Dr. Leonid Stjoernval

Dr. Leonid Stjoernval (1861-1938):

A noted St. Petersburg medical doctor and psychologist and his wife, Elizabeta, followed Gurdjieff from Russia to the Prieuré, with Stjoernval playing a major role throughout. He died in the late 1930s, his wife in 1972. Gurdjieff’s nickname for him was “Mean.”

Leonid was one of the members of the St. Petersburg Group

The first six members of the St. Petersburg group were all hand-picked by Ouspensky.  It appears that these first six members all had been previously connected with the Theosophical Society of St. Petersburg.  Although the St. Petersburg group eventually had more than 30 members, these first six members constituted a sort of “inner circle” of individuals more knowledgeable and enthusiastic than the rest.  Many years later, after Ouspensky’s death and after he had read the manuscript of In Search of the Miraculous, Gurdjieff is purported to have said that this “inner circle” in two years made more progress in the “Work” than Gurdjieff’s French groups had been able to make in over 20 years!

In 1916, The “inner circle of St. Petersburg” was composed of the following six members:

1) P. D. Ouspensky, age 38, the most knowledgeable and articulate of all of Gurdjieff’s pupils.  Born in Moscow in 1878; he died in London in 1947.  Gurdjieff’s nickname for him was “Wraps up the Thought.”

2) Anthony Charkovsky, age 50, a civil engineer with a knowledge of occult and mystical literature that rivaled Ouspensky’s.

3) Dr. Leonid Stjoernval, age 55, a Finnish Alienist physician and hypnotist. He and his wife, Elizabeta (d. 1972), went to France with Gurdjieff where he remained a devoted pupil until his death shortly before the outbreak of World War II.  Gurdjieff’s nickname for him was “Mean.”

4) André Zakharoff, age 37, a very intelligent railway engineer and mathematician.  He died in Russia of smallpox in 1919.  Gurdjieff’s nickname for him was “Baba” (meaning peasant woman in Russian).

5) Nicholas R., age 68, a patient of Dr. Stjoernval and a member of the Russian Duma.  Gurdjieff’s nickname for him was “Jubilant Old Man.”

6) Anna Ilinishna Butkovsky, age 31, a classical pianist and, at that time, the girl friend of Ouspensky.  After her relationship with Ouspensky went sour, she married an Englishman, Charles Hewett, before leaving Russia late in 1917.  She later joined one of Gurdjieff’s Paris groups.  Gurdjieff’s nickname for her was “Wavering.”

Although not a member of the inner six, another member of the St. Petersburg Group would later become one of Gurdjieff’s most important students; she was Sophia Grigorievna (1874-1963) a divorcee with an adult daughter from her first marriage.  She was a friend of Ouspensky who introduced her to Gurdjieff in 1915.  She eventually replaced Anna Butkovsky as Ouspensky’s girl friend and he married her sometime in the late 1917 – early 1918 timeframe.

In December 1916, two more notable individuals joined the St. Petersburg Group; they were the composer Thomas Alexandrovich de Hartmann and his wife Olga Arkadievna (nee de Shumacher). The St. Petersburg group met on a somewhat regular basis from about January 1916 until after the Tsar’s abdication in March 1917.  Gurdjieff subsequently removed to the town of Essentuki in the Caucasus.  In July 1917, the “inner six” together with several other members of the St. Petersburg group joined Gurdjieff in Essentuki.  The group remained there, more or less intact, until August 1918.  At that time, Gurdjieff lead most of the group out of Essentuki and, after many adventures, finally settled in Tiflis, the capital of Georgia.  Ouspensky, his new wife Sophia Grigorievna, and his wife’s grown daughter by a previous marriage, remained behind in Essentuki. Although Ouspensky and Gurdjieff would again meet and reconcile in Constantinople in July 1920, their relationship would never again be close.  Finally, in May 1921, Ouspensky left for London where he ultimately set up an entirely separate teaching.  In total, the “inner circle” of the St. Petersburg group worked directly with Gurdjieff for only slightly more than two years.

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