Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:36 pm

Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods
by Charles Carreon



The similarities between Gurdjieff & Chogyam Trungpa are too numerous to be ignored, and Trungpa's canny exploitation of Gurdjieff's legacy and disciples may lie at the heart of his success in attracting the entitled, elite cadre of followers whose fulsome devotion to his self-proclaimed divinity laid the foundation for absolute rulership of his spiritual kingdom. Gurdjieff claimed to be a member of the "Sarmoung Brotherhood" and Trungpa claimed to be the abbot of Surmang Monastery. The difference in spellings seems to be an artifact of translation. Although Trungpa's claim to supreme abbotship has been cast in doubt by later scholarship, this hasn't dissuaded the authors of his hagiographies.

Both Gurdjieff and Trungpa came from Asian lands, spoke English as a second language, adopted a haughty manner toward the presentation of their "spiritual paths," and began their careers by inveighing against the established spiritualistic orthodoxy. Both ultimately propounded their own imaginary systems that are consistent in style and content with the very systems they claim to have repudiated.

Both cultivated their most devoted early followers from among the English intellectual elites (granted that Gurdjieff consorted largely with his Russian confreres, as Trungpa did with exiled Tibetans), affected an aristocratic air, demanded access to the finer things in life, and declared ascetic self-denial to be a lesser path that led to trivial results.

Both suffered severe automobile accidents due to their disregard of ordinary norms of behavior. Both suffered life-long disability due to the automobile accident, and in Gurdjieff’s case, caused him to suffer a protracted impairment of his intellectual faculties. In Trungpa’s case, he was rendered a physical cripple, a condition that caused him to self-medicate with alcohol, and as has been recently revealed, cocaine, habits that resulted in his early mental decline and physical demise.

Both gave their spiritual ambitions megalomaniacal scope, proclaiming that their doctrines would lead, in Gurdjieff’s case, to the salvation of humanity, and in Trungpa’s case, the establishment of an “enlightened society.” Both used their self-proclaimed world-wide missions to convert humanity to a higher way of living to attract students eager to imagine themselves at the vanguard of human spiritual evolution.

Both concocted fantastical cosmologies, populating them with imaginary creatures born of their alcohol-infused imaginations, and compelled their students to absorb these doctrines as a means of gaining access to esoteric wisdom.

Both demonstrated material acquisitiveness that in persons less “spiritual” would be deemed avaricious, and avoided the charge by spending profligately to fulfill their missions.

These and other correspondences and similarities serve to explain why it is that many of Gurdjieff’s followers and believers in his system attached themselves to Trungpa, and in many cases, became Trungpa acolytes.
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:43 pm

Sarmoung Brotherhood
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/12/19



The Sarmoung Brotherhood was an alleged esoteric Sufi brotherhood based in Asia. The reputed existence of the brotherhood was brought to light in the writings of George Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher. Some contemporary Sufi-related sources also claim to have made contact with the group although the earliest and primary source is Gurdjieff himself, leading some scholars to conclude the group was merely a fictional teaching device.[1]


According to the author John G. Bennett, a student and aide of George Gurdjieff who first mentioned the concept, the word sarmoung uses the Armenian pronunciation of the Persian term sarman, which may mean either "he who preserves the doctrine of Zoroaster" or "bee".[2]

Regarding the meaning, Bennett writes:

"The word can be interpreted in three ways. It is the word for bee, which has always been a symbol of those who collect the precious 'honey' of traditional wisdom and preserve it for further generations. A collection of legends, well known in Armenian and Syrian circles with the title of The Bees, was revised by Mar Salamon, a Nestorian Archimandrite in the thirteenth century. The Bees refers to a mysterious power transmitted from the time of Zoroaster and made manifest in the time of Christ.... Man is Persian meaning as the quality transmitted by heredity and hence a distinguished family or race. It can be the repository of an heirloom or tradition. The word sar means head, both literally and in the sense of principal or chief. The combination sarman would thus mean the chief repository of the tradition." Yet another possibility was "those whose heads have been purified", in other words: the enlightened.[2]

However, in the Persian language, 'sarman' has no meaning[3], and the actual word for a bee is 'zebh' or plural 'zobabeh'.[4]

Gurdjieff's account

The Brotherhood was also sought by Georges Gurdjieff on his journeys (pre-1912) through Southwest and Central Asia.[2][5] Describing the contents of an old letter written by a monk which he had obtained, Gurdjieff writes:-

"Our worthy Father Telvant has at last succeeded in learning the truth about the Sarmoung Brotherhood. Their organisation actually did exist near the town of Siranoush, and fifty years ago, soon after the migration of peoples, they also migrated and settled in the valley of Izrumin, three days journey from Nivssi...." Then the letter went on about other matters.

What struck us most was the word "Sarmoung", which we had come across several times in the book called "Merkhavat". This word is the name of a famous esoteric school which, according to tradition, was founded in Babylon as far back as 2500 BC, and which was known to have existed somewhere in Mesopotamia up to the sixth or seventh century AD; but about its further existence one could not obtain anywhere the least information.

This school was said to have possessed great knowledge, containing the key to many secret mysteries.

Many times had Pogossian and I talked of this school and dreamed of finding out something authentic about it, and now suddenly we found it mentioned in this parchment! We were greatly excited.[6]

Gurdjieff goes on to relate the Sarmoung to the Nestorians, descendants of the ancient Byzantine, their expulsion from Mesopotamia and the city of Ninevah.

Gurdjiieff's experiences on these journeys, and a sketchy account of his somewhat mysterious relationship with the Sarmoung Brotherhood, can be found in his autobiography Meetings with Remarkable Men. He claims he made contact with a representative of the Sarmoung through his friend, the Dervish Bogga Eddin (Bahauddin), in Bukhara. The chief monastery of the society was said to be located somewhere in the heart of Asia, about twelve days' journey from Bukhara by horse and donkey. Once he arrived at the monastery, Gurdjieff discovered that his old friend Prince Lubovedsky was already there. The Prince tells Gurdjieff that he had met a representative of the Sarmoung at the house of the Aga Khan in Kabul, Afghanistan.[6] During his stay at the monastery, Gurdjieff recalls seeing a complex and ancient tree-like apparatus used to indicate bodily postures and train temple dancers.

Gurdjieff's attempts to establish a link between the Brotherhood, ancient Sumer, and even "pre-sand Egypt", was an intriguing attempt at acquiring esoteric knowledge that had been passed down from antiquity.[2][7]

Major Martin's account

According to Account of the Sarmoun Brotherhood (1966, 1982) by Major Desmond R. Martin, a major centre of the contemporary Sarmoun Brotherhood was in the Hindu Kush mountains of northern Afghanistan. Major Martin was an associate of the writer and Sufi teacher, Idries Shah.[8]

In the account, the motto of the Sarmouni is said to be "Work produces a Sweet Essence" (Amal misazad yak zaati shirin), work being not only work for God and for others but also self-work. In relation to this, it is maintained that just as the bee accumulates honey, so the Sarmouni accumulate, store and preserve what they term "true knowledge" (which is equally seen as existing as a positive commodity and associated with the spiritual gift or energy of Baraka).[8][9] In times of need this is released once more into the world through specially trained emissaries.[8] He describes a tree-like, multi jointed apparatus, similar to one described by Gurdjieff, and also a "No-Koonja" or nine-pointed figure, similar to Gurdjieff's Enneagram. The account hints that the central Asian activities of the Sarmoun are to be shut down and the organisation shifted to the west, and mentions an absent chief of the order, the Surkaur, who lives in a place called Aubshaur or "waterfall" (Another account of a visit to a remote monastery, published anonymously in the Times [The Times (London) No. 55,955, 9 March, 1964, Elusive Guardians of Ancient Secrets, p.12, Cols. 6-8], links the Sarkar to Idries Shah[10]). Martin's account ends with a description of a symbolic ritual whose theme is the revival of the "dead letter" of traditional teaching.

O. M. Burke's and Idries Shah's accounts

A lengthy account of an encounter with the Sarmouni is given in Among the Dervishes (1973) by Omar Michael Burke, an associate of (or pen name of [11]) Idries Shah. He takes the term "Sarmouni" to be synonymous with the Amudaria dervishes. He describes the Sarmouni as a diffuse set of groups, rather than being located in a single monastery. Some groups have no permanent headquarters and meet in the open or private houses. In some cases, whole villages blend Sarmouni practices with their day-to-day lives. He describes them as having a practical orientation, and avoiding mystification and personality-cults. They occasionally display extrasensory perceptions, but do not attribute great significance to them. He reports meeting a nonagenarian with memories of "Jurjizada" (Gurdjieff). He also says they owe their allegiance to the "Studious King" (a literal translation of Idries Shah's name), and agrees with Major Martin that their teaching has been exported and adapted to the West. (He mentions the Azimiyya, a modern international Sufi order).

Sarmoung teachings according to Idries Shah

Idries Shah himself does not describe any personal contact with the Sarmoung, but mentions the "Sarmouni" several times in his writings. For instance, in Tales of the Dervishes he attributes a teaching story to a Sarmouni called Pir-i-Do-Sara (d. 1790). He also offers a following "Sarmouni recital", beginning:-

"He who knows and does not know that he knows: he is asleep. Let him become
one, whole. Let him be awakened.
He who has known but does not know: let him see once more the beginning of all.
He who does not wish to know, and yet says that he needs to know: let him be guided to safety and to light.
He who does not know, and knows that he does not know: let him, through this knowledge, know".[12]

Other accounts

In Studies in Comparative Religion (Winter 1974), it is said that according to the Armenian book Merkhavat, the Sarmoung Brotherhood, also referred to as the 'Inner Circle of Humanity', originated in ancient Babylon circa 2500 BC,[13] at around the time the Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Ouspensky Foundation state that the brotherhood was active in the golden Babylonian time of Hammurabi (1728-1686 BC) and is connected with Zoroaster, the teacher of Pythagoras (born c. 580 BC–572 BC, died c. 500 BC–490 BC). According to the Foundation, Pythagoras stayed for twelve years in Babylon.[14] (Merkabah mysticism is in fact a form of Jewish esotericism, which Gurdjieff possibly encountered in an Armenian translation).

In The Masters of Wisdom, J.G. Bennett states that the Sarman left Babylon before the arrival of the Alexander the Great (who reigned 336-323 BC), moved up the Tigris and made their headquarters in the abandoned capital of the Assyrian Kings, close to modern-day Mosul in northern Iraq.[15]

In Gurdjieff in the Light of Tradition (2002), the Perrenialist Whitall Perry wrote that Gurdjieff believed that the northern Sufi orders could well be under the hidden direction of the Khwajagan - the 'Masters of Wisdom' - themselves in turn delegated by the Sarman 'Inner Circle', the 'Assembly of the Living Saints of the Earth'.[16]

In The People of the Secret, Edward Campbell (writing as Ernest Scott), another associate of Idries Shah, describes studies in extrasensory perception being undertaken in the contemporary Sarmoun monastery in Afghanistan.[9]

The Canadian diplomat and Gurdjieffian James George has speculated, on the basis of the similar name and location, that Surmang, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery currently within Chinese borders may be the real basis of the Sarmoung.[17] Surmang has been more recently associated with the renowned and controversial Kagyu teacher Chogyam Trungpa. In 2007, Buddhist priest Rev. José M. Tirado presented a paper to the All & Everything Conference in Loutraki, Greece detailing the probable Buddhist influences on Gurdjieff´s teachings, and linking "Sarmoun" to the Surmang monastery, in "Beelzebub's Buddhas".[18]

After his escape, Rinpoche spent two years in India during which time he was discovered by an English social worker, Freda Bedi, and with her co-founded a school for refugee tulkus, the Young Lama's Home School. While in India, determined to go to the West, he learned English so rapidly that he became useful as a translator for the Tibetan community. Rinpoche stayed for a few months with James George, who was at that time the Canadian High Commissioner to India and Nepal and who later became the leader of the Gurdjieff movement in Canada. At this time, Rinpoche was awarded a scholarship to study at Oxford University in England, but when he told George that he was going to England, George replied, "Rinpoche, you are too big for England; you are going to America!"...

During the 1968 visit to Bhutan, on his way through India, Rinpoche had re-visited his old friend James George. George reports that Rinpoche told him that "although he had never been there [Shambhala] he believed in its existence and could see it in his mirror whenever he went into deep meditation." George describes witnessing Rinpoche gazing into a small hand-mirror and describing in detail the Kingdom of Shambhala. As George says, "... There was Trungpa in our study describing what he saw as if he were looking out of the window."

-- Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chogyam Trungpa, by Jeremy Hayward


Mark Sedgwick, the coordinator of the Unit for Arab and Islamic Studies at Aarhus University writes:

Although few commentators on Gurdjieff would put it so bluntly, it seems clear to me that the Sarmoung are entirely imaginary. No Sufi tariqa of such a name is known, and in fact "Sarmoung" is a typically Gurdjieffian fantastical name. It is immediately obvious to anyone who knows anything about regular Sufism that there is nothing remotely Sufi about the Sarmoung Order described by Gurdjieff.[1][19]

James Moore, in his biography of Gurdjieff, writes

Gurdjieff's claim to have found and entered 'the chief Sarmoung Monastery' is, in effect, a litmus test, distinguishing literal minds from those preferring allegory. [20]

See also

• Agartha
• Bön
• Fourth Way
• Great White Brotherhood
• Greco-Buddhist monasticism
• Gurdjieff movements
• Gymnosophists
• Khwajagan
• Magi
• Naqshbandi
• Secret Chiefs
• Shambhala
• Shangri-La
• Shramana
• Zoroastrianism


• Adrian G. Gilbert, Magi: The Quest for a Secret Tradition, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1996


1. Sedgwick, Mark. "European Neo-Sufi Movements in the Inter-war Period" appearing in Islam in Inter-War Europe, edited by Natalie Clayer and Eric Germain. Hurst, London.
2. Bennett, John G., Gurdjieff: Making of A New World, pp 56-57, Bennett Pub. Co., 1992. ISBN 0-9621901-6-0.
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:03 pm

Account of the Sarmoun Brotherhood
by Desmond R. Martin
© 1965



Not so long ago I found myself walking through a mulberry grove in what might have been an English garden — if one did not look upwards to the frowning crags of the Hindu Kush, or at the robes of the monks of the Sarmoun community.

Established here in North Afghanistan for many centuries, the brotherhood (and the sisterhood with which it is affiliated) maintain this settlement as a sort of country retreat, where aspirants are trained in the ancient arts of service and self-discipline characteristic of the cult. Elderly monks and lay members, perhaps from as far afield as Tunisa or Armenia, make their last pilgrimage here, to the Shrine of Musa the Patient, the pilgrimage of retirement.

