G.I. GURDJIEFF was a spiritual master. As a youth, growing up in a cultural crossroad between Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Greece, he was subject to a great variety of influences which opened his vision.
He developed a strong need to find the answer to the questions: “What is the purpose of life on earth?” and “Who am I?”
After attracting pupils and disciples of whom a number were already persons of some distinction, he established a school for spiritual development called The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. He taught the movements and teacings which he brought to the West from his early travels. These teachings, more particularly known as transmissions because they had more to do with physical realities than abstract ideas, expressed the truth found in other ancient religions. These wisdom teachings relating to self-awareness in one’s daily life and humanity’s place in the universe formed the basis of his philosophy and work. In his third series of articles: Life is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am’ he sums this philosophy up. His complete series of books is entitled appropriately enough, “All And Everything”.
In the midst of revolutionary upheaval in Russia he left St. Petersburg in 1917 to return to his family home. During the Bolshevik Revolution he set up temporary classes in the Caucasus, then Tuapse, Maikop, Sochi and Poti, all on the Black Sea coast of Southern Russia where he worked intensively with many of his Russian pupils.
In late May 1920 when political conditions in Georgia changed and the old order was crumbling, he and his pupils walked by foot to Batumi on the Black Sea coast, and then Istanbul. There Gurdjieff rented an apartment on Koumbaradji Street in Péra. The apartment is near the tekke (monastery) of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis (founded by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi) where Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Thomas de Hartmann experienced the sema ceremony of The Whirling Dervishes. In Istanbul Gurdjieff also met John G. Bennett, who became one of Gurdjieff’s most loyal students.