Ian Phillips Lawrence, UK
technologist and educator, Ian Phillips Lawrence was 28 when he formed his first
school, of salesmanship, in 1962. Working with the systems of the contemporary
experts, his methods reflected Carnegie, Mason and Heinz Goldman. His second
school, of management training, brought together the psychological insights of
Maltz and Jung with the strategic goal planning of Grossman. Concentrating from
1973, in total company management and top executive training, he found all
current systems inadequate and undertook a series of experiments to learn the
fundamentals and limits of human learning. The most remarkable experiment was
the creation of an ideal Renaissance goldsmiths workshop which led to his third
school, an Academy of Art and finally, as all his activities came under the
influence of Gurdjieff's ideas, The Institute of Universal
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This interview is about his current concentration on re-establishing The Diploma Course in Gurdjieff Studies which his Institute has been running for twenty years.
GIG: Please tell me about your actions that eventually lead to establishing the Institute.
Ian: Our goldsmithing business in London had run its course by 1980 so I decided to liquidate all assets and start again, as Lawrian Academy, in my family home town of Carlisle, on the English/Scottish border. By this time I was deeply committed to the ideas of Gurdjieff and it was suggested to me by my London Group elders that the time had come ' to do my own thing'. The substantial building I acquired in the centre of Carlisle gave excellent facilities for group work so I advertised widely and reformed the entire apprentice training in the Academy on the basis of Gurdjieff's ideas and under the umbrella name of The Institute of Universal Energies. The publicity to establish the Carlisle Group had the unexpected result of reaching many geographically isolated people who could not attend. I felt an obligation to these people - because they seemed to be of the best type and because the Academy had the answer to the problem - we were already running a correspondence course for the jewellery evening class students we unfortunately we had to abandon in London!
GIG: Did the correspondence course succeed?
Ian: I have to say yes and no. As the numbers grew I found there was an early limit to the number of people who I could personally tutor. The course called for the writing of a 2500 word essay of degree standard and the colouring of a meditative picture for each study and - as the twenty one studies proceeded much interaction between myself and each student. However the results were very encouraging. From time to time UK students would visit the Carlisle Group for a three day intensive programme. By the mid 1980's the Academy was well established with all the students coming from Scotland. But in 1986 the blow fell - typical of the demiurgic resistance I was to encounter in the next fifteen years. A political action, against the Westminster government by Scottish local authorities, ended all discretionary grants to England. I lost all my students.
GIG: Did your business survive?
Ian: No - everything was based on that income. We closed up and found an idyllic arrangement at Corby Castle - which is one of the most sensational beauty spots in England. The Carlisle Group went into a very creative phase and for the first time we seriously addressed our problem of not having more than an occasional visiting movements teacher. First we decided to adopt T'ai Chi as a moving meditation and sent members to The International Taoist Society centred in Leeds. They teach the Lee method -- which is the most popular in the world and there are illustrated books and video's.
GIG: It is interesting that you promoted T'ai Chi for your students. There are now and have been earlier people in the Work, who have been studying and teaching T'ai Chi, notably Lizelle Raymond and Paul Crompton (publisher of Madame Lannes' recent book). Have you thought of trying to use the new CD-rom by Wim van Dullemen?
Ian: I am a great admirer of everything created by Wim but we have not yet got to grips with the movements on video. There is no substitute for the 'Gurdjieff Movements' - they fulfil a different and much more dynamic function - but in the absence of quality teaching we at least use a high value moving meditation - and we now include T'ai Chi as part of the Diploma Course programme. It even improves the interaction between these isolated people and the other International Group members.
GIG: I have read both your books. The impression they make is that of a practical approach to the teaching. You also start at a level that is accessible to all. What are the aims and where does the Diploma Course take the students?