The Sarmouni (the name means 'The Bees') have often been accused of being Christians in disguise, Buddhists, Moslem sectarians, or of harbouring even more ancient beliefs, derived, some say, from Babylonia. Others claim that their teaching has survived the Flood; but which flood I cannot say.

Like their namesakes, however, members of the order are not argumentative, being concerned only in discharging the terms of their motto: 'Work produces a Sweet Essence' (Amal misazad yak zaati shirin).

With only one break — at the time of Gengiz Khan's irruption across the Amu Daria to the north, when he destroyed Balkh, the 'Mother of Cities' not far away — they seem to have lived here for so long that no records remain of their origins.

Theirs is a good life, as much of it as I was allowed to see. Many of the devotional exercises, such at the communal 'Zikr,' or Remembering, are held in private. The Brethren, numbering no less than nine hundred, mainly lived in the hill-settlements called 'Tekkies,' artistically sited oratories surrounded by vines and patches of herbs.

Each monk is specialist of some sort: in gardening, local medicine, herbs, mathematics as known to them, calligraphy or even falconry. One of the planes they grew most carefully was Chungari (Herb of Enlightenment); this I was not able to see, nor could I obtain a sample of it. According to Afghan folklore it has powers connected with mystical revelation.

Within the monastery walls numerous industries are carried on. Working with felt, pelts, wool and looms, the inhabitants produce articles of surpassing beauty and durability. Some of the carpets today called Bokhara actually originate there. The Abbot, Baba Amyn, allowed me to stay in a wood-lined cell, and talked to me in Hindustani, which he had learned during three years spent in India as the servant of a Prince: a part of his training, as he said.

I was issued with a bowl, a sheepskin run, horn, belt and cap, the standard dervish equipment, though I had little idea as to their significance or uses.

One evening I was allowed to inspect some of the treasures of the community, and was assured that they had not before been seen by any non-initiate. They had been declared 'deconsecrated,' as it were, because a new phase of teaching, somewhere to the westward, had superseded the ritual to which they belonged. Henceforth they would merely be museum pieces.

An articulated tree, of gold and other metals, which seemed to me unbelievably beautiful and resembled a Babylonian work of art which I had seen in Bagdad Museum, was by far the most impressive. It served to indicate the postures assumed by dervishes in their Yoga-like exercises, which, performed to special music, they studied for self-development. A tall pillar of lapis lazuli, about nine feet high by two feet in diameter, was used for the Daur, a turning movement, in which the devotees circle round, one hand on the pillar, to achieve a particular state of mind.

On a wall faced with white Afghan marble, delineated in polished rubies glowed the symbol of the community. This is the mystical 'No-Koonja,' the ninefore Naqsch or 'Impress,' an emblem which I was later to see in various forms embroidered on clothes. This figure 'reaches for the innermost secret of man,' I was informed.

Its operation could only be manifest, at the right time and under special conditions, by the Lord of Time, the head of the community. He, unfortunately, was absent. In any case he did not reside at this monastery, but at another very secret place called Aubshaur. He is referred to, with great deference, as a sort of human incarnation of all teachers. He is the Surkaur, or 'Workleader.'

Since the marble, rubies, and lapis are all mined in Afghanistan, and many of the miners and prospectors are adherents of the Sarmouni, this extraordinary richness of endowment was perhaps not as strange as it seemed to me at the time.

There are many legends about Sarmoun-Dargauh ('Court of the Bees'), and one of them is this. True knowledge, it is asserted, exists as a positive commodity, like the honey of the bee. Like honey, it can be accumulated. From time to time in human history, however, it lies unused and starts to leak away. On those occasions the Sarmouni and their associates all over the world collect it and store it in a special receptacle. Then, when the time is ripe, they release it into the world again, through specially trained emissaries.

It is not only in the West, I though, as the greybearded chief of the story-tellers told me this, that legends about a secret knowledge linger on. He was not very forthcoming when I started to ply him with questions trying to see how far their doctrine had developed.

Were there any such emissaries in Europe? There was one, but he must not speak of him. But surely it would help everyone if he was publicly known? On the contrary, I was informed, it might be a calamity. He had to 'work like a bee, in private.' Could a visitor like myself have some of the 'honey'? No, myself least of all, strangely enough; because I had seen and heard so much, I could have no more.

"Have you not seen that you are not allowed to take photographs, even, though other foreigners have been allowed to take them?" I had seen the treasures, that was the most that anyone could have.

Another evening, I watched the enactment of the beautiful Ceremony of the Key. As the sun was setting, several dozen of us assembled, under the direction of the 'Master of Presentations,' who was resplendent in a patchwork robe, intricately embroidered. In the light of the dying sun a dervish with crossed arms, hands on shoulders, knelt before the Abbot, deputising for the Surkaur.

Upon being handed a large key, he advanced towards a carved door that was set in a big square wooden structure, a piece of scenery, decorated with flags and maces and other emblems of power and authority. He put the key into an ornate lock and turned it. Suddenly, by means of a clever piece of engineering, the whole structure slid apart. The seen was lit by a procession of men carrying candles and intoning the Saidd dirge in honour of the teachers.

Then we saw that the pieces of the box were turning on pivots and rearranging themselves into different shapes; the scene was completely transformed. Gardens, orchards, birds in flight, and other motifs, made from wood and painted cloth, now replaced the rectangular structure.

The meaning of the drama was explained to me. It was an allegory, based on the idea that all teaching is transformed by mankind into something unnatural, institutionalized, like the box. "The Key of the Real Man opens up the real joy and meaning of life."
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:24 pm

Beelzebub's Buddhas: Influence Of Buddhism and it's Tibetan Variants In Gurdjieff's Fourth Way
by José Tirado
2017 All & Everything Conference in Loutraki, Greece



José M. Tirado is a poet, Buddhist priest and political activist. His articles and poetry have been published in CounterPunch, The Endless Search, Gurdjieff Internet Guide, Dissident Voice and Op-Ed News among others. He is a Buddhist meditation teacher and is currently finishing a second Masters Degree (his first in Buddhist Studies) in Psychology. He intends on pursuing a PhD in the same field, exploring the nexus between The Fourth Way and Buddhism and he has developed a Buddhist meditation-based counseling program which he has conducted in Iceland where he currently lives.

Other material by José can be found on Gurdjieff Internet Guide...


Good morning everyone. Today we sit near the birthplace of Western philosophical thought to ruminate on the potential Eastern influences on one of the West’s most enigmatic figures. Specifically, whether Tibetan Buddhism, influenced Gurdjieff´s ideas and system. Gurdjieff´s influence in Western society today is not all that well known nor acknowledged. However, I believe that his influence upon what the esteemed historian of psychology, Eugene Taylor calls “folk psychology” is considerable and that as a result, Gurdjieff´s sub rosa influence on modern psychology in general is significant and a theme that will inspire a worthy PhD dissertation or book. Mine preferably!

While a number of scholars have attempted to document and explain his system and its various components, few have made a careful examination of the similarities between aspects of his ideas and Tibetan Buddhism. This seemed odd for me since the similarities leapt out from every thing I’d studied about the Fourth Way indicating such. For our purposes today this concentrates on the barely disguised presence of Padmasambhava, the 8th century tantric yogi who successfully reintroduced Buddhism into Tibet, and of course, a truncated and oddly distorted picture of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha whose dates are approximately 583 BCE to 463BCE. The inclusion of these figures indicate for me, not only an homage to ideas Gurdjieff considered valuable, but point more deeply to their influence on his system, further displayed elsewhere throughout his teachings.

The paper I present today is an expansion of some preliminary work I did for an article entitled, “Gurdjieff´s Possible Buddhist Influences,” first published on Gurdjieff Internet Guide a few years ago. Over the years, as I have studied Gurdjieff´s writings more thoroughly, the conclusion I reached then, that Buddhism has exerted an influence on Gurdjieff´s system wider and more deep than typically acknowledged, remains. At the same time, this influence was not exclusively a positive one and that, while Gurdjieff retained an obvious admiration for much of Buddhism’s teachings, he definitely presented an inaccurate picture of Buddhism. This is particularly true in the text we study today and the chapter in that text we are focusing on.

Lastly, this effort is by no means complete and remains itself a preliminary one subject to further expansion and revision as I personally continue my own journey and studies.

There are three main approaches to Beelzebub’s Tales.

The academic, which attempts to extract from names, places or ideas, an origin to the 4th Way or something that might help explain it.

The mythical, which seeks a similar goal of understanding, while absorbing the Essence of this absorbing tale as a potential map to greater Meaning.

And the Work task, which (at best) combines the methodology of science, the extraction of Meaning in the mythical approach, and returns again and again to this great book to add new and original chapters to our own great book of Life.

All these approaches are valuable and to be honored. None are mutually exclusive. Each has a place.

For this paper, however, I have chosen the first method, the academic, as I refer to it, to extract some background information about one aspect of the Tales that might be helpful as we endeavor to use the other 2 methods. The focus will therefore be on several concepts and passages taken from Beelzebub’s Tales and secondarily from the corpus of Fourth Way teachings that has followed.

We need to dissect several elements in these narratives in order to give this topic the attention I believe it deserves. First, is Gurdjieff´s presentation of Saint Buddha and Saint Lama, their teachings and influences in Beelzebub’s Tales. Second, we need to revisit the very specific reasons Gurdjieff gives for the ultimate failure of these two figures. This will include the role monasticism, suffering and kundalini played in their doctrines. Third, we should examine in brief some of the Fourth Way teachings imparted by Gurdjieff to his students and this will include ideas about the attainment of a higher consciousness. Lastly, we need to look carefully at the core beliefs and structure of Tibetan Buddhism, in particular the Kagyu sect, and see for ourselves whether there are similarities between Gurdjieff´s doctrines and this very powerful still influential lineage.


In Beelzebub’s Tales, Buddhism is presented as one of the five remaining religions from which all teachings nowadays are descended, and the one which gets Reason attributed to it as a central characteristic of its teacher’s style and message. In fact, there are two Buddhisms presented in that list of five religions: the “Buddhistic” and what he calls, the “Lamaist.” (The use of the latter term, completely discredited in academic circles, betrays either a profound ignorance of the subject, or a deliberate mischaracterization for some as of yet undisclosed purpose. I will have more to say about that later.) Gurdjieff interestingly places these two religions into his reckoning demonstrating, in my opinion, either his belief as to their large numbers of adherents, or to these religions´ particular power which he found of great value yet ultimately wanting. For now, let us review the “Buddhism” as described in Chapters 21 and 22, as well as elsewhere in Beelzebub’s Tales to get a sense of what Gurdjieff was trying to say.

As Gurdjieff mentioned in Chapter 21, the teachings of the Buddha, whose use of Reason was said to be his hallmark, did not last. This was partly due to the inevitable division of the faith into sects, and the corruption of the idea of suffering. This eventually led, in Tibetan Buddhism, (Chapter 22) to practices repugnant to Beelzebub, namely the isolation cells where selected monks were said to spend their lives, receiving from the outside only bread and water. The teachings themselves over time were said to have degenerated so much that “from the Truths indicated by Saint Buddha Himself absolutely nothing has survived.” (page 249) The incorrect and errant manipulation of the word kundalini was also said to be a factor.

Let us examine briefly those three concepts then, monasticism, kundalini and suffering.


The Buddha first developed the institution of monasticism, that is, the organized separation from the world of groups of religious practitioners whose connection to the populace at large was one of both patronage and support. Its purpose was to provide a supportive environment whereby individuals might seek full time the fruits of spiritual progress through exposure to a disciplined life overseen by the Buddha or his immediate disciples. He made it one of the three Refuges in which Buddhists to this day daily pledge their lives to: The Buddha, as the exemplar of the teachings, the Dharma or the collected teachings themselves, and the Sangha, or community. In northern India and surrounding areas, the lay communities willingly provided for the needs of these monastics in societies where spiritual mendicants were viewed favorably and helping them out provided one with considerable spiritual merit.

In Beelzebub’s Tales, however, Gurdjieff sees monasticism as a distortion of Buddhist teachings, referring to monastics as “the sect of Self-Tamers” engaged in what he disdainfully calls “suffering in solitude.” (page 256) We may presume that immersion in regular, daily life with others was considered more ideal for what spiritual practices Gurdjieff had in mind.


In Buddhism, the Pali word dukkha has a primary place for the system the Buddha described. Suffering, a wholly inadequate translation of dukkha, was the Buddha’s characterization of the inherent dis-satisfaction built into all things impermanent. Our general predisposition he said, was to cling onto those things we cherished while pushing away those things we find repugnant. Either way, we become dissatisfied through the inevitable contact with the unpleasant and the pain of seeing the pleasant dissipate, as all things eventually do. For the Buddha, the errant way we view Life and the things around us inevitably lead to this dis-ease, which, he felt, we could successfully and completely overcome through diligent practice of his Middle Way, the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Buddha made plain his disgust for extreme asceticism, which he had tried for six years and found inadequate and inappropriate for spiritual awakening. As well, he rejected the materialist hedonism into which he had been born. Both were summarily dismissed and instead, a Middle Way was proposed, between these two extremes.


Laying out the bare facts of both kundalini and its relationship, or non-relationship to Buddhism seems in order then for us now to discern the truth of this enigmatic aspect of Gurdjieff´s teachings.

Gurdjieff in chapter 21, pages 249-251 gave a detailed explanation of kundalini based on word origins and its relationship to the word, kundabuffer. This explanation is completely fanciful. In addition, to use the word “kundalini” and apply it to Buddhism in any context is an automatic tip off that something is incorrect. For it is a word not used in normative Buddhism. In the cases where reference to the Buddhist application of heat generation, or the manipulation of inner heat through special tantric exercises is needed, then the word chandali, or tummo (“inner heat”) must be more accurately employed. (Chandali means “ever-present energy”) (Trungpa, 1992, Lion´s Roar, pps. 130, 141) This is a main practice of the Kagyu sect, as one of the Six Yogas of Naropa.

Thus, there are three possibilities here. One, a total misunderstanding of the difference between Hindu and Buddhist ideas about this power, either because of bad or incomplete translations. Two, a deliberate misrepresentation of Buddhist teachings by Gurdjieff for a specific, if unrevealed purpose. Or three, a partial knowledge of and exposure to Tibetan tummo practices, but without adequate Buddhist explanations available, and thus reliance on Hindu texts, which would ultimately distort the Tibetan views and teachings. I tend to believe this latter explanation. So, what exactly is kundalini and what is its significance here?

