Category Archives: Gurdjieff Work

Reading Gurdjieff: On Journalism

In the process of gathering what Mr. Gurdjieff wrote about journalism and journalists, I’ve put together some brief notes from Meetings with Remarkable Men p. 18-28 on just what he wrote on the subject:

  • Journalism is a fundamental evil that exerts a poisonous influence on mutual relations among people today and offers nothing whatsoever to the development of the mind.
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Reading Gurdjieff: Categorical Necessity

Not an aphorism of Gurdjieff

I have heard some say, in approaching the work, that reading Mr. Gurdjieff’s writings is entirely optional, that taking or leaving them is a matter of personal preference, conveniently forgetting how unconscious and habitual personal preference is. Besides the practical examples of the reading of Mr. Gurdjieff’s writings during group meetings, there is a passage in his third series that sheds more light on the importance of reading Beelzebub’s Tales.

“This benevolent advice of mine to you Americans, composing in the given case this group, and who became, thanks to a series of accidentally arranged circumstances of life, my nearest essential friends, consists in indicating the categorical necessity that each of you should cease entirely, at least for three months, the reading of your newspapers and magazines, and during this time should become as well acquainted as possible with the contents of all three books of the first series of my writings entitled An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man. “ 3

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Gurdjieff and Games, Part 1

Gurdjieff said “there is everything” in his book Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.1 In addition, this book is subtitled “An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man” and has the stated purpose of the merciless destruction of all our long-rooted beliefs and views about everything.

Putting these statements to a small test, I ask a few questions of narrow interest to myself (and I hope others): “What does Beelzebub’s Tales have to say about games? What objective and impartial criticism is offered about games? What ‘merciless destruction’ must our beliefs and views on the subject of games undergo?”

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Reading Gurdjieff: Biographies and Anecdotes

Biographies

There are several biographies about G.I. Gurdjieff, of varying quality, from yellow journalism to reasonably verifiable. In my opinion, the following are the better biographies:

  • Gurdjieff: The Anatomy of a Myth, by James Moore. Written in a florid prose style— nevertheless, a fairly thorough biography.
  • Gurdjieff Reconsidered, by Roger Lipsey. A recent biography from a member of the Gurdjieff Foundation, with some insight into some of the organizations’ missteps after Gurdjieff’s death.
  • Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff: The Man, The Teaching, His Mission, by William Patrick Patterson. Less a biography and more of a collection of bare facts, but well-organized and presented with little opinion inserted.

Anecdotes

There are many collections of anecdotes of pupils with Gurdjieff. The better ones, in my opinion, are from longtime pupils of Gurdjieff who were reluctant to write them down but were encouraged by those around them to preserve their stories in writing before they passed away.

  • Gurdjieff: A Master In Life, by Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch. Followed Gurdjieff from 1920 until his teacher’s death.
  • The Gurdjieff Years: Recollections of Louise Goepfert March. Followed Gurdjieff from 1929 until her teacher’s death, translating his writings into German.

Reading Gurdjieff: Primers on Work Concepts

Outside of Gurdjieff’s own writings, there are a number of books available that introduce basic work concepts.

  • A Simple Explanation of Work Ideas, by Maurice Nicoll. Short and to the point.
  • Gurdjieff: A New Interpretation, by Wojciech Konrad Kulczyk PhD. Includes material from Gurdjieff’s own writings rather than relying too heavily on Ouspensky’s exposition.
  • Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas, by Michel Waldberg. Similarly includes material from Gurdjieff’s own writings.
  • Towards Awakening: An Approach to the Teaching Left by Gurdjieff, by Jean Vaysse. Also short and to the point.
  • Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, by Sophia Wellbeloved. A reference manual of concepts. Includes some short biographies of Gurdjieff’s pupils, various groups that formed after Gurdjieff’s death, and the passive deviation from Gurdjieff’s teaching found in “New Work”.
  • The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, and
    The Cosmology of Man’s Possible Evolution, by P.D. Ouspensky, his particular exposition of Gurdjieff’s ideas.

Take these with a grain of salt. Learn what Gurdjieff taught from reading his own writings and working out your own understanding with guidance from a school and instructors rather than relying solely on another’s exposition of Gurdjieff’s teaching.

