Meetings With Remarkable Men
September 24, 2008 7:30 PM   Subscribe

posted by not_on_display at 7:43 PM on September 24, 2008

The guys in the orange robes in the first video remind me of this.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:03 PM on September 24, 2008

A little background:

About Gurdjieff

talks with gurdjieff

4 videos: In Search of the Miraculous Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (1947) by P. D. Ouspensky "recollects the teachings of an individual to whom he refers only as "G.", known to be G. I. Gurdjieff, and the author's relationship with "G.", leading to his break with him. He meets "G." in Saint Petersburg before the Russian Revolution of 1917 and follows him through the Caucasus mountains to Constantinople (present day Istanbul), and then to western Europe.

Originally published at the time of G. I. Gurdjieff's death and authorized by Gurdjieff, it is considered one of the best expositions of the structure of Gurdjieff's ideas on consciousness, self-remembering, the three-brained nature of human beings, and his cosmological structure of the universe as nested worlds."

Imo, Gurdjieff was a classic cult leader of the pathological narcissist variety. But, that said, I think he also had some interesting and worthy ideas.
posted by nickyskye at 8:09 PM on September 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

In no way meant to endorse his teachings Nicky, but those dances... oh my :)
posted by vronsky at 8:17 PM on September 24, 2008

Mickey Oliver - Pump Up The Beat +
posted by vronsky at 8:40 PM on September 24, 2008

vronsky, are you totally mashing up the Gurdjieff dancing with the 80's house music, in your room?

Stop making me visualize shit like that! It makes me wanna do the same!

(rubbing eyes, looking at the phosphenes)

posted by not_on_display at 8:43 PM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

wow, cool new word of the day, phosphenes. Thanks not_on_display

And you're right vronsky, those dances are really interesting, lean, elegantly futuristic.
posted by nickyskye at 8:58 PM on September 24, 2008

Beguiling. Thank you vronsky.
posted by tellurian at 9:08 PM on September 24, 2008

"those dances are really interesting, lean, elegantly futuristic." Twyla Tharp meets the Sufis.
posted by vronsky at 9:20 PM on September 24, 2008

Gurdjieff is also responsible for the introduction of the Enneagram to the West, though he never explicitly taught it as a personality typing system in the way it has come to be used by psychologists and spiritual directors today.

The respected quarterly publication Parabola has recently published several anthologies from their archives on the major myth and wisdom traditions of the world: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Myth/Psyche/Spirit. Tellingly, they rate the Gurdjieff Work highly enough to issue a complete volume on it alongside these other heavyweight traditions.

Gurdjieff's methods were unconventional, but to put him in the same class as other "classic cult leaders of the pathological narcissist variety" does not give he or his many renowned students enough credit.
posted by Roach at 9:38 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

those dances are amazing...

i first came across the vid, meetings with remarkable men, while living in oklahoma almost twenty years ago. more than the cool scams that get mentioned and the stories of his awesome con-peers, it's the dances that have remained in my head.

a few years ago i was tallking to some 4th way folks who had ditched out and they told me a pretty crazy tale. g.i. was running around at a time when charlatans and hucksters of an eastern variety were all the rage in europe and the states. gurdjieff was one of the more successful. apparently he'd gotten himself a large house somewhere in europe and when he passed on to his Great Reward his followers continued to reside and operate from there.

another cat who was into the Great Work, idries shah, a sufi and author of whole hell of a lot of books, on his way up the guru ladder decided they'd make some easy marks and a Great Boost to his rep. mr. shah weaseled his way into the graces of the remaining 4th wayers and began to reside at the homestead.

through some form of connivance mr. shah convinced the followers that the home would be better off in his hands and got them to sign the property over to him. and summarily evicted the poor bastards.

is it true? i du'know, but i've had a few people claim that it really happened. any mefi folk got any insight? i hope it is true as i love it when scammers get scammed!
posted by artof.mulata at 9:43 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Imo, Gurdjieff was a classic cult leader of the pathological narcissist variety.
Couldn't that be true for all cult leaders? What about Jesus with his 'I am the way' talk. Is there such a thing as latent narcissism?
posted by RussHy at 9:06 AM on September 25, 2008

I got my nick from Beelzebub's Tales, but damned if I understand it or remember much. G. can be pretty hilarious though (intentionally and unintentionally). And Meetings With Remarkable Men is a fun read.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:07 AM on September 25, 2008

I'm only familiar with Gurdjieff in the little I've read of him--mostly long-forgotten, half-skimmed magazine articles. I remember that Crowley studied with him for a short while, until G kicked him out, calling him a bad man -- beat it satan indeed. I never had much use or understanding for that old necron anyway.

