Georges I. Gurdjieff

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Georges I. Gurdjieff

George Gurdjieff ( Russian Георгий Иванович Гюрджиев , transcription Georgi Ivanovich Gjurdschijew, . Scientific transliteration Georgy Ivanovich Gjurdžiev; probably * 1866 in Alexandropol , Russian Empire ; † 29. October 1949 in Paris ) was a Greek - Armenian esoteric , writer , choreographer and Composer who first worked in Russia and later in France . He became known as a teacher of the so-called Fourth Way and the founder of a worldwide and branched following.


Encounters with remarkable people

Gurdjieff was born in the Greek quarter of the city of Alexandropol (today Gyumri , Armenia), which belongs to Tsarist Russia . The dates of birth listed in his passports range from January 1, 1864 to December 28, 1877. His father, Ioannis Georgiadis ( Greek Ιωάννης Γεωργιάδης ) was a wealthy cattle owner and worked as an ashoch ( bard ), his mother was an Armenian. The family name was given in Armenian as Gjurdschjan ( Գյուրջյան ), from which in Russian Gjurdschijew ( French transcribed Gurdjieff ). After the family's herds perished from an epidemic (probably in 1872/73), the impoverished father opened a timber trade, which he failed in 1877. He then became a carpenter and in 1878 moved with Georg (ios) and his four younger siblings to Kars in Turkey, which had just been conquered by the tsarist empire .

In 1883 Gurdjieff moved to Tbilisi . In search of places of hidden esoteric traditions, the traces of which he thought he could recognize since his early youth, he traveled for decades through Central Asia , North Africa and Europe. In his partly autobiographical, partly allegorical work Encounters with Remarkable People , he describes the experiences that he and a group of like-minded people, the “seekers of truth”, allegedly had. In 1908 he settled in Tashkent , where he began to work in public. From 1912 he led study groups in Moscow and Saint Petersburg , the participants of which were supposed to apply extensive esoteric knowledge in daily exercises in order to achieve a “full and independent development of their human potential”. In 1915 he was joined by his most famous student, PD Ouspensky , who soon after began to be the first to publish on Gurdjieff's system.

To escape the October Revolution and its aftermath, Gurdjieff and his students moved across the Caucasus to Tbilisi, where he opened a first institute in September 1919 . Due to the situation in Tbilisi, this only lasted seven months, and a significantly smaller group followed Gurdjieff to Constantinople in 1920 . In December 1920 Gurdjieff received an invitation from Émile Jaques-Dalcroze to settle in the garden city of Hellerau near Dresden , where he ran an educational institution for rhythmic gymnastics . Gurdjieff accepted the offer and set out for Germany in 1921. He traveled to Berlin by train with a small group of confidants and initially settled in today's Berlin district of Schmargendorf at the end of August . In November of the same year he gave his first readings in Berlin. However, the plan to open his institute in Hellerau failed after lengthy negotiations with a civil suit that Gurdjieff lost in June 1922.

Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man

After brief stints in London and southern England, Gurdjieff went to France and on October 1, 1922, opened the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in the Prieuré des Basses Loges palace near Paris. There he quickly attracted an illustrious student body of international artists and intellectuals (including Frank Lloyd Wright , Katherine Mansfield and Alfred Richard Orage ) and taught, among other things, his 'Holy Dances' or 'Movements'. On certain occasions he had these performed publicly, for example in the Prieuré , in 1923 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris and on his first trip to America in the spring of 1924. Seven more trips to America followed by 1939, the last one in the winter of 1948/1949 .

Since the institute was located in a large forest , the expression forest philosopher was coined from the boulevard , which took up the colorful stories about its residents and students .

After returning from his first trip to America, Gurdjieff was involved in a serious traffic accident in the summer of 1924, which, according to many, changed his life and work. Nevertheless, after the Prieuré was closed in 1933 and also during the German occupation, he continued to work with his students in an apartment on Rue des Colonel Renard N ° 6 in Paris. Allegedly he protected all his Jewish students and brought them to safety just in time for the deportation of the Paris Jews on July 16, 1942.

Even after the war, Gurdjieff enjoyed increasing international publicity and, in addition to many curious and curious onlookers, new students came to him again and again. Among them there was also a group of young American, mostly lesbian artists around Kathryn Hulme and Margaret Anderson , called The Rope . Not least his “Toasts to the Idiots” mark a changed and for some earlier students like PD Ouspensky questionable methodological teaching practice. Rare film documents show snapshots of Gurdjieff's last period in France.

Gurdjieff's daughter Lida married the English garden designer Russell Page , a follower of Gurdjieff, in 1947 , and they divorced in 1954.

