BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:41 am

BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF
by Fritz Peters
© Fritz Peters, 1964

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Image

Table of Contents

• Chapter 1
• Chapter 2
• Chapter 3
• Chapter 4
• Chapter 5
• Chapter 6
• Chapter 7
• Chapter 8
• Chapter 9
• Chapter 10
• Chapter 11
• Chapter 12
• Chapter 13
• Chapter 14
• Chapter 15
• Chapter 16
• Chapter 17
• Chapter 18
• Chapter 19
• Chapter 20
• Chapter 21
• Chapter 22
• Chapter 23
• Chapter 24
• Chapter 25
• Chapter 26
• Chapter 27
• Chapter 28
• Chapter 29
• Chapter 30
• Chapter 31
• Chapter 32
• Chapter 33
• Chapter 34
• Chapter 35
• Chapter 36
• Chapter 37
• Chapter 38
• Chapter 39
• Chapter 40
• Epilogue
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:41 am

CHAPTER 1

I met and talked to Georges Gurdjieff for the first time in 1924, on a Saturday afternoon in June, at the Chateau du Prieure in Fontainebleau-Avon, France. Although the reasons for my being there were not very clear in my mind -- I was eleven at the time -- my memory of that meeting is still brilliantly clear.

It was a bright, sunny day. Gurdjieff was sitting by a small marble-topped table, shaded by a striped umbrella, with his back to the chateau proper, facing a large expanse of formal lawns and flower beds. I had to sit on the terrace of the chateau, behind him, for some time before I was summoned to his side for an interview. I had, actually, seen him once before, in New York the previous winter, but I did not feel that I had "met" him. My only memory of that prior time was that I had been frightened of him: partly because of the way he looked at -- or through -- me, and partly because of his reputation. I had been told that he was at least a "prophet" -- at most, something very close to the "second coming of Christ."

Meeting any version of a "Christ" is an event, and this meeting was not one to which I looked forward. Facing the presence not only did not appeal to me -- I dreaded it.

The actual meeting did not measure up to my fears. "Messiah" or not, he seemed to me a simple, straightforward man. He was not surrounded by any halo, and while his English was heavily accented, he spoke far more simply than the Bible had led me to expect. He made a vague gesture in my direction, told me to sit down, called for coffee, and then asked me why I was there. I was relieved to find that he seemed to be an ordinary human being, but I was troubled by the question. I felt sure that I was supposed to give him an important answer; that I should have some excellent reason. Having none, I told him the truth: That I was there because I had been brought there.

He then asked me why I wanted to be there, to study at his school. Once more I was only able to answer that it was all beyond my control -- I had not been consulted, I had been, as it were, transported to that place. I remember my strong impulse to lie to him, and my equally strong feeling that I could not lie to him. I felt sure that he knew the truth in advance. The only question that I answered less than honestly was when he asked me if I wanted to stay there and to study with him. I said that I did, which was not essentially true. I said it because I knew that it was expected of me. It seems to me, now, that any child would have answered as I did. Whatever the Prieure might represent to adults (and the literal name of the school was "The Gurdjieff Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man"), I felt that I was experiencing the equivalent of being interviewed by the principal of a high school. Children went to school, and I subscribed to the general agreement that no child would tell his teacher-to=be that he did not want to go to school. The only thing that surprised me was that I was asked the question.

Gurdjieff then asked me two more questions:

1. What do you think life is?

and

2. What do you want to know?

I answered the first question by saying: "I think life is something that is handed to you on a silver platter, and it is up to you (me) to do something with it." This answer touched off a long discussion about the phrase "on a silver platter," including a reference by Gurdjieff to the head of John the Baptist. I retreated -- it felt like a retreat -- and modified the phrase to the effect that life was a "gift," and this seemed to please him.

The second question (What do you want to know?) was simpler to answer. My words were: "I want to know everything."

Gurdjieff replied immediately: "You cannot know everything. Everything about what?"

I said: "Everything about man," and then added: "In English I think it is called psychology or maybe philosophy."

He sighed then, and after a short silence said: "You can stay. But your answer makes life difficult for me. I am the only one who teaches what you ask. You make more work for me."

Since my childish aims were to conform and to please, I was disconcerted by his answer. The last thing I wanted to do was to make life more difficult for anyone -- it seemed to me that it was difficult enough already. I said nothing in reply to this, and he went on to tell me that in addition to learning "everything" I would also have the opportunity to study lesser subjects, such as languages, mathematics, various sciences, and so forth. He also said that I would find that his was not the usual school: "Can learn many things here that other schools not teach." He then patted my shoulder benevolently.

I use the word "benevolently" because the gesture was of great importance to me at the time. I longed for approval from some higher authority. To receive such "approval" from this man who was considered by other adults to be a "prophet," "seer," and/or a "messiah" -- and approval in such a simple, friendly gesture -- was unexpected and heartwarming. I beamed.

His manner changed abruptly. He struck the table with one fist, looked at me with great intensity, and said: "Can you promise to do something for me?"

His voice and the look he had given me were frightening and also exciting. I felt both cornered and challenged. I answered him with one word, a firm "Yes."

He gestured towards the expanse of lawns before us: "You see this grass?"

"Yes."

"I give you work. You must cut this grass, with machine, every week."

I looked at the lawns, the grass spreading before us into what appeared to me infinity. It was, without any doubt, a prospect of more work in one week than I had ever contemplated in my life. Again, I said "Yes."

He struck the table with his fist for a second time. "You must promise on your God." His voice was deadly serious. "You must promise that you will do this thing no matter what happens."

I looked at him, questioning, respectful, and with considerable awe. No lawn -- not even these (there were four of them) -- had ever seemed important to me before. "I promise," I said earnestly.

"Not just promise," he reiterated. "Must promise you will do no matter what happens, no matter who try stop you. Many things can happen in life."

For a moment his words conjured up visions of terrifying arguments over the mowing of these lawns. I foresaw great emotional dramas taking place in the future on account of these lawns and of myself. Once again, I promised. I was as serious as he was then. I would have died, if necessary, in the act of mowing the lawns.

My feeling of dedication was obvious, and he seemed satisfied. He told me to begin work on Monday, and then dismissed me. I don't think I realized it at the time -- that is, the sensation was new to me -- but I left him with the feeling that I had fallen in love; whether with the man, the lawns, or myself, did not matter. My chest was expanded far beyond its normal capacity. I, a child, an unimportant cog in the world which belonged to adults, had been asked to perform something that was apparently vital.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:41 am

CHAPTER 2

What was "the Prieure," which was the name most of us used, or "The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man?"

At the age of 11, I understood it to be simply some kind of special school, directed, as I have said, by a man who was considered by many people to be a visionary, a new prophet, a great philosopher. Gurdjieff himself once defined it as a place where he was attempting, among other things, to create a small world that would reproduce the conditions of the larger, outside world; the main purpose in creating such conditions being to prepare the students for future human, or life, experience. It was not, in other words, a school devoted to ordinary education which, generally, consists in the acquisition of various faculties such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. One of the simpler things that he was attempting to teach was a preparation for life itself.

It may be necessary to point out here, especially for the benefit of people who have had some contact with Gurdjieffian theory, that I am describing the "Institute" as I saw and understood it as a boy. I am not attempting to define its purpose or meaning for individuals who were interested in, or attracted to, Gurdjieff because of his philosophy. To me, it was simply another school -- different from any school I had known, to be sure -- and the essential difference was that most of the "students" were adults. With the exception of my brother and myself, all the other children were either relatives -- nieces, nephews, etc., of Mr. Gurdjieff -- or his natural children. There were not many children in all: I can only remember a total of ten.

