The Material Question

Mr. Gurdjieff began as follows:

‘The question you have put to me, esteemed Doctor, has always interested a great many of the people who have become more or less acquainted with me; but until now, not finding it necessary to initiate anyone into this personal affair of mine, I have either not answered at all or have turned it aside with a joke.

‘Moreover, there have already sprung up about this subject all sorts of comical legends which clearly show the all-round idiocy of their inventors, and which are ever more and more embellished with new fantastic details as they circulate everywhere among parasites and idlers —no less idiotic—of both sexes. It is claimed, for example: that I receive money from some occult centre in India; or that the Institute is maintained by a black magic organization; or supported by the legendary Georgian Prince Mukransky; or that, among other things, I possess the secret of the philosophers’ stone, and can make as much money as I wish by alchemical processes; or even, as many have recently said, that my funds are supplied by the Bolsheviks; and much else of the same sort.

‘And, in fact, even the people closest to me do not know to this day exactly from where the money came for the colossal expenses I have borne for many years.

‘I did not find it necessary to speak seriously about this question, that is, the material aspect of the existence of the Institute, because I had no illusions about the possibility of outside help and considered conversation on the subject simply a waste of time, or, as is said, a pouring from the empty into the void.
‘But today, to this question which has been asked me so often and has already wearied me more than enough, I wish to reply, for some reason or other, not entirely jokingly, but somewhat more sincerely.
‘My wish to reply more seriously today, is, it seems to me—and I am almost certain—due to the fact that, after having become by the will of fate (or rather through the stupidity of the power-possessors in Russia) poor as a church mouse, I have ventured to come to this “dollar-growing country”, and here, breathing this air saturated with the vibrations of people who sow and reap dollars in a masterly fashion, I, like a thorough­bred hunting-dog, am on the scent of certain and good game. And I will not let the opportunity escape me.

‘As I am now sitting here among you people who are fattened on what is called dollar-fat, and feel myself stimulated by the automatic absorption of these beneficent emanations, I intend by means of my reply, so to say, to “shear” some of you a little.