Pupil Memoirs as Hagiography in the Gurdjieff Work


  • Carole M. Cusack University of Sydney




G. I. Gurdjieff, hagiography, pupil memoirs, charisma, seekership, memorialisation


G. I. Gurdjieff (c. 1866–1949) emerged as a spiritual teacher in St Petersburg and Moscow in 1912. In his early phase of teaching, he emphasized a complex cosmology that was recorded by P. D. Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous (1949), and after leaving Russia during the Revolution he introduced the Movements or Sacred Dances in Tiflis in 1919. At the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Prieuré des Basses-Loges at Fontainebleau-Avon south of Paris Gurdjieff initiated a communal life in which pupils pursued a program of spiritual activities devised to lead them from false personality to true self, from a multitude of “I”s to a “real I.” After Gurdjieff’s death in 1949, various of his pupils published memoirs of their time with the Master; notable examples include Margaret Anderson’s The Unknowable Gurdjieff (1962) and Kathryn Hulme’s Undiscovered Country: A Spiritual Adventure (1966). This article argues that the pupil memoirs function in the Work as hagiography, cementing the holiness and authority of Gurdjieff in a similar way to the lives of the saints in medieval Europe; additionally, they operate as a substitute for the personal encounter with Gurdjieff in life, constructing his charisma and extraordinary powers for later generations of pupils.

Author Biography

Carole M. Cusack, University of Sydney

Carole M. Cusack is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. She researches and teaches on contemporary religious trends (including pilgrimage and tourism, modern Pagan religions, NRMs, and religion and popular culture). Her books include Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010) and (with Katharine Buljan) Anime, Religion, and Spirituality: Profane and Sacred Worlds in Contemporary Japan (Equinox, 2015). In 2016 she became Editor of Fieldwork in Religion, and she is also Editor of Literature & Aesthetics (journal of the Sydney Society of Literature and Aesthetics).


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How to Cite

Cusack, C. M. . (2022). Pupil Memoirs as Hagiography in the Gurdjieff Work. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 12(2), 223–235. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.21381