The Material Question

But the strongest proof of the great impression produced by the narrative of Mr. Gurdjieff was the declaration of a certain Lady L, who was visiting in New York, and was present that evening as the guest of Mr. R. She suddenly said, with great sincerity:

‘Mr. Gurdjieff, it is somewhat by chance that I am present at this meeting in honour of the opening of a branch of your Institute in New York, and that I have been able to hear your story, which has intensely interested me. But before this, I have more than once had the opportunity to hear something of your activities and of the beneficent ideas to which your Institute has given life; and I have even had the good fortune to be admitted to one of the demonstrations which you organized every week in the Study House in the park of the Prieuré, and to see with my own eyes certain other striking examples of your achievements. It will not surprise you, therefore, if I tell you that I have thought of your work many times and have always felt a desire to be useful to you in some way. And now, after having heard the story of your indefatigable efforts, and felt with a woman’s intuition the truth of what you are bringing to humanity, I understand how greatly your activities are paralysed by the lack of that which has become today the motive power in the life of people—I mean money; and so I also wish to bring my contribution to your Great Work.

‘In comparison with most people, my resources are certainly not small and should permit me to offer you a rather large sum. In reality, they just suffice to meet the established requirements of life according to my social position. I have been thinking all evening what I could do for you, and I have thought of the money which little by little I have laid aside and deposited in a bank for a rainy day. Until I can do better, I have decided to put half of this temporarily at your disposal, without interest, until such time as—God forbid—some serious occurrence might require me to make use of these savings, as one never knows what the future may hold!’

During Lady L’s heartfelt speech Mr. Gurdjieff listened to her attentively with a kindly and serious expression. Then he replied:

‘Thank you, esteemed Lady L. I particularly appreciate your frankness, and if I accept this sum of money, which will be of great assistance to me in my present activities, I, in my turn, must speak frankly to you. Lifting for once the veil of the future, I can tell you with special gratitude that I shall be able to return this sum to you in exactly eight years, at a time when, although in perfect health, you will have the greatest need of what constitutes today, as you have so correctly said, the motive force of the entire process of the life of man.’