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Tenacious Magic ~ Chapter 9
Katherine's cows, musings on motherhood, The Movements, and a meeting with G
It’s Friday and time for another installment of Tenacious Magic. This is an emergent, serial novel tracing the lives of two women born 100 years apart and their relationships with their spiritual teachers. One story follows Katherine Mansfield, the writer, through the last four month of her life, which she spent at the Prieuré in Fontainebleu with the esoteric teacher and prophet, Gurdjieff. The other is my own story, which takes place in New York City in the 2010s where I met and worked with a teacher I call “H.” For a time (and even now) our lives became intertwined in a way that made it seem like we had work to do together. I believe that work is healing. The telling of the tale is an alchemical container for our own healing and the healing of the archetype of the sacred marriage or consort dynamic. It is also a story about immortality.
I’ve been publishing a chapter every Friday for two months. (You can read my introduction to the project here.) I invite readers to participate in shaping the story by offering comments, questions, and ideas. I’ve had some incredible participation. Every time I get a reader comment, it changes the way I see the story and what I choose to focus on for the coming week. I am learning about my own story through the eyes and experience of my readers. We are shaping the story and the healing together. Some of the themes are universal and archetypal, so I frequently hear from people who have been in the same or similar circumstances. My prayer is that we can heal and liberate these energies for spiritual evolution together…or at the least, weave a great tale together!
The chapters are now behind the paywall, though the first seven were free to all subscribers. If you like what you’re reading here or want to start from the beginning, I urge you to go back to Chapter 1 and/or subscribe to keep reading! If this isn’t your thing, don’t worry! My Substack will continue to have free content related to embodiment, meditation, Tantra, and poetry.
Once a month, I host a live Zoom session. It’s a Q&A and book club in one. Last month was beautiful and rich. If you’re reading and enjoying, consider joining me on Wednesday, March 29 from 6-7pm EST for the next one. It’s open to anyone who’s read any of the story—one chapter or all of them to date.
Now, back to the story…
“I know that this is true and that there is no other truth. You know that I have long since looked upon all of us without exception as people who have suffered shipwreck and have been cast upon an uninhabited island, but who do not yet know of it. But these people here know it. The others, there, in life, still think that a steamer will come for them tomorrow and that everything will go on in the old way. These already know that there will be no more of the old way. I am so glad that I can be here.”
–Katherine Mansfield to Ouspensky on life at the Prieuré, In Search of the Miraculous
The Prieuré, Fontainebleu, France 1922
“Schwarzer Peter!” shouts the child, throwing his last pair of cards onto the table.
Katherine smacks her forehead in mock exasperation and puts the joker down on the table between them. “I guess I’ll take my mark now,” she says.
He leaps up from the chair and runs to the ash can. He licks his finger, dips it in, and returns. Katherine closes her eyes and waits for the penalty, a smudge on the forehead.
She can feel the boy’s breath on her face as he leans in. She opens her eyes and sees his sparkling with delight, “Now you’re Schwarzer Katya!” He laughs and runs out the door. Olgivanna, who is kneading bread dough, laughs and tosses Katherine a tea towel.
Gurdjieff appears in the doorway. He nods in greeting to everyone in the room and walks over to the table where a pile of chopped vegetables is waiting to be thrown into the stew pot. He grabs a handful of raw cabbage and shoves it in his mouth. Chewing slowly, he fixes his big dark eyes on Katherine. The image of a bull comes to mind as she continues to wipe at her forehead.
“To be with children is good medicine,” he says to her, “They are the best teachers. Nothing yet is false.” He looks at her hard, “Do you have children?”
“No,” her answer is curt but cheerful. She is used to the question.
He seems to be waiting for her to say more. Fortunately, she is saved by a sudden burst of energy into the room. Two of the Russian men are back from their excursion to purchase cows, one of them is leading a small heifer into the room.
