just moved to the area and he said, maybe he should lead the group. I said that’s fine with me.
Guy and Jim: (laughing)
Guy and Jim: (continue laughing)
Jim: Do you know what I realized later? And this is interesting. And I think this is what the work is all about—what was happening in those two years, and in my efforts to start a group, I was preparing a space for something to enter. And I think that’s really the central part of the Work, especially in the beginning. You work to prepare a space so that something can come in. If you have any experience in the Work you know that on the surface what I was doing was ridiculous, but look at the results. I met a teacher who for the next three years allowed me to get a good foothold in the Work and if I hadn’t made my apparently ridiculous efforts I may not have met him.
Jim: So that’s how I met David. That’s how it all began. You mentioned the tape I made of his poetry. I made that tape seven years later to thank him for what he had given me.
Guy: Oh, I see.
Jim: It was in gratitude.
Guy: It’s a beautiful, beautiful video.
Jim: For those who haven’t seen the video, which is just about everyone,
Jim: I mixed images of nature with the poetry.
Guy: How did you get started in doing films?
Jim: Filmmaking is really my calling. That’s what I majored in in college. I got a degree in l979 in cinematography from Emerson College in Boston. I worked for three years as a free-lance lighting technician and then walked away from the whole thing. It’s an absurd business. There’s a lack of meaning on a cosmic scale (laughs). So I just walked away from it for about ten or twelve years. I moved away from Boston to Oneonta and bought a picture framing business.
Guy: How did the Work influence or change your way of filming?
Jim: One of the reasons I didn’t want to make films in the early days was because I didn’t have the money, but also because I knew better than to embarrass myself. I wanted to tackle serious dramatic subjects related to the emotional well being of adults. And I wasn’t ready for it.
Guy: Excuse me. Could you please repeat that line about film for …
Jim: I wanted to make serious dramatic films concerning the emotional well being of adults.
Guy: Okay. Good.
Jim: I felt that was an area that was really neglected. So I think the incubation period when I walked away from the industry was good because I needed to mature. Filmmaking is not my job, it has felt like a calling. So when I met David and got into the Work and started trying to work on myself, I began to penetrate the false parts of myself. I felt ready to begin to make films that I thought would be useful in terms of the exploration of the ordinary. You know films are always about extreme things: someone with an addiction, or murder, or violence, or Aids, or whatever. There’s not much about the ordinary, existential, quiet desperation that most people come to at some point in their life.
Guy: I think that’s why I like your films so much. Even when you film just a little brook, or a branch, or a leaf there’s something there.
Jim: In film you can add sound, you can add music, you can add natural sound effects, and someone speaking about something substantially; and so you have all these layers combined with that picture of the brook. So it’s not just like a still photograph that is nicely done or a travelogue film that is nicely done. In film you can combine real substance with real visual beauty. If you look at all the films I have made you will see a pattern there of using an image in its natural beauty. I like to shoot things unaltered, things that I find though it may be a piece of weathered wood or a derelict barn or something.
Guy: So you went over to Holland to do a film.
Jim: I went over to Holland to help Wim van Dullemen to film a Movements demonstration he was giving there. It was one of the few public demonstrations ever done of the Movements—free, and open to the public. I met him through David Kherdian. And he asked me to help him record it. [.... material deleted to respect confidentiality - January 2008] who is a multimedia producer, and also one of Wim’s students, was also there and he brought four cameras with him and I brought two. The demonstrations went well and we realized we had a lot of good material. It developed into the CD-Rom, The Art Of The Sacred Movements.
Guy: What did you learn about the Work there?
Jim: Well … that’s when everything started to accelerate for me. Once I started getting mixed up with the Movements, my progress of coming to myself really began to accelerate. It was remarkable. When David moved to California, I was again isolated after three years of working with him. So when I got to Holland in May of 2002, I started meeting live human beings again who were working hard on themselves. The atmosphere, -- it was like osmosis, it was unbelievable, by just being with the people and by the discussions and the good feelings that are always there I was absorbing many things.
Guy: So what did you learn about yourself?
Jim: (sighing – long pause) Boy. I don’t think I learned a lot specifically except that I wanted to be with these people. When I really began to learn was when I went back again and took a two-day seminar with Wim and I actually started to do the Movements. A war broke out inside me (laughs), and it was like … an incredible struggle, yet at the same time there was no place else on the planet that I would rather be.
Jim: There’s an aspect of the Movements that isn’t spoken about much. When you first learn a movement, you begin with a foot pattern or whatever. Each time that you try it there’s an interval when you make an effort and you stop, and that’s when you can see into yourself because it causes such a disturbance inside. You become very plainly visible to yourself. A good Movements teacher will always respect that interval. I started to benefit from that little interval, no matter how well or badly I did the movements, and badly is the winner there.
Jim: I valued the struggle, I could see right away the value in the disturbance and the struggle, so I continued to work at it. I went to a ten-day seminar in January on the Movements and a seven-day seminar in April. I worked hard and I have not ever fully joined with a Movement. However, the value I have received for my Being is really beyond description.