The routine of the school, for everyone except the smallest children, was the same. The day began with a breakfast of coffee and dry toast at six o'clock. From seven o'clock on, each individual worked at whatever task was assigned to him. The performance of these tasks was only interrupted during the day by meals: dinner at noon (usually, soup, meat, salad, and some kind of sweet pudding); tea at four in the afternoon; a simple supper at seven in the evening. After supper, at 8:30, there were gymnastics, or dances, in what was called the "study-house." This routine was standard for six days a week, except that on Saturday afternoons the women went to the Turkish bath; early Saturday evenings there were "demonstrations" of the dances in the study-house by the more competent performers, for the other students and for guests who frequently came to visit for weekends; after the demonstrations, the men went to the Turkish bath, and when the bath was over, there was a "feast" or special meal. The children did not participate in these late meals as diners -- only as waiters or kitchen help. Sunday was a day of rest.

The tasks assigned to the students were invariably concerned with the actual functioning of the school: gardening, cooking, house-cleaning, taking care of animals, milking, making butter; and these tasks were almost always group activities. As I learned later, the group work was considered to be of real importance: Different personalities, working together, produced subjective, human conflicts; human conflicts produced friction; friction revealed characteristics which, if observed, could reveal "self." One of the many aims of the school was "to see yourself as others saw you;" to see oneself, as it were, from a distance; to be able to criticize that self objectively; but, at first, simply to see it. An exercise that was intended to be performed all the time, during whatever physical activity, was called "self-observation" or "opposing I to it" -- "I" being the (potential consciousness, "it" the body, the instrument.

At the beginning, and before I understood any of these theories or exercises, my task and, in a sense, my world, was completely centred on cutting the grass, for my lawns -- as I came to call them -- became considerably more vital than I could have anticipated.

The day after my "interview" with him, Mr. Gurdjieff left for Paris. We have been given to understand that it was customary for him to spend two days a week in Paris, usually accompanied by his secretary, Madam de Hartmann, and sometimes others. This time, which was unusual, he went alone.

As I remember, it was not until sometime on Monday afternoon -- Mr. Gurdjieff had left Sunday evening -- that the rumour that he had been in an automobile accident filtered down to the children at the school. We heard first that he had been killed, then that he had been seriously injured and was not expected to live. A formal announcement was made by someone in authority Monday evening. He was not dead, but he was seriously injured and near death in a hospital.

It is difficult to describe the impact of such an announcement. The very existence of the "institute" depended entirely on Gurdjieff's presence. It was he who assigned work to every individual -- and up to that moment he had supervised, personally, every detail of the running of the school. Now, the imminent possibility of his death brought everything to a standstill. It was only thanks to the initiative of a few of the older students, most of whom had come with him from Russia, that we continued to eat regularly.

While I did not know what was going to happen to me, personally, the one thing that was still vivid in my mind was the fact that he had told me that I was to mow the lawns "no matter what happened." IT was a relief to me to have something concrete to do; a definite job that he had assigned to me. It was also the first time that I had any feeling that he was, perhaps, extraordinary. It was he who had said "no matter what happens," and his accident had happened. His injunction became that much stronger. I was convinced that he had known beforehand that "something" was going to happen, although not necessarily an automobile accident.

I as not the only one who felt that his accident was, in a sense, foreordained. The fact that he had gone to Paris alone (I was told it was the first time he had done so) was sufficient proof for most of the students. My reaction, in any event, was that it had become absolutely essential to mow the grass; I was convinced that his life, at least in part, might depend on my dedication to the task he had given me.

These feelings of mine assumed special importance when, a few days later, Mr. Gurdjieff was brought back to the Prieure, to his room which overlooked "my" lawns, and we were told that he was in a coma and was being kept alive on oxygen. Doctors came and went at intervals; tanks of oxygen were delivered and removed; a hushed atmosphere descended over the place -- it was as if we were all involved in permanent, silent prayer for him.

It was not until a day or so after his return that I was told -- probably by Madame de Hartmann -- that the noise of the lawn-mower would have to stop. The decision I was forced to make then was a momentous one for me. Much as I respected Madame de Hartmann, I could not forget the force with which he had made me promise to do my job. We were standing at the edge of the lawn, directly beneath the windows of his room, when I had to give her my answer. I did not reflect for very long, as I recall, and I refused, with all the force in me. I was then told that his life might actually depend on my decision, and I still refused. What surprises me now is that I was not categorically forbidden to continue, or even forcibly restrained. The only explanation that I can find for this is that his power over his pupils was such that no single individual was willing to take the responsibility of totally denying my version of what he had told me. In any case, I was not restrained; I was simply forbidden to cut the grass. I continued to cut it.

This rejection of authority, of anything less than the highest authority, was deadly serious, and I think the only thing that sustained me in it was that I was reasonably convinced that the noise of a lawn-mower would not kill anyone; also, less logically, I did feel, at the time, that his life might -- inexplicably -- depend on my performance of the task he had given me. These reasons, however, were no defence against the feelings of the other students (there were about 150 people there at the time, most of them adults) who were at least equally convinced that the noise I continued to make every day could be deadly.

The conflict continued for several weeks, and each day when "no change" in his condition was reported, it became more difficult for me to begin. I can remember having to grit my teeth and overcome my own fear of what I might be doing every morning. My resolve was alternately strengthened and weakened by the attitude of the other students. I was ostracized, excluded from every other activity; no one would sit at the same table with me at meals -- if I went to a table where others were sitting, they would leave the table when I sat down -- and I cannot remember any one person who either spoke to me or smiled at me during those weeks, with the exception of a few of the more important adults who, from time to time, continued to exhort me to stop.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:41 am

CHAPTER 3

By mid-summer, 1924, my whole life was centred on grass. By that time, I was able to mow my four lawns in a total of four days. The other things I did: taking my turn as "kitchen boy" or as "gate keeper" at the small gate house which we called the "concierge," were unimportant. I have little memory for anything other than the sound of that mowing machine.

My nightmare came to an end suddenly. Early one morning, as I was pushing the lawn mower up towards the front of the chateau, I looked up at Gurdjieff's windows. I always did this, as if hoping for some miraculous sign. This particular morning, I saw it at last. He was standing in the open window, looking down at me. I stopped, and stared back at him, flooded with relief. For what seemed a long time, he did not do anything. Then, with a very slow movement of his hand and arm, he brought his right hand to his lips and made a gesture which I later learned had always been characteristic of him: with his thumb and index finger, he, as it were, parted his moustache from the centre, and then his hand fell to his side and he smiled. The gesture made him real -- without it, I might have thought the figure standing there simply an hallucination or a figment of my imagination.

The sensation of relief was so intense that I burst into tears, gripping the lawn mower with both of my hands. I continued to watch him through my tears until he moved slowly away from the window. And then I started to mow again. What had been the dreadful noise of that machine now became joyous to me. I pushed the lawn mower up and down, up and down, with all my strength.

I decided to wait until noon to announce my triumph, but by the time I went in to lunch I realized that I had no proof, nothing to announce, and, with what now seems surprising wisdom, I did not say anything, although I was unable to contain my happiness.

By evening, it was generally known that Mr. Gurdjieff was out of danger, and the atmosphere at dinner-time was one of gratitude and thankfulness. My part in his recovery -- I had become convinced that I, alone, would be responsible in great part for whatever happened to him -- was lost in the general rejoicing. All that happened was that the animosity which had been directed towards me disappeared as suddenly as it had arisen. If it had not been for the fact that I had actually, some weeks before, been forbidden to make any noise near his windows, I would have thought that the whole thing had existed only in my mind. The lack of any kind of triumph, of any recognition, was a blow.

The incident was not, however, completely closed even then. Mr. Gurdjieff appeared, warmly dressed and walking slowly, a few days later. He came to sit at the little table where he had interviewed me. I was, as usual, trudging up and down with my lawn mower. He sat there, seemingly oblivious of everything around him, until I finished the lawn which I had been mowing that day. It was the fourth and, thanks to the impetus of his recovery, I had shortened my mowing time to three days. As I pushed the mowing machine ahead of me, taking it back to the shed where it was kept, he looked at me and motioned me to come over to him.

I dropped the lawn mower and went to stand at his side. He smiled, again I would say "benevolently," and asked me how long it took me to mow the lawns. I answered, proudly, that I could mow all of them in three days. He sighed, staring ahead of him at the expanse of grass, and stood up. "Must be able to do in one day," he said. "This important."

