Charter of the A&E Conference
Initially, the conference was conceived as a small international gathering of friends and associates with a mutual interest and involvement in Gurdjieff’s teaching. Primarily through word of mouth and personal invitation the initial small gathering envisaged grew into a “conference”.
The first A&E conference was held in Bognor Regis, UK in 1996.
Gathering together as ‘Companions of the Book’ the first conference attracted independent group leaders, students, scholars, scientists, writers and publishers from the United States and Europe.
A little before the first Conference, Bert Sharp wrote to the editor of Gnosis, which was then being published in the USA. He was intrigued by the fact that Maurice Nicoll was being trained by Jung as his replacement at least in the UK if not in Europe, and then suddenly he was moved to Gurdjief and further trained by him and then given permission to teach. Such a movement of special people seemed to have some significance and he wondered if this was the way the Masters of Wisdom worked, behind the scenes in order to create suitable sources of development for people interested. This letter of open inquiry was published and as a result Sy Ginsburg and Nicolas Tereschenko contacted Bert saying they wanted to meet. Then they were bringing a few friends with them and would Bert find a suitable venue for them to stay and have discussions over a few days. As the number of participants grew, the Royal Norfolk in Bognor Regis was chosen. This was how the conference started. Over 50 people attended this first Conference.
Among the original aims was a critical exploration of the then recent work of Russell Smith. There were other issues that were of common concern to those original invitees to the first conference and recognized by those organizing the first All and Everything Conference.
There was the need to assess the global influence of Gurdjieff’s teaching and its relevance to current scientific, religious and sociological developments. There were concerns surrounding the need for the development of an academic environment conducive to addressing the many questions relating to Gurdjieff’s teaching. Mainly it was hoped and intended to establish a quality, independent forum for the exchange of ideas focused on Gurdjieff’s written legominisms, particularly the first series of All & Everything.
2. How is the conference organized?
The A&E conferences are organized by a group of independent volunteers who serve on the planning committee. The planning committee (PC) takes care of the practical logistics of staging the conference. The PC acting upon yearly input from attendees of the conference, decides the time and place; defines the topics of group seminars, solicits and reviews presentations, annually publishes the conference Proceedings, and consults with members of the Advisory Board on such questions as require the additional expertise of board members. The conference is not intended to be a “group work event” as traditionally understood. The Conference invites independent, voluntary, participants who are serious students of Gurdjieff’s legacy to share their questions, knowledge, insight and experience with others. The conference has no individual teacher, group leader nor group directing its activities.
The aims and purposes of the A&E conferences are many and include the following:
- To impartially gather people from all countries and all walks of life and work backgrounds together in a congenial yet serious atmosphere in an event uniquely dedicated to the study and exploration of Mr. Gurdjieff’s several forms of legacy and especially Mr. Gurdjieff’s writing.
- To provide an opportunity for those interested to formally present their “researches and investigations,” as they relate to Gurdjieff’s legacy and to critically engage those present for their impressions and feedback.
- To call greater attention to Gurdjieff’s written legominisms and to encourage and engage participants in a mutual ongoing exploration and digestion of these legominisms, with a focused but not exclusive emphasis on “An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man or Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.”
These conditions are intended to enable people to form relationships, share insights and perspectives on the ‘work’ in a constructive way and maintain a foundation for future development and unity.
4. What in general takes place at a conference?
In general the conference devotes half its time to formal presentations and half to seminars on Gurdjieff’s writings. Attendees gather in the mornings for presentations lasting 20 minutes. Presentations are followed by question and answer sessions designed to promote interchange between presenters and audience. The group may sit in a large circle or theater style depending on the needs of the presenter. Afternoons are generally devoted to group seminars on Beelzebub’s Tales incorporating both the study of individual chapters and the study of specific themes. These themes and chapters are chosen in advance of the conference allowing participants the option to prepare for the seminars before attending.
Evening and morning meals are served in a common dinning area by the hotel staff and are included in the group hotel rate. Lunch is served in the hotel pub but frequently people take the lunch break to meet together in one of the many local seaside town restaurants and pubs. At times the PC schedules evening events which includes a banquet dinner on Saturday evening but in general an attempt is made to leave the evenings open for people to meet in the lounge or pub to exchange views on the days experiences among other things.
