I have very recently received the edition of the surviving transcripts of Gurdjieff’s Paris meetings in 1944. It is titled G.I. Gurdjieff, Groupes de Paris, Tome II: 1944. It is published by Éditions Éolienne, 2020. No place of publication is given, but a web search shows it is a firm in Bastia, a city on the island of Corsica. Many of its not very long list of publications are Gurdjieff-related. The French word éolienne means “windmill,” and I would conjecture it is derived from the Aeolian harp. I shan’t pursue that further.
The French 1943 transcripts have also been published, in a companion volume. That has not yet arrived on my desk.
This volume of transcripts of 1944 meetings with Gurdjieff runs to 324 pages. It is an attractive version of what passes for a hardcover in the French book industry. The golden lettering of the words G.I. Gurdjieff, Groupes de Paris reflects light. Given the dark cover, with one of what I believe to be the Michael Currer-Briggs portraits, it is an impressive one. All rights are reserved by the Gurdjieff Institute of Paris. There is neither table of contents nor index.
The first page with text is what would be page 7. It reads, in translation: “In these groups, at this period, I have etched in a living / lively way (j’ai inscrit de manière vivante) the Third Series of my works.” It bears an attribution to G.I. Gurdjieff, but no reference to a source.
On pp.9-11 are three anonymous, untitled pages which effectively serve as an introduction. It says that in 1943 and 1944 those attending these meetings had to defy the curfew. There follow some short paragraphs on Gurdjieff’s career, in which the importance of Jeanne de Salzmann in passing on his teaching is mentioned. It states that in 1941, she presented him with a number of her students for a movements class, and that they would be invited back to his apartment to meet; the notes of this book were taken from those meetings; the exercises were given for a select person or persons, and were not to be practised by anyone else, as they could be harmful (néfastes) for them.
On p.13 is a note: “Caution from a participant in these groups.” It is a warning to place too much weight on a literal construction of the transcripts, as they cannot capture the tone or individual way something was said and received. The meetings often began with a reading from Beelzebub’s Tales. It is attributed to Henri Tracol, June 1992. It is not clear why this was written: was there a plan to publish these meetings even in 1992? Or was this something which fell from his lips as an impromptu introduction when a transcript was being read at one of his groups?
Then, we have on page 15 the unattributed “Notes from the checking / revision team.” It says that the present collection was taken from notes which Gurdjieff had asked to be made of meetings in his apartment from December 1941 to his death in October 1949. It states that Gurdjieff used a very precise vocabulary when teaching, but was less careful with syntax, and on several occasions expressed the wish that these accounts should be put into good French. This was commenced by Mme de Salzmann, continued under the direction of Michel de Salzmann, and after his death, by a team at the Gurdjieff Institute of Paris. It repeats that the teaching could only really be transmitted by the presence of the master, and that the reader must make efforts to find a quality of attention which can allow him to hear an echo of the ineffable message (my paraphrase).
Of course, it had to be, as I said in my volume on Gurdjieff and his exercises, that he had ordered the taking of the notes. It stands to reason he wanted them to be taken down to assist the future of his teaching current. That he expressed the desire that they be rendered in good French indicates that he did consider them important. It does not tell us how widely he wanted them disseminated, but it is more consistent with a desire that they be used than with one that they not be used. So, it has taken the Institute a long time to get to this point, but they are fulfilling Gurdjieff’s wishes in doing so. We can only wish that the other transcripts will likewise be published. The longer they delay, the more people for whom Gurdjieff intended the value of these transcripts, will die. There were many who knew Gurdjieff from 1946 to 1949 who were in good standing with Mme de Salzmann, yet never saw these transcripts.
I have read the entire volume. It is an important one, but so far as I can see, it does not provide any true revelations; rather, it consolidates and fills out the picture we had. It confirms the absolutely essential role of the authentic Gurdjieff exercises in his practical teaching, and – I am appreciating more and more – the critical teaching on accumulators. As we shall see, in due, course, some of his comments on God and the prayer “Lord Have Mercy,” are truly wonderful.
It would be tempting to take a thematic approach in my review of the volume, and some of it shall be thematic. But I think it more important that, for this web site, I systematically work through it meeting by meeting, building up both a table of contents and an index as I go. It is available from By the Way Books.
Joseph Azize, 9 November 2020
Table of Contents
Untitled Introduction 9
A Caution from one who Participated in
these Groups, Henri Tracol 13
Remarks from the Editing Team 15
All and Everything; 10
Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson; 10, 13
de Hartmann, Thomas; 9
de Salzmann, Jeanne; 9, 13, 15
de Salzmann, Michel; 15
Gurdjieff, G.I.; 9-10, 13, 15
Gurdjieff Institute of Paris; 15
Meetings with Remarkable Men; 9
Tracol, Henri; 13