One day! I was appalled, and filled with mixed emotions. Not only was I given no credit for my accomplishment -- at least for having, in spite of everything, kept my promise; I was practically being punished for it.

Gurdjieff paid no attention to my reactions, which must have been visible on my mobile face, but put one hand on my shoulder and leaned rather heavily on me. "This important," he repeated, "because when can cut lawns in one day, have other work for you." He then asked me to walk with him -- to help him walk -- to a particular field, not far away, explaining that he was unable to walk easily.

We walked together slowly, and with considerable difficulty, even with my help, we ascended a path by the field he had mentioned. It was a sloping hill, filled with rocks, near the chicken yard. He sent me into a tool shed never the chicken coops and told me to bring him the scythe, which I did. He then led me into the field, took his hand from my shoulder, took the scythe in both of his hands and made a sweeping, cutting gesture with it. As I watched him, I felt that the effort he was making was very great; I feared his pallor and his obvious weakness. He then handed the scythe back to me and told me to put it away. When I had done so, I came back to stand beside him, and once more he leaned heavily on my shoulder.

"When you cut all lawns in one day, this will be new work. Scythe this field every weak."

I looked up the slope at the long grass, the rocks and trees and bushes. I was also aware of my own size -- I was small for my age, and the scythe had seemed very large. All I could do was to stare at him, amazed. It was only the look in his eyes, serious and pained, that prevented me from making an immediate, angry, tearful protest. I simply bowed my head and nodded, and then walked with him, slowly, back to the main house, up the stairs and to the door of his room.

At eleven, I was no stranger to self-pity, but this development was almost too much for me. In fact, self-pity was only a small part of my feelings. I also felt anger and resentment. Not only had I had no recognition, no thanks -- I was practically being punished. What kind of place was this school -- and what sort of man was he, after all? Bitterly, and rather proudly, I remembered that I would be going back to America in the fall. I would show him. All that I had to do was never to manage to mow the lawns in one day!

Curiously, when my feelings subsided and I began to accept what appeared to be the inevitable, I found that my resentment and anger, although I still felt them, were not directed against Mr. Gurdjieff personally. There had been a look of sadness in his eyes as I had walked with him, and I had felt concerned about him, about his health; once again, although there had been no admonitions to the effect that I must do this work, I felt that I had taken on some kind of responsibility; that I would have to do it for his sake.

The following day there was another surprise in store for me. He summoned me to his room in the morning and asked me, sternly, if I was able to keep a secret -- from everyone. The firmness and the fiery glance he gave me as he asked me the question were completely unlike his weakness of the day before. I assured him, valiantly, that I could. Once more I felt a great challenge -- I would keep his secret no matter what!

He then told me that he did not want to worry the other students -- and particularly his secretary, Madame de Hartmann -- but that he was almost blind, and that I was the only one who knew this. He outlined an intriguing plot to me: He had decided to reorganize all the work then going on at the Prieure. I was to go everywhere with him, carrying an armchair; the excuse for this being that he was still very weak, and would need to rest from time to time. The real reason, however, which was part of the secret, was that I was to follow him because he could not actually see where he was going. In short, I was to be his guide, and his caretaker; the keeper of his person.

I felt, finally, that my reward had come; that my conviction had not been a false one, and that the keeping of my promise had been as important as I had hoped. The triumph was solitary since I could not share it, but it was genuine.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:42 am

CHAPTER 4

My new work as "chair-carrier" or, as I thought of it then, "guardian," took a great deal of my time. I was excused from all other duties with the one exception of the never-ending lawns. I was able to keep up with my mowing, but I had to do most of it before Mr. Gurdjieff appeared in the morning, or after he had retired to his room in the latter part of the afternoon.

I have never known whether or not there was any truth to his story of partial blindness. I assumed it was true, because I always believed him implicitly -- he seemed unable to tell anything other than the truth, although his way of telling it was not always direct. It has been suggested to me, and it also occurred to me, that this job of chair-carrier and guide was invented on my account, and that he made up the story of blindness as an excuse. I doubt this if only because it would have given me an exaggerated importance, which is a thing that I cannot imagine Gurdjieff doing. I was important enough, simply because I had been selected, without any additional reasons.

In the weeks that followed -- probably a month in all -- I carried that armchair for miles each day, usually following him at a respectful distance. I was sufficiently convinced of his blindness because he frequently wandered from the path, and I would have to drop the chair, run to his side, warn him of whatever danger existed -- such as the possibility, often imminent, of his walking directly into the little ditch that ran through the property -- and then rush back to the armchair, pick it up, and follow him again.

The work that he directed at that time involved everyone at the school. There were several projects going on at once: building a road, which meant hammering stone with iron mallets to produce the proper size rocks; clearing an area of woodland by removing entire acres of trees as well as their stumps and roots with shovels and pick-axes. In addition to such special projects, the usual duties of gardening, weeding, picking vegetables, cooking, housekeeping, etc., continued incessantly. Whenever Mr. Gurdjieff inspected a given project for any length of time, I would join in with the other workers until he was ready to proceed to another one or to return to the house.

After about a month, I was relieved of my chair-carrying assignment and went back to regular lawn-mowing, and my turn at other regular duties: working in the kitchen one day a week, standing my regular day of duty at the concierge to open the door and answer the telephone.

During my period of following him, I had had to fit my lawn-mowing in, as I have said, when I could, and it was with some consternation -- since I had momentarily forgotten about the hill which I was eventually to scythe weekly -- that I found that when I got back to regular work, I had, without perceptible effort, achieved the goal he had set for me. At the moment of this discovery, one evening after tea when I had finished the fourth lawn that day, Mr. Gurdjieff was seated conveniently on a bench -- not at his usual table -- facing the lawns. I put the lawn mower away, and came back to the terrace and walked in his direction disconsolately. While I had never loved the lawns, the prospect of my next job made me feel sentimental about them. I stopped at what I thought of as a respectful distance from him and waited. I was wavering between telling him, and putting it off until some future time.

It was some time before he turned in my direction, as if angry with my presence, and asked me sharply if I wanted something. I nodded and went up to stand beside him. I said, quickly: "I can mow all the lawns in one day, Mr. Gurdjieff."

He frowned at me, shook his head, puzzled, and then said: "Why you tell me this?" He still seemed angry with me.

I reminded him of my new "job" and then asked him, almost tearfully, if I should start on that the following day.

He stared at me for a long time then, as if unable to remember or even to understand what I was talking about. Finally, with a brusque, affectionate, gesture, he pulled me roughly towards him and forced me down on the bench next to him, keeping his hand on my shoulder. Once again he smiled at me with that distant, incredible smile -- I have referred to it as "benevolent" before -- and said, shaking his head, "Not necessary work in field. You have already done this work."

I looked at him, confused, and greatly relieved. But I needed to know what I was to do -- continue with the lawns?

He thought about this for some time and then asked me how much longer I was going to be there. I told him that I was supposed to go back to America for the winter in about one month. He thought about this and then said, dismissing the subject as if it were unimportant now, that I would simply work in the group at the usual duties; gardening when I wasn't on kitchen or concierge duty. "Will have other work for you if you come back next year," he said.

Although I spent another month there that year, the summer seems to me to have ended at that moment. The rest of the time was like a void: uneventful and undramatic. Those of us, that is the children, who worked along with the adults in the gardens were able to make enjoyable games of picking fruit or vegetables, catching mole-crickets, slugs and snails, weeding here and there will little interest or devotion to our tasks. It was a happy place for children: we lived safely within the confines of a rigorous discipline with definite limits, and the framework -- except for the long hours -- was not hard on us. We managed to fit in a great deal of play and childish intrigue while the tireless adults looked at us indulgently with half-closed eyes.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:43 am

CHAPTER 5

WE LEFT THE Prieure in October, 1924, to return to New York for the winter. I was part of a rather "unusual family group" at that time. My brother, Tom, and I lived in a strange, errant world for several years. My mother, Lois, had divorced my father when I was about eighteen months old; we had had a stepfather for several years, but in 1923, when my mother was hospitalized for about a year, Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson (Margaret is my mother's sister), co-editors of the notorious, if not famous, Little Review, had taken charge of us both. To this day, I am not at all sure that I understand why Margaret and Jane took on this responsibility. It was as a strange form of "planned parenthood" for two women neither of whom, it seemed to me, would have wished for children of their own, and a mixed blessing from any point of view. As Margaret had not returned from France with us, the real responsibility devolved on Jane.

