talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

religion to-day
a russian, gurdjieff, brings a new orientalism

to the devotee his religion is more than a matter of life and death; it is a matter of eternal salvation or damnation. but to the anthropologist it is largely a matter of climate. the temperate zone produces religions that are active, ethical, objective, while the enervating heat of the tropics leads to religions that are quiescent, contemplative, subjective. it is doubtful if one of these types ever can successfully invade the other's territory. the vigorous religions of the cooler lands have sent their missionaries to india's coral strands, but india has gone on with its age-old dreams, and india has sent its swamis and yogis to convert the hustling northern lands, but they go on with their hustling and refuse to contemplate.

one of the most recent of these missionaries is a russian, g. i. gurdjieff, head of the institute for the harmonious development of man. the main branch of this society is at the château du prieuré, fontainebleau, france. this society, according to its pamphlet, is "practically a continuation of the society that went under the name of the 'seekers after truth.' this society was founded in 1895 by a group of various specialists, including doctors, archæologists, priests, painters, etc., whose aim was to study in close collaboration so-called supernatural phenomena, in which each of them was interested from a particular point of view." mr. gurdjieff, with a number of his pupils, is now in new york giving exhibitions of the work of his cult and seeking support and adherents.

according to mr. gurdjieff, our present civilization is all wrong, for he writes:

"the civilization of our time, with its unlimited means for extending its influence, has wrenched man from the normal conditions in which he should be living. it is true that civilization has opened up for man new paths in the domains of knowledge, science and economic life, and thereby enlarged his world perception. but, instead of raising him to a higher all-round level of development, civilization has developed only certain sides of his nature to the detriment of other faculties, some of which it has destroyed altogether. civilization has robbed man of the natural advantages of his type, without at the same time providing him with what was needed for the harmonious development of a new type. and from an individually finished man, normally adapted to the nature and the environment in which he was placed and which created him, civilization has produced a being torn from his element, unfitted for life, and a complete stranger to all the conditions of his present mode of existence."

there is a remedy. our psychic centers are disconnected. we have three of them—intellectual, emotional and instinctive. the first "does nothing but think, the second only feels and the third only lives by his instincts and motor function." there are three separate persons living in each of us, and not living amicably together at all. "these three men in one never understand one another; consciously and unconsciously they frustrate the plans, the intentions and the work of one another." the solution is to bring these three selves into harmony. as mr. gurdjieff says:

"the work of the centers must be of equal intensity at one time, and then the three main wheels of the human machine will work smoothly without obstructing one another and with the highest efficiency." the program is divided into three sections. the first (study) includes the science of relativity, the science of numbers, the science of symbols, alchemy, oriental medicine, comparative religions, psychology and philosophy." the second part is the practical section, and this takes up "harmonic rhythm, music, singing, plastics, oriental (sacred) dances, drawing, painting, sculpture, applied arts and crafts, agriculture, horticulture, market gardening and languages." the third is the medial section, and this includes "healing by gymnastics, water cure, light cure, electro-therapy, magneto-therapy, psycho-therapy, diatetics and dulio-therapy."

most of this has a rather strange and fantastic sound to the average american. he is even inclined to smile at the thought of himself or his wife taking up, for instance, "oriental (sacred) dances," or dulio-therapy. but let him not scoff. there are considerable numbers of people who take it all in great seriousness. such cults seem to make their strongest appeals at such times as this when people are reacting from intense strain. it seems at first glance to be a very self-centered program, but no doubt the individual when he has struck a proper balance in his own nature will learn to adjust himself to his neighbor as well.

[unknown newspaper] mar. 1924