Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Monte de la Meditacion Presenta a John Maxwell Taylor
Gurdjieff: Living From the Miraculous with John Maxwell Taylor
Marzo 6 de 10: am to 12:20 pm.
G. I. Gurdjieff
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
Gurdjieff was born in Alexandropol (now Gyumri), Armenia, Russia Empire to a Pontic Greek father and an Armenian mother. The exact date of his birth remains unknown (conjectures range from 1866 to 1877). Some authors (like Moore) argue persuasively for 1866, others (like Patterson) for 1872; a passport gave a birth-date of November 28, 1877. Gurdjieff grew up in Kars and traveled to many parts of the world (such as Central Asia, Egypt and Rome) before returning to Russia in 1912; about which he later said, ' Begin in Russia, end in Russia.' 2005 may mark the end of a preparatory period, as the Work has now reestablished itself in its birthplace, Russia.
The only account of Gurdjieff's early life before he appeared in Moscow in 1912 appears in his text Meetings with Remarkable Men. This text, however, cannot be read as straightforward autobiography. It was in the pre-1912 period that Gurdjieff went on his apocryphal voyage outlined in Meetings with Remarkable Men where he comes upon a map of "pre-sand Egypt" which leads him to study with an esoteric group, the Sarmoung Brotherhood.
From 1913 to 1949 the chronology appears to stand on the much firmer ground afforded by primary documents, independent witness, cross-reference, and reasonable inference. On New Year's Day in 1912 Gurdjieff arrived in Moscow and attracted his first students. In the same year he married Julia Ostrowska in St Petersburg. In 1914 Gurdjieff advertised his ballet, The Struggle of the Magicians, and supervised his pupils' writing of the sketch "Glimpses of Truth". In 1915 Gurdjieff accepted P. D. Ouspensky as a pupil, while in 1916 he accepted the composer Thomas de Hartmann and his wife Olga as students. At this time he had about thirty pupils.
In the midst of revolutionary upheaval in Russia he left Petrograd in 1917 to return to his family home in Alexandropol. During the Bolshevik Revolution Gurdjieff set up temporary study-communities in Essentuki in the Caucasus, then in Tuapse, Maikop, Sochi and Poti, all on the Black Sea coast of southern Russia, where he worked intensively with many of his Russian pupils.
In March 1918, Ouspensky separated from Gurdjieff and four months later Gurdjieff's eldest sister and her family reached him in Essentuki as refugees, informing him that Turks had shot his father in Alexandropol on 15 May during the Armenian genocide (1915-1923). As Essentuki became more and more threatened by civil war, Gurdjieff put out a fabricated newspaper story announcing his forthcoming "scientific expedition" to Mount Induc. Posing as a scientist, Gurdjieff left Essentuki with fourteen companions (excluding Gurdjieff's family and Ouspensky). They traveled by train to Maikop, where hostilities delayed them for three weeks. In spring 1919 Gurdjieff met the artist Alexandre Salzmann and his wife Jeanne and accepted them as pupils. Assisted by Jeanne Salzmann, Gurdjieff gave the first public demonstration of his Sacred Dances (Movements at the Tbilisi Opera House, 22 June).
In the autumn of 1919, Gurdjieff and his closest pupils moved to Tbilisi, formerly known as Tiflis. There Gurdjieff's wife, Julia Ostrowska, Mr and Mrs Stjoernval, Mr and Mrs de Hartmann and Mr and Mrs de Salzmann gathered a lot of the fundamentals of his teaching. Gurdjieff himself concentrated on his still unstaged ballet, The Struggle of the Magicians; Thomas de Hartmann (who had made his debut years ago before the Czar of All Russia) worked on the music for the ballet; and Olga Iovonovna Lazovich Milanoff Hinzenberg (who years later wed the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright) practiced the ballet dances. There, in 1919, he established the first Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. He was thought to be greatly influenced by Nikolai Marr, a Georgian archaeologist and historian. [citation??] In late May 1920, when political conditions in Georgia changed and the old order was crumbling, they traveled by foot to Batumi on the Black Sea coast and then Istanbul. There Gurdjieff rented an apartment on Koumbaradji Street in Péra and later at 13 Abdullatif Yemeneci Sokak near the Galata Tower. The apartment is near the tekke (monastery) of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis (founded by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi), where Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Thomas de Hartmann experienced the sema ceremony of The Whirling Dervishes. In Istanbul Gurdjieff also met Captain John G. Bennett, the then head of British Military Intelligence in Constantinople. Later, Bennett would become a follower of Gurdjieff and of Ouspensky.