I can only describe our household as it seemed to me at the time: Tom and I went to a private school in New York; we also had various chores at home, helping with the cooking, dishwashing, and so on, and while we were exposed to many unusual influences and experiences, they had less effect on me, at any rate, than might have been expected. In a household, if that is the proper word, where a magazine was edited, and which was visited exclusively by artists, writers, and -- for want of a better word -- intellectuals, I managed to live in my own private world. The daily routine of school was considerably more important to me -- involving, as it naturally did, other children and ordinary, comprehensible activities -- than the temperamental and "interesting" life which, actually, formed our background. The world of the arts was no substitute for childhood; even family life with my mother and stepfather was more "normal" to me than living in New York away from my family, which, basically, revolved around my mother.

The most important exterior event of that winter was the sudden appearance of my father. Jane had decided, for reasons which I have never fully understood, that she (or perhaps she and Margaret) should adopt Tom and myself legally. The adoption proceedings were the reason that my father came back into the picture after a complete absence of some ten years. At first, he did not actually appear in person. We were simply told that he was going to resist the adoption and that he wanted to assume custody of both of us himself,

As I understood it at the time, Jane, aided by A, R. Orage and others who were "Gurdjieff people", and after consulting both of us, was able to talk my father out of this, and the adoption became a legal fact.

In many ways, it was a terrifying winter for me. I think it is probably impossible for any adult to understand the feelings of a child who is told, in perfectly clear language, that he may or may not be adopted by this or that person. I do not believe that children, when they are consulted about such things, have "opinions" -- they naturally cling to the known, relatively safe, situation. My relationship with Jane, as I felt and experienced it, was highly volatile and explosive. There was, at times, a great deal of emotion, of love, between us, but the very emotionality of the relationship frightened me. More and more I tended to shut out everything that was outside of myself. People, for me, were something I had to exist with, had to bear. As much as possible, I lived alone, day -dreaming in my own world, longing for the time when I could escape from the complex, and often totally incomprehensible, world around me. I wanted to grow up and be alone -- away from all of them. Because of this, I was almost always in trouble. I was lazy about my work at home, I resented any demands that were made on me, and any duties that I was supposed to perform, any contribution I was expected to make. Obstinate and independent because of my feeling of aloneness, I was usually in trouble, frequently punished. That winter, I began, slowly at first, but firmly, to despise my surroundings, and to hate Jane and Tom-mostly because they were there, and a part of the life in which I lived. I worked well at school, but because it was easy for me, I had little real interest in what I was doing, More and more, I retreated into a dreamworld of my own making.

In this world of my own, there were two people who were not enemies, who stood out with the brilliance of lighthouses, and yet there was no way that I could communicate with them. They were my mother and, of course, Gurdjieff. Why "of course"? The simple reality of Gurdjieff as a human being -- the, to me, uncomplicated relationship which I had had with him during those few months in the previous summer -- became like a raft to a drowning man.

When I was consulted about the possibility of being "taken over" by my father (who was simply another hostile adult in my mind) I voiced my opposition loudly, not that I expected my voice to have any weight. My main fear was that I did not feel I could face another new, strange, unknown world. Also, and this was very important to me then, such a change in my existence would, I felt sure, preclude any possibility of my ever seeing either Gurdjieff or my mother again.

To complicate matters even further, my mother arrived in New York, with a man who was not my stepfather, and she was summarily dismissed by Jane. I remember being allowed to speak to her on the stairs of the apartment; no more than that. It is impossible for me, now, to judge Jane's motives or her purpose at that time. I am convinced that she was motivated, in her own mind, by the best of intentions. The result was that I thought of her at that moment as my mortal enemy. The link between the average child and his mother -- especially when that mother has been the only parent for many years -- is, I think, strong enough. In my case it was violent and obsessive.

Matters did not improve when, shortly before Christmas, my father made his actual, physical appearance. It was a difficult, uneasy meeting; there was very little communication -- I speak for myself alone -- with him, He did not know how to communicate without self-consciousness, being a shy and "well-brought-up" man. One thing that he did manage to communicate was that before we made any final decision about the adoption (I had been under the impression for some time that it was final and that he had been disposed of as a threat) he would like Tom and me to spend a weekend with him and his wife.

I felt that it was only fair to give him a trial. If this statement seems cold- blooded, I can only say that most childish decisions are, in that sense, "cold-blooded" and logical -- at least mine were. It was decided, presumably by Jane and my father (and agreed to by Tom and myself), that we would go to visit him on Long Island for a week.

The visit, from my point of view, was a disaster. It might have been less calamitous had my father not announced, almost immediately upon our arrival, that in the event we should decide to come to live with him, we would not be able to live in his house, we would be sent to live in Washington, D.C., with two of his maiden aunts. I suppose that it is inevitable that adults must explain to children the actual facts or circumstances which are facing them. However, this announcement, made without any feeling, any emotion (there was no suggestion that he loved or wanted us, or that the aunts in question needed two young boys in their household), seemed both completely illogical and even, finally, hilarious to me. I began to feel even more alone than I had before -- like a piece of unwanted luggage for which storage space was needed. Since my gentle father constantly seemed to be seeking our approval and asking us questions, I stated firmly after two days at his house that I did not want to live with him or his aunts and that I wanted to go back to New York. Tom stayed for the balance of the week; I did not. However, the condition of my leaving was that I should at least consider coming out to Long Island again, for Christmas. I agreed, coldly, to consider it. I may have -- I do not remember now -- agreed without any reservation. I would have done anything to get away. Even Jane, in spite of her rejection of my mother, was familiar ground; and what I feared was the unfamiliar, the unknown.

Somehow, the winter did pass. Somehow, although I frequently had nightmares about the possibility that I would never see the Prieure again, it was decided -- it was actually true -- that we would return the next Spring. Gurdjieiff, by this time, had become the only beacon on the horizon, the only island of safety in a fearful and unpredictable future.

***

During that winter, Gurdjieff's first question to me: "Why had I come to Fontainebleau" assumed tremendous importance. Retrospectively, in those few months, he assumed great stature in my heart and in my mind. Unlike any other adult I had ever known, he made absolute sense. He was completely positive -- he had ordered me to do things and I had done them. He had not questioned me, forced me to make decisions which I was completely unable to make. I began to long for someone who would do something as simple as to "order" me to mow a lawn -- -make a demand on me that was, however incomprehensible his motives might be (after all, every adult was "incomprehensible"), a demand. I began to think of him as the only logical, grown-up individual I had ever known. As a child, I was not concerned with -- in fact, I did not want to know -- why any adult did anything. I needed, desperately, and wanted above everything else, an authority. And an authority, at my age, was anyone who knew what he was doing. To be consulted, at eleven; to be asked to make vital decisions about my own future -- and that seemed to me to have been going on all winter -- was not only impossible to understand, but very frightening.

His question evolved into "Why' did I want to go back to Fontainebleau" and was not difficult to answer." I wanted to go back and live near a human being who knew what he was doing -- whether or not I understood what he was doing was of no importance whatsoever. I did not, however, dismiss the original wording of the question -- one of the reasons it remained alive in my mind was that I had had nothing, directly, to do with going there in the first place. I could only thank whatever force (the idea of "God" was rather vague to me then) had made it possible for me to be there at all. One year earlier, the most attractive thing about going to Fontainebeau was that I would have to cross the ocean to get there, and I loved boats.

In the course of the winter, and because of the importance Gurdjieff had assumed in my mind, I was greatly tempted by the feeling that my presence there had been "inevitable" -- as if there had been some inexplicable, mystical, logic that had made it necessary for me, personally, to arrive at that particular place at that particular time -- that there had been some real purpose in my having gone there. The fact that Gurdjieff was primarily associated -- in the conversation of most of the adults surrounding me at the time -- with metaphysical activities, religion, philosophy, and mysticism, seemed to increase the possibility of some sort of foreordination in our meeting.

