I had been in the Gurdjieff Work in San Francisco for a few years when I suddenly realized, in a very deep way, that I wished to be one of those few people who read at the end of the Sunday workday and Beelzebub’s Tales on Thursday evenings. I said nothing to anyone about this realization.
About two weeks later, Lord Pentland, the head of the Gurdjieff Work in the United States, came to San Francisco and asked to see me in the panel room. At our meeting, he said that he would like me to read from Beelzebub’s Tales to the entire group the next evening, which was Thursday.
When I got home that evening, I thought about what I would wear at the reading. To understand my dilemma, it’s important to know that the readers for Thursday evenings, who happened to be men at that time, always wore a tie with either a suit or a sport coat and a nice pair of dress pants. Being somewhat of a rebel, or so I thought, and also hating to wear ties, I intentionally decided not to wear one, and arrived the next evening tieless, wearing my favorite sport coat and carrying my copy of Beelzebub’s Tales.
I spent about an hour in the library going carefully over the reading and then went down to the foyer and was standing there waiting for everyone to go in and sit down. Lord Pentland saw me, came quickly over to me, looked me up and down, and then, zeroing in on my neck and shaking his head sadly, said, “Oh no, that won’t do.” Of course, everyone stopped in their tracks, knowing something of import was about to happen. Lord Pentland told me to stay where I was. He then headed off to his room. The foyer was filled with silence.
A few minutes later he came back conspicuously carrying a very conservative looking tie. He then slowly and carefully in front of everyone lifted my shirt collar and proceeded to put the tie around my neck, tying the knot as though I were incapable of doing so, which I may well have been at that moment. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I felt like a foolish, helpless little child, on display for all the grownups to see. I saw myself! When he finished with the tie, he stepped back, looked at his handiwork. and said softly, “Now you’re ready.” Yes, I was. Thanks to this shock, an entirely new level of sincerity was alive inside me, though it was only later that I understood. Shortly after that evening, I was told by someone from the planning team that I would also be one of the regular readers on Sundays.
Without saying too much here, I will say that reading out loud to others in the context of the Gurdjieff Work helped me see and understand myself in ways that might not have been possible, or at least would have taken much longer, had I not had that wonderful and very challenging opportunity. What’s more, it brought me an entirely new understanding of what it means “to listen,” beginning with listening to my own deepest wishes and expanding outward to listening to the ever-changing tones and nuances of my voice in varying circumstances; the thoughts, emotions and sensations my own voice manifested and aroused in me; and how my voice influenced others. I know for a fact that Lord Pentland heard those wishes and that they were in harmony with the ways in which he believed I might be useful not just to myself but also to the Gurdjieff Work.
Copyright 2011-15 by Dennis Lewis