Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949) was born in Russian Armenia to a Greek father and an Armenian mother. His early training in both religion and science was a foundation for his search for the means to awaken to the meaning of our existence. He traveled to many parts of the world – from Afghanistan to Tibet and India, from Turkey to Africa, and came in contact with teachings and remote monasteries known only by legend to the outside world.
He first appeared in Moscow in 1912 having shaped a teaching that made ancient spiritual paths and traditions accessible to those in all walks of life who wished to participate in their own search under his guidance.
Gurdjieff had worked in a variety of trades to support his quest, and later with a group of his students, struggled through several wars including the Russian Revolution, WWI, and WWII.
In 1922 he founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Fontainebleau-Avon, France, where people could live and work in conditions that provided a rich atmosphere for transformative inner development.
Gurdjieff authored a series of three books about his teaching. Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Meetings with Remarkable Men, and Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am.'
In 1924 he made the first of several visits to the United States attracting a committed group of followers. His work on both continents continued until his death in 1949.
Gurdjieff entrusted the task of transmitting the teaching after his death to his chief pupil, Madame Jeanne de Salzmann. Under her guidance, a small circle of pupils established the first centers of the Work in Paris, London, New York and Caracas. Over the past half-century other centers have radiated from them to major cities of the world. Most of the groups maintain close ties with the principal centers, and most have developed under the personal guidance of one or two of the first-generation pupils of Gurdjieff.
Among the people who worked closely with Mr. Gurdjieff was Louise March (née Geopfert) who translated the German edition of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at the Prieuré in the 1930s. In 1957, at the request of Henry McCorkle and with the approval of John Pentland of the New York Gurdjieff Foundation, Louise March and Christopher Fremantle came to Rochester, New York, to start a Gurdjieff group. In the early 1960s, Mrs. March assumed full responsibility for this group.
During the following years, Mrs. March established the Rochester Folk Art Guild, a residential facility with an emphasis on craftwork. In 1978, Henry and Annabeth McCorkle, who had been prepared by Mrs. March to lead groups, began to work separately from her but under the guidance of John Pentland, forming the group that became the Rochester Gurdjieff Center. The McCorkles also met and studied with several of the first generation of students of Gurdjieff, including Jeanne de Salzmann, Michel de Salzmann, William Segal, Henri Tracol, and Paul Reynard. Since Henry McCorkle's death in 2014, Annabeth McCorkle continues to oversee the work of the Center, with more experienced members carrying on the tradition with her.
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