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Deconstructing Gurdjieff

Biography of a Spiritual Magician

Beyond Meetings with Remarkable Men into the truth behind the self-crafted mythology of Gurdjieff’s life

• Reveals evidence that Gurdjieff was a secret Freemason, relying on hypnotism, psychic research and spiritualism

• Explores the profound influence of the Yezidis, esoteric Christianity, and the “gnostics” of Islam, the Sufis, on Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way teachings and the “Work”

• Uncovers the truth behind Gurdjieff’s relations with Aleister Crowley

• Accurately dates Gurdjieff’s real activities, particularly his enigmatic early life

In November 1949, architect Frank Lloyd Wright announced the death of “the greatest man in the world,” yet few knew who he was talking about. Enigmatic, misunderstood, declared a charlatan, and recently dubbed “the Rasputin who inspired Mary Poppins,” Gurdjieff’s life has become a legend. But who really was George Ivanovich Gurdjieff?

Employing the latest research and discoveries, including previously unpublished reminiscences of the real man, Tobias Churton investigates the truth beneath the self-crafted mythology of Gurdjieff’s life recounted in Meetings with Remarkable Men. He examines his controversial birthdate, his father’s background, and his relationship with his private tutor Dean Borshch, revealing a perilous childhood in a Pontic Greek family, persecuted by Turks, forced to migrate to Georgia and Armenia, only to grow up amid more war, persecution, genocide, and revolt. Placing Gurdjieff in the true context of his times, Churton explores Gurdjieff’s roles in esoteric movements taking root in the Russian Empire and in epic imperial construction projects in the Kars Oblast, Transcaucasia, and central Asia. He reveals Gurdjieff’s sources for his transformative philosophy, his early interest in hypnosis, magic, Theosophy, and spiritualism, and the profound influence of the Yezidis and the Sufis, the “gnostics” of Islam, on Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way teachings and the “Work.” Churton also explores Gurdjieff’s ties to Freemasonry and his relationships with other spiritual teachers and philosophers of the age, such as Madame Blavatsky, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Aleister Crowley, dispelling the myth that Gurdjieff forcibly expelled the “Great Beast” from his Institute.

Showing how Gurdjieff deliberately re-shaped elements of his life as parables of his system, Churton explains how he didn’t want people to follow his footsteps but to find their own, to wake up from the hypnosis that drives us blindly through life. Offering a vital understanding of the man who asked “How many of you are really alive?” the author reveals the continuing importance of Gurdjieff’s philosophy for the awakening of man.

Tobias Churton is Britain’s leading scholar of Western Esotericism, a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism. He is a filmmaker and the founding editor of the magazine Freemasonry Today. An Honorary Fellow of Exeter University, where he is faculty lecturer in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, he holds a master’s degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and created the award-winning documentary series and accompanying book The Gnostics, as well as several other films on Christian doctrine, mysticism, and magical folklore. The author of many books, including Gnostic Philosophy, The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians, and Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin, he lives in England.

"Churton's remarkable ability to make a coherent narrative out of disparate information while also weaving in other research interests, such as the influence of Aleister Crowley, makes this a valuable resource for those familiar with Gurdjieff's work, and it's easily readable for those coming fresh to the topic."

– Publishers Weekly

“They seek him here, they seek him there . . . that damned elusive Gurdjieff--part sage, part trickster, part prophet, part legend. Tobias Churton, in pursuit of this enigmatic figure, casts his net both wide and deep and delivers a wonderfully rich and nuanced account of Gurdjieff and the many currents that flowed into his life and teaching.”

– Christopher McIntosh, Ph.D., author of Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival

“. . . a scholarly journey that pursues an in-depth analysis of this purposely enigmatic spiritual teacher’s biography . . . offers perceptive insights into the spiritual and psychological teachings of Gurdjieff’s idiosyncratic genius and sheds light on the folktale-like stories of the relationship between Aleister Crowley and Gurdjieff. This book is comprehensive,entertaining, and highly recommended.”

– James Wasserman, author of Templar Heresy: A Story of Gnostic Illumination

“According to Albert Einstein, ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ Churton understands. He has a profound ability to write about complex esoteric subjects in clear, down-to-earth language. Here he delves deep into the life of Gurdjieff in an attempt to separate fact from fiction and the myth from the man. As always, there is great wisdom and a uniquely modern perspective in Churton’s meticulous thought and prose. Deconstructing Gurdjieff, like all his books, is immensely informative, highly provocative--and a great read.”

– John Zorn, composer-performer

“Tobias brings to this highly perceptive and realistic picture of Gurdjieff expert knowledge of Western esotericism, the Yezidis, and Aleister Crowley--all of which have long needed a measured place in this mage’s story. This is a timely reappraisal and deconstruction of the spiritual ludibrium and life of a Master.”

– Stephen J. King (Shiva X°), Grand Master, Ordo Templi Orientis

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