In August 1921 and 1922, Gurdjieff traveled around western Europe, lecturing and giving demonstrations of his work in various cities such as Berlin and London and capturing the allegiance of Ouspensky's many prominent pupils (notably the editor A. R. Orage). After he lost a civil action to acquire Hellerau possession in Britain, Gurdjieff established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man south of Paris at the Prieuré des Basses Loges in Fontainebleau-Avon near the famous Château de Fontainebleau. Gurdjieff acquired notoriety as "the man who killed Katherine Mansfield" after Katherine Mansfield died there of tuberculosis under his care on 9 January 1923. Reading further, James Moore convincingly shows however that Katherine Mansfield knew she was soon to die and Gurdjieff made her last days happy and fulfilling; for this he received the calumny of the press.
Starting in 1924 Gurdjieff made visits to North America, where he eventually took over the pupils taught previously by A.R. Orage.
In 1924, while driving alone from Paris to Fontainebleau, Gurdjieff had a near-fatal car-accident. Nursed by his wife and mother, he made a slow and painful recovery — against medical expectation. Still convalescent, he formally "disbanded" his Institute on 26 August (in fact he dispersed only his less-dedicated pupils), and began writing All and Everything.
In 1925 Gurdjieff's wife contracted cancer; she died in June 1926 in spite of radiotherapy and Gurdjieff's magnetic treatments which due his near death was unable to fully implement. Ouspensky attended her funeral. According to Fritz Peters, Gurdjieff was in New York from November 1925 to the spring of 1926 and he succeeded in raising over $1,000,000.
In 1935 Gurdjieff stopped writing All and Everything, having completed the first two parts of the trilogy but having only started on the Third Series (published under the title Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am').
In Paris, Gurdjieff lived at 6 Rue des Colonels-Rénard, where he continued to teach throughout World War II.
Gurdjieff died on October 29, 1949 at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. His funeral took place at the St. Alexandre Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 12 Rue Daru, Paris. He is buried in the cemetery at Fontainebleau-Avon.
Gurdjieff claimed that people cannot perceive reality in their current state because they do not possess consciousness but rather live in a state of a hypnotic "waking sleep".
"Man lives his life in sleep, and in sleep he dies." As a result of this condition each person perceives things from a completely subjective perspective. Gurdjieff stated that maleficent events such as wars and so on could not possibly take place if people were more awake. He asserted that people in their typical state function as unconscious automatons, but that it is possible to wake up and become a different sort of human being altogetherIn 'Teachings of Gurdjieff' C.S. Nott quotes Orage
: John Maxwell Taylor
"Gurdjieff said that he was not a literary man, but that he has supplied material in Beelzebub from which poets and writers will make epics".
© C.S. Nott 1961
The first poet, writer and musician who has made an epic combining Gurdjieff and Beelzebub is John Maxwell Taylor and therefore his work is of particular interest.
John Maxwell Taylor is almost a Welshman, but in fact he is half English. If you ask him which half of him is which, he might answer "the half that leaks is Welsh" (the leek being the national emblem of Wales).
Born to the life of poetry and song he started writing plays at an early age of 15 and became a rock star in the sixties when he was 19. John Maxwell is best known to-day as an actor in his one-man-play 'Forever Jung' and as a lecturer in the subject of human development.
His search for truth led eventually to Gurdjieff. John Maxwell developed the framework of "Sociological Aikido" now changed to "Spiritual Social Self Defense", a system of self-defence in personal interactions with people. Over the past eight years John has worked on Crazy Wisdom - The Life and Legend of Gurdjieff, a musical that was first performed in February 2002 in Encinitas, California, where he lives. The CD with the original cast consists of 2 ½ hours of musical entertainment.
GIG: To get to know you through your homepage and further through Crazy Wisdom has been for me like meeting an old friend, something like deja vu, especially after I listened to your music. Can you tell more about the process?
