gurdjieff azize
Delving deeper into some of G.I. Gurdjieff's ideas and practices, we continue our discussion with Father Joseph Azize, author of the recently published book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, & Exercises. Among a broad range of related topics covered, Fr. Azize describes the esoteric dynamics of prayer as it relates to the "Four Ideals" exercises and the types of impressions that we may access and 'digest' as a result. The detrimental effects of 'negative emotions' are also examined - as they relate to the growing irrationality that surrounds us, and the necessary work of growing one's consciousness and conscience to counter these manifestations for one's self, and for others. Further to this is an increased awareness of one's own thinking and feeling centers and how strengthening these 'bodies' plays such a large part in the growth of an individual.

On today's MindMatters we look back to the remaining fragments of G.I. Gurdjieff's teachings and exercises so that they may not be lost to obscurity, and forward, because this time we're living in necessitates their use. In addition to these issues, Fr. Azize speaks of his own synthesis of these ideas regarding his work in the priesthood and the Christian tradition. Finally, a brief but informed survey of some other important Gurdjieff books. In these times of accelerated change, what if anything can Gurdjieff's work do to assist us in our response to it, and our working on ourselves?


Running Time: 01:04:53

Download: MP3 — 59.4 MB


Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, & Exercises Also check out Fr. Azize's previous book, George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia.

Suggestions for a Basic Gurdjieff Bibliography (courtesy of Fr. Azize)

Gurdjieff (essential):
  • Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
  • Meetings with Remarkable Men
  • Life Is Real Only Then, When "I Am"
  • Gurdjieff's Early Talks, 1914-1931
  • Transcripts of Gurdjieff's Meetings 1941-1946, 2nd ed.
  • Paris Meetings 1943
Ouspensky:
  • In Search of the Miraculous (essential)
  • The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution
  • The Fourth Way
  • A Record of Meetings
  • A Further Record
Biographical Records:
  • John G. Bennett, Witness: The Story of a Search
  • Solange Claustres, Becoming Conscious with Mr Gurdjieff
  • Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, Our Life with Mr Gurdjieff
  • Kathryn C. Hulme, Undiscovered Country
  • Dorothy Philpotts, Discovering Gurdjieff
  • Irmis P. Popoff, Gurdjieff: His Work on myself ... with others ... for the Work
  • Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch, Gurdjieff: A Master in Life
  • Gurdjieff and the Women of the Rope
Approaches to the Teaching:
  • John G. Bennett, Gurdjieff: Making a New World
  • John G. Bennett, A Spiritual Psychology
  • Jane Heap, Notes
  • Maurice Nicoll, Notes Taken at Meetings January 18, 1934 to April 28, 1934
  • Maurice Nicoll, Selections from Meetings in 1953
  • Maurice Nicoll, Simple Explanation of Work Ideas
  • Jeanne de Salzmann, Reality of Being
  • A.L. Staveley, Themes I, II, and III
  • Jean Vaysse, Toward Awakening
  • Gurdjieff's Emissary in New York, Talks and Lectures with A.R. Orage 1924-1931
Aside from Amazon, Fourth Way books can be purchased at By The Way Books. Book Studio has published numerous important volumes, including original manuscript versions of Gurdjieff's works, and previously unpublished talks and notes.

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Joseph: ...our reaction to what happens in the world, our response to it makes the world. He says but the fear which we feel, that sort of panic, enters the earth and it has a deleterious effect upon the earth and breeds disease.

Elan: So, Joseph one of the other practices that gets explained in your essays and book is the idea of the four ideals which is this idea of thinking on one of the four religious figures in history some of the biggest, and connecting one's thoughts and ideals - and correct me if I'm wrong - kind of making a connection to them in physical space where they might be most identified with around the world historically, and bringing in something of their essence and being into one's own being. Is that about right, would you say?

Joseph: It's absolutely extraordinary. When I was first introduced to it, I could hardly believe it. What Gurdjieff says in that exercise - and this is also part of the reason that it was important to share it. I mean there is something already in Reality Of Being, a great deal, and the estimable Frank Sinclair refers to something similar Gurdjieff said in 1948 in his book Of The Life More Aligned, and I think also in the other one Without Benefit Of Clergy. But it's extraordinary.

What Gurdjieff says is that when people pray, their prayers go upwards, up in the atmosphere of the earth, and he means this literally, that when we pray we send emanations, fine substances, towards the ideal to whom we're praying.