The word kundalini is a feminine form of the word, kundala which means, “[she who is] coiled,” traditionally implying “like a serpent,” but it also can refer to hair that is coiled upon the head, as the forest yogis wear it. As I said, it is a feminine word containing the ending -ini, which can be seen in other words such as yogini (a female yoga practitioner) and dakini (from daka, originally a demon but later referred to as a “sky dancer,” [Tib. khadroma] a female figure who “moves on the highest level of reality”). Kundalini then, refers to the dormant (or “coiled”) energy said to reside at the base of the spine in the lower energy center or chakra. During special practices, this energy can unwind and rise upwards, through the other centers in the body (totaling 7 in the Hindu system, 5 in the Buddhist system) bringing about a number of extraordinary experiences and abilities.

The only place in Buddhism where analogous to Hindu kundalini practices are to be found is in the practice of tummo, the generation of intense bodily heat. It is a practice most associated with the Kagyu sect, which includes it as one of the Six Yogas of Naropa (the others are, experiencing one’s own body as illusory, gyulu; the dream state, milam; perception of the “clear light”, ösel; the teaching of the in-between states, bardo; and the transference of consciousness, phowa.) Many accounts have been told of monks being required to test their abilities in tummo by drying out successive numbers of wet sheets placed upon their naked bodies while seated in the snow. This in Tibet, where the average elevation is 14,000 feet above sea level.

Let us now leave these concepts and move into the realm of historicity describing Buddhism as-it-is and the Buddha as he really was. The idea of developing a “higher consciousness” will also be touched on.

The Buddha

Now, “Buddha,” is not a name, but a title. It refers to a person whose being was completely covered in a quality we might call, awake-ness. We in the West have a very simplified, and, I believe distorted picture of the Buddha and his teachings. Most of what we hear about the Buddha and Buddhism is the remarkable emphasis meditation played in his teachings. But while meditation forms a very important part of the Buddhist path, it is only one step in what he called the Noble Eightfold Path.

Awareness, is the heart of Buddhism.

The Buddha spent 40 years of his life wandering throughout northern India teaching, mediating between conflicts and helping people out. If a meditative tradition giving peace of mind were the only thing he taught, very few farmers or businessmen would have been interested in his message. And yet for a period, Buddhism was the preeminent religion of all India, Sri Lanka, China, Mongolia, Korea, Southeast Asia, much of what is now Russia and parts of the independent countries that border its underbelly, all the way to European Kalmykia. In short, most of the ancient world at one time was once Buddhist. So calming and quiet meditation wasn’t the only thing that attracted the masses.

It was that quality again.

A remarkable quality he brought to every situation and every discussion, every face and every friend or foe. He was simply, completely awake. And that’s the name they gave him, the Buddha, the Awakened One.

Most of you know the basics of his story, born a prince in what is now Nepal, he grew dissatisfied with his life of luxury and ease and, after seeing firsthand old age, disease, death and a renunciant (a sannyasin), he decided to abandon that life and seek out a way beyond all suffering. After six years of extreme self denial, trying various systems and teachers (much like the later Gurdjieff) he decided to abandon them and continue his search alone, relying on his own Life and understanding. Finally, on the full moon of the fifth lunar month, he attained Enlightenment.

For the Buddha, development of a wide, panoramic awareness, a deep, clear attentiveness to everything in and around us would enable us to, as he put it, see things as they truly are (yatham bhutam). It is this ability that makes one “awakened”, a Buddha.

“ Seeing things as they are” is usually treated as the result of what, in English is called, mindfulness, but this word is awful! It is awful because it sticks us right where we spend way too much of our time—in our heads. The word the Buddha used is sati, which literally means, “the bare attention to the actual fact”. That is, the quality of being attentive. Students of the Fourth Way should make note of this important concept.

Now this word attention in English is excellent because it better describes what the Buddha was referring to. In Pali, the language of the Buddha, the word was sati and sati, has a quality of the heart, but in the West, we typically separate out head from heart. In many Eastern languages, this is not the case. So, this word mindfulness (mind-full-ness) is actually the exact opposite of what he meant. It is not to be full of one’s mind, or the thoughts in there; it IS, however, to be attentive to things both within and around us. And attend, in English, has a root, which is the word tend, which means to care for or take care of. So, at-tend refers to this quality of taking care to notice the world around us as well as inside of us.


The second figure we should speak about is Padmasambhava, who I believe is the model for Gurdjieff´s “Saint Lama.” Padmasambhava presents us with a different set of fascinating difficulties. The historical material is far scantier than that available regarding the Buddha and much of it consists of magical feats and remarkable displays of spiritual prowess. But several very interesting things are known about him.

First, that he is widely known by the epithet, Guru Rinpoche which, as I have mentioned before, can be translated as “Saint Lama”.

Second, while his dates and origin are uncertain, (the middle of the 8th century CE is about as accurate as we can establish) they contain enormously interesting seeds of knowledge for those curious. He was said to be from Oddiyana, a supposedly magical kingdom that has been variously located in what is now Iran, Kashmir, the Swat valley in Pakistan or possibly even somewhere in Afghanistan. In his story, he was miraculously born from a lotus in the middle of a lake, already a child of eight years old and possessed of enormous gifts. (The name Padmasambhava means, “Lotus Born being.”) Reared in a kingly environment he determined to renounce life but was prevented by his father. (Here the parallels to the historical Buddha are obvious.) So in order to leave, he conjures a set of magical apparitions that turn out to be deadly and accidentally kills someone. Banished, he retreats to the mountains and becomes an enormously successful tantric practitioner accomplishing what it is said no one else could. His magical prowess becomes legendary in the region and eventually he is invited to reintroduce Buddhism into Tibet where he meets with typical scorn from the Bön priestly class and anger from the local demons and spirits whom it is said, prevented Buddhism’s entry earlier. He subdues all opposition and his high religious teachings and feats of spiritual magic are recorded in a wonderful biography written by his consort Yeshe Tsogyal.

Third, Herbert Guenther, the late Tibetan Buddhist scholar points out the odd fact that as Padmasambhava was possibly from the Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan region, he is what might be considered, a Westerner who brought tantric Indian teachings into Tibet. This possibility might have been recognized by Gurdjieff, adding to Padmasambhava´s allure.

And fourth, supporting the above, elements in his teachings, mainly the highest Dzogchen teachings, suggest possible Nestorian and Zoroastrian influences. These influences include a tripartite cosmos and creativity principle, the “little man of Light” also mentioned in Sethian Gnosticism, and some prosaic descriptions of the process of Awakening. These facts make his inclusion into Gurdjieff´s pantheon even more intriguing than before, suggesting a more complicated origin for those Fourth Way teachings from Tibet than this present work can delve into.

Higher consciousness

We may say that the basic premise of most “esoteric” systems is the creation of either a higher self, or a higher self-consciousness. But creation of a “higher self” is precisely one of the kinds of yearning the Buddha counseled against. That is, it is the constant striving for identity, any identity, higher or otherwise, that locks us into the process of suffering since, as the Buddha continually taught, grasping or thirst for being is the prima facie cause of all suffering. Therefore, to say that a “Higher” consciousness is a more sought after and worthwhile goal is to deny this very basic assumption taught by the Buddha. While sati consciousness equates awareness, one should not mistake this for a different consciousness on the part of the practitioner. From the Buddha’s perspective, it is merely the proper method to view one and the psycho-physiological processes one participates in. From this point, it becomes possible to discern the inherent suffering within any grasping at all, for a higher consciousness or any at all for that matter.

But then…paradoxically, later Buddhism allows for teachings on development of such a “higher” being consciousness, however it is described mainly within the context of other Buddhas in the development of Mahayana, or the “Greater” Vehicle. Briefly, the teachings went like this: a Buddha like Siddhartha Gautama, is a historical figure, one who possesses a body like ours and lives and dies amongst us. However, Mahayana Buddhism developed the notion of three bodies, the first, physical one just mentioned is a Nirmanakaya or Transformation Body Buddha.

But within dreams, the imaginal realm, or, upon completion of extraordinary deeds, an embodied Buddha could, after physical death create a Pure Land, a realm defined to his or her own specifications and designed to assist in the furtherance of their own particular way of benefiting beings. Afterwards, they are then reborn and conduct their ministry from this “higher” realm of existence. This being is then known as the Sambhogakaya, the Reward Body Buddha. The most famous of these is Amitabha whose name means “Infinite Light” and his Pure Land, Sukhavati, is known as the Land of Bliss. His name is said to possess the ability to grant devotees a swift rebirth there whereupon they might proceed towards standard Buddhist practices for Enlightenment.

And then there is the Dharmakaya, the Dharma Body, said to be analogous to Emptiness, ultimate reality itself, the indescribable Source from which all things and all Buddhas emanate.

Thus, Buddhism evolved over time, embracing the ideal of Buddhahood over the dispassionately controlled solitary arhat and creating a mythic component of extraordinarily sublime beauty and nearly incomprehensible dimensions. This Buddhism, vast and full of Infinite manifestations of Wisdom and Compassion opened itself up to those who couldn’t retreat from the world in the dogged pursuit of self-perfection. And by so doing, it allowed for the possibility of extraordinary results on the spiritual path being achieved by even the most “ordinary” of people.

So we have this ostensibly irreconcilable view of Buddhism, one, that any effort to make something that will survive death is part of the problem, that it is, in short, the very problem in this life. And on the other hand, we have this later development that speaks to this, under very limited circumstances.

As well, we have two other Buddhisms to contend with, one historically rooted and documented, teaching a doctrine of awakening, utilizing many different techniques, and centered upon the over coming of suffering and development of Wisdom and Compassion. Then we have this other, non-historical Buddhism with the Buddha there speaking in a Gurdjieffan language and part of his pantheon of awakened souls, listed, one may believe, as being a part of Gurdjieff´s own lineage. What shall we make of this apparent discrepancy? Is it all in good humor, a terrible misunderstanding, and a mix up due to poor translations and erroneous interpretations or is it something else?

What is clear, is that the Buddha and the Buddhism presented in Beelzebub’s Tales exists only there, with little resemblance to the Buddhism as practiced in Tibet or by the historical founder of this now worldwide religion. Let us look at Tibetan Buddhism and its similarities and ask what all this may mean to the Fourth Way and its adherents.


The Five Schools

Tibetan Buddhism is made up of four Buddhist sects and is complemented by the earlier spiritual tradition of Bön. It is all a very distinct spirituality, utilizing much of the tantric tradition of India with its own unique elements. It includes mantra recitation, elaborate hand gestures known as mudras and distinctive practices known as Dzogchen (in both Bön and Nyingma) and Mahamudra, each aiming to grant the practitioner direct access to what is said to be the mind’s elementally clear nature, known as rigpa.

The entire body of Tibetan tantric Buddhism is also known as “Vajrayana” “The Diamond-” or “Thunderbolt Vehicle.” This was so named because its practices are said to accelerate spiritual development in order to achieve Buddhahood, in this very body. (Comparison to Ouspensky´s description in Fragments, pages 195-196 of practices designed to “speed up the evolutionary process,” should be noted.)

The four Buddhist sects are the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug. They range from the often non-monastic, yogic Nyingma to mixed yogic and monastic Kagyu to the exclusively monastic Gelugpas, the Dalai Lama’s sect sometimes known as “yellow hats.” We shall confine ourselves to a short discussion of just two, the Nyingma and Kagyu.


Literally, Old School, the Nyingma were the first successful input of Buddhism into Tibet, through the great and mysterious, Padmasambhava. It took with it the religio-magical influences of the Indian siddha tradition—forest yogis (and yoginis) who lived in isolated circumstances, perfecting certain practices and attaining liberation with often very non-monastic means, ex, alcohol, sexual imagery and practices, etc. While Padmasambhava was instrumental to establishing the first Buddhist monastery, (Samye) his reputation was mainly as a magical tamer of demons, making them work for Buddhism in Tibet, and for his profound teaching of Dzogchen. While parts of his story are certainly true, overall it may also point to the idea that a strictly monastic Buddhism could not survive in Tibet and needed someone who could live within the magical world of Tibetan spirituality while still being “enlightened” in the Buddhist sense. The Nyingmas retain the tradition of the nakpa, the lay practitioner who spiritually accomplishes what in other sects only highly trained and advanced monastics could. Its heads in the past have been great yogis who married and had children: HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, HH Dudjom Rinpoche, for ex. Dzogchen (The Great Perfection) is this lineages´ highest teaching. Also quaintly known as Red hats.


Known as the “practice lineage,” this was the earliest of the second wave of Buddhist traditions into Tibet, several hundred years after Padmasambhava. They reformed the monastic tradition while retaining the best of siddha/yogi practices. It is the Kagyu sect that utilizes formal training in a three year isolated retreat, usually done in caves that certify the person completing this training as a “lama.” The four most famous Tibetan Buddhists have come from this lineage.

The first was Tilopa, the crazy wisdom guru who unified the different Indian tantric systems and transmitted these to his main student Naropa. Naropa was already a great scholar-monk at the height of his fame when he had a vision that all he knew were the words and not the true meaning of Buddhism, causing him to embark on a 12-year quest to find the elusive Tilopa. Naropa’s student Marpa was a married farmer who loved beer, had an awful temper and made several journeys to India translating important tantric teachings and secretly practicing while living life as an ordinary man. And Marpa´s student, Tibet’s greatest hermit/yogi Milarepa, whose feats of extraordinary devotion began with his checkered past as a murderer only to be given “shocks” by his teacher Marpa to burn off his evil karma and to bring to fruition the powerful teachings he received.

Later, it was Milarepa’s student, Gampopa who combined the esoteric teachings of Vajrayana practiced by the forest or mountain yogis, with the established monastic lifestyle received from India, thus formally creating the Kagyu sect.

The Six Yogas of Naropa and the Mahamudra (the Great Seal) are the Kagyu sects highest teachings. The head of the sect is the first of Tibet’s reincarnated teachers, the Karmapas. Also known as “Red or Black Hats.” (The former for Sharmapas, latter for Karmapas.) One of their main monastery complexes is the Surmang monastery.

There are other unique characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism which should be noted here and whose descriptions contain elements that may sound familiar to 4th Way seekers:

“Sacred outlook.” (tag-nang) Vajrayana sees the entire world as sacred, even those objects taught in Buddhism as obstacles. These might even include sex, alcohol or anger. In Vajrayana, the goal is to transform or transmute those objects or energies into their positive counterparts. This is seen as extraordinarily difficult without a deep bond with a tantric guru and/or extensive tantric teaching and practice. The universe is also populated with normally unseen beings such as dakas and dakinis (“sky dancers”) who can be encountered in dreams or visions to help practitioners along their paths.

“Auspicious coincidence” or tendrel, refers to the notion that all aspects of one’s life are a self-revealing display of the universe and one’s role in it. As such, there are no coincidences for the tantric practitioner.

