George Gurdjieff


George Gurdjieff : biography

13 January 1866 – 29 October 1949

Reception and influence

Opinions on Gurdjieff’s writings and activities are divided. Sympathizers regard him as a charismatic master who brought new knowledge into Western culture, a psychology and cosmology that enable insights beyond those provided by established science. On the other hand, some critics assert he was a charlatan with a large ego and a constant need for self-glorification.Michael Waldberg (1990). Gurdjieff – An Approach to his Ideas, Chapter 1 Gurdjieff is said to have had a strong influence on many modern mystics, artists, writers, and thinkers, including Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh), Frank Lloyd Wright,Friedland and Zellman, The Fellowship, pp. 33–135 Keith Jarrett, George Russell (composer), Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Fripp, Jacob Needleman, John Shirley, Carlos Castaneda, Dennis Lewis, Peter Brook, Kate Bush, Kevin Ayers, P. L. Travers, Robert S de Ropp, Walter Inglis Anderson, Jean Toomer, Muriel Draper, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Louis Pauwels, James Moore and Abdullah Isa Neil Dougan.

Gurdjieff’s notable personal students include Jeanne de Salzmann, Willem Nyland, Lord Pentland (Henry John Sinclair), P. D. Ouspensky, Olga de Hartmann, Thomas de Hartmann, Jane Heap, John G. Bennett, Alfred Richard Orage, Maurice Nicoll, Lanza del Vasto, George and Helen Adie, Rene Daumal and Katherine Mansfield. The Italian composer and singer Franco Battiato was sometime inspired by Gurdjieff’s work, for example in his song "Centro di gravità permanente"—one of most popular modern Italian pop songs. Aleister Crowley visited his Institute at least once and privately praised Gurdjieff’s work, though with some reservations.Lawrence Sutin, Do what thou wilt: A life of Aleister Crowley, 2002, p. 317-318. During WWI, Algernon Blackwood took up spying while reporting to John Buchan, author of The Thirty Nine Steps. After the war, during the Roaring Twenties, Blackwood studied with Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

Gurdjieff gave new life and practical form to ancient teachings of both East and West. For example, the Socratic and Platonic emphasis on "the examined life" recurs in Gurdjieff’s teaching as the practice of self-observation. His teachings about self-discipline and restraint reflect Stoic teachings. The Hindu and Buddhist notion of attachment recurs in Gurdjieff’s teaching as the concept of identification. His descriptions of the "three being-foods" matches that of Ayurveda, and his statement that "time is breath" echoes jyotish, the Vedic system of astrology. Similarly, his cosmology can be "read" against ancient and esoteric sources, respectively Neoplatonic and in such sources as Robert Fludd’s treatment of macrocosmic musical structures.

An aspect of Gurdjieff’s teachings which has come into prominence in recent decades is the enneagram geometric figure. For many students of the Gurdjieff tradition, the enneagram remains a koan, challenging and never fully explained. There have been many attempts to trace the origins of this version of the enneagram; some similarities to other figures have been found, but it seems that Gurdjieff was the first person to make the enneagram figure publicly known and that only he knew its true source. Others have used the enneagram figure in connection with personality analysis, principally in the Enneagram of Personality as developed by Oscar Ichazo, Claudio Naranjo, Helen Palmer and others. Most aspects of this application are not directly connected to Gurdjieff’s teaching or to his explanations of the enneagram.

The science-fiction and horror novelist John Shirley has written an introductory work on Gurdjieff for Penguin/Tarcher, Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas.


Gurdjieff inspired the formation of many groups after his death, all of which still function today and follow his ideas.Seymour B. Ginsburg Gurdjieff Unveiled, pp. 71–7, Lighthouse Editions Ltd., 2005 ISBN 978-1-904998-01-3 The Gurdjieff Foundation, the largest organization directly influenced by the ideas of Gurdjieff, was organized by Jeanne de Salzmann during the early 1950s, and led by her in cooperation with other pupils of his. The main four branches of the Foundation.