Gurdjieff's body laid out

Georges I. Gurdjieff died after a collapse in the middle of the Movement class on October 29, 1949 in the American hospital in Neuilly . His body was buried in a Russian Orthodox funeral ceremony in the Avon cemetery.


The enneagram

The ray of creation according to GIGurdjieff

Based on his fundamental criticism of modern people, their fragmented self and underdeveloped being , Gurdjieff presented a system for holistic human development that he called "esoteric Christianity": "We can only strive to be able to be Christians" . According to him, man can only approach divine truth or a conscious being if all parts or "centers" that make up man according to Gurdjieff are harmoniously developed and integrated: thinking, feeling and the movements of the body .

Gurdjieff represented an essential symbol for this transformational process in the Enneagram , which found its way into and more or less arbitrary use in the broad spectrum of the so-called New Age .

The fourth way / the work

Gurdjieff speaks of a fourth way as a synthesis and further development of the three traditional ways to the evolution of thinking ( yogi ), feeling ( monk ) and body ( fakir ). Accordingly, the Fourth Way runs in daily life - not behind monastery walls or in the distant Himalayas - and in three ideally synchronous lines under the guidance of an experienced teacher:

  • consciously dealing with (or working on) oneself
  • the common work and the conscious exchange with peers
  • the work for the school or teaching, in large parts of its successor called the work .

Essential elements of this work are:

  • the constant practice of a special inner mindfulness (remembering oneself)
  • the non-identification, e.g. B. with likes and dislikes (conscious suffering)
  • the practical study and the verification (i.e. the holistic experience ) of universal laws, as they were presented in the Enneagram and in the so-called ray of creation by Gurdjieff.

The fourth way shows in different ways how constant attention or mindfulness can be increased in human life and daydreaming and absent-mindedness with their negative effects can be minimized. According to Gurdjieff, such an inner development is the beginning of a further process of change with the aim of developing people to their full potential.

Suspected sources

In addition to many unknown sources, Gurdjieff's system contains elements of Sufism (Islamic mysticism), certain Buddhist and Hindu traditions as well as Esseno - Christian mysticism . There are also indications of a not insignificant Pythagorean influence, if one considers the clear affinity in the mathematical-systemic teachings such as B. the law of the octave as well as the musical works of Gurdjieff.

Pupil and opus

His most important students include PD Ouspensky , Jeanne de Salzmann , Alfred Richard Orage (who led the first American groups), John G. Bennett , Maurice Nicoll and the pianist Thomas de Hartmann . With this he composed over 300 pieces of so-called "Sacred Music", which, for example, were also played and published by Keith Jarrett . In addition, Gurdjieff left behind a series of strictly choreographed movements, including the series of 39 .

The three-volume Beelzebub's Tales for His Grandson - An Objectively impartial critique of human life - is considered a literary opus magnum . In a kind of cosmological science fiction , Beelzebub , inhabitant of a distant and harmonious world, tells his grandson Hassin the long and instructive story of his adventures, experiences and encounters that he had during several stays on earth . Beelzebub's stories were published as the first part of the series All and Everything , the second and third parts of which are the posthumously published encounters with remarkable people and Life is only real when “I am” .

Gurdjieff Foundations

After his death, the Gurdjieff Foundation ( Gurdjieff Foundation ) was founded by Jeanne de Salzmann in cooperation with other Gurdjieff students and was headed by Jeanne de Salzmann until her death in 1990. Afterwards, the foundation was headed by Michel de Salzmann until his death in 2001. Today these and other global foundations are brought together under the International Association of the Gurdjieff Foundations and are headed by Alexandre de Salzmann - son of Michel de Salzmann.

Reception & criticism

Gurdjieff's importance is controversial. Either he is seen as a charismatic master who brought fundamentally new knowledge into the western cultural area - or as a confused charlatan with a great ego and instinct for self-expression. Anecdotes from his biography and his work offer enough material for both classifications, depending on the perspective.

Gurdjieff's radical criticism of “modern people” and their psychological condition seemingly mercilessly questions the previous self-image in an irritating way. Gurdjieff, for example, describes us as creatures with no wills who, in a sleep-like ignorance , are exposed to the changing spheres of influence of the universe. Gurdjieff supporters interpret a rejection of his system as motivated by the preponderance of such insults over the desire for access to the methodological content and its lively practice.

Todays situation

Gurdjieff's current following shows breaks and a wide variety of ramifications, some of which could be observed even before his death. In addition to the Gurdjieff Foundations, numerous groups have formed around the world that have adapted fragments of the Gurdjieff teachings. Some related e.g. B. very specific to the Movements , others formed theoretical debating clubs.

