Gurdjieff’s Emissary in New York (forthcoming)

Gurdjieff’s Emissary in New York: Talks and Lectures with A.R. Orage 1924-1931, Book Studio, (London?), 2017 (forthcoming)

The cover depicts Gurdjieff and Orage in earnest conversation outside The Sunwise Turn Bookshop in New York. It is almost surrealist. Is it a retouched photograph, I wondered? No, but it took the editors a year to get it right, and right it is, even from the fall of the two men’s shadows onto the pavement and store front. It is the most striking book cover I have yet seen, and this volume is the most significant I have read for time out of mind. And I have barely skimmed the surface.

At 630 pages including the index, some 247,000 words, one and a half inches thick, with around 130 illustrations and 37 photos, it is no slight achievement. Drawn from diverse manuscripts and notes it rarely indicates which extract is drawn from which source. That is disappointing. But the material is extraordinary: only, one needs discretion in reading, because the notes are not always clear, and rash interpretation could easily prove to be misinterpretation.

Part One

I shall deal but swiftly with the little I have read. Three passages have particular struck me, just within the first twenty pages.

First, the reported notes of what Orage said about attitudes on p. 17, opened a new perspective for me. What Ouspensky had to say in The Fourth Way, was important enough. But this adds to it a practical dimension: attitudes consist, these notes say, in mental images which “induce corresponding emotions”, and these cause actions. Pondering this has enabled me to isolate, and so see clearly, mental images which had been mixed up with many other things. Note: he is not speaking about words or mental formulations, but about mental images. I shall not go into the balance of what is said in this short paragraph, except to say that it is worth making your own.

Second, what Orage is remembered as having said about the miracles of the feeding of the crowds is that they mean: “the scientific use of all the energies of food and of all foods” (p. 13). To me, this was illuminating, because Orage’s method of reading the Gospels is not simply symbolic or allegorical. Rather, it is typological, because it is saying that the foods Jesus referred to are all foods, all energies. Typology is barely understood today. Typology transmutes the earthly vision into the divine (to the limited extent possible for us). In Orage’s reading, the words of the Gospels are not just reinterpreted but transmuted into another discourse, one begun or recommenced in this age by Gurdjieff.

Third, there is one of Orage’s suggestions: “Try to make every little episode in your daily life meaningful. Always have a reason if you are walking on one side of a street and if someone should tap you on the shoulder and ask why you are walking on this side of the street, you should be able to give a reason for it” (p. 12).

Before leaving this part, I shall just give one example of Orage’s ability to state the concepts he had taken from Gurdjieff in simple and powerful language: “All living forms are screens through which energy passes” (p. 17)

Part Two

Orage’s stature as a thinker, and as someone who actually was able to take Gurdjieff’s methods and ideas, and develop them, is not in doubt. The great mystery is why Orage was dissatisfied with Gurdjieff. Paul Beekman Taylor’s books don’t really explain to me either the break or the dissatisfaction.

I would not question Orage’s breaking with Gurdjieff, if it were taken by itself. After all, Gurdjieff could have engineered it for some purpose. But I can understand neither what Orage felt that he lacked, nor Gurdjieff’s role in leaving him lacking. Did Orage have everything he needed? Was he merely failing to avail himself of what Gurdjieff had shown?

The almost astounding quality of these notes only adds to the mystery for me. Because if this is insufficient, or if this man was not ready for what he needed, when would anyone be ready?

I have read some unpublished notes of a conversation with Jeanne de Salzmann in which she says that Orage had not understood enough before he began his groups, and had made up his own exercises. She states that she overheard the famous telephone conversation between Gurdjieff and Orage, and that when Orage asked Gurdjieff if he could attend the meeting, Gurdjieff replied: “Come Orage, come.” Orage’s decision, according to Madame, was more to return to life.

I am in no position to contradict her: but Orage’s understanding was astonishing. If the suggestion from p. 12 quoted above is an example of Orage making up his own exercises, then it is a good thing that he did. If he ran into problems, what hope was there for anyone else using Gurdjieff’s teaching? If Orage did not understand sufficient, then the human position would be hopeless, if we are speaking about the Fourth Way as a path to consciousness. This would mean, by exclusion, that a religious way is necessary, and that Fourth Way is an aide to such a path.

The more I see of life, the more I believe that this may be true. Many people following the religious path can go no further than a certain point. I am sure that in many cases Gurdjieff’s teaching could help them better understand their own religion and move beyond that point. Likewise, many in the groups are in the same dilemma. Religion could help them better formulate their aim and the importance of their behaviour: there is a tendency in the Gurdjieff groups for people to imagine that they are “beyond good and evil”, as it were. This of course, leads to putting conscience to sleep.

Now, after Orage’s departure, Gurdjieff began teaching the Preparation and the exercises. Would these have made a difference? Perhaps. But I am reminded of what Mr Adie once said to me about Ouspensky: one can be too harsh on him, Adie said, for it could be that Gurdjieff had made a mistake with him. Pondering it, I wonder if, especially until the 1940s, Gurdjieff did not find it harder for himself to deal with males than with females? Was he too hard on men until the very end of his life?

Whether one thinks there is anything in these speculations or not, this volume is extraordinary.