Everyone laughs and gathers around the nervous calf. The boy returns and strokes her nose, which is almost eye level to him. Someone offers her a carrot. The men are speaking rapidly in Russian, looking to show Gurdjieff their accomplishment. Mme. Ostrowska seems irritated, determined not to allow the disturbance to stop the preparations for lunch.
Gurdjieff sits and offers the two men seats. The women gather coffee and bread, which the men accept gratefully. They seem ravenous and full of excitement. Gurdjieff studies the cow’s eyes, teeth and tongue. His approval secured, she is led out the back door. The room smells now of livestock, coffee, and onions.
Katherine watches, trying to understand the story without the words. There is a lot of laughter. They seems to be describing a transaction. Gurdjieff is amused, asks a few questions, nods, and affirms what they’re saying. One of the men gestures to Katherine. Gurdjieff asks Olgivanna to translate.
“Well, let’s see…the men are talking about the cows they’ve bought for you.”
“For me?” Katherine is shocked.
“Yes. Gurdjieff is calling them ‘Mrs. Murry’s cows.’ They went to get one milking cow and got two in the bargain. It seems the farmer’s wife wanted to run them off. She thinks we're a suspicious group of heathens. But, the farmer, as it turns out, is a fan of Mr. Gurdjieff’s. He gave us the heifer for free. So, we got two for the price of one.”
“That explains the look on their faces,” says Katherine, “Like the cat that ate the canary. What on earth do I need with cows?”
Olgivanna translates this into Russian and the men laugh. Gurdjieff responds in Russian while looking at Katherine.
“He says the cows are for milk, of course. But, they will also be for your illness. It is a Russian remedy for the lungs to breathe the air of the cows in the barn every day. He will have them clear the loft in the cowshed and you will study there.”
Katherine feels herself caught squarely in a place of confusion. Gurdjieff looks pleased to have orchestrated this so well. Is it a gift? Is it a joke? She doesn’t know whether to say ‘thank you’ or laugh along with them. No one in the room gives her a clue. She looks into Gurdjieff’s eyes for the answer and finds only kindness there…a deep, comforting kindness. She sees that this is actually a sincere offer.
“Thank you very much,” she says with feeling. No one has ever given her cows before.
After lunch, Katherine retires to her room. Since being here she slips into moments of such aliveness, she forgets her illness altogether. It seems extraordinary after all the time she’s spent convalescing. Still, an afternoon nap every day is essential. She lays in the bed, feeling the weight of her body. She is asleep within minutes.
She sleeps heavily and wakes with a start from a dream. She is disoriented—Where am I? Where is LM? What time is it? Her heart races and there are tears in her eyes…Why am I crying? Slowly the room comes into focus and she remembers—herself, the place, her dream.
Everything in the room is still, the fire is low, but still warming. The afternoon light streams in the windows. She breathes cautiously, feeling her heart squeezed to the point of rupture. She worries about her lungs, but this feeling is not merely a physical sensation related to her “condition.” What she feels is familiar…this pain like a gash…it’s heartbreak. She searches for fragments of the dream and catches them. It comes back as she lays there…
She is walking along the streets of London with a little boy of about five. She is juggling suitcases while trying to keep hold of his hand. The feeling between them is achingly tender. She has never felt such an all-encompassing love…motherly love. The adoration coming from the boy, the way he looks up at her, carries the resonance of a child’s innocent heart. Pure love.
She senses that she is fleeing something or someone; trying to move them to a new location, a new home, where they will be safe and together. The boy senses her distress and in his own small way, is trying to comfort her, “It will be alright, Mum. We’re going to be fine soon, Mummy.”
She stops on a street corner and hails a taxicab in desperation. She plants the boy on the sidewalk while she helps the driver load the cases onto the back of the carriage. She worries about him stepping into the street. Distracted, she forgets the boy as she climbs into the back seat. The car pulls away swiftly from the curb into traffic and suddenly she remembers the boy with a gripping panic. She tries to scream for the car to stop but can’t get the sound out. She looks out the back window to see the boy standing there crying..receding into the past.
