Quotes & Anecdotes
During that time (~1918 Russia) I was a good deal with G… One was struck by a great inner simplicity and naturalness in him which made one completely forget that he was, for us, the representative of the world of the miraculous and the unknown. Furthermore, one felt very strongly in him the entire absence of any kind of affectation or desire to produce an impression. And together with this one felt an absence of personal interest in anything he was doing, a complete indifference to ease and comfort and a capacity for not sparing himself in work whatever that work might be. Sometimes he liked to be in gay and lively company; he liked to arrange big dinners, buying a quantity of wine and food of which, however, he often ate or drank practically nothing. Many people got the impression that he was a gourmand, a man fond of good living in general, and it seemed to us that he often wanted to create this impression, although all of us already saw that this was "acting."
Our feeling of this "acting" in G. was exceptionally strong. Among ourselves we often said we never saw him and never would. In any other man so much "acting" would have produced an impression of falsity. In him "acting" produced an impression of strength…
…I was particularly attracted by his sense of humor and the complete absence of any pretensions to "sanctity" or to the possession of "miraculous" powers, although, as we became convinced later, he possessed then the knowledge and ability of creating unusual phenomena of a psychological character. But he always laughed at people who expected miracles from him.
(P.D. Ouspensky; In Search of the Miraculous; excerpted from p. 33)
No matter how late, each night in the salon after dinner Gurdjieff took his little accordion-piano on his knee and, while his left hand worked the bellows, his right hand made music in minor chords and haunting single notes.
But one night in his aromatic store room he played for five of us alone a different kind of music, although whether the difference lay in its sorrowful harmonies or in the way he played I do not know. I only know that no music had ever been so sad. Before it ended I put my head on the table and wept.
“What has happened to me? I asked. “When I came into this room I was happy. And then that music – and now I am happy again.”
“I played objective music to make cry,” Gurdjieff said. “There are many kinds such music – some to make laugh, or to love or to hate. This the beginning of music – sacred music, two, three thousand years old. Your church music comes from such but they don’t realize. They have forgotten. This is temple music – very ancient.”
Once, when he played I thought the music sounded like a prayer – it seemed to supplicate. And then I thought, “It is only imagination and my emotion,” and I tried not to feel what I was feeling. But when he had finished, instead of smiling and tapping the top of the instrument with his hand, he sat quite still and his eyes stood motionless, as if he were looking at us through his thoughts. Then he said, “It is a prayer,” and left us.
(Dorothy Caruso; A Personal History; p. 179)
He was an extraordinarily versatile man; he knew everything and could do everything. He once told me he had brought back from his travels in the East a number of carpets among which were many duplicates and others having no particular value from an artistic point of view. During his visits he had found that the price of carpets in Petersburg was higher than in Moscow, and every time he came he brought a bale of carpets which he sold in Petersburg.
According to another version he simply bought the carpets in Moscow at the "Tolkutchka" and brought them to Petersburg to sell.
I did not altogether understand why he did this, but I felt it was connected with the idea of "acting."
The sale of these carpets was in itself remarkable. G. put an advertisement in the papers and all kinds of people came to buy carpets. On such occasions they took him, of course, for an ordinary Caucasian carpet-seller. I often sat for hours watching him as he talked to the people who came. I saw that he sometimes played on their weak side.
One day he was either in a hurry or had grown tired of acting the carpet-seller and he offered a lady, obviously rich but very grasping, who had selected a dozen fine carpets and was bargaining desperately, all the carpets in the room for about a quarter of the price of those she had chosen. At first she was surprised but then she began to bargain again. G. smiled and said he would think it over and give her his answer the next day. But next day he was no longer in Petersburg and the woman got nothing at all.
Something of this sort happened on nearly every occasion. With these carpets, in the role of traveling merchant, he again gave the impression of a man in disguise, a kind of Haroun-al-Raschid, or the man in the invisible cap of the fairy tale.
Once, when I was not there, an "occultist" of the charlatan type came to him, who played a certain part in some spiritualistic circles in Petersburg and who later became a "professor" under the Bolsheviks. He began by saying he had heard a great deal about G. and his knowledge and wanted to make his acquaintance.
G., as he told me himself, played the part of a genuine carpet-seller. With the strongest Caucasian accent and in broken Russian he began to assure the "occultist" that he was mistaken and that he only sold carpets; and he immediately began to unroll and offer him some.
The "occultist" went away fully convinced he had been hoaxed by his friends. "It was obvious that the rascal had not got a farthing," added G, "otherwise I would have screwed the price of a pair of carpets out of him."
…He told me a great deal about carpets which, as he often said, represented one of the most ancient forms of art. He spoke of the ancient customs connected with carpet making in certain parts of Asia; of a whole village working together at one carpet; of winter evenings when all the villagers, young and old, gather together in one large building and, dividing into groups, sit or stand on the floor in an order previously known and determined by tradition. Each group then begins its own work. Some pick stones and splinters out of the wool. Others beat out the wool with sticks. A third group combs the wool. The fourth spins. The fifth dyes the wool. The sixth or maybe the twenty-sixth weaves the actual carpet. Men, women, and children, old men and old women, all have their own traditional work. And all the work is done to the accompaniment of music and singing. The women spinners with spindles in their hands dance a special dance as they work, and all the movements of all the people engaged in different work are like one movement in one and the same rhythm. Moreover each locality has its own special tune, its own special songs and dances, connected with carpet making from time immemorial.
