On 'The Ticket'

by Paula Jansen

G.I. Gurdjieff (1872?-1949) was born in Russia as George S. Georgiades. He was schooled for both the priesthood and medicine, but ultimately left the academic path "to engage him in a quest for ultimate answers"(1). He spent about twenty years in Asia and the Middle East to find these answers and returned as Gurdjieff. He was especially interested in ancient traditions and upon returning to Russia in 1919, he established 'The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man'. Soon, he had many pupils, most of whom were intellectuals. After some wanderings, he and his pupils went to Fontainebleau in France and remained there.
Amongst his pupils were many leading artists and intellectuals of that time from England and the United States, such as Katherine Mansfield and Maurice Nicoll. His most valued student was probably P. D. Ouspensky, who also translated Gurdjieff's ideas into easier, more understandable language. Gurdjieff went to America in 1924 and gave a series of public performances on sacred dances. Around 1934, he settled definitely in Paris and his group of followers continued to grow, even after his death in 1949.
Maurice Nicoll is the only obvious connection I have found between Gurdjieff and Scotland. Nicoll was born in Kelso, Scotland in 1884 and died in Great Amwell near London in 1953. He studied with Carl Jung and wrote one of the first books on Jungian dream interpretations. While he was in England as personal representative of Jung, Nicoll met P.D. Ouspensky who was talking about Gurdjieff and his ideas. Nicoll was immediately taken by his ideas and became one of Gurdjieff's followers. About Nicoll and his relation to Gurdjieff's teaching, the following is said: "Maurice Nicoll's special contribution to the Fourth Way is that his teaching, by leavening the method transmitted by P.D. Ouspensky, helps people to value the Work. Where Ouspensky presented truth precisely, Nicoll in a more relaxed manner showed how to see the good of it."(2)
Coming back to Gurdjieff, there are two possible ways to see him. One way is seeing him as a guru, almost a God-like person even and the other view is that he is a charlatan. From this sonnet, it seems that Morgan wants to show us that he believes Gurdjieff belongs to the last category. He describes Gurdjieff's teaching as an Inaccessible Pinnacle (line 5-6) and with that implies that Gurdjieff sees his teachings as something God-like. The Pinnacle could then be seen as some kind of idol.
The sonnet clearly shows that if you try to follow Gurdjieff's aspirations it is destructive, and to lend weight to this idea Morgan turns the scene into a 1920s horror film. The demons mentioned in line 5 may refer to one of Gurdjieff's books: Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson: an objectively impartial criticism of the life of man. It seems as if, by comparing the "Gurdjieff religion" with a horror movie, Morgan implies that however destructive it may be, the film can be stopped (line 10-12).
Morgan also shows the way Gurdjieff was influenced by other religions; by naming the "caftan" (line 13) he links Gurdjieff with eastern religion. Also he shows the comparison with the pagan tradition and especially the notion of sacrifice if we look at "juggernaut-time".
I did not find a reference of Gurdjieff visiting Glasgow.

 

(1) http://www.gurdjieff.org

(2) Hunter, Bob, Combining Good and Truth, Now: An hommage to Dr. Maurice Nicoll, http://www.gurdjieff.org/hunter1.htm

 

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