Chapter 7 - Gurdjieff's Teaching After His Death
Copyright 2003/2004 © Reijo Elsner
Apart from the continuation of the Work in its different 'branches' Gurdjieff left us his writings, music and the Movements. Some of his last words were: 'I leave you all in a fine mess!'
Here is a copy of Gurdjieff's letter written in 1949 announcing the publication of All & Everything .
'The mess' as regards the spreading of the teaching had been started very early and much of it was due to Gurdjieff's own actions. Different 'lines' were established even when Gurdjieff was still alive by many of his students.
Early 'Lines' of the Work
- P. D. Ouspensky was 'doing his own thing' from the early twenties. Many who started with Ouspensky later came to Gurdjieff and afterwards worked within the Gurdjieff Foundation. Here are some of the pupils of Ouspensky: Kenneth Walker and George Adie (Gurdjieff Society of London and Australia), Christopher Fremantle (London, Mexico) and Lord Pentland (Gurdjieff Foundation in the U.S.).
- Thomas and Olga de Hartmann were active after Gurdjieff's death in establishing the Work in Canada.
- A. R. Orage was Gurdjieff's 'official' representative in the U.S.. Former members of his groups gave rise to more 'lines of transmission', which often were authentic and based on former direct contact with Gurdjieff. These pupils included: C. Daly King (U.S.), Willem A. Nyland (U.S. and Europe). Louise and William Welch were Gurdjieff's pupils active in the States. Mr. Welch became president of the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York after Lord Pentland. Louise March (Goepfert) , who translated Beelzebub into German and later established the Rochester Art Folk Guild.
- C. S. Nott started a group in London in the thirties, which was later taken over and expanded by Jane Heap . Ann Lou Staveley was with Jane Heap and after she moved back to the U.S. founded the Two Rivers Farm.
- Jeanne de Salzmann had her groups in France. Of her pupils Henri Tracol translated Beelzebub into French with Madame de Salzmann and became a president of Institut Gurdjieff. Henriette Lannes took over to London to collect the different lines of transmission and to run The Gurdjieff Society.
- Maurice Nicoll , was mandated by Ouspensky and he established his own psychological line. Dr. Nicoll spent some months in du Prieuré. Some of his pupils: Beryl Pogson, Peter Gloster and Samuel Copley became group leaders.
- J. G. Bennett , apart from introducing Gurdjieff's ideas to many people, also introduced many new teachings to the same people. Bennett's pupils include: A. G. E. Blake and Bruno Martin .
- The movements and the music were take care of by people who specialized in them. Thomas de Hartmann composed the '39 series' after Gurdjieff had gone. Jessmin Howarth, her daugher Dushka and Rose Mary Nott were teaching movements and how to play the music for most of the different 'lines' of the teaching outside France. In France Jeanne de Salzmann was herself a dancer and a pianist.
Of the people mentioned above Dushka Howarth is alive. Of others still alive and who met Gurdjieff in the late fourties can be mentioned Paul Beekman Taylor, Adam Nott, Matthew Thring, Kathleen Riordan Speeth and Nicholas de Stjernval. The Gurdjieff Work continues with new people in the leadership.
The Official Version of the Work
Madame de Salzmann was appointed by Gurdjieff to carry on his work and became the head of the teaching worldwide. This meant that she run the Gurdjieff Foundations in France, U.S.A and London with their worldwide net of contacts and people in charge of the organizations in the different areas.
Madame de Salzmann was in this position appr. 40 years, somewhat longer than Gurdjieff himself (even if we take the year 1912 as the year he started to teach). Having joined Gurdjieff in Tiflis in 1919 she was active with her groups and as the head of the teaching until her death in 1990, i.e. over 70 years.
The leadership of the teaching continued 'in the family' after Madame de Salzmann's death when her son Michel de Salzmann continued her work until his death in 2001.
The Gurdjieff Foundation, the Gurdjieff Society of London and Institut Gurdjieff (Paris) carry on their mission of maintaining the authentic study and teaching of the Gurdjieff Work with local organizations in all continents.
Among the new inscriptions in the trade register of Geneva on the 12th of May 2003 there was a registration for Association Internationale des Fondations Gurdjieff with the address chemin Jaques-Attenville 9, Le Grand-Saconnex, which has the following text: "mettre en commun les efforts et l'expérience acquise des différents Instituts membres afin de préserver l'essence, la spécificité et l'intégrité de l'enseignement de G.I. Gurdjieff; coordonner les résultats des activités et des recherches de ses membres, etc."
Claims to teaching the Gurdjieff Work have been made by many organizations established in the past fifty years or so. It is evident that all these claims are not valid. However, in the words of C. S. Nott regarding groups being led by people who never met Gurdjieff or studying Ouspensky's philosophy: "These groups have little value as regards the inner Teaching; yet they may be a means of leading a few to feel the need for something more." (Journey Throught this World' p. 249)