Ladies of the Rope: Gurdjieff's Special Left Bank Women's Group

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9781879514416: Ladies of the Rope: Gurdjieff's Special Left Bank Women's Group

This is the first book to examine the Rope, the special ladies-only group of spiritual seekers that G. I. Gurdjieff formed on Paris' Left Bank. All lesbians, except one, the group included such people as Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, co-editors of the Little Review, the archetype of all avant garde literary magazines; Kathryn Hulme, author of The Nuns's Story and Undiscovered Country; Solita Solano, author, editor and companion of Janet Flanner who wrote for The New Yorker as Genet; and Georgette Leblanc, diva, actress and mistress of Maurice Maeterlinck, the Belgian playwright best known for The Blue Bird.

During his thirty-seven years of work in the West, Gurdjieff's creation of the Rope remains his most enigmatic. Recognizing, at the turn of the century, that the world would destroy itself unless there was an awakening in the West, he understood that a fundamental shock had to be applied. Although the Fourth Way was rooted in Tradition, nevertheless, he intentionally introduced this ancient esoteric teaching to the uninitiated.

Breaking vows of secrecy, in the hope that the originality, scale and practicality of the teaching would arouse enough people to undergo the rigors of self-awakening, he understood that he would be castigated by initiates and the uninitiated alike. That he took an even further risk and introduced the teaching to the ladies of the Rope is a subject which until now has never been examined. The conclusions reached by the author about why Gurdjieff created the Rope are as original as they are surprising and will be of serious interest to those involved with feminine spirituality in all its many forms.

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About the Author:

William Patrick Patterson is the author of three highly praised books on spiritual development: Eating the "I," Struggle of the Magicians, and Taking with the Left Hand. He is a longtime student of John Pentland, the man Gurdjieff chose to lead the work in America, and the editor of Telos, the only international quarterly devoted to exploring the ancient teaching of the Fourth Way brought and embodied by G. I. Gurdjieff.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From Chapter 3: That Christmas the group spent with Gurdjieff. First, Kathryn drove him to Cafe de La Paix for breakfast. Alice met them there. At one point she spoke of the Dionne quintuplets saying that the scientists had allowed them to spend this Christmas with their family and that they planned to study them.

"Study," Gurdjieff mocked. "How study when scientists come from the same barrel? Such nonentity all of it. With such thing as five from the same birth, there can be nothing to study. Five takes what was meant for one. No individuality can be there.... Now man begins to breed like mice Never before in history was such thing as this -- four, five at a time. Twins were even a rare thing. Soon now, five will not be notable. People will speak only about six, then of seven. Nobody sees what this means ... quantity destroying quality."

Later Margaret and Georgette joined the group and they all dined together. Gurdjieff also celebrated Christmas according to the Russian Orthodox calendar, on New Years eve. He made it into both a Russian Fair and a surprise party. All the Rope were invited as well as his friends from St. Petersburg, the psychiatrist Dr. Stjoernval and the barrister Ramilievitch as well as the chauffeur and his family, the apartment house manager, all nieces and nephews and Gabo, his Russian aide-de-camp and kitchen helper -- about forty or fifty people in all.

The Rope had made up forty hatboxes full of gifts. Only eighteen adults at a time could be accommodated in the salon where an immense Christmas tree stood decorated with colored lights, small Russian dolls and ornaments of rare glass. Everyone else was crowded into the bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and hallway.

Gurdjieff appeared and began to distribute the hatboxes. Everyone in the Rope believed that they would be given to others, so they were all surprised when Gurdjieff exclaimed with a full smile -- For our dear esteemed, Our Reverence, Mees Gordon."

This was followed by a hatbox for Alice -- "For our dear delicious Theen One."

For Solita -- "For our dear singing Kanari!"

For Kathryn -- "For our dear and terrible Krokodeel!"

Margaret and Louise's boxes were presented with the same flourish and then, giving his mustache an appropriate twirl, he said to Georgette -- For our dear esteemed so-so-so, so-so-so Madame!"

In February 1937, Gurdjieff and the Rope took a trip to the Riviera; it was their last with him as a group. One evening they went to the Hotel Splendide for dinner. Their table looked out on the mountains. Gurdjieff said:

"Yakina, you must be happy here near the mountain. Yak have one specific, very original. Is heavy animal, too much have inside, yet always go where most difficult, like goat. Choose to go where is stones, where no other animal would wish to, except goat who is light and for which going is natural. But yak will turn from smooth path and choose steep high place with stones. Also another very original thing have."

Kathryn put in hopefully: "Mama-papa business?"

"No, Merde business. Then yak very original movement make, not like any other animal. If you could watch you could learn much about the human psyche." He paused, then said, "Look, Krokoeel ponder about mama-papa business. This also she makes very different. But here you would not understand about Yakina, for she is too far from you."

Gurdjieff had not had anything to drink in many days but then began.

"Look, I am already drunk, yet take only small amount. But all in body wait to take. I even assimilate more than is."

There were a number of Americans eating dinner at the hotel. He said, "Americans drink water before they eat. I have seen. Now the body takes many hours to make liquids necessary for digesting, and water they drink sucks out and sends on these special liquids and when food arrives there is nothing for transforming. They eat only to make merde.Also they eat butter which coats stomach so what must pass through walls cannot pass. Also chocolate makes coating. This is only for travel, to stop feeling of hunger."

Gurdjieff went on to say, Every thinking man -- and by man I also mean woman -- must be occupied only by this interest -- to develop a soul." And, "It is as important to compose a dish in its correctly-blended elements as a composition of music or the colors in painting. Harmony in scale. Must have much knowledge to be a good cook. A culinary doctor."

A Russian priest passed by. Gurdjieff stopped him and they talked. Then he translated for the Rope. "God is old man; sand run out and he cannot stop it, moreover any devil can take."

The priest looked shocked eyes popping, mouth pursed, tossing back his curls -- and quickly left.

"Eat Kanari," he said, "potato not make fat. Necessary eat potato he have starch."

Solita told him that starch makes fat.

"Excuse, not if you know with what to combinate. Starch is very important, one of seven divine things for man. Without it he could not even breathe. And now man use such divine thing for collar for pimp and petticoat for prostitute. Starch gives everything -- body heat, material, even God thing.

At the beginning of March, at Gurdjieff's apartment Kathryn helped peel a bushel of potatoes. He squeezed them, hot in his hands, added four pounds of butter, then a quart of brown liquid, eighteen spices cooked together, grated boiled eggs and a bowl of chopped onions. This, he said, is the dish the king of caravans eats -- caravanpashi -- and "you can imagine how is eaten in oasis with cold water from well."

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