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.

Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

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

CHAPTER 10

As IF BY some settling process, Miss Madison's directorship became, automatically, something that we managed to live with without further difficulty. There was too much work to be done, ordinary labor to keep the school functioning, for anyone to care very much about rules and regulations, or about how the work was accomplished. Also, there were too many people there, and the physical set-up was too big, for Miss Madison (who had not given up her never-ending gardening) to be able to observe each of us constantly and individually. The only other incident in which Miss Madison and I found ourselves in conflict that summer -- sufficient conflict to come to Mr. Gurdjieff's attention -- was the incident of the Japanese garden.

At some time in the past, long before I had been at the Prieure, one of Mr. Gurdjieff's projects had been to build what he had called a "Japanese Garden". An island had been created in the woods, using water from the ditch that ran through the property. A small, six- or eight-sided oriental-looking pavilion had been built on the island, and a typical Japanese, arched bridge led to the island proper. It looked rather typically oriental, and was a pleasant place to retire to on Sundays when we were not on duty at one of our usual tasks. One of the students -- an adult American man -- went there with me one Sunday afternoon; he was a recent arrival at the Prieure and, if I remember correctly, our reason for being there was that I was serving as his guide to the physic layout of the school. It was the usual practice at that time for one of the children to walk all over the seventy-five acres of the grounds with new arrivals, showing them the various vegetable gardens, the Turkish bath, the location of current projects, and so on.

My companion and I stopped to rest at the Japanese garden and he, as if sneering at the garden, told me that while it might be "Japanese" in intention, it was completely ruined by the presence, just in front of the door to the little pavilion, of two plaster busts, one on either side of the door, of Venus and Apollo. My reaction was immediate and angry. Also, in some curious way, I felt that the criticism of the busts was a personal criticism of Gurdjieff's taste. With mixed motives and considerable daring, I told him that I would remedy the situation and promptly threw the two busts into the water. I remember feeling that, in some obscure way, I was defending Gurdjieff's honor and his taste by doing so.

Miss Madison, whose sources of information had always been a puzzle to me, learned of this. She told me, horrified, that this willful destruction of the busts could not pass unnoticed and that Mr. Gurdjieff would be informed of what I had done immediately upon his return from Paris.

As his next return from Paris was on a weekend, he was accompanied by several guests who came with him in his car, plus a good many additional guests who had come in their own cars or by train. As was customary on the days that he returned from his trips, the entire student-body assembled after dinner in the main salon of the Chateau. In the presence of everyone (it was rather like a stockholders' meeting) he received a formal report from Miss Madison covering the general events that had transpired during his absence. This report was then followed by a summary, from Miss Madison, of whatever problems had arisen that she felt needed his attention. She sat beside him, on this occasion, little black book firmly open on her lap, and talked to him earnestly, but not loudly enough for us to hear, for a short time. When she had finished, he waved her to a chair and asked whoever had destroyed the statues in the Japanese garden to step forward.

Embarrassed by the presence of all of the students as well as a number of distinguished guests, I stepped forward with a sinking heart, furious with myself for my abandoned gesture. At that moment, I could think of no justification for what I had done.

Gurdjieff, of course, asked me why I had committed this crime, and also whether I realized that the destruction of property was, in fact, criminal? I said that I realized that I should not have done it but that I had done it because the statues were of the wrong period and civilization, historically, and that they should not have been there in the first place. I did not involve the American in my explanation.

With considerable sarcasm, Gurdjieff informed me that while my knowledge of history might be impressive, I had, nonetheless, destroyed "statues" that had belonged to him; that he, personally, had been responsible for placing them there; that, in fact, he liked Greek statues in Japanese gardens -- at any rate in that particular Japanese garden. In view of what I had done, he said that I would have to be punished, and that my punishment would consist of giving up my "chocolate money" (his term for any child's "spending money'" or "allowance") until the statues were replaced. He instructed Miss Madison to find out the cost of equivalent replacements and to collect that amount from me, however long it might take.

Mostly because of my family situation -- Jane and Margaret had almost no money at the time, and certainly none to give to us-I had no so-called "chocolate money"; at least, I had none on what could be called a regular basis. The only spending money I ever had at that time was occasional money that my mother would send to me from America -- for my birthday or for Christmas, or sometimes for no obvious reason. At that particular moment, I had no money at all, and I was also sure that the statues would be hideously expensive. I foresaw an eternity of handing over whatever money might come my way in order to pay for my rash act. It was a horrible prospect, particularly as I had had a birthday only a few months earlier and Christmas was several months in the future.

My dismal, moneyless future came to an abrupt end when I received a completely unexpected cheque for twenty-five dollars from my mother. Before turning the cheque over to Miss Madison, I learned from her that the "statues" were common, plaster casts, and would only amount to about ten dollars. Even that amount was not easy for me to part with. The twenty-five dollars might have to last me at least until Christmas.

At the next assembly, Miss Madison informed Mr. Gurdjieff that I had given her the money for the new' "statues" -- he refused even to understand the word "bust" -- and asked whether she should replace them.

Gurdjieff thought this question over for some time and then, finally, said "No". He called me over to him, handed me the money which she had given to him, and said that I could keep it, on the condition that I would share it with all the other children. He also said that while I had been wrong in destroying his property, he wanted me to know that he had thought about the whole question and that I had been right about the impropriety of those particular "statues" in that place. He suggested that I could have -- although I was not to do so now -- replaced them with the proper type of statue. The incident was never mentioned again.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

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

Chapter 11

TOWARDS THE END of the summer, I learned that Mr. Gurdjieff was making plans to go to America for an extended visit -- probably the entire winter of 1925-26. The question of what was going to happen to Tom and myself automatically came to my mind, but this was quickly solved: to my great relief, Jane told us that she had decided that she would have to go back to New York but that Tom and I would stay on at the Prieure that winter. She took us to Paris with her one weekend and introduced us to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; Jane had somehow persuaded Gertrude and Alice to, as it were, watch over us during her absence.

On our occasional visits to Paris, we had met many controversial and distinguished people: James Joyce, Ernest Heming- way, Constantin Brancusi, Jacques Lipschitz, Tristan Tzara, and others -- most of whom had been contributors at one time or another to The Little Review. Man Ray had photographed both of us; Paul Tchelitchev had attempted portraits of us both. I remember when Tchelitchev, after two or three consecutive days of work on a pastel portrait of me, threw me out of his studio, telling me that I was unpaintable. "You look like everyone," he had said, "and your face is never quiet."

I was either too young or too self-involved at that time to be fully conscious of the privilege, if that is the word, of knowing or meeting such people. In general, they did not make a very strong impression on me; I did not understand their conversation, and was aware of their importance only because I had been told they were important.

Of all such people, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein did stand out as genuinely impressive to me. At our first meeting with Hemingway, whose A Farewell to Arms had not yet been published, he impressed us with his stories of bull-fighting in Spain; with great exuberance he ripped off his shirt to show us his "battle-scars" and then fell to his hands and knees, still stripped to the waist, to play at being a bull with his first child, still only a baby at that time.

But it was Gertrude Stein who made the greatest impact on me. Jane had given me something of hers to read -- I do not know what it was -- and I had found it totally meaningless; for that reason I was vaguely alarmed at the prospect of meeting her. I liked her immediately. She seemed uncomplicated, direct, and enormously friendly. She told us -- she, too, had a "no-nonsense" quality about her that appealed to me as a child -- that we were to visit her every other Thursday' during the coming winter, and that our first visit would be on Thanksgiving Day. Although I was worried about Gurdjieff's absence -- I felt that the Prieure could not possibly be the same without him -- my immediate liking of Gertrude and the know- ledge that we would be seeing her regularly was considerable consolation.

***

Gurdjieff only spoke to me directly about his forthcoming trip on one occasion. He said that he was going to leave Miss Madison in full charge and that it would be necessary for me -- as well as for everyone else -- to work with her. Miss Madison no longer troubled or frightened me, I was getting used to her, and I assured him that I would do my best. He then said that it was important to learn to get along with people. Important in one way only -- to learn to live with all kinds of people and in all kinds of situations; to live with them in the sense of not reacting to them constantly.

Before his departure, he called a meeting of certain of the students and Miss Madison; only those students, mostly Americans, who were going to stay at the Prieure during his absence -- excluding his own family and a few of the older students, or followers, who had been with him for many years and who, apparently, were not subject to Miss Madison's discipline. I had the feeling that Gurdjieff's immediate family, his brother, sister-in-law and their children, were not so much "followers" or "students" as simply "family" that he supported.

At this gathering, or meeting, Miss Madison served tea to all of us. It seems to me now that this was her idea, also that she was making an attempt to "put her best foot forward" with those students who would be in her charge during the winter to come. We all listened as she and Mr. Gurdjieff discussed various aspects of the functioning of the Institute -- mostly practical problems, work assignments, and so forth, but the one outstanding memory of that meeting was the serving of the tea by Miss Madison. Instead of sitting in one place, pouring the tea, and handing it to us, she poured each cup, standing, and then brought it to each person. She had, unfortunately for her, a physical habit -- it was sufficiently delicate, actually, to seem to be a kind of refinement -- of faintly passing wind each time that she stooped over, which she had to do as she handed each person his or her cup of tea. Inevitably, there would be a rather faint, single, report at which she would immediately say "Pardon me" and stand up.

We were all amused and embarrassed by this, but no one was more amused than Gurdjieff. He watched her attentively, the faint beginning of a smile on his face, and it was impossible not to watch him as we all "listened" to Miss Madison. As if unable to control himself any longer, he began to talk. He said that Miss Madison was a very special person, with many qualities that might not be immediately apparent to the casual onlooker (he could be very verbose and flowery in the English language when he chose). As an example of one of her qualities, he cited the fact that she had a particularly exceptional manner of serving tea. That only Miss Madison served tea with the accompaniment of a small, sharp report, like that of a toy gun. "But so delicate, so refined," he said, "that it is necessary to be alert, and highly perceptive, even to be aware of this." He went on to remark that we should notice her extreme politeness: that she unfailingly excused herself after each re- port. He then compared this "grace" of hers with other social graces, stating that it was not only unusual but, to him, even with his wide experience, completely novel.

It was impossible not to admire Miss Madison's composure during this merciless, lengthy comment on her unfortunate habit. While it was obviously "farting", none of us could bring ourselves, even in our own minds, to the use of that gross word. As Gurdjieff talked about it, the habit became practically "endearing" to us, making us feel sympathetic and tender towards Miss Madison. The "end result" as someone punned mercilessly, was that we all felt a spontaneous, genuine liking for Miss Madison that none of us had felt before. I have often wondered since then whether or not Gurdjieff was not making use of a minor weakness in Miss Madison's seemingly impervious "armour" for the very purpose of bringing her down from the level of strict "director" to a more human conception in the minds of those of us who were present. It was certainly impossible for us to take Miss Madison too seriously from that time on; it was also equally impossible to dislike her with any great intensity -- she seemed, from then on, far too human, and too fallible. For my own part, I have never heard a delicate "fart" in my life since then, without it being accompanied, in my mind, by a rather tender memory of Miss Madison.

I will not now state that Miss Madison's wind-passing made me learn to actually love her, but it certainly came close to achieving that goal. There were times when we were able to work together without difficulty or animosity, and I attribute all of those periods to her habit, or at least to my memory of it. It was and is impossible for me to whole-heartedly despise anyone who is, for any reason, a comic figure. There was a pathetic aspect to this "farting", and since the habit is relatively universal, we were inevitably laughing at ourselves, as well, when we poked fun at her behind her back. Even the phrase, as we were always doing things "behind her back", had immediate, hilarious connotations. In fact nothing could have been more appropriate for her. Even her "reports", or the mention of them, was enough to send us off into gales of laughter. And as children, we, of course, made up elaborate, merciless jokes about the possibility of the walls of her room collapsing from a constant barrage.

For her own part, Miss Madison continued to direct the activities of the school, busy, stern, and dedicated; and with occasional sharp reports, like punctuation, always accompanied by a bland apology.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:45 am

Chapter 12

WITHOUT GURDJIEFF, THE Prieure was a different place; but it was not only his absence that made it so. The very winter changed the tempo and the routine. We all settled into what seemed, in comparison with the busy active summer, a kind of hibernation. There was little or no work at all on outside "projects" and most of our duties were confined to such things as working our turns in the kitchen -- much more frequent because there were so many fewer people there -- in the concierge, chopping wood and transporting it to our rooms, keeping the house clean, and, in my case, finally some studies in the usual sense of the word. One of the students who had remained for the winter was an American recently graduated from college. Almost every evening, sometimes for several hours at a time, I studied the English language with him and also mathematics. I read voraciously, as if I had been starving for that kind of learning, and we went through all of Shake speare as well as such books as the Oxford books of English Verse and English Ballads. On my own, I read Dumas, Balzac, and great many of the other French writers.

The outstanding experiences of the winter, however, were all due to Gertrude Stein and, in a lesser way, to Alice Toklas.

Our first visit to Paris to see Gertrude was a memorable one. While we were happy enough to be at the Prieure, there was still no question but that Tom and I both missed many things that were essentially American. That first visit was on Thanksgiving Day, a holiday that, of course, meant nothing to the French or to the students at the Prieure. We arrived at Gertrude's apartment on the rue de Fleurus at about ten o'clock in the morning. We rang the bell, but there was no answer. Alice, apparently, had gone somewhere, and Gertrude, we learned shortly, was in the bath on the second floor. When I rang the second time, Gertrude's head appeared above me, and she tossed a bunch of keys out of the window. We were to make ourselves at home in the salon until she had had her bath. As this occurred every time we went to Paris, it was obvious that Gertrude took a bath every day at just that hour, or at least every other Thursday.

A large part of the day was spent in a thoroughly enjoyable, long talk with Gertrude. I realized, later, that it was really a cross-examination. She asked us about our entire lives, our family history, our relationship with Jane and with Gurdjieff. We answered in full detail and Gertrude, patiently and without comment, never interrupted except to ask another question. We talked until late in the afternoon when Alice suddenly appeared to announce dinner -- I had by that time forgotten that it was Thanksgiving -- and Gertrude put us to work setting the table.

I have never known such a Thanksgiving feast in my life. It must, I suppose, have been enhanced by the fact that it was completely unexpected, but the amount and quality of the food amounted to a spectacle. I was very moved when I learned that most of the traditional, American foods -- including sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, marshmallows, cranberries, all unheard of in Paris -- had been specially ordered from America for this dinner and for us.

In her usual direct, positive way, Gertrude said that she felt that American children needed to have an American Thanksgiving. She also voiced some rather positive doubts about tile way we were living. She was suspicious of both Jane and Gurdjieff as "foster parents" or "guardians" of any children, and told us forcefully that she was going to take a hand in our upbringing and education, beginning with our next visit. She added that life with "mystics" and "artists" might be all very well, but that it amounted to nonsense as a steady diet for two young American boys. She said that she would work out a plan for our future visits with her that would, at least in her mind, make more sense. We left Paris that evening, late, to return to Fontainebleau and I can still recall the warmth and happiness I felt in the experience of the day, and particularly my strong feelings of affection for both Gertrude and Alice.

Gertrude's plan, as she outlined it to us on our next visit, was an exciting one. She said that I was doing enough studying and reading and that while there might be some vague rewards for us in meeting intellectuals and artists, she felt very strongly that we had one opportunity that we must not neglect; the chance to get to know, intimately, the City of Paris. She made it clear that she thought this was important for many reasons, among them that exploring and getting to know a city was a comprehensible activity for children of our age, and something that would leave its mark on us forever, also that it had been neglected shamefully. She felt that there would be time enough for us in the future, when we were at least more grown up, to delve into more nebulous pursuits, such as the arts.

We began on a series of expeditions which continued throughout the whole winter -- barring days when weather prevented, which were few. We piled into Gertrude's Model-T Ford -- Gertrude at the wheel and Alice and Tom squeezed into the front seat with her, while I sat next to Gertrude on the tool box on the left running board of the car. My job on these expeditions was to blow the horn at Gertrude's command. This required my full attention because Gertrude drove her little, old car majestically, approaching intersections and corners unhesitatingly and with repeated announcements (by me) on the horn.

Little by little, we did Paris. The monuments came first: Notre-Dame, Sacre-Coeur, the Invalides, the Tour Eiffel, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre (from the outside at first -- we had seen enough paintings for a while in Gertrude's opinion), the Conciergerie, the Sainte Chapelle.

When we visited any monument or building that did, or could, involve climbing, Gertrude invariably handed me a red silk scarf. I was instructed to climb (in the case of the Eiffel Tower I was allowed to take the elevator) to the top of the given monument of the day and then wave to Gertrude from its summit with the red scarf. There was no question of lack of trust. She said, unequivocally, that children were all lazy. She would be able to prove to her own conscience that I had actually made the climb when she saw the red scarf fluttering from some tower or other. During these climbs, she and Alice remained seated in the Ford in some conspicuous place below us.

From buildings, we graduated to parks, squares, boulevards, important streets and on special occasions longer excursions to Versailles and Chantilly -- any place that could be fitted into a comfortable one-day journey. Our days were always climaxed by a fabulous meal which had always been prepared by Alice. Generally, she managed to prepare something for us in advance, but there were times when her dedication to culinary art was such that she felt that she was unable to accompany us. In her way, Alice was giving us a gastronomic education.

From these excursions I have retained a feeling about, and a flavour of, Paris that I would never have experienced otherwise. Gertrude would lecture us about each place we visited, giving us the highlights of its history, bringing to life the famous people of the past who had created, or lived in, the places we visited. Her lectures were never over-long, never boring; she had a particular talent for re-creating the feeling of a place as she talked -- she could bring buildings to life. She taught me to look for history as I lived, and urged me to explore Fontainebleau on my free days from the Prieure. She told me much of its history before I went there, and, sensibly, said that there was no reason for her to accompany me there since it was in our backyard.

