Willem A. Nyland (1890-1975)Willem A. Nyland was born and grew up in Utrecht, Holland, becoming a chemist. He came to the United States and earned his doctorate at Columbia University. In 1924 he and his wife, artist Ilonka Karasz, attended Gurdjieff’s lectures, during the latter’s first visit to the United States. After encountering Gurdjieff’s ideas, Nyland and his wife began a close association with A.R. Orage, Gurdjieff’s representative in the United States. Since that time they were devoted pupils of Gurdjieff for twenty-five years. They were active members of Gurdjieff groups in the United States, studying and disseminating Gurdjieff’s teachings and frequently traveling to France to see Gurdjieff. Towards the end of his life, Gurdjieff asked Nyland to start a group in America devoted to the Fourth Way which Gurdjieff would supply with special material every week. Following Gurdjieff’s death, Nyland was one of the founders and trustees of the Gurdjieff Foundation, of which he was an active member until the early 1960s, when he started forming his own groups. Nyland remained a devoted follower of the Gurdjieff tradition, having lectured extensively on the Fourth Way, until his death in 1975.
Nyland applied Gurdjieff’s teaching in his life and reached a high level of development, encouraging his pupils to do the same. In his teaching, he placed emphasis on Gurdjieff’s own writings, stressing the importance of understanding the book “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson,” insisting that the book be read three times, as Gurdjieff had indicated. He also taught the methods he had learned during his studies with A.R. Orage. After Nyland’s death, many of the groups he helped establish continue to meet and function, carrying on the Gurdjieff tradition in the way Nyland had taught them. Nyland left many recordings of his lectures, which are available to members of his groups.
“If you really want to Work, you’re engaged in changing your life. You’re engaged in admitting that what your life is at the present time is not right or not complete, and that the motivation for this particular kind of a wish should be very pure… Don’t ride two horses, or three or four. When you want to Work find out first what is meant; and be absolutely sure that what is meant, you understand. And then make absolutely sure that you agree with what is supposed to be done. So that that what you wish to do—you can do whole-heartedly. ”
Mr. Nyland, January 6, 1968
“I don’t believe in the continuation of a group remaining dependent on a person who happens to teach a little bit about esoteric knowledge… It has to become more and more your own… And I’ve said before that what takes place in the digesting, and what you have as an experience of truth, will become your teacher. And thank God you can take that with you. That is the main point: so that you are not dependent, neither on books, nor atmosphere, … nor on any one person in particular.”
Mr. Nyland, October 27, 1974
“When we work together, you create an atmosphere … and the more there are people who work and understand and make attempts, the better that level is—because you can feel it. One can become sensitive to that, and then it can encourage you.”
Mr. Nyland, January 10, 1969