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Separation from Gurdjieff: 1924-25

Returning immediately to England, Ouspensky assembled his ten senior pupils and backers in Ralph Philipson’s flat in Portland Place, and announced he had broken off all relations with Gurdjieff and would in future operate quite independently. Those who chose to remain under his supervision (they included Dr Nicoll, J. G. Bennett, Rowland Kenney and Dr Walker) must never again communicate in any way with Gurdjieff or his pupils, or even mention his name. Though rigorously imposing this rule on his followers, Ouspensky reserved to himself, for at least seven years, a latitude to see Gurdjieff occasionally; and as early as June 1924 revisited the Prieuré to hear an account of Gurdjieff’s successful tour of the U.S.A.


However, Ouspensky was in London on 8 July 1924, when Gurdjieff sustained serious injuries in a car crash on the Paris-Fontainebleau Road. He did not visit Gurdjieff during his convalescence but he went to ponder at the site of the accident (which he concluded was a sinister retribution for Gurdjieff’s hubris). Gurdjieff, himself sobered by his narrow escape from death, resolved to focus on committing his teaching to writing and began his magnum opus Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. Supervision of the emergent study groups in America he deputed in October 1924 to A. R. Orage, who loyally discharged his mandate but built up quite a following of his own.


1925 (year of the first extant MS. of In Search of the Miraculous) found Ouspensky depressed: cut off from Gurdjieff and doubtful of his capacity to evolve independently. There now entered his mind the fixed idea that he must discover ‘Higher Source’, an entity he situated either in Asia or on a supernal plane. Eager for contact with the Mevlevi dervishes he prevailed on Forbes Adam, a former protégé of Lord Curzon, to insist on a posting to Constantinople: unhappily, on 7 July 1925, two days after his arrival there, Adam – Ouspensky’s most influential pupil – shot himself. Further clouds loomed in August, when the dubious commercial adventurism of J. G. Bennett in Greece brought Ouspensky innocently to the attention of M.I.5. As a final rebuke Mme Ouspensky, on leaving the Prieuré, declined Gurdjieff’s advice to join her husband in England.

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