Vaugirard, 1922 (Dictated)
The earliest beginning of the Institute can be considered to have been in 1895 when three tourists met by chance in Egypt by the pyramids. Finding that all the three were Russians they became close friends and decided to continue their tour of Egypt together. Their conversations while wandering up and down the Nile and over the excavations of ancient Thebes enabled each of them to realize that the questions they touched upon had, as proved later, interested all the three for some time past.
All the three had travelled a great deal before that meeting.
The first, Prince L., had already been in India, Tibet and Baluchistan. Since he was wealthy and an ardent seeker, he had managed to visit places where no Europeans had penetrated before him.
He had begun his travels ten years before, immediately after a misfortune that hadvisited him — the loss of a loved person which made him take up spiritualism.
Since he was a man of enquiring mind, the first enthusiasm soon gave place to serious search in these matters.
Finding nothing satisfactory in his surroundings and the available literature and influenced by the opinion current in Europe that India was the land of miracles where an answer to these questions could be found, he decided to go there.
India disappointed him, but he did not lose hope of finding what he sought. From that moment his travels began, during which he only rarely came back to Russia on shortVisits.
The second was from his youth attracted to archeology. Since he was an energetic man, immediately on finishing his university course he was appointed assistant curator of a well known museum and was often sent on archeological expeditions. Before that meeting he had visited excavations at Delhi, in the Valleys of Hindukush, Ani (Armenia), Babylon and others.
At the moment he was with an archeological mission in old Thebes. Personally, however, he was chiefly interested in dolmens, about which he was collecting all the information he could, sparing neither time nor money.
The third and youngest of them, Gurdjieff, was chiefly interested in magic. Having chanced to spend his youth among such peoples as the Yezidis, the Aisors, the Appicles (or Annicles) he constantly came face to face with phenomena and traditions which no enquiring mind could ever pass by without innumerable questions.
The following may serve as illustrations of such phenomena. A circle traced round a Yezidi does not allow him to step over it, not because of religious superstition, but in actual fact.
Among the Annicles a young girl to be married is subjected to certain manipulationsafter which she is thrown into the water, which results in a phenomenon inexplicable to European science — the girl’s weight proves lighter than water and she does not sink. If she sinks it is proof that she does not belong to the tribe. Aisors have a phenomenon of clairvoyance (egungashah). Investigations showed that not a Single case of such clairvoyance proved false. And so on.
Being a man of critical mind and not believing in miracles, G. wished to understand these phenomena. (The critical, incredulous and at the same time enquiring mind of Gurdjieff could not pass by such phenomena without finding their explanation.)
With this purpose in mind he gave himself up to studies which would explain it all. He began to study physics, chemistry, mechanics, psychology, etc.
But the study of all available literature brought him no desired result, for from the point of view of these sciences phenomena which interested him were against natural laws. But this did not make the fact of their existence any the less real, and so Gurdjieff never abandoned his original desire. Giving up books, he began to look for people who could satisfy it.
This was the beginning of his wanderings, which led him, before that meeting, to Persia, Afghanistan and Turkey. The same purpose brought him to Egypt.
Exchanging their impressions and the material acquired by them in the course of their travels the three disagreed on many points but were unanimous in their conviction, based on things seen and studied by them, that there had existed another civilization which, in the domain of science and art, had been much higher than the present and that the majority of phenomena which modern science is unable to explain had been known in ancient times. They had no date for the study of that civilization and the constant obstacle of lack of information clearly proved to them the necessity of all-embracing knowledge. However, three people could not master the study of all religions, histories and special sciences in the course of a short life. So this brought them to the necessity of collective work, that is, the necessity of bringing in people of different professions and knowledge.
But since all the knowledge of specialists lacking interest in the above-mentioned search would have been of no use, a new plan suggested itself: to find suitable people, to direct them, and help them, both by advice and materially.
For this purpose they separated and went in different directions, as a result of which fifteen other people joined them, among whom were men of Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian-Gregorian, Jewish and Buddhist faith, representatives of medicine, mechanics, chemistry, natural history, astronomy, archaeology and philology. Moreover, each of them was obliged to study some craft. Among them were also women.
A few years later they all met by prearrangement in Persia and from there, armed with all necessary knowledge, left in 1899 partly for India, through the Pamir’s, Tibet and Siam, and partly for Palestine through Turkey and Arabia.
For certain reasons the meeting place was to be Kabul in Afghanistan where, a few years later, twelve people arrived instead of eighteen. Six perished on the way.
They decided to go to Chitral. Just before their departure the prince died, and soon after they set out on their journey seven of them were captured „by the savage nomad tribe of Afridi. So they never reached the goal and met the others only much later. Thus only four people reached Chitral and, having fulfilled the task they had set themselves, returned three years later to Kabul.
Here they again began to collect suitable people, set up house together and thus laid the foundation of the Institute. The number of people round them increased rapidly and they passed on to them the results of their long and arduous search.
In 1910 they began their activity in Russia, where three of them met in Petersburg: Gurdjieff, a Persian, Tachtamiroff and Dr. Ornitopulo. Groups were formed in Petersburg and in Moscow where G. moved later.
The war and the revolution that followed it tore many people away from groups and in 1916 those who remained met in the Caucasus where G. was at the time.
Here was founded for the first time The International Fellowship of Ideas and Labor for the purpose of carrying on with the same problems and investigations. Together with it a school was founded under the name of Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man.
The aims and programme on which the Institute was founded are appended. From there the members of the International Fellowship organized a scientific expedition. Owing to political upheavals the school was disbanded and only a small group of people remained.
The members of the expedition settled in Tiflis and again formed a branch of the Institute of Harmonious Development of Man. The number of pupils soon swelled to 500, but here too, political events forced the founders of the Institute to move to Constantinople where members of the Essentuki and Tiflis branches gradually began to assemble, and a new branch of the Institute was opened.
Turkish authorities showed great interest in the Institute and urged the founders to open the Institute in Cadi-key (the Asiatic part of the town), where, at their request, several demonstrations were staged.
The defeat of Wrangel’s army, the flood of refugees from Russia and the economic crisis in Constantinople forced the founders to accept an offer to open the Institute in Germany.
But in view of the economic situation and other political considerations they abandoned the idea of opening the Institute in accordance with the full programme, as was originally intended, and contented themselves with opening a home for those members and pupils who were unable to follow the main body of the Institute which received at the time an offer to come to England where, a year before, an English group of about a hundred people had been formed to study the materials and principles of the Institute under the guidance of one of the older pupils of the Institute, Mr. Ouspensky, a writer and professor of psychology.
But in view of the fact that the Institute bears an international character and has members of all nationalities, owing to geographical and other considerations, Paris, as the world’s centre is the only place where the central branch of the Institute could be opened.