The PC calls each year for papers relating specifically to the legacy of Gurdjieff. This legacy would include all of Gurdjieff’s writings, the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music, the Movements, and other closely associated topics. Please go to the Proceedingssection of this web site to see a sample of prior presentations. The conference invites presentations from a diversity of people and encourages anyone who feels they have something to offer to a wider audience, whether a student, seasoned group leader, professional or independent scholar, to submit a paper. The reviewers are both available and seek to work positively with individuals and potential presenters to insure a high standard of quality. Generally, submissions are seen as either academic or personal view papers. Academic papers should conform to the usual standards. Personal view papers, while expected to be well reasoned and readable, need not conform to academic standards. Papers of indeterminate length may be submitted for publication to the yearly Proceedings. For presentation purposes a shorter paper or synopsis of a larger submission, representing no more than 20 minutes of speaking time, will be required. Presenters will be expected to facilitate a question and answer session of approximately 40 minutes immediately after their presentation. Presenters will be responsible for transcribing an audio tape of their Q&A session to be submitted together with their formal paper for inclusion in the Proceedings.
The focus of seminars has changed over the course of conference history in response to the needs and interests of conference participants. While the conference continues to change yearly, the seminars on “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson” have become a core element of the conference activity.
As well as working through numerically successive chapters, selected specific chapters and a larger theme are chosen early in the year. This allows participants to study beforehand, perhaps together and therefore be prepared to more actively join in the seminars with their questions, pondering and views.
Seminars are facilitated by one volunteer from among conference attendees whose role is to invite input and make space for seeing that everyone’s comments or questions receive attention, to moderate the immoderate and generally move the dynamic along.
For the purpose of conference planning the PC asks that prospective presenters submit a 200 word abstract or letter outlining the proposed presentation, as stated in the section ” Papers“.
A final paperis expected for review, also with deadlines stated at ” Papers“.
The purpose of presentation review is simple and straight forward. The PC recognizes a responsibility to conference attendees to insure that a certain level of quality be represented in presentations. It is not the intention of the review process to select on the basis of content provided submissions are relevant to the legacy of Gurdjieff but rather to insure that the basic elements of any well reasoned, well prepared submission are met prior to presentation at the conference itself. Presenters are expected to provide electronic copies of their work on either disk, CD or via e-mail for eventual inclusion in the conference Proceedings. Presenters are required to transcribe the Q & A session following their presentation from an audio tape of the session that will be provided to them. Final date for submission of these materials is May 31st. following the conference.
PRESENTERS ARE REQUIRED TO SIGN A RELEASE FORM ALLOWING THEIR PAPER AND THE DISCUSSION FOLLOWING TO BE PRINTED IN THE YEARLY PROCEEDINGS. THIS WAIVES REMUNERATIVE RIGHT TO THE PUBLICATION BUT DOES NOT LIMIT RIGHTS TO PRESENTATION AND PUBLICATION ELSEWHERE.
The conference does not pursue practical work activities as traditionally understood. The conference convenes only once a year for four days. The conference assumes that those in attendance have met or are meeting their needs in terms of traditionally conceived group work during the year. The conference is not intended as a vehicle to address these needs nor serve as an introduction to group work method and practice. The conference exists to specifically address an imbalance in relation to Mr. Gurdjieff’s writings and provide an environment which fosters communication and relationship between individuals in a more global context.
The conference has wrestled repeatedly with the idea of incorporating movements into its program of events. This has been suggested by someone at virtually every conference. The planning committee to date has not sought to incorporate movements for the following reasons. First; our aim to create an atmosphere in which anyone attending the conference feels at ease to fully participate requires that we be considerate of the views held by many that movements are of a sacred nature and require specific circumstances for transmission and participation. The inclusion of movements in the program would preclude some individuals from attending for this reason. Secondly, the logistics of arranging for Movements and of finding a Movements teacher and pianist for a once a year event with an open group of diverse people appears impracticable.
Participation in all activities at the A&E conference is voluntary.
See the page about the next Conference location.
The conference is primarily intended for serious students of All and Everything. However, Bognor Regis is a seaside town and the hotel is on the ocean in a bustling village with direct train connections to London and other points of interest in the Southern UK. Many participants have been accompanied by family who take advantage of their time in England to explore the countryside and points of interest.
Conference attendance has varied over its seven year history. Average conference attendance is approximately forty people. Attendees travel from various areas of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Norwary, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, France, Switzerland, Japan, Russia, Czech Republic, Israel, Estonia, Spain, Crimea, and the Netherlands.
Since the conference’s inception the planning committee has regularly produced a written record of the conference event called the Proceedings. The Proceedings include the formal papers submitted to the conference together with transcriptions of the following Q&A and a record of the seminars.
Seminars have been represented variously over the years in the Proceedings. The general and practical consensus now is that an exact verbatim transcription of seminars is both unnecessary and impractical to achieve for technical reasons. Currently, seminars are audio taped. Facilitators uses the tapes to create an edited transcription meant to convey the basic flavor of the event and the primary points under discussion.