Emphasis on teacher. The guru (lama, in Tibetan) cannot be overestimated, especially in the tantric teachings. Visualizing one’s teacher as the Buddha himself is said to accrue the same benefits as if one’s teacher were the actual Buddha. Likewise, to see one’s teacher as a simple person, a flawed human being or even a drunk, would be to acquire the blessings of such individuals.

Importance of death and dying. Padmasambhava is said to have authored the so-called “Tibetan Book of the Dead” (correct title is, The Book of Liberation Through Hearing in the In-between [bardo]). The teachings emphasize the importance of using all transitional states, gaps or intervals, to achieve the final decisive jump into awakening and the death experience is seen as the last great opportunity for such before one’s subtle consciousness takes a new life form.

Deity yoga. Visualization practices include elaborate instructions for creating in one’s mind the representation of enlightened qualities, appearing above one’s head, which are then taken into oneself absorbing the energies. Since the ultimate nature of one’s mind and its objects are empty, as are the nature of all appearances, (including Buddhas and other deities), then no real obstacle is encountered and one can gradually transform one’s qualities into the deity one chooses.

Terma or “mind treasures” are hidden teachings said to have first originated by Padmasambhava who believed certain teachings were unsuitable for his time and therefore were deposited in rocks, caves and underground, sometimes written on yellow paper in “dakini script.” Other terma might be deposited in the mind stream of a person not yet born who might someday in a dream or vision, “remember” these teachings and write them down, later to be recognized as authentic.

“Crazy wisdom.” The unorthodox manifestation of behavior which otherwise might be seen as un-Buddhist and used to shock students into seeing their world differently.

A tripartite cosmos and individuals- Vajrayana sees a tripartite cosmos, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as reflecting a similar tripartite division of the individual into body, speech and mind. As socially we are to be harmoniously conducted within the former set, within us, we are to create a fully balanced and unified self whose physical components (body), energetic emanations (speech) and internal processes (mind) are also properly “in tune.” In addition the Three turnings doctrine, suggesting three different and progressively ascending teachings of the Buddha (alluded to, I believe in Chapter 21) and the Three bodies teachings, all point to a crucial division of view within Vajrayana with remarkable similarities to Fourth Way doctrines.

Tulku- Translation of nirmanakaya into Tibetan it refers to incarnated lamas who have traditionally chosen to return to human form in order to continue their lineage (such as the Trungpa tulkus) or to continue a greater commitment to all sentient beings (HH the Dalai Lama is such).


We may now suggest that a number of correspondences exist between the Fourth Way and Tibetan Buddhism.

1. Importance of practicing attentiveness to one’s self and environment simultaneously, “mindfulness” or “attentiveness” in Buddhism (sati), self-remembering and self-observation in Gurdjieff´s system.

2. Importance of using practices to “accelerate” or “speed up” normal spiritual development.

3. Importance of practice reminders in form of sayings (cf. Atisha, 982 CE, The Root Text of The Seven Points of Training The Mind, Kadampa slogan cards – preserved and practiced through the Kagyu tradition.)

4. Importance of using Death as a Reminder, perhaps the greatest reminder, for engaging in practice. Gurdjieff once said, "Constant awareness of the inevitability of death is the only means to acquire the urgency to override the robot." The second and third “Reminders” of the Kagyu focus on contemplating death, it’s inevitability and unpredictability.

5. Importance of gaps or intervals between events to reveal opportunities for awakening or change.

6. Importance of dance to convey larger ideas. (the Kagyu SURMANG monasteries emphasize ritual dances and may be compared to the Movements of Gurdjieff.) We should also note the remarkable similarity in the name Surmang with Gurdjieff´s Sarmung.

7. Importance of transforming or transmuting negative energies into “food” for spiritual development.

8. Importance of reading key teachings three times (In Kagyu Buddhism this is described as related to a three-level way of learning: hearing, contemplating and practice.)

9. Importance of development (for extraordinary beings) a second body, the Sambhogakaya, or Reward Body, to benefit beings which consists of,

10. Importance of undertaking enormous sacrifices, in other words, “voluntary suffering,” which these beings, (and we to a much lesser degree) as bodhisattvas undertake for aeons it is said before they are able to create their own Pure Land.

I believe these items point to a correspondence beyond coincidence and indicate an influential relationship, derivative from Tibetan Buddhism and incorporated into Gurdjieff´s system.

Postscript: One of the main Kagyu practices (also used by the Nyingma) is the visualization, above ones head of Vajrayogini, a female deity who is said to then receive teachings of the highest level into herself, all of which is then visualized as being absorbed into oneself. I recall a picture of Mme. de Salzmann meeting with the late Nyingma teacher, HH Dudjom Rinpoche and hearing stories of her receiving teachings about opening the top of head to receive guidance from above. We might assume an influence.


Gurdjieff´s ultimate motivations for almost any of his many activities will forever remain his and his alone. Thus, why he chose Buddhism, and its Tibetan version to be listed as two separate religions out of only five remaining ones in Beelzebub’s Tales, may never be fully understood. But I believe Gurdjieff was making a series of points that he thought necessary for those he was teaching, one of which was to remain fully within a “Western” fold and avoid the allure of authentic Eastern beliefs, particularly Buddhism and its Tibetan forms, despite his own apparent admiration for both. He wanted to utilize “suffering” as it is conventionally understood in the West, in order to strengthen the Fourth Way practitioners´ inner development, rather than, as in Buddhism, work to eliminate it altogether, a feat Gurdjieff perhaps had great skepticism about. He also wanted, I believe, to steer his followers away from the elaborate and detailed tantric teachings around kundalini, a teaching that has only a minimal place in Buddhism anyway. (Thus, this may have been a prescient warning to Westerners to also avoid Hinduism, which he may have thought would be appealing to Westerners in later years.)

As well, he imparted a distorted picture of both Buddhism and tantric kundalini teachings, which may have had the initial effect of dissuading his students from pursuing such disciplines. Later, his followers, including Mme. de Salzmann, appear to have taken a far less oppositional perspective. One may speculate about the value or nature of the passive receipt of spiritual influences from the top of one’s head, but one cannot deny their crucial role in Tibetan Buddhist visualization practices and thus drawing the tentative conclusion that the influence from Tibetan Buddhism appears solid.

While we can with certainty point to Gurdjieff´s influences from esoteric Christianity, Sufism and Hermetic thought we can as well almost certainty direct the interested Fourth Way seeker (and veteran seekers as well) to Tibetan Buddhism. I believe he had exposure to the Kagyu sect in particular. His mention of the meditation cells suggests knowledge of the extended 3-year retreats made a major part of Kagyu practices. His utilization of slogans, descriptions of accelerated spiritual development, spiritual practice while remaining immersed in the world and others, some mentioned above and others to be detailed later, all reveal a probable exposure to the Kagyu sect. This influence showed itself in his system in both positive (the incorporation of a number of ideas as demonstrated above) and negative ways (the distorted picture of both Buddhism and its two main personalities, the Buddha and Padmasambhava in Beelzebub’s Tales). While Beelzebub’s Tales contains what in Gurdjieff´s own words is the depth of his years of teaching, it also should be noted that it contains a wealth of errors in its presentation of Eastern thought. Whether deliberate or a case of mistaken assumption is not for this writer, or this presentation to say. What can now be concluded however is that, while Gurdjieff´s influences were wide, Tibetan Buddhism most probably played an important, unacknowledged role.

Thank you all very much.
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:20 pm

The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant [EXCERPT]
by John Riley Perks



In order to be a successful hunter you had to first understand and appreciate the hunted animal. You had to know its lifestyle, its nature, its habitat. You had to actually enter its world. You had to realize that like yourself, an animal and its world are alive, and that life and death, being alive, have a quality of magic-a sacredness.

I had a holy concept of sacredness, regarding some things as holy and others as untouchable. My shrine in my Buddhist practice was like something out of House &Garden magazine-flowers, candles and incense, and beautiful Tibetan pictures. I was on my way to becoming a real holy man.

Rinpoche could see my progress in practicing Buddhism and he started to bother me about hunting. He wanted me to take him hunting. "I want to kill something," he said. "I have never killed anything. I've just been a Buddhist monk all my life."

I would always refuse. "It would not be right for you to kill something, Sir."

Seeing Rinpoche in a slaughterhouse or even hunting didn't seem right to me. It didn't fit my concept of a holy man. The hunting queries continued for some time until one morning a flock of snowbirds gathered on the frozen lawn where I had thrown some old bread. Rinpoche picked up the .22 rifle from the kitchen corner. He walked toward the window and said, "Right, Johnny? We're going to shoot some birds."

I protested. "Sir, we've been through this a million times. Please hand me back the gun."

Rinpoche, always one to enjoy himself, began to leap around the room in his kimono singing, ''I'm going to kill. I'm going to kill." I didn't like the way it sounded at all. I took the gun from him and loaded it. But I also moved the rear sight out of line. I opened the kitchen window.

"Here you are, Sir," I said as I handed the gun to Rinpoche. "It's all ready to fire."

Rinpoche took aim at the birds and fired the single-shot rifle into the morning air. The birds flew off and not one was left dead. I threw more bread out and Rinpoche fired and again no birds were killed. We both laughed. I wasn't surprised, as he probably couldn't have hit the barn with those readjusted sights.

Rinpoche looked directly at me and said, "Oh, you're just an English gentleman, you couldn't kill a bird either." It was a challenge and I took the bait.

"Oh?" I said, accepting the wager.

So I took the gun and aimed, using only the front sights on the rifle and picturing the rear sights in my mind. I killed a bird, much to my own delight and Rinpoche's surprise. I walked out, picked up the bird's carcass, and waved it to Rinpoche and Max.

As I helped Rinpoche up the stairs to bed that night he said, "Johnny, do you know what killing that bird means?"

"No, Sir." I said.

"It means you will get married and your first child will be a boy who will be a tulku. [12] Also it will cause a slight interruption in our living situation."

I was dumbfounded. I had no idea what relationship there was between the events of that morning and my having a son. Rinpoche didn't expand on it, so I let it go and silently put him to bed.

Two days later Rinpoche and Max were in town shopping and got stuck in a heavy snowstorm. They had to stay overnight at an inn. Rinpoche called and told me with a chuckle, "We've been held up by a snowbird." A slight interruption. Interestingly, I have not killed anything since. Later I did get married and our first child was a daughter whom we called Sophie. Rinpoche announced that she was a reincarnation of G. I. Gurdjieff.

"But Gurdjieff was a man," I said.

"Yes," said Rinpoche, "that's Gurdjieff's joke on us."
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:23 am

Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chogyam Trungpa [EXCERPT]
by Jeremy Hayward



This search for the truth of the universe, motivated by love, took me all the way to a doctorate. However, long before I had completed my degree, I found that few physicists were any longer interested in mind, and I myself had forgotten my original inspiration. To most modern physicists questions about the basic meaning of quantum theory were merely the speculations of metaphysics and therefore not important. What was real and interesting to them were the details of matter: how many different kinds of elementary particles there are, how many fundamental forces, and how they all fit together to make a "theory of everything." Matter was everything, and there was no longer room, or need, for mind as a fundamental aspect of the universe.

At the same time that I was becoming sadly disappointed in physics, a new research field was developing -- molecular biology, the study of DNA, which biologists were enthusiastically claiming to be the basis of life. I was seduced by the hope of finding this basis of life, and thereby its deeper meaning. After finishing my Ph.D. in physics and apprenticing in the famous Medical Research Laboratory in Cambridge, I crossed the Atlantic to do research in Molecular Biology at MIT. However, disappointed again, I quickly found that these biologists were not really looking at life. They were breaking up living cells and examining the small, lifeless parts, and no one really knew, or knows even to this day, how to put them back together again to make living cells.

While desultorily performing experiments on the bits and pieces of cells, I had begun to read about mind -- psychology, philosophy of mind, and Eastern ideas about consciousness. Realizing that consciousness, or at least what we are conscious of, was deeply connected with language,I intensively studied linguistics and symbolic logic. Finally I understood that the truth of consciousness was to be found only at the point where language stops. As Wittgenstein had written, "Whereof man cannot speak, thereon he must be silent."9 But how to see this point directly, personally, beyond the words?

With a thick, black marker, I placed a single black dot in the middle of a sheet of white paper. Underneath it I wrote the word WHAT, and tacked this paper on the wall by my bed; every morning when I awoke the first thing I saw was the piece of white paper with a dot and WHAT. This stopped my mind momentarily, but that was as far as I could get on my own. Later, under the guidance of Trungpa Rinpoche, I was to discover the nature of that moment, however brief, when thought is silent.

In the 1960s and early '70s, young people in America were beginning to become fascinated by the idea of "spirituality" but had little understanding of what it was really about. In addition, a lot of ideas were highly influenced by the drug culture. In the '70s in North America, there was a tremendous influx of spiritual teachers of all kinds: yogis, Indian gurus, Maharaji, Maharishi, Sufi Sam. I began to visit the various teachers who came through Boston, and I also frequented a little bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called East-West Bookstore. I would glance through books there, buy a few, go away and read them, and come back. Some of my friends who were in the "spiritual supermarket," as Rinpoche called it, used to visit there, too. Sometimes we would meet and chat about the different paths that were being offered.


In this way, I discovered the ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff, a Russian teacher of spiritual ideas and methods of inner work .... Although Gurdjieff never disclosed the origins of his teaching, it was clear that, during the twenty years that he disappeared as a young man, he had visited esoteric schools of Christianity and Sufism, as well as Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

Almost all known about the Greek-Armenian Gurdjieff is open to question, from his birth date (variously given as 1866, 1872 and 1877), to the "Work", as his teaching is called. The Work has been jealously guarded as a modern initiatory tradition by first – and second – generation disciples, and is controversial in terms of its sources, meaning and interpretation.

-- An Enlightened Life in Text and Image: G. I. Gurdjieff''s Meetings With Remarkable Men (1963) and Peter Brook's Meetings With Remarkable Men (1979), by Carole M. Cusack

When he returned to Russia he began to teach all of these in a powerful synthesis, unique to himself, attempting to interpret the traditional teachings in the scientific concepts of the time. In this, though the scientific concepts of that time were particularly limiting, he was remarkably successful, speaking and writing in a way that cut through much of the sentimentality of Western spiritual seekers.

Studying and practicing these spiritual methods was known to his students as the Work, referring to inner work on oneself, and I joined a group practicing these methods. This involvement in the Work meant a great deal to me and some of Gurdjieff's ideas, which I will describe briefly, carried through with me during my subsequent years of study with Rinpoche.