Reviewing the dream, her heart aches again. She knows this boy…he is the child she gave up five years ago in Germany. He is her unborn baby. She sobs; sitting up in bed to cradle herself and his spirit in her arms. The sadness washes through her. She feels desperately lonely.
A few minutes later, there is a knock at the door. Olgivanna says from outside the room that she’s brought tea. Katherine hesitates and then collects herself,
“Come in,” she calls weakly.
Olgivanna pushes the door open with her hip and walks with the tray directly to the table in front of the fireplace. She is efficient and capable. Katherine watches her new friend.
“I’ll just leave it here…” she says as she looks at Katherine and notices her state. “Oh, what’s the matter?” Katherine is frozen there on the edge of the bed. Olgivanna is alarmed, “My dear, are you alright? What’s happened?”
Katherine is silent as she decides what to say. The old Katherine would have put on a brave face, a stiff upper lip. But, something within has shifted and she wants to share. She smiles weakly and takes a deep breath. She speaks slowly, choosing her words carefully,
“I’ve had a sad dream,” Olgivanna starts towards the bed to comfort her. Katherine stops her with a hand and stands shakily, “Let’s sit.”
The two women take their seats. Olgivanna sits on the edge of hers and reaches towards Katherine. She can just put her hand on her knee. She holds it there a moment and Katherine calms. “I’ve come to know something new…and very old…about myself,” she says.
Olgivanna looks puzzled. She pours the tea into the china cup and hands it to Katherine who takes it gently, but absently.
“I’m a mother,” Katherine says as if from another world.
Olgivanna doesn’t understand, but is patient. Katherine explains, “I never got to be a mother, but I am a mother here,” she touches her heart. “I thought I would never know the love of a mother, but I do. It’s here, deep within me.”
“You have children?” Olgivanna realizes she doesn’t know.
“No…well, yes and no. I have been pregnant. Twice. Once I lost the baby and once…I decided not to have it.”
Katherine sips the tea and tells Olgivanna her story. The young woman listens intently and sighs as Katherine finishes, “I loved him. I wanted our baby. I would have married him. He was adamantly opposed—he was worried it would ruin his musical career. His family were violently opposed. I was heartbroken and confused, desperate, actually. LM was there for me, but at a certain point she didn’t know what to do. She made the mistake of writing to my mother who came and took me away to Bavaria and insisted I take care of the whole situation for good. I was absolutely stuck. She threatened to write me out of the will…in the end, she did that anway. No baby and no inheritance. I was…am…a disgrace to her.”
Olgivanna nods. Both women stare into the fire as the room darkens. The story hovers in the air around them.
“You must have been very sad,” she says quietly. “I can understand that sadness…a mother’s for her lost child. And a child’s for a lost mother.”
“Yes, it seems almost silly to say it because I never knew him—it was a him—but I loved him. I missed him for years. Even now, I miss him. In Bavaria, I coped as I always do by writing. I wrote nursery rhymes and songs for him. I wrote him letters. I gave him what I could through my writing. I even wrote a scathing story about his father. That one I burned. The rest of it I gave to LM when I returned to England. I couldn’t bear to destroy it, but I also couldn’t stand to see it. She kept those stories, wrapped in paper and tied with a string…I wonder where they are now?”
They are quiet for a while. Katherine recalls some of the rhymes in her mind. The ache in her heart is settling into tenderness. Olgivanna speaks, “You know I have a daughter?”
Katherine nods, “Svetlana…she’s five?”
Olgivanna nods, “She’s not with her father as I told you. She’s in America…in Boston…with my brother. Her father was so angry with me when I decided to come here to study with Gurdjieff. He wouldn’t care for her. It was to spite me.” She looks at Katherine, “I also felt stuck. I loved Svetlana with all my heart…but I didn’t love her father and I didn’t love motherhood. I loved The Work. I needed The Work.