(P.D. Ouspensky; In Search of the Miraculous; excerpted from pp. 33-35)
Gurdjieff sometimes took drastic measures to bring home to us how we were attached to, or identified with, our work and its results. Two Englishwomen, keen gardeners, had worked intensely in the flowers garden and produced a fine show of blooms. Young pupils – and experienced children – were often shooed away for fear harm might be done. When the garden was at its best, they asked Gurdjieff to come and see it. He did so, and it was arranged that everyone else should come, too. He looked round, nodded and smiled and said ”Very nice, very nice,” and went away. That evening, the gate “happened” to be left open and the calves and sheep went browsing in the precious garden.
(C.S. Nott; Teachings of Gurdjieff; p. 50)
“While I sat in one of those restaurants with my said new friend, the Persian, he was called away by some other acquaintances, Persians, and I remained alone at the table with the champagne, the ordering of which in these restaurants at night in Montmartre is in general obligatory.”
At this point in his tale Beelzebub sighed deeply, and then continued thus:
“Just now, while telling you about that evening spent in the restaurant in Montmartre among the contemporary three-brained beings breeding on that planet Earth which pleases you, there involuntarily revived in me the ‘being-Sarpitimnian-experiencing,’ which I experienced at that time, and now at this moment the memory of all that I experienced is so intensely and repeatedly associated in all the three spiritualized parts of my common presence, that I am compelled to digress from the theme begun, in order that I may share with you these sad and distressing reflections which were induced in me in those dreadful surroundings in Montmartre by my solitude after the said young Persian, who became my cicerone (guide) in Paris, had left me.
“Sitting then in solitude in the restaurant in Montmartre and watching the contemporary favorites of yours gathered there, I continued to ponder:
“How many centuries have passed since that time when I began to observe the existence of the three-brained beings of this ill-fated planet!
“During these long centuries many sacred Individuals have been sent down to them here from Above with the special aim of helping them to deliver themselves from the consequences of the properties of the organ Kundabuffer, yet nevertheless nothing has changed here and the whole process of ordinary being-existence has remained as before.
“During this time, no difference whatsoever has arisen between those three-brained beings of this planet, who existed nearly a hundred of their centuries ago, and the contemporary ones.
“Are not the beings sitting here the same, and do they not behave as unbecomingly as the beings of the city Samlios on the continent Atlantis, which was considered by all the three-brained beings of that time as the ‘source-and- place-of-concentration-of-the-results-of-attainments-in the-sense-of-the-perfecting-of-their-Reason’—or as the contemporary beings here would say, ‘the-chief-center of-culture’—and where I also sat among the beings there in their, as they then called similar restaurants, ’Sakroopiaks’?
“And after Atlantis had perished, and many, many centuries had passed, when I was on the continent Asia in the city of Koorkalai, their new center-of-culture of that ancient community there called Tikliamish, and sat at times among them in their Kaltaani which were similar also to contemporary restaurants, was I not witness of similar ‘scenes’?
“And in their majestic city Babylon, where I also happened to be, many of their centuries later . . . was it not the same there? Were not the three-brained beings of the city Babylon those same Asklays, Kafirians, Veroonks, Klians, and so on? . .
“Only their dress and the names of their nationalities have changed.
“During Babylonian times they were called Assyrians,’ ’Persians,’ ‘Sikitians,’ Aravians,’ and by other different names ending in ‘ian.’
“Yes . . . and now again, after so many centuries, I am again here, in their contemporary center-of-culture, the city Paris.
“And again it is the same . . . shoutings, uproar, laughter, scoldings . . . the same as in the city Babylon, as in the city Koorkalai, or even in Samlios, their first center-of-culture. . .
“Do not these three-centered beings of today gather together to pass the time in a way unbecoming to three-centered beings, in as unbecoming a way as three-centered beings used to pass the time in all former periods of existence on that unfortunate planet?
“And during the time in which I have observed these unfortunates, not only whole peoples of many of their centers of culture have disappeared without trace, but also the terra firma on which they existed has either completely changed or disappeared from the face of that planet, as happened for instance to the continent Atlantis.
“After Samlios, their second center became the continent ’Grabontzi.’ Have not the peoples inhabiting it also disappeared from the continent Africa in the same way? And if the continent itself has not disappeared, yet at least that place where its center lay is now so covered with sand that, besides what is called the ‘Sahara desert,’ nothing exists.
“Again many centuries passed; their center was formed in Tikliamish. What remains of it, but deserts now called ’Red sand’?
“If some nation formerly famous has perhaps survived in its thousandth generation, then it is now vegetating in complete nothingness somewhere not far from that place where that nation dwelt.
“Then again many centuries passed.
“I saw their center Babylon; what has remained of this truly great Babylon? A few stones of the city itself and a few remnants of peoples formerly great, who, although they continue still to exist, are yet regarded by contemporary beings as quite insignificant.
“And what will become of this contemporary center-of-culture of theirs, of the city Paris, and of the peoples powerful today who surround it: French, Germans, English, Dutch, Italians, Americans, and so forth? . . . future centuries will show.
“But meanwhile, only one thing is certain: these unfortunate germs of ‘higher-being-bodies,’ which arose and still continue to arise in some of the three-brained beings here, are compelled, as I have already told you, to ‘languish’ in the presences of all kinds of abnormal forms, to actualize which, owing to the non-lawful consequences arising from the lack of foresight of some of our Most-High - Most - Most - Sacred - Common - Cosmic- Individuals, has become proper to this maleficent planet Earth.
“I was still absorbed in such thoughts, so sad personally for my essence, when my new friend, the young Persian, returned.
(All & Everything: Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson; G.I. Gurdjieff; pp 672-677)