Reading Gurdjieff: Primary Texts

For familiarizing oneself with Gurdjieff’s writings, the following are a list of the primary texts, first publication dates, and most recent available printings of his works. Hardcover printing is assumed unless otherwise noted.


Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson
All and Everything, First Series.

  • 1950 Harcourt, Brace & Company or Routledge & Kegan Paul
  • 1993 Two Rivers Press
  • 1999 Penguin Compass (paperback)

Meetings with Remarkable Men
All and Everything, Second Series.

  • 1963 Routledge & Kegan Paul or E.P. Dutton.
  • 1991 Penguin Compass (paperback)

 


Life Is Real Only Then, When “I AM”
All and Everything, Third Series.

  • 1975 E.P. Dutton (private printing, missing the last eight pages contained in later editions)
  • 1981 Routledge & Kegan Paul or E.P. Dutton
  • 1999 Penguin Arkana (paperback)

The Herald of Coming Good

  • 1933 (private printing)
  • 2017 Book Studio


Transcripts

Authorized transcripts of group meetings can give the reader additional theoretical knowledge of the problems that students face and how Gurdjieff worked with them.

Paris Meetings 1943

Groupes de Paris, Tome I: 1943 (French edition only)
Groupes de Paris, Tome II: 1944 (French edition only)

  • 2020 Éditions Éoliennes (softcover)

Other Writings

Other writings of Mr. Gurdjieff that could be included among primary resources are:

  • The Struggle of the Magicians
  • The Study House aphorisms
  • Reliable meeting notes that have been cross-checked with multiple sources, including Gurdjieff’s Early Talks, 1914-1931.

Electronic Versions

There are many electronic versions of primary texts available for download but determining their edition or copy accuracy may present problems to the reader.

Some reasonably reliable electronic versions are available at the Spiritual Sun.

Misattributed and Unauthorized Texts

Excluded from the primary text list are texts with misattributed authorship to Gurdjieff, such as In Search of Being: The Fourth Way to Consciousness. Also excluded from the primary text list are unauthorized revisions, such as the 1992 Penguin hardcover version of Beelzebub’s Tales, which was significantly altered from the author’s approved English version.

Review of G.I. Gurdjieff Paris Meetings 1943

Paris Meetings 1943

G.I. Gurdjieff, Paris Meetings, 1943, published by Dolmen Meadow Editions in 2017, provides an English translation of French transcripts from sixty-eight group meetings conducted in Mr. Gurdjieff’s rue des Colonels Renard apartment in Paris, France from January 7 to December 30, 1943.

The importance of this text must not be underestimated as a primary source, and Mr. Gurdjieff himself raises the estimation of its importance in an aside to the transcriptionist, addressed here and throughout the text as ‘Prosecutor’:

“Gurdjieff: ‘Prosecutor’, everything must be written in good French. These are abstract things. But if you can remember everything, it will be useful for everyone. I am the author of Beelzebub, neither more nor less. If I find material for myself in what you write, I will be able to do new things with it. Many things for the future humanity depend on you. And it is true, all joking aside.” (p. 306)

With attentive reading, Paris Meetings 1943 can serve as good material especially for teachers of the Work—how meetings were organized, how they were conducted, how exercises are given, how to observe and diagnose symptoms of problems students have, and how to direct students to work on themselves—not automatically but consciously and heuristically—in addition to the contents of the teaching itself, useful to teacher and student alike.

Astute readers may pick up on themes given more significant weight here compared to earlier materials: having remorse of conscience, engaging in the duties of parents and children, the importance of preparation and relaxation before exercises, playing a role in life, and the bringing of sensation, feeling, and thinking into contact and harmony through the use of attention.

A caution to readers: Many exercises, tasks, and much advice is given in this text. Exercises, tasks, and advice given to students by Mr. Gurdjieff is tailored to the individual needs and capabilities of each student. Therefore, it is unwise to undertake exercises, tasks, or advice intended for another student without the guidance of a teacher.

Paris Meetings 1943 is a welcome addition to the primary source texts of Gurdjieff’s teaching. If more transcripts of subsequent meetings still exist, I look forward to the translation and publishing of additional meeting transcripts in the future.


One small thing was lacking from Paris Meetings 1943—an index. I have created one, available for purchase:

G.I. Gurdjieff Paris Meetings 1943 – INDEX