Idries Shah said that Gurdjieff studied with the Sufis, but did not complete his study. Nevertheless, that does not at all mean that Gurdjieff did not maintain ties to certain Sufi circles and that his Work was totally independent and performed by him at his own peril and risk. Again, in Beelzebub’s Tales, there are places indicating that Gurdjieff was familiar with certain aspects of the Sufi Work about which not a single one of his students can tell us, because this Work was conducted in secret. And only a person who has taken part in it can find out about it, so things are more complicated with Gurdjieff then it seems at first glance.
For example: Gurdjieff may have not completed his study with the Sufis precisely because he ceased to need it, or because further advancement within the framework of the version of Sufism which he was given became impossible. Let us not forget that various orders in Sufism have different, so to speak, “specialization,” and the unique being of Gurdjieff may have only fit in to a certain extent to the demands made to students of the Sufis. He was too strong, and furthermore, he had the Uwaisi transmission; that is, he received knowledge in a mystical way from one of the Sufis who had died earlier. Precisely for that reason, Gurdjieff may not have completed the standard stages of the Sufi teaching – since in some way he already superseded his possible teachers. Rafael Lefort’s book, The Teachers of Gurdjieff is an obvious forgery, so we know nothing about his true teachers. At the same time, Gurdjieff could have quite likely taken upon himself the mission to bring new knowledge to the West and see what would come of it. In one of his texts, he mentions that he sent more than ten people to certain centers where they could get the necessary teaching. Meanwhile, it turns out that he himself worked with those who in principle were not suitable for such teaching.
Gurdjieff began his Work in Russia exactly because here, he – a person who arose out of nowhere – had family ties, and that eased his task. I believe that later he would have made his way to the West anyway, but fate – in the form of war and revolution – accelerated the pace, and he had to leave for the West earlier than planned. Gurdjieff had already arrived in Russia with a plan to attract the attention of the public to his person through staging the ballet “The Struggle of the Magicians.” But he had to stage it later in France.
There is a telling story going around the Internet, according to which the start of the second World War was provoked by Gurdjieff through staging the ballet “The Struggle of the Magicians.” Supposedly using the knowledge of ancient symbols and sacred movements, he turned the staging into a magic action, which awakened dark forces, clashing them with light. Then the second World War began. Gurdjieff is portrayed to us as a strong magician, influencing the fate of the world. There is nothing particular to comment here – it is total nonsense, written by a person who knows nothing about either Gurdjieff, or magic, or sacred movements. A lot of such nonsense is written, and the most fantastic stories are found – but all of them similarly emphasize Gurdjieff’s exclusiveness, and the presence in him of powers unknown to us. Georgy Ivanovich, I think, is happy. He always had a wonderful sense of humor.