When The Work moved here, I had to follow. I believe I am birthing something and I am needed here, too. I asked my husband to look after her. We had a nanny. I told him I would visit often. He refused. I had to make a decision. I don’t know if I did the right thing. I regret it some days. My brother and his wife are good people and Svetlana is happy with her cousins and attending a nice school there…And well, I have my ‘family’ here…But, the pain of being without her is like a hole in my heart. I think of her every day. I know what it is to feel incomplete.”
Katherine is touched by the confidence and moved by the woman’s courage, “It’s such a hard position to be in,” she says. “Of course, I missed him all the time. But, there were times when I knew I wouldn’t be where I was if I’d become a mother then. I wouldn’t have been writing, published, I wouldn’t have become the great Katherine Mansfield, most likely. I’d be something else…maybe…Mummy. But, I couldn’t see having the career I’ve had with children. And now, I can see that maybe it’s better. I haven’t long to live, Olgivanna. I console myself with that…he won’t feel the pain of losing his mother, at least. That would be a parting I couldn’t bear. Now, I can tell myself I am going to be with him again somewhere.”
Katherine sees tears shining in Olgivanna’s eyes. “And you will be with Svetlana again soon…here…” she says, emphasizing this world, this life, the here and now. Both women smile at each other—an understanding has passed between them, a bond has formed.
“I want so badly for women to have the choice to become mothers or not, but it seems so cruel when you actually have to make it. If only we could have both. It should be the case. There is something dead about an art, a spirituality, a literature that excludes children. I’ve always written about them…almost to prove they are a worthy subject. They are fundamental to our story of ourselves.”
Olgivanna nods in agreement, “Mr. Gurdjieff loves children. He is encouraging me to go back to Svetlana. I tell him I am not ready to abandon The Work just yet and he allows me to stay. But, I know he is right. I will go to America.”
Olgivanna stands and takes the tray, lighter now. “Thank you for sharing your stories…this one and all of the others. You are a voice for women. I hope you write it all down.” She goes to the door. As she looks back at Katherine, still staring into the fire, she thinks she sees a crown of stars around her head.
Alone again in her room, Katherine feels lighter, too. She hums to herself one of the melodies she composed for the child. Then she does something she never got to do: she names her son. The name comes to her. It is the name of her dear little brother, killed seven years ago in the war. She says aloud, “Lesley. Lesley…I love you.”
A few days pass. Katherine is sitting at her writing desk unable to write and looking out the window. She sees Mr. Gurdjieff walking through the back garden with Orange and Mr. Nicholl. She watches as he stops to instruct pupils. They become very attentive in his presence and then go back to their work with renewed focus and vigor. He stops also to pet the nose of the heifer who is standing in the paddock. Gurdjieff says something to Orage, who nods and briskly walks back to the house.
A few minutes later, there is a knock at her door. It is Orage with an invitation to join them in the new Study House. They are about to have the first rehearsal of Gurdjieff’s ballet, The Struggle of the Magicians. Katherine is thrilled. She’s heard about the dance, but has not seen it. They call the practice, The Movements.
From the outside, the Study House is not much to look at. The construction is very basic, like a barn’s. Sturdy, but not enduring. There is a feeling of the whole thing being temporary. She mentions this to Orage and he nods, “Yes, that’s the idea. Mr. Gurdjieff says this will all be over within a couple of years.” Katherine’s heart sinks, not knowing how much of that she will see.
She makes a joke to distract herself, “Is it safe?”
“Yes. It was built with absolute integrity.”
They enter. The inside is spacious, the walls and floor lined with Oriental and Persian rugs…Where did they all come from? She remembers Mr. Gurdjieff is also a rug merchant. These must be his inventory. Middle eastern poufs are scattered about and velvet bolsters are stacked agains the wall. On the far side of the room is a stage with a platform for the piano. The beams criss-crossing the ceiling are draped with long sheets of diaphanous white cloth, giving the space the feeling of a bedouin tent. The effect, Katherine imagines, is like entering the den of a mullah. It is an altogether different feeling from the chateau and quite surprising.