Regardless of this, his teaching has lost none of its appeal. In North America alone, it is estimated between 5,000 and 15,000 followers. The following groups were founded by Gurdjieff's students:

  • the groups founded by Willem A. Nyland, next to Jeanne de Salzmann Gurdjieff's longest-standing student;
  • the “Rochester Folk Art Guild”, founded by Louise March (née L. Göpfert), which translated “Beelzebub's Tales for His Grandson” and Ouspensky's “In Search of the Wonderful” into German;
  • the "Two Rivers Farm", founded by AL Staveley, a student of Gurdjieff and Jane Heaps;
  • John G. Bennett's groups led by his sons.
  • the group "Search at Northeon Forest" founded by Paul H. Beidler.


Works by Gurdjieff

  • Beelzebub's stories for his grandson. An objectively impartial critique of people's lives. Everything and everything. 3 volumes, Triangle Editions 2010, ISBN 978-0-9823518-0-2 (Volume 1); ISBN 978-0-9823518-1-9 (Volume 2), ISBN 978-0-9823518-2-6 (Volume 3).
  • Encounters with remarkable people. From the Franz. And Engl. By François Grunwald and Hans-Henning Mey. Alexander Verlag, Berlin a. a. 2013, ISBN 978-3-89581-310-8 .
  • Life is only real when "I am". Sphinx Verlag, Basel 1998, ISBN 978-3-85914-182-7 .
  • From the real world. Gurdjieff's conversations with his students in Moscow, Essentuki, Tbilisi, Berlin, London, Paris, New York, Chicago. From the years 1917–1931. Sphinx, Basel 1982, ISBN 3-85914-144-9 .
  • The Herald of Coming Good. First Appeal to Contemporary Humanity. Holmes Publishing Group, Sequim 1987, ISBN 978-0-916411-72-5 .
  • Struggle of the Magicians. Ballet scenario from 1914 ( PDF ; 2.94 MB)

Secondary literature

  • Margaret Anderson : The Unknowable Gurdjieff. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1962.
  • John G. Bennett : JG Benetts Talks on Beelzebub's Tales. Elisabeth Bennett 1977.
    • German: Gurdjieff decrypted. The inner meaning of Gurdjieff's "Beelzebub's Tales". Verlag Bruno Martin, Frankfurt am Main 1981, ISBN 3-921786-25-8 .
  • John G. Bennett : Gurdjieff: origin and background of his teaching . Sphinx, Basel 1989, ISBN 3-85914-358-1 .
  • John G. Bennett : Crossing the Great Water. The story of a search - autobiography , Chalice, Xanten 2011, ISBN 978-3-942914-02-4
  • John G. Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett: Monsieur Gurdjieff and his idiots - Paris 1949. From the diaries and memoirs of two travelers into reality , Chalice, Xanten 2016, ISBN 978-3-942914-14-7
  • Anna Butkovsky-Hewitt: With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris. Weiser, New York 1978, ISBN 0-87728-387-7 .
  • Lillian Firestone: The Forgotten Language of Children . Chalice, Xanten 2019, ISBN 978-3942914-37-6 .
  • Olga and Thomas de Hartmann : Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff . Penguin, Baltimore 1972. German: Expeditions into the miraculous - Our life with Mr. Gurdjieff , Chalice, Xanten 2019, ISBN 978-3-942914-39-0
  • Jane Heap: Notes . Two Rivers Press, Aurora 2002, ISBN 0-89756-023-X .
  • Kathryn Hulme: Undiscovered Land. A spiritual adventure. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1968.
  • Roger Lipsey: Gurdjieff in a new light: his life, his work, his legacy . Chalice, Xanten 2020, ISBN 978-3942914-40-6 .
  • Gregory M. Loy (Ed.): Gurdjieff International Review (18 issues so far). Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing, Los Altos 1997-2007. [1]
  • James Moore: Georg Iwanowitsch Gurdjieff. Magicians, mystics, people catchers. A biography. Scherz, Bern 1992, ISBN 3-502-18450-X .
  • Jacob Needleman / George Baker: Gurdjieff. Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teachings . Continuum, New York 1997, ISBN 0-8264-1049-9 .
  • Maurice Nicoll: Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky . 6 volumes. Weiser Books, Boston / York Beach 1996, ISBN 0-87728-910-7 .
  • Charles Stanley Nott: Teachings of Gurdjieff. A pupil's journal. Arkana, London 1990, ISBN 0-14-019156-9 .
  • PD Ouspensky : In search of the wonderful . OW Barth, Weilheim 1966, DNB 457748524 .
  • Louis Pauwels: Gurdjew the magician. Faith healer, fakir and philosopher. Wilhelm Goldmann, Munich 1988, ISBN 978-3-442-11718-5 .
  • John Pentland : Exchanges Within. Questions from Everyday Life . Continuum, New York 1997, ISBN 0-8264-1025-1 .
  • Fritz Peters : Boyhood with Gurdjieff . Victor Gollancz, London 1964.
    • German edition: A childhood with Gurdjieff . Innenwelt Verlag, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-936360-09-X .
  • Irmis B. Popoff: Gurdjieff. His Work: On Myself, With Others, For The Work. Vantage, New York 1969.
  • John Shirley: Gurdjieff. Life and work . Schirner, Darmstadt 2006, ISBN 3-89767-516-1 .
  • Jeanne de Salzmann: The Reality of Being - Gurdjieff's Fourth Way . Chalice, Xanten 2017, ISBN 978-3-942914-17-8 .
  • Nicolas Tereshchenko: Mister Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way. Kesdjan, Austin 2003, ISBN 0-9706476-2-X .
  • Nicolas Tereshchenko: Mister Gurdjieff's Hapax Legomena. By The Way Books, Waukee 2002.
  • Henry Tracol: The Taste for Things that Are True. Essays & Talks by a Pupil of GI Gurdjieff . Element Books, Shaftesbury 1994, ISBN 1-85230-468-5 .
  • Kenneth Walker: Venture with Ideas. Second edition. Luzac Oriental, London 1995, ISBN 1-898942-05-6 .
  • James Webb : The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of GI Gurdjieff, PD Ouspensky, and Their Followers. Putnam Publishing, New York 1980, ISBN 0-399-11465-3 .
  • Louise M. Welch (Ed.): Guide and Index to GI Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. Second edition. Traditional Studies Press, Toronto 2003, ISBN 0-919608-12-4 .
  • Edwin Wolfe: Episodes with Gurdjieff. Red Mountain Study Group, Birmingham, Alabama 2002.
  • Alexander Knorr: Metatrickster: Burton, Taxil, Gurdjieff, Backhouse, Crowley, Castaneda; an interpretation of the life, work and work of selected historical personalities, whose prosperity required the help of the discourse on mythological trickster figures, edited by Matthias Samuel Laubscher (= Alteritas , Volume 3), Vasa, Pondicherry / Munich 2004, ISBN 978-3-9809131- 6-4 (Dissertation University of Munich 2002, XI, 394 pages, illustrations).


