History of the All & Everything Conference
A Congenial Meeting of the “Companions of the Book”
The All and Everything Conference began with a dialogue. In 1991, Gnosis Magazine (since gone out of publication) ran an issue devoted to articles on the teaching of Gurdjieff under the title "Gurdjieff & the Fourth Way." This provoked numerous letters to the editor by students of the teaching, commenting on and in some cases criticizing the articles. Among these was a letter written by Dr. H. J. (Bert) Sharp of Littlehampton, England. This was responded to through correspondence from Nicolas Tereshchenko of Paris, France, and Seymour Ginsburg, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, and led to an ongoing dialog between the three.
Nick Tereshchenko and Sy Ginsburg had known each other since 1981, and would visit each other almost annually when one or the other was either in France or in the United States. In 1994, on a visit to the United States, Tereshchenko took the occasion to visit Annie Lou Staveley at her Gurdjieff center known as Two River Farms in Aurora, Oregon. Staveley, also headed a book publishing house, Two Rivers Press, and she had just received a book manuscript from Russell Smith who led a Gurdjieff group in Sanger, Texas. Smith's manuscript proposed an interpretation of the changing of the Stopinders described in Chapter 39, of Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson that was very much at odds with how most students of the Tales understood this. It was especially at odds with Tereshchenko's own published books (in French) on Gurdjieff's teaching. Tereshchenko, a native Russian speaker fluent in several languages, had been in Jeanne de Salzmann's senior Gurdjieff group in Paris for many years, and was considered to be one of the foremost scholars of the Tales. He brought Smith's manuscript with him when he went on to visit Ginsburg in Florida and the two of them had a lively debate. Ginsburg was intrigued by and supported Smith's interpretation whereas Tereshchenko opted for the more traditional understanding of the changing of the Stopinders. They telephoned Bert Sharp in England and sent him a synopsis of Smith's work, since published as Gurdjieff: Cosmic Secrets.
This led to a decision that the three of them, Tereshchenko, Ginsburg and Sharp, would get together at Littlehampton to discuss the matter in more detail. They decided to invite Russell Smith to the meeting and planned it for February, 1996. Word of this meeting got around and eventually came to the attention of James Moore, who many students think of as Gurdjieff's biographer. He had published the biography: Gurdjieff: the Anatomy of a Myth. Moore who had a great many contacts among students of Gurdjieff's teaching throughout the world was interested in participating. He suggested that a letter be sent to all of his contacts and to other friends of Tereshchenko, Ginsburg and Sharp. Such a letter was sent. It produced an outpouring of positive responses from so many people who wanted to participate in the meeting, that a venue larger than the small inn at Littlehampton had to be found.
The Royal Norfolk Hotel at Bognor Regis, some fifteen minutes drive from Littlehampton was chosen, and the meeting became a conference. Bognor Regis, a rather sleepy old resort town on the seashore of the "British Riviera" had the advantage of being just a one hour direct train ride from London's Gatwick Airport.
Annie Lou Staveley became very interested in and supportive of the conference, encouraging her own contacts to participate, although the infirmities of age meant that she would not be able to attend. She felt strongly that Gurdjieff's written works under the overall title All and Everything and especially the First Series, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, could serve as a basis of commonality for Gurdjieff students from diverse backgrounds to come together. Her opposition to the ill-advised 1992 revised English translation of the Tales (since withdrawn from circulation), led her in 1993 to republish the original 1950 English translation that had been approved by Gurdjieff, but which by this time had gone out of print.
Staveley suggested that the conference be characterized as a meeting of the Brotherhood of the Book. This designation was changed and the conference has been designated as a meeting of the Companions of the Book to accommodate feminine sensibilities. The Book itself was considered to mean the All & Everything trilogy, with emphasis on the First Series of the trilogy, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. To give the conference a broader reach, it was decided to call the meeting: "The International Humanities Conference" followed by the designation, All & Everything 96. Although, there was no specific intention at the outset to have the conference continue as a regular event, its popularity has caused it to be repeated annually. The name has remained the same from year to year with only the year designation being changed.
Over the years, numerous papers have been presented at the All & Everything conferences, some by eminent scholars, others by students of the teaching based upon their own experience and understanding. Although the majority of papers address matters in the All & Everything trilogy, the conference has also accepted papers relating more generally to Gurdjieff's teaching. During the past several years of the conference, afternoon seminars have been conducted taking up chapters and themes from Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.
Participants in the All & Everything conferences honor Mr. Gurdjieff's way. They are, indeed, Companions of the Book.