Gurdjieff and his wife are sitting near the piano with Thomas de Hartmann and a few others. On the stage there are eight or nine dancers, including Olgivanna, dressed all in white, wearing turbans and robes. They have been transformed into Sufi dervishes, she thinks. How marvelous!
Katherine follows Orage in taking off her shoes. They move silently through the space. Gurdjieff greets them warmly and motions for them to sit and watch.
Gurdjieff is giving instruction, Thomas is playing the piano, and Olga translates for the English speakers. Katherine takes one of the few chairs and settles in.
“We live in a body. This life happens through the body. Otherwise, we are just spirit. What is the point of the body? What is its purpose? We can only know this by using it properly. We must train the body to do what the real ‘I’ wants. Otherwise the horse is driving the carriage.
There is an inner and an outer movement. There is feeling, sensation, and thinking. All of the centers must be aligned. The moving center must be responsive to the higher centers. Let’s try this again…”
Piano music fills the space. The tempo is quick, lively. The dancers stare into the space in front of them with concentration. They move with a precision bordering on the machine. She cannot imagine how this could be fun for them. They had called his choreography a ballet, but this bears no resemblance to the ballets she has known. There is no grace, no discernible skill…and yet, there is something haunting in the coordination, the absolute concentration and synchronization. No one is out of step. Their heads turn stiffly to the right, then to the left. They kick their legs stiffly. The formations change and different dancers step forward and then back. She can detect the white magicians by their demeanor and the black magicians by their scowls.
To Katherine’s eyes, the movements are awkward and jarring. Almost alarming. They repeat the series. Each time the music starts she feels more uncomfortable. She realizes she hates this music. She hates these movements. Her own body feels rigid. She glances at Orage and sees that he is charmed; relaxing on the floor with a bolster. She cannot see any differentiation in the faces of these people she has known for these months. They seem to be moving with one energy. She longs to call Olgivanna’s name and get a response. Are they hypnotized?
Gurdjieff calls for a break. The dancers relax and step down off the stage. They sit and form a loose circle. Mme Ostrowska steps into the center of the circle. Gurdjieff speaks as his wife demonstrates.
“The body is an instrument. On this planet, we must have this body. Most men have no idea what it can do. They have never truly expressed themselves with the body…and therefore, they have not expressed themselves fully.” He says something in Russian and Mme Ostrowska raises her arms above her head in the shape of a vessel, a vase. She is looking up as if she is seeing something Divine.
“What is this position? What does it evoke? What is she feeling, thinking, sensing as she holds it?”
A Russian woman answers. Gurdjieff nods approval…”Yes. The priestess. Yes, this is the mechanism for bringing down the power of the moon. She is in a state of complete receptivity. Her face…it is serene like the face of the moon. There is no difference. In a sense, she is the moon in this posture and if she is a very good magician, she can use that force to move the tides, the water…in her body, the body of the audience, even the body of the planet.”
He utters an instruction and Mme Ostrowska drops her arms to her side. She stands still like a mountain. She is regal, fierce.
“There is always stillness. In every movement there is a core of stillness. This must be found. There is an inner state that must be achieved and held through the most active movements. If you can do this, you can train the body, control the unconscious impulses of the body. The body will give any man away if it is not trained. We betray ourselves through the body…but we can also find truth through it.”
At his command Mme Ostrowska relaxes and becomes herself again. The students are given a break. Gurdjieff turns to Katherine.
“What do you think? Is true, yes?”
“Yes…” she says it hesitantly. He looks at her and raises his formidable eyebrows. The fez on top of his head lifts along with them. He is almost comical, a caricature. Why does he elicit such fear?
“What is the problem? You do not feel like dancing?”
“Oh, I do. I just can’t imagine myself dancing…like that.”
“Then, you suffer from a lack of imagination. You will dance like this and like any way you want to. You must want to, first.” His words are stern, but encouraging, and she feels her body relax, “We will start the movements with you while you are sitting in a chair. You come every other day at this time and you will learn. Not too much to start. Just find the center. Find the three centers and then you can dance on stage.”
