George Gurdjieff

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George Gurdjieff : biography

13 January 1866 – 29 October 1949

World War II

Although the flat at 6 Rue des Colonels-Renard was very small for the purpose, he continued to teach groups of pupils throughout World War II. Visitors recalled the pantry, stocked with an extraordinary collection of eastern delicacies, that served as his inner sanctum,and the suppers he held with elaborate toasts to "idiots" in vodka and cognac. Having cut a physically impressive figure for many years, he was now distinctly paunchy. His teaching was now far removed from the original "system", being based on proverbs, jokes and personal interaction, although pupils were required to read, three times if possible, copies of his magnum opus Beelzebub’s Tales.

His personal business enterprises (he had intermittently been a dealer in oriental rugs and carpets for much of his life, among other activities) enabled him to offer charitable relief to neighbours who had been affected by the difficult circumstances of the war, and also brought him to the attention of the authorities, leading to a night in the cells.

Final years

After the war, Gurdjieff tried to re-connect with his former pupils. Ouspensky was reluctant, but after his death (October 1947), his widow advised his remaining pupils to see Gurdjieff in Paris. J. G. Bennett also visited from England, the first meeting for 25 years.

Gurdjieff suffered a second car accident in 1948, but again made an unexpected recovery.

"[I] was looking at a dying man. Even this is not enough to express it. It was a dead man, a corpse, that came out of the car; and yet it walked. I was shivering like someone who sees a ghost.”

With iron-like tenacity Gurdjieff managed to gain his room, where he sat down and said: “Now all organs are destroyed. Must make new.” Then he turned to Bennett, smiling: “Tonight you come dinner. I must make body work.” As he spoke a great spasm of pain shook his body and blood gushed from an ear. Bennett thought: “He has a cerebral haemorrhage. He will kill himself if he continues to force his body to move.” But then he reflected: “He has to do all this. If he allows his body to stop moving, he will die. He has power over his body.” Perry, Whitall: Gurdjieff in the Light of tradiiton, quoting J. G. Bennett.

After recovering, Gurdjieff finalised plans for the official publication of Beelzebub’s Tales and made two trips to New York. He also visited the famous prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, giving his interpretation of their significance to his pupils.

Gurdjieff died on October 29, 1949, at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. His funeral took place at the St. Alexandre Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 12 Rue Daru, Paris. He is buried in the cemetery at Fontainebleau-Avon.James Moore (1993). Gurdjieff – A Biography: The Anatomy of a Myth.