First there is the utter and complete mechanicalness of the ordinary man and woman. Gurdjieff was completely uncompromising on this point: men and women are ordinarily machines, all asleep. Every one of us believes that "I am conscious and have free-will, and I determine the course of my own life." In fact none of this is true. From the moment we think we awaken in the morning to the moment we believe we have fallen asleep, we are simply driven mechanically by thoughts, emotions, or physical sensation that are not of our own making, but are purely the result of conditioning and physical make-up. Our normal waking lives are swept along unconsciously, just as in a dream. Later, I found this to be in complete resonance with the Buddhist view that we will inevitably repeat habitual patterns of thought and behavior if we do not wake up to them through awareness.

According to Gurdjieff, the only way to wake up to this mechanicalness, and to free ourselves from it, is by going against it. Every moment we make the choice to go against our mechanicalness, our habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, or acting, is a moment of waking up -- or at least of stirring in our sleep. But such moments produce suffering in us, in this case "conscious suffering," brought about by the "voluntary labor" of going against habit. Thus "voluntary labor" and "conscious suffering" are important aspects of work on oneself.

Gurdjieff taught that, while we all believe we are a single, unitary "me," we are not. When we look more closely, we see that we do not have just one idea of "me," but many. We have different "me's" for different occasions. The different "me's" are like roles that we play -- a different one for each situation -- or like masks we put on to cover how we are really feeling. We slip into our roles automatically, without even realizing it. Each role has different thoughts, different feelings, different moods, and even different muscular tensions and bodily postures. The change of role is so smooth, and the roles themselves so familiar, that we don't really even notice the changes happening. We think each role is the same "me" feeling a different way. We don't notice the automatic nature of the whole process. And if we were asked to describe ourselves we would probably describe only one or another of our various roles, depending on who was asking us.


HARRY: Who are you?

GOETHE: I'm not anybody.

I'm a chess player. Do you want instruction in building up your personality?

HARRY: Yes, please.

GOETHE: May I see your pieces, please?

HARRY: Pieces?

GOETHE: Of your personality. I can't play without the pieces.


Which one is you?


You are the whole game.

HARRY: But all these personalities in one man, that's schizophrenia.

GOETHE: It don't matter, honey. Watch.


HARRY: What is it called, this game?

GOETHE: Life. Your life. Complicate it or enrich it as you please.

Your soul has fallen to bits and pieces. Good. Rearrange them to suit yourself.

[Goethe laughing]

-- Steppenwolf, Written and Directed by Fred Haines, featuring Max Von Sydow, Dominique Sanda, and Pierre Clementi

This understanding of the multiplicity of our "I's" is very helpful in understanding the Buddhist view of egolessness, which means similarly that although we believe and act in ordinary life as if we were a unified, independent, permanent "I," such an " I" does not in fact exist. Seeing the multiplicity and impermanence of our moment-by-moment "I's" can be a valuable step on the road to discovering true egolessness.

To help us wake up, Gurdjieff taught the dual practices of "self-observation" and "self-remembering." Self-observation is the continual effort to see ourselves just as we are -- good, bad, or indifferent -- without judgment, self-praise, or self-blame; it is to see ourselves, in a sense, as others see us. Self-remembering does not mean excessive focusing on the momentary "me," or anxious self-consciousness in the conventional sense, but is a moment of being fully present, to the moment and to one's own being in the moment, free from daydreaming, discursive thought, or fuzziness of perception. It is a direct knowing of a larger sense of self beyond the "me." During this period, as I read around in other spiritual traditions, these practices of self-observation and self-remembering seemed to me to have much in common with Buddhist mindfulness and awareness practices.

In Gurdjieff's view, our mechanicalness is driven by three main centers of energy: the intellectual or thinking center, the feeling or emotional center, and the moving or instinctive center. These three centers, in every ordinary, asleep human are completely unsynchronized with each other, even working in opposition to each other -- our thoughts do not correspond to what we feel, our body resists what we desire or what we think we should do, and so on. Thus, the first stage of awakening, absolutely necessary for everyone, is to harmonize these three energy centers. Many of the practical exercises Gurdjieff gave were directed toward this aim. The purpose of self-observation, for example, was mainly to see, at any moment in active daily life, how disharmonious our three centers are.

Regarding the joining of mind and body, Gurdjieff was very clear: "Magic lies in awareness of the body," he would say. While we were never given long practices to do, such as the sitting practice of mindfulness/awareness, we did have a morning exercise known as the "collection exercise." This consisted basically in what has come to be known more widely as a "body scan," in which one brings awareness successively to the different parts of one's body, beginning with the feet and arms, moving up the torso and head, and coming to rest in the heart. This was, for me, a powerful and important daily practice.

Another potent instruction was that whenever I come to a moment of remembering myself, remembering my aim to wake up, whatever activity I am involved in at that moment, to immediately bring my attention to the inner sensation of a particular, already-decided-upon part of my body, such as the sensation of my left forearm. This has the magical effect of bringing me right into the present moment. It is especially powerful if, for example, I remember myself in the middle of a heated discussion. These ideas and practices were later to have strong parallels in Rinpoche's teaching, especially in the Shambhala teachings in which a great deal of emphasis is placed on "joining mind and body."

Gurdjieff was very far from being merely an intellectual purveyor of ideas. He had a mischievous and at times brutally sharp sense of humor with which he would cut through his students' pretentiousness and self-importance. And he would often push his students to extreme physical, emotional, and mental hardships to help them break through their mechanicalness. His emphasis was on the development of attention in ordinary life -- what Buddhists would perhaps call meditation in action. One of his main methods for arousing attention was a series of highly complex exercises, the "Movements," and "Sacred Dances," both of which demanded increase of attention far above the usual. These, too, he had brought back and synthesized from his journeys East, and I was fortunate enough to have a skilled teacher of the Movements for the Work group which I joined in Boston.

The Work with the Gurdjieff group had a powerful, life-changing effect on me. I can still recall, almost forty years later
, a period of a few days when the world seemed to become alive. The space around me seemed to be bright, vivid, almost luminous and filled with life. Suddenly, for those few days, I was lifted out of my habitual depression into a quiet joy and appreciation of the world around me. This was the moment when I began to realize that a different dimension to life -- the inner, spiritual dimension that I had been reading about all these years -- was real, actually attainable. I am forever grateful to the Gurdjieff work and to Gurdjieff himself, for giving me some little hint, as well as direct experience, of this greater perspective.

A teacher is necessary at the beginning of the path, according to Gurdjieff, although no amount of following great men would ultimately free me; in the end, only I can do it through my own efforts. Yet at this point Gurdjieff had been dead for over twenty years. He had no definite lineage to carry on his work, and his teachings had no clear history. People who had known him were leading our groups, and when they spoke they seemed to almost always refer to Gurdjieff: "Mr. Gurdjieff said this; Mr. Gurdjieff said that." I began to feel his absence: "Where is Mr. Gurdjieff?" So my search for a living teaching and teacher continued, even while I took part in the Gurdjieff group.

Knowing that the Gurdjieff work had its origins in some combination of Christianity, Sufism, and Tibetan Buddhism, many of us read a great deal about these other spiritual methods. I found myself most drawn to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation and the Buddhist teachings on egolessness, and recognized these in some of the central ideas of Gurdjieff as I have described.


One day, I bought a book called Meditation in Action. It was a beautiful early September afternoon, warm, fresh, and sunny. I went to sit by the banks of the Charles River and started to read this book. It was quite short and very simple, and I read it all the way through, sitting there on the banks of the river that afternoon. At the end of it I had a strange feeling, something between disheartenment -- a flat, washed-out feeling -- and a kind of joy, a kind of excitement. I wanted to find out more about Chogyam Trungpa, the man who had written this book. I wanted to meet him.

At the back of the book it said, "If you would like to correspond with the author, his address is Samye Ling, Eskdalemuir, Scotland." Here I was, an Englishman now living across the Atlantic Ocean in Boston, and to meet this person I had to go back to Scotland! So, disappointed, I returned to the bookstore that very afternoon to look for something else. There I told a friend, "I just read this really good book by a Tibetan, but he lives in Scotland." "You mean Trungpa Rinpoche?" my friend replied, "He's giving a seminar in Boston this weekend!" The seminar was to be held at the East-West Center on Marlborough Street in Boston and, on the Thursday before the program, Rinpoche was giving a public talk there.

And so it was that my heart and mind were opened that Thursday evening in September 1970. The kind smile that accompanied Rinpoche's answer -- "There's something left, don't worry" -- in response to my desperate personal question, went straight to my heart. I knew then that I had found what I had been searching for all my life....


In early December I was overjoyed to receive a flyer from TOTT advertising a seminar to be held over the Christmas period with Trungpa Rinpoche, called "The Battle of Ego." Thus it was with excited anticipation that, on Christmas Eve, I drove up along the lanes of Vermont to TOTT [3 hrs drive]. It was already dark as I approached it on the long, winding country road, but at the end of the road I could see a rather small looking farmhouse. I parked the car and entered the house, coming directly into a small, funky old farmhouse dining room. There were several wooden tables in the room, with wooden benches alongside them. The first thing I noticed was a lady who looked to be in her late thirties, wearing a short red dress and red tights, dancing to music on top of one of the tables. People were laughing and clapping and there was a feeling of celebration.

As I walked in the door, I had a feeling I can only describe as "coming home." As I came in to this farmhouse dining room on Christmas Eve, I felt as if I had at last come back to my family, my first family. It wasn't the family I had known in England; it was a true family.

The farmhouse was full to bursting. The small dining room couldn't even begin to accommodate all of us, so we had our meals all over the place -- the dining room, the living room, the library, the stairs, the sewing room, everywhere. There was little real furniture in the living room, so we sat on some wooden blocks. We crowded into the small attic shrine room of the farmhouse for Rinpoche's talks. The general atmosphere of the seminar was joyful and celebratory.


Rinpoche gave a talk every afternoon based on the image of ego as a castle. The first few days were spent talking about how we build this castle of ego and the second half of the seminar was on how to attack it. His description began on virgin territory, or no man's land. This basic ground is not owned by anyone and is an analogy for the primordial intelligence that is free from all concepts of good and bad, this and that, I and other, inside and outside. At a certain point the all-pervading intelligence of this basic ground panics and realizes that it has no place to settle, no reference point, no nest. It runs around and tries to find something to hold on to. Discovering its first rock -- an analogy for the first discrimination between this and that -- it begins to build a castle.

The castle has walls, representing the ignorance of separation from the basic ground; guards, who judge the outside in terms of friend or foe; a central security officer, who determines what defensive or aggressive action should be taken at each moment; ministers, who label everything with concepts; and a king, consciousness imprisoned by ego.
Later I was to discover that these five aspects of the castle of ego represent a traditional teaching of the five skandhas, or "heaps" -- components of our body and mind which we lump together into one thing and identify with as a real "self," or ego.

The second part of the seminar addressed the question: How are we going to dismantle this castle? How are we going to deal with the foot soldiers, and so on all the way up to the king? In this second part, Rinpoche worked very much with questions and answers, asking the students questions like, "How would you get through the protective circle of the guards?" "How would you deal with the ministers?" People made suggestions, and he always responded very directly and in a way that personally related to the student who asked the question. He was warm and personal, humorous and slightly cutting sometimes, and always delightful.

Lord Pentland, the head of the Gurdjieff movement in America, was attending this seminar along with several other senior Gurdjieffians. I sat down next to him one evening in front of the fire, and said, "If it's all really so simple as Trungpa Rinpoche is presenting, why is the Gurdjieff work so complicated?" Lord Pentland replied, in his very upper class, Scottish accent. "I think it is because we are so complicated." This was helpful. He went on to say that it is ego that is complicated, and therefore the teachings have to be complicated even though, ultimately, it may be simple. Later on, I was to find out that Buddhist doctrine can also be highly complicated, for the same reason -- there are said to be as many different teachings as there are beings.


During this program, Rinpoche had private interviews with everyone. He was staying in one of the two rooms at the front of the farmhouse, and met with people in the room across the corridor from his bedroom. He sat in a wicker chair that was very similar to the one at the seminar in Boston, and the person meeting with him would sit on a cushion on the floor.

When it was my turn, I sat on the cushion and just looked up at him, feeling quietly joyful, and he looked down at me with his sweet smile. I said, "Rinpoche, is it really this simple?" He smiled and nodded, saying, "Yes," and added, "It's said that a cow cannot taste its own tongue. It is that close." In my memory of that exchange, which was my first personal meeting with Rinpoche, it is as if the air were filled with golden light. It isn't something that I saw at the time as a visual illusion or something tangible, but I always remember him in that room as if it were that way.

As I returned to Boston, I was very happy. I felt that I had found what I was looking for. I don't remember how I actually put it to myself at the time, but the feeling was that I had finally found my home and a genuine living teacher who could show me the way to discover what was truly real. And, after years with the rather solemn Gurdjieffians, I had discovered that it could be a joyful search, full of humor! What faced me in Boston, however, was an extremely bleak situation.

The previous year, utterly disheartened, I had quit research altogether and taken a position teaching physics in a public high school, thinking that perhaps I could reconnect with the physics that I had loved as a teenager and pass that on to others. As I had had no teacher training at all, this was turning out to be a rather disastrous experiment. I had been demoted and so, in my second year, I was teaching general science to ninth grade students who mostly seemed to think the whole thing was at best a joke! I had no idea where my life was heading, but it was clear that it couldn't continue in the same way.
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:54 am

Part 1 of 2

John Pentland, 1907–1984
by Gurdjieff International Review



Lord Pentland (Henry John Sinclair) was a pupil of Ouspensky for many years during the 1930s and 1940s. He began to study intensely with Gurdjieff in 1948. Gurdjieff then appointed him to lead the Work in North America. He became president of the Gurdjieff Foundation when it was established in New York in 1953 and remained in that position until his death.

Lord Pentland

A brief sketch of John Pentland’s life and writings by J. Walter Driscoll. Pentland was a pupil of both P. D. and Mme. Ouspensky for many years during the 1930s and 1940s. He spent considerable time with Gurdjieff in 1949, after which he led the Gurdjieff Work in North America.

John Pentland, 1907–1984
by J. Walter Driscoll
Copyright © 1997 J. Walter Driscoll

Lord Pentland (Henry John Sinclair) was a pupil of both P.D. and Mme. Ouspensky for many years during the 1930s and 1940s. He spent considerable time in 1949, the last year of Gurdjieff's life, with him; then he led the Gurdjieff Work in North America. He described this period in Transmission: an interview with Lord Pentland in 1983:

When I met Gurdjieff I'd been quite a few years with Mr. Ouspensky and Mme. Ouspensky both attending talks and lectures and also living in Mme. Ouspensky's house, in their houses in England in the west of London and in New Jersey. And it was after Ouspensky died and I went out to India, and on the way back, actually, it became clear to me that even all those years with Ouspensky, I hadn't arrived at anything; I came to nothing. And it was then that through Mme. Ouspensky's introduction, I went to Paris and met Gurdjieff. I was with him in Paris and then I came to New York. And it was a short period, only about nine months, but a couple of months after that he died. And the way he left things, it made it perfectly easy for me to have to really enter into a position of responsibility as such. So it made it essentially easy for me to try to understand more deeply what he'd shown me.

