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 4:47 am

Chapter 20

IN THE NATURAL course of events, since Mr. Gurdjieff was engaged in writing books, it was necessary for him to employ a typist. He did not set about this in any ordinary manner, but he employed, with great fanfare, a young German woman he had discovered somewhere in his travels. For several days before hcr arrival we heard about her. Elaborate preparations were made for her coming, including finding the proper room for hcr, the acquisition of a typewriter, arrangements for suitable working space, and so on. Gurdjieff praised her attributes to all of us, told us how lucky he had been to find this perfect person "for my purposes", and we awaited her arrival with great anticipation.

When she did arrive, she was introduced to all of us, a dinner was served in her honour, and the whole process was very festive -- she was given what we called the "royal treatment", and she responded to it whole-heartedly, taking herself as seriously as Gurdjieff seemed to take her. It turned out that her major, magnificent accomplishment was that she could type, as Gurdjieff repeatedly told us in complete amazement, "without even looking at key on typewriter."

No secretary or typist has, I feel sure, ever been accorded such treatment because of her ability to use the touch system. As if to prove to us all that this ability actually existed, the young woman installed herself at a table on the terrace, in full view of all of us as we came and went to and from our work, and remained there -- typing merrily -- all summer long, except on rainy days. The clicking of her typewriter resounded in all of our ears.

My first contact with her, and in fairness to her I must admit to a strong anti-German prejudice, having grown up on stories of German atrocities during World War I, was one evening when I was doing my own washing in the courtyard in back of the house after work. She did not know me, except by sight, and, assuming that I was French, called to me from a window overlooking the courtyard, asking me in heavily accented French where she could obtain what she called some "Savon Lux" ; she managed to convey to me that she needed this to wash her stockings. I said, in English, which I knew she understood and spoke much better than French, that I assumed she could buy it at the local epicerie about half a mile distant. Her response was to toss some coins down to me and to tell me that she would appreciate my getting her some at once.

I picked up the money, went up the stairs and handed it to her. I said that I thought I should explain to her that there were no errand boys at the Prieure and that no one had, so far, told me that she was any exception to the general rule that everyone did their own personal work, which included personal shopping. She said, with a "charming" smile, that she was sure that no one would have any objection to my performing this errand for her since she was, as perhaps I did not yet realize, engaged on very important work for Mr. Gurdjieff. I explained that I, too, was engaged on similar work; that I took care of him and his rooms and did my own errands as well.

She seemed amazed, and after a moment's reflection said that she would straighten out the matter with Mr. Gurdjieff -- that there must be some misunderstanding, at least on my part, concerning her function at the school. I did not have to wait very long for further developments. A "coffee summons" came from his room only a few minutes later.

When I arrived at his room with the coffee, the typist, as I had expected, was sitting with him. I served the coffee and then Mr. Gurdjieff turned to me with one of his "winning" smiles: "You know this lady?" he asked.

I said that, yes, I knew her.

He then said that she had spoken to him and that he under stood that she had asked me to perform an errand for her and that I had refused. I said that it was true and that, besides, everyone else performed their own errands.

He agreed that this was so, but said that he had not had time to instruct her about everything and that he would appreciate it very much if, on this one occasion and as a favour to him, because she was very important to him, I would be kind enough to do what she asked. I was baffled and even angry, but I said, of course, that I would. She handed me the money and I went to the store and bought her soap. I assumed that, however I might feel, he had a good reason for asking me to do the errand for her and decided that the incident was closed. Perhaps she was actually "special" in some way that I had not realized; Gurdjieff, at least, appeared to think she was.

I was furious, however, when after I had given her the soap ant! her change, she gave me a tip and said that she was sure that I now realized that she had been right in the first place, and that she hoped Mr. Gurdjieff's action had made it clear to me. I smouldered, but managed to hold my tongue. I also managed not to mention it to Mr. Gurdjieff when I saw him, but I continued to smoulder.

Several days later, on a weekend, a number of guests arrived. Gurdjieff welcomed them at his usual little table near the lawns, in front of the terrace where the typist was at work. I brought coffee for all of them and served it. He indicated, with a gesture, that I was not to leave, and then proceeded to tell the assembled guests that he could hardly wait to show them his new marvels, his two wonderful new acquisitions: an electric icebox and a "touch typist". He then told me to lead the way to the pantry where the new refrigerator had been installed, and the guests were properly mystified upon being shown an ordinary model Frigidaire which, as Gurdjieff put it, "all by self can make ice", even, "without my help" -- a true product of the genius of the western world. This inspection completed, we all went back to the terrace to inspect the second marvel who, also "without my help and even without looking at keys", was able to type his book. The typist stood up to greet him but Gurdjieff, without introducing her, told her to sit down. Then, at his command, she typed "without even looking at keys" but gazing triumphantly off into space.

Gurdjieff stood among his guests, gazing at her with unbounded admiration, speaking of her as another product of the "genius" of the western world. I was, actually, fascinated by the ability to use the touch system on a typewriter and my own interest and admiration were unfeigned. Gurdjieff suddenly, looked in my direction and smiled an enormous, broad smile, as if we shared some huge joke together, and then told me to collect the coffee cups.

It was not until much later that evening, in his room, that he referred to the typist once more. He spoke first of the "electric icebox" -- "only have to put in plug and instantly box make noise of humming and begin produce ice." He smiled at me again, conspiratorially. "Is so with German lady. I like plug -- I tell type, and she also begin make noise and produce not ice, but book. Wonderful American invention."

I almost liked her then, and would have been happy to do her errands from that time on. I could not refrain from saying so, and Gurdjieff nodded at me, looking pleased. "When you help typing lady, you help me, like giving oil to machine which keep working; this wonderful thing."
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:47 am

Chapter 21

ONE OF THE pleasures and challenges of "concierge duty" was a competition among all the children -- this duty was almost exclusively the work of the children -- to be sufficiently alert on this job to have the gates, through which the automobiles had to pass, opened in time for Mr. Gurdjieff to drive through them without having to stop his car and blow the horn as a signal to the gatekeeper.

One difficulty with this was that the entrance to the Prieure was at the foot of a long hill which descended from the railway station; the streetcar to Samois also passed directly in front of the gate where the highway made a wide turn in the direction of Samois, away from the Prieure. Frequently the noise of the "tramway" obscured the sound of cars coming down the hill, and interfered with our game. Also, once Mr. Gurdjieff became aware of the competition, he would usually coast down the hill so that we would not be aided by the sound of the motor.

It was mostly thanks to Philos, the dog, who often followed me around during Mr. Gurdjieff's absences, that I was usually able to get the gates opened in time for him to sail through them, a big smile on his face. By watching Philos, whose ears would prick up at the sound of any passing car, but who would jump to his feet at the sound of Mr. Gurdjieff's car, I was almost always successful.

Amused by this game of ours, Mr. Gurdjieff once asked me how it was that I was able to, practically unfailingly, have the gates open in time, and I told him about Philos. He laughed and then said that this was a very good example of cooperation. "Show that man have much to learn, and can learn from many unexpected places. Even dog can help. Man very weak, need help all time."

Late that summer, I was on concierge duty when Mr. Gurdjieff was to leave on a trip. For some reason, it was a particularly important departure, and everyone was gathered around his automobile when he was about ready to leave. I was among the leave-takers, and when he had finally started the motor of the car, I ran to the big gates to open them. In my haste, I stumbled and fell, and one of my knees hit the heavy iron catch, just above the level of the ground, which served to hold one of the gates open. It was rusty and, as I had fallen hard, it penetrated rather deeply. As Gurdjieff was about to drive through the gates, he looked at me, saw the blood running down my leg, stopped, and asked me what had happened. I told him and he told me to wash it off, which I did as soon as he had left.

By the middle of the afternoon -- he had left about noon -- my leg was very painful, my knee swollen, and I had to stop work. The work I was assigned to that afternoon was cleaning the parquet floors of the salons, which meant scraping the floors with heavy steel wool to remove the old wax and accumulated dirt ; this was done by standing on the steel wool and pushing it back and forth, with the grain of the wood, with one's foot.

By evening, my knee had swollen alamlingly, and I was not well enou,gh to eat dinner. I was put to bed and various treatments began. Different people had different ideas about the treatments, but it was decided that the knee was badly infected and that the proper remedy was a hot onion poultice. Baked or perhaps boiled onions were placed on the open wound, which was then wrapped in heavy, transparent oiled cloth, and then wrapped again with a bandage. The purpose, of course, was to draw the poison out of the infected knee.

Although I received constant attention and the best of care -- there was a resident doctor at the Prieure who had supervised the treatments given me -- my leg did not improve. By the following day it was enormous and small boils began to appear on my body, extending from well below my knee almost to my waist. I was delirious all day, coming out of my delirium occasionally when additional and more frequent poultices were applied. But nothing seemed to help.