JMT: I know it is a bit of a cliche for "spiritual" artists to say stuff like "Well, I didn't write it, I just held the pen". But in this case all I can say is that I was always in a bit of an amazed state while wrorking on this because I never had to look for anything. It is almost as if it already existed and I just had to be available to catch the various elements and put them together in three dimensions.
GIG: What were your aims and reasons for writing Crazy Wisdom?
JMT: My purpose in writing this work was to create a play that would give truth seekers all over the world an experience with Gurdjieff's energy and ideas in an accessible form. Millions who are hungry for truth may never be able to fully embrace the work and make it the center of their lives as you and I have done. Neverthless, they may well benefit from peripheral contact through the play and the music. Like a yeast that makes bread rise even a small touch of that which is real can leven a persons life and aid their spiritual development on whatever path they are following. It is a key that unlocks the doors that lead to truth.
GIG: You have managed to put some 27 years of Gurdjieff's life and many of his followers into 2½ hours. What compromises you had to make and what were the difficulties you were faced with?
JMT: Several songs had to be dropped such as one based on Gurdjieff’s story about the Transcaucasian Kurd and a ballet based on "The Struggle of the Magicians". Also there was a very pretty ballad between Ouspenski and Anna Illinishna that revealed that he went into his head when she rejected him as a lover. If I had put in everything that came to me it would have been longer than Wagner’s Ring Cycle! As it stands we still could not do all the songs in the CD in a full production in a major theater because there is quite a bit of dialogue that ties the story together in a live show that we could not include on the CD. Funny stuff, particularly from Madame Ouspenski. After the De Hartmann’s have sung "Our Love Is True" she looks disgustedly towards the audience and says "These two make me ill!" going on two say that anyone who really understands Gurdjieff knows that romantic love is nothing but emotional self hypnosis. Which is of course an attitude indicative of an undeveloped feeling function, a problem that sometimes afflicts people in the work so she is voicing their hang ups.
GIG: Many of the performers fit their roles and have somehow become 'embodyments' of their role characters. Was it difficult to find these singers and actors for all the different people that the musical portrays?
JMT: I had actually worked with many of these singers on my previous musical "Faustorama" that came out eight years ago. Knowing their range and styles, personal attitudes and so forth was very helpful. Tom Jepperson who plays Gurdjieff has a lot of presence and power personally and this reflects in his voice. He tends to prowl about like a panther when he walks and was extremely aware of other dimensions as a child. The cast seemed to assemble in order as if following some synchronistic pattern. That part was very easy although of course recording the voices properly was a huge undertaking.
GIG: You have made something nobody else has: much about the Gurdjieff Work is intellectual and appeals to that side of us, the head brain. Gurdjieff often asked 'What does it make you feel?'. Crazy Wisdom appeals to the emotions and goes so deep that there is nothing I can compare it with. Having brought tears in my eyes how does the audience react and feel when they see the musical?
JMT: I have made Mr. Gurdjieff's statement "You must feel, you must feel, your mind is a luxury" my watchword. I am glad that you were moved. I often had tears in my eyes while writing it and at the three performances we have given so far many people were in tears.
GIG: To accept J. G. Bennett as a flower child singing in the style of The Beatles and the sixties can be tough for some. I think personally that it fits perfectly in his role in the company he is in. Surely he would be able to laugh at it himself. How on earth you came to think about it?
JMT: I can fill you in on that quite easily. In the early seventies I was a member of the Findhorn Community in Scotland. This pioneering spiritual community was in touch with similar experiments in communal living going on at that time and Bennett and Peter Caddy, the founder of Findhorn were often in touch. They spoke at or attended various events around the UK that supported a vision of an emerging global spiritual community. If you look at the pictures of Bennett and his acolytes at Sherbourne House you can see that he is surrounded largely by young people with what we might describe as a "flower child look". We are talking just a few years after 1967, the "summer of love", which was actually caused by a speeding up of the earths energy to propell us into greater spiritual awareness as a race.
The song Bennett sings when he goes off into an altered state is based on an incident he recounts in his autobiography "Witness". Gurdjieff made him participate in the movements even though he was suffering from dysentary and the act of will pushed him into an high state of awareness. So when it came to putting this in a musical form I was very much aware, seeing the play on stage in my head while writing, that any attempt do a serious portrayal of someone in shall we say "cosmic consciousness" could come across as unintentionally funny.
