George Gurdjieff is one of the more interesting and influential characters of the 20th century. Born in Armenia in the 1870s, he spent much of his early life wandering the world in search of "ancient wisdom." He returned to Russia just before WWI and started teaching.

His book "Meetings with Remarkable Men," made into a movie, details some of those travels. He was sometimes a wiley opportunist, but discovered many important ideas, described in his other books and those of Ouspensky.

Some claim that Gurdjieff once crossed a desert, with a caravan, on stilts -- camels and all. He himself claimed to have once made a living painting birds yellow and selling them as exotic. His book Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson -- long, dense, and full of made-up words -- presents a serious reading challenge to all but the most dedicated or masochistic. It took me three years, and that was the GOOD translation...

Those who follow the spiritual tradition established by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866?-1949) call their methods "The Work". There are schools practising the work established in most cities of the western world. The teaching aims to help the seeker to awaken from "Sleep" and develop their true self, the "essence" thus ending the rule over their lives of the "False Personality" or "the Machine" as it is known by them. Students often undertake manual work supervised by a teacher who helps them to observe themselves in order to attain higher consciousness. Some of these techniques include "stop" exercises, studying mental "photographs", self-remembering and acknowledgment of one's "chief feature". The Work also involves dance, literature and music. This struggle with the self is claimed to bring about enhanced vitality and appreciation of life, in short, awakening of "man's latent possibilities".

The Work as it is found today stems from the various schools set up by Gurdjieff's own pupils, Including P.D. Ouspensky, Maurice Nicholl, J.G. Bennett, Rodney Collin and Robert de Ropp.

It is thought that Gurdjieff developed his teachings after an encounter with the Kwajaghan, a Sufi brotherhood, during his travels and there are clear Sufi elements in Gurdjieff's work.

Gurdjieff wrote the following books:

The best introduction to Gurdjieff is Ouspensky's "In Search of the Miraculous".

Also see:
  • http://www.bmrc.berkeley.edu/people/misc/G.html
  • http://www.gurdjieff.org/about.htm
According to the book The Harmonious Circle, it's very likely that a Tsarist spy, name of Narunov, operating in the Tibet of the time of the Great Game - the info-war happening around Central Asia at the end of the 19th century, as described in Rudyard Kipling's Kim - was in fact Gurdjieff.

From what I remember reading in that book, Narunov was arrested by the British authorities, en-route to Tibet, having in his possession some 200 Tibetan singing bowls. Finding no good reason to detain him beyond a few days, the British allowed Narunov to go on his way.

There is a reference in the British records to a mysterious 'Koukandsen', Narunov's contact. This was explained in the book as being a mis-spelling of "Cook and Son" the travel agents.

A somewhat Gurdjieff-like photo of Narunov is given, and some biographical correspondences cited; also it's noted that in Meetings with Remarkable Men, when Gurdjieff states that his profession gives him entry into many closed circles, this fits remarkably well with the hypothesis that he was employed as a spy.

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