But in the long run, I did not succumb to the idea that my association with him was "predestined". It was my memory of Mr. Gurdjieff himself that prevented me from giving in to such daydreams. I was in no position to deny the possibility that he was clairvoyant, mystical, a hypnotist, even a "divinity". The important thing was that none of those things mattered. What did matter about him was that he was a positive, practical, sensible, logical human being. In my small mind, the Prieure seemed the most sensible institution in the entire world. It consisted, as I saw it, of a place which housed a large number of people who were extremely busy doing the necessary physical work to keep it going. What could have been simpler and what could have made more practical sense? I was aware that, at least by repute, there were probably other benefits that could accrue from being there. But at my age, and in my terms, there was simply one aim, and a very simple one at that. To be like Gurdjieff. He was strong, honest, direct, uncomplicated -- an entirely "no-nonsense" individual. I could remember, quite honestly, that I had been terrified of the work involved in mowing the lawns; it was equally apparent to me that one of the reasons for my terror was that I was lazy. Gurdjieff made me mow the lawns. He did not do this by threats, promises of rewards, or by asking me. He told me to mow the lawns. He told me it was important. I did it. One obvious result, obvious to me at eleven years of age, was that work -- just plain ordinary physical work -- lost a great deal of its horror for me. I also understood, although perhaps not intellectually, why I had not had to scythe the hill -- why I had, as he had said, "already done it".

The total effect of the winter of 1924-25 in New York was to make me long to go back to France. The first visit there had "happened", the result of an aimless, unconnected, chain of events which had depended on my mother's divorce, her illness, the existence of Margaret and Jane and their interest in us. The return, in the spring of 1925, did seem to be foreordained. My feeling was that, if necessary, I would get there alone.

My disenchantment with, and lack of understanding of, the adult world had come to a kind of climax at Christmas-time, I became (I am describing my feelings) something like a bone fought over by two dogs. The contest of wills, since my mother had been eliminated as a contender, for the custody of Tom and myself, was still waging between Jane and my father. I feel sure, now, that it was a "face-saving" operation on both sides; I cannot believe that either side wanted us for our special value -- I was certainly behaving badly enough not to be particularly desirable at the time. In any case, I had agreed, or at least agreed to consider, to visit my father at Christmas. When the time for the actual decision arrived, I refused. Jane's counter-offer of an "adult" Christmas -- glamorous, with parties, visits to the theatre, and so forth, was my ostensible and handy reason for refusing to visit my father. My real reason, however, remained what it had always been: Jane, however impossible our relationship might seem to me, was the passport to Gurdjieff, and I did my best to achieve some sort of harmony with her. On her side, since she was neither infallible nor inhuman, my decision -- indicating an apparent preference for her -- pleased her.

My father was very unhappy. I could not understand why, since I had been told that the decision was mine to make. He arrived in New York to pick up Tom -- who had agreed to spend Christmas with him -- and brought with him several large boxes of presents for me. I was embarrassed by the presents, but when he also asked me -- and it seemed to me used the presents as bait -- to reconsider, I was wounded and furious. I felt that the unfairness, the lack of "justice" in the adult world, was synthesized by this act. I told him, raging at him in tears, that I could not be bought and that I would always hate him for what he was doing to me.

For the sake of the memory of my father, I would like to digress just long enough to say that I am fully conscious of his good intentions, and that I appreciate the horrible emotional shock he received from me at the time. What was sad, perhaps even heart-breaking for him, was that he had no conception of what was really happening. In his world, children did not reject their parents.

The winter did end, finally, although I still think of it as interminable. But it did end, and with the spring, my longing for the Prieure intensified. It was not until we were actually on a ship bound for France that I believed I would really get back. And it was not until I went through the gate of the Prieure once more that I was able to stop dreaming, believing and hoping.

When I saw him again, Gurdjieff put his hand on my head, and I looked up at his fierce moustaches, the broad, open smile underneath the shining, bald head. Like some large, warm animal, he pulled me to his side, squeezing me affectionately with his arm and hand, and said: "So ...you 'come back?" It was phrased as a question, something a little more than a statement of fact. All I was able to do was to nod my head against him and contain my explosive happiness.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:43 am

CHAPTER 6

THE SECOND SUMMER -- the summer of 1925 -- was a homecoming. I found, as I had dreamed I would, that nothing, essentially, had changed. There were some people missing from the summer before, and some new people, but the comings and goings of individuals were of little importance. Once again, I was absorbed into the place, becoming a cog in the functioning of the school. With the exception of the mowing of the lawns, which had become some other person's task, I went back to the customary, routine chores, along with everyone else.

The great security of the Institute for a child, as opposed to the usual boarding school, for example, was the immediate feeling of belonging. It may be true that the purpose of working with other people in the maintenance of the school proper -- which is what all our tasks amounted to -- had a higher aim. On my level, they made me feel that I, however unimportant I might be as an individual, was one of the small, essential links that kept the school going. It gave each of us a feeling of value -- of worth; I find it hard now to imagine any single thing that would be more encouraging to the ego of a child. We all felt that we had a place in the world -- we were needed for the simple reason that we performed functions that had to be performed. We did not just do anything, such as study for our own benefit. We did things that had to be done for the general welfare.

In the usual sense, we had no lessons, we did not "learn" anything at all. However, we did learn to do our own washing and ironing, to cook, to milk, to chop wood, to scrape and polish floors, to paint houses, to repair roofs, to mend our clothing, to take care of animals; all these things in addition to working, in large groups, on the customary major projects: road-building, clearing wooded areas, planting and harvesting, etc.

There were two major changes at the Institute that summer, although they were not immediately apparent to me. Gurdjieff's mother had died during the winter, which had made a subtle, emotional change in the feeling of the place -- she had never taken an active part in the running of the school, but we had all been aware of her presence -- and, much more important, Gurdjieff had begun to write.

I had only been there about a month, when it was announced that a complete reorganization was to be made in the way the Institute was to function and, alarming to everyone, it was also announced that for various reasons, mostly because Gurdjieff would no longer have the time or energy to supervise his students personally, not everyone would be allowed to stay on. We were also told that, in a period of the two or three days following this announcement, Gurdjieff would interview every student personally and decide whether or not they would be allowed to stay on and, if so, what they would do.

The general reaction was to drop everything, and wait until each person's individual fate had been decided. After breakfast the following morning, the buildings echoed with gossip and speculation; everyone expressed his or her doubts and fears about the future. To many of the older students, the announcement seemed to mean that the school would no longer have value for them since Gurdjieff's energies would be concentrated on his writing and not on individual teaching. The speculation and the expression of fears made me nervous. Since I had no conception of what Gurdjieff might decide about my personal fate, I found it simpler to go on with my particular job of the moment -- working in the clearing, removing tree stumps. Several of us had been assigned to this work, but only one or two of us went to work that morning. By the end of the day, there had been a good many interviews, and a number of students had been told to leave.

The following day, I went to my work as usual, but when I was going to return to work after lunch, my turn for an interview came.

Gurdjieff was sitting out of doors, on a bench near the main building, and I went to sit next to him. He looked at me as if surprised to find that I existed. He asked me what I had been doing, and, more particularly, what I had done since the announcements had been made. I told him, and he then asked me if I wanted to stay on at the Prieure. I said, of course, that I did. He said, very simply, that he was glad I did because he had new work for me. Beginning the following day, I was to take care of his personal quarters -- his room, dressing-room, and bathroom. He handed me a key, impressing upon me firmly that I was the only one -- other than himself -- who had a key, and he explained that I would have to make his bed sweep, clean, dust, polish, wash, and generally maintain order when the weather required. I would be responsible for making fires and keeping them going; an additional responsibility was that I would also be required to be his "server" or "waiter" -- which meant that if he wanted coffee, liquor, food or anything, brought to him at any hour of the day or night, I was to bring it. For this reason, he explained, a buzzer would be installed in my room.

