Gurdjieff’s International Passport Issued by The German Consulate in New York
The passport above gives his Gurdjieff’s birth date as the 28th December 1877 — the year 1877 is one of the three birth years about which Gurdjieff’s biographers debate. The two alternatives are 1866 and 1872 with the month and day usually given as January 13th. A little complexity is created by the fact that Gurdjieff reckoned dates by the Orthodox calendar rather than the European calendar.
January 13th is the day Gurdjieff groups choose to celebrate his birthday, for the simple reason that it is the date that Gurdjieff himself chose to celebrate his birthday. In Meetings With Remarkable Men on page 302 we read:
Today is the tenth of January. Three days from now, by the old style calendar, the New Year will be welcomed in at midnight, an hour which is memorable for me as the time of my coming into the world.
The text is ambiguous as it could mean than the hour of midnight is memorable or that midnight on January 13th is memorable. January 10th is, of course, 28th December in the Orthodox calendar.
We can add to the confusion by referring to the birth date information given on page 8 of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, where we encounter the words:
“… at that moment, through the hole made in the windowpane by our crazy lame goat, there poured the vibrations of sound which arose in the neighbor’s house from an Edison phonograph, and the midwife had in her mouth a lozenge saturated with cocaine of German make, and moreover not “Ersatz,” and was sucking this lozenge to these sounds without the proper enjoyment.
The crazy lame goat is a reference to Capricorn, Gurdjieff ’s star sign, whose symbol is the Sea Goat, a crazy lame goat of a kind. The hole made in the windowpane, in context, appears to mean the new year, which Capricorn (December 21st to January 20th) “kicks through,” or ushers in every year.
The text, there poured the vibrations of sound which arose in the neighbor’s house from an Edison phonograph, possibly references the fact that Gurdjieff was born in the same year that Edison invented the phonograph, which was 1877. Of course there was no possibility of that being the literal truth. The phonograph was not market actively until 1887.
The text, and the midwife had in her mouth a lozenge saturated with cocaine of German make, and moreover not “Ersatz,” and was sucking this lozenge to these sounds without the proper enjoyment, is possibly a reference to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 between the Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox coalition, led by Russia but including Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro.
That war in the area where Gurdjieff was born is designated as Gurdjieff’s mid-wife. Russia declared war on 24 April 1877. The Russian army outnumbered the Turkish army, 300,000 to 200,000, but its weaponry was inferior. The Turkish army was armed with British and American-made rifles, which were superior in range to Russian rifles and it also possessed German-made (Krupps) artillery (the cocaine lozenge not properly enjoyed).
The Russians prevailed.
None of this, by the way, proves anything. Gurdjieff simply didn’t care to let his birth date be known for sure.