Idiots in Paris: Diaries of Elizabeth & JG Bennett

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The 1949 Diaries of Elizabeth & John G. Bennett • Trade Paperback • 136 pages

In 1949, JG Bennett was engaged, with Gurdjieff’s help and guidance, in a titanic struggle with his own nature, which he describes in these diaries and, with more perspective, in his autobiography, Witness: The Story of a Search.

Elizabeth’s Diary, which makes up the bulk of this book, has a different value. It is simply as a witness to conditions in Gurdjieff’s circle at the end of his life. Elizabeth’s diary shares with the account of Rina Hands – The Diary of Madam Egout Pour Sweet – the virtue of being a straightforward description with very little “self” in it.

In the 21st century, when there are few people left alive who “knew” the Armenian mystic philosopher Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (d. 1949), it is all the more important to have such honest and impartial eyewitness accounts as the one Elizabeth Bennett presents here.

Elizabeth’s original introduction, included in this new edition, and the diaries themselves outline far better than any later commentator can the conditions in which Gurdjieff’s pupils lived, satellites revolving round a brilliant sun.

In her introduction, Elizabeth Bennett explains that the book is “designed to help those readers who are not familiar with the activities and environment of Gurdjieff and his followers.” Twice daily the group would go through a series of rituals. Of these rituals, perhaps the most significant was the one known as the “toast of the idiots.” The “science of idiotism” that Gurdjieff taught portrayed the whole human situation and the hazards of attaining liberation. Elizabeth Bennett writes, “The exact repetition of the external framework left one free to attend to the shifting responsibilities of the inner world. Every moment in Gurdjieff’s presence was a chance to learn, if one was sufficiently awake to take the chance.”

This edition contains new material. Unpublished entries from Elizabeth Bennett’s Paris diary. A foreword essay by George Bennett.

Elizabeth & J.G. Bennett=Author