I have never forgotten that winter. The long evenings of reading and study in our warm rooms, the more or less casual day-to-day living at the Prieure, the continual looking forward to my visits to Paris with Gertrude and Alice. The one sombre, harsh note during the winter was the occasional reminder, by Miss Madison, of the fact that I was, somehow, shirking at least some of my duties. She warned me that I was again heading the list in the black book she still kept relentlessly, but I was heedless of her warnings. Thanks primarily to Gertrude, and secondarily to my reading, I was living in the past -- walking with history and Kings and Queens.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:45 am

Chapter 13

IN ADDITION TO the group of children, Mr. Gurdjieff's relatives, and a few adult Americans, the only people who had not gone to America with Mr. Gurdjieff were older people -- mostly Russians -- who did not seem to fit into the category of students. I did not know why they were there except that they appeared to be what might be called "hangers-on", practically camp-followers. It was difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that they were in any sense interested in Gurdjieff's philosophy; and they constituted, along with Gurdjieff's family, what we called simply "The Russians". They seemed to represent the Russia that no longer existed. Most of them, I gathered, had escaped from Russia (they were all "White" Russians) with Gurdjieff, and they were like an isolated remnant of a prior civilization, justifying their existence by working, without any apparent purpose, at whatever chores were given them, in return for which they received food and shelter.

Even during the active summers, they led their own, private existence: reading the Russian newspapers, discussing Russian politics, gathering together to drink tea in the afternoons and evenings, living like displaced persons in the past, as if unaware of the present or the future. Our only contact with them was at meals and at the Turkish baths, and very occasionally they did participate in some of the group work projects.

Notable among these "refugees" was one man, about sixty years of age, by the name of Rachmilevitch. He was distin guished from "The Russians" because he was inexhaustibly curious about everything that took place. He was a mournful, dour type, full of prophecies of disaster, dissatisfied with everything. He complained, continually, about the food, the conditions in which we lived -- the water was never hot enough, there was not enough fuel, the weather too cold or too hot, people were unfriendly, the world was coming to an end; in fact anything at all -- any event, or any condition -- was something that he seemed to be able to turn into a calamity or, at least, an impending disaster.

The children, filled with energy, and without enough to occupy them during the long winter days and evenings, seized on Rachmilevitch as a target for their unused vitality. We all mocked him, aped his mannerisms, and did our best to make his life one long, continuous, living hell. When he would enter the dining-room for a meal, we would begin on a series of complaints about the food; when he attempted to read his Russian newspaper, we would invent imaginary political crises. We withheld his mail when we were on concierge duty, hid his newspapers, stole his cigarettes. His unending complaints had also irritated the other "Russians" and, subversively, they not only did nothing to restrain us, but, subtly and without ever mentioning his name directly, approved, and urged us on.

Not content with badgering him during the day, we took to staying up at night at least until he had turned off the light in his room; then we would gather in the corridor outside his bedroom door and have loud conversations with each other about him, disguising our voices in the hope that he would not be able to pick out any individuals among our group.

Unfortunately, and understandably, he was not able to disregard our activities -- we never gave him a moment's peace. He would appear at meals, enraged by our night-time excursions in the halls, and complain in a loud voice about all of us, calling us devils, threatening to punish us, vowing to get even with us.

Seeing that no other adults -- not even Miss Madison -- sympathized with him, we felt emboldened, and were delighted with his reactions to us. We "borrowed" his glasses, without which he was unable: to read -- when he hung out his clothes to dry, we hid them, and we waited for his next appearance and his violent, raging, frustrated reactions with great anticipation and delight, moaning in a body with him as he complained about and raged at us.

The torture of Rachmilevitch came to a climax, and an end, when we decided to steal his false teeth. We had often mimicked him when he was eating -- he had a way of sucking on these teeth, which made them click in his mouth -- and we would imitate this habit to the great amusement of most of the other people present. There was something so whole-heartedly mischievous about our behaviour that it was difficult for anyone not to participate in our continually high, merry, malicious spirits. Whenever poor Rachmilevitch was present in any group, invariably his very presence would make all the children begin to giggle, irresistibly and infectiously. His very appear ance was enough to start us laughing uncontrollably.

Whether I volunteered for the teeth-stealing mission or whether I was chosen, I no longer remember. I do remember that it was a well-planned group project, but that I was the one who was to do the actual stealing. To accomplish this, I was secreted in the corridor outside his room one night. A group of five or six of the other children proceeded to make various noises outside his room: wailing, blowing through combs which had been wrapped in toilet paper, pretending we were ghosts and calling out his name mournfully, predicting his immediate death, and so on. We kept this up interminably and as we had foreseen, he was unable to contain himself. He came tearing out of the room, in the dark, in his nightshirt, screaming in helpless rage, chasing the group down the corridor. This was my moment: I rushed into his room, seized the teeth from the glass in which he kept them on the table by his bed, and rushed out with them.

We had had no plan as to what to do with them -- we had not gone so far as to think that we might keep them forever -- and after a long consultation, we decided to hang them on the gas fixture above the dining-room table.

We were, of course, all present the following morning, eagerly awaiting his appearance and squirming in anticipation. No one could have been a more satisfactory target for our machinations: as expected, he came into the dining-room, his face shrunken around the mouth by his lack of teeth, the very living embodiment of frustrated rage. He lashed out at us verbally and physically, until the dining-room was in an uproar as he chased us around the table, demanding in high-pitched screams the return of his teeth. All of us, as if unable to stand the combination of suspense and delight, began casting glances upward, above the table, and Rachmilevitch finally calmed down for long enough to look up and see his teeth, hanging from the gas fixture. Accompanied by our triumphant shouts of laughter, he got up on the table and removed them and replaced them in his mouth. When he sat down again, we realized that we had -- for once -- gone too far.

He managed to eat his breakfast with a certain cold, silent, dignity, but although we continued, as if our motors were running down, to poke fun at him rather listlessly, our hearts were not in it any longer. He looked at us coldly, with a feeling that was even beyond hatred -- the look in his eyes was like that of a wounded animal. He did not, however, let it go at that. He took the matter up with Miss Madison, who then cross-questioned us unendingly. I finally admitted to the actual theft, and although we all received black marks in her little black book, she informed me that I now led the list by an enormous margin. She kept me on in her room when she had dismissed the other children, to enumerate the list of things which she had marked up against me. I did not keep the stables sufficiently clean; I did not sweep the courtyard regularly; I did not keep Gurdjieff's room properly dusted; the chicken yard was a general mess; I was careless about my own room, my clothes and my appearance. In addition, she felt sure that I was the ring-leader in all the offences that had been committed against poor old Mr. Rachmilevitch.

As it was already early in the spring and Gurdjieff's arrival from America was imminent, I did pay some attention to her words. I cleaned up the chicken-yard, and made at least a small improvement in most of my jobs generally, but I was still living in some sort of dreamworld and I put off as many things as I could. When we learned that Gurdjieff was going to arrive on a particular day -- it was told to us the morning of the very day that he was to reach the Prieure -- I surveyed the condition of my various chores and I was horrified. I realized that it would be impossible for me to get everything in order before he arrived. I concentrated on cleaning his rooms thoroughly, and sweeping the courtyard; my most "visible" projects. And, filled with guilt, instead of dropping my work when I knew he was arriving, I continued sweeping the courtyard, and did not go to greet him as everyone else had done. To my horror, he sent for me. I went to join the group, shamefacedly, expecting some immediate retribution for my sins, but he only embraced me warmly and said that he had missed me and that I was to help take his baggage up to his room and bring him coffee. It was a temporary reprieve, but I dreaded what was to come.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:45 am

Chapter 14

THE SATURDAY EVENING after Gurdjieff's return from America, which had been in the middle of the week, was the first general "assembly" of everyone at the Prieure, in the study-house, The study-house was a separate building, originally an air- plane hangar, There was a linoleum-covered raised stage at one end, Directly in front of the stage there was a small, hexagonal fountain, equipped electrically so that various coloured lights played on the water. The fountain was generally used only during the playing of music on the piano which was to the left of the stage as one faced it.

The main part of the building, from the stage to the entrance at the opposite end, was carpeted with oriental rugs of various sizes, surrounded by a small fence which made a large, rectangular open space, Cushions, covered by fur rugs, surrounded the sides of this rectangle in front of the fence, and it was here that most of the students would normally sit, Behind the fence, at a higher level, were built-up benches, also covered with Oriental rugs, for spectators, Near the entrance of the building there was a small cubicle, raised a few feet from the floor, in which Gurdjieff habitually sat, and above this there was a balcon)' which was rarely used and then only for "important" guests, The cross-wise beams of the ceiling had painted material nailed to them, and the material hung down in billows, creating a cloud-like effect, It was an impressive interior -- with a church-like feeling about it, One had the impression that it would be improper, even when it was empty, to speak above a whisper inside the building.

On that particular Saturday evening, Gurdjieff sat in his accustomed cubicle, Miss Madison sat near him on the floor with her little black book on her lap, and most of the students sat around, inside the fence, on the fur rugs. New arrivals and "spectators" or guests were on the higher benches behind the fence. Mr. Gurdjieff announced that Miss Madison would go over all the "offences" of all the students and that proper "punishments" would be meted out to the offenders. All of the children, and perhaps I, especially, waited with bated breath as Miss Madison read from her book, which seemed to have been arranged, not alphabetically, but according to the number of offences committed. As Miss Madison had warned me, I led the list, and the recitation of my crimes and offences was a lengthy one.