As he walks to the door, Olga says to Katherine, “He’d like to see you tonight before dinner. Come to his study on the second floor at six.”
She feels like she’s been called to the headmaster’s office. Now, Orage is the one to lift his eyebrows. He gives Katherine a look and they both laugh.
At five minutes to six, Katherine is walking towards the end of the hall upstairs. The last door on the right is the room she knows to be Gurdjieff’s study. She has heard them pass her room many times. She has seen the people come and go. But, she has never entered the space herself.
The door is closed and she can hear Gurdjieff and Olga on the other side. She hesitates and then knocks. Olga invites her in.
It is the corner room on the front of the house overlooking the driveway and fountain. The windows on two sides are large and hung with ornate green and gold draperies. There is a desk, behind which sits Gurdjieff. Olga is seated at a small secretary table to his left. Behind him, the selves are lined with books but they do not seem to be his, a relic from the previous eras. She can see that he has been writing. Olga gestures for her to take a seat in the chair across from Gurdjieff. Katherine slides into place.
“Ah, Mademoiselle Mansfield. Or is it Madame?”
“Welcome, my dear. I want to check in with you. How are you finding it here? How is your stay?”
His English is poor, but passable. When he cannot find a word or has much to say, Olga supplies help. Olga is attentive, but somehow without a presence in the space. Katherine feels she is alone with The Master.
“It’s lovely,” she say enthusiastically. “Beyond my wildest dreams. I feel so happy here. Olgivanna has been a dear and everyone…I mean it, everyone…has made me feel so welcome. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to stay.”
He nods and smiles, happy to hear it, “You are not English?”
“No. I’m from New Zealand, originally.”
“A strange birth for a great British writer.”
“It has been quite a journey.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Congratulations.”
Katherine feels him studying her as they speak. It’s as if the words are a cover for the mission of finding a foothold in her soul. He seems to be finding it. She feels compelled to say, “I know there was some question as to the state of my health…whether I’m actually fit to be here…”
He interrupts her, “Yes, that was a consideration. The Work is very strenuous as you’ve seen.”
“Why did you take me in?” She asks without pretense. She is becoming unmasked.
“You have many friends in high places, my dear. Orage, Ouspensky. They recommended you and I trust them both. I also felt…and feel now as I come to know you…that there is more for you in this life. There is something…incomplete. ‘Perhaps,’ I thought, ‘she can complete it here.’”
Katherine feels the truth in what he says and gets animated, “I’m tired of placing my life in the hands of doctors who know less than me about what’s truly happening within my body. I sometimes think they’ve made me worse.”
He nods, “What do you suffer from, my dear?”
“I have a diagnosis of tuberculosis. I’ve been given six months,” she hasn’t said this out loud and the words nearly choke her.
“The only thing that can save a man or a woman is an awareness death. It is imminent for you, but it is so for all of us. Use this energy. You can use this to come into a higher state…” he pauses as she collects herself.
She does not want to cry in his presence, but she also wants to fall into his arms and plead, “Save me.” The tears are hot behind her eyes. She wonders if he can hear her thoughts, “Please help me become immortal.”
“What you seek no doctor can offer.”
“Yes, I’ve finally come to this conclusion,” she says.
“Then, my dear, you’re ready to start…and once you start, there is no turning back. You must believe that what you seek is possible.”
“There’s nowhere for me to turn back to. I feel like a shipwrecked person or a refugee.”
“Here we are all in that same boat, so to speak,” he says. “Misfits. Outcasts. Pioneers.”
He watches her as the tears flow down her cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” he asks gently.
“Because they said you were nothing more than a magician. Now, I hope with all my heart that’s what you are. It will take a magician to save me.”
He smiles warmly and she experiences both the angel and the devil in him…a fallen angel? Lucifer, the light bringer, she thinks, Not Satan like the Christians have made him. But, the Morning Star. Something cosmic.
“You are not dying from this disease of the lungs. You are dying from the maladies of modernity—denying your essence, behaving like a man in a woman’s body, a lost soul like the rest. You are dying from grief.”