Joseph Azize, 26 September 2016





One comment

  1. Firstly i would like to thank you Joseph, your works have been a great value to me.

    This is something very interesting to think about, why Orage was dissatisfied with Gurdjieff, why was Ouspensky dissatisfied with Gurdjieff, both men seemed to have a grasp of Gurdjieff ideas more than anyone else and i think that if people like this could not grasp the teaching and have the results Gurdjieff speaks about, that is…. it would take only three months to know how to work by oneself, this taken from Ladies of the Rope along with it taking only 10 years for someone to accomplish the main task of the work, that is to acquire the I in man, if these men could not attain this how are we supposed to think that we can. The only logical explanation is that something was missing, some vital key. Was it on the part of the teacher or student that this key was not shared or recognized? I think the answer is in one of the most unlikely sources for this, Beelzebub tales to his grandson. I’m paraphrasing here but didn’t Ouspensky say that if man was supposed to remember himself there should be some easy way or key. Ouspensky definitely didn’t have the key but what about Orage. Orage taught a method. If we compare this method to the buried method in Beelzebub tales Orage was so close to understanding it, granted there is some vital errors but the frame is there. Mr. King wrote that when Orage approached Gurdjieff on this Gurdjieff would say there is no method and dismissed it. Why?

    There is a hidden method in Beelzebub tales and if we compare it to Orage’s method it is almost spot on except for some aspects that if Orage was corrected Orage would fully understand what needs to happen in the development of man. Why then would Gurdjieff dismiss Orage’s method and not correct it. Also think about this. Gurdjieff the teacher wrote a book that contains the whole teaching, how precisely to develop from an abnormal man into a normal man, the problem i see is that Gurdjieff never taught what is in this book. Why, why not teach the contents of the book. You never read that a student says that your head brain must oppose your spinal brain, this produces growth in the solar plexus brain. At least i never read a student that said that. So why bury the dog and not give it to your students. He had the time but for some reason he didn’t. Now we can say it is the students fault not the teachers that they could not properly ingest the teaching but i personally don’t think that this is the case. I personally think Gurdjieff withheld the teaching in Beelzebub tales. The question would be why withhold the exact teaching of a teaching you plan to share with the world.

    Gurdjieff gave up on gaining practical results with people and turned to only giving out the theory, he mentions this directly in Life is Real Only when I am. Hence Beelzebub Tales.

    Again Why?

    The answer like i mentioned i think is in Beelzebub tales. There is a movement in the work that has people thinking that there is two teachings, one that is from the students influence the other from Beelzebub himself. If we compare the two we will find that there is very strong evidence this is the case. If i speak about the method in Beelzebub i usually get students telling me i have no idea about the teaching and i am making this stuff up, that is until i use the book itself to explain it then it seems to be so foreign that i just get a moment of silence and a blank look thrown at me. The teaching in Beelzebub tales seems to be at odds with what the students writing contains. If we think about it there might be a reason the book is called tales to his grandson, tales to the second generation. Why teach the second generation and not the first.

    If anyone is interested I could share but i would just like to get to the point at this time, that is the Why.

    Lets just assume that this is the case. That Gurdjieff made two influences of the teaching, one brought from his students contact with him the other buried in a written works wrote by the master himself.

    Why do such a thing?

    The reasoning i come to is that this was needed to bridge the first interval of the work or the initial influence. Gurdjieff was a master of the law of seven, he spoke tons about how all teachings fall apart with wisacreing in the first and second generations so to combat this he tried something new. Let’s take the Octave you spoke about in Early Talks, that Gurdjieff was the DO, the first generation the RE, the second generation the MI. Here it stalls. It might be also said, the influence is the DO, like some type of food, Gurdjieff RE the first generation the MI. It stalls, no matter how it is said it stalls after the influence of the first generation. Then we must think how is the interval bridged….

    “A new arising from the previously arisen through the “Harnel-miaznel,” the process of which is actualized thus: the higher blends with the lower in order to actualize the middle and thus becomes either higher for the preceding lower, or lower for the succeeding higher;

    Two forces are needed to which they need to be made to have contact, this comes as an opposition in Beelzebub tales, the head brain or affirming force must be opposed to the denying force, spinal brain to have results of the reconciling force. What if Gurdjieff knew, and I’m sure he did, was that a body would be needed to be created, the denying force, then the affirming force needed to come in and oppose the denying force to bridge the interval. It must be a force that comes from the outside of the initial force. The body is the work by his students, all the groups and literature, thisis growth of the body, i think is why he gave directions to many pupils saying they had to continue the work and they were the only ones that could, it didn’t matter if they had the proper teaching , Gurdjieff just needed to develop a body that contain the ideas. This is the denying force. Then he hid the teaching that seems opposed to the body of the ideas within Beelzebub tales. This teaching would act as the affirming force and when the affirming force confronted the denying force something else was cerated, something i reason is the teaching itself. So in thinking like this, the groups don’t have the teaching, Beelzebub doesn’t have the teaching, the results of them clashing is the teaching. This new force bridges the interval and the work carries on.

    So why then all the dissatisfaction, maybe the two men knew Gurdjieff was holding something back, or at least felt it and they just lost hope in finding it. Gurdjieff wasn’t to blame in my eyes though, if this speculation is somewhat true then he did it so the work would carry on and have a longer longevity then a first generation pupil who had the complete teaching in his hands.

    This is all speculation but I do know the teaching in Beelzebub tales contains a new way to look at the Gurdjieff teaching.


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