Chapter 6 - Gurdjieff in France & U.S.A. 1934-1949
Copyright © Reijo Elsner
Gurdjieff sailed to America at the end of 1933. This time he was in the U.S. for over a year. Gurdjieff was interested in leaving the 'old world' behind and settling in America, but the extensive plans to do so came to nothing. The idea of finding a home for the insitute, in France or in America, persisted to the very end of his life, but in spite of close misses did not fully materialize.
In 1936 Gurdjieff moved to Rue des Colonels Renard, which became his living quarters and the meeting place until the end in 1949. During this time many of Gurdjieff's former pupils died: 1934 Alexandre Salzmann and A. R. Orage, 1939 Dr. Leonid Stjörnval, 1944 René Daumal and Luc Dietrich and 1947 P. D. Ouspensky.
The groups and studies established by Madame de Salzmann, Jane Heap, P. D. Ouspensky, Maurice Nicoll, J. G. Bennett and others kept the work going in Europe and the United States. Ouspensky moved to the U.S. in 1940 and gathered a numerous following. Through the Second World War in 6, Rue Colonels Renard, Gurdjieff was looking after food supplies, but also group meetings and Movements in Salle Pleyel.
The notes made in some of the meetings in the 40's have unfortunately not been published. Some of them have been published in French as "Question de Gurdjieff (no 50)" ed. Albin Michel, 1989. Five of these lectures are available on the internet here [no longer present online]. These are not so well translated, but there are some English renderings of some extracts from these texts in our articles. In the recently published book by Nicolas Tereshchenko called "Mister Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way" some of the sayings in Chapter 6 are very similar to the above.
In 1938 Henriette Tracol joined Madame de Salzmann's group. She was later to play a major role in re-vitalizing the Work in the U.K. and establishing The Gurdjieff Society of London. A book about her came out at the end of 2002.
In 1948 the contacts with the various groups were intensified and most of the French and English speaking pupils turned up in the little flat. Beelzebub was read regularly and prepared for publication. 'The Science of Idiotism' developed into a daily ritual. A lively picture of this time is given in Rina Hands' book 'Diary of Madame Egout Pour Sweet'.
At the end of 1948 Gurdjieff made his last visit to America. In a meeting with Madame Ouspensky he authorized the publication of 'In Search of the Miraculous', but wanted 'Beelzebub' published first.
A Short Summary of Gurdjieff's Message
Gurdjieff wanted us to wake up from the translike hypnotic sleep we are in. To help us he used and left behind a psychology and a cosmology in his writings.
Everything Is Wrong...
At first glance we are faced with an impossible situation. As human beings we are nothing and see 'no further than our nose'. Here is a list of some of the things:
- I am asleep and can not wake up
- I am a machine run by impulses from the outside and the inside
- As a machine I can not be resposible for my actions
- I can not do, everything is just done in me or happens
- I have no will, only some desires, which can be weaker or stronger
- I am always identified with something
- I do not know myself, I am not what I imagine I am
- Buffers keep me from seeing myself as I am: a nothing
- I am full of self-love and vanity
- I have only information, no knowledge or understanding
- I do not know what I want and have no aim
- I have no attention
- I live in dreams and imagination
- I lie, do not know what the truth is and can not tell the truth
- I am full of habits and a slave to them and my surroundings
- I have no permanent and indivisible I, but instead many 'I's
...but It is Possible to Put It Right!
Most of us enjoy being asleep and waking up is hard. To make the effort of waking up to a higher level of consciousness is not as easy as getting out of bed. In the first place we do not know, or sense, that we are asleep. Second obstacle is that it is difficult to wake up if there are no alarm clocks or someone who is already awake to shake us. To wake up to self-consciousness, to be aware of 'I' and my 'machine', does only happen by chance in extraordinary circumstances and does not teach us how to wake up again.
We can sense that we are asleep if we try to wake up. This is shown by the fact that nothing happens! If we try to 'remember ourselves' we can find out that we can indeed succeed. Unfortunately what happens most often is that we think or imagine that we remember ourselves and have no energy for the effort. As a general rule it may be possible to remember oneself for some seconds. If it continues longer than that we can be fairly sure that we only imagine it to take place.
Most of the time we 'are out of bed' and in what we call our 'waking state' we are in our thoughts, that constantly keep changing. Something must be found that can take us away from these associations. We can try to follow them, but it is difficult as we are identified with the thoughts. We can try to relax our body. We can try to sense our body. We can try to observe our body, the tensions in it and again try to relax. To observe our thoughts and emotions is much more difficult.
Henriette Lannes' book 'Inside a Question' has on page 200 a text delivered in London 1961. It is called 'Resistance Is According to Law'.
"What matters more than anything is just to realise that we are really asleep. But there is a possibility to keep more to something nearer to a waking state. We need the impression of relative awakening, of breaking sleep suddenly."
"Sometimes, when I am dispersed, I could sit down and realise I can try something with a different attitude."
"How do I live when I am asleep? Where am I? What am I thinking about?"
"Try to understand that resistance is according to law. If there is no resistance, there can be no struggle, there can be no new energy. Without production of new energy, there can be no possible contact with higher levels in ourselves. Struggle has to be accepted as the only means that we have for producing energy. Each time that we have a little new possibility it is that a spark of another kind of energy has linked us with a different level of ourselves. Every moment of our asleep life we are like a man shut in the basement of a very big house who has no idea there is anything else than that dark, bad smelling basement he is used to. As soon as that spark of energy is used up, he is bound to find himself again in that basement. Struggle is necessary - there is resistance - and then I affirm more."
'Inside a Question' © 2002 W. M. Beatley & B. Beatley