Gurdjieff's Russian Group
As Ouspensky was living in St. Petersburg in 1915, a 350-mile journey by train, Gurdjieff had Ouspensky recruit students for him in St. Petersburg. That Fall Gurdjieff visited the city and a group was formed. It consisted of Ouspensky, Sophie Grigorievna, Anna Ilinishna Butkovsky, Thomas and Olga de Hartmann, Dr. Leonid and Elizabeta Stjoernval, Anthony Charkovsky, Andrey Zaharoff, and an unnamed senior official with the government.
Sophie Grigorievna Ouspensky: One of Gurdjieff's oldest and most devoted students. She had a deep understanding of Gurdjieff's teaching and his message. "I do not pretend to understand George Ivanovitch," she said. "For me he is X. All that I know is that he is my teacher and it is not right for me to judge him, nor is it necessary for me to understand him. No one knows who is the real George Ivanovitch, for he hides himself from all of us. It is useless for us to try to know him, and I refuse to enter into any discussions about him."
When her husband broke with Gurdjieff in Constantinople in 1921, and then again in 1924, she chose to stay with Gurdjieff. In the years following, Gurdjieff sent her to London a number of times to see her husband. Finally, in 1931 she stayed for good, taking over the practical work of her husband's groups. In January 1941, with the Germans occupying France and London burning under German heavy bombing, she and husband left for America. Franklin Farms, a large estate in Mendham, New Jersey, was purchased and work began there.
In January 1947 her husband, ill for many years, left for England where he died the following October.
In the spring of 1948, hearing that Gurdjieff had survived the war, Mme Ouspensky reestablished contact. When Gurdjieff came to New York that December he visited her at Mendham. She presented him with chapters of the book that her husband had worked on since Constantinople. It was titled Fragments of a Forgotten Teaching and later retitled In Search of the Miraculous. Though suffering from Parkinson's disease, she led the work at Mendham until her death in 1963.
Anna Ilinishna Butkovsky: an aristocrat and aspiring pianist. Born in 1885, she was the younger daughter of an eminent St. Petersburg barrister. She studied at the Conservatoire, hoping for a career as a concert pianist.
In 1915 she attended a lecture by P. D. Ouspensky at the Theosophical Society (Ouspensky had joined the Society in 1907 but left after meeting Gurdjieff). In 1917, having been replaced in Ouspensky's affections by Sophie Grigorievna, she married Englishman Charles Hewitt.
The couple left Russia during the Revolution. In Paris she opened a fashionable dress salon and later became an antiques dealer in both Paris and later in London. In 1978 she published With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris. Recounting her meetings with and affection for Ouspensky, she said, "When, in later years, we were to meet again in Berlin, in Paris and London, he had developed a hard outer shell, and I wondered then why he had crushed the gentle, poetic radiance of his St. Petersburg days. Possibly he thought of this side of himself as a weakness, yet it was in this happy mood that his inspiration and vision were strongest: the intellect had nothing to do with it."
Thomas and Olga de Hartmann: Key students of Gurdjieff's who had a deep and intuitive understanding of his teaching message. Thomas de Hartmann was instrumental in helping to notate Gurdjieff's sacred music from 1925 to 1927. Of Olga de Hartmann, he said she was "the first friend of my inner life." As Gurdjieff's secretary for many years she took some of the earliest dictation of his writings. Their book, Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff, offers a vivid account of the de Hartmann's discoveries and deep understanding of the teaching. Thomas de Hartmann died in New York in 1956 and Mme de Hartmann in Santa Fe in l979.
Dr. Leonid Stjoernval: A noted St. Petersburg medical doctor and psychologist and his wife, Elizabeta, followed Gurdjieff from Russia to the Prieuré, with Stjoernval playing a major role throughout. He died in the late 1930s, his wife in 1972.