So with for example I'm praying to Jesus, the emanations mount towards Jesus. He seems to say that there is Jesus, an emanation of him, above the atmosphere of the earth, an ideal. He calls it an ideal. Now he doesn't say how it got there, but he says there's an ideal. And in that exercise four ideals are taken: Mohammed, Buddha, Lama, and Christ. And he says when people pray towards these ideals, their emanations have different strength, different vivifyingness. It's like if you shoot an arrow. If I shot an arrow it wouldn't go terribly far. If a real marksman shot an arrow, it's going to go many times further.

And so, some of the prayers of the believers barely rise at all. Other prayers mount further, further even than the atmosphere of the earth, and mount towards the ideal. And he says that those emanations as they leave the earth, are dispersed, but then they gather in sort of a foyer or reservoir of substances and these are very, very fine, very subtle substances. He says that a person can't just enter into contact with the ideal himself directly. That's a very advanced thing. But people like you and I can enter into contact with the reservoir of substances and we can ingest those substances into ourselves. So they're a very, very fine, very powerful food and they are the higher hydrogen's. They are probably the highest hydrogen's of impressions it's possible for us to receive.

We enter into contact with them and we digest them by using creative imagination to establish a link between a limb of our bodies and the ideal, so a thread which serves to connect each of the limbs to one of the ideals. And then we attract or suck those substances into ourselves. But it's not just enough to do that, he says. He says you also have to know how to assimilate the product when it's there and how to blend it with the substances in your body.

So this is a super fine substance. We already know that with some vitamins, if you receive them you have to have a certain other substance in yourself so that you can digest and assimilate that vitamin, otherwise it just passes through your body.

Elan: Good analogy.

Joseph: There's something similar with this. It's not just enough to have the contact between my right arm and Mohammed. I have to also have these substances in myself which will make these higher hydrogens and I have to know how to mingle them, how to blend them. I have to know where in the body to blend them and I have to know what to do with them when they've been blended. Well that information is in the four ideals exercise.

And then very importantly, Gurdjieff said to Mr. Adie and this is not in Madame de Saltzmann's book. He says to Mr. Adie, "And then you remain 10 to 15 minutes in the collected state, digesting them because otherwise all that work will be lost in vain. They will just evaporate from your body. So, an extra work is needed. Remaining within the atmosphere to digest them.

Elan: Just to add to that, I don't recall exactly if what I'm going to say pertains to the four ideals or to the preparation, but isn't there also a kind of asking that those substances get protected and that gain is secured until the next ingestion or process?

Joseph: Yes. That's part of it and Gurdjieff very specifically said the Paris transcripts to his pupils at that time that they could take an ideal; and ask their ideal to help them and to help them keep the results of this substance until the next time that they came to it, which is why when I set out the four ideals exercise, I brought all that together in the commentary. Because Gurdjieffoften gave things in fragments and then it was for us to put the fragments together, to make the mosaic.

Harrison: That's a good point that you just raised because this comes back again, to why this book was really necessary, because all of these fragments were dispersed and some of them can be found in these previously published works that you've talked about, a little here, a little there, a whole bunch in the in the Paris meetings. But a lot of these fragments presumably were given out in perhaps even one-on-one conversation between Gurdjieff and his pupils, and as a result of a number of things, including the secrecy of the Gurdjieff groups and the hesitation to communicate amongst each other and to share openly, that a lot of these fragments have been lost. So we don't even know how many exercises there are, for instance. If it were possible to make a collection of all the exercises that Gurdjieff gave that could be almost universally applicable because as you point out in the book, Gurdjieff would give individual exercises to certain individuals and say, "This exercise is for you. No one else will do it." But there were others that he gave to everyone. So we have no idea how many there actually were. But luckily we do have the ones that were preserved and that are able to now be published.

But where did I want to go with that? What I wanted to point out is that a lot of these exercises either have been lost or would have been lost otherwise. So could you comment a bit on the attitude of the official Gurdjieff groups and their perspective, their rationale for not sharing these things and maybe could you also share if you've received any negative feedback since the publication of the book as a result of sharing these things?

Joseph: Yeah. First of all, part of what the book tries to do is by using an academic standard, which does have its value, to try and show what it was that Gurdjieff brought with these exercises, the nature of them and the principles. By doing that, to bring into contrast or relief, those practices which are being used by Gurdjieff groups which are not from Gurdjieff. There's no doubt that new methods were introduced in the 1960s. I'm not speaking against those methods as such. All I'm saying is, they are not from Gurdjieff and it should be known that they're not from Gurdjieff. If Mr. Adie gave us something which wasn't from Gurdjieff he would say, "I got this from here, I got this from there." He never confused what came from Gurdjieff with what came from other places. And in the Gurdjieff groups that has to some very significant extent, happened.