With support from other senior students, Lord Pentland became president of the Gurdjieff Foundation when it was established in New York in 1953 and remained in that position until his death in 1984. He played a major role in bringing English editions of Gurdjieff's and Ouspensky's books to publication. He also collaborated in the founding of Gurdjieff societies in major urban areas across North America. Lord Pentland was president of the Gurdjieff Foundation of California from its inception in 1955.

As executive editor of Far West Editions between 1969 and 1984 he supervised and was a frequent but anonymous contributor to ten issues of Material for Thought, an occasional magazine of anonymously authored reviews, essays, interviews and poetry that is dedicated to "the inner search for one's self." In this capacity, he acted as editorial advisor to numerous authors and wrote forewords to some of their books published by Far West Editions. As founder of the Far West Institute, he was a pivotal force behind their biennial program of six public lectures in San Francisco between 1974 and 1984.
These drew a wide range of gifted speakers, from many vocations and traditions, to penetrating dialogues on their search for meaning in the midst of contemporary materialism. Lord Pentland was a frequent contributor to these discussions.

Guidance Under Lord Pentland’s Direction

Working under Lord Pentland’s guidance for almost 30 years, Don Hoyt shares some of his experiences with Pentland, “not only in the context of group exchanges with him, but also in what can only be described as ‘teaching moments’.”

Guidance Under Lord Pentland’s Direction
by Don Hoyt

Within the various Gurdjieff Foundations here in America a number of us who worked directly under the guidance of Lord Pentland can recall vividly how the power of his unique insights into the teaching of Gurdjieff acted as a catalyst that opened up new avenues of questioning for us, of penetrating beneath and beyond the level of associative expectations, in a way that kindled—and sometimes ignited—a deepening awareness of our essence. This was brought home for me not only in the context of group exchanges with him, but also in what can only be described as “teaching moments,” in which, while in his presence, a word from him, an unexpected reminder, would produce in us a shock, shaking us out of the dream state in which we had become entrapped.

Lord Pentland, circa 1980

Lord Pentland was a true teacher in every sense of the word. There was an unmistakable impression of inner authority that emanated from his presence which spoke of a lifetime of payment, and which accounts in large part for the atmosphere that was generated in our meetings with him, an atmosphere charged with electricity. I’ve often pondered what it was that produced this effect, and I’ve come to realize that it may have been his complete indifference to any concern about what impression he might be making, or in expounding some idea for our edification. Yet another factor was at work. He was working—working with total attentiveness and presence that enabled his attention to be freely and wholly available, unencumbered by any inventory of “prior knowings.” One felt he was listening from a respectfulness for our work that had an action on us, of a demand, a demand to share in that quality of attentiveness with him, to the extent we were able.

A question arises from this—a question implicit within the state of our listening. Why was it that our attention repeatedly fell short of the potency, the inner force, required to maintain the sustained level of attentiveness to which he was calling us? In a message from him that was read aloud at the beginning of a Sunday of work, he addressed this very question. He began by drawing our attention to an unexpected factor in our general makeup, namely, that:

A part of my energy is detached from my present state. Whether I am trying to be quiet, or struggling with some unpleasant emotion, this part of my presence is unconcerned, detached from it all. I am oblivious of the fact that this free energy is part of me. I am only partly present. But when, through the work of a sustained attentive inner listening, I become aware of this detached energy, accepting the fact that I cannot even be sure I know to whom this unattached energy belongs or what it means—that this “unknowing” elicits a state of presence accompanied by a relaxation of the body, particularly in the neck and shoulders, and a sense of warmth in the solar plexus region. All the restlessness disappears as the free energy finds a place in the body where it can naturally relate to other inner energies.

This perspective was further brought home for us during one of Lord Pentland’s last formal exchanges, this one with the Cave Junction, Oregon group in August of 1983, six months before his death. He had been invited by George Cornelius, who had asked Lord Pentland if he would speak about what needs to be understood if we are to undergo the real work that Gurdjieff has opened up for us.

George Cornelius was a student of Gurdjieff in Paris, where Mr. Gurdjieff called him "The American."

George Cornelius also studied with P.D. Ouspensky, J.G. Bennett, Jane Heap and Rodney Collin.

Mrs. A.L. Staveley called Mr. Cornelius, "formidable" and "a strong meat -- not for everyone." She said that Mr. Cornelius worked with those who had no group and who found it difficult to work within a group.

George Cornelius said, "I teach discrimination" and drove away many who came to him. A friend of John Pentland and John Lester, George Cornelius was sent by many as a man, who kicked down doors, rode across boundaries and stepped on corns.

-- George Cornelius, by Gurdjieff Club

It was an occasion in which Lord Pentland began to articulate with extraordinary precision what can guide our work when we are prepared to move beyond the level of conceptual assumptions about what we regard as inner work. He began by introducing an altogether unfamiliar dimension of meaning to the word responsibility, a dimension that could be a guiding imperative to a real work. His words still vibrate with the same potency for me now as they did then.

I begin to understand what would be meant, if I were able to be present to it, by the idea of two levels of attention: one that reacts to what is going on mechanically and another attention that is in touch with the presence of myself in the moment. Real responsibility begins when I am present to both these levels at the same time—when I have an attention which is able to hear the call at the same time as it feels the movement of the unconscious parts of myself.

Now of course I’m speaking about something you’re all familiar with. It’s the question of real will. And I hope I can say that we’re all together in front of that question, yourself, and myself, and all of us. It’s a question we all share together. Nobody’s giving the answers. And that’s what a real human question is like.

The first step in responsibility, then, is separation—separation of the energies from the forms they take, separation of essence from personality. And for this process to go on calls for a certain quality of attention which I call non-directive skill. It’s only by developing this quality of attentive engagement that I begin to move towards real individuality.

On first hearing this idea of non-directive skill, it did not fully register. Time would be needed for it to gestate, to “cook” in us, to where it would become a living imperative for our work. In recognition of this, Lord Pentland made no further attempt to explain or define what was meant by this idea of non-directive engagement of the attention, as though trusting that this idea, like a seed, would germinate in us to eventually bear fruit within the context of our work, and instead, shifted the ground of our exchange to encompass another scale altogether, to that of the idea of octaves with their intervals.

You are all familiar with the idea, Gurdjieff’s idea, of the octave, as it develops sequentially in time. It’s very good to experience the law of octaves as a law not only behind the big crises, but behind every little detail of our lives, observing the energies that arise, that go out from me, and return. But we also need to begin to try to understand the law of octaves vertically, in which all the notes are there, all the levels are all there at the same moment within me, and what we wish for is to experience these levels and to observe the separation of their different energies—distinguishable one from the other—each of which has its own characteristic rate of vibration.

Yet even here, the sweep and resiliency of Lord Pentland’s mode of exchange opened us to a far wider horizon, in which the level of our work could be viewed in juxtaposition with the awesome scale of cosmological movement, the movement of the great Ray of Creation, which, as he pointed out, obeys the same laws as those that apply to the scale of our inner work.

We don’t understand the importance of our attitude. My attitude at any point is like the sunken part of the iceberg. I start out from the conscious affirmative part which is like the tip. I’m quite surprised—and unprepared—to meet resistance from this unconscious part. Yet my attitude is largely governed by this resistance. You have to see the resistance. You have to be more aware of the wish to not work—at the same time as you are holding the wish to work.

What was implicit for me in these words was the simultaneous awareness of both these forces—the force of affirmation and the force of denial. It is the simultaneous holding within our awareness of both these two forces which draws us into the presence of the third force—the all-embracing force of reconciliation.

This lawful factor within the context of our work was further illuminated at an impromptu informal gathering arranged with little forewarning by Lord Pentland during an intensive work period in 1983, four months before he died. He chose to dispense with any note-taking or recording of the meeting, yet his words still resonate strongly in my recollection. He began speaking almost immediately.

The association of wishing to be silent is seen when I close the eyes, that all too easily this becomes an automatic reflex that I do out of fear of the outside world. It is this fear that creates the aggression which creates the inner noise. But what we wish for is a listening that will be for the whole of the inner and outer life, all together—and somewhere between certain limits there will be a particular point where the whole of life is available, and at that point there will be a silence, and it will appear as part of a lawful process in which there is no violence, because I’m simply coming to a more and more sensitive state of attentive listening.

So here again we were brought in touch with a work that includes both sides at once.

A remarkable quality of Lord Pentland’s way of responding to a question or observation that he clearly could see was the fruit of a genuine inner place of work, is that he invariably honored the occasion by illuminating for that individual a level of meaning that opened them to a whole new scale of understanding—of the very question or observation they had brought. I vividly recall an instance of this which took place in the context of a group meeting where this occurred. This was the observation put to Lord Pentland.

A week ago during the reading of Beelzebub there was a part about all-embracingness. It touched me and I wanted to understand why. I tried to keep the question open during the day. Also it has been with me for a week, because I tried to understand why I felt this was missing in my work and why I didn’t feel it.

Lord Pentland’s response:

All-embracingness—it’s for that that the work to come to the work of sensation is given. We have to see first of all in moments and then for longer, that through the work to be aware of the sensation of the whole of my body, there can be moments when all the experiences are contained in myself—they don’t go outside myself.

I need to come back to the work of sensation because the container is coated in me through the transformation of my energies. And this transformation cannot take place at the level of my functioning—the forms that this energy takes. As long as I’m taken by that level, there can be no transformation. So I begin to discover through the work of sensation that I can be aware of energy and vibration before they have taken form. And this is the first step towards that transformation by which a container could exist for my inner life, which would give me the opportunity to study the appearance of the forces that act through these energies.

I’ve often reflected on what was Lord Pentland’s fundamental aim as a teacher—what was he after? One response to this is that his abiding intent, almost passion, was to arouse in us an awareness of the buffers—the built in forms of resistance—that distance us from the possibility of “hearing,” of being receptive to new impressions. Keenly aware of the dream state in which we live our lives, he knew all too well that any reference to “sleep” would elicit little more than a yawn, that it has become a cliché term at best. Yet at unexpected moments, he could touch our conscience by reminding us that what we are in fact asleep to is the reality of our being, asleep to levels of this being that are free of, and inaccessible to, the machinations of the personal self with its dreams of self-enhancement and self-ascendance.

The main point of any spiritual practice is to step out of ego's constant desire for a higher, more transcendental version of knowledge, religion, virtue, judgment, comfort, or whatever it is that the particular ego is seeking.

-- Chogyam Trungpa, From Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Yet there are those who have come to realize that the price of coming to a real work is disenchantment with all of that, and it is these whom Lord Pentland endeavored to reach.

Then we look further and further and further. We don't make a big point or an answer out of any one thing....

We go on deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, until we reach the point where there is no answer. There is not even a question. Both question and answer die simultaneously at some point. They begin to rub each other too closely and they short-circuit each other in some way. At that point, we tend to give up hope of an answer, or of anything whatsoever, for that matter. We have no more hope, none whatsoever....

This hopelessness is the essence of crazy wisdom. It is hopeless, utterly hopeless. It is beyond hopelessness....

Without a sense of hopelessness, there is no way to give birth to sudden enlightenment. Only giving up our projects brings about the ultimate, definite, positive state of being, which is the realization that we are already enlightened beings here and now.

-- Crazy Wisdom, by Chogyam Trungpa

In 1955, Don Hoyt became a member of the Gurdjieff Foundation under the guidance of Lord Pentland. After Lord Pentland’s death in 1984, Don Hoyt served as President of the Gurdjieff Foundation of California until 1988.
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:02 am

Part 2 of 2

Exchanges Within (Excerpts)

In these exchanges from group meetings, John Pentland responds to observations and questions from his pupils regarding their inner work and does so in ways that called them—and us—to a state of attention, to a state of vibrant attentiveness, of inner alignment and attunement, which, when we are sufficiently still inside, possesses a potency reminding us that the real inner work is a response to a higher and deeper calling.

Exchanges Within
Questions from Everyday Life selected from Gurdjieff Group Meetings with John Pentland in California, 1955–1984

The following selections are taken from Exchanges Within,1 which documents nearly 30 years of group meetings with John Pentland. “These exchanges do not necessarily lead to definite answers but, on the contrary, encourage deeper questioning and further experience. Through the intensity of his own search, Lord Pentland radiated the help necessary for group members again and again to discover and try to express where they actually are in the process of understanding and in the movement toward being.”2

John Pentland, circa 1980

Feeling that things are doing themselves, a moment of presence to myself . . .

Basic goodness as ground refers to our view of reality as primordially pure, fresh, and sacred. Our human being is originally wakeful, worthy, and genuine. We approach meditation without the idea of a fundamental mistake that we need to correct. We begin by simply feeling how we are feeling without evaluating ourselves, attempting to change, or stop our thoughts. This is total, aware accommodation.

-- Shambhala Guide Resource Manual: A Resource for Directors, Students, and Centre Administrators [Draft], 2014 , by Shambhala Office of Practice and Education

Question: I have tried to observe myself during the day doing housework, taking care of the children, different types of things. I ask myself, “Who is doing this now?” and sometimes I get to the point that I can see how helpless I am. I will be carrying a pan from the sink to the stove and when I ask “Who is this, doing this?” things start to happen in me. Really, it brings some feeling.

Lord Pentland: What does it bring?

Questioner: It is a feeling of—like a big discovery that it really is true that I am not really doing this thing. Things are doing themselves. But then I start daydreaming and forget that right away.

Lord Pentland: You should try to understand this feeling. Although it is very fleeting, you should try to understand it more. It comes very quickly and we do not see how quickly it is gone. And strangely, even though it has its side of exposing my weakness, my carelessness, even though it has this side of showing my weakness to myself, there is a great joy in it. It is something very real. It is a moment of presence to myself, a very short moment.

Questioner: Is there a feeling connected with that which could guide me in between these moments? Is there something more in that experience that I have missed?

Lord Pentland: It is new for you still, but maybe there is something more in it that you will have to understand, which guides you in these other times when you say that you forget.

Questioner: Yes, it just happens. I do not feel I have anything to do with it.

Lord Pentland: You feel you are getting something for nothing. This is an awkward position to be in. If you could connect it—how can I pay? There is something more you have to see in that. As far as it goes it is very good, it couldn’t be better. But it has to go further and that means you have to see more at the moment.

It always takes you by surprise; how could you not be so taken by surprise? How could you understand what it would mean, this presence, when it suddenly appears, that without it you are incomplete? How could you be ready for that to come? How could you feel that, when you are being so careless, so completely forgetting of the need for this presence? It is as if a child were completely neglectful of its parent, if a child did not recognize its dependence on its parent when the parent comes into the room.