Guy: How have you related that experience into your life?
Jim:Jim: Oh (sighing). That’s like saying how does sunlight relate to your day. I mean it pervades everything. I feel like I have the tiger by the tail now. I remember every hour—ego, to watch out for it. I remember every hour—my breath. I’m not successful with that every hour, but I remember every day at some point. I remember every time I am disturbed or upset or knocked off balance that this is an opportunity to Work. I wake up remembering it, and I go to sleep remembering it. There’s a profit in everything that happens in every hour of the day now. Also, I don’t have this negativity I used to have. I used to worry so heavily about the world, about Iraq, about George Bush …
Jim: Pushing us all off the edge of the cliff.
Jim: I mean, I don’t have this anxiety anymore about the state of the World, I only worry about the world I can affect. It’s a process of remembrance, and opportunity—no matter what happens in the day.
Guy: Right. That’s very, very good.
Jim: Yes, I feel very lucky.
Guy: Was there anything in your childhood, any experience or any moment, that you feel set you off on your search for …?
Jim: Yes, there was one very serious, miraculous experience when I was young, ten or eleven years old, although I forgot about it for the longest time. I think the real answer to your question was that I was loved, that my parents loved me. That, I think, is a huge key to my ability to work with my emotional center the right way as an adult. But there was one experience: I was raised in a Catholic school. Nine years I was in this cinder block building. It was a typical “how can I survive a religious upbringing” situation. So I sort of went underground and hid through invisibility most of those years. We used to go to Mass every first Friday. This one time I was sitting in the front row in the Church. It came to the reading of the Gospel and something cracked open inside me and I deeply understood every word that the Priest was saying. I knew I was understanding it a thousand times more deeply than he was. And it was incredible. I guess it was an ecstatic experience. I felt the truth and weight on a huge scale of every word he was speaking. And this door opened for a few minutes and I was there in a place of strength and beauty and deep understanding. The Priest noticed it actually; I saw him looking up over his glasses. He noticed something was going on but he never spoke to me about it.
Guy: So that was your first experience of something mystical and unusual?
Jim: Yes. You used the word mystical.
(Fire siren – long pause. This interview in taking place in Jim’s van at Cairo, NY, in a parking lot.)
Jim: The one thing I realized this year is that the term mystical has become its own opposite. We tend to think of mystics as people who are removed from reality, our ordinary view of reality, that they are out there on a spiritual plane, not bothered by all the worldly things. A true mystic is someone who is approaching reality, who is living closer to Objective Reality than we are in our ordinary view of reality.
Guy: Where do you see yourself going in the future in the Work?
Jim: I don’t worry about the future. I only worry about what I’m going to do next. The future doesn’t exist in any way that concerns me. For instance I have no creative film on the docket at the moment, but I know it will appear. It will simply just appear. At the moment I’m working on getting Experiences With The Sacred Movements out into the world. Also, my work on myself seems to have uncovered some other abilities that can be applied to people who are open to it, who may need it. And so, there’s a lot going on at the moment. The next couple of months are filled with activities that further the common good that are related to the Work. If you are in the present, if you are in the present day remembering and watching and living your life—I don’t mean to make it sound too unbalanced back in the direction of spirituality. I live a nice, robust balanced life. So I don’t worry about the future. In my morning sitting, I just ask for guidance and help and strength and clarity for today.
Jim: So I’m working day by day and it’s nice, there’s a freedom there. I feel this incredible freedom from not waiting for my life to begin, not waiting for success to come to me. I’m not reliant anymore on outside forces to confirm my identity or add to my reason for being. And Gurdjieff mentions this a lot in Beelzebub’s Tales. I would like to say something about Beelzebub’s Tales. I met some holy men this year. I met a couple of Sheiks in the Sufi tradition and they study the Koran; Priests study the Bible; Jews study the Torah; we should be studying Beelzebub’s Tales in the same way. This book is just as thick,
Jim: And as weighty at the Bible,
Jim: And I think that was very intentional. I get up in the morning and I read Beelzebub’s Tales; I study it every day, the same way that these other people study their books. I think that we in the Work really need to look at Beelzebub’s Tales as a truly sacred and holy book. And when I read it, it’s like stepping into a garden. As if I had a sacred space in my backyard with some kind of an amazing garden, and it had a particular scent or atmosphere and I stepped out into it every morning—that’s the same way that Beelzebub’s Tales works for me now. I feel as if Mr. Gurdjieff is putting his arm around me and he’s transmitting that compassion that he was so well known for when he was not being harsh. I can understand now why he would be both kind and harsh. Beelzebub’s Tales is the most important book for western society that will come down the pike for decades and decades. This book is a truly sacred and miraculous piece of work. It plainly demonstrates the existence of higher centers.
Guy: What is it that you would like people to get from Experiences With The Sacred Movements?
Jim: If nothing else, I hope it will help people feel less alone in their inner thoughts and feelings. This is what all of my video work has been about. We always feel so terribly alone and I would like to try and fight that in a kind of unspoken way.
Ikast, Denmark 1st August 2003 Reijo Elsner