He also explained that I would not participate in general projects any longer, but that my additional chores would include the usual work in the kitchen and concierge except that I would be relieved of these duties long enough to perform my housekeeping chores. One other piece of new work was that I was to take care of the chicken yard -- feed the chickens, collect the eggs, slaughter the chickens and/or ducks when required, etc.

I was very proud to have been selected as his "care-taker", and he smiled at my joyful reaction. He informed me, very seriously, that my selection had been made on the spur of the moment -- he had dismissed a student who had already been doing this work, and when I had appeared to be interviewed, he had realized that I was not essential in any other general function and was available for this work. I felt somewhat ashamed of my pride, but was no less happy for that, I still felt that it was an honour.

At first, I had no more contact with Gurdjieff than I had before. In the early morning, I would release the chickens from their coops, feed them and collect the eggs and bring them to the kitchen. By that time, Gurdjieff was usually ready for his morning coffee, after which he dressed and went to sit at one of the small tables near the terrace where he would spend the morning writing. During that time, I cleaned the room. This took a fairly long time. The bed was enormous and always in great disorder. As for the bathroom! What he could do to his dressing-room and bathroom is something that cannot be described without invading his privacy; I will only say that, physically, Mr. Gurdjieff, at least so I gathered, lived like an animal. The mere cleaning of these two rooms was a major project every day. The disorder was frequently so great that I had visions of great, hygienic dramas transpiring nightly in the dressing-room and bathroom. I often felt that he had some conscious aim to destroy these rooms. There were times when I would have to use a ladder to clean the walls.

It was not until later that summer that my care-taking chores began to assume really major proportions. Because of his writing, there were many more visitors to his room -- people who were working on immediate translations of his books -- as he wrote them -- into French, English, Russian, and possibly other languages. I understood that the original was in a combination of Armenian and Russian; as he said that he could not find any single language which gave him sufficient freedom of expression for his complicated ideas and theories. My additional work was mostly in the form of "serving" -- everyone who interviewed him did so in his room. This meant the serving of coffee and Armagnac,, and also meant that the room would have to be at least straightened up after these conferences. Gurdjieff preferred to go to bed during such meetings. In fact, unless he was entering or leaving the room, I hardly remember ever seeing him in his room when he was not in the great bed, lying in state. Even the drinking of coffee could produce a holocaust -- there would be coffee all over the room and usually in the bed, which, of course, would have to be re-made with fresh linen each time.

There were rumours at the time, and I am in no position to deny them, that a great deal more went on in his rooms other than drinking coffee and Armagnac. The normal state of his rooms after one night indicated that almost any human activity could have taken place there the night before. There is no doubt that his rooms were lived in, in the fullest sense of the word.

I have never forgotten the first time that I was involved in an incident in his room that was something more than the usual performance of my housekeeping chores. He had a distinguished visitor that day -- A. R. Orage -- a man who was well-known to all of us, and accepted as an accredited teacher of Gurdjieffian theory. After luncheon that day, the two of them retired to Gurdjieff's room, and I was summoned to deliver the usual coffee. Orage's stature was such that we all treated him with great respect. There was no doubt of his intelligence, his dedication, his integrity. In addition, he was a warm, compassionate man for whom I had great personal affection.

When I reached the doorway of Gurdjieff's room with a tray of coffee and brandy, I hesitated, appalled at the violent sounds of furious screaming -- Gurdjieff's voice -- from within. I knocked and, receiving no reply, entered. Gurdjieff was standing by his bed in a state of what seemed to me to be completely uncontrolled fury. He was raging at Orage, who stood impassively, and very pale, framed in one of the windows. I had to walk between them to set the tray on the table. I did so, feeling flayed by the fury of Gurdjieff's voice, and then retreated, attempting to make myself invisible. When I reached the door, I could not resist looking at both of them. Orage, a tall man, seemed withered and crumpled as he sagged in the window, and Gurdjieff, actually not very tall, looked immense- -a complete embodiment of rage. Although the raging was in English, I was unable to listen to the words -- the flow of anger was too enormous. Suddenly, in the space of an instant, Gurdjieff's voice stopped, his whole personality changed, he gave me a broad smile -- looking incredibly peaceful and inwardly quiet -- motioned me to leave, and then resumed his tirade with undiminished force. This happened so quickly that I do not believe that Mr. Orage even noticed the break in the rhythm.

When I had first heard the sound of Mr. Gurdjieff's voice from outside the room, I had been horrified. That this man, whom I respected above all other human beings, could lose his control so completely was a terrible blow to my feelings of respect and admiration for him. As I had walked between them to place the tray on the table, I had felt nothing but pity and compassion for Mr. Orage.

Now, leaving the room, my feelings were completely reversed. I was still appalled by the fury I had seen in Gurdjieff; terrified by it. In a sense, I was even more terrified when I left the room because I realized that it was not only not "uncontrollable" but actually under great control and completely conscious on his part. I still felt sorry for Mr. Orage, but I was convinced that he must have done something terrible -- in Gurdjieff's eyes -- to warrant the outburst. It did not cross my mind that Gurdjieff could have been, in any sense at all, wrong, There was no question but that I believed in him with my whole being, absolutely. He could do no wrong. Oddly enough, and I find this hard to explain to anyone who did not know him personally, my devotion to him was not fanatical. I did not believe in him as one believes in a god. He was right, always, to me, for simple, logical, reasons. His unusual "mode of life", even such things as the disorder of his rooms, calling for coffee at all hours of the day or night, seemed far more logical than the so-called normal way of living. He did whatever he did when he wanted or needed to. He was invariably concerned with others, and considerate of them. He never failed, for example, to thank me and to I apologize to me when I had to bring him coffee, half-asleep, at three o'clock in the morning. I knew instinctively that such consideration was something far more than ordinary, acquired courtesy. And, perhaps this was the clue, he was interested. Whenever I saw him, whenever he gave me an order, he was fully aware of me, completely concentrated on whatever words he said to me; his attention never wandered when I spoke to him. He always knew exactly what I was doing, what I had done. I think we must all have felt, certainly I did, when he was with anyone of us, that we received his total attention. I can think of nothing more complimentary in human relations.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:43 am

CHAPTER 7

IT WAS IN the middle of that busy summer that Gurdjieff asked me one morning, rather brusquely, whether or not I still wanted to study. He reminded me, rather sardonically, of my desire to learn "everything", and asked me if I had changed my mind. I told him I had not.

"Why you not ask about this then, if not change mind?"

I said, embarrassed and uncomfortable, that I had not mentioned it again for several reasons. One was that I had already asked him and that I assumed that he had not forgotten it, second that he was already so busy writing and conferring with other people that I did not think he would have time.

He said that I would have to learn about the world. "If want something, must ask. You must work. You expect me to remember for you; I already work hard, much harder than you can even imagine, you wrong if also expect me always remember what you want." He then added that I made a mistake in assuming that he was too busy. "If I busy, this my business, not your affair. If I say I teach, you must remind me, help me by asking again. This show you want learn."

I agreed, sheepishly, that I had been mistaken, and asked when he would start the "lessons". This was on a Monday morning, and he told me to meet him at his room at ten o'clock the following morning, Tuesday. When I got there the next morning, I listened at the door to be sure that he was up, knocked and went in. He was standing in the middle of the room, fully dressed. He looked at me, as if astonished. "You want something?" he asked, not unkindly. I explained that I was there for my lesson. He looked at me, as he sometimes had on other occasions, as if he had never seen me before. You supposed to come this morning?" he asked, as if he had completely forgotten. "Yes," I said, "at ten o'clock."

He looked at the clock on his bed table. It read about two minutes after ten and I had been there at least a full minute. Then he turned to me, looking at me as if my explanation had greatly relieved him: "This morning, I remember was something at ten o'clock, but forget what. Why you not here at ten o'clock?"

I looked at my own watch and said that I had been there at ten o'clock.

He shook his head. "You ten seconds late. Man can die in ten seconds. I live by my clock, not yours. If want learn from me, must be here when my clock say ten o'clock. Today, no lesson."