Gurdjieff listened impassively, occasionally glancing at one or another of the offenders, sometimes smiling at the recital of a particular misdemeanour, and interrupting Miss Madison only to take down, personally, the actual number of individual black marks. When she had completed her reading, there was a solemn, breathless silence in the room and Gurdjieff said, with a heavy sigh, that we had all created a great burden for him. He said then that he would give out punishments according to the number of offences committed. Naturally, I was the first one to be called. He motioned to me to sit on the floor before him and then had Miss Madison re-read my offences in detail. When she had finished, he asked me if I admitted all of them. I was tempted to refute some of them, at least in part, and to argue extenuating circumstances, but the solemnity of the proceedings and the silence in the room prevented me from doing so. Every word that had been uttered had dropped on the assemblage with the clarity of a bell. I did not have the courage to voice any weak defence that might have come to my mind, and I admitted that the list was accurate.

With another sigh, and shaking his head at me as if he was very much put upon, he reached into his pocket and pulled out an enormous roll of bills. Once again, he enumerated the number of my crimes, and then laboriously peeled off an equal number of notes. I do not remember exactly how much he gave me -- I think it was ten francs for each offence -- but when he had finished counting, he handed me a sizeable roll of francs. During this process, the entire room practically screamed with silence. There was not a murmur from anyone in the entire group, and I did not even dare to glance in Miss Madison's direction.

When my money had been handed to me, he dismissed me and called up the next offender and went through the same process. As there were a great many of us, and there was not one individual who had not done something, violated some rule during his absence, the process took a long time. When he had gone through the list, he turned to Miss Madison and handed her some small sum -- perhaps ten francs, or the equivalent of one "crime" payment -- for her, as he put it, "conscientious fulfilment of her obligations as director of the Prieure."

We were all aghast; we had been taken completely by surprise, of course. But the main thing we all felt was a tremendous compassion for Miss Madison. It seemed to me a senselessly cruel, heartless act against her. I have never known Miss Madison's feelings about this performance; except for blushing furiously when I was paid, she showed no obvious reaction to anything at all, and even thanked him for the pittance he had given her.

***

The money that I had received amazed me. It was, literally, more money than I had ever had at one time in my life. But it also repelled me. I could not bring myself to do anything with it. It was not until a few days later, one evening when I had been summoned to bring coffee to Gurdjieff's room, that the subject came up again. I had had no private, personal contact with him -- in the sense of actually talking to him, for instance -- since his return. That evening -- he was alone -- when I had served him his coffee, he asked me how I was getting along; how I felt. I blurted out my feelings about Miss Madison and about the money that I felt unable to spend.

He laughed at me and said cheerfully that there was no reason why I should not spend the money any way I chose. It was my money, and it was a reward for my activity of the past winter. I said I could not understand why I should have been rewarded for having been dilatory about my jobs and having created only trouble.

Gurdjieff laughed again and told me that I had much to learn.

"What you not understand," he said, "is that not everyone can be troublemaker, like you. This important in life -- is ingredient, like yeast for making bread. Without trouble, conflict, life become dead. People live in status-quo, live only by habit, automatically, and without conscience. You good for Miss Madison. You irritate Miss Madison all time -- more than anyone else, which is why you get most reward. Without you, possibility for Miss Madison's conscience fall asleep. This money should really be reward from Miss Madison, not from me. You help keep Miss Madison alive."

I understood the actual, serious sense in which he meant what he was saying, but I said that I felt sorry for Miss Madison, that it must have been a terrible experience for her when she saw us all receiving those rewards.

He shook his head at me, still laughing. "You not see or understand important thing that happen to Miss Madison when give money. How you feel at time? You feel pity for Miss Madison, no? All other people also feel pity for Miss Madison, too."

I agreed that this was so.

"People not understand about learning," he went on. "Think necessary talk all time, that learn through mind, through words. Not so. Many things can only learn with feeling, even from sensation. But because man talk all time -- use only formulatory centre -- people not understand this. What you not see other night in study-house is that Miss Madison have new experience for her. Is poor woman, people not like, people think she funny -- they laugh at. But other night, people not laugh. True, Miss Madison feel uncomfortable, feel embarrassed when I give money, feel shame perhaps. But when many people also feel for her sympathy, pity, compassion, even love, she understand this but not right away with mind. She feel, for first time in life, sympathy from many people. She not even know then that she feel this, but her life change; with you, I use you like example, last summer you hate Miss Madison. Now you not hate, you not think funny, you feel sorry. You even like "Miss Madison. This good for her even if she not know right away -- you will show; you cannot hide this from her, even if wish, cannot hide. So she now have friend, when used to be enemy. This good thing which I do for Miss Madison. I not concerned she understand this now -- someday she understand and make her feel warm in heart. This unusual experience -- this warm feeling -- for such personality as Miss Madison who not have charm, who not friendly in self. Someday, perhaps even soon, she have good feeling because many people feel sorry, feel compassion for her. Someday she even understand what I do and even like me for this. But this kind learning take long time."

I understood him completely and was very moved by his words. But he had not finished

"Also good thing for you in this," he said. "You young, only boy still, you not care about other people, care for self. I do this to Miss Madison and you think I do bad thing. You feel sorry, you not forget, you think I do bad thing to her. But now you understand not so. Also, good for you, because you feel about other person -- you identify with Miss Madison, put self in her place, also regret what you do. Is necessary put self in place of other person if wish understand and help. This good for your conscience, this way is possibility for you learn not hate Miss Madison. All people same -- stupid, blind, human. If I do bad thing, this make you learn love other people, not just self."
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:45 am

Chapter 15

GURDJIEFF'S TRIP TO the United States had been made, according to him, for various reasons -- one of the most important ones being to make enough money to keep the Institute going at the Prieure. Mr. Gurdjieff did not own the property, but rented it on a long-term lease, and since very few of the students were "paying guests", money was needed to make the various rental payments as well as to provide the food that we were unable to grow or produce on the land; to pay the light and gas and coal bills. And Mr. Gurdjieff's own expenses were also heavy at that time: he maintained an apartment in Paris, and had had to pay for the passage of all the students he had taken to America with him -- enough, for instance, to be able to put on a demonstration of his gymnastics while he was there.

On his return, he frequently regaled us with stories about his adventures in America, about the American habit of embracing with open arms any new "movement", "theory", or "philosophy", simply in order to divert themselves, and about their gullibility in general. He would tell us how it was almost impossible for them not to give him money -- the very act of giving him money made them feel important, and he called this "extortion" of them "shearing sheep". He said that most of them had pockets that were so full of green folding "stuff" that it gave them itchy fingers and they could not wait to part with it. Nevertheless, in spite of his stories about them and the way he made fun of them, he genuinely liked the Americans and, on occasions when he was not making fun of them, he would point out that, of all the peoples of the Western World, they were distinguished by various characteristics: their energy, ingenuity and their real generosity. Also, though gullible, they were good-hearted and eager to learn. Whatever their attributes or their faults, he had managed, during his stay in America, to collect a very large sum of money. I doubt that anyone of us knew exactly how much, but it was generally believed to be in excess of $100,000,000. The first obvious show of spending after his return to France was the sudden and unexpected delivery of literally scores of bicycles to the Prieure. They arrived by the truckload, and Gurdjieff personally distributed them to everyone there, with only a very few exceptions: himself, his wife, and one or two of the smallest children. We were all amazed, and a great many of the Americans were appalled at this seeming waste of the money which many of them had helped to contribute to his "cause". Whatever his reasons for the acquisition of bicycles, the results were shatteringly colourful.

There were incredibly few people, considering the number of students living at the Prieure at the time, who could actually ride a bicycle. But they had not been purchased idly -- they were to be ridden. The entire grounds became a sort of enormous training-ground for bicycle riders. For days, and in the case of many of us, weeks, the grounds rang with the sound of bicycle bells, crashes, shouts of laughter and pain. In large groups we rode, teetering and collapsing to our assigned work on projects in the gardens and the woodlands. Anyone who had some valid reason or excuse for walking soon learned to beware of what had formerly been footpaths; for like as not, a bicycle would come careering at them, its rider frozen in horror and totally out of control, as he or she crashed into the unfortunate pedestrian or another equally helpless rider .

I suppose that most of us learned to ride quickly enough, although I seem to remember having bruised knees and elbows most of the summer. However long the process actually took, it seemed a very long time before it was safe to either ride or walk in the Prieure grounds without genuine danger from almost any angle in the form of some novice bicyclist.

