The (World Wide) Work 2.0

The Gurdjieff Tradition Online

Authors

  • Carole M. Cusack University of Sydney
  • David Pecotic Independent Scholar, Canberra

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.31891

Keywords:

G. I. Gurdjieff, Gurdjieff Internet Guide, Jeanne de Salzmann, religion online, online religion, digital ethnography

Abstract

The occult and the internet intersect in four ways: as a static medium for information; as a space where contested information or ideological conflict may occur; as a facilitator of communication; and as a medium for esoteric practice. The last type of activity is rare, but it is intriguing, in that technology can shape and inform beliefs and practices in unanticipated ways. Online engagement with the ‘Work’, the movement produced by the Greek Armenian spiritual teacher and esotericist G. I. Gurdjieff (c. 1866-1949) and his immediate followers, is an under-researched instance of online esoteric practice. This article addresses this scholarly desideratum, bringing the theoretical approaches of online religion and digital ethnography to bear on the Gurdjieff Internet Guide (GIG) website, founded by Reijo Oksanen (b. 1942) and later maintained by Kristina Turner, who created an accompanying Facebook page. The GIG manifests a shift away from the sectarian secrecy of the ‘Foundation’ groups, founded by Jeanne de Salzmann (1889-1990) after Gurdjieff’s death to formalise and protect the content of the Work, and the limited web presence that the Foundation permits. The GIG moves towards an ecumenical ‘open source’ approach to the dissemination of Gurdjieff’s teachings rooted in independent groups founded by other first generation followers of Gurdjieff who remained outside of the Foundation. It is argued that the deregulation of the religious and spiritual marketplace of the contemporary West, coupled with the dominant role played by the Internet in disseminating information, has radically transformed the Gurdjieff tradition, collapsing hierarchies and esoteric strategies, democratizing access for seekers, and creating new ritual and teaching modes.

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Author Biographies

Carole M. Cusack, University of Sydney

Carole M. Cusack is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include religious conversion, northern European mythology and religion, medieval Christianity, secularization and contemporary religious trends. She is the author of Conversion Among the Germanic Peoples (Cassell, 1998), The Essence of Buddhism (Lansdowne, 2001), Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010), and The Sacred Tree: Ancient and Medieval Manifestations (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011). She has co-edited several volumes, including Religion and Retributive Logic: Essays in Honour of Professor Garry W. Trompf (Brill, 2010) with Christopher Hartney and New Religions and Cultural Production (Brill 2012) with Alex Norman. She has published widely in academic journals and edited collections. With Christopher Hartney (University of Sydney) she is Editor of the Journal of Religious History (published by Wiley) and with Liselotte Frisk (Dalarna University, Sweden) she is Editor of the International Journal for the Study of New Religions (published by Equinox).

David Pecotic, Independent Scholar, Canberra

David Pecotic holds a PhD in the Studies in Religion from the University of Sydney. His dissertation, “Body and Correspondence in G.I. Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson,” examined practices of embodiment, cosmology and the development of subtle bodies in the mysticism of G. I. Gurdjieff.

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Published

2016-11-07

How to Cite

Cusack, C., & Pecotic, D. (2016). The (World Wide) Work 2.0: The Gurdjieff Tradition Online. Fieldwork in Religion, 11(1), 91–103. https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.31891