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Shadows of Heaven: Toomer and Gurdjieff (New)

by Taylor, Paul Beekman

Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser

Binding: Paperback

Book ID: 9781578630349, 1578630347


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Shadows of Heaven traces the relations between the American poet-novelist Nathan Jean Toomer and the Armenian Greek savant and teacher Georgii Ivanovich Gurdjieff, from 1924 until Gurdjieff's death in 1949, as well as each man's relationship with Edith Annesley Taylor and her son Paul, the author of this book. Edith loved Toomer and bore Gurdjieff's daughter. Edith's son, who lived as a young child with his sister at Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Avon near Fountainebleau, was adopted into Toomer's household in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, before studying with Gurdjieff in 1948 and 1949.

Toomer's recollections of this period reveal an initial enthusiasm for a way of self-perfection under Gurdjieff's guidance, wavering under the influence of the women he loved and waning as he grew weary of Gurdjieff's financial and moral demands upon him. Edith Taylor's memoirs record an extraordinary attraction to both Gurdjieff and Toomer, complicated by a fear of full commitment to either. Gurdjieff seemed indifferent to her bearing him a daughter, while Toomer assumed a father's role for the son Edith bore another. Caught in the middle of this tense triad of interests was the English critic-publisher A. R. Orage, who was close to all three parties. Orage's wife, Jessie, was Edith's best friend. Her diary entries from 1926 to 1934 testify to the tension between Toomer, Gurdjieff, and Taylor, as well as to her own complex relationship with all three. Finally, Paul Taylor's record of his later experiences with Toomer and Gurdjieff reveal striking similarities and differences in the teaching methods of both.

This book is probably the first to reveal something ofGurdjieff's "love life" with the mothers of his children. Several new descriptions of Gurdjieff's voyages with his pupils reveal aspects of Gurdjieff's character not documented elsewhere. Taylor's portrait of Toomer adds to existing biographical studies by documenting his use of Gurdjieff's ideas in the instruction he gave Paul and his daughter Margery. No works on Orage reveal the extent to which he mediated others' difficult relations with Gurdjieff, particularly his own wife's. Excerpts from Jessie Orage's diaries in the book testify, to the magnetic attraction Gurdjieff exercised over those he felt vital to the dissemination of his ideas.

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