Through the Lens of Gurdjieff

Glimpses of Contemporary Sufism in Turkey


  • Michael Pittman Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences



Gurdjieff, Sufism, Sufism in Turkey


G. I. Gurdjieff (c.1866–1949) was born in Gyumri, Armenia and raised in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor. He also traveled extensively throughout Turkey to places of pilgrimage and in search of Sufi teachers. Through the lens of Gurdjieff’s notion of legominism, or the means by which spiritual teachings are transmitted from successive generations, this article explores the continuing significance of spiritual practice and tradition and the ways that these forms remain relevant in shaping contemporary trends in spirituality. Beginning with Gurdjieff’s use of legominism, the article provides reflection on some early findings done in field research in Turkey— through site visits, interviews and participant-observation—conducted in the summers of 2014 and 2015. The aim of the project is both to meet individuals and groups, particularly connected to Sufism, that may have some contact with the influences that Gurdjieff would have been familiar with, and to visit some of the sites that were part of Gurdjieff’s early background and which served to inform his work. Considerations of contemporary practices include the view of spiritual transmission, and practices of pilgrimage, prayer and sohbet, or spiritual conversation, in an ongoing discourse about spiritual transformation.


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Author Biography

Michael Pittman, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Michael Pittman, is currently Associate Professor of World Religions at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Albany, New York. His research focuses on the work and writings of G. I. Gurdjieff, Islam and Sufism, and contemporary Middle Eastern literature and film.


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How to Cite

Pittman, M. (2016). Through the Lens of Gurdjieff: Glimpses of Contemporary Sufism in Turkey. Fieldwork in Religion, 11(1), 36–52.