It was late that afternoon when Gurdjieff returned from his trip. Some time after his arrival, when he inquired about me, he was told about my condition and he came to see me in my room. He removed the bandage and poultice and sent someone to the local pharmacy at once. They brought back a remedy, then called "Ouata-plasme", apparently also some form of poultice, and Gurdjieff had them build a fire in the stove in my room on which he could boil water. When the water was boiling, he dipped a small square of this impregnated cotton into the water, and then applied it immediately to the affected knee, again wrapping it in the oiled cloth and a bandage. He insisted that it be applied at once, directly from the boiling water, and I remember these applications as being excruciatingly painful. Instructions were given to someone to stay the night in my room and to apply these new poultices every four hours or so; which was done.

By the following afternoon, I was much better, and the poultices, when removed, were black with gelatinous, infected matter. That evening, Mr. Gurdjieff came to visit me again. As it was a Saturday and there was. to be a demonstration in the study-house, he insisted that I should attend along with all the others, and had his nephew carry me there and back "piggy-back". When we arrived at the study-house, he placed me in the small cubicle, where I sat behind him, during the demonstration. When it was over, I was carried back to my room. There was nothing very spectacular about the treatment or the cure, but Gurdjieff had something to say to me about it when I was on my feet again.

He asked to look at my leg, on which I was still wearing a small bandage, and when he had pronounced it cured, he asked me if I remembered what he had said about Philos helping me to identify his car when he arrived at the Prieure gates. I said that I did, of course, and he said that these two things -- the help of the dog, and the infection in my knee -- had one thing in common. They were proof, of a kind, of man's dependence on other creatures. "To dog, you owe thanks, because he help you with small thing; to me you owe more than this, perhaps owe life to me. They try when I not here, even doctor try, fix your leg, but only get worse. When I come, I fix leg, because only I know about this new medicine which have in France now. I know this because I interested in everything, because necessary know all things for self in life. Just because I know this thing, and because I come back in time, you now well. You all right."

I said that I realized this and I thanked him for what he had done. He smiled, indulgently, and said that it was impossible to thank him for what he had done for me. "Cannot give thanks for life, not possible give enough thanks; also perhaps will be times when you wish I not save life. You young now, you glad not die -- this serious thing, because illness like you have very dangerous, can even kill. But when you grow, you not always like life, and maybe you not thank me, but make curse on me because I not let die. So do not thank now."

He went on, then, to say that life was a "two-edged sword. In your country, you think life is only for pleasure. You have saying in your country: 'pursuit of happiness', and this saying show that people not understand life. Happiness is nothing, is only other side of unhappiness. But in your country, in most of world now, people only want happiness. Other things also important: suffering important because is also part of life, necessary part. Without suffering man cannot grow, but when you suffer, you think only of self, you feel sorry for self, wish not to suffer because this make you feel not comfortable, make you wish escape from thing that make you feel bad. When man suffer, he feel only self-pity. Not so if real man. Real man also sometimes feel happiness, real happiness; but when he also feel real suffering, he not try to stop this thing in self. He accept this because he know is proper to man. Must suffer to know truth about self; must learn suffer with will. When suffering come to man must make intentional suffering, must feel with all being; must wish with such suffering that it will help make conscious; help to understand.

"You have only physical suffering, suffering of body because of pain in leg. This suffering also help if you know how to use for self. But this is suffering like animal, not important suffering. With other suffering, suffering in all self, is possibility understand that all people suffer this way, is possibility also understand how depend on Nature, on other people, on everything, for help in life. Cannot live life alone. Aloneness -- not loneliness, which is bad thing -- but aloneness can be good thing for man, very necessary for life, but also necessary learn not live alone because real life depend on other human being and not just on self. Now, you still boy, cannot understand what I talk -- but remember this thing; remember for time when you not thank me because I save life."
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:47 am

Chapter 22

As THAT SUMMER came to an end, many of the visiting Americans prepared to leave the Prieure, probably never to see it again. They had been allowed to stay on even though the school had been reorganized, but it was not expected that thcy would be back the following year. It had again been decided, to my great relief, that we would not return to America that year, and I looked forward to the winter because Mr. Gurdjieff also was not planning to go away. Except for his occasional absences when it had been necessary for him to go to Paris on business, he had been in Fontainebleau constantly. His wife's condition, as he had predicted, was steadily worse all the time and we began to expect her imminent death.

In the several months that she had been confined to her room, I had only seen her once, when I had been sent to her room on some errand or other for Mr. Gurdjieff. The change in her had shocked and appalled me. She was incredibly thin, and although she did look at me with the semblance of a smile, even that small effort had seemed to exhaust her.

As the gardening and most of the outdoor projects came to an end for the winter, we began to make our usual preparations: drying fruit and vegetables, preparing meat for storage in large barrels in the cellars, cutting and splitting wood for all the stoves and fireplaces. Some of the floors of the school were closed off for the winter and some of the students even doubled up, sharing rooms to save on fuel. With the diminished number of students, most of our work was indoors as it had been the winter before; most of the available manpower was needed for general housekeeping and in the kitchens, stables, and the concierge.

The one event that loomed enticingly ahead of us, as the fall came to an end, was Christmas. It would be the first Christmas I had spent at the Prieure when Mr. Gurdjieff was also there, and we had heard many stories about the elaborate Christmas ceremonies -- there were always two celebrations, one for the "English" calendar and one for the "Russian" calendar which came two weeks later -- and there would also be two New Years to celebrate as well as Gurdjieff's birthday which was, appropriately, on the first day of January by one or the other of these two calendars.

As the time approached, we began to make elaborate preparations. Various traditional holiday candies were made, cakes were baked and stored, and all the children were allowed to help in the preparation of what were called "guest presents", usually gaily coloured paper sacks of candies to be hung on the Christmas tree. The tree itself was huge. We cut it in the forest on the grounds of the Prieure and it was set up in the main salon, so tall that it touched the very high ceiling. A day or so before Christmas, everyone helped with the trimming of the tree, which consisted mostly of hanging presents on the tree and also decorating it with hundreds of candles. A special, long pole was cut, to stand by the tree, to be used to put out any of the candles that threatened to set the tree on fire.

It was late on Christmas eve afternoon by the time that all the preparations had been made, and there was to be a feast that evening, after which everyone would join together in the salon for the distribution of presents, sometime that night. It was beginning to get dark when Mr. Gurdjieff sent for me. He talked to me about Christmas, asked me about previous Christmases in America and how I felt about that holiday, and when I had given him the expected answers, told me that, unfortunately, it was always necessary for some people to work on holidays in order that the others should be able to enjoy themselves. He mentioned the people who would be working in the kitchens, waiting on tables, cleaning up, and so forth, and then he said that someone would also, of course, have to be on duty at the concierge that evening. He was expecting a long distance telephone call and there would have to be someone there to answer it. He had chosen me because he knew that I could be trusted; also, I spoke English, French, and enough Russian to be able to deal with any telephone call that might come.

I was thunderstruck and could hardly believe what I was hearing. I could not remember ever having looked forward to any single celebration as I had looked forward to that one. He saw the disappointment in my face, of course, but said simply that while I would not be able to participate in the general festivities that night, I could look forward to Christmas that much longer, as I would get my presents on the following day. There was obviously no way in which I felt I could get out of this assigned duty, and I left him with a heavy heart. I had my supper early, in the kitchen, and then reported to relieve whoever had been assigned to the concierge that particular day. Normally, no one was on duty in the concierge at night. A Russian family lived on the upper floor of the building and answered the telephone or unlocked the gate on the few occasions when it might be necessary.

It had snowed the day before, and the front courtyard, between the concierge house and the main building, was covered with snow, glistening white, and lighted by the brilliant lamps in the long corridor and the main salon, both of which faced the courtyard. It was dark when I reported for duty, and I sat glumly, filled with self-pity, inside the small concierge house, staring at the lights of the big house. There was no activity there now, the rest of the students, at this time, would be about to go in to dinner.

It seemed an interminable time before I began to see people filing into the big salon. Someone began to light the candles on the tree, and I was unable to contain myself. I left the door to the concierge open, and approached as close to the main house as I could and still be reasonably certain that I would be able to hear the telephone if it should ring. It was very cold -- also I was uncertain about just how far away I would be able to hear the telephone bell -- and from time to time, as the tree was being lighted, I would run back to the concierge to warm myself and to stare angrily at the telephone. I was praying for it to ring, so that I would be able to join the others. All it did was to stare back at me, stern and silent.

When tile distribution of the presents began, starting with the smallest children, I was unable to control myself, and, forgetting all my responsibilities, I went right up to the windows of the main salon. I had not been there more than a minute when Gurdjieff's eye caught me and he stood up and strode across the salon. I left the window and, as if he had sent for me, went directly to the entrance of the chateau instead of back to the concierge. He arrived at the door at almost the same time as I did, and we stood, momentarily, looking at each other through the glass door. Then he opened it with a sudden, harsh movement. "Why not at concierge ? Why you here?" he demanded angrily.

