George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c. 1866–1949) was an original and influential teacher of modern esotericism and one of the sources of what Harry T. Hunt describes as “secular Western mysticism” (225–250). Gurdjieff is often studied in the context of his older contemporary Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), who co-founded the Theosophical Society with Henry Steel Olcott in 1875, and also Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), who broke away from Theosophy to found the Anthroposophical Society in 1912. It is true there are similarities between the three esoteric systems: both Steiner and Gurdjieff were familiar with, and used on occasion, the language of Theosophical discourse; Blavatsky and Gurdjieff consciously melded Eastern and Western religious, spiritual, and esoteric ideas; Steiner and Gurdjieff taught esoteric movement arts and had artists, dancers, and musicians as followers; and all three were charismatic leaders whose pupils gave them fierce loyalty (Petsche, “Gurdjieff and Blavatsky” 98). Yet both Blavatsky and Steiner attributed their teachings to various “Masters,” while Gurdjieff “never based his authority upon ‘Masters,’ let alone being their emissary” (Azize 28). The popularity of the “Ascended Masters” tradition in twentieth-century America may be one reason Gurdjieff’s teaching (the “Fourth Way” or the “Work”) is less well-known than either Theosophy or Anthroposophy
Religion and the Arts – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2017
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