I did not argue with him, but did gather my courage enough to ask him if that meant I would never have any "lessons" from him. He waved me away. "Certainly have lessons. Come next Tuesday ten o'clock. If necessary, can come early and wait -- is way not to be late," then he added, and not without malice, "unless you too busy to wait for Master."

The following Tuesday I was there by quarter past nine. He came out of his room as I was about to knock -- a few minutes before ten -- smiled and told me he was glad I was on time. Then he asked me how long I had been there. I told him, and he shook his head, irritated. "I tell last week," he said, "that if not busy can come early and wait. I not tell to waste almost hour of time. Now we go." He told me to get a thermos bottle of coffee from the kitchen and to meet him at his car.

We drove a very short distance on a narrow, lightly traveled road, and Gurdjieff stopped the car. We descended and he told me to bring the coffee with me, and went to sit on a fallen tree near the edge of the road. He had stopped a hundred yards or so beyond a group of workmen who were laying a stone water-ditch at the side of the road. Their work consisted in bringing stones from either one of two large piles at the side of the road, carrying them to the unfinished section of the ditch, where other men were placing them in the dirt. We watched them silently, while Gurdjieff drank coffee and smoked, but said nothing to me. After a long time, at least half an hour, I finally asked him when the lesson would begin.

He looked at me with a tolerant smile. "Lesson begin at ten o'clock," he said. "What you see? Notice anything?"

I said that I had been watching the men, and that the only unusual thing I had noticed was that one of the men always went to the pile that was furthest from the actual work "Why you think he do this?"

I said I didn't know but that he seemed to be making work for himself because he had to carry the heavy stones further each time. He could just as easily have gone to the nearer pile of rock.

"Is true." Gurdjieff then said, "but must always look at all sides before make judgment. This man also have pleasant short promenade in shade along road when he return for next stone. Also, he not stupid. In one day he not carry so many stones. Always logical reason why people do thing certain way; necessary find all possible reasons before judge people."

Gurdjieff's language, although he paid very little attention to the proper tenses, was always unmistakably clear and definite. He did not say anything more, and I felt that he was, partly by his own concentration, forcing me to observe whatever was going on around me with as much concentration as I could. The rest of the hour went by rapidly, and we returned to the Prieure; he to his writing and I to my housekeeping. I was to return the following Tuesday at the same time for the next lesson. I did not dwell on what I had -- or had not -- learned; I was beginning to understand that "learning" in Gurdjieff's sense did not depend on sudden or obvious results, and that one could not expect any immediate spurts of knowledge or understanding. More and more I began to have the feeling that he scattered knowledge as he lived, oblivious of whether or not it was accepted and put to any use.

The next lesson was completely unlike the first one. He told me to clean the room, everything except making the bed, while he lay in bed. He watched me all the time, making no comment until I made the fire -- it was a rainy, damp summer morning and the room was cold -- and when I had lighted the fire, it smoked relentlessly. I added dry wood, blew on the coals industriously, but with little success. He did not continue to watch my efforts for very long. He got out of bed suddenly, picked up a bottle of Cognac, pushed me to one side, and poured a stream of Cognac on to the small flame; the fire burst out into the room and then settled into a steady flame. Without any comment he then went into his dressing-room and dressed while I made his bed. It was not until he was ready to leave the room that he said, casually: "If want immediate, necessary result, must use any means." Then he smiled. "When I not here, you have time; not necessary use fine old Armagnac."

And that was the end of that lesson. The dressing-room, which he had demolished silently in a few minutes, took me the rest of the morning to clean.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:43 am

CHAPTER 8

As PART O F the "complete reorganization" of the school, Mr. Gurdjieff told us that he was going to appoint a "director" who would supervise the students and their activities. He made it clear that this director would report regularly to him, and that he would still be fully informed concerning everything that took place at the Prieure. However, his personal time would be devoted almost entirely to his writing and he would spend a much larger proportion of his time in Paris.

The director turned out to be a certain Miss Madison, an English bachelor lady (as the children all called her) who had, up to that time, been mainly in charge of the flower gardens. To most of us -- children, that is -- she had always been a slightly comical figure. She was tall, of uncertain age, a bony, angular shape topped off by a somewhat untidy nest of fading reddish hair. She had, up to that time, stalked about the flower gardens, usually carrying a trowel and decorated with strands of raffia, knotted to her belt and flowing in streams from her waist as she walked, She took to the directorship with zeal and relish.

Although Gurdjieff had told us that 'e were to accord Miss Madison every respect -- "as if she were myself" -- I at least wondered whether she quite deserved that respect; I also suspected that he would not be as fully informed as when he had personally supervised the work. In any case, Miss Madison became a highly important figure in our lives. She began by setting up a series of rules and regulations -- I have often wondered whether she had not come from an English Army family -- which, ostensibly, were to simplify the work and, in general, to introduce efficiency into what she called the haphazard functioning of the school.

Since Mr. Gurdjieff was now absent at least half of each week, Miss Madison felt that I did not have enough to do simply taking care of the chickens and cleaning his room. Among other things, I was assigned to take care of our one horse and one donkey, and also to do a certain amount of work on the flower beds, under Miss Madison 's immediate, personal supervision. In addition to these specific chores, I was -- as was everyone else -- subject to a great many general ground-rules. No one was to leave the grounds without specific permission from Miss Madison; our rooms were to be inspected at regular intervals; in short, a general, military-style discipline was to be enforced.

A further change caused by the "reorganization'" of the school was the discontinuing of the nightly demonstrations of the dances or gymnastics. There were still classes in these gymnastics, but they only lasted for an hour or so during the afternoon, and it was on rare occasions, when Gurdjieff brought weekend guests to the Prieure, that we gave "demonstrations". Because of this, our evenings had been free all that summer, and many of us went to the town of Fontainebleau -- a walk of about two miles -- in the evenings. There was nothing much for children to do in town, except to go to an occasional movie or sometimes to a small country fair or carnival. This previously unsupervised -- in fact, unmentioned -- privilege was important to all of us. Up to that time, no one had bothered about what any of us did in our free time as long as we were present in the morning and ready to go to work. Confronted with the order that we were to have what amounted to "passes" in order to go to town -- we were told that we would have to give a "good reason" for any excursion off the grounds of the school proper -- we rebelled. There was no common agreement to rebel or to disregard this particular rule. As individuals, no one obeyed it; no one ever asked for a "pass".

Not only did we not ask for permission to leave the grounds, but we went to town even when we had no reason or desire to go. We did not, of course, leave by the front gate where the "passes" would have to be shown to whoever was on duty as concierge, we simply climbed the walls, going and coming. There was no immediate reaction from Miss Madison but we soon learned, although we could not imagine how it was possible, that she had an accurate record of each person's absence. We learned of the existence of this record from Mr. Gurdjieff, when, on one of his returns to the Prieure after an absence of several days, he announced to all of us that Miss Madison had "a little black book" in which she had recorded all the "misdemeanors" of the students. He also told us that he was, for the time being, reserving his own opinion about our behavior, but reminded us that he had appointed Miss Madison as director and that we were supposed to obey her. While it seemed to be a technical victory for Miss Madison, it was also a hollow one; he had done nothing to help her enforce her discipline.

My first difficulty with Miss Madison arose because of the chickens. One afternoon, just after Gurdjieff had left for Paris, I learned from one of the other children -- I was cleaning his room at the time -- that my chickens, at least several of them, had found some way out of the chicken yard and were happily tearing up Miss Madison's flower gardens. When I arrived at the scene of the destruction, Miss Madison was furiously chasing chickens all over the garden and, together, we managed to get them all back into their pen. There had not been much damage done to the flowers, and I helped Miss Madison, on her orders, to repair such damage as there was. She then told me that it was my fault that the chickens had escaped because I had not kept the fences in proper order; also that I would not be allowed to leave the grounds of the Institute for a week. She added that if she found another chicken in the gardens, she would, personally, kill it.

