Gurdjieff took his pupils first to Boston and then to Chicago, where demonstrations and talks were given. From all this effort the subsequent results were small; the seeds fell on stony ground. On their return to New York a final demonstration was given in Carnegie Hall. There had been trouble with the Musicians’ Union over the orchestra; the union insisting on extra players being employed, including a pianist. So Gurdjieff dispensed with the lot and Mr de Hartmann alone played the music on a concert grand piano. This last demonstration was the only one in New York at which seats were sold. Since a number of the audience were sitting in far-away cheaper seats and some of the expensive ones were empty, Gurdjieff invited the people in the cheaper seats to come nearer and fill the dearer ones, which they did. The programme was very long, lasting nearly four hours, yet few people left before the end; needless to say they did not stay out of politeness! All the dances and movements were performed, and also the tricks and half-tricks. Except for the lecture-talk which was read at the Neighborhood Playhouse and which was eventually added to Beelzebub’s Tales72, all the explanations were read.
I remember this particular evening because of something which later astonished me. With me was a rich young woman who had come more in the hope of seeing Orage than the demonstration. After the performance she suggested asking Gurdjieff to take coffee with us. Surprisingly, he agreed. Leaving all the important people in Carnegie Hall, he led us to Child’s in Columbus Circle across the way. I was struck by the way he crossed the road through the traffic, not in the nervous, tense way most people do, but as if he was sensing with the whole of his presence, completely aware of what he was doing, like a wise elephant I had seen making his way in a difficult part of a forest in Burma.
While we drank coffee, Gurdjieff spoke of the difficulties he encountered in getting money for his work. “People will pay anything for trivial things,” he said, “but for something they really need, even in ordinary life, they will not pay.” I asked him some questions, only because I thought I ought to say something, and he answered so that “seeing I should not see, and hearing I should not understand.” Also, conditioned as I was by a religious upbringing to believe that “salvation was free for all,” a feeling arose in me that Gurdjieff’s teaching ought to be imparted for nothing, and that such a man should have no difficulty in getting all the money he needed. So, although I could have given him a few hundred dollars, which would have been useful to him then, I refrained; and this was for me one of the many things which later became a “reminding factor,” as he called it, for remorse of conscience.