In 2013, a review I wrote of the MP3 recording of A.G.E. Blake’s reading of Meetings With Remarkable Men was published in a blog. Since then, I have revisited it, and in 2017 I updated the review. It is now available on Audible: https://www.audible.com.au/pd/Meetings-with-Remarkable-Men-Audiobook/B0BJS916GF?ref=a_cart_item
There are two versions of this book on Audible. I have not listened to the other recording, but be careful when purchasing if you want Blake’s reading, as it is a valuable resource.
Before hearing Blake’s recording, I had not realised why Meetings benefited by being heard as opposed to being read, and yet how often had heard this and other books being read. I am fairly confident that much of the benefit is due to the fact that, by making the effort to follow the spoken word, we hear a different interpretation, but most of all, because we receive the text in a new tempo. My accustomed tempo of reading to myself allows me to pass over small words and phrases so lightly that they leave no appreciable impression. I subliminally notice certain parts and ignore others. The same is not true when one hears it read, at least not to the same extent.
But the value is even greater when the reader takes it at a pace influenced by the contents and nature of what is being read. Blake does not read at all theatrically, but allows each word its weight. The result is that countless passages, sentence, phrases and words burst into meaning for me. I shall not give examples, lest I rob you of your own discoveries. Suffice it to say that listening to Blake’s reading has brought me closer to Gurdjieff’s ideas and methods, and, I think, helped to balance my perspective on them.
When we approach a book like Meetings, we have to start with the story as it is, even though the text is clearly auto-mythological (I thought that I had coined this word, but others have used it too. I suppose that it is quite obvious as a way of referring to an apparently autobiographical work which offers mythology rather than biography). The text may work within us, through the mysterious laws of association (deep calls to deep) suggesting different interpretations, dimensions and connections. But there is no need to analyse it: that is, there is no need to analyse it if one accepts the narrative on its ow mysterious terms, as being addressed to the whole of us. We are invited to receive it with all centres. It is a loss to redirect the invitation to the head.
The movie, gorgeous as it was, comprised a series of vignettes held together only by chronology. The Blake recording showed me what the film missed: the movie omitted Gurdjieff’s narration. Of course Gurdjieff was shown in it. Yes, but not in his most important role, that of narrator. Hearing the recording, one cannot but be struck by the presence of the narrator. Almost all of the words, phrases and sentences which now burst into meaning for me were spoken by the narrator: they provide coherence to the inner content. To leave them out is to make a necklace without some of the most important beads and without any thread. When de Salzmann made the Lubovedsky incident the climax, she lost Gurdjieff’s chosen ending: the last reunion with Skridlov. Re-read that last paragraph, the one commencing: “Formerly, it may be said …” and you will see what I mean. That is where the movie should have ended: anything else misses the point, which is to be lamented, since it was Gurdjieff’s point.
To bring this together, the authoritative reading of this text by Anthony Blake facilitates our hearing Gurdjieff’s voice, as he narrates the story, with more inner silence, with a greater freedom from the voices with which we habitually speak to ourselves: it gently moves us into a different inner world as we listen. In a word, this recording helps us to approach Gurdjieff’s book with less subjectivity, and is highly recommended.
Joseph Azize, 24 October 2022 (incorporating material from 2013 and 2017)