Gurdjieff's Journey from Russia to Europe
In 1917, the Russian Revolution forced Gurdjieff to depart Moscow for Essentuki. Here he opened the Institute but the mass psychosis of the time forced him to leave for Tiflis. In Tiflis he again opened the Institute but had to close it because of the harrowing conditions.
The Russian Revolution and the victory of the BolsheviksGurdjieff termed Marxism "satanic"made establishing the teaching in Russia impossible and he had to leave. Gurdjieff and his students arrived in Constantinople in June 1920. Ouspensky had arrived in January. He reconciled with Gurdjieff and gave him his pupils. Gurdjieff opened his Institute. However, with the city awash in refugees from the Revolution and a progressive secular on the increase, he closed it.
Gurdjieff saw now that he had to make a fateful and defining decisionwhether to stay in Constantinople or take the teaching to Europe. Here he knew the language, had friends and resources. While in Europe he knew none of the languages, had no friends or resources. Like a true spiritual warrior, he stepped off into the unknown, leaving for Europe in August 1921.
After attempts to open the institute in Berlin and later in London proved fruitless, his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man was finally established at the Château du Prieuré at Fontainebleau-en-Avon in France, approximately forty miles southwest of Paris, on September 30, 1922.
In residence at the Prieure in 1922 were the Russian pupils, including Madame Ouspensky, Gurdjieff's family and his wife, the Polish Countess Julia Ostrowska. A. R. Orage, the famous editor of the influential New Age magazine and former student of P. D. Ouspensky arrived as well, followed in October by his friend, New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield, who was terminally ill with tuberculosis.
From England, Dr. Maurice Nicoll, a Harley Street specialist and early exponent of Jung, with his wife and child; Dr. James Carruthers Young, also a practioner of Jungian therapy; Miss Elizabeth Gordon, a well-to-do single woman, and Frank Pinder, a mining engineer and a major in British intelligence who had met Gurdjieff in Tiflis.
Six days a week the students would rise before six a.m., stopping their work in the kitchen, gardens and forest for brief meals and gathering at 8:30 in the evenings for gymnastics or dances. These tasks were almost always group activities. Different personalities, working together, produced subjective, human conflicts; human conflicts produced friction; friction revealed characteristics which, if observed, could reveal "self." For a further description of life at the Prieuré, read Boyhood with Gurdjieff and A Woman's Work With Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Anandamayi Ma & Pak Subuh.
In January 1924Gurdjieff and a troupe of dancers made a triumphant visit America to introduce the teaching. Gurdjieff made a total of nine visits to America. Though noting its obsession with "growing dollars," he believed that "America had the largest percentage of beings in whose presences," he said "the possibility [of the acquisition of Being] is not entirely lost." He said that America was a country that was very strong but also very young. Politicallyin a rare pronouncementGurdjieff predicted that the eastern world would again rise to a position of world importance and become a threat to the momentarily all-powerful, all-influential new culture of the western world dominated by America.