So the genuine Gurdjieff exercises have been displaced by new exercises. I'm not speaking against those new exercises. I'm just saying be clear and candid about what comes from Gurdjieff and what doesn't, and if you do study what Gurdjieff brought - and it was clearly meant to be studied - you will find something very valuable which I don't think appears without that type of study.

The next thing about that is that I have not, myself, received any negative comments. Everyone that speaks to me is positive about the book.

Harrison: Good.

Joseph: I'm not saying people aren't negative. I'm sure that a lot of people are highly critical. All I'm saying is, they don't say it to me. I did, not long ago, have correspondence with a very highly placed person in the official Gurdjieff groups and this person said to me, "Gurdjieff never wanted the ideas to be published" and I wrote back saying "I'm sure he didn't want them to be published but he thought they were going to be used." {laughter}

Harrison: Yeah.

Joseph: And I said "Besides, the most important exercises were already published in the Third Series, and then many more were published in Madame de Salzmann's book and in the transcripts. What's wrong was commenting on those and then preserving these ones which came from Mr. Adie, which would otherwise be lost? Surely," I said, "The question is the quality of the comment, whether it's true to the standard, whether it represents or misrepresents."

So that's how I see it. And the person didn't reply to that. This person, to give them their credit they actually said, "Yes I can see an argument that at the time Gurdjieff gave them," no, he didn't say this person didn't say that. He said, "I can see an argument that at the time Gurdjieff gave them, those were those circumstances and that we're now in different circumstances." So this person at least acknowledged that.

What I think good Gurdjieff wanted was for his pupils to speak with one another and exchange what they had. Can I say too, that I was pretty much influenced in this, I think well, by Mrs Staveley because what happened is, I met Mrs. Staveley in 1996. I'm very glad I did. But she told me that she started to collect the authentic Gurdjieff exercises when she realized that they were being lost and forgotten. So she started then, to put together in one place, all the exercises which she and Jane Heap had from Gurdjieff. She also spoke to the Bennett people who were in Claymont. She spoke to pupils of Marina Hands and Irmis Popoff and she collected exercises from these people so that at least there would be a collection of what were the authentic Gurdjieff exercises.

So to this day Mrs. Staveley's group in Oregon still uses the authentic Gurdjieff exercises.

Harrison: So there is a collection out there but obviously those ones haven't all been published. Do you foresee a future when Mrs. Staveley's collection from all these different sources would ever be published or, from your perspective, is it just a good thing that at least they've been preserved?

Joseph: Well they're being used. That's the point.

Harrison: Yes.

Joseph: So I see them being published while they're being used. If anyone is serious and they can work with the people from Oregon, they will learn those exercises in due course.

What I wanted to do was to preserve the exercises from Mr. Adie which were being lost and weren't being used. The only people that use them now are the people that meet with me and the people that have read them in my writing and apart from that, so far as I can tell, they're just not being used, because I have contact still with people who were with Mr. Adie. One of the people who had been with him the longest, over 20 years, could not remember at all anything about how Mr. Adie taught the Preparation or the exercises, could remember nothing! And that's what happens if you don't have a place inside you where it can find its place, it just evaporates.

Elan: Well I guess this comment is going as much to Joseph the priest as it is the student of Gurdjieff. It does seem quite interesting to me that your analysis and information has become available to us at this time. A lot of the things that we talk about on the show on a very mundane level, is becoming better people and developing ourselves. On another level ther,. is you might say, a great deal of spiritual struggle, or some might say spiritual warfare. We're in a time of great change.

If you have any thoughts about those terms and these times we're living in and how these practices may or may not be a part of our fortifying ourselves and fighting the good fight, I would appreciate any thoughts you had on that.

Joseph: Yeah. I'm sure that we are living in times of, as Bennett said, accelerating change and that means that everything is accelerating, including the rate of the downward spiral. The destructive forces which are loose, are increasing at an accelerating rate. And at the moment, we're experiencing the release of an elemental force of panic. This is something which Gurdjieff did speak about and Bennett preserved, that there are elemental forces such as panic and our reaction to what happens in the world, our response to it, makes the world, in very, very real ways. He says that the fear which we feel, that sort of panic, enters the earth and it has a deleterious effect upon the earth and breeds disease.