  • Encounters with remarkable people ; Motion pictures; Great Britain 1979; Director: Peter Brook ; Script: Peter Brook; Jeanne de Salzmann; Actors: Dragan Maksimovic, Terence Stamp , Athol Fugard a. a.
The film is based on Gurdjieff's book of the same name, which Shakespeare director Peter Brook has studied intensively.
In it Gurdjieff describes his childhood and youth at the foot of the Caucasus and his encounters with the people who supposedly formed the origin of his teachings. Highlights of the film include trips to Sufi teachers and the sacred dances (originally performed by Gurdjieff students) in the hidden monastery of the mysterious Sarmoung brotherhood .
  • I - am Gurdjieff. I - will not die ( Я - Гурджиев. Я - не умру ); Documentary; Russia 2007; Director: Martiros Fanosjan
  • Hitler, Stalin and Gurdjieff ( Гитлер, Сталин и Гурджиев ); Documentary; Russia 2007; Director: Julia Agejewa

Web links

Commons : GI Gurdjieff  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Chronology by James Moore on
  2. James Moore: Georg Iwanowitsch Gurdjieff. Scherz, 1992, ISBN 3-502-18450-X , p. 351 f. See also Gary Lachman: In Search of PD Ouspensky, chap. 6. ( Memento from July 10, 2012 in the web archive )
  3. Origin of the word: cf. Aşık .
  4. Marina Schinz, Gabrielle van Zuylen, The Gardens of Russell Page. London, Francis Lincoln 2008, 39
  5. ^ GI Gurdjieff 1924; quoted in Kenneth Walker, A Study of Gurdjieff's Teaching, Fletcher & Son, 1957.
  6. ^ Website of the International Association of the Gurdjieff Foundations
  7. International structure of the Gurdjieff Foundation on
  8. ^ Website of the Nyland groups
  9. ^ Rochester Folk Art Guild website
  10. ^ Website of the Two Rivers Farm
  11. ^ Website of the Gurdjieff Boston Fourth Way Group
  12. website of the search at Northeon Forest Group
  13. Jump up ↑ Encounters with Notable People - Peter Brook DVD
  14. Я - Гурджиев. Я - не умру (Мартирос Фаносян) ( Memento from September 3, 2012 in the web archive ) 2007 г., Документальный, TVRip (Russian)
  15. Гитлер, Сталин и Гурджиев ( Memento from October 24, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (Russian)