That would be one thing to start from, to see again and again that I entirely forget the need for what you could broadly call help, to see how in fulfilling these ordinary demands I forget that they can never be fulfilled without help—what I mean is, the need of this presence in me when I go out to fulfill these little demands. It never occurs to you that they never can be finished without that; even quite small things get out of hand.

The idea of resistance . . .

Question: Would you speak about resistance? I seem to find resistance built in and I am powerless in the face of it. I have no control even in attempting to be quiet in order to follow or see where the resistance comes from. I see all the time that I am still caught in it. It is very difficult to work in the face of this.

Lord Pentland: Again we come to the point at the end of what you say. It is very difficult to work. Now, in a way this is my starting point. Work is a luxury. I do not mix it with the ordinary difficulties of life. If it is a luxury, if it is a work to be present to a life which is already full of difficulties, then I can expect this work to be especially difficult. I start from that.

What is the difficulty is almost always of my own making. Granted the difficulty of leading an ordinary life, when it is granted, I do not have very much wish for this luxury, for a soul or whatever you call it. The factory only just maintains itself. There is not much energy for work. So I have become accustomed to depend for the idea of work on what I call resistance. You follow what I mean?

The intriguing quote, "Luxury is experiencing reality" is another phrase Chögyam Trungpa used which goes to the heart of the drala principle.

-- The Drala Principle, by Bill Scheffel

Work for me begins where I am, in the problems of ordinary life. I divide this desire in resistance. I do not mean to say I see that exactly; I only experience something as work when there is something to work against. To me there is the verification that there is a work when there is a struggle. This is a misunderstanding, because my work is simply to be present in my life—for that there is no resistance.

The problem is to find something in myself, some energy, some presence that is not needed for the difficulties of life, which can be there at the moment. In a way everything is a resistance. In a way nothing is a resistance to that. In a way everything has to be related to that. If everything is felt as a resistance, I am not able to do that.

It all begins from this problem we have of needing an affirmation for a work effort. I have to try again and again. It used to be said, you remember, that the resistance is also me. I do not know if that helps. One has not much time to think about things like that. There is a sort of satisfaction I take in the experience of working against something, which makes that work very difficult and which creates the other difficulty—that sometimes it appears too much.

The more you think about it in terms of a force, the less you think about it in terms of positive and negative, the better. I see there is a struggle. I know that my possibility of coming to a question from that depends on whether the force can engage directly. The real awareness of living is so close to living that it is like the force appearing directly. It is very subtle.

When there is this sort of substantiation about this resistance and what can go against it, it is not so subtle. This makes for a work that is less useful. It also makes for a work that is very vulnerable to violence. When life comes to me violently because I am not living close enough, I am unable to make use of that. On the contrary, I react violently.

I need very much this naked confrontation with life. So you try. It cannot be done all at once, for we depend for the moment on this experience of resistance in order to feel I am back home again working. But you see we have to get beyond that because this dependency gets in our way. It gives us the feeling that, because of the resistance, we cannot work. We never come to the third force, but it is where I am. You understand better now?

Work for an acceptance of the body as an important part of my psyche . . .

Question: The study that was suggested last Saturday helped me to be in touch with my body an unusual amount of the time. By the end of the day, I could see that my thoughts get in the way of being more with myself, and there was a definite decrease in thoughts about people—what I thought they should do instead of what they were doing. Just what had to be was there. I learned something about that on Saturday by being there in a different way.

Lord Pentland: Suppose one could have a relationship with the sensation, involving a kind of acceptance of my body. We are alienated from our bodies. I don’t accept that this is my body. It is rather easy to accept that this is my body when there is a real inner experience and I feel this is just the outer covering. But these moments are rare when I am impartial to my body, can look at it in the mirror and feel this is just the outer covering. Normally I don’t quite accept what I see in the mirror as me, so I will never have a relationship with my body, will never be aware of the sensation as long as what I see in the mirror is rejected. So it is a very good thing when you feel frustrated or angry or something, instead of trying to quiet it, to go look at it in the mirror and see that it is not me that is doing all this.

Questioner: One of the things I am now trying to do . . .

Lord Pentland: As long as you don’t get lost in the doing. So one has to take one’s measure in relation to that. It is no use having an idea that more has to be done in this direction. One has to know one’s measure. One has to work at it within the measure that is available to me. It is no use picking exercises and giving myself tasks that are too difficult. I have got to do what is just a little too difficult for me.

A lady came to see me in New York, an artist. She had had some kind of experience in Central Park and she had been everywhere trying to understand it. She finally went to a priest. He said, “If you come to my retreat, I will help you to understand it.” She was completely a non-church person and said so to him. He said, “You have to learn humility.” She said to me, “You see the crazy things they tell you. I was saying I had seen growing things, the spectrum of colors and the man says ‘humility.’ My friends say that you understand something.”

So I said to her, “Start with sensation. You must try till you see me again to keep your face relaxed.” So after a month she came back and not perhaps without some help from the beauty parlor, but her face was very relaxed. She said this had been the most extraordinary reminder to her. She talked about that for awhile, and she stayed and went on talking, and I realized I was supposed to give her something else to try. I didn’t feel inclined to, because just that work on relaxation of one’s face is a marvelous reminder and four weeks isn’t long enough. But eventually I said to her, “Well, if you have done that exercise, I can only think of one other one. Make an absolute rule not to shout.” She gave me a sort of pitying look and she said, “I was brought up in such and such a way and I never shout.” Well, it was too late to go back by then so I said, “Anyway, that is the exercise for you.”

She was from a Fifth Avenue family. A few days later I was seeing the friend who had sent her to me and I said, “You know, I understand your friend up to a point, but I am not sure whether she is happy with me.” My friend said, “Oh, she is very happy with you. She left the office where you saw her, went out in the street and the first thing she did was yell for a taxi, and she heard it.”

This is the work on sensation, if you follow me. It is not sitting still, saying, “I must have contact with sensation.” It is a work all the time to have a relationship, that is to say an acceptance of the body as an important part of my psyche and to be aware of the way I make it pay for my idealism. I am all the time taking it out on the body to make it pay for these ideals I run after. So it is a work to make a place for the body, but a work that can’t be done fifteen minutes once a day, can it?

The experience of meditation is one way to share the culture of Shambhala. When we sit and the discursive mind settles, we synchronize mind and body, the heart softens, and the senses clarify—we feel and touch our own goodness. This is akin to getting a “feel” for living in enlightened society.

-- Shambhala Guide Resource Manual: A Resource for Directors, Students, and Centre Administrators [Draft], 2014, by Shambhala Office of Practice and Education

There is no sensation except in joining the head and the heart . . .

Question: I want to ask what does sensation mean. It’s difficult. We’re given exercises, ideas, direction. In a way, sensation is the bottom line. It seems so far away from some of these great ideas, but the grand structure implied in the books about the work and the vain way I aspire seem to be distant from sensation. How to find a practical relationship to sensation and the ideas on a scale bigger than life? I feel attracted to that way of looking at things: it’s wonderful, amazing, to think there might be correctly functioning higher centers in me, but how to find a practical relation between sensation and the ideas, relative to the scale of the ideas.

Lord Pentland: The point is, the head, which takes in ideas, and the feeling, which takes in scale, can never meet. Sensation is the relating element. How to feel what you think or to think what you feel is through sensation. We practice sensation in a way unrelated; for the head and feeling to meet is . . . only in the body. My head feels all over my body. With the sensation of the body, the head and feeling can come together, and that is the basis for so-called inner life. How to call feeling back. How to call the head back to meet with the feeling is only through sensation, where feeling and thought can come together.

Sakyong Mipham ... states: “In strengthening the global family, we will need to learn to communicate by learning to feel the heart.” The Shambhala Principle, p. 156-157.”

-- Shambhala Guide Resource Manual: A Resource for Directors, Students, and Centre Administrators [Draft], 2014, by Shambhala Office of Practice and Education

Questioner: It is difficult to sort out. I’m trying to understand before thinking, before categorizing things. What is the difference between emotion and impulse? Also the thought process located in the head is different. What seems to be asked for now is something more difficult to know.

Lord Pentland: How can you feel the scale of what you say? How to connect what you say with the importance, with the scale of it? Only through sensation. It’s very difficult. It is only possible by letting go of the thought. You don’t have a way to locate the work of sensation as something that can reconcile thoughts and feelings.

Questioner: I want to believe what you’re saying.

Lord Pentland: So it will never be built, the bridge. Sensation is an extraordinary contrivance.

Questioner: It really works?

Lord Pentland: Yes. Your head and heart are separate anatomically. There is no circulation connecting them. That is what sensation can do. Like two different bodies. Sensation relates these two, even from the point of view of physical equipment. Sometimes this difference can cause illness. And many exercises have the virtue of relaxing this. It is not a work ever done, ever finished. Sensation may come through the words spoken, but there is no sensation except in joining the head and heart. Excuse me, I’m boring you now, but you see what I’m saying.

Mind/Heart: We feel whatever arises, letting our self be human, and be as we are. If the mind wanders into the past or future, we simply and gently notice this. Then we let go and return to the posture and the breathing in the present. There is no problem with thinking—that is part of being human. We include thoughts as part of the practice. We gently notice if the mind wanders and return to being as we are, again and again.

-- Shambhala Guide Resource Manual: A Resource for Directors, Students, and Centre Administrators [Draft], 2014, by Shambhala Office of Practice and Education

The sensation we can reach now is not enough . . .

Question: Assuming the head and heart are both sick, both going crazy, then when sensation appears, what is the value of bringing them together?

Lord Pentland: That’s like saying, “What’s the value of bringing fire and pan and a raw potato together when separately they are useless?” In fact their only real usefulness is in their being related. Thought goes out and in this annoying way returns, and that’s how it goes. Feeling is apt to go everywhere, except back on itself. So everything is related. So the body to be healthy does all these things to produce illness. To relate them means they come simultaneously together; to relate the attention of the head to the attention in the body is to take the wish in the head related to the resistance of the body. The feeling of the importance of my body as a sacred place of work begins to appear—my body including the head; we are not trying without the head.

Questioner: Sensation comes when I try to avoid unpleasant emotions. With a group of friends talking about movies, my toes felt cold but sensation of the rest of the body had disappeared and I did not hear anything until there came the awareness of a woman talking about her illness. Then I was just aware of breathing, listening, comprehension. I didn’t try to do anything. It was all done for me.

Lord Pentland: I think there are a number of things that are interesting in what you are saying. First, the way you felt that it has all been done for you. There are different levels of sensation. The sensation we can reach now is not enough, so we have to work towards having sensation of all parts at one time, to have relationship between the head and heart and body. We have to have that registering all at the same time, not successively. For that, it needs a better level, a better quality of sensation, the wish of sensation, not through doing it but through the work of awareness. The wish also comes about with this kind of sensation of the whole body. We talk endlessly about it but it is a physical body. But go out and try it; sensation is not only provided when we sit. Do physical things—scrub floors, and so forth. It is very interesting if done with attention. That means remembering I’m doing it plainly, just to get things clean. Practice it.

Questioner: I can’t face a feeling until I’ve classified it. I suppose I think I’ll recognize it even though I don’t know it’s there. I’m not sure I’m seeing the feeling at all.

Lord Pentland: That’s very good to start. One needs a completely different approach. One needs a different relationship to the body where these questions can be answered. You see there how the case for classification feels through awareness. The case for classification is presented according to whether or not it helps awareness. A devil says, “Instead of facing this inability to feelings, I’ll classify them.” It’s this indirect way of approach that leads to abstraction. It is very close to the point to classify so that I’ll be aware. This indirect approach is very striking in some of Ouspensky’s early books.

There can be consciousness without functions and functions without consciousness . . .

Question: I have a question deep inside. I don’t think it’s quite come to my consciousness yet, but I feel very much the need to ask it right now. Then maybe in asking, the question will come up.

Something in me knows that I’m not what I think I am and this something also knows more than I know. I see that I contain a being inside me and I really don’t know what it is. I feel it more strongly when there’s a gap in my day between two activities, and my attention is not yet focused on anything. At that moment when I look out at the world and meet myself, I feel nothing and I feel like I am nothing. And I really don’t know why I’m alive. I look for God and I find nothing and I can’t find meaning in that moment. Yet I don’t lose hope. I just realize that at that time I have nothing. Then when I look at the things around me—I look at the walls and the table and the chairs and my body—it feels like everything is only half true. Everything that I believed in throughout my life is only partially true and I don’t feel as much at home in my ordinary life. Yet I have nowhere to go.

Lord Pentland: You’ve heard the idea already that we have two parts—the consciousness and functions. Yes? And that there can be consciousness without functions and functions without consciousness. What you’ve just said is true. It’s not so common that one of us can experience this division in our lives. There are moments when I feel I am nothing—I have no consciousness, and these are mainly between periods of activity when there has been functioning but no memory whatever that there’s no consciousness.

So how to work in these moments? What does it mean “work?” Work is towards unity. How do you see the work of having an awareness of my nothing-consciousness while functioning? That means getting rid of or letting go, giving up, all the misunderstanding I have that I am someone, somebody, and the fear I have of giving up that I’m something—and at the same time functioning as a service, not with ambition, but as a service. Simply functioning and at the same time having the experience of nothing-consciousness. Yes?

There is also the very pithy talk that the Vidyadhara gave in London in January of 1986, in which he emphasizes the key point of meditating on nothing, although “nothing could mean something.” He then gives the instruction that you should pay equal attention to the out and inbreath. In the same way, we intend to keep the big view of meditating on nothing that could mean something, and to be flexible in our instruction.

-- Shambhala Guide Resource Manual: A Resource for Directors, Students, and Centre Administrators [Draft], 2014, by Shambhala Office of Practice and Education

Questioner: At that time I look for motivation.

Lord Pentland: The motivation is to be whole. Any other motivation is subjective, egoistic. You follow? Motivation comes from nothing because I have no consciousness. So the motivation is to have at least some consciousness or to keep this experience of nothing-consciousness while functioning. There is no other motivation. I wish to be whole because that is the next level. Working that way I can serve as if on the level that corresponds to my wholeness. The serving is by the functions and nothing-consciousness is the consciousness. The whole work is there. A good starting point. You understand what I said?

Questioner: Yes.

Lord Pentland: Gives you a direction, yes? In other words, the work begins from seeing, becoming aware, becoming conscious that I am nothing but my functioning, that time is going on, my life is going on and the only result is the result of my functioning. There is no inner growth. Information is being accumulated enabling me to function more efficiently, but compromises are being made all the time so that I don’t see that I’m nothing but my functioning. Seeing that creates a movement of the two towards each other, creates by itself the beginnings of a relationship between consciousness and functioning. Just seeing that starts a movement which could go on if I didn’t interfere with it all the time and let other people interfere with it all the time.



