Tilo Ulbricht, “Recollections” (Pt 3)


There are some spelling errors, chiefly in names, e.g. “Rena Hands” should be “Rina Hands,” “Guénon” is the proper spelling of the Traditionalist’s surname, not the different variuations in this book, “Annie-Lou” not “Annie-Loo” Staveley, and “Wykoff” should be “Wyckoff.”

There are some minor factual issues, e.g. Gurdjieff’s mother was not Armenian but Greek (Paul Beekman Taylor, G.I. Gurdjieff: A Life, 14), Mrs Staveley had left Jane Heap’s group, and I believe, returned to America before Jane died.

But there is one more significant factual matter. Ulbricht asserts: “George Adie … and his wife Helen, a fine pianist, started a separate group (in Australia), and up to this time (1982) had not worked together with the other (Stanley Nott) group” [114]. I would not deny that Mrs Adie was a fine pianist. Michelangelo was a fine sculptor. Fra Angelico was a fine painter. She was also a renowned composer whose works earn royalties even today, and she was a matchless Movements teacher whose very presence as she both led and played piano could change your state. But the larger issue is the assertion that even by 1982 the Adies had remained separate from the other group. Well, here is a letter Mrs Adie wrote to de Salzmann on 2 July 1969. After that, I shall add a few comments, although they may not be needed.

It is a long time since I have written to you, and I think it is time now for me to report to you about my experiences here with movements and music, and also to give some account of the unfortunate happenings with Stanley’s group.

It has been brought home very strongly to George and me, how true were your words to us two years ago namely, “There will always be trouble wherever they are concerned.” As you know, we made no move whatsoever to contact Stanley’s people before Rina’s visit, and though a few approaches were made to us, they were not encouraged, though not in an unfriendly way. When Rina came to see us and put it to us that they were badly in need of direct help, George agreed, subject to Stanley’s approval, to visit them at certain intervals, and I showed myself willing to help with music and movements if needed. This arrangement was introduced at a meeting which George attended in Rina’s presence, and which was very enthusiastically received by most of the members, many of whom were already dissatisfied with the instruction which they were receiving by mail or from leaders inadequately equipped for their position. Naturally, after experiencing direct teaching by word of mouth from Rina and afterwards from George, it was not easy for them to return to their old conditions of teaching by correspondence.

I do not want to worry you with a long resume of this painful story. I am sure you have already heard a variety of different versions, but one or two things I should like to tell you.

1)         From the beginning, (after Rina’s visit) although Stanley had given a half-hearted agreement to George’s participation in his work, he wrote to his four leaders, making such conditions and limitations that George was in the absurd position of being refused “permission” to go there at certain times. He also warned them against George and queried his trustworthiness. I am sure you will agree that this made it impossible for George to continue. It was a ludicrous position.

2)         We met the four leaders several times to try to come to some understanding. Two of them were very anxious to work with George and had found his visits most helpful. The other two, for whatever reason, were reluctant, but showed that they would eventually have been reconciled. Stanley, unfortunately, had written to them a statement from you to the effect that George was incompetent and unfit to take any group. I do not believe that you ever said that in so many words, though I could imagine your saying that “no-one is competent to take a group”. How confused they must have been to hear from Rina saying that you were pleased with the arrangements, and one from Stanley saying “Adie is not to be trusted.” At this point I should like you to know that since our conversation with you in London, at no time has George suggested he had any authority from you, nor has he quoted you at any time.

3)         Although we have probably made tactical mistakes in our approach, and George’s willingness to help (which you know is there) could have been misunderstood, there was never any intention on his part to take over Stanley’s group. He only wanted to help them to continue Rina’s work of straightening things out, and for there to be a common aim in unifying the work in Sydney.

Now, there is some other correspondence where Mrs Adie refers to one those four saying that she withdrew her permission for Mr Adie to attend their group meetings. He complied, but then was approached by some of their group (I do not know their names) who decided to join with the Adies.

Further, Mr Adie told someone (not me, but someone who told me) that when they came to Australia, Madame de Salzmann told them to begin their own group, so that it did not look as though they were trying to take over Stanley Nott’s group; and that if they did succeed in establishing a strong group, that might be an influence inducing the two groups to at least collaborate on certain matters. For some time in the 1970s and 1980s, Mr Adie and some of his group would meet with people from the other group to exchange on their work. I was told this by James Wyckoff, who had been part of those meetings when he came to Australia.

I would presume that Ulbricht was only reporting what he had been told, and that he sincerely believed it. Yet, it is an instance of believing “any old twaddle,” and it as well to check as to assert.

to be continued

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