Ian: We have to be brutal in the assessment of our talents. There are parts of the Work which I find very difficult. But I inherited and developed a high level of empathy and the ability to give people hope and enthusiasm (knowledge on fire!). The Protestant Free Church was my 'family business' - with its freethinking and great opportunities for socialising and living a rounded life. Since my late twenties I have been 'company-doctor' to over a hundred corporations and have had the privilege to make some good work in precious metals. All this leads to my 'speciality' of being practical - and taking new ideas from the beginning. To me Gurdjieff's ideas are the strongest and surest way to increase personal powers - in the sense of higher vision and powerful realisation. Those of us who give back to the work as teachers or leaders are 'specialists' - that category of people in the esoteric ladder who are visible and as another characteristic have their own agenda.
GIG: From a very early age my parents told me I had insisted that I will become a priest. This never materialized as it always looked to me that I could not believe in the God I met in connection with the studies to become a priest. Did you encounter similar questions?
Ian: Not similar questions. It is clear to me that there is a 'gift for religion' - a sense that some people have and others do not. I have never had any doubts about the spiritual things I saw before me every minute of the day! However I have had an awful rough ride in respect of the 'Church'. It took me years and years to become dissatisfied with worship that concentrated only on 'the word'. Then I moved to that part of the Church that concentrates on the mystery of the Eucharist to the detriment of freethinking. I even trained for the priesthood in the Anglican Church - an excellent, though very limited and earthbound programme. It was meeting with the ideas of Gurdjieff that put me on the right track. My apprehension of religion was esoteric. Only the inner form meant anything to me. By equally good fortune one of my Work friends was a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church - which is dedicated to the esoteric and having no 'dogma' can concentrate on the Sacraments in a pure uncluttered way.
GIG: Did you become a priest?
Ian: After seven arduous years of training - yes. I was ordained in 1990 and have been given to opportunity to speak widely on Gurdjieff's ideas as part of the churches exploration of the esoteric Christian inheritance.
GIG: You live now in Liverpool?
Ian: Yes - it is the very positive result of the most severe demiurgic negative action I have experienced so far in my life. I was forced to liquidate all my assets in Carlisle but now have the advantages of managing the Liberal Catholic Centre in Liverpool - where I have had a group since 1988. In the past year The Institute of Universal Energies has been very creative - not least the re-establishment of the Diploma Course in Gurdjieff Studies in an email version!
GIG: Do you meet the students before you start or is the contact entirely through e-mail?
Ian: Before we accept a student on the Diploma Course they are asked to complete a special 'assessment' - which allows me to see if I think they will respond to the training and stay the course. No fees are paid at that stage and there is little point in meeting. As a second stage the students then have to take our Whole Person Profile which gives me valuable insight into their personality type and the clue to there natural direction of growth. I have had several Indian students who I have never met - but they always seem to think I would like a photograph of them - and their families!
GIG: Are the students in contact with each other and do they see each others work?
Ian: A very interesting question - in some cases I suggest a contact between two students and some times they ask to be put in touch with others. Also I send out 'Newsletters' and give news on various students in the International Group - if they give me permission!
GIG: Are you doing or planning of doing a continuation course for those who have completed the Diploma Course?
Ian: No it is not sensible. If I find that a particular student has the desire and performance to continue beyond the twenty one Studies of the Diploma Course I give them extra tasks. Beyond the Diploma Course students have to reach the level of 'objectivity' - and that means that further help has to be in person within an 'enclosed group'.
GIG: In this sense the Diploma Course seems to be a preparation for further studies in an established group. Are you also taking these groups yourself?
Ian: We have the problem that the Diploma Course is generally taken by isolated students. At the moment unless they can get to Liverpool I cannot be in personal contact. Looking back students always seem to go through a time of rapid change, when they take the course, and this often results in their moving to a place where a group meets. It seems to me that once a certain amount of effort has been put into the Work opportunities arise - sometimes you have to be a bit patient - sometimes open your mind to uncomfortable changes. Conscious labour and intentional suffering - brings the opportunities to grow.