So in a time like now when panic is being released, it's all the more important that we make the efforts we can, through at least their own individual sanity and balance. That will have an effect in society. I don't believe it can be as easy as harmonic convergence or things like that. There's an element of wishful thinking there. And I don't criticize the motive behind it at all. People mean well, but it's harder than that. We can all hold hands and sing and it may not make any difference whatsoever, but if we are working on our being that will make a difference. It will affect the person next to me, and then how that person is will affect the person next to them, and there can be a ripple effect.

The hazard, the situation of the moment, is that the positive effect, the positive work, the creative, the conscious work, might not be strong enough to balance the destructive forces. This is something which I think is a general rule in history; the greater the destructive forces loose, the more the constructive forces can appear. It's very striking that when our Lord was teaching in Palestine, there were record numbers of demonic possessions. The two of them go together - the appearance of the Lord, the appearance of the Devil. And it goes in the reverse direction. There's little doubt that Gurdjieff believed but his ideas and his methods were needed for the time in which he was born and also for what was going to come afterwards. Mrs. Staveley and Bennett picked this up. So did Dr. Lester. You may have heard of Dr. John Lester. He was another pupil of Gurdjieff and of Jane Heap. But Bennett, Mrs. Staveley, John Lester, they all said that we are living in a critical time of transition and the world needs things like the Gurdjieff work more than ever before, so what might have been hidden has to be brought out so that it can have a greater possible effect. That's one aspect.

Look, there's so much more I could go on with there, Elan. I'm reminded of how Ouspensky said that in the ancient Egyptian civilization the school, that is the forces of consciousness were big and the society was small. But now it's different. Society is big and the schools are very small. We're fighting against immeasurably great forces.

Harrison: I'd like to take that global picture and bring it down to the individual level. You commented on this already, Joseph, in relation to panic. I want to ask you about negative emotion because that plays a big part in both the theory of Gurdjieff's ideas and in the actual practice. Just to start out as a kind of preface, I want you to talk a bit about what Gurdjieff actually means about negative emotion. I'll give a story that I believe was Catherine Hume in her book An Undiscovered Country, her autobiography where she talks about how after World War II she had been working, I believe in Germany, in the recovery effort after the war and she'd come back to meet with Gurdjieff and had told him about the concentration camps and the level of inhumanity and destruction that had taken place during the war. She said that a look came on Gurdjieff's face and I believe she described it as the wrath of God.

The way I picture that is a deep sadness combined with wrath, with an anger that that humanity could descend so low and engage in such barbarity. It was, if not a piercing look, a look that stayed with her and she said that when she went back to Germany and saw more things that image of Gurdjieff hearing that, stayed with her. I say that just as an example of what might be termed anger or a negative emotion. But I doubt that many of us would have or can experience - well I doubt there are many people in the world that would have that reaction, that the depth of that reaction - to that level of inhumanity. For some, it just washes right off of them like water off a duck's back.

So I would like you to comment a bit on what is negative emotion. What are the grades of emotion that we find in ourselves and what do we do about the negative emotions that we feel, that that come up in everyday life that are perhaps not beneficial for our well-being and our and daily living?

Joseph: Yeah. As I understand it, Gurdjieff said that the way man was designed, we would basically have three brains - the body which is run by the moving instinctive brain. So the bodily brain looks after everything to do with the body, the way it grows, the way it digests food, and so on. The second brain is the intellect, the mind, which is able to register, to compare and then to extrapolate from what it has registered and what it's comparing, to make plans and to devise things. Then the third brain is the feeling brain.

Now the bodily brain, the body and the intellect do acquire information. The body tells you a great deal. It tells me the quality of what I'm touching, whether it's too hot for me, if I have to get somewhere cooler or if it's too cold, if I need to put on a cardigan. The body is always giving me information which I need for my health. So for example, if I eat food which is off, I spit it out straight away. The body does that. The brain, the intellect gives me information I need. That's quite obvious. The feeling gives me a different type of information which it's harder to pin down. It tells me something about the quality of what I'm dealing with.

So that for example, if I see someone, if for example I see my brother, the brain tells me that's my brother, but the feeling responds when I see my brother is positive and affirmative because I have this affection. The feeling will tell me something about what I'm dealing with. So for example, if I see a snake, the feeling tells me 'dangerous!' and I react, I fear the snake, I run the other direction. I don't stop and think about the snake. By the time I've worked out intellectually what to do, I could be dead. So the feeling animates me very quickly and tells me 'run away!'

