James Webb on Gurdjieff the intelligence agent

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm

Another interesting comment on Gurdjieff as intelligence agent, upgraded to post level.
I will comment in another post.


mybrainisafleamarket said,

08.02.08 at 5:37 pm · Edit

Just wanted to make clear what my source was:

James Webb is the one who strongly suggested that Gurdjieff might have been a secret agent in the Imperial Russian secret service. Webb made this suggestion in his book The Harmonious Circle. Webb had access to old files kept by the British Intelligence service (I cant remember if it was M 15 or M 16, and traced G’s probably itenerary in India and in Tibet. It appears that G posed as a Tibetan and Webb has some interesting photographs. Webb was cautious and did not want to jump to any conclusions beyond what the records could bear, but he took the trouble
to lay out the evidence, and allowed his readers to be as jurors and come to our own verdict. I personally thought that Webb’s secret agent hypothesis fit the points on the curve rather nicely.

As for the enneagram, Webb gave a long, long list of theosophical and occult books that would have been available in pre-revolutionary Russia and provides us with an enneagram like diagram that can be found in the works of Raymond Lull.

I still think it very interesting that in the 1840s and 50s Captain Richard F. Burton exhaustively studied sufism and occult practices in Sindh, India, and Egypt, looked for manusripts in libraries in Sindh, the Al Ahazar Mosque in Cairo, and in Medina, did all he could to learn information, spoke Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Sindi and some Pastu fluently, yet never mentions a trace concerning the enneagram. Burton was eager to publish information that would be to the advantage of other travellers and agents wishing to go undercover and “pass” as natives, and I am personally satisfied that if the enneagram had in any way been important to the Sufis, Burton would have heard about it, learned it and mentioned it. A man who took the trouble to describe the favorite epic poems and stories in Sindh, the local methods of alchemy, how crooks counterfeited documents, coins and signet seals, ettiquette, the various methods of preparing and smoking hashish (we are told exactly how to prepare the stuff and how to fill the pipe) the differences between Sindhi chess and Western chess, the method of doing the mandal or ‘magic mirror’ trick, and who gives us the exact method (plus diagram) on how Sindhi soothsayers read the future from a sheeps shoulderbone, would, IMO have told us about the enneagram had it existed and been at all important in the areas where he travelled.

(Note: it is also most interesting that Burton opens his chapter on Sufism (which he correctly names ‘tassawuf) in Sindh by listing 3 representative poets, one for Arabic, one for Sindi Persian and one for Pastu–Ibn Faris, Hafiz, Shah Betai and Abd el Rahman. Rumi is not mentioned!

Earlier in that chapter, he does mention Rumi but in passing–’A system of belief adopted by such minds as Jami, Hafiz, Saadi, Jelal el Din (Rumi), Abd el Kadir, Ibn Fariz and others…” (page 200 from Sindh and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus by RF Burton)

It is very interesting to see that in Burton’s careful survey of Sufism in what is now Pakistan, in an area heavily influenced by Persian/Iranian culture, he refers to Rumi as just one among many–an interesting contrast with the fad status that Rumi has today in English translation!

1 Comment »

  1. The Gurdjieff Con » Response to Gurdjieff the spy comments said,

    08.02.08 at 6:57 pm

    […] Post on James Webb Webb’s book is invaluable, and I wish his other book on the occult renaissance were cheaper. I think I read it once, and it has been many years since I researched this material. The comments on the sufi tradition and the absence of reference to the enneagram is significant. I would offer one caveat: although Gurdjieff was clearly brazen in his deceptions, those deceptions betray a man with a few consistent themes, one of which is the claim for a tradition deeper than the sufi stream, the whole point about his wild statements about greater antiquity and lost knowledge, all the way to Sumer. I don’t find his conclusions about this reliable, but he is saying that the enneagram is something he found after very difficult efforts, resulting in the discovery of the Sarmon monastery, where he found the enneagram. A possible reason noone had ever heard of it. Packaged in disinformation is something that rings true even as it rings false. Don’t know, but the whole game is impossible to get quite straight. Could all be balderdash anyway. And the result, the enneagram, we live in another age that can take this bit seriously, and least not I. It is just ingenious enough to confuse a mystic, but obviously a flawed instrument of knowledge. […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment