Gurdjieff and Bennett

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff

G. I. Gurdjieff was a mystic born in Alexandropol, Armenia at the Russian/Turkish frontier, in the late 1800s. He began a spiritual search at a young age, connecting him to teachers throughout Asia. Gurdjieff brought his teachings to the West in the early 1900s, sharing his methods with people from all walks of life. He provided a remarkable set of ideas, practical psychological methods, and inner practices to help those with an aim for spiritual transformation and service.

Of particular interest to him was the challenge of how to share the wisdom of the East with Westerners, and he began a number of schools, including the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Prieuré at Fontainebleau near Paris, France.

In addition, an important part of his methodology included work with ancient sacred dance, (Gurdjieff Movements) accompanied by music. Scores for this music were produced by a collaboration between Gurdjieff who provided the melodies he collected at remote temples, and Thomas de Hartmann, who would improvise on these melodies.

His teachings come to us today through direct transmission from his many students. For the Millers River Educational Cooperative, these students became our teachers, especially J. G. Bennett, Irmis Popoff, Pierre Elliot, and Mrs. Stavely. Gurdjieff also shared his ideas through a series of writings including:

Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson:
      An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man,
Meetings With Remarkable Men,
Life is Real Only Then When I Am, and
The Herald of Coming Good

John Godolphin Bennett

A student of G. I. Gurdjieff, John Bennett began to teach the Work in 1930, but did not consider himself a teacher until he inaugurated his own school named “The International Academy for Continuous Education”, at Sherborne House, Gloucestershire, England, in October, 1971. From then until his death in December 1974, Bennett worked full-time with an annual intake of 90 – 100 students. The school was strictly experimental in curriculum, and he taught what he had learned from his own various teachers and also from his own researches and observations.

As a writer, Bennett is best known for his commentaries on Gurdjieff, but his most important work is undoubtedly "The Dramatic Universe”, begun in the 1940s. The fourth and final volume was published in 1966, but he did not consider it a complete work, and encouraged others to continue to develop the ideas contained in it. A lot of the other material in print today is composed of transcriptions of lectures he gave to both public and closed audiences. Bennett’s autobiography, “Witness: The Story of a Search” tells the story of his outward life, of his meetings with various significant men and women, and also many personal insights and teaching stories. The first edition was published in 1960, and he re-wrote the last chapters in 1974 to include the events of the last 14 years of his life.

Bennett’s early career was in the British Army, and later in Military Intelligence. After some attempts as a financial entrepreneur ended in failure in 1929, he entered on what was to be his main and most successful profession as a research scientist in the fuel industry. This came to an abrupt end in 1952, when he was implicated in the investigation of communist activities. Between that time and the opening of the Academy, he engaged mostly in writing, travel, lecturing, study and, in the late 1960s, in research in education and business management.

Bennett met Gurdjieff in 1919 in Istanbul, and in 1922 visited him at the Gurdjieff Institute, which was then at the Prieuré in Fontainebleau, near Paris, France. The following year he spent thirty-three days at the Institute, after which he did not meet Gurdjieff again for 25 years. In August 1948, he met Gurdjieff again in Paris on the advice of Mme. Ouspensky. From then until Gurdjieff’s death on October 29th, 1949, Bennett spent as much time with him as possible, including meetings with Gurdjieff in New York, when Bennett was there on business in January 1949.

Bennett brought as many as he was able of his own pupils and friends to meet Gurdjieff, including his second wife Polly, and Elizabeth Mayall, whom he married on Polly’s death in 1958.

Bennett trained many students in the use of the practical inner exercises that were taught to him by Gurdjieff. This body of techniques is passed from one individual to others entirely by personal transmission, and formed an important part of the curriculum of his Academy.