So feeling tells me something about the quality of what I'm dealing with. Ordinarily, Gurdjieff said, feeling would be a pretty good, reliable indicator of whether something was going to be harmful or beneficial to me in that respect. But what happened is that our feeling has suffered a sort of corruption, what we call negative emotion. Now negative emotions are not true emotion. He says they actually formed, in a funny sort of way, as a disease of the body. So you know how we say this is disgusting? Well 'disgusting' literally means it has a bad taste. Just as we say things have a bad taste and we should then not eat them, we react to certain situations in that way with a hatred of them, a resentment, and we have developed ourselves refinements of this - jealousy, envy, anger, things like that and they work in us as a disease. Instead of being able to look at something or interact with someone and say, "Yes, this is good, that's not good, that I'm not so sure of, this I need to study, this I need to find out more about," we can have a negative reaction of hatred or these other things - pride, envy, and so on, which actually stops me from obtaining the accurate information I should be able to obtain. My response becomes a partial reaction. It's only a part of me which is blindly reacting to something which it doesn't like.

And yet, maybe if I was more reasonable, I'd be able to gain something from the situation I'm in. I'd see it a little bit differently. You know how it is that if people don't like you, they don't like anything about you. Yeah, it might just be one thing. They just might not like the look of someone's face and then they don't like anything about them. It's a power of irrationality in us and it takes us away from being able to use our intellect properly because the negative emotion reacts so strongly, as with the example of the snake. Emotions are made to override the intellect, to make you act because that's dangerous, you've got to get away from there.

But what happens is, we get that reaction with people and events in life where it's inappropriate, we can't function properly, so negative emotion is the enemy of our consciousness. That's the first part of what you were speaking about and of course I don't want to give the impression that's a comprehensive, black-and-white answer, but it's at least part of how I view it.

The next question is how we work against negative emotion. Well the short answer is consciousness and conscience. Gurdjieff said ultimately there is no difference between consciousness and conscience. Consciousness is awareness in the intellect. Conscience is awareness in the feelings. If we have awareness in the feelings, we won't be able to hate, to resent, to be subject to pride. So how do I come to conscience? Well the first thing is to realize that I am asleep, in my mind, in my sensation, and in my feeling, to realize that these negative emotions are harmful. I never received anything valuable from my negative emotions. All they did was raise new walls of ignorance and misunderstanding between myself and other people. Then, when I understand that I don't want these negative emotions, when I have an aim to be conscious, to have conscience, to have feeling, when that's my aim, then by necessary implication I don't want negative emotions. So then I can struggle against them.

There are many ways of doing that. One is to observe them and the more present I am when I observe them, the less they can manifest because it's like darkness. The light will shine in the darkness but the light has to be strengthened, which again comes back to the importance of the Preparation, the exercises, that affirmation of "I am". The more conscious it is, the more conscience can be available, the less negative emotion, the more clearly I see in relief in my negative emotions when they appear.

Then another very important aspect of this is the work on chief feature. Most of my faults revolve around one chief feature. It forms as a sort of photographic negative of my essence, the true 'I'. There's a real me and there's a false me. If I can see the false me and work on that, a lot of things fall away with that and then my essence becomes clearer and can appear more clearly, more fully. Look, I've only just touched the surface of it, that's an introduction, you know.

Harrison: It's good. Thank you.

Elan: Well I was interested in learning about your road to the priesthood because there would seem to be a number of overlaps between the work on the self as presented by Gurdjieff and a spiritual understanding and reverence of the world and those things that are higher. So there is a lot of overlap it would seem between the two and, I'm assuming that there is in your vocation in part, that it's informed by your Gurdjieffian background and training. I was just wondering if you'd feel comfortable discussing any of that Joseph.

Joseph: As I mentioned earlier, when I was about three or four years old, I had a mystical experience and I had no doubt at all except that God existed, God was three-in-one and that was an experience, a very profound compassion, unconditional compassion. No doubt whatsoever. But as I was growing up, there were a lot of problems and as I say, I was neurotic. There's no doubt about that. I became a lawyer. {laughter}

Harrison: The direct result of neurosis.

Joseph: Incidentally, when I was young, I felt I should be a priest. When I was very young I felt I had a vocation to be a priest. When I was about seven or eight years old a priest came out from Lebanon and stayed with us and I felt I should be a priest. But as I grew older, I opted to become a lawyer and then as I said, I'm eternally grateful that I met the Adies. It was only when I met the Adies that I started to understand Christianity more correctly. I'm not saying I do understand it fully. I'm discovering things all the time and in particular Bennett had perspectives on Christianity which are absolutely extraordinary and which I'm studying now. But I started to understand Christianity better and the sort of issues that I'd had, started to disappear.

