Did George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866-1949) ever visit Tibet? I recognize the problem that some of you may simply not know why you ought to care, and I empathize with you, but keep in mind that there are people out there who do care, people who may even care far too much. As a Tibetanist they may want to get answers from you. What are you going to tell them? That's not Gurdjieff here in the frontispiece, and neither is it Dorjiev, but the truth is, Dorjiev and Gurdjieff have been confused in the past. One author, otherwise quite a good one I think,* unhelpfully decided that while Gurdjieff in fact isn’t Dorjiev, it’s Dorjiev’s follower Norzunoff that is Gurdjieff. In either case, if either identification were true, it would follow that Gurdjieff did in fact visit Tibet. (Well, since both Dorjiev and Norzunoff most definitely did.)
(*James Webb, The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York 1980).)
|Agwan Dorjiev (ངག་དབང་རྡོ་རྗེ་)|
Le Tour de Monde (1904)
(*For a bit on the possessive suffix -ov/-off/-ev/-eff used to form Slavic surnames, try looking here. Like surnames everywhere, they may [among other possibilities] be based on place of origin. Dorjiev's name was formed on the assumption that Dorjé was in some way his surname when of course it was not. It’s an integral part of his given name.)
(*but keep reading, since I've changed my mind since "now")It’s true that Achmed’s information about Dorjiev is sufficiently accurate and believable, based on what we can know from independent sources. What isn’t so believable is he had sufficient reason to equate him with Gurdjieff. Achmed's accuracy makes me tend to believe that he (A.A.) might have actually been in Lhasa, seen Dorjiev there or at least heard a great deal about him, but his assertion of the single personhood of Gurdjieff-Dorjiev is, as he says, not something he can prove. And this equation our independent sources can disprove, especially now that a number of sources about Dorjiev's last years have been made known to the world at large.
(*See p. 313 in William James Thompson, J.G. Bennett's Interpretation of the Teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, a Study of Transmission in the Fourth Way, doctoral dissertation, University of Lancaster (1995). The southern slopes of the Himalayas are much more easily located. For all I know the northern slopes of the Himalayas could be all the way up beyond the Kunlun Mountains, somewhere near the palace of the Queen Mother of the West.)
Well, we do all have problems with identity. That much is true and undeniable.
§ § §
Jampa Samten and Nikolay Tsyrempilov, From Tibet Confidentially: Secret Correspondence of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to Agvan Dorzjiev, 1911-1925, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (Dharamsala 2012).
Alexandre I. Andreyev, An Unknown Russian Memoir by Aagvan Dorjiev, Inner Asia, vol. 3 (2001), pp. 27-39. This has a survey of now-available sources on the life of Dorjiev. Several other works by the same author ought to be listed, if I had more energy, including the book cited in the appendix down below.
For some remarkable historic photographs of the Buddhist temple Dorjiev founded in St. Petersburg, look here. For a sketch of the temple's history, try here.
For the birthplace of Gurdjieff, look here, where it says "Gurdjieff was born in the Armenian city of Alexandropol, which is now called Gyumri." The birthdate would seem to be up in the air.
"In January 1937, Dorzhiev, accompanied by his attendant, Lama Dugar Jimbiev, left Leningrad for Buryatia. There he hoped to spend his last days in a solitary retreat as Buddhist monks do, in his house at the medical school of the Atsagat Datsang, near Verkneudinsk. However his hopes were not to be fulfilled. On 13 November the Buryat was arrested in his home and put into prison in Verkheudinsk. He was accused of high treason (spying for Japan), terrorist and subversive activities, preparation of armed rebellion, and several more anti-Soviet crimes. Two weeks later, shortly after his one and only interrogation, Dorzhiev was taken to a hospital ward. There, on January 29, 1938, he died."
Gurdjieff died duringthe morning of October 29, 1949, in France. His last words? "Bravo America."