Another project that was initiated that same summer was equally colourful, although it did not involve the spending of any great sums of money. Everyone, with the sole exception of a skeleton group who had to work in the kitchen or on duty at the concierge, was put to work on the re-making of the lawns -- the same lawns that I had mowed so arduously that first summer. No one escaped this duty, not even those so-called "distinguished" guests: persons who came for short visits, presumably to discuss Mr. Gurdjieff's theories with him, and who, up to that time, had not participated in work projects. Every available tool was put to use and the lawns were littered with people digging up the grass, raking, re-seeding, and rolling the new seed into the ground with heavy iron rollers. People worked so closely together that it sometimes seemed as if there was barely room for them all. During this activity, Gurdjieff would march up and down among all the workers, criticizing them individually, goading them on, and helping to contribute a feeling of furious, senseless activity to the whole proceedings. As one of the more recent American students remarked, surveying this ant-like activity, it was as if the entire student body, and perhaps particularly Gurdjieff, had at least temporarily taken leave of their senses.

At intervals, and sometimes for several hours at a time, Gurdjieff would suddenly cease his supervision of us, and go to sit at his small table from which he could watch all of us, and write steadily on his books. This only added to the comical aspect of the whole project.

It was on the second or third day that one voice rose in protest against the whole project. It was Rachmilevitch. In a towering rage, he laid down whatever implement he had been using, marched straight up to Gurdjieff and told him that what we were doing was insane. There were so many people working on the lawns, according to him, that the new grass-seed might better be thrown away than sown under our feet. People were digging and raking aimlessly, wherever they could find a vacant spot, paying no attention to what they were doing.

In what seemed to be equal fury, Gurdjieff protested against this uncalled for criticism -- he knew better than anyone in the world how to "rebuild" lawns, he was an expert, he was not to be criticized, and so on, ad infinitum. After several minutes of this raging argument, Rachmilevitch turned on his heels and strode away. Everyone -- we had all been impressed with his standing up to the "master" in this way -- stopped their work and watched him until he disappeared into the woods beyond the furthest lawns.

It was not until an hour or so later, when we were about to pause for our usual afternoon tea, that Mr. Gurdjieff called me over to him. At some length he told me that it was essential that Mr. Rachmilevitch be found and brought back. He said that in order to save Rachmilevitch's face it was necessary to send for him, that he would never return of his own accord, and he instructed me to harness the horse and go and find him. When I protested that I did not even know where to begin to look, he said that he was sure that if I followed my own instincts I would locate him without difficulty and that, perhaps, even the horse would help.

In an attempt to put myself in Rachmilevitch's place, when I had harnessed the horse to the wagon, I set off towards the woods beyond the main, formal gardens. It seemed to me that he could only have gone to one of the distant vegetable gardens -- a walk of at least a mile, and I headed for the furthest one, at the very end of the property. On the way I was troubled about what I would do if and when I did find him, particularly since I had been the chief culprit in the conspiracy against him during the winter. Nothing had ever been said about that to me -- at least not by Gurdjieff -- and I felt that I had been selected only because I was in charge of the horse, and that Gurdjieff could not have picked any less suitable candidate for this errand.

I was not very surprised when my hunch proved to be right. He was in the garden, as I had hoped he might be. But, as if to lend a dreamlike quality to the affair, he was not in what I would have thought a normal, usual place. He was, of all things, sitting up in an apple tree. Concealing my astonishment -- I really did think he was mad -- I drove the horse and wagon directly underneath the tree and stated my errand. He looked at me distantly and refused to go back. I did not know of any arguments -- I could not think of any good reasons -- with which to persuade him to come back, so I said that I would wait there as long as he did; that I could not return without him. After a long silence, during which he occasionally glared at me, he suddenly, without a word, dropped quietly into the wagon from the tree and then sat on the seat next to me as I drove back to the main house. Tea had been saved for us and we sat across from each other at the table as we drank our tea, while Gurdjieff watched us from a distant table. Everyone else had gone back to work.

When we had finished, Gurdjieff told me to unl1arness the horse, thanked me for finding Rachmilevitch, and said that he would see me later.

Gurdjieff came to the stable before I was through with the horse and asked me to tell him exactly where I had found Mr. Rachmilevitch. When I told him that I had found him sitting in a tree in the "far garden" he looked at me, incredulous, made me repeat this -- asked me if I was absolutely sure -- and I assured him that he had been in a tree and that I had had to sit there for a long time, under the tree, before he had consented to come back with me. He asked me what arguments I had used and I confessed that I had not been able to think of anything except to say that he had to come back. and that I had said I would wait there for as long as he would. Gurdjieff seemed to find this whole story very amusing and thanked me profusely for telling it to him.

Poor Mr. Rachmilevitch. When everyone was assembled in the salon that evening, he was still an object of interest to us all. It was the first time that any of us could remember one single individual defying Gurdjieff in the presence of everyone else. But the incident was not over. After the customary playing of music on the piano by M. de Hartmann, Mr. Gurdjieff told us that he had a very amusing story to tell us, and proceeded to reconstruct, in elaborate details, and with a great many new embellishments of his own, the story of Rachmilevitch's defiance of the afternoon, his disappearance, and my "capture" of him. Not only was the story highly embellished, but he also acted out all the parts -- himself, Rachmilevitch, the interested spectators, myself, even the horse. Amusing as it was to all of us, it was more than Rachrnilevitch could bear. For the second time that day, he strode away from Gurdjieff after a furious outburst, vowing that he would leave the Prieure for ever; he had, finally, had enough.

I do not believe that anyone took him seriously at the time, but, to our surprise and consternation, he actually did leave the following day for Paris. He had been so much a part of the place, so conspicuous because of his never-ending complaints, that it was like the end of an era -- as if some essential property of the school had suddenly vanished.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:46 am

Chapter 16

JANE HEAP HAD returned to France at the same time as Gurdjieff, and had, of course, been to the Prieure to see us. With her return, and to my regret, the visits to Paris to see Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas had come to an end. I was very surprised when I was sent for one afternoon by the concierge, and told that I had a visitor. I was very pleased to learn that it was Gertrude and was very happy to see her, but my happiness was dispelled almost at once. Gertrude took a short walk with me in the grounds of the school, gave me a box of candy which she told me was a "farewell" gift for both of us from herself and Alice. She did not give me any opportunity to remonstrate with her, and said that she had made the trip to Fontainebleau especially to see us (I do not remember now whether she actually saw Tom or not) because she did not want to part from us by simply writing a letter.

When I asked her what she meant, she said that because of some difficulty she was having with Jane, and also because she still thought that we were not being properly brought up, she had decided that she could no longer go on seeing us. Any relationship with her, because of her disagreement with Jane -- and, I gathered, with Gurdjieff as well -- would inevitably only make trouble for us. There was nothing that I could say to this. Gertrude cut my protests short, said that she was very sorry to have to do what she was doing, but that there was no other way out.

I was shocked and saddened by this sudden, unexpected end to what had been a very happy, exciting and rewarding relationship, and, perhaps mistakenly, I think I blamed Jane for it. I cannot remember whether I ever mentioned it to Jane, or whether she explained it to me, but I do remember feeling, perhaps mistakenly, that she -- not Gurdjieff -- was the cause. Whatever the cause, my relationship with Jane deteriorated steadily from that time on, and while she was still my legal guardian, I rarely saw her. Looking back on my behaviour at that time, it now seems to me that I was being uncivilized to a high degree -- I don't know about Jane. Jane made her usual periodic visits to the Prieure on weekends but while I actually did see her -- that is, I saw her with my eyes from a distance -- we hardly spoke to each other for a period of about two years. She did, of course, see Tom and Gurdjieff, and I knew from the general gossip at the school and from Tom that the "problem of Fritz" was frequently discussed and also that Gurdjieff had been brought into these discussions; however, during that entire time, when I was still in very close contact with Gurdjieff because of my room-cleaning duties, he never mentioned Jane to me, and his behaviour towards me never altered. Not only did it not alter, but, partly because of the break with Jane, my feelings of respect and love for him only increased.

***

When Gurdjieff returned from his first trip to Paris after the "Rachmilevitch affair", to our surprise, he brought Rachmilevitch back with him. In the short period that he had been absent from the Prieure he seemed to have changed a great deal. He now appeared to be resigned instead of contentious and quarrelsome, and in the course of time we even began to feel a certain affection for him. I was very curious about his return and while I did not have the temerity to bring up the subject directly when I was with Gurdjieff, he brought it up himself. He simply asked me, unexpectedly, if I were not surprised to see Rachmilevitch back at the Prieure, and I told him that I was very surprised and admitted that I was, also, curious as to how it had happened; his resolve to leave for ever had been very definite.

Gurdjieff then told me the story of Rachmilevitch. According to this tale, Rachmilevitch had been a Russian refugee who had located in Paris after the Russian revolution and had become a prosperous merchant dealing in such merchandise as teas, caviar, and various other products for which there was, primarily, a demand among displaced Russian persons. Gurdjieff had apparently known him for a long time -- he may have been one of the people who came to France with Gurdjieff from Russia some years before -- and had decided that his personality was an essential element in the school.

"You remember," he said, "how I tell you that you make trouble? This true, but you only child. Rachmilevitch grown man and not mischievous, like you, but have such personality that he constantly cause friction whatever he do, wherever he live. He not make serious trouble, but he make friction on surface of life, all the time. He cannot help this -- he too old to change now.