Now I'll try and keep this a little bit short, but after Mr. Adie's death, the group started to work more closely with another group which was established by the foundation, it was a foundation group, and they sent someone out from New York every year and we worked with them. The result was not splendid. The two groups tried working together and the only reason they really came together was because they both started disintegrating and they got so small. I don't say that to be disparaging or pejorative. That's just the reality. Mr. Adie, at the time of his death, had somewhere between 85 and 90 pupils. I think they had about 40. They certainly don't have 40 now in Sydney, the two of them together.

So I left that group. I didn't feel it was a group anymore at that point. Gurdjieff does say in In Search of the Miraculous there's no magic in being in a group if it's not going anywhere. I knew I had to work on Mr. Adie's book, the Blue Book. It's published now by By the Way Books. I knew I had to work on that book. I had to do that for Mr. Adie. He'd wanted it. And as soon as I finished that, a door to the priesthood opened. It was one-on-one. That's why I went into all those details. They might have sounded irrelevant, but they weren't for me.

I finished what I had to do for Mr. Adie and then a door opened into the priesthood and I felt 'this is what I have to do now. I have to go into the priesthood.' And Mr. Adie had said to me that the priesthood was essential for me, meaning part of my essence. He had said that. I don't think he had the priesthood quite so literally in mind. He may have meant priesthood as a mediation between Earth and heaven, but he did say that to me. He said "There was something essential in you which has an affinity with the priesthood." So that would be quite an aim, to really be an essence priest, a being priest, not just a priest in name only.

That would have horrified Mr. Adie, to be a priest in name only that would have really horrified him. But it was extraordinary. Once I paid that debt to him, the door to the priesthood opened and then I feel in some ways as if this book is repaying a debt to Gurdjieff and now having done that, another door has opened and I'm able to work with far more people, far more effectively with Gurdjieff's exercises and they're receiving something from it.

But also if I can say this, and this comes from Gurdjieff, Christianity tells me what to do and Gurdjieff tells me how to do it. Now it's a bit of an over-simplification, but that's the basic thing. And another thing too is that for me my priesthood is an external reminding factor. You know in the Third Series, Gurdjieff says he stopped using his powers of hypnosis to give himself an external reminding factor. Mr. Adie had that with his lungs. I can tell you that story if you like. It's very interesting

Harrison: Sure.

Joseph: His operation on his lungs. My priesthood is that for me. Okay, when I met Mr. Adie, one of the striking things was that he was always coughing, he was always wearing a heavy coat, he always had a hat on his head. Even in the middle of summer he wore a suit, a tie and this big coat. And we soon found out that he couldn't stop coughing, he needed oxygen, things like that. It turned out what happened was that in 1951 he'd had an operation and the doctors had removed the whole of the right lung and, I think, one third of the left lung.

Harrison: Wow!

Joseph: Now that left him a very severe invalid. He'd been an athlete up until then. He said to me, "I was an athletic man and then overnight I became an invalid." That's why he couldn't let any drafts get on him. So even if he was perspiring badly, he had to wear the coat, had to wear the hat on his head. And then it was only after he died actually that Dr. Lester, who had known him in England, said to me, "Yes, but you knew what they found when they pulled the lung out." Sorry, I'll just back up for one second.

Mr. Adie always said to us that he'd gained a great deal from the operation because he had to always pay attention to his breath. Because it was so difficult for him to breathe, he had to pay attention to it and that helped him to remember himself.

So, he only ever said that. He never complained about the operation. Only once did he say to me, and in a matter-of-fact way, without any self-pity, "I had been an athletic man before that then overnight I became an invalid." And he was saying that to me to indicate what can happen to you in life. Anyhow after he died, Dr. Lester asked me, "But didn't he tell you what happened? What they found out?" I said, "No." He said, "When they pulled the one and a third lungs out, they found that the problem was really quite minimal. He didn't need to have the pulmonectomy. It had been entirely unnecessary. His problem could have been dealt with another way."

Elan: Awful.

Joseph: It stunned me because he'd never breathed a word of complaint. He'd never said a word about it. So incredible reminding factor for a person to say, "I will not complain about this unnecessary operation" which turned a 50-year-old man into an old man overnight.

Now, I'm not saying I have anything like that, but the priesthood is for me, a reminding factor and I try and take it that way and I try and think, "Well I want to be worthy of being a priest. I want to be a good priest, not to be a priest in inverted commas, as Gurdjieff would say. And it's interesting how often in Beelzebub, good priests figure. Like in the 1931 edition, there's another priest, the Armenian priest, Thermoses, who was taken out of the final edition. But he has friends, you know. When he wants to stop sacrificial offering, his friend is a priest.

