Henriette H. Lannes or Madame Lannes was born on 12 November 1899 in village of Puyoô-Bearn in the Pyrenees, France into a family of peasants. When she grew up, she moved to Paris where she became the wife of Henri Tracol, the head of a Republican press agency in Barcelona and Madrid, an activist for the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War.
However, her own distancing from the world of politics was caused by her meeting with Jeanne de Salzmann. In early 1938 Henriette Lannes and her husband M. Tracol entered into Mme de Salzmann’s circle at Sevres, France. The meeting with de Salzmann produced a profound effect on her, and she became her pupil. On 6 October 1940 Madame de Salzmann introduced her group to Gurdjieff, and they began receiving instructions from him. Henriette Lannes was an active member of Gurdjieff’s group and did much to help him during the difficult years of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Paris. During those years she was socially active, and helped save and protect Jewish group members from Nazi persecution.
In 1948 after his second car crash, Gurdjieff encouraged her to take pupils of her own and instruct them. She founded a group in Lyons, which continued its activities under Henri Thomasson after Lannes moved to London in 1950, after Gurdjieff’s death, upon request of Madame de Salzmann, becoming her designated representative there. She was an active and influential teacher of Gurdjieff’s system to English pupils in the Gurdjieff Foundation of Paris and London, where she was active for three decades.
Her first group initially consisted of George Adie, J. G. Bennett, Alfred Etievan, Jane Heap, Reginald Hoare, Cynthia Pearce, Basil Tilley, Kenneth Walker, and Aubrey Wolton. She continued heading her Lyons group from a distance until the end of her life.
At first she was an orthodox adherent of Gurdjieff’s teaching, dubbed by her pupils as a ‘Gurdjieffian fundamentalist,’ but later touched upon aspects of various Eastern spiritual traditions, which she combined together with her unremitting adherence to Gurdjieff’s tradition. She developed social aspects of the Gurdjieff tradition, even overseeing institution of special schools and hospitals. She organized her groups into hierarchical organizations, which helped disseminate her knowledge to her students. She taught her students to recognize life as a teacher and stated: “We have to recognize a master in ourselves. We are alone in the face of this as we shall be alone in the face of death.”
In 1964 she was instrumental in changing the name of The Society for Research into the Development of Man to The Gurdjieff Society. In 1969 she provided assistance to new students of the Gurdjieff Tradition in Norway, which resulted in the consolidation of their work and its subsequent guidance by Brenda Tripp.
Towards the end of her life, as her health began to fail, she began taking more time off on her holidays in France. She stopped teaching in 1978 and moved to Paris, where she died on 28 May 1980. After her death she was especially extolled by Madame de Salzmann for her ardent work with the groups, declaring herself to be the most indebted to Madame Lannes.