1 Exchanges Within: Questions from Everyday Life Selected from Gurdjieff Group Meetings with John Pentland in California 1955–1984, New York: Continuum, 1997. A new paperback by Tarcher/Penguin is scheduled for publication in the Fall of 2004.
2 Ibid., p. xxiii.

John Pentland was a pupil of P. D. Ouspensky and later G. I. Gurdjieff. After Gurdjieff’s death in 1949, Lord Pentland was instrumental in spreading Gurdjieff’s teaching throughout the United States. He was the President of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York from its inception in 1953, and later established the Gurdjieff Foundation of California. He died in 1984.

P. D. Ouspensky by John Pentland

First published in The Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Mircea Eliade (1987) New York: Macmillan, Volume 11, pp. 143–144, Pentland’s sketch offers a succinct and original synopsis of Ouspensky’s contributions as an independent thinker and writer and as a leading exponent of Gurdjieff’s teaching.

P. D. Ouspensky (1878–1947)
by John Pentland


Petr Dem’ianovich Uspenskii; Russian author, thinker, and mystic.

Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum, written in 1911, was published in New York in 1922 and within a few years became a best-seller in America and made him a world-wide reputation. Intended to supplement the Organon of Aristotle and the Novum Organum of Francis Bacon, Tertium Organum is based on the author’s personal experiments in changing consciousness; it proposes a new level of thought about the fundamental questions of human existence and a way to liberate man’s thinking from it’s habitual patterns. A New Model of the Universe, a collection of essays published earlier in Russia, was published in London in 1930. But Ouspensky will be chiefly remembered for In Search of the Miraculous, published posthumously in 1949 and later in several foreign languages under the title Fragments of an Unknown Teaching. This work is by far the most lucid account yet available of the teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff, and it has been a principal cause of the growing influence of Gurdjieff’s ideas.

Ouspensky was born in Moscow and spent his childhood there. His mother was a painter. His father, who died early, had a good position as a railroad surveyor; he was fond of music, in which Ouspensky showed no interest. Of precocious intelligence, Ouspensky left school early with a decision not to take the academic degrees for which he was qualified and began to travel and write. Through his reading and journalistic work, first in Moscow and then, from 1909 on, in Saint Petersburg, he “knew everyone.” His early writings can be regarded as a final flowering of the great Russian literary tradition of the late nineteenth century. But, although influenced by such movements as the Theosophy of H. P. Blavatsky (whom he never met), he distrusted and disliked the “absurdities” of contemporary life and kept apart from the secret revolutionary politics with which almost all Russian intelligentsia of the period sympathized.

In 1915, returning to Russia from India to find that war had broken out in Europe, he gave lectures on his “search for the miraculous” and attracted large audiences in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Among his listeners was Sof’ia Grigor’evna Maksimenko, who became his wife. They had no children.

In the same year, he was sought out by the pupils of Gurdjieff and reluctantly agreed to meet him. The meeting was a turning point in Ouspensky’s life. He recognized at once the value of the ideas that Gurdjieff had discovered in the East and that he himself had looked for in vain. “I realized,” he wrote, “that I had met with a completely new system of thought, surpassing all I knew before. This system threw a new light on psychology and explained what I could not understand before in esoteric ideas.” He began to collect people and to arrange meetings at which Gurdjieff developed his message, and from that moment the study and practice of these new ideas constituted Ouspensky’s principal aim.

In June 1917, after four months’ service in the army, from which he was honorably discharged on account of poor eyesight, the impending revolution caused Ouspensky to consider leaving Russia to continue his work in London. But he delayed his departure to spend nearly a year in difficult political conditions with Gurdjieff and a few of his pupils at Essentuki in the northern Caucasus.

As early as 1918, however, Ouspensky began to feel that a break with Gurdjieff was inevitable, that “he had to go”—to seek another teacher or to work independently. The break between the two men, teacher and pupil, each of whom had received much from the other, has never been satisfactorily explained. They met for the last time in Paris in 1930.

In 1919 Ouspensky and his family remained in very harsh conditions in the hands of the Bolsheviks in Essentuki (see Letters from Russia, 1978). He assembled some students there but in 1920, when Essentuki was freed by the White Army, moved to Constantinople. In August 1921 he was able to leave for London, and in November, with the help of Lady Rothermere, A. R. Orage, and other influential people, he started private meetings and lectures there. These continued until 1940, after the outbreak of World War II, when he moved his family to the United States and, with a few London pupils, began his lectures again in New York. Early in 1947 he returned to resume his work in London, where he died in October of the same year.

A characteristic of every one of Ouspensky’s meetings, which he attended until a few months before his death, was their remarkable intensity. He made demands for the utmost honesty not only on himself but on his pupils as well. His method was to invite “new people” to listen to five or six written lectures read aloud by one of the men close to him. (These lectures were published in 1950 as The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution.) Further understanding of the ideas had to be extracted from him directly by question and answer. Irrelevant questions were treated summarily. Simple rules, which to some appeared arbitrary, but which Ouspensky considered essential to self-training, were introduced—and explained at rare intervals. Pupils who wished further application of the training were invited to his country house in New Jersey, where practical work was organized by Madame Ouspensky. Transcripts of all the meetings are preserved in the P. D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection at the Yale University Library.



All of Ouspensky’s principal works are available in English, translated and/or edited by various hands and issued by various publishers in London and New York. Among them are:

• Letters from Russia ([1919] 1978),
• Tertium Organum: The Third Canon of Thought; A Key to the Enigmas of the World, 2nd ed., rev. ([1922] 1981),
• A New Model of the Universe: Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art ([1930] 1971),
• Strange Life of Ivan Osokin (1947),
• In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching ([1949] 1965),
• The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution ([1950] 1973),
• Talks with a Devil (1972),
• Conscience: the Search for Truth (1979),
• A selection of transcripts of Ouspensky’s meetings with his pupils were published as: The Fourth Way: A Record of Talks and Answers to Questions Based on the Teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff, edited by J. G. Bennett and translated by Katya Petroff (1957).

Religion and Money

Shared publicly for the first time, this essay by Lord (John) Pentland records his reflections on the topic of money in relation to religion.

Religion and Money
by John Pentland

To reflect on the relationship of religion to money, there is no better starting-point than “to go beyond time.” In returning to the origin of the question, we may find a grain of truth and thus turn towards the remedy for an otherwise intractable problem. Countless volumes have appeared about the Church’s attitude to war and sex but very little has been written about money.

Lord Pentland

William Desmonde shows1 that in some ancient cultures money was used as a symbol to replace food in sacrificial communion rituals. Participation in the meal implied a bond of loyalty with other members of the group and signified also entering into a covenant with the deity. Each communicant received a particular portion of the sacrificial flesh corresponding to his standing in the community. When money of different denominations began to be used in place of the portions of food, the establishment of a contractual relationship between two individuals at first retained traces of the original bond of religious loyalty among participants in the same communion, with impersonal bargaining replacing the patriarchal redistribution of foods among the brotherhood.

In any case, there is good reason to suppose that money was originally a sacred device created by religious authority to facilitate the exchange of necessities in an expanding society. It was intended to be a means of recognizing that human beings have individual property rights and at the same time that no human being or family is self-sufficient. In support of this theory, René Guénon states2 that coins of the ancient Celts are covered with symbols taken from Druid doctrine, implying direct intervention of the Druid priests in the monetary system.

With the huge increase in world population and international trading, this original purpose of money for the individual—as so often the real significance of religion itself—has been eroded until today it is completely forgotten. From the economic point of view which prevails in the modern world, money has value almost exclusively on a material level. Both the smallest transactions and the largest, which are now carried out by bookkeepers without anything of intrinsic value “changing hands,” are more often done in a mood of impatience, irritation and negativity than as an expression of loyalty in individual human relationships. No longer a reminder of higher values, money has become such a social convenience that it is even a social necessity.…

[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]



1 William Desmonde, Magic, Myth, and Money: The Origin of Money in Religious Ritual, Free Press of Glencoe, 1962.
2 René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, London: Luzac, 1953, pp. 133–134.

A Friend In Myself

“What I need is the ability to hear what comes to me alongside myself, as it were, rather than what comes to me either from above or below.”

A Friend In Myself
by John Pentland

Question: I feel this need to be trying things. Every day I have to be trying something and sometimes it seems helpful and at the same time it seems like I am trying to pry something open.

Lord Pentland: It seems to me the freedom which I need is not so much to be used up in trying things as in finding some sort of encouraging relationship with somebody else or something deeper in myself which will enable me, while trying these things, to remember why I am trying them. I am constantly trying things, but I forget what the grounds are for trying them, so if I come up with a result, it is not measured against anything. This trying comes from a kind of wish that wants life to be more stimulating, not a wish just to observe life as it goes by.

There are times when I want to make my life richer. Then I need a companion, a friend in myself who will help me remember how to contemplate this or how to try that. Without this companion I try this or that, but I get obstinate and I am going to try in the same way again. What I need is the ability to hear what comes to me alongside myself, as it were, rather than what comes to me either from above or below. It is not so much that I need to follow or be obedient or even to be pushed. I don’t have a strong enough will to carry out the instructions I do receive within myself; I know that I need to call somebody or get up early, but I don’t always do it. It seems I need a companion.

I am not so unsubtle as I make out. I do receive psychic messages. It’s because I have a very weak will that I regard myself as inferior. I don’t think the problem is quite so obvious as most of the textbooks make out.

So what kind of help do I need? I know that if I am on the highway and stalled it is very cozy if someone comes along and offers to push my car, but it is still better if they give me some gas and get me going on my own. It is not much use having a lot of people to work for you or agreeing to be helpful; we need something in the middle. There is something about our relationship in the group that needs to be both separate and enjoined. What we need is this ability to give my attention rather than to be actually joined. I have to come right in the middle. I need encouragement and I need a feeling that it is really true that if I don’t live today, I will miss a whole day.

This excerpt is from Exchanges Within: Questions from Everyday Life Selected from Gurdjieff Group Meetings with John Pentland in California 1955–1984, New York: Continuum, 1997, and is used here with the kind permission of Mary Rothenberg.

Until My Attention Is Divided, There Is No Work

“To be attentive, I have to free my attention. What a work that is. My attention clings to things. But work is a question of freeing my attention again and again from what it is sitting on and bringing it back to myself.”

Until My Attention Is Divided, There Is No Work
by John Pentland

Until my attention is divided, there is no work. As long as I’m in my ego, as long as I think just following one idea or applying one idea to myself is work, is practice, nothing can come. Now, very often, that is how I begin to work. And then at a certain point the attention divides ... at a certain point I feel a relaxation.

I begin to be aware of a current, a movement of relaxation. Now, do you suddenly switch to putting all your attention on the relaxation? That wouldn’t be consciousness. To be aware, partly the tension attracts my attention and partly I feel myself relaxing...

Then I can really say I’m between. It’s not a thought, not something of an image—the attention is divided. It’s so brief, it’s so insecure, I can hardly say that I experience it. Then I experience it again, maybe. Maybe another moment of relaxation, where partly the attention is taken by this current towards relaxation, towards going down in myself, but some of the attention remains behind on the tension. And so, again, for a moment I’m between...

Sometimes in movements you feel in between. You know something with the head a little bit and with the leg a little bit and somehow when both are going you feel insecure. You feel the attention divided. It’s the same thing...

One knows that this situation with the attention divided is quite a different situation than when the attention is distracted... When my attention is divided, there’s a sort of balance. And there’s a place in between, but it’s not a place that’s secure, that’s permanent.

To be attentive, I have to free my attention. What a work that is. My attention clings to things... But work is a question of freeing my attention again and again from what it is sitting on and bringing it back to myself.

What is that kind of attention which, through becoming connected with myself, has a sort of organic knowledge and knows better than my ordinary mind how to deal with these things? That’s what we mean by in search of the miraculous. We mean in search of this kind of attention... This kind of attention is my possibility, my right. And it knows much better than we do, than I do, in all sorts of ways.

These excerpts are from John Pentland’s book, Exchanges Within: Questions from Everyday Life, New York: Continuum, 1997, pp. 279–280, 328, 378.
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Sat Jul 13, 2019 5:15 am

Lord Pentland is Dead at 76; Head of Gurdjieff Foundation
by Joseph B. Treaster
The New York Times
February 17, 1984



Lord Pentland, a British businessman who served as president of the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York for 31 years, died Tuesday in New York Hospital. Lord Pentland lived in Manhattan and was 76 years old.

A tall, slender man with distinctive bushy eyebrows, Lord Pentland became a disciple of G. I. Gurdjieff, the Greek-Armenian philosopher and spiritual teacher, in Paris after World War II.

After Mr. Gurdjieff's death in 1949, Lord Pentland helped establish the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York to propagate the beliefs of Mr. Gurdjieff, who combined Eastern philosophy and practices with Western ways. Lord Pentland was president of the foundation until his death.

Under Lord Pentland's direction, three of Mr. Gurdjieff's books were translated into English and published here. One of them, ''Meetings with Remarkable Men,'' was made into a film directed by Peter Brook.

Founded Electric Corporation

Lord Pentland founded the American British Electric Corporation in 1954 and served as president until five years ago, when he retired. The company specialized in marketing British engineering services to American clients. He was born Henry John Sinclair in London, and was knighted in December 1924 on the death of his father, who had served as Governor General of the Indian state of Madras. Lord Pentland graduated from Cambridge University in 1929 and also studied at the University of Heidelberg.

In the 1930's Lord Pentland served as director of several British companies. He came to the United States in 1944 to serve on the Combined Production and Resources Board, a cooperative effort of the United States, France and England. He became a permanent resident of the United States in the early 1950's.

Lord Pentland is survived by his wife, the former Lucy Babington Smith; a daughter, Mary Rothenberg of New York, and one grandchild.

The funeral was held yesterday at the St. Vincent Ferrer Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan.
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Re: Gurdjieff & Trungpa, Sarmoung Brother-Hoods

Postby admin » Sat Jul 13, 2019 5:32 am

Journals: Early Fifties, Early Sixties [EXCERPT]
by Allen Ginsberg



Nov. 8--

Moved down from Haifa to Tel Aviv -- met poet Maty Meged at Cafe, all night wandering. An apartment of Ethel Broido a dream fades out this morn in room with Gurdjieff who's disappearing talking about farewell to Peter -- we both sentimentalize and agree Peter sure was the perfect Russian servant of love -- Gurdjieff behind a desk of the Commie Embassy, I in door saying goodbye and high -- I had that nite given Meged mushrooms #7.
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