Was david hoffmeister The orientation of the teaching-is it Christian? Entering the new millennium, some fifty years after Mr. Gurdjieff’s passing, it is important to begin to understand the part that Christianity played in his life and in the teaching he brought.
Certainly, as Gurdjieff makes clear in Meetings With Remarkable Men, he was raised as a Christian-“I know the rituals of the Greek Church well,” he would say many years later, “and there, underlying the form and ceremony, there is real meaning.” His first religious tutor was seventy-year-old Dean Borsch, the highest spiritual authority of the region. As Dean Borsch aged, he asked the young priest Bogachevsky to tutor Gurdjieff and confessed him every week. For two years, Bogachevsky tutored the young Gurdjieff and then, when the priest was posted elsewhere, he had Gurdjieff continue his confessions by mail.
It is interesting to note, regarding Bogachevsky’s caliber, that later he went to Mount Athos as a chaplain and a monk. Soon, however, he renounced monastic life as practiced there and went to Jerusalem. Bogachevsky joined the Essene Brotherhood there and was sent to one of its monasteries in Egypt. He was given the name Father Evlissi and later became one of the assistants to the abbot of its chief monastery. According to Gurdjieff, the Essenes had preserved the teaching of Jesus Christ “unchanged” and that as it passed from generation to generation it “has even reached the present time in its original form.”
The depth of what Gurdjieff felt for this man was expressed when, in his maturity, he declared, “Father Evlissi, who is now an aged man, happened to become one of the first persons on earth who has been able to live as our Divine Teacher Jesus Christ wished for us all.” [Emphasis added.] Gurdjieff’s choice of words would seem to indicate that for himself Gurdjieff accepts the divinity of Jesus Christ. He speaks, for example, of Jesus Christ as “a Messenger from our endlessness,” “that Sacred Individual,” “Divine Teacher Jesus Christ,” and “Sacred Individual Jesus Christ.”
Although Gurdjieff speaks highly of Christianity and of Jesus Christ, there are also many stories of his making fun of Catholic priests, even shouting at them on occasion. For example, his niece Luba reported in her Luba Gurdjieff: A Memoir with Recipes, “My Uncle never taught us how to go to church, or pray, or anything like that. And he never liked priests or the nuns. When we were out driving and he saw a priest, he would say, ‘Shoo! Son of a bitch.'”
Gurdjieff certainly knew a great deal about Christianity-not only its religion but its esoteric foundation as well. This can be seen when he came to Russia in 1912 and took the guise of a Turkish prince, calling himself “Prince Ozay.” Within a year of his arrival in St. Petersburg he met the young English musicologist Paul Dukes, later an officer in British intelligence. Dukes reports that the prince wore a turban and spoke in Russian with a marked accent. He was of medium height, sturdily built and the grip of his hand “was warm and powerful.” His dark eyes, Dukes said, “piercing in their brilliance, were at the same time kindly and sparkling with humor.” After a chess game which the prince won handily, he spoke knowledgeably to Dukes in English (which Dukes said he preferred) of the Lord’s Prayer. The prince told Dukes it was designed “as a devotional breathing exercise to be chanted on a single even breath.”