The critics would have a field day with that because the thing they fear most in to appear naïve. So I thought lets make it intentionally funny and profound at the same time. I’m thinking this is happening in 1927 at the first ever commune and the press are calling Gurdjieff and the people at Fontainbleau the "Forest Philosphers" caracterizing them as nature and free love worshippers…And this Beatle like tune shows up and it’s "the Summer of Love…1927"! Bennett is tripping and if you read his account of this it sort of "everything flows man"…He’s seeing hidden meanings everywhere in the patterns of leaves and the sky and clouds and I got the whole song in about half an hour. Then I prefaced the "Beatlesque" part with a "Dance of the Great Awakening" with everyone singing about the law of three in classical style. That section is influenced by my love for Gustav Mahler which gives way to this "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" thing. I’m glad you liked it and I am sure there are those who will resist. But that is par for the course. It’s just the wonderful world of human subjectivity.
GIG: The portrait of Friz Peters is very fitting and one of the most lifelike of all. Being a writer he also has the same elements in his books. I bet the two songs were some of the things that came to you very naturally?
JMT: Very naturally and with great joy. The song about the acorns is very English from a musical point of view as is the song about the mowing. Since Fritz like Hassein later on represents awakening essence there is an innocence there and I think that comes out in some of the clear melodic phrases. John Lennon once said that the reason people generally don’t like classical music is that the melodies are too short to grasp. I think there is some truth in that and although there are many "song songs" in "Crazy Wisdom" with a form that is easy to grasp, some of the best moments are in the short sequences, like when Gurdjieff sings in the moonlight on the ship heading for Constantinople. That’s a lovely bit and once its gone that melody never returns. People tell me that the more they listen the more they hear and come to love everything.
GIG: What do you consider the biggest achievements in writing and composing the musical?
JMT: Just getting it down in a form that will last and can be played by people in any part of the world. I love it just knowing that someone from Turkey who is obviously Muslim has bought the CD and is listening to it there as are people in Australia, Italy, Portugal, France etc.
GIG: Yes - even in Denmark! What now? I think that Crazy Wisdom deserves to become one of the all time great musicals. Are there any good prospects that seem to be pointing to this becoming possible?
JMT: We have done some concert performances in US but all on hold now as we try to land a major performance in a theater capable of doing justice to the subject with a world class presentation. Exploring USA, England and Russia at present. I put the CD out to act as a banner to announce the plays existance and open doors to full presentation. What this show needs is a high caliber of world class production talent and insight.
GIG: What do you do apart from writing musicals and plays?
JMT: I teach classes across America called "Spiritual Social Self Defense" based on techniques I pulled out of the work. We use the friction of the moment in our dealings with the unpleasant behavior of people plus sensing and feeling, looking from essence eye to personality to produce presence and being. It is a combination of Aikido, Taoist exercises and Gurdjieff. Very powerful for becoming more not less in tricky situations.
We have weekly meetings in my home in San Diego under the banner "Living From Being and Presence". Our approach is positive, upbeat and joyful. We laugh a lot which is as it should be for the work truly done should lead to the end of all sorrows.
GIG: Your knowledge of Gurdjieff is extensive. How did you come across his teachings?
JMT: I picked up a book of Ouspenski’s in 1967 at the home of Robert Walker the actor and never looked back. I knew almost from the start that I had to embrace this work wholeheartedly and I have.
GIG: What do you think of the Gurdjieff Work to-day and looking into the future?
JMT: The time is at hand for Gurdjieff's ideas to burst forth in many areas of human endeavor. We are living in the 21st century and the energy of emerging consciousness is everywhere. I counsel many people who have had spontaneous awakening experiences and wonder what hit them. Just yesterday I saw a woman who said "who I was is dead now; there is nothing but energy and its taken over my life". She was raised as a Mormon and they have no tools or understanding to deal with someone experiencing their own nothingness let alone the uptake into conscious being. Let those who want to stay close to the traditional approach do so. Fine. That is also needed. But let us share what we can in new forms more specifically attuned to the needs of the emerging global spiritual community.
The CD can be bought directly from John Maxwell Taylor. You can find buying information here.
Copyright © John Maxwell Taylor, Gurdjieff