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Colet House: 1938-39

Ouspensky gave his last lecture at Warwick Gardens on 13 October 1938, the Society by then having acquired Colet House at 46 Colet Gardens, an elegant and imposing building (close to Gwendwr Road) with a studio accommodating over 300 People. Ouspensky at 60 – magisterially established at Lyne and Colet; surrounded by distinguished and loyal lieutenants; supported by the Historico-Psychological Society; and having directly and indirectly under his governance 1000 pupils – seemed embarked on his great days. Yet shadows were not lacking: the Munich crisis in September had emphasised the fragility of all institutions; Mme Ouspensky, having contracted Parkinson’s disease, was becoming bedridden; and Ouspensky himself (desolated by his continued failure to contact Higher Source, or personally to acquire the noetic insights of a decisive mystical experience) was drinking more heavily.


The final months of peace seemed to promise a vitalisation of the Society, through three independent shocks. The first was a striking demonstration of the Movements, given at Colet by a small class taught by Gurdjieff’s pupils Rose Mary Nott and Jessmin Howarth; the second was a successful overture to the hereditary head of the Mevlevi dervishes, made in April by J. G. Bennett, and enthusiastically welcomed by Ouspensky; the third and overriding one was C. S. Nott’s plan to bring Gurdjieff himself to London in September, to treat Mme Ouspensky’s chronic illness. All these endeavours foundered on 3 September 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany. Conscription and evacuation completely disrupted the groups and Ouspensky’s work in London effectively stopped. Lyne Place – far-sightedly stocked with every sort of provision – became a haven for several Work families.

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