I made some half-tearful protest about having to be on duty when everyone else was celebrating Christmas, but he cut me short. "I tell you do this thing for me, and you not do. Impossible hear telephone from here, maybe ring now and you stand here and not hear. Go back." He had not raised his voice, but there was no question that he was very angry with me. I went back to the concierge, hurt and overflowing with self-pity, determined that I would not leave my post again, no matter what might happen.

It must have been close to midnight when the family who lived on the upper floor returned and I was allowed to leave for the night. I went back to my room, hating Gurdjieff, hating the Prieure, and by this time almost feeling proud of my "sacrifice" for him. I vowed that I would never mention that evening to him or to anyone else; also, that Christmas would never mean anything to me again. I expected, however, that something would be done for me the following day, that Gurdjieff would explain it to me, or in some way "make it up to me". I still fancied myself as a sort of "favourite" because of my work in his rooms -- my special position.

The following day, to my further chagrin, I was assigned to work in the kitchen, since they would need extra help; I would have enough time off to clean his rooms, and would be able to deliver coffee to him at any time he might want it. I saw him several times, briefly, during the day, but always with other people, and no reference was made to the previous evening. At sorme point during the afternoon, someone, who said they had been delegated by Gurdjieff, gave me some Christmas presents, small things plus a copy of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; and that was the end of Christmas, except for the interminable waiting on table that night at the Christmas dinner for all the students and various guests. Since I was, this time, not alone as a waiter, I was unable to feel that I had, once again, been singled out or "punished" as I felt I had been the night before.

While Gurdjieff never at any time made any reference to that evening, it did mark a change in my relationship with him. He no longer spoke to me as if I were a child, and my private "lessons" came to an end; nothing was said about this by Gurdjieff, and I felt too intimidated to bring up the question of the lessons. Even though there had been no telephone call of any kind on Christmas eve, I had a lurking suspicion that there might well have been one during one of the periods when I had strayed away from the concierge house, and it preyed on my conscience. Even if there had not been a telephone call at all, I knew that I had "failed" in the duty that had been assigned to me, and I could not forget it for a long time.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:47 am

Chapter 23

VERY EARLY ONE Spring morning, I awakened while it was still dark, with only the very faint light of the sun beginning to be visible on the horizon. Something troubled me that morning, but I could not imagine what it was; I had a vague feeling of restlessness, a sensation that something unusual was happening. In spite of my usual, lazy, comfortable habit of staying in bed until the very last moment -- which was about six o'clock -- I got up with the dawn and went down to the still-silent, cold kitchens. As much for my comfort as to help whoever was assigned to kitchen-boy duty that day, I began to build the fire in the big iron cook-stove, and while I was stoking it with coke, my buzzer rang (it rang simultaneously in my room and in the kitchen). It was early for Gurdjieff, but the ring fitted my sense of uneasiness, and I raced to his room. He was standing in the open doorway to the room, Philos at his side, and he looked at me urgently. "Go bring Dr. Schernvall right away," he commanded, and I turned to leave, but he stopped me, saying: "Madame Ostrovsky is dead. Better tell."

I raced out of the building, and ran to the house where Dr. Schernvall lived; a small house, not far from the chicken yard, which was named, probably by the French years before, "Paradou". Dr. and Mme. Schernvall, together with their young son, Nikolai, lived on the top floor of this building. The rest of the building housed Mr. Gurdjieff's brother, Dmitri, and his wife and four daughters. I awakened the Schernvalls and told them the news. Mme. Schernvall burst into tears, and the doctor began to dress hastily, and told me to go back and tell Mr. Gurdjieff that he was on his way.

When I got back to the main house, Mr. Gurdjieff was not in his room, so I went down the long hall to the opposite end of the building and knocked, timidly, on the door of Madame Ostrovsky's room. Mr. Gurdjieff came to the door, and I told him the doctor was on his way. He looked impassive, very tired, and very pale. He told me to wait near his room and tell the doctor where he was. The doctor appeared a few minutes later and I directed him to Mme. Ostrovsky's room. He had only been there a few minutes when Mr. Gurdjieff came out of the room. I was standing in the corridor, undecided, not knowing whether to wait for him or not. He looked at me without surprise and then asked me if I had the key to his room. I said that I did, and he said that I was not to come in and also that I was not to let anyone else in the room until he sent for me. Then, followed by Philos, he went down the long hall to his room, but did not allow Philos to go in with him. The dog, looking angrily at me, settled himself against the door as Mr. Gurdjieff locked it, and growled at me for the first time.

It was a long, sad day. We all performed our assigned tasks but a heavy cloud of sorrow hung over the school. It was one of the first real Spring days that year, and even the sunshine and the unaccustomed warmth of the day seemed inappropriate. All our work was done in a hushed silence; people spoke to each other in whispers, and an air of uncertainty spread through all the buildings. Presumably, the necessary arrangements for the funeral were being handled by someone, Dr. Schernvall, or Madame de Hartmann, but most of us were unaware of them. Everyone waited for Mr. Gurdjieff to appear, but there was no sign of life from his room, he had not had breakfast, did not ring for lunch or for dinner, or for coffee at any time during the entire day.

The following day, in the morning, Madame de Hartmann sent for me and said that she had knocked on Mr. Gurdjieff's door and had received no answer and asked me to give her my key. I said I could not give it to her and told her what Mr. Gurdjieff's instructions had been. She did not argue with me, but said that she was worried because they were going to move Madame Ostrovsky's body to the study-house where it would remain overnight until the funeral the following day; she thought that Mr. Gurdjieff should know about this, but in view of what he had told me she decided that she should not disturb him.

Late that afternoon, when there had still been no sign from Mr. Gurdjieff, I was sent for again. This time, Mme. de Hartmann said she would have to have the key. The Archbishop, presumably from the Greek Orthodox Church in Paris, had arrived, and Mr. Gurdjieff would have to be notified. After an inner struggle with myself, I finally gave in. The Archbishop's appearance was almost as forbidding as Gurdjieff's could be at times, and I could not stand up against his apparent importance.

A short while later, she found me again, She said that even with the key she was unable to get into the room. Philos would not let her come close enough to the door to get the key in the lock; that I would have to go, since Philos knew me well, and tell Mr. Gurdjieff that the Archbishop had arrived and must see him. Resigned and fearful of the consequences, I went up to his room. Philos looked at me without friendliness when I approached. I had tried to feed him the day before and also that morning, but he had refused to eat or even to drink water. Now, he watched me as I got the key out of my pocket, and seemed to decide that he would allow me to pass. He did not move, but as I opened the door he did allow me to step over him into the room.

Mr. Gurdjieff was sitting in a chair in his room -- the first time I had ever seen him sitting in anything other than the bed -- and looked at me without surprise, "Philos let you in?" he asked.

I nodded, and said that I was sorry to disturb him and that I had not forgotten his instructions but that the Archbishop had arrived and that Madame de Hartmann ... He interrupted me with a wave of his hand. "Is all right," he said quietly, "must see Archbishop." Then he sighed, stood up, and said: "What day today?"

I told him that it was Saturday and he asked me if his brother, who was in charge of the fires at the Turkish bath, was preparing for the baths as usual. I said that I did not know, but that I would find out. He told me not to let him know, simply to tell Dmitri to have the baths ready as usual, and also to tell the cook that he would be down for dinner that night and that he wanted a very special meal to honour the Archbishop. Then he told me to feed Philos. I said that I had tried to feed him but that he had refused to eat. Gurdjieff smiled. "When I leave room, will eat. You feed again." Then he left the room, walking slowly and thoughtfully down the stairs.

This was my first experience with death and while Gurdjieff had changed -- he seemed unusually pensive and extremely tired -- more so than I had ever seen him -- he did not fit my preconceived notions of grief. There were no manifestations of sorrow, no tears, just an unusual heaviness about him, as if it required great effort for him to move.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:48 am

Chapter 24

THE TURKISH BATH consisted of three rooms, and a small furnace room in which Mr. Gurdjieff's brother, Drnitri, stoked the fires. The first room, into which one entered, was for dressing and undressing; the second room was a large, circular room, equipped with a shower and several water faucets, benches along all the walls, and a massage table in the centre of the room; the third room was the steam-room, with wooden benches on several levels.

In the first room there were two long rows of benches along one side of the room and opposite them a large, higher bench where Mr. Gurdjieff always sat, facing and looking down on the other men. Because of the number of men at the Prieure the first summer I was there, Mr. Gurdjieff had told Tom and myself to climb up on his bench behind him, where we would sit, peering over his shoulders at the assembled company. Any "important" guests always sat directly in front of him. Now, even though the baths were no longer crowded since there were not as many students at the Prieure since the reorganization of the school, Tom and I still occupied our places behind Mr. Gurdjieff; this had become a part of the ritual connected with the Saturday bathing.

Once we had all undressed, it was customary to spend about half an hour, most of the men smoking and talking, while Gurdjieff urged them to tell him stories; the stories, as at the swimming pool, were generally ribald or off-colour, at his insistence. Inevitably, before we proceeded to the steam-room, he would tell any newcomers a long, involved story about his exalted position as head of the Prieure, and founder of the Institute, and the story always included references to Tom and myself as his "Cherubim" and "Seraphim".

Conventionally, because of my preconceptions about death, and since Mme. Ostrovsky had died only about thirty-six hours previously, I expected the ritual of the bath that particular Saturday night to be a mournful and lugubrious one. I could not have been more mistaken. When I arrived at the bath that evening, somewhat later than most of the others, I found everyone still wearing their underwear and Mr. Gurdjieff and the Archbishop were involved in a lengthy argument about the problem of undressing. The Archbishop insisted that he could not take a Turkish bath with no covering of any kind, and refused to participate in the bath if the other men were to be completely naked. The argument must have gone on for about fifteen minutes after I arrived, and Gurdjieff seemed to be enjoying it immensely. He made numerous references to the Scriptures, and generally poked fun at the Archbishop's "false modesty". The Archbishop remained adamant, and someone was despatched back to the main house to find something we could all wear. Apparently, the problem had come up before, since the messenger returned with a large number of muslin breech-cloths which had been unearthed somewhere. We were all instructed to wear them, and to undress as modestly as possible. When we finally went into the steam-room, feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed in our unaccustomed attire, Gurdjieff, as if he now had the Archbishop at his mercy, gradually removed his breech-cloth, and one by one the rest of us did the same. The Archbishop made no further comments, but stubbornly kept his breech-cloth around his waist.

When we left the steam-room and went into the middle room to wash, Mr. Gurdjieff again directed a long harangue at the Archbishop. He said that not only was this partial clothing a form of false modesty but that it was psychologically and physically harmful; that ancient civilizations were aware that the most important cleansing rituals had to do with the so-called "private parts" of the body, which could not be properly cleaned if any garment was worn over them, and that, in fact, many religious ceremonies in former civilizations had stressed such cleanliness as a part of their religious and sacred rites. The result was a compromise: the Archbishop did not object to his arguments and agreed that we could do as we wished, but that he would not, and he did not, remove his covering.

After the bath, the argument continued in the first room, the dressing-room, during the "cooling-off" period which also lasted for about half an hour; Gurdjieff was determined about not venturing into the night air after a steam bath. A cold shower was essential, but cold air was forbidden. In the course of the discussion in the dressing-room, Mr. Gurdjieff brought up the question of funerals and said that one important measure of respect even for the dead was to attend their obsequies fully cleansed, in mind and body. His tone, which had been ribald in the beginning, serious in the washing room, had become conciliatory and persuasive and he reiterated that he had in no way intended to show disrespect to the Archbishop.

Whatever the differences between them, they apparently respected one another; at dinner, which was almost a banquet, the Archbishop turned out to be a convivial and well-mannered hard drinker, which pleased Mr. Gurdjieff, and they seemed to enjoy one another's company.

***

After dinner, although it was very late by that time, Mr. Gurdjieff had everyone assemble in the main salon and told us a long story about funeral customs in various civilizations. He said that since Mme. Ostrovsky wished it, she would have a proper funeral, as decreed by her Church, but he added that other customs which had existed in great civilizations in the distant past, civilizations that were literally unknown to modern man, were pertinent and important. He described one such funeral rite where it was the prevailing custom for all of the relatives and friends of the deceased to gather together for three days after the death of an individual. During this period they thought of, and told the assembled company, everything that had been considered an evil or harmful act -- in short, a sin -- that had been committed by the deceased during his or her lifetime; the purpose of this being to create opposition which would force the soul to fight its way out of the body of the deceased and make its way to another world.

During the funeral the following day, Mr. Gurdjieff remained silent and withdrawn from the rest of us, as if only his body were actually present among the mourners. He only intervened at one point in the ceremonies, at the moment when the body was to be removed from the study-house and placed on the hearse. At that moment, with the pall-bearers assembled, a woman who had been very close to his wife threw herself on the coffin, hysterically, literally wailing and sobbing with grief. Gurdjieff went over to her and removed her from the coffin, speaking to her quietly, and the funeral proceeded. We followed the coffin to the cemetery, on foot, and each one of us threw a small handful of earth on the coffin when it had been lowered into the open pit near the grave of his mother. After the services, Mr. Gurdjieff and all the rest of us paid our silent respects at the graves of his mother and of Katherine Mansfield, who was also buried there.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:48 am

Chapter 25

DURING THE TIME of Mme. Ostrovsky's illness and Mr. Gurdjieff's daily sessions with her, one person, who had been a close friend of his wife for many years, seriously objected to what Mr. Gurdjieff was doing; her argument was that Mr. Gurdjieff was prolonging his wife's sufferings interminably and that this could not possibly serve any worthy or useful purpose -- no matter what he had said about it. This woman was Mme. Schernvall, the doctor's wife, and her anger against Mr. Gurdjieff had reached such a pitch that, while she did continue to live at the Prieure, she never appeared in his presence and refused to speak to him for several months. She would argue her case against him to anyone who happened to be within earshot, and even once told me a long story to illustrate his perfidy.

According to her, she and her husband, the doctor, were two of the original group who had come with Gurdjieff from Russia some years before. We had heard about the incredible difficulties they had encountered escaping the various forces involved in the Russian revolution and how they had finally made their way to Europe through Constantinople. One of the things which Madame Schernvall now brought up against Mr. Gurdjieff, as proof of his unreliability and even of his evil nature, was that it was largely thanks to her that they had finally been able to make their escape. Apparently, by the time they had reached Constantinople they were entirely out of funds and Mme. Schernvall made it possible for them to continue to Europe by lending a pair of very valuable earrings to Mr. Gurdjieff, which enabled them to hire a boat and cross the Black Sea. Even Madame Schernvall admitted, however, that she had not offered the earrings spontaneously. Mr. Gurdjieff had known of their existence and, as a last resort, had asked her for them, promising that he would leave them in Constantinople in good hands and that he would, on his honour, return them to her someday -- as soon as he could raise the necessary money to redeem them. Several years had passed and, even though Mr. Gurdjieff had, in the meantime, raised large amounts of money in the United States, she had never seen the earrings again. Not only was this proof of his lack of good intentions; in addition she always brought up the question of what he had done with the money he had raised -- had he not, for instance, purchased all those bicycles with money that could have been used to buy back her jewels?

This story had been told to most of us at different times, and at the time of Mme. Ostrovsky's death I had completely forgotten it. A few weeks after the funeral, Gurdjieff asked me one day if I had seen Mme. Schernvall recently and inquired as to her health. He expressed his regret at the fact that he never saw her any more and said that it made his relations with the doctor very difficult, and that it was not a good situation. He gave me a long lecture about the vagaries of women and said that he had finally decided that it was up to him to make an effort to win back Mme. Schernvall's affection and her goodwill. He then handed me part of a chocolate bar , in a torn box, as if someone had already eaten the other half, and told me to take it to her. 1 was to tell her how he felt about her, how much he did respect her and value her friendship, and to say that this chocolate was an expression of his esteem for her .

I looked at the torn wrapping and thought, privately, that this was hardly the way to win back her friendship, but I had learned not to express such reactions. I took it from him and went to see her.

Before handing her the small package, I gave her his messages, quoting him as exactly as I could, which took some time, and then handed her the little, torn package. She had listened to me with obviously mixed emotions and by the time 1 handed her the package she was eager to receive it. When she saw it, however, her features assumed a look of disdain. She said that he was never serious about anything, and that he had forced me to give her this long, elaborate message just as a preliminary joke to giving her a half-eaten piece of chocolate) which she did not like in any case.

I then said that I was surprised because he had told me that she liked this particular brand of chocolate above anything else in tile world. She gave me an odd look when I said this and then opened the package hastily. He had chosen the right messenger; I had so completely forgotten her tale about the jewels that I was as astonished as she when she found, of course, the earrings. She burst into tears, hugged me, became almost hysterical; she made up her face, put on the earrings, and then proceeded to tell me the entire story all over again, but this time with the significant difference that this was proof of what a wonderful man he was, and how she had always known that he would keep his promise to her. I was as surprised by her switch of feelings as I had been when I saw the earrings.

I went back to him, as he had instructed me, and told him the whole story in detail. He was greatly amused by it, laughed a great deal, and then told me, at least in part, his story .He said that her facts were correct, but that she had no conception of the difficulties he had experienced in trying to get the earrings back. He had "pawned" them for a very large sum of money to a trusted friend in Constantinople and when he had, finally, been able to return the money, together with the proper interest, he had learned that his friend was dead. It had taken him, from then on, several years of unflagging effort to locate the jewels and to persuade the present owner, apparently a usurer, to return them for a sum far exceeding their value.

I could not help but blurt out my obvious reaction: Why had he done this? Were any jewels worth such a price, and, in addition, did Mme. Schernvall fail to realize that whatever the value of the jewels, the very lives of Gurdjieff's group at that time had probably depended on them?

He told me then that the value of the jewels wag not an important element in the story. One reason he had redeemed them was because of his wife's friendship for Mme. Schernvall ; that friendship could not be evaluated, and that it was necessary to do this for the sake of the memory of his wife. Further, he said that any man had an obligation to keep any promise that was made truthfully and solemnly, as he had made that particular promise. "I not do this for her only," he said, "also do for sake of my soul."

"You remember," he said then, "how I tell about good and evil in man -- like right hand, left hand ? In other sense, this also true of man and woman. Man is active, positive, good in Nature. Woman is passive, negative, evil. Not evil in your American sense like 'wrong', but very necessary evil; evil that make man good. Is like electric light -- one wire passive or negative; other wire active, positive. Without such two elements not have light. If Mme. Schernvall not evil for me, perhaps I forget promise, serious promise, I make to her, So without her help, because she not let me forget what I promise, I not keep promise, not do good for own soul. When give back earrings I do good thing: good for me, for memory of wife, and good for Mme. Schernvall who now have great remorse in heart for bad things she say about me. This important lesson for you."
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:48 am

Chapter 26

MR. GURDJIEFF'S RELATIONSHIP with me, although it continued in a surface sense to be the same, had undergone a definite change which I felt had begun with the previous Christmas. I continued to clean his rooms, bring him coffee, and do his errands, but the easy, affectionate feeling that had existed between us -- almost like that of a father and son -- seemed to be disappearing; it was as if he had set out to create a certain distance and reserve between us.

When he had talked to me before, whatever the subject of our conversations, he had often referred to the fact that I was still a child and that much of what he was saying was something that I could not, at the time, understand. But with the change, while he still talked to me frequently, his tone was more serious and he no longer referred to me as a boy. I felt that he was beginning to expect me to fend for myself, to use my own mind -- that he was, in fact, urging me to grow up.

He often discussed human relations in general, the specific roles of male and female, and human destiny; as often as not these discussions were not directed to me exclusively, but to a group of which I was a member. He took pains to make it clear to us that whenever he addressed anyone on any subject in the hearing of others, it would or could be beneficial for everyone present to listen to what he was saying. Many of us had the feeling that when he addressed one individual he was often talking not so much to that person as to anyone in the group who might feel that the conversation was applicable to himself. We sometimes had the feeling that he was talking to a particular person through someone else; as if purposely not addressing one individual directly.

He came back to the theme of good and evil, active and passive, positive and negative, very frequently. I had been impressed with what he had said about Mme. Schernvall and himself in this regard when he had told me about the recovery of the earrings; it seemed to me to be a continuation of a theme on which he had spoken recurrently: the two-sided nature of man and the need to acquire or create a reconciling force. This force, in an exterior sense, had to be created in human relations between individuals; in an "interior" sense, it had to be acquired or created within an individual as part of his own development and growth.

One of the most important things about Gurdjieff's pronouncements, talks, lectures, or discursions (everyone had his own name for them), was the enormous sway he had over his listeners. His gestures, his manner of expressing himself, the incredible range of tone and dynamics in his voice, and his use of emotion, all seemed calculated to spell-bind his auditors ; perhaps to mesmerize them to such an extent that they were unable to argue with him at the time. Unquestionably, however many questions might come to a listener's mind when Gurdjieff had finished speaking, a deep and lasting impression had always been made before such questions arose. Not only did we not forget what he said to us, it was usually impossible to forget what he had said, even if one wished to forget it.

Shortly after the earring episode with Mme. Schernvall, he brought up once again the question of men and women, their roles in life, and, as an additional element, the specific roles of the sexes in his work or, for that matter, in any religious or psychological work which had self-development and proper growth as an aim. I was surprised and puzzled then, and many times later when he spoke on the subject, by his reiteration of the fact that not only was his work "not for everyone" but that "women did not need it." He said that the nature of women was such that "self development" in his sense of the phrase was something that they could not achieve. Among other things, he said: "Nature of woman is very different from that of man. Woman is from ground, and only hope for her to arise to another stage of development -- to go to Heaven as you say -- is with man. Woman already know everything, but such knowledge is of no use to her, in fact can almost be like poison to her, unless have man with her. Man have one thing that not exist in woman ever: what you call 'aspiration'. In life, man use this thing -- this aspiration -- for many things, all wrong for his life, but must use because have such need. Man -- not woman -- climb mountains, go under oceans, fly in air, because must do such thing. Impossible for him not to do; cannot resist this. Look at life around you: Man write music, man paint pictures, write books, all such things. Is way, he think, find Heaven for self."

When someone did object that the sciences and the arts were not, after all, exclusively confined to the world of the male, Gurdjieff laughed: "You ask question about woman artist, woman scientist. I tell you world all mixed up, and this true thing I say. True man and true woman not just one sex -- not just male or female. True human is combination of these things: active and passive, male and female. Even you," he made a sweeping gesture covering all of us, "sometimes understand this because sometimes you surprised when you see man who feel thing like woman, or woman who act like man; or even when in self feel feelings proper to opposite sex.

"We all live in what we call universe, but this only very small solar system, smallest of many, many solar systems -- even very unimportant place. For instance, in this solar system, people bi-sexual: necessary have two sexes for reproduction of kind -- primitive method, which use part of man's aspiration for creation of more people. Man who can learn how to achieve higher self -- how go to proper Heaven -- can use all this aspiration for development of self, for what you call immortality. In world as now exist, no man able do this: only possibility for immortality is reproduction. When man have children, then all of him not die when his body die.

"Not necessary for woman do work of man in world. If woman can find real man, then woman become real woman without necessity work. But, like I tell, world mixed up. Today in world real man not exist, so woman even try to become man, do man's work which is wrong for her nature."
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:48 am

Chapter 27

SHORTLY AFTER MADAME OSTROVSKY'S death, the atmosphere at the Prieure seemed to change; part of it was definitely due to her death (Gurdjieff, for example, was living with a woman who became pregnant a few months later); part of it was simply because I was, inevitably, growing up. Questions that had not occurred to me previously loomed in my mind. What was I doing in such a place, what was the purpose of the school, what sort of a man, after all, was Gurdjieff?

I suppose that early adolescence is a "normal" time in which a child begins to evaluate his surroundings, his parents, the people around him. It was easy enough for me to answer my questions concerning why I was there: the aimless, haphazard series of events that had led me there was fresh in my mind. But, by this time, the question of whether or not I wanted to be there became a different one. Up to that time I had had no control over the course my life had taken; nor had it occurred to me that I could have had any influence in determining that course. At thirteen, I still had no voice and no power over my "destiny" or my future, but I did have questions about them.

In the course of the comings and goings of all types of people at the Prieure -- visitors, semi-permanent residents -- there were always discussions about Gurdjieff, about the purpose and/or value of his work. There were a great many "students" who left the Prieure under more or less violent emotional circumstances: sometimes because Gurdjieff did not want them there, sometimes because of their own attitudes and feelings about him as a man.

During the two years that I had been there, I had been aware of, and had certainly subscribed to, the feeling and the belief that Gurdjieff could do no wrong; that whatever he did was purposeful, necessary, important, "right". I had not, up to then, needed to make any decisions about him on my own. But a time came when I began to look at him against my own background, with my own unconsciously acquired values, and to make some attempt to evaluate the man, the students, the school. A great number of questions, mostly unanswerable, arose.

What was the power of this man whose word was law, who knew more than anyone else, who held absolute sway over his "disciples"? There was no question in my mind about my personal relationship to him. I loved him, he had taken the place of my parents and he had unquestioned authority over me and devoted loyalty and affection from me. Even so, it was obvious that much of his effect on me, and his power over me, was due to the feelings of others -- generally feelings of reverence and respect -- and to my natural desire to conform. On the other hand, my personal feelings of awe and respect were less important than my fear of him. The fear had become unquestionably genuine the more I came to know him.

It had been impressive, enlightening and even amusing to watch him, at close range, when he reduced people to a pulp, as he had done in the case of Mr. Orage, in my presence. But was it not also significant that Mr. Orage had left the Prieure shortly after that and had not returned ? I had been told that he was teaching the Gurdjieff "work" in New York since that time, and it may have been that whatever Gurdjieff had done to Mr. Orage had been necessary; but, finally, who was to determine that?

Gurdjieff himself was no help. One of the unforgettable things he had said, and he had repeated it many times, was that what he called the "good" and "evil" in man grew together, equally; that man's potentiality to become either an "angel" or a "devil" was always equal. While he had spoken, frequently, of the necessity to create or acquire a "reconciling force" within oneself in order to deal with the "positive" and "negative" or "good" and "evil" sides of one's nature, he had also stated that the struggle, or "war", was never-ending; that the more one learned, the more difficult life would, inevitably, become. The prospect seemed to be one of "the more you learn the harder it will get." When he was countered, occasionally, with protests against this rather grim outlook on the future, he seemed invariably to answer with the more or less irrefutable statement that we -- individually, or as a group -- were unable to think clearly, were not sufficiently adult or grown -- up to judge whether or not this was a proper and realistic future for man; whereas, he knew what he was talking about. I had no arguments with which I could defend the charge of incompetency against me; but I had no absolutely acceptable proof of his competence, either. His force, magnetism, power, ability, and even wisdom, were, perhaps, undeniable. But did the combination of these attributes, or qualities, create, automatically, the quality of competent judgment?

It is a waste of time to argue or to do battle with people who are convinced. The people who were interested in Gurdjieff always ended up in one of two categories: they were either for him or against him; they either stayed at the Prieure, or continued to attend his "groups" in Paris, London, New York and elsewhere, because they were at least reasonably convinced that he had some kind of an answer; or else they left him and his "work" bec3use they were convinced that he was a charlatan, or a devil, or -- more simply -- that he was wrong.

Given the goodwill of his auditors, he was incredibly convincing. His presence and his physical magnetism were undeniable and generally overwhelming. His logic -- in practical ways -- was impossible to refute, and never coloured or distorted by emotion; in that respect, in the purely ordinary problems of life, there was no question but that he played fair . He was a considerate and thoughtful judge in dealing with questions or disputes which arose in the course of running an establishment such as the Prieure; it would have been ridiculous, and illogical, to argue with him or to call him unfair.

However, going back in my own mind at that age to such things as my various experiences with Miss Madison, what had he done to her? What was the effect on her when he rewarded all those who had defied her orders? Why had he put her in that position of authority? Of course, Miss Madison was physically present as an answer to those questions. She seemed to have become that much more a follower, that much more a devoted disciple, and apparently did not question what he had done to her. But was that, in the long run, any answer? Was it, perhaps, merely proof that Miss Madison was overpowered by his magnetism, his positive force?

I had the feeling then -- and I have no valid reason to change that feeling or opinion almost forty years later -- that he was perhaps searching for some individual or some force that could or would oppose him effectively. There were certainly no such opponents at the Prieure. Even at that age, I began to have a certain contempt for the abject devotion of his adherents or "disciples". They spoke of him in hushed tones; when they did not understand a particular statement he had made, or something he had done, they blamed themselves, far too readily for my taste, for their lack of insight; in short, they worshipped him. The atmosphere that is created, somehow, by a group of people who "worship" an individual or a philosophy seemed then -- and still seems now -- to carry the seed of its own destruction with it; it certainly lends itself to ridicule. What was perplexing to me was Gurdjieff's own ridicule of his more convinced and devout followers ( witness the case of the ladies and the "famous old wine"). In my childlike, simple way, I felt that he was likely to do anything at all -- at the expense of anyone -- for "fun" ; to see what, if anything, was going to happen.

In my opinion he not only played games with his students, but the games were always "loaded" in his favour; he was playing against people he had called "sheep" to their faces ; people who, in addition, accepted the term without protest. Among the devout there were a few who fenced with him verbally, but, in the long run, they seemed to be the ones who were the most "possessed" or "convinced" ; daring to joke with him became proof of a certain intimacy with him -- a privilege accorded to them because of their total agreement with his ideas -- and in no sense an indication of rebellion. The rebellious did not stay at the Prieure to exchange banter, and they were not permitted to stay to challenge or oppose him; the "philosophical dictatorship" brooked no opposition.

What began to obsess me, at thirteen, was a serious and, to me at least, a dangerous question. What was I dealing with? I did not mind the fact that he was perhaps making as much of a fool of me as he seemed to be making of others; I didn't know whether he was or not. But, if he was, I wanted to know why. I could not deny that it was amusing to me, as a child, to see Gurdjieff "expose" adults, to make fun of them, but did it serve any constructive purpose?

Even at that age I was somehow conscious that evil could, conceivably, produce good. When Gurdjieff would speak of "objective" morality and "subjective" morality, I was not left entirely in the dark. In the simplest sense it seemed to mean that custom governed subjective morality, whereas what Gurdjieff called "objective morality" was a matter of natural instinct and individual conscience. In discussing morality, he recommended living in accordance with the particular moral customs and habits of the society in which one lived -- he was very fond of the phrase "When you live in Rome, live as the Romans do" -- but he stressed the necessity of an individual, objective, personal "morality", based on conscience, rather than tradition, custom, or law. Marriage was a good example of a subjective moral custom; objectively, neither nature nor individual morality required such a sacrament.

I did not feel especially confused when I learned that the title of Gurdjieff's first book was "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" or " An Impartial, Objective Criticism of Man". The idea that the devil -- or Beelzebub -- was the critic did not appall me. When Gurdjieff stated that Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, and other such prophets, were "messengers from the gods" who had, finally, failed, I could accept the implicit theory that perhaps it was time to give the devil his chance. I did not, as an adolescent, have such a good opinion of the world that I found it difficult to accept Gurdjieff's verdict that it was "all mixed up" or "upside down" or, in my own translation of his terms, a general mess. But if the mentioned prophets had, for some reason, "failed", was there any assurance, then, that Gurdjieff (or Beelzebub) was going to succeed?

Fail or succeed at what? I could accept the theory that there was something "wrong" with humanity, but I resisted the statement, on the part of an individual, that he knew exactly what was "wrong". Also, acceptance is not conviction, and in order to discuss seriously a cure it seemed to me logical that one would have to be convinced that the illness existed. Was I, then, going to be forced to form an opinion about the "condition of man" -- to make a diagnosis? I was not equipped to do so, but I was not averse to making an attempt in that direction. The only answer that I could find was, of course, no answer at all.

All these speculations led back, inevitably, to Gurdjieff, the man. When he prescribed an exercise, such as "self-observation", with the avowed aim of getting to "know oneself", I had no argument with him and he had the weight of all organized religion behind him as he had pointed out. Perhaps the difference lay in the particular method, and I was in no position to judge the merits of his methods. The aim, however, was not a new one.

If I was to accept the premise that man is inferior to nature -- and I was in no position to deny it -- then I was immediately forced to consider the possibility that Gurdjieff, being a man, did not necessarily have all the answers -- assuming that there are any. His philosophy, as I understood it at that age, was unquestionably attractive. Was it anything more than that? All "mystical" ideas are attractive to the inquisitive for the perfectly simple reason that they are mystical or, in some way, mysterious.

Such questions are troubling; they can threaten the self-confidence, the "raison-d'etre", of a human being completely. My doubts and questions were like a nest of concentric circles -- the very reason for life itself, for human existence, seemed to boil down to whether or not I could or would accept Gurdjieff as the man who held the key. The simple fact of living in his presence had made it impossible for me to retreat (which is not necessarily the proper word) into any "belief" or "faith" in any other existing religion or theory of life. I was attracted by his repudiation of organized activity -- whether religious, philosophical, or even practical, I was further attracted by his seeming support of individual truth, or action. But what was terrifying was the inevitable concept of the uselessness of human life -- individual or collective. The story of the acorns on the oak tree had impressed me as a child. The concept of human life as simply another form of organism -- which might or might not develop -- was new to me. But was Gurdjieff's work, actually, the proper means by which to grow into an "oak"? Was I, finally, dealing with the devil? Whoever he was, I liked him; I was certainly smitten with him. Even so, it remains significant that my only serious attempt at suicide occurred that year. I was tortured by the questions that did not cease to torment me -- tortured to the point that I could not continue to ask them of myself, relentlessly, without finding some sort of answer. Obviously, to me, the only person who might have the answer was Gurdjieff himself, and since he was also, in all probability', the villain, I could not ask him directly. What I did was to drink a small bottle of wood alcohol. On the face of it, this was not a very determined effort, but I intended it seriously -- the bottle '''as marked "Poison" and I believed it. The results of the attempt were not particularly dramatic. I became sick to my stomach, and did not even have to take an emetic.

The attempt was made at night, and when I saw Gurdjieff the following morning, when bringing him his customary coffee, he took one quick look at me and asked me what was wrong. I told him what I had done and also, rather shame-facedly, about my immediate physical reaction of sickness. At that moment I no longer cared whether he was the devil or not. His only comment was that in order to commit suicide successfully the effort had to be whole-hearted. He did not ask me why I had done it, and I remember having the curious sensation that as we faced each other that morning we were being completely, dispassionately honest with one another.
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:49 am

Chapter 28

My QUESTIONS AND doubts about the Prieure and Mr. Gurdjieff, obsessive as they had been for a short time, subsided rapidly. I was not concerned about this, but relieved to slip back into the day-to-day working routine, as if a great load had been removed from my shoulders.

The only obvious changes in the general life at the Prieure after Madame Ostrovsky's death were that Gurdjieff began to take frequent trips for periods of several days or even as much as two weeks at a time; and that when he was in residence there were usually a great many more guests on weekends. When he would go on a trip, he would often take as many as five or six people with him, and almost everyone anticipated the possibility of being selected to accompany him. It became a kind of cachet to have been on a journey to Vichy or Evian or any of the popular resorts that he liked to visit. Gurdjieff's given reason for these trips was that he needed to travel and to see more people because of his writing, which he usually did now in cafes and restaurants, often sitting in the centre of a group of people, drinking coffee and writing interminably. Many of the people who went with him were actively engaged in the translation of his writings into various languages; in addition, he liked to travel with an entourage.

I saw less of him at this time, mostly because of his more frequent absences, but even when he was at the Prieure I did not have as much private contact with him as I had had in the past. On the whole, I was glad of this, for although my questions had subsided in the sense that they were no longer at the forefront of my mind, my fear of him and a general lurking suspicion of his motives had at least partially replaced my personal and, up to then, rather complete devotion to him. I continued, however, to have either an accidental or perhaps in some way purposeful series of experiences with him.

One day when he was expected to return from one of his journeys, I was working in the kitchen, helping in the preparation of one of the usual, elaborate dinners which were always served on the days he returned. As I was moving a large kettle full of boiling water in order to stoke the fires, I somehow spilled it on myself, mainly on my entire right arm. I dropped the kettle, howling with pain, and Madame Schernvall, the cook of the day, screamed for help and sent someone for the doctor. Instead of the doctor, Gurdjieff appeared, completely unexpectedly, in the kitchen. He had arrived much earlier than we had anticipated. Without a word, and not even seeming to listen to Madame Schernvall's almost hysterical explanation of what had happened, he strode over to me, pulled me over to the stove, removed the iron rings and exposed the red-hot fire. He then seized my burned arm and held it, with all his force, over the open fire -- probably not for more than a few seconds, although it seemed an eternity to me. When he released me, he said very seriously and calmly that the proper way to fight fire was with fire. "This way," he said, "you not have scar on arm. Burn already gone."

I was amazed and very much impressed -- not only with the painful treatment, but also because of his completely unexpected appearance at just that moment. Inevitably, it did seem to be one of those fateful occurrences which I could not simply charge off to coincidence. Madame Schernvall told me, after he had left, that she had had a similar experience with him several years before, and knew that what he had done to me was the proper treatment for a burn, but that she would never have had the force or the courage to do it. We both remained overawed for the rest of the day and Madame Schernvall certainly encouraged my temptation to feel that his appearance at that time had been in some way supernatural. We continued to talk about it for several days, mostly because, as he had predicted, there was not only no scar, there was no pain and no physical evidence of any burn at all.

Gurdjieff's treatment of me from then on took a different form, and, in spite of the lack of private, personal contact with him, it did seem to me that he often singled me out for no obvious reasons.

A few weeks after the "burn cure" we were again preparing a large dinner as there were to be a great many guests that evening. The principal guest was the gendarme who had discovered Gurdjieff after his automobile accident a few summers before. When he arrived, he was installed in one of the sumptuous guest rooms on the same floor as Gurdjieff's room, and was then introduced to all of us. Gurdjieff praised him and told us how much he, and all of us, owed to this man. If it had not been for him, he, Gurdjieff, might easily be dead, and so on. The gendarme, in turn, told his version of the story; and he was greatly impressed with Gurdjieff as a person because of two specific things that had happened. The first was his discovery of Gurdjieff. He had been riding home at night, going off duty, when he had come upon the wrecked automobile, and had of course stopped to investigate the accident. The amazing thing about it was that, although seriously injured, Gurdjieff had somehow managed, apparently in a state of shock, to get out of the car, take a pillow and blanket from the car and lie down at the side of the road -- the pillow under his head, and well covered with the blanket. Considering his injuries, the gendarme could not -- to this day -- bring himself to believe that Gurdjieff had done all this without assistance.

The second thing that had amazed him was that, although it had taken him almost two years after his recovery , Gurdjieff had managed to search him out, find him, and finally persuade him to come to the Prieure as his guest for the weekend. There was, apparently, some reason for astonishment in this conneccion, although I never fully understood it; the records did not give the gendarme's name or something of the sort. Whatever it was, it had taken a great deal of effort and persistence in this case, and the gendarme was almost unable to accept the fact that someone had gone to that much trouble to thank him for what was, after all, only the normal performance of his duty.

The gendarme was seated at a place of honour at the table and Gurdjieff, as the meal began, poured the usual glasses of Armagnac for everyone (customarily, it was necessary -- it was one of his rules -- to drink a great number of toasts during a meal, and he always filled the glasses himself), including the gendarme. But the gendarme balked. His respect and friendship for Mr. Gurdjieff were boundless, as he said, but he was totally unable to drink such strong liquor -- the most he ever drank was an occasional glass of wine.

Gurdjieff was always persistent when people objected to drinking these strong toasts with him, but in this case he was adamant. He argued, pleaded, even begged the gendarme to drink with him, and the gendarme categorically, and as politely as possible, refused. Finally, Gurdjieff said that the dinner could not proceed without the participation of the gendarme in these toasts, and, as if trying another tack with him, said that any man worth his salt had not only to be able to drink such toasts, but must actually drink them. He waved away the man's protests and said that he would show him that the liquor would not have any bad effects. "This not usual place," he said, meaning the Prieure, "here is such goodwill that anyone can drink without bad effects. Even children can drink here." To prove this point, he called me over to him -- I was serving at the table that night.

When I was standing next to him, he poured a water glass full of Armagnac, and told me in Russian to drink it down at one gulp. I did, although I had never tasted such strong liquor before. When I had swallowed it, the tears came to my eyes, and my throat was burning, but I managed to get to the kitchen where the horrified cook told me to eat bread rapidly to ease my throat. The cook was his sister-in-law and was often highly critical of him. She told me firmly that only a mad man would force a child to drink "that stuff" and then sent me back to my duties as waiter. The liquor had such an immediate effect on me that, while I did continue to pass various dishes to the assembled guests, I only did so by staggering around the table and shoving the platters at them, feeling giddy and completely unconcerned. I had never experienced such a sense of carefree well-being in my life. I thought it was particularly comical when Gurdjieff, each time I arrived near him, would direct attention to me and my complete sobriety. I remember having a strange feeling of separateness as if I had actually departed from the confines of my own body and was able to watch myself, as if from a distance, tottering gaily around the table with the heavy platters in my hands. I was especially pleased when the gendarme, apparently thanks to me, gave in and drank several toasts with Mr. Gurdjieff and the other guests. I felt that it was all thanks to me and congratulated myself on some great, but not very well defined, accomplishment.

Even so, and in spite of my high spirits, the dinner seemed interminable, and I was greatly relieved when I was able to stagger off to my bed at a very late hour. It seemed to me that I had only been asleep for a few minutes when I heard the insistent ring of my buzzer. I was amazed to see that it was daylight, and managed to get into my clothes and answer the inevitable coffee summons. Gurdjieff laughed at me when I appeared in his room, and asked me how I felt. I said that I supposed that I was still drunk and described to him the way I had felt the night before. He nodded sagely, and told me that the liquor had produced a very interesting state in me, and that if I could achieve that kind of self-awareness when sober, it could be a very important accomplishment. Then he thanked me for my part in his experiment with the gendarme and added that he had picked me, especially, because it was very important that I should learn how to drink, and to learn at my age what the effects of liquor could be. "In future, when drunk," he said, "try to see self this same way as you saw last night. This can be very good exercise for you, will also help to not get drunk."
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Re: BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, by Fritz Peters

Postby admin » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:49 am

Chapter 29

LATE THAT SUMMER, Tom and I were chosen to be members of the party of five or six who were to accompany Mr. Gurdjieff on his next trip away from the Prieure. We were among the first children to be selected for this honour and I looked forward to the day of our departure with anticipation and enthusiasm.

It was not until we were actually on the road that Gurdjieff informed us that our destination was Vichy, where he planned to stay for several days and write. Within the first hour or two, I learned quickly enough that travelling with Gurdjieff was not an ordinary experience. Although we were not, as far as I knew, in any hurry to reach our destination, he drove his car as if possessed. We would tear along the roads at a high rate of speed for a few hours, then he would stop abruptly to spend two or three hours at a cafe in a small town, where he would write incessantly; or we might stop somewhere in the country, along the side of the road, and unload great hampers of food and drink, blankets and pillows, and have a leisurely picnic after which everyone would take a nap.