She knows this is true and puts her face in her hands. She sobs like she hasn’t since childhood. He hands her his handkerchief and then says, “Do not get lost in the grief. Feel it, but do not drown in it.” The words, drown in it act as a lifeline; pulling her back to surface where she is able to observe…She realizes she has never been taught to grieve. Suddenly, the tears change. They burn hot and fall softly down her cheeks. She looks at him pitifully and then with resolve. This is the way forward: inward.
He instructs, “The bodies work very closely together, so closely it can be hard to distinguish which one is active. Your doctors are treating your physical body, when it is your emotional body that is ill. Learn to distinguish between the sensations of the physical, the emotional, and the mental bodies. You will see that the one in charge is changing from one minute to the next. If we cannot distinguish, then we do not know who is driving the vehicle. Notice. Do not identify.”
Katherine finds her composure. This is exactly what she has come for. He holds her steady in his gaze and says with a voice that seems to come from another dimension:
Rise, while everything else is being drawn downward, feel yourself rising. You have to resist, go against the grain, reverse the flow. Things are being pulled down all the time, but you must rise.
They sit in silence for a moment. The words reverberate in her chest, “You have been watching? What have you noticed?”
“I’ve noticed that people want to be good. They want to get it right. I’ve noticed that people change depending on who they are with…they speak and act differently depending on who they interact with. I’ve noticed that some of the people here are ageless…they do not seem to have lost their inner child, or they have reclaimed it somehow. And I’ve noticed that my noticing before getting here was very petty and very psychological without a real knowledge of how the centers work together.” She is proud of her observations.
“You are the same as these people. You are one of them now. Release that little bit of remaining grandeur. Don’t stand apart. You must participate more fully. Learn the dances. Now you must stop watching and step in. You are like a dreamer on the outside of the action. Step in,” he thinks for a minute, “Are you writing?”
She sighs, “No. Nothing worth a damn comes to me. I write and then burn it. The old stories have left me with the old way of seeing. The new stories haven’t come, yet.”
He thinks, “They will.” He says, “Until then, become. Like this you will learn to do. The only way to become immortal is to learn to do, to crystallize the substances in the body. We haven’t much time. You cannot doubt. This is a luxury you cannot afford now. The same energy that brought you across the world, that made you a great writer, is the energy we will use to crystallize. You already have all you need inside you. Now, is a time for learning to use it.”
He says something to Olga and she says to Katherine, “The cowshed. Mr. Gurdjieff is having a writing loft built in the cowshed. He wants you to go there once a day for writing and resting. It should be finished by the end of the week.” Gurdjieff returns his focus to the papers on his desk. Olga indicates that the meeting is finished.
As she stands to leave, something catches Katherine’s eye. Out the window she sees a woman standing in the driveway. She is about the same age as Katherine herself, very similar in appearance, and holding the hand of a girl about seven or eight years of age. She is dressed strangely—in pants. She is looking up at the house, into the windows. Katherine feels they could meet eyes, then the woman is gone. She doesn’t walk away…she is just gone. Suddenly, gone.
Gurdjieff watches this with interest, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost” he says amused.
“Maybe I have,” says Katherine. “Nothing surprises me now.”
Writing from the perspective of two “liberated” women about the choice to have or not have children, have or not have a career, or follow a spiritual path, was tricky. How did I do? What do you think of the conversation between Katherine and Olgivanna? I know that Katherine regretted not becoming a mother and Olgivanna’s story is true. She did leave her child to follow Gurdjieff. How do you imagine them relating?
Do you see meaning in Katherine’s dream that she doesn’t see?
It seems to me that Gurdjieff’s innovation in The Movements was a step in the right direction towards more embodiment in spirituality. What do you think? It put me in mind of Steiner’s Eurythmy, which was born around the same time.
What do you think is happening for Katherine related to her inability to write. This was true…she barely wrote even in her journals once she got to the Prieuré. I wonder about this. I think she could not yet see what she would write from this new point of view. Do you agree?