Gurdjieff seems to have had a very ambivalent attitude towards priests, but I think it's explicable on this basis: A good priest was very good, but not a good priest was really awful.

Harrison: I want to make a comment first. I like reading - even though I don't read nearly as many as them as I'd like, I do like reading biographies because you can get a sense of another person's life path and how certain things might have influenced them and the choices that they made. So I'm wondering if, from your perspective, if you know of any public figures who might have been influenced by Gurdjieff's work that we can at least look to and look at their life as kind of an example of what the Gurdjieff work can do for a person. And if there aren't any public figures like that, then if there are any accounts, maybe memoirs or autobiographies that you can recommend to just get a picture of some of the lives that have been lived, following this way.

Joseph: Well Harold Kane Carter, the boxer Harold Kane Carter, I think. In his autobiography he mentions how important discovering the Gurdjieff ideas was to him.

Harrison: Wow.

Joseph: That's a very good example. Apart from that, there are certain people who had an acquaintance with the Gurdjieff work that you wouldn't necessarily know and that they tend to be rather silent about. Peter Brook does say something, yeah that book, The Threads Of Time. He does make some references to Gurdjieff, de Salzman, and Jane Heap and he's quite clear about it. They're only a small portion of that biography but nonetheless, they're quite clear. The book which I think is really important is Bennett's book Witness. Have you read Witness?

Harrison: I haven't read it yet. I've read a few of his other ones but I've got that one on my book pile to read as soon as possible. So I'll move it up.

Joseph: Okay. As I think you know, I'm working with Carol Cusack and Tony Blake on a new volume of Bennett. It's the 50th anniversary of his death in 2024 and we're being very generously assisted by George and Ben Bennett, his sons and some other people who knew him. It's extraordinary how much has been left out of Witness but Bennett deliberately wrote Witness to say what he had found about life and death. It is a book, like Beezebub, you really need to read several times. But of all the biographies written by people who knew Gurdjieff, I think Witness stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Again, I don't say that to put down the other books. I mean Undiscovered Country is a wonderful book, but it's more that that particular one is very good.

Do you know the Tchekhovitch book, A Master In Life?

Harrison: Yes.

Joseph: Yeah. That's also very good now. Now the French is even better. They left out a lot of things from the English book, things that they thought might be too spooky, like the Katherine Mansfield ghost story. They just left it out! And why?! That's a good one, notwithstanding the 'if they had asked me to supervise for translation, it would have come out a lot better'. {laughter}

Harrison: Well that one is out of print as far as I know. I think we should get a lobby together to get a new translation done.

Joseph: Yeah. The English book - sorry the French book, now what they did do, they did order the essays because Tchekchovitch did not write one continuous book. They did put them in some order. That was good of them. But they also left out a lot and they inserted a few things, as I mentioned in my book. I understand why they did it. I'm sure their motives were good, but I don't like that. Just now present material the way it is and if you wish to add an appendix or a forward and say some other things, do that yourself. But make it clear that that's you, that's not him.

I can't think of any others offhand Harrison. If I can't think of any other books, any other good biographies or autobiographies, I'll let you know. We haven't been well-served in that respect. I couldn't recommend any of the books on Ouspensky and yet clearly Ouspensky's very misunderstood. Mr. Adie spoke to us about Ouspensky. He knew Ouspensky for about ten years. He knew him in the last years of his life. He says Ouspensky was a very warm person. And Frank Sinclair, to his credit, says something similar. He saw a film of Ouspensky and realized that he'd misunderstood Ouspensky.

We haven't been well-served for Orage. There hasn't been a good biography of Orage. I mean Taylor did make some effort, but someone needs to build on Taylor's book and produce a good biography of Orage. I just can't think of any others offhand.

Harrison: That's okay. Those are some good places to start. Then there are some people who are public figures that haven't written at all, I don't think, about their work. The one that comes to mind is - oh and now his name's escaping me - the guitarist from King Crimson.

Joseph: Oh, Robert Fripp.

Harrison: Yea. Robert Fripp. He's open about his work with Bennett but I don't think there's a comprehensive biography or memoir that he's written.

Joseph: I don't know. I'm embarrassed to say I'm not very fond of his music. {laughter} He's an excellent guitar player, one of the very best.

Harrison: But kind of weird.

Joseph: The music he's produced, not quite to my taste. Look, I have to say I don't know him. I know people who know him and all indications are that he's in his own right an extraordinary person. He had a group called Guitar Craft, I think it was, and he's clearly been a very big influence on a lot of people. He had a very noble role in preserving some of Bennett's material. Tony Blake, who is a friend of mine and I believe also a much better friend of Robert Fripp, says that Fripp was instrumental in saving some of Bennett's diaries from destruction. So all hats off to him for that, yeah.