"When I tell you that though Rachmilevitch is already rich merchant I pay him to stay here, you are surprised, but this so. He very old friend and very important for my purposes. I cannot pay him what he can already make, all by self, in tea business in Paris; so when I go to see him I humble self, have to beg him to make sacrifice for my sake. He agree to do this, and I now have obligation to him for life. Without Rachmilevitch, Prieure is not same; I know no one person like him, no person who just by existence, without conscious effort, produce friction in all people around him."

I had by this time acquired the habit of always assuming that in anything that Gurdjieff did there was always "more than meets the eye" ; I was also familiar with his theory that friction produced conflicts which, in turn, agitated people and, as it were, shocked them out of their habitual, routine behaviour; also I could not help but wonder what rewards were in this for Rachmilevitch, besides money, that is. Gurdjieff's only answer to this was to say that it was also a privilege for Rachmilevitch to be at the Prieure. "Nowhere else can his personality perform such useful work." I was not particularly impressed by this answer, but I did have a picture in my mind of Rachmilevitch's every move being of great importance. It seemed, at best, a curious destiny -- he must, I assumed, live in a constant state of cataclysm, creating havoc incessantly.

There was no question that his presence not only created trouble, but also seemed to attract it. Very shortly after his return, he and I were again the focal points in another "incident".

It was my day on kitchen duty. As was customary for the "kitchen-boy" I got up at four-thirty in the morning. Since I was lazy by nature and also at that age, the only way I could be sure of awakening on time for kitchen duty was to drink as many glasses of water as I could before I went to bed at about eleven the night before. Alarm clocks were unheard of at the Prieure, and this recipe for early rising (which someone had suggested to me) never failed to work. As the nearest toilet was at a considerable distance from my room, there was no doubt of my actual waking up and I did not fall asleep again. The only difficulty was in regulating the amount of water. Too often I awakened at three, instead of four-thirty. Even on those mornings I did not dare to go back to bed again, and could not face drinking another quantity of water sufficient to waken me in another hour or so.

The kitchen boy's first duties were to build the fires in the coke stoves, fill the coal scuttles, make the coffee and heat the milk, slice and toast the bread. The water for the coffee took a long time to come to a boil as it was heated in twenty-five litre enamelware pots, which were also used to make the soup for the midday meal. The cook -- there was usually a different cook every day, but the menus were written down, with recipes, in advance for each day of the week -- normally was not required to appear in the kitchen until breakfast was over. On this particular day, the cook had not appeared by nine-thirty and I began to worry. I looked at the menu, and the recipe for the soup of the day, and since I had often seen the various cooks prepare the meal that was scheduled for that day, I made the necessary preliminary preparations.

When the cook had still not appeared by about ten o'clock I sent some child to find out what had happened to her and was told that she was sick and would not be able to come to the kitchen. I took my dilemma to Gurdjieff, and he said that since I had already started the meal I might as well return to the kitchen and finish it. "You be cook today," he said grandly.

I was very nervous about the responsibility, as well as rather proud of being entrusted with it. My greatest difficulty was in having to move the enormous soup kettles around the top of the large coal stove when I had to add coal to the fire, which was frequently necessary in order to keep the soup cooking. I worked hard all the morning and was reasonably proud of myself when I managed to finish the meal and deliver it, intact, to the serving table. The cook being absent, it was also necessary for me to serve it.

Habitually, the students formed a line, each person with his soup plate, silver, etc., in his hands, and as they passed by the serving table the cook would serve them one piece .of meat and a ladleful of soup. Everything went well for a time. It was not until Rachmilevitch appeared -- among the last to be served -- that my difficulties began. The soup pot was almost empty by the time he reached me and I had to tilt it in order to fill the ladle. When I served him -- it seemed to me that it was decreed by our mutual fates -- the ladle also brought up a fair-sized lump of coke. It was a thick soup and I did not see the coke until it was deposited, with a hard, clanking sound, in his soup plate.

Judging by Rachmilevitch's reaction, his world came to an end at that instant. He started in on a tirade against me that I thought would never end. Everything that all of the children had done to him during the past winter was brought up, hashed over in detail; and as he cursed and raged I stood helplessly behind the soup kettle, silent. The tirade came to an end with Gurdjieff's appearance. He did not usually appear at lunch -- he did not eat lunch -- and he explained his appearance by saying that we were making so much noise that he was unable to work.

Rachmilevitch turned on him immediately, beginning his recital of woes and wrongs all over again from the beginning. Gurdjieff watched him steadily, unblinking, and this seemed to have a calming effect. Rachmilevitch's voice gradually lowered in tone, and he seemed to run down. Without saying anything to him, Gurdjieff picked the lump of coke out of Rachmilevitch's soup plate, threw it on the ground, and asked for a plate of soup himself. He said that since there was a new cook today, he felt that it was his responsibility to taste his cooking. Someone went for a soup plate for him, I served him what remained in the soup pot and he ate it, silently. When he had finished, he came over to me, congratulated me loudly, and said that the soup -- this particular soup -- was a favourite of his and was better than he had ever tasted.

He then turned to the assembled students and said that he had great experience and training in many things, and that in the course of his life he had learned a great deal about food, chemistry, and proper cooking, which included, of course, the taste of things. He said that while this particular soup was one that he had, personally, invented and which he liked very much, he now realized that it had always lacked one element to make it perfect. With a sort of obeisance in my direction, he praised me saying that I, by a fortunate accident, had found the perfect thing -- the one thing that this soup needed. Carbon. He ended this speech by saying that he would instruct his secretary to change the recipe to include one piece of coke -- not to be eaten, but to be added for flavour only. He then invited Rachmilevitch to have after-dinner coffee with him, and they left the dining area together.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:46 am

Chapter 17

ALTHOUGH THERE WERE many people at the Prieure who were considered important for one reason or another, such as Madame de Hartmann, his secretary, and her husband, the pianist and composer, M. de Hartmann, who arranged and played the various pieces of music which Gurdjieff composed on his small "harmonium", the most impressive permanent resident was his wife, who was always known to us as Madame Ostrovsky.

She was a very tall, big-boned, handsome woman, and she seemed to be ever-present, moving almost silently along the corridors of the buildings, supervising the operation of the kitchens, the laundry-rooms and the general housekeeping work. I never knew exactly how much, or what, authority she had. On the few occasions when she actually said anything to us, which were rare, there was no question in our minds but that her word was law. I remember being particularly fascinated by the way she moved; she walked without any perceptible movement of her head and without the slightest jerkiness in her movements; she was never hurried, but at the same time she worked at incredible speed; every movement she made in whatever she was doing was absolutely essential to that particular activity. During the first summer at the Prieure she usually prepared Gurdjieff's meals and took them to his room, and it was when she was in the kitchen that we had an opportunity to observe her at work. She rarely spoke, in fact, she did not seem to use words as a means of communication unless it was absolutely essential, and when she did speak, she never raised her voice. She seemed surrounded by an aura of gentle firmness; everyone regarded her with a certain awe, and she inspired a very real feeling of devotion, although it was hardly ever expressed outwardly, among all the children.

Although most of us had no contact with her in the usual sense-for example, I doubt that she ever even addressed me personally-when we learned that she was seriously ill, it was a matter of concern to all of us. We missed the feeling of unspoken authority that she had always carried with her, and the lack of her presence gave us a feeling of definite, if indefin able, loss.

Her illness, in addition, made a great change in Gurdjieff's routine. Once she was confined to her room-which faced his room and was of equal size, but at the opposite end of the main building-Gurdjieff began to spend several hours with her each day. He would go to her room for a short visit each morning, supervise the persons who were delegated to taking care of her-his two eldest nieces and, on occasion, others- and would then return after lunch, usually to spend the entire afternoon with her.

During this period, our contact with Gurdjieff was rare, except for the evenings in the salon. He was preoccupied and withdrawn and left almost all of the details of the running of the Prieure to others. We occasionally saw him when we were on kitchen duty as he would come to the kitchens to supervise, personally, the preparation of her food. She was on a diet which included a large amount of blood, pressed in a small hand press from meat which had been especially selected and purchased for her.

At the beginning of her illness, she did make occasional appearances on the terrace, to sit in the sun, but as the summer went on she finally took to her room permanently. Gurdjieff informed us, one evening, that she was incurably ill with some form of cancer and that the doctors -- some two months before -- had given her only two weeks to live. He said that although it might take all his strength, he was determined to keep her alive for as long as possible. He said that she was "living through him" and that it took almost all of his daily energy, but that he hoped to keep her alive for another year, or at least for six months.

As I was still in charge of his rooms, I necessarily had a certain amount of contact with him. He would often send for coffee during the night, which was now the only time he gave to his writing -- often staying up until four or five in the morning, having worked from about ten o'clock the night before.

In addition to the chickens, the donkey, the horse, a number of sheep, and for a time one cow, there were a number of cats and dogs around the Prieure. One of the dogs, a rather ugly black and white mongrel, had always tended to follow Gurdjieff around, but not to such an extent that he could have been called Gurdjieff's dog. At this period, with Gurdjieff rarely absent from the Prieure -- he had cut his trips to Paris to an absolute minimum -- this dog, named Philos by Gurdjieff. became his constant companion. He not only followed him everywhere, but also slept in Gurdjieff's room unless Gurdjieff put him out personally, which he usually did, telling me that he did not like anyone or anything sleeping in the same room with him. Upon being put out of the room, Philos would curl up directly in front of the door, and then go to sleep against it. He was a reasonably fierce watchdog and became very protective of Gurdjieff. He was, however, extremely tolerant of me as I was -- obviously with Gurdjieff's permission -- constantly coming and going to and from Gurdjieff's room. When I would enter it late at night with my tray of coffee, he would glare up at me, yawn and permit me to step over him and enter the room.

