David Robertson speaks to two remarkable scholars, Carole Cusack and Steven Sutcliffe, on the significance of G. I. Gurdjieff to the study of religion. How do we approach figures like Gurdjieff whose legacies (and archives) are tightly controlled by their followers, and who often aren't seen as worthy of study by the academy and publishers?
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was born around 1866 in Russia and came to prominence in the inter-war years in Europe and the US as a “spiritual teacher” or proto-New Age guru. As well as a complex cosmology, Gurdjieff taught that the average human being was literally asleep, and that “waking up” required a great deal of work and “conscious suffering” His work was continued by his pupils following his death in 1949, and a number of books on his teachings remain in print today. To discuss his importance to the study of religion, David Robertson speaks to two remarkable scholars, Carole Cusack of the University of Sydney, and Steven Sutcliffe of the University of Edinburgh.
We discuss Gurdjieff’s image as a “guru”; how deliberate was it, and where did he learn about the Eastern teachers he modelled himself upon? We discuss how much we should treat Gurdjieff as a sui generis “special case”, as Gurdjieffian scholars have tended to, or whether we would be better to treat him as a type, like Blavatksy, Steiner, Crowley and others. This then turns the discussion to the issues of researching figures like Gurdjieff whose legacies (and archives) are tightly controlled by their followers, and who often aren’t seen as worthy of study by the academy and publishers. We conclude with a consideration of Gurdjieff’s importance (or lack thereof) on the later New Age milieu, and popular culture more broadly.
And did Robert Fripp hire Toy Levin for King Crimson because he looks like Gurdjieff?
You may enjoy our previous interviews with Carole Cusack on “Cultural Production” and “Invented Religions”.
You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost buying books, yoga mats, plant pots, llama-shaped snacks and more.
This episode has not been transcribed yet.
Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?
Recently, scholars have placed the concept of ‘meaning making’ as an important area of focus within psychology of religion. Some people find meaning in religious or spiritual experience and beliefs while others find meaning on more secular mediums in life. However, if humans are truly on a “search for meaning”, as Frankl has argued, what might be some of the sources of such meaning?
It's ideology, religion and conspiracy all the way in this month's Discourse! David G. Robertson is joined by Suzanne Owen and Craig Martin to discuss the Sun's mockery of pagans, problems with the Guardian's headline that people are returning to the Church, coronavirus conspiracies in India targetting Muslims, and how "idiology" (or one idiology, anyway) is pushing the religion out of religious studies.
While there is little disagreement as to the basic content of Gurdjieff’s spiritual teaching, there is currently no concrete proposal about the place of Gurdjieff within the broadly scientific study of religions.
In David Robertson’s interview with Professor Carole Cusack of the University of Sydney and Steven Sutcliffe, Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Edinburgh, ...
In this interview, Dr. Mary Jo Neitz continues the conversation about religion and gender by focusing on theories from LGBT studies and queer studies. Using her work as an ethnographer, as well as the work of American philosopher Judith Butler, Neitz distinguishes the categories ...
In this interview, Professor Wouter Hanegraaff tells us about what he dubs “the biggest blank spaces of neglected territories in the study of religion”, namely Western esotericism. He tells how he first came over the German Folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert’s book Pansophie (1936) and discovered a group of renaissance thinkers he had never heard of, ...
In this interview, Owen Coggins joins us to talk about the use of religious (and sacrilegious) language and imagery in Drone Metal, a genre which stretches metal to low, slow, repetitive extremes. Drawing on the work of Michel de Certeau, he tells David Robertson that the prevalence of language relating to mysticism and "spiritual experience" may be due to the genre's focus on the physicality of the musical experience.
The idea for this roundtable was that it would follow on directly from this week's interview on religion and literature, but expand the discussion to cover a variety of points relating to narrative, autobiography and (auto)ethnography in the study of religion. Featuring Dr Wendy Dossett, Prof. Elaine Graham, Dr Dawn Llewellyn, Ethan Quillen, and Dr Alana Vincent.
What is the least well known book of the Bible? How many people in the UK listed their ‘religion’ as ‘Jedi Knight’ on the UK 2011 Census? What is Professor Jim Cox’s drink of choice? To find out, you need do nothing more than hit ‘Play’ and enjoy this forty minutes of pure, unadulterated, top quality Religious Studies entertainment.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).