My mother was half right. In her reading of 'Meetings with Remarkable Men', she desired greater explanation of the substance of the men's ideas and practices and so often Gurdjieff's narrative breaks off at that point, promising that in a subsequent account, he will give more detail. It is tantalising. You so wish for additional paragraphs of explanation.

But this, I think, was its point. It is less a book about 'ideas' than our search for them - for it is in the journey that each person fashions for them, uniquely, a right, balanced understanding. Truth is one but it is not univocal for depending on who and where and how we are, it will take different forms : each a skilful means breaking through to us, to our appropriation of being.

It is, thus, an artful book and one that does awaken a sense of search: where am I to be, genuinely 'be'?

Reading it in parallel with being in Berlin was fascinating (it was yet another place Gurdjieff had claimed to visit) for here is a city that carries its known history everywhere. The capital, for a brief twelve years, home of one of the darkest tyrannies known to man and then split between competing forces - one tainted but hopeful, the other a broken, 'cynicied' ideal - and now reunited and full of diverse life, seeking after both the bourgeois dream and yet something other, edgier, more enterprising, ill-defined.

Here is definitely a place one is confronted with what it might mean to be human - and what was it that enabled some to so courageously say no to death and offer, as witness, life and yet a witnessing that is so fragile, so easily forgotten?

As Gurdjieff asked, what does it truly mean to love my neighbour as myself? Not mere tolerance (that Berlin appears to have) but a community of love - that is a more complex, individual task. As Jacob Needleman notes, commenting on Gurdjieff, we descend collectively but we ascend individually. No place can do this for us, though place can help, but the ascent, that is the search, is an individual good, minted internally.


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