One night, it was very late and the entire Prieure was silent and dark with the exception of Gurdjieff's room, Gurdjieff set aside his work when I came in and told me to sit on the bed beside him. He talked at some length about his work, how hard his writing was, how exhausting his daily work with Madame Ostrovsky, and then, as usual, asked me about myself. I recapi. tulated the various things that I was doing, and he commented that since I had a great deal to do with animals -- I took care of the chickens, the horse, the donkey, and recently had been feeding Philos, too -- he would like to know what I thought of them. I said that I thought of them all as my friends and told him, to his amusement, that I even had names for all the chickens.

He said that the chickens were not important -- very stupid creatures -- but that he hoped that I would take good care of the other animals. The donkey did not matter too much, but he was concerned with the horse and the dogs. "Horse and dog, and sometimes also true of cow," he said, "are special animals Can do many things with such animals. In America, in Western world, people make fools of dogs -- make learn tricks, other stupid things. But these animals truly special -- no longer just animals." He then asked me if I had ever heard of reincarnation and I said that I had. He said that there were people, some Buddhists for example, who had many theories about reincarnation, some "even believe animal can become man or sometimes that man in next reincarnation can become animal." He laughed when ht. said this, and then added: "Man do many strange things with religion when learn a little -- make up new things for religion, sometimes things that have little truth, but usually come from original thing that was true. In case of dogs, they not all wrong," he said. "Animals have only two centres -- man is three-centred being, with body, heart, and mind, all different. Animal cannot acquire third brain and become man; but just because of this, because of this impossibility to acquire third brain, is necessary always treat animals with kindness. You know this word, 'kindness'?"

I said that I did, and he said: "Never forget this word. Very good word and not exist in many languages. Not in French, for instance. French say 'gentil' but this not mean same thing. Not kind, kind come from kin, like family, like same thing. Kindness mean to treat like self."

"Reason for necessity treat dog and horse with kindness," he went on, "is because unlike all other animal, and even though he know cannot become man, cannot acquire third brain like man, in his heart all dog and horse who associate with man wish become man. You look at dog or horse and you always see, in eyes, this sadness because know not possible for them, but even so, they wish. This very sad thing to wish for impossible. They wish this because of man. Man corrupts such animals, man almost try to make dog and horse human. You have heard people say 'my dog almost like human' -- they not know they speak near-truth when say this, because is almost truth, but still impossible. Dog and horse seem like human because have this wish. So, Freets," -- as he always pronounced my name -- "you remember this important thing. Take good care of animals; always be kind."

He then spoke about Madame Ostrovsky. He said that his work with her was extremely tiring and very difficult "because I try to do thing with her which almost not possible. If she alone, already she be long time dead. I keep alive, make stay alive, with my strength; very difficult thing. But also very important -- this most important moment in life for her. She live many lives, is very old soul; she now have possibility ascend to other world. But sickness come and make more difficult, make impossible for her do this thing alone. If can keep alive few months more will not have to come back and live this life again. You now part of Prieure family -- my family -- you can help by making strong wish for her, not for long life, but for proper death at right time. Wish can help, is like prayer when for other. When for self, prayer and wish no good; only work good for self. But when wish with heart for other, can help."

When he had finished, he looked at me for a long time, patted my head in that affectionate animal way, and sent me to bed.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:46 am

Chapter 18

ALTHOUGH GURDJIEFF WAS always set apart from everyone else at the Prieure, unquestioned, and accorded great respect which was combined with a proper element of fear, his "dictatorship" was also very benevolent. There was a side of his nature that was not only physically magnetic and animal-like, but extremely earthy. His sense of humour was often very subtle, in an oriental sense, but also had a broad, crude side, and he was a very sensual man.

He manifested this side of himself particularly when he was alone with the men and boys -- in the Turkish bath or, during the summer, at the swimming pool. Our swimming pool was at the far end of the formal lawns and gardens, facing the chateau beyond the expanse of lawns. Contrary to popular belief, there was no mingling of the sexes in any "immoral" sense. The men and women bathed separately at the bath, and different hours were allotted for male or female use of the swimming pool. There was, in fact, a very strict code of morality in this purely physical sense, and we were highly amused when people sent us clippings from the Sunday supplements of various newspapers which "proved" that the Institute was a nudist colony, or a "free-love" group -- some sort of crack-pot organization tinged with a certain licentiousness. Actually the nearest thing to "nudity" was the common habit -- for some of the men only, of course -- of working out of doors stripped to the waist. And, while it was true that we swam without bathing suits, the swimming pool was equipped with curtains which were always drawn whenever anyone went in swimming. It was forbidden, in fact, for even the small children to swim without drawing the curtains.

In spite of Gurdjieff's many preoccupations -- especially his wife's illness -- that summer, he frequently joined the other men and the boys at their allotted hour before lunch at the swimming pool When everyone had stripped, Gurdjieff would, inevitably, begin to joke about their bodies, their sexual prowess, their varIous physical habits. The jokes were usually what would be called "dirty" or at least "lewd" and he found all such stories highly amusing, whether he told them or whether they were told by the other men who were quick to join in the spirit of such joking. One of his favourite amusements or diversions at the swimming pool was to line all the men up facing in one direction and then compare their sunburns. This became a ritual of what Gurdjieff called the "white ass" club. He would look at all of us from the rear, remarking on the various shades of tan or sunburn, and the glowing whiteness of our buttocks. He would then make us all turn around and make additional comments on the size and variety of male genitalia exposed to him. Finally, we would, each time he appeared to swim, be rated, as members in good standing of his "white ass" club. Tom and I usually rated high -- in addition to deeply tanned backs and chests, since we were children and wore shorts, our legs were also deeply tanned, and because of this he would make some comment, usually to the effect that our small buttocks were "asses that shine with whiteness, like stars."

A good many of the older men, particularly the Russians, not only did not expose themselves to the sun, but rather disliked any form of nudity and were usually embarrassed by these proceedings. They, of course, rated very low on the list, but Gurdjieff, himself, was the lowest. So low, as he said, that he actually belonged to a different club. Since he always wore a hat -- winter and summer -- although his face was dark, his bald head was a glistening white. His club, of which he was the president and sole member, was called something like the "white crown" club, and he would compare the whiteness of his bald pate with the whiteness -- he made elaborate comparisons of the degree of white always -- of our behinds.

One of his favourite stories on these occasions was a long, involved tale about a farmhand who was having an affair with the farmer's wife. The farmer, suspecting his wife and the farmhand, went searching for them with his rifle, and discovered them when he perceived, in the moonlight, the farmhand's white ass, bouncing rhythmically through the darkness, shining in the reflected light of the moon. Although these stories were often repeated and many of them were not, in the first place, particularly funny, his own immense enjoyment in telling them made us all laugh. He was a superb storyteller, spinning out even the dullest tales to such fantastic lengths, embellishing them with such ornamentation and detail, accompanied by pointed, significant gestures and expressions, that it was impossible not to listen to him with total absorption.

The subtler side of his humour -- which was always complicated and involved -- expressed itself very differently. Early that summer, a group of us, for our own amusement, had been exploring the cellars of the main building and we had come across a tunnel. While we did follow it for almost half a mile, the rats, cobwebs, and mouldy dankness, and the complete darkness, kept us from trying to reach its end. There was a rumour that, since the Prieure had been reputedly built by Louis XIV for Madame de Maintenon, this was an underground passage to the Palace of Fontainebleau. Be that as it may, Gurdjieff was greatly interested in our discovery of this tunnel, and went to examine it personally.

A week or so after this discovery, he told me that he had an important job for me. He talked at some length about the tunnel, and then asked me to take a bottle of the ordinary red wine which we drank at meals, and bought at that time for about eight cents a litre, open it, pour out half of it and then refill the bottle by the addition of half a bottle of sparkling Perrier water. I was then to re cork the bottle, seal it with sealing wax, cover it with sand and cobwebs -- "wonderful cobwebs for this purpose in tunnel" -- and bring it to him when he called for it.

I must have looked puzzled, and he went on to explain that two very distinguished guests were scheduled to visit him the following week. This wine was being prepared especially for them. He would call me and when he asked for "one of the bottles of the special old wine" I was to bring this bottle with a cork-screw and two glasses. He smiled a good deal during these instructions and I made no comment about them, although I knew that he was "up to something" -- a phrase he often used when he was planning anything.

The two visitors arrived. They were well-known to me, in fact they were well-known, by reputation, to everyone there, and they elicited the automatic admiration and respect that is generally accorded to "famous" people, whether actually deserved or not. I ushered the visitors -- both women -- to Gurdjieff's room and then retired to my waiting post near the bell (there were two bells for me -- one in the kitchen and one in my room) .When I heard the expected ring I ran to his room and was told to bring "the special old, rare wine that we had found during a recent project of excavating the ruins of the original monastery". This colourful exaggeration had a basis in fact. The Prieure had been, in the 12th century, a monastery and there were a few ruins to substantiate this. Those ruins, of course, had nothing at all to do with the tunnel from the cellars. The original monastery building had been at a completely different location on the property.