I think he influenced Frank Lloyd Wright as well. His buildings do have something of a sacred dance quality to them.

here it is

I got the message
posted by vronsky at 10:32 AM on September 25, 2008

Crowley did not study with Gurdjieff. He met him once. Crowley is as over-rated as Gurdjieff is misunderstood. IMO, of course.
posted by Grangousier at 10:37 AM on September 25, 2008

Sorry, that probably seemed a bit terse and wierd - I was posting from my phone, and wanted to keep it short. But anyway, Crowley visited Gurdjieff's place at Fontainebleu in 1925-6, according to one of the residents there, C.S. Nott:
I got the impression of two magicians, the white and the black – the one strong, powerful, full of light; the other also powerful but heavy, dull and ignorant ...

[Alfred] Orage [Gurdjieff's secretary for a while] said ... "Alas, poor Crowley, I knew him well. We used to meet at the Society for Psychical Research when I was acting secretary. Once, when we were talking, he asked: 'By the way, what number are you?' Not knowing in the least what he meant, I said on the spur of the moment, 'Twelve'. 'Good God, are you really?' he replied, 'I'm only seven'.
Which makes me laugh, anyway.

I'm a huge fan of Gurdjieff. I don't personally believe that he was a charlatan as such, based on reading the accounts of a number of his pupils. I realised that they are biased, but it's the nature of the things that they say rather than any fulsome character reference, that's convinced me. My favourite account is Elizabeth Bennett's Idiots in Paris

I've had experience of the Movements at a very basic level (the first set of Obligatories, and a few of the other elementary movements - nothing involving weaving in and out, which could be catastrophic if it involved me), and it has been a very valuable experience. I did have the opportunity to see a twelfth-generation copy of a bootleg of one of Madame de Salzmann's films of the Movements, and despite being shot on a camcorder in a Japanese cinema (and then copied so many times that it was more fuzz-and-hiss than anything else), the power and beauty and tremendous strangeness of them come across admirably. Especially as I tend to believe that, as with the Enneagram, they are something that Gurdjieff made up to embody or explain a particular principle at a particular time that somehow grew into a tradition.

I'm also a big fan of John Godolphin Bennett, who happens to be the person that Idries Shah relieved of his house - his house, not Gurdjieff's. Bennett was definitely not representative of "the remaining 4th wayers" at that time. Although a sort-of anointed successor to Gurdjieff on the latter's death in 1949, Bennett soon made himself persona-non-grata amongst the Gurdjieff traditionalists, who coalesced around Lord Pentland and Jeanne de Salzmann, the latter Gurdjeff's secretary for many years.

Getting rid of the house, Coombe Springs, turned out to be quite a good thing for Bennett - the community there was getting old and set in its ways, and the eviction unsurprisingly shook things up. One thing I admire about Bennett was the fluidity of approach that was a problem for the people who wanted to fix "The Fourth Way" (and I hate that term) just as they believed Gurdjieff and Ouspensky taught it, even though Gurdjieff's teachings were often formulated in response to the person he was teaching (the form changed, that is, the essential message remained constant).

Bennett went on to set up the audacious project at Sherborne House in Gloucestershire between 1971 and 1976 (dying half-way through in 1974), which involved about a hundred people for a year at a time, many of them young and enthusiastic. I know some of the people who were involved with that project and it was very positive for them.
posted by Grangousier at 1:48 PM on September 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

Ah, the twelfth-generation film I was referring to is the second link (and the others like it), only either cleaned up or a few generations back. The Circles is wonderful, I think - the piano version is possibly the best thing Thomas de Hartmann wrote - reminiscent of Sati or Cage's In a Landscape
posted by Grangousier at 1:54 PM on September 25, 2008

Abba Zabba
posted by vronsky at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

"'By the way, what number are you?' Not knowing in the least what he meant, I said on the spur of the moment, 'Twelve'. 'Good God, are you really?' he replied, 'I'm only seven'."

priceless :)
posted by vronsky at 2:56 PM on September 25, 2008

I work at a club spinning disks and we regularly have these Gurdjieff types come in.

They don't tip well. And they drink too much. The bartender told me that they say stuff like "people do not perceive reality, as they are not conscious of themselves, but live in a state of hypnotic waking sleep" and he keeps trying to tell them "Dude, no... you've just had too much to drink!" But they don't listen.

They get out on the dance floor and start spinning around. And I'm like... my manager doesn't want you to keep spinning around because you're knocking the drinks off some of the tables. But they're like, "maleficent events such as wars and so on could not possibly take place if people were more awake". And I'm like "Dude, you're the one knocking drinks off the tables!"

So I'm like, "Gurdjieff dudes! Get out of the f@%king club!". And they're like, "group efforts greatly surpass individual efforts towards self-development". And I'm like, "what the f*%ck? Meetings with remarkable men, my ass. You all are a bunch of unremarkable drunks!"
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:19 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

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