Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva
avezink

Meeting Gurdjieff in Constantinople, in 1921



From Vasily Shulgin’s memoir:

Once in 1921, in Constantinople, I ran into an officer I used to know before our exile. He was once young and dashing, a young lover type from a provincial operetta theatre. But now he loooked like a snake charmer: fiery eyes, jerky movements. I asked what was wrong with him, and he replied: “I am learning the dance of eleven contradictory movements. A cetrain Gurdjieff – you don't know him – has opened a school of harmonious human development, and dance is central to their teaching. Let me take you there.”

I remember a very beautiful room with a stage, where Gurdjieff was sitting. As I was led toward the stage to be introduced, he remained seated, and I remember my growing fury at his immobility. I decided not to shake his outstretched hand if he does not stand up to greet me – but he did, and I shook his hand; this was our first astral communion.

Then my officer friend and I left the stage and watched the dance performance. There was some strange vaguely oriental music; some people danced in long gowns; one woman’s extatic face had an expression of pleasure and pain – just like my secretary when I dictate too quickly.

After the performance we were invited to a discussion. Gurdjieff was sitting at a low couch, his students crouched at his feet on rugs, and the visitors like me were seated at a distance on chairs. Gurdjieff gave his talk in the Russian language with a heavy Caucasian accent. His eyes, like black and shiny diamonds, resembled those you saw in tobacco stores in Kiev on the faces of their Crimean Tatar managers. He looked about 40; my officer friend said he was 200 years old.

After the lecture, Gurdjieff invited questions, but nobody had any, so I volunteered:

“All of us here are mostly Russians. Which means we are refugees. We have experienced a lot of hardship – I know I did – and we always found the strength to cope with it. And here is this lamp bulb on the wall, and it is irritating me tremendously, and giving me a headache, and it is such a trivial and small thing, but how is it that I cannot cope with it?”

Gurdjieff was very happy with my question...

More on Gurdjieff's time in Istanbul.

Image source.

Tags: 1921, constantinople, dance, emigration, istanbul, russians
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