I did repair the fences, but apparently I did not do a very good job. One or two chickens escaped the next day, and went back to the flower gardens. Miss Madison kept her promise and wrung the neck of the first chicken she was able to catch. Since I had become very fond of the chickens -- I had a personal relationship with each one of them and had even given them names -- I took revenge on Miss Madison by destroying one of her favorite plants. In addition, for purely personal satisfaction, I also left the grounds and went to Fontainebleau that night.

Miss Madison took me seriously to task the next morning. She said that if we could not come to an understanding together, she would have to take the matter up with Mr. Gurdjieff; that she knew that he would not tolerate any flaunting of her authority. She also said that I, by this time, led the list of offenders in her little black book. My defense was to tell her that the chickens were useful and that the garden was not; that she had no right to kill my chicken. She said that I was in no position to judge what she had a right to do, and also that Mr. Gurdjieff had made it very clear that she was to be obeyed.

Since we had come to no truce or agreement, the incident was brought to Mr. Gurdjieff's attention when he returned from Paris later that week. Immediately upon his return, he was, as it were, pounced upon by Miss Madison, and closeted in his room with her for a long time. I did become anxious during that time. After all, whatever my reasons had been, I had disobeyed her, and I had no assurance that Gurdjieff was going to see things my way.

He called for coffee later that evening after supper, and when I brought it to his room, he told me to sit down. Then he asked me how I was getting along and how I liked Miss Madison. Not knowing what she had told him, I replied carefully that I was getting along all right and that I supposed Miss Madison was all right, but that the Prieure was very different when she was in charge.

He looked at me seriously: "How different?" he asked.

I replied that Miss Madison made too many rules, that there was too much discipline.

He did not say anything about this remark but then told me that Miss Madison had told him about the fracas in the flower gardens and that she had killed a chicken, and he wanted I know my version of the story. I told him how I felt about it and that I felt, particularly, that Miss Madison had no right to kill the chicken.

"What you do with dead chicken?" he asked me.

I said that I had cleaned it and taken it to the kitchen to be eaten.

He considered this, nodded, and said that I should understand, then, that the chicken after all had not been wasted; also that, while the chicken, although dead, had been useful, the dead flower that I had uprooted in anger could serve no purpose -- could not, for instance, be eaten. Then he asked me if I had repaired the fences. I said that I had repaired them a second time after the chickens had escaped again and he said that was good, and sent me to get Miss Madison.

I went for her, feeling crestfallen. I could not deny the logic of what he had said to me, but I still felt, resentfully, that Miss Madison had not been entirely in the right. I found her in her room, and she gave me an all-knowing, superior look and followed me back to Gurdjieff's room. He told us both to sit down and then told her that he had talked to me about the problem of the chickens and the garden and that he was' sure -- he looked at me as he said this -- that there would be no more difficulty. Then he said, unexpectedly, that we had both failed him. That my failure had been in not helping him by obeying Miss Madison, since he had put her in charge, and that she had failed by killing the chicken, which was, incidentally, his chicken; not only was it his chicken but it was my responsibility, which he had delegated to me, and that while I should have kept it in its pen, she had no right to take its killing upon herself.

Then he told Miss Madison to leave, but added as she was leaving that he had now spent a long time, when he was already very busy, on the discussion of this matter of the chicken and the garden, and that one of the functions of a director was to relieve him of such time-consuming, unimportant problems.

Miss Madison left the room -- he had indicated that I was to stay -- and he asked me if I felt I was learning anything. I was surprised by the question and did not know how to answer it, except to say that I did not know. It was then, I think, that he first mentioned, directly, one of the basic purposes and aims of the Institute. He said, disregarding my unsatisfactory response to his question about learning, that, in Life, the most difficult thing to achieve for the future, and perhaps the most important, was to learn to live with the "unpleasant manifestations of others". He said that the story we had both told him was, of itself, completely unimportant. The chicken and the plant did not matter. What was important was the behavior of myself and of Miss Madison; that if either one of us had been "conscious" of our behavior, and not simply reacting to one another, the problem would have been solved without his intervention. He said that, in a sense, nothing had happened except that Miss Madison and I had given in to our mutual hostility. He did not explain this any further, and I was confused, and told him so. He told me that I would probably understand this later in life. Then he said that I would have my lesson the following morning, although it was not a Tuesday; and apologized for the fact that he was unable to keep my lessons on a regular schedule because of his other work.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:44 am

CHAPTER 9

WHEN I WENT for my lesson the following morning, Gurdjieff looked very tired. He said that he had been working very hard -- most of the night -- that writing was very hard work. He was still in bed, and he stayed there throughout the lesson. He began by asking me about the exercise that had been given to all of us to do, and which I referred to previously as "self-observation". He said that it was a very difficult exercise to do and that he wanted me to do it, with my entire concentration, as constantly as possible. He also said that the main difficulty with this exercise, as with most exercises that he did -- or would in the future -- give to me or to any of his students, was that to do them properly it was necessary not to expect results. In this specific exercise, what was important was to see oneself, to observe one's mechanical, automatic, reactionary behavior without comment, and without making any attempt to change that behavior. "If change," he said, "then will never see reality. Will only see change. When begin to know self, then change will come, or can make change if wish -- if such change desirable."

He went on to say that his work was not only very difficult, but could also be very dangerous for some people. "This work not for everyone," he said. "For example, if wish to learn to become millionaire, necessary to devote all early life to this aim and no other. If wish to become priest, philosopher, teacher, or businessman, should not come here. Here only teach possibility how become man such as not known in modern times, particularly in western world."

He then asked me to look out of the window and to tell him what I saw. I said that, from that window, all I could see was an oak tree. And what, he asked, was on the oak tree? I told him: acorns.

"How many acorns?"

When I replied, rather uncertainly, that I did not know, he said impatiently: "Not exactly, not ask that. Guess how many!"

I said that I supposed there were several thousand of them.

He agreed and then asked me how many of the acorns would become oak trees. I answered that I supposed only five or six of them would actually develop into trees, if that many.

He nodded. "Perhaps only one, perhaps not even one. Must learn from Nature. Man is also organism. Nature make many acorns, but possibility to become tree exist for only few acorns. Same with man -- many men born, but only few grow. People think this waste, think nature waste. Not so. Rest become fertilizer, go back into earth and create possibility for more acorns, more men, once in while more tree -- more real man. Nature always give -- but only give possibility. To become real oak, or real man, must make effort. You understand this, my work, this Institute, not for fertilizer. For real man, only. But must also understand fertilizer necessary to Nature. Possibility for real tree, real man also depend just this fertilizer."

After a rather long silence, he continued: "In west -- your world -- is belief that man have soul, given by God. Not so. Nothing given by God, only Nature give. And nature only give possibility for soul, not give soul. Must acquire soul through work. But, unlike tree, man have many possibilities. As man now exist he have also possibility grow by accident -- grow wrong way. Man can become many things, not just fertilizer, not just real man: can become what you call 'good' or 'evil', not proper things for man. Real man not good or evil -- real man only conscious, only wish acquire soul for proper development."

I had listened to him, concentrated and straining, and my only feeling -- I was twelve then -- was one of confusion, incomprehension. I sensed and felt the importance of what he was saying, but I did not understand it. As if aware of this (as he surely was), he said: "Think of good and evil like right hand and left hand. Man always have two hands -- two sides of self -- good and evil. One can destroy other. Must have aim to make both hands work together, must acquire third thing: thing that make peace between two hands, between impulse for good and impulse for evil. Man who all 'good' or man who all 'bad' is not whole man, is one-sided. Third thing is conscience; possibility to acquire conscience is already in man when born; this possibility given -- free -- by nature. But is only possibility. Real conscience can only be acquired by work, by learning to understand self first. Even your religion -- western religion -- have this phrase 'Know' thyself'. This phrase most important in all religions. When begin know self already begin have possibility become genuine man. So first thing must learn is know self by this exercise, self-observation. If not do this, then will be like acorn that not become tree -- fertilizer. Fertilizer which go back in ground and become possibility for future man."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17455
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Next

Return to Ancien Regime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron