International Journal for the Study of New Religions, Vol 6, No 2 (2015)

Intentional Communities in the Gurdjieff Teaching

Carole M. Cusack
Issued Date: 20 Jan 2016

Abstract


G. I. Gurdjieff (c. 1866-1949) claimed that individuals could not advance spiritually but that in a group progress was possible. He founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, first in Tiflis, Georgia in 1919, and for a second time at the Prieuré des Basses Loges in Fontainebleau-Avon, south of Paris, in 1922. At the Prieuré Gurdjieff’s pupils pursued tasks as part of a program of spiritual exercises he devised to lead them from false personality to true self, from a multitude of “I”s to a “real I”. These activities included Movements (the “sacred dances”), physical labour, ritualized eating, drinking, and bathing in the Turkish bath, and “inner exercises,” a type of contemplation. Key pupils of Gurdjieff established similar live-in venues for pursuit of the “Work”: P. D. Ouspensky at Lyne Place, Surrey; J. G. Bennett (1897-1974) at Coombe Springs, Surrey; Sophia Ouspensky at Franklin Farms, Mendham, NJ; and later other “Gurdjieffian” teachers founded a range of residential communities. The Work or the Fourth Way (as the Gurdjieff teaching is known) did not mandate retreat from everyday life; rather, Gurdjieff asserted that it was compatible with family, childrearing, and employment. This article uses examples of scholarly literature on intentional communities, and social history of other groups attempting the same types of experiments in living contemporaneously, to illuminate an understudied aspect of the Gurdjieff tradition.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsnr.v6i2.28875

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