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Confessions of an Anti-Feminist
by Anthony M. Ludovici
- from Chapter IV -

Before we quote Ludovici first some background to help make sense of our limited excerpt.

Alfred Richard Orage was a British intellectual best known for editing the weekly magazine The New Age. He had purchased a half-interest in the magazine in 1907 and eventually hired Ludovici as the magazine’s art critic.

Orage, by way of Peter Ouspensky, came to be an adherent of George Gurdjieff and his “esoteric” ideas. (Both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky were Russian émigrés. Ouspensky moved to England in 1921 and Gurdjieff to France about the same time.) Orage continued to edit The New Age until 1924 when he sold out in order to attend Gurdjieff’s “Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man” in Fontainebleau. Afterwards at Gurdjieff’s urging Orage made a lecture tour of America promoting his ideas.

From what little I’ve read about Gurdjieff – written by his admirers – his “system” seems to have been a personality cult which included heavy drinking by both Gurdjieff and novices, hard manual labor by the novices, and Gurdjieff’s verbal abuse of them in order to make them better. Better at what is a question.

Ludovici refers to the “achievements of some of the men who took Gurdjieff’s teaching seriously” and mentions Kenneth Walker, a urologist. Walker’s achievements have yet to be chronicled on the Internet, where all one now finds by him are books and articles praising Gurdjieff. There is brief mention of a book critical of Darwin which sounds interesting – the usual account of evolution is incredible (and in twisted form put to vicious use, see the work of Raymond Tallis, another physician, and what he calls “Darwinitis”) – but no details are available.

Some men might know Gurdjieff or other Eastern mystic only through books, and find valuable what they read. In their defense, portions of such verbiage are like inkblots in which you can read your own meaning, never seeing through to the author’s own, life-destroying, nihilism.

The following is from Confessions of an Anti-Feminist: The Autobiography of Anthony M. Ludovici, Chapter 4: “My Education, II (1910 - 1916).”  We include some of Ludovici’s account of Orage and all his account of Gurdjieff so that his comments on Alexander regarding the two will make sense. Preceding our excerpt Ludovici laments the Anglo-Saxon tendency to break into factions, says he had rarely entered Orage’s social circle because of their socialism, and that he had disapproved of Orage’s eclecticism.

*         *         *

Much later on a serious clash occurred over the Ouspensky-Gurdjieff teaching, for I was quite unable to accept his [Orage’s] belief in its indispensability for life mastery, and, strange as it may seem, it was his fanatical faith in these two men that marked not only the end of the New Age period but also, as I half-suspected at the time, sowed the seeds of his own premature death. Because, if he had not joined Ouspensky in France at a time of life when the rigorous disciplines Gurdjieff imposed on his disciples constituted a grave danger, it is unlikely that he would have died when and how he did.

I can vividly recall the urgent summons he sent to me in the first days of March 1922. I was to come to see him in Cursitor Street immediately as he had something of the utmost importance to tell me. This must have been on Wednesday, March the 1st. He said: “Ludovici, drop everything you happen to be doing and join us in the Ouspensky group! You will find it abundantly worth while to give all your time to the study of the way of life Ouspensky undertakes to teach us” — or words to that effect. I pointed out that it would be extremely difficult for me to do what he proposed. I was a married man and had not the means to abandon my work. Although I was prepared to attend Ouspensky’s lectures, for I was always anxious to learn, and felt sure Orage was too intelligent and well-informed to be hoaxed by a charlatan, I made it clear that I could not possibly enroll myself as one of Gurdjieff’s whole-time chelas [disciples, novices – ATN].

As early as March 3rd, 1922  I accordingly went to hear Ouspensky, who was addressing a small and select circle in a private house either in Kensington or Chelsea. I confess I understood very little of what he said and often failed to appreciate the relevance of many of his illustrations. But I could not help admiring his technique as a lecturer. The way he handled his audience and dealt with the ubiquitous and benighted interrupters, who at all such gatherings betray their inattention and stupidity by the futility of their questions, seemed to me, who had so often suffered at the hands of such people, exceedingly impressive. Anybody who by his, or particularly by her, misunderstandings revealed that further attendance on their part would be quite useless was unmercifully snubbed and humiliated, and if such a person protested, as one or two outraged listeners, unused to such rough handling, sometimes did, he or she was invited to withdraw altogether. ...

On March 7th I attended a second lecture and on that occasion actually saw Gurdjieff, who, opulently attired in a magnificent astrakhan overcoat, made his way straight to the front row of the audience and sat down immediately opposite me. (I should explain that presumably, as a friend of Orage and recommended by him, I had been allowed a seat on the platform.)

