talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

gurdjieff work well received
group of pupils may return to hub later

impressed by the reception his prize dancing pupils received last night at the fine arts theatre, georges ivan gurdjieff, exponent of the harmonious development theory for the perfection of man and the dissipation of his troubles, will leave for chicago today with a promise to return to this city, if possible, and give a third demonstration of his method, and to appear before the students of harvard as the guest of professor william mcdougall, eminent psychologist.

audience of 400

an audience of more than 400 nearly filled the seats in the small theatre last night, and as on the night before, when but 100 distinguished celebrities witnessed the spectacle, they greeted the strange asian dances and the weird musical accompaniments with hearty applause.

in the orchestra were groups of students from harvard, boston university, radcliffe, wellesley, simmons and other educational institutions of this city and its environs. and among them were a number of psychology professors and other educational instructors.

in addition to the programme of the previous evening, gurdjieff had his pupils perform some of the unusual tricks of fakirs, as well as actual phenomena. to the dances he added the "whirling dervish" and other steps, which far surpassed in sheer beauty of muscular precision the popular "dance of the wooden soldiers."

the master produced one of his pupils who was greeted as a musical marvel. with one hand he played desired parts from any opera, the name of which was written upon a slip of paper by a member of the audience and given to an attendant, who held it.

without seeing the writing and apparently without any hint of its name, this pupil, a mr. finch, born in england but educated in paris, played the requested opera with ease, using but one hand and holding the other high above his head. director appel of the music department of the public library joined in the applause.

best received by the audience was the "stop exercise," demonstrating the perfect muscular control attained by the pupils. all doing different dancing steps, they halted in mid-step or wherever the order from gurdjieff found them, and held the position like statues for as long as five minutes.

after a night of sleep at the y.m.c.a. and the y.w.c.a., the pupils will leave today on the night boat for new york, and then proceed to chicago, where two of the girl pupils live.

boston post, 7 March 1925

* * *

gurdjieff rites amaze boston
wonderful dances of asia set before audience of "intellectuals" cause thrills in plenty

gurdjieff captured boston's intelligentsia last night at the fine arts theatre. With one of the most amazing programmes of asian dances and weird music, the master of the fontainebleau institute for the harmonious development of man, had a select audience of writers, poets, psychologists hurling over their distinguished approbation with spontaneous clatterings of applause.

the occult dancing went over big. it was something new for the fashionable audience which filled half the pit of the theatre. never before had these strange dances been shown here. and only since gurdjieff's arrival in new york had they been demonstrated on this side of the atlantic.

the dances themselves were truly remarkable. to the tune of oriental music with its rippling water tenor and its tom-tom booming base, 30 pupils of the visiting teacher portrayed the graceful steps that were once sacred rites in the wilds of tibet.

to the uninitiated it faintly resembled the famous "shimmie," which recently caught the dancing public of america. but the gurdjieff pupils, after months of practice in the natural forests outside of paris, had absolute control of their bodies. every muscle in their frames seemed to quiver and vibrate.

watching their every movement from the pit, gurdjieff, his shaved head shining under the spotlight, shouted in english his cues to the dancers. the master himself did not perform. he was content to move about in the orchestra. there he issued orders to the nimble dancers. occasionally he stopped to ask the opinion of some of the leading spectators.

among the prominent leaders who were interested in the demonstration were professor william mcdougall, head of harvard's department of psychology, mrs. william e. hocking, mrs. walter dewey, mrs. fiske warren, professors woods, dearborn and tozzer of harvard, professor comstock, professor niles carpenter, mrs. basil king and max gysi.

the unusual dancing was all the more compelling because it had to talk for itself. the dancers wore an ancient costume, consisting merely of white pantalettes with a long smock to match. the only color was a sash of vivid red, orange or green. there was no scenery on the stage, merely a drapery of gray linen.

in the troop of 30 pupils were americans, poles, georgians, russians, montenegrins, french and english. two of them were countesses, according to one of gurdjieff's directors. yet the entire troop, incidentally, was put up for the night at the y.m.c.a. and the y.w.c.a., while the master of the school himself went to sleep his four regular hours at the arlington hotel.

but today after a little rest the master and his pupils will drop over to the fine arts theatre to rehearse for tonight's demonstration. at the suggestion of joseph auslander, one of america's leading poets, who was responsible for the visit of the gurdjieff troupe to this city, a second demonstration was arranged for tonight.

money not the object

all this despite the fact that the box office receipts taken in last night were not enough to pay the expenses of coming here from new york. there were about 100 select patrons in the audience. the top ticket rate was $3 a seat. and $300 would not pay the railroad fare of the party, without talking of hotel bills.

with gurdjieff one cannot talk money. he makes a decision. the others nod assent and the show is on. at the theatre he made a strange picture with his shining shaved head, piercing eyes and upturned mustachios. he did not affect a tuxedo but wore an ordinary business suit of black.

but it was he who taught the girl and boy pupils to perform those wild dances that took the house by storm. the dances were really strenuous. that could be seen distinctly. gurdjieff remarked that they were enough to wear out in a short time the untrained pupil. but to his prize pupils they appeared to be esthetic movements of grace, although some of the dancers were breathing hard at the conclusion of the performance.

following the exhibition of the dancers and the gymnastics, quite intricate and laborious, the students then demonstrated some of the phenomena, which their master brought out of the east. some of them were tricks of fakirs, others were half-tricks and the last were real phenomena for which the esteemed professors were seeking.

gurdjieff did not tell the audience which of the numbers were tricks and which were the real thing. he left it to them to write out their opinions on blanks to be turned in. those who could not distinguish the good from the bad will not be invited to the next demonstration.

one of the catching tricks was to have a spectator write a word upon a slip of paper. an attendant would then take it in her hand and walk with it to the piano, where another pupil was stationed. without looking at the word written on the paper, the latter would improvise a tune on the piano to transfer the name to the group of pupils on the stage. at the conclusion of a few bars of music the entire group on the stage would then yell out the word in english. they did not miss once, despite the fact that many of them are not experts in such american passwords as teapot dome and mississippi.

at the conclusion of this exercise the squad sang out the entire list of names. whether it was from memory or a strange and secret device, gurdjieff did not tell.

between the acts the great master himself explained to the post reporter the elemental principles of his unique theory, which now commands the thoughts of master minds in many lands throughout the world.

"modern civilization with its specialization on every hand has made the men of today half-baked," he said in broken english. for although gurdjieff was born a greek, brought up in the east, started his school in russia, he conducts his classes at the french château in the forest of fontainebleau, in english. he speaks about 150 languages and dialects: but now he wants to perfect himself in english. so that is the language of his school.

three entities in man

"most men are only one-third baked," he continued. "and i will tell you the reason. there is really a trinity of man. there are really three men in each individual. one of them thinks, the second feels and the third acts. only when the three entities work together is man perfect.

"and that is the object of my institute," gurdjieff announced. "i teach my pupils to act. but while they are acting they must think and feel the action. but to do these three things simultaneously, modern man must start right in with the kindergarten, so to speak, and unlearn the prejudices that modern civilization has taught him.

"then he is ready to start training his mind, his emotions and his actins to work together. for this purpose i brought out of the orient, persia, afghanistan, turkestan, india, tibet, africa and other lands 4000 dances, an equal number of musical compositions and a store of eastern knowledge, which have never before been seen in america.

three modes of expression

"with these dances i start my pupils in the school with them they learn to think and feel as they go through the movements. for you know that the ancients used dancing as a form of expression. and dancing of this kind gives the dancer the faculty of thinking, feeling and acting all at the same time."

boston post, 6 march 1924