Harrison: Great. I think we'll wrap up. We've either reached our limit or passed it. Maybe as a final question, could you just give a bit more detail on that current project you're working on with Blake and Cusack, I believe you said? You're working on this volume for the 50th anniversary of J.G. Bennett's death. Could you just give a little bit more detail on what exactly - maybe you don't want to go into too much - but what that project entails and maybe how long do you think you're going to be working on it? When do you think it will bear fruit?

Joseph: Yeah. First of all, when I finished the book on contemplation and sent that off, it wasn't very long before the idea came into my head but I had to do something on Bennett. I don't know where the idea came from, but no idea has ever come to me like that before. I don't want to sound all eerie but it did just appear in my head as a decision. And I hadn't even been contemplating it. It just appeared in my head as a decision. This volume had to be done and I had to ask Carol Cusack and Tony Blake to work on it with me. Carol is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. Her understanding of modern religious movements and in particular Western esotericism, is extraordinary. She's up there with people like Henrik Bogdan and that group. But she's also here in Sydney and she's prepared to make time to speak with me. So that's a very good thing. And she's also an expert on Gurdjieff, one of the world's leading experts on Gurdjieff. And she knows Tony Blake and gets on well with Tony Blake.

Tony is - well I shouldn't praise him too much because doubtless you'll see his video and you'll doubt my sincerity - but you know but a lot of the - this is just a fact - a lot of the books we have from Bennett talked on Beelzebub's Tales, spiritual psychology, deeper man, to name but three of the most important. They only saw the light of day because of Tony Blake and Blake was one of Bennett's right-hand men for quite a period of time and his intellect is extraordinary. His range of acquaintances is extraordinary and so the three of us are trying to put together a volume which will meet the academic standards but do more than that. We also want it to be an inspiring work.

It hadn't originally been thought of as a fiftieth anniversary thing but it's turned out to be such a large project that I think that makes sense. I hadn't realized how much was involved in it when I started. Bennett is extremely important, not only as a pupil, but in his own right and I hadn't realized this. People tend to think of Bennett as being something of a maverick. People, particularly foundation groups, say Madame de Salzmann held the true line and that Bennett was a maverick. Well I didn't know Madame de Salzmann and I wouldn't be one to judge her. I'll speak about facts but I wouldn't judge her, but neither would I judge Bennett.

And what Bennett discovered was really quite extraordinary and his range was huge. Just recently I received an email from someone speaking about Bennett working with movements. I hadn't known that he was able to bring that to the movement classes. Now I do. But his intellect, you know this idea of inclusion without exclusion, his insights about the dramatic universe. It didn't stop there. He kept going on, systematics, this type of thing.

Sorry, let me just backtrack. I'm told by someone who knew him that Hasan Shushud, the Turkish dervish, said that Bennett was the most important Western mystic since Meister Eckhart. Now I can't judge for Western mystics. I don't have enough understanding to be able to say that, but the fact that someone as clearly advanced as Shushud would say that, that's impressive. I don't think he was comparing Bennett to Gurdjieff and Bennett didn't compare himself to Gurdjieff. But we're all hoping that this volume will show a lot of people that Bennett's stature has been very much underappreciated, that what he brought was far truer to the essence of what Gurdjieff brought than people understood. I think we're going to shed very new light on Bennett.

Things are still coming to light all the time, new things appearing. And incidentally, there is a John G. Bennett foundation which Ben Bennett and his wife and also George Bennett and some others, maintain. It's doing some very, very good work in preserving the legacy and we're hoping now to develop it with this volume and with Tony and Carol as co-editors, I think we have the germs of a good pilot team anyway.

Harrison: Great. Okay. With that said I think we'll end it there Joseph. So thank you so much.

Elan: Thank you kindly.

Joseph: And we'll be in contact about any further discussions that jumped out of my head. But I do appreciate speaking with you. It's beneficial for me to speak with people like Elan and yourself.

Harrison: Great. Well thank you.

Elan: We enjoyed it very much.

Harrison: And good luck with the rest of the work on that book, on the Bennett work. Just really quick, did you read William James Thompson's PhD dissertation?

Joseph: I haven't read it. I have it. I downloaded it. I found it but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. What I'm trying to do is first of all read everything which Bennett himself wrote, So at the moment I'm working through the journal systematics, which is a lot of work.

Harrison: All right. Well, take care Joseph and yeah we'll be in touch all right.