Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was born in Alexandropol of a Greek father and an Armenian mother. In his youth he studied science, medicine and the ministry but found that these disciplines could not answer his questions about the essential nature of humanity and our possibilities. He embarked on a search for ancient wisdom that took him to remote regions of the Middle East, Africa, India and Central Asia.
He reappeared in Russia c. 1912 with a distinctive and contemporary teaching, rooted in both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions.
During the Bolshevik Revolution, he found his way to Western Europe with a group of his students. He eventually settled near Paris and established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. He continued to teach in Paris and New York until his death in 1949.
Following his death, a core group of pupils, under the direction of Mme. Jeanne de Salzmann established centers throughout the Western World.
Jeanne de Salzmann, from "Reality of Being", Introduction
When I met Georgi Ivanovich Gurdjieff I was thirty years old and living iin the Caucasus mountain region of what was then southern Russia. At the time I had a deep need to understand the meaning of life but was dissatisfied with explanations that seemed theoretical, not really useful. The first impression of Gurdjieff was very strong, unforgettable. He had an expression I had never seen, and an intelligence, a force, that was different, not the usual intelligence of the thinking mind but a vision that could see everything. He was, at the same time, both kind and very, very demanding. You felt he would see you and show you what you were in a way you would never forget in your whole life.
It was impossible really to know Gurdjieff. The impression he gave of himself was never the same. With some people who did not know him, he played the role of a spiritual master, behaving as they expected, and then let them go away. But if he saw they were looking for something higher, he might take them to dinner and speak about interesting subjects, amuse them, make them laugh. This behavior seemed to be more spontaneous, more “free.” But was it really freer, or did it only seem so because he intended to appear like that? You might think you knew Gurdjieff very well, but then he would act quite differently and you would see that you did not really know him. He was like an irresistible force, not dependent on any one form but continually giving birth to forms.