I brought the wine as I had been instructed with only two glasses, the bottle completely covered with dirt, sand and cobwebs, plus a napkin with which to hold it -- my personal touch of elegance. Before telling me to open the bottle (he simply told me to wait there for a few minutes) he told them the story of the wine that was about to be served.

He began with a long, and highly inaccurate, account of the founding of the Prieure (in goo) by some order of monks who, among other things, like all monks, made wine. "These special monks; very intelligent. Monks like this no longer exist on earth. With such intelligence," he continued, "naturally such monk make also very wonderful wine."

He then said, with a quick, stern glance at me, as if to silence any possible laughter from me, "I have many projects, all very important, at Prieure. One project this year is excavation of old ruins." He then described, at great length, the number of people and the great energy involved in this project and how, miraculously, we had come across eleven bottles of wine. ..wine that had been made by these self-same intelligent monks. "Now come problem for me ... who I know worthy to drink such wine; wine that no longer exist anywhere in world except here at Prieure? This wine too good for me. I already ruin stomach with drinking Armagnac. Then I think of just you ladies, who, as if by Act of God, plan to visit me. J ust most suitable ladies to first taste this wine."

I was then ordered to open the bottle. I wrapped it in the napkin, uncorked it and poured a little of the "wine" into the two glasses. Gurdjieff watched me with great intensity, and when I passed the wine to the two ladies, he turned his equally intense attention to them; he appeared to be burning with anticipation, unable to wait for their reaction.

The ladies, properly impressed and suiting their actions to the momentous occasion, lifted their glasses gingerly in his direction and sipped, delicately. Gurdjieff was unable to restrain himself. "Tell!" he commanded them. "How taste this wine ?" The ladies, as if overcome, were momentarily unable to speak. At last, one of them, with half-closed eyes, murmured that it was "superb"; the other adding that she had never tasted anything to compare with it.

Puzzled, and embarrassed on their account, I started to leave the room but Gurdjieff stopped me with a firm gesture and indicated that I was to refill their glasses. I stayed with them until they had finished the bottle, with continued appropriate exclamations of rapture and ecstasy. He then told me to take the bottle and glasses, to prepare their rooms -- on the very same floor as his -- one room in which Napoleon had slept, the other having been occupied at some point by some King's mistress -- and to let him know when the rooms were ready.

The rooms, of course, had been ready that morning, but I laid fires in the fireplaces, waited a suitable time and then returned to his room. He told me to take them to their rooms, and then instructed them that they must rest after the experience of having tasted this marvellous wine, and must prepare for the feast of the evening -- a great feast which was being prepared, especially in their honour.

When I saw him later, alone, his only mention of the wine-drinking episode was to congratulate me on the appearance of the bottle. I gave him a significant, knowing look as if to tell him that I had understood what he was doing, and he said, rather seriously, but with a faint, mocking smile on his face : "Way you look, I know you already make judgment of this ladies; but remember what I tell before, necessary look all sides, all directions before make judgment. You not forget this."
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:46 am

Chapter 19

I SOMETIMES THOUGHT of Gurdjieff as a clever fisherman or trapper; tile incident of the ladies and the "famous old wine" was only one of many instances in which he, to my mind at least, laid a trap or baited a hook and then sat back to watch, with great amusement, the prey reveal themselves, their weaknesses, when caught. Although I sensed an element of malice in this, the saving grace seemed to lie in the fact that, in most cases, the "prey" was unaware of what had happened. At times, it seemed to me that this kind of "playing" with people was literally nothing more than a diversion for him, something to take his mind off the continuous pressures under which he worked. When speaking of such experiences, he would frequently refer to them as "bubble-pricking", which I did not find especially apt since the "deflating" was frequently unnoticed by the particular target of the moment.

In the normal course of time, Gurdjieff acquired numerous reputations, including that of a sort of "faith-healer" or, on a somewhat simpler level, "miracle-worker". It was perhaps inevitable that he was, therefore, frequently consulted about day-to-day "life" or "mundane" problems, in spite of the fact that he had frequently reiterated that his work had nothing to do with the solution of such problems. Nevertheless, and even though forewarned, a great many people insisted on consulting him about just such problems, which seemed to me surprising and, usually, embarrassing, particularly since the people who did consult him were generally considered, or at least considered themselves, intellectual, intelligent people.

I remember one woman who, at great expense to herself (which was perhaps not pertinent, since she had money), made a trip from America to the Prieure, for one week, to consult him about the very kind of problem which he had so often stated was not in his province. When she arrived, she demanded an immediate interview, but was told that Gurdjieff would be unable to see her until sometime that evening. She was assigned to a comfortable room and, through his secretary, told that she would have to pay a large sum, daily, for the use of the room. She was also warned that there would be an additional large fee for her "consultation".

He did not see her alone, but met and welcomed her at dinner that evening in the presence of everyone. In the course of his preliminary conversation with her, he said that he understood she had an important problem to discuss with him, and he behaved as if he were enormously impressed that she should have made such a long, expensive trip just to consult him. She said that the problem was one that had troubled her for a long time, and that she had felt -- when she had met him in America the previous winter -- that he was, unquestionably, the only person who could help her to solve it. He said that he would try to help her, and that she could make an appointment for an appropriate time for such a consultation by speaking to his secretary. She went on to say, in front of the entire assembled company, that it was very urgent. He said that he would see her as soon as possible but that, for now, the important business of the day was to have dinner.

At the dinner table, the woman gave every appearance of great nervousness, smoked one cigarette after another, and coughed a great deal -- to such an extent that everyone at the table was aware of her. Giving up any attempt at conversation because of her constant coughing, Gurdjieff remarked that she seemed to have a bad cough. She responded at once, pleased with this attention, and said that it was part of the problem about which she wished to consult him. He frowned at her, but before he had an opportunity to say anything more, she plunged ahead. She said that she was having trouble with her husband and that her cigarette-smoking and her coughing were simply "exterior manifestations", in her opinion, of this difficulty. We were all listening (I was waiting on table) by this time. Gurdjieff frowned at her again, but she went on relentlessly. She said that cigarettes, as everyone knew, were a phallic symbol, and that she had discovered that her excessive smoking and the resultant coughing were "manifestations" which always occurred when she was having the aforesaid difficulty with her husband, adding that, of course, her troubles were sexual.

Gurdjieff had listened to her, as he always did, with undivided attention, and after a thoughtful pause he asked her what kind of cigarettes she smoked. She named an American brand which she said she had smoked for years. He nodded, very thoughtfully, at this disclosure, and after a suspenseful silence said that he thought the cure, or the solution, was very simple. He suggested that she change her brand of cigarettes, that perhaps "Gauloises Bleues" would be a good brand to try. For the time being that ended the conversation.

It was only later, in the salon, during the rather ceremonious coffee-drinking, that she was heard to praise him extravagantly and say that he had, of course, given her the solution -- that his way of solving problems was never obvious, but that she had understood him.

She stayed at the Prieure for a day or two longer, bought an enormous supply of "Gauloises Bleues" -- as many as the law allowed her to take out of the country -- and without demanding any further consultations, and having informed Gurdjieff that she had understood him, returned to America. It was only after her departure that Gurdjieff referred to her as "one of those God-given accidents who have unconscious good-will for me." He had charged her a large fee and she had paid it gladly.

Although I did not mention it to Mr. Gurdjieff at the time, I did refer to that incident and others like it, some time later. At that time, he told me that many people -- people with "middle-class western world morality" had questions about, and objections to, his methods of procuring money, which he always needed for the support of the Prieure and also of many of the students who were not able to pay him anything. He said, almost angrily, that our kind of morality was based on money; that the only thing that troubled us about such occurrences was the fact that he had, apparently, extracted money without having given anything in return.

"All my life," he said forcefully, "I tell people this work not for everyone. If can solve problems with religion or with your American psychiatrist, this good. But people not listen what I say; always find other meaning -- interpret what I say in own way, make self feel good. So must pay for this good feeling. Many times I tell that my work cannot help with ordinary life problems: sex, illness, unhappiness; such things. If cannot solve such problems alone, then my work, which not have to do with such problems, no good for them. But such people come here no matter what I tell, to have good feeling; woman who smoke many cigarettes can now tell everyone, but particularly her 'self' that she consult me about problem and that I give answer, even though I not give answer. So just such people can justify existence by helping me with many money problems. Even with their stupidity they help good thing -- my work. This already enough reward for such people.

"Is unfortunate weakness in people today; they ask advice but not wish help, wish only find what already want. They not listen words I say -- I always say what I mean, my words always clear -- but they not believe this, always look for other meaning, meaning which exist only in their imagination. Without such woman, such people, you and many other people at Prieure not eat. Money this woman pay is money for food." It was one of the few times that I had ever heard him "explain" or "justify" such activity on his part.
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