Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meetings with Remarkable Men

I have the book and I have the film so no longer can I put off 'Meetings with Remarkable Men'.

I will begin with the book - the same browning paperback copy I bought for my mother more than twenty years ago (whose cover announces that it is now an extraordinary film starring Terence Stamp, Dragan Maksimovic and Warren Mitchell)!

I notice it was originally translated by A. R. Orage that remarkable literary impressario who made his magazine 'The New Age' the place to explore modernism and socialism before the outbreak of the First World War when the magazine was at its height. In 1924, he sold it and went to Fontainebleau to work with Gurdjieff who he was to ably represent in America.

I owe a deep debt to Orage because it was he who first published my beloved Edwin Muir recognising in this obscure clerk from Glasgow a literary voice of great potential and who enabled him to come to London with his wife, Willa, and embark on his career as a poet and critic.

It was Orage who sent Muir to see Maurice Nicoll, another student of Gurdjieff's to be, and, at that time, one of Jung's first students in England, a highly gifted neurologist and psychotherapist, whose treatment of Muir was both instrumental in liberating his gifts and strangely unsatisfactory as treatment (that may be just as well)!

I am fascinated by how these worlds interweave - paths you thought were separate, happened upon through your diverse interests, suddenly interconnect, and you look back and see how it makes sense of certain features of people's life and work.

You can see how Orage could recognise Muir's latent spirituality even as he contributed 'sub-Nietzschean' aphorisms (Muir's description) to 'The New Age' and help identify Muir's next steps and how that extraordinary gift for guidance would need a greater outlet than simply a literary platform. He would need to engage with the complex texture of people's lives in the round.

In any case, after long postponement, it will be interesting to see what I make of 'Meetings...' and of this resurgent trail after the spirit of Gurdjieff and his influence!

Meanwhile, Orage awaits the writing of a comprehensive biography and study. We tend to neglect the genius of the impressario (Diaghilev is probably the exception to this rule).

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