Short of any actual mechanical breakdown, we seemed to have an unusual number of unnecessary experiences on the road. Someone -- it might be me, or anyone of the party -- would be delegated to sit next to Gurdjieff with an open map with which to guide him. He would start off, having told the map reader which road he wished to take, and would then rapidly accelerate to top speed. The map reader's job was to watch the road signs and tell him when to turn off and otherwise give him directions. Invariably, he would manage to speed up before reaching any intersection, and almost equally invariably would fail to make a proper turn. Since he refused to go back, it was then necessary to guide him on whatever road we had happened on in the general direction of our destination. Inevitably, there would be long arguments, usually beginning with his cursing of whoever happened to be reading the map at the time, and finally joined in by everyone. There seemed to be a purpose in this, since it happened regularly no matter who was seated next to him as guide, and I could only ascribe it to his desire to keep everyone stirred up and alert.

Although we carried two spare wheels and tyres with us -- one on each running board -- we could have used several more. Even in those days, changing a wheel after a flat tyre was not a very complicated operation. With Gurdjieff, however, it seemed to become an engineering problem. When a tyre did go flat, and this happened often, everyone would descend from the car, different jobs would be assigned to the various members of the group -- one would be in charge of the jack, another in charge of the removal of the spare tyre, another to remove the wheel that had to be changed. All of these jobs were then supervised by Gurdjieff personally, usually in conference with everyone who was not actually doing something. All work would stop from time to time and we would have long conferences about whether the jack would support the car at that particular angle on the road, which was the best way to remove the lugs from the wheel, and so on. Since Gurdjieff would never take time to have a tyre repaired at a gas station, once the two good spares had been used up, it became a question of not merely changing a wheel, but actually removing the tyre, repairing it, and replacing it on the wheel. On this particular trip, we had enough men to do this, but what with the arguments and conferences and a good deal of recrimination about why the tyres had not been repaired, this process took hours, and most of this time the entire group, with the women appropriately dressed in long dresses, would stand around the car in a huddle, advising and instructing. These groups of people gave passing motorists the impression that some great misfortune had overtaken us and they would frequently stop their cars to offer help, so that sometimes we would be joined by another large group which would also contribute advice, consolation, and sometimes even physical help.

In addition to the hazards of tyre repairs and finding ourselves almost constantly on the wrong road, there was no way that Gurdjieff could be induced to stop for gasoline. Whatever the gas gauge might read, he would insist that we could not possibly be out of gas until the inevitable moment when the motor would begin to cough and splutter and, although he would curse it loudly, the car would stop. Since he was rarely on the proper side of the road, it would then be necessary for everyone to get out of the car and push it to one side of the road while some individual would be selected to either walk or hitch-hike to the nearest gas station and bring back a mechanic. Gurdjieff insisted on the mechanic because he was positive that there was something wrong with the car; he could not have done anything so simple as run out of gas. These delays were a great annoyance to everyone except Mr. Gurdjieff who, once someone had gone in search of help, would settle himself comfortably at the side of the road, or perhaps remain in the car, depending upon how he felt at the moment, and write furiously in his notebooks, muttering to himself and licking the point of one of his many pencils.

Gurdjieff also seemed to attract obstacles. If we were not out of gas or on the wrong road, we would manage to run into a herd of cows or a flock of sheep or goats. Gurdjieff would follow such animals along the road, sometimes nudging them with the bumper of the car, and always leaning out of the driver's side hurling imprecations at them. We ran into a herd of cattle during one of my tours of duty as map reader, and this time, to my surprise and great pleasure, as he cursed at and nudged one of the slower cows in the herd, the cow stopped dead in front of the car, stared at him balefully, raised her tail and showered the hood of the car with a stream of liquid manure. Gurdjieff also seemed to think of this as being especially hilarious and we promptly stopped to rest at the side of the road so that he could do some more writing while the rest of us did what we could to clean up the automobile.

Another habit of Gurdjieff's which complicated these voyages was that, having made numerous stops to eat, rest, write, and so forth, during the day, he would never stop driving at night until so late that most of the inns or hotels would be closed by the time he decided that he needed to eat and sleep. This always meant that one of the group -- we all loathed this duty -- would have to get out of the car, and beat on the door of some country inn until we could raise the proprietor, and, frequently, the entire town. Presumably for the sole purpose of creating additional confusion, once the owner of some inn or hotel had been awakened, Gurdjieff would lean out from the parked car, shouting instructions -- usually in Russian -- about the number of rooms and meals that would be necessary and any other instructions that might come to his mind. Then, while his companions unloaded mountains of luggage, he would usually engage in long, complicated excuses to whoever had been awakened, deploring, in execrable French, the necessity of having awakened them and the inefficiency of his travelling companions, and so forth, with the result that the proprietress -- it was nearly always a woman on such occasions -- was completely charmed with him and would look at the rest of us with loathing as she served an excellent meal. The meal, of course, would go on interminably with long toasts to everyone present, especially the owners of the inn, plus additional toasts to the quality of the food, the magnificence of the location, or anything else that struck his fancy.

Although I thought the journey would never come to an end, we did manage to reach Vichy after a few days of this unusual manner of travelling. We did not arrive, of course, until very late at night, and again had to awaken a great many of the personnel at one of the big resort hotels, who, at first, informed us that they had no room. Gurdjieff intervened in these arrangements, however, and convinced the manager that his visit was of extreme importance. One of the reasons he gave was that he was the Headmaster of a very special school for wealthy Americans, and he produced Tom and myself, both very sleepy, as proof. With a perfectly straight face, I was introduced as Mr . Ford, the son of the famous Henry Ford, and Tom was introduced as Mr. Rockefeller, the son of the equally famous John D. Rockefeller. As I looked at the manager, I did not feel that he was swallowing this tale completely, but he managed (he was obviously tired, too) to smile and look at the two of us with deference. The one problem that remained to be settled was that there were not, in spite of Mr. Gurdjieff's possible importance, enough rooms for all of us. Gurdjieff considered this information seriously and finally devised some way in which we could all be accommodated without any improper mingling of the sexes, into the rooms that were available. Mr. Ford, or not, I ended up sleeping in his bathroom, in the bathtub. I had only just climbed into the tub, exhausted, with a blanket, when someone appeared with a cot that was squeezed into a narrow space in the bathroom. I then moved into the cot, whereupon Mr. Gurdjieff, greatly exhilarated by all these complications, proceeded to take a very hot and long-lasting bath.

The stay at Vichy was very peaceful as compared to our trip. We did not see Gurdjieff except at meals, and our only duty during our stay there was that we were under orders to drink certain specific waters which were, according to him, very beneficial. He gave orders about this water-drinking in the dining-room, which was full, much to our embarrassment and to the great enjoyment of the other guests in the hotel. The particular water that I was to drink was from a spring called "Pour les Femmes" and was a water whose properties were considered extremely beneficial for women, especially if they desired to become pregnant. Fortunately for me at the time -- I was in an extremely good humour and enjoying the general spectacle he was making in the hotel -- I thought that it was an extremely funny idea for me to drink waters which might induce pregnancy and enjoyed regaling him at meals with an account of the large number of glasses I had managed to drink since I had last seen him. He was very pleased with this and would pat my stomach reassuringly and then tell me how proud he was of me. He continued to refer to Tom and myself in a loud voice as Messrs. Rockefeller and Ford, and would explain to the maitre-d'hotel, the waiters, or even the guests at nearby tables, about his school, and his remarkable pupils -- indicating his young American millionaires-to-be -- making learned remarks on the "real properties" of the waters of Vichy which were actually known only to himself.

To add to the general uproar of our stay at Vichy, Gurdjieff met a family of three Russians: a husband and wife and their daughter who must have been in her early twenties. He persuaded the hotel staff to rearrange the dining-room in order that this Russian family should be able to take their meals with us, and we became even more the centre of attraction of the hotel, what with the enormous quantities of Armagnac consumed at each meal, usually complete with toasts to all of the guests individually as well as to everyone at our table. It seems to me now that I only had time to eat tremendous, never-ending meals (I was not required to drink toasts, however), leave the table and race to the "Pour les Femmes" spring and consume large quantities of spring water and then rush back to the hotel in time for another meal.

The Russian family were very much taken with, and impressed by, Gurdjieff and after a day or so he had completely revised their water-drinking schedule, insisting that their regimes were completely wrong, so that the daughter ended up drinking, regularly, a water known, naturally, as "Pour les Hommes". She did not, however, find this particularly odd or funny, and listened very seriously to Mr. Gurdjieff's long, scientific analysis of the properties of this particular water and why it was the proper water for her to drink. When I asked him about this one night while he was taking a bath next to my cot in the bathroom, he said that -- as he would prove to me sometime in the near future -- this particular girl was very suitable for experiments in hypnosis.

We did not stay in Vichy for more than a week, and when we reached the Prieure, late at night, after an equally harrowing return trip, we were all exhausted. Mr. Gurdjieff's only comment to me after the trip was that it had been a fine trip for all of us, and that it was an excellent way to "changer les idees".
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