Hard Work: Locating Gurdjieff in the Study of Religion/s


  • Steven J. Sutcliffe University of Edinburgh




G. I. Gurdjieff, theory, new religious movements, cultural history, study of religion/s


What kind of data do Gurdjieff and the ‘Work’ provide the student of ‘religion’, and how is this material best approached within the disciplinary field of the study of religion/s? This article is an exercise in general orientation to the Gurdjieff ‘movement’ from the perspective of the comparative study of religion/s. It briefly reviews existing secondary sources on Gurdjieff and selected associates and descendants in order to identify lacunae in scholarly conceptualisations, before moving on to discuss how best to locate the Work academically in the modern history of culture and religion. The merits and pitfalls of three different academic approaches to representing the Gurdjieff phenomenon will be considered: (i) as a sui generis ‘Gurdjieff Studies’; (ii) as a study of a ‘new religious movement’; (iii) as data for modern social and cultural history. Despite the respective attractions of (i) and (ii), I argue for the (deferred) benefits of (iii).

Author Biography

Steven J. Sutcliffe, University of Edinburgh

Dr Steven J. Sutcliffe is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Edinburgh. He specialises in the study of alternative religion and in the modern history of the academic study of religion. He is the author of Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices (2003), editor of Religion: Empirical Studies (2004) and co-editor (with Ingvild Gilhus) of New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion (2013).



How to Cite

Sutcliffe, S. J. (2015). Hard Work: Locating Gurdjieff in the Study of Religion/s. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 27(3), 262–284. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v27i3.26500