I cannot say I was favorably impressed by either the person or manner of Ouspensky’s master and guru. Rightly or wrongly, I felt repelled rather than attracted. His air of truculent self-complacency, his unfortunate resemblance to one’s image of the typical impresario, and the palpable obviousness, not to say shallowness, of some of his remarks on bodily control and economy of effort destroyed all hope of any rapport between us from the start

When I now read accounts of him, and see the eminence and achievements of some of the men who took his teaching seriously (Dr. Kenneth Walker, for instance), I appreciate that a sweeping dismissal of him would probably be unjust. But such pronounced initial feelings of antipathy as he inspired in me are difficult to overcome, and as I had meanwhile come to the conclusion that there was no chance of my being able to devote enough time to the teaching in order to benefit from it, I decided to inform Ouspensky and Orage that, to my profound regret, I could not possibly undertake to join them.

Orage was greatly shocked and, like many another whose advice has been rejected, he most probably felt slighted. But I have never for one moment regretted this resolute act of defection. I never pretended to be a dedicated chela, or to lead either Ouspensky or Orage to suspect that I was withdrawing from their group because I thought little of the teaching. Indeed, had I done anything of the sort I should have been insincere, because I never professed a proper understanding of Gurdjieff’s aims or how he expected to achieve them. Only long afterwards, when I was in a position to judge some of the unmistakable results of the Gurdjieff regime, did I feel entitled knowledgeably to question its value.

Thus, when after his [Orage’s] spell at Fontainebleau and the frantic agitation raised by his friends to rescue him from the labors of the life there, and when after the conclusion of his activities in America, he at last returned to London and started the New English Weekly, I was among those who were invited to meet him and to learn about his future plans. I decided to go and thus had the opportunity of observing the marked changes that had come over his appearance since I had last seen him. The deterioration in his physical condition seemed to me conspicuous, and I felt I had every reason to congratulate myself on having escaped the rigors of Gurdjieff’s training camp.

What made me all the more confident of the justice of this conclusion was the fact that meanwhile — i.e., during the years of Orage’s absence from England — I also had undergone a thorough course of physical rehabilitation, or rather normalization, which had not only greatly improved my condition but had also supplied me with valuable criteria for knowledgeably assessing the physical status of my fellow-men. Instead of my judgments in this sphere being, as they had been in the past, chiefly guesswork and matters of opinion, I was now equipped to give at least valid reasons for classing a fellow-being as either able or unable to maintain his sound condition if he enjoyed such a blessing, or to improve his condition if it was faulty. This was not an assessment in the medical sense, which of course I was quite unqualified to attempt, but rather an estimate of a man’s chances of keeping sound if soundness and health were already present. And I owed the knowledge for such judgments to the thorough schooling in the correct use of the body which I had undergone at F. M. Alexander’s teaching centre in Westminster. Indeed, I may truthfully claim that this course of training in conscious control proved to be the principal turning-point in my life and, above all, in my education. Nor do I believe that anyone who has had the good fortune to leave Alexander’s hands fully conditioned, as I ultimately became, to apply his methods in every kind of bodily activity, throughout every day of the year, would charge me with exaggeration or overstatement in making the claim I have made about his teaching. From the year 1925, when I first became his pupil, to the present day, I have not ceased to rejoice in the good fortune which led me to him. It resulted in my being as it were “born again” and, what is more, enriched me with an armory of new standards by means of which, henceforth, I could with substantial authority assess the psychophysical condition of my fellows, together with their chances of preserving any health they happened to enjoy.

Now, it was when I was thus equipped that I renewed my acquaintance with Orage, and I confess that I was genuinely shocked by the changes I noted in his appearance. These changes were probably also observed by others, but are unlikely to have been given the significance which I felt justified in giving them. For one thing, I could not help noticing how conspicuously he had begun to stoop and how rounded his back had become, and, remembering Alexander’s shrewd adage that “it is the stoop that brings on the infirmities of old age, and not vice versa,” I naturally felt alarmed at his appearance. His bodily coordination also struck me as in every respect what Alexander called “villainous,” and I did not need more to convince me that, no matter what its other merits may have been, Gurdjieff’s regimen could hardly have included conscious control, in Alexander’s sense, as one of its disciplines. When, therefore, not long after the inauguration of The New English Weekly, Orage was reported to have died suddenly of a heart attack, I was not in the least surprised. His death at the comparatively early age of sixty-one occurred, I believe, on the night of November 3 - 4, 1934, when by a strange coincidence he and I both made our first BBC broadcast, and it was on returning home in the evening of the 3rd that he retired to bed, never to rise again.