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"It's up to Ourselves, A Mother, A Daughter, and Gurdjieff,": A Little Review By Will Mesa
To the Memory of Dushka Howarth: 1924-2010
NOTE: Dushka Howarth, the daughter of Mr. Gurdjieff and Jessmin Howarth, died early on Sunday at about 12:05 in the morning in a Hospice here in New York City. For several years she battled five cancers in her body and today she finally left her planetary body to the planet. This post is a little review of the book she wrote with her mother about Mr. Gurdjieff in their lives and in the lives of others, as well as a personal picture of her as I knew her in life.
We manifest ourselves in what we do.
The book I am about to review is a manifestation of the Being of Dushka Howarth, as I knew her in life. The Legomnism All and Everything is a manifestation of the Being of Mr. Gurdjieff as he was in life. We see in his Legomnism the "man of merciless compassion," the "unknowable Gurdjieff," the "undiscovered country," `a kind of volcano," "the man of blame," as many others have described him, and the Teacher of Dancing, as the final name that he assigned to himself at the opening of Beelzebub's Tales. Yes, we are what we are and we manifest the way we are. What I am writing here is a manifestation of what I am, of my Being.
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" Every tree bears its own fruit. How else could it be?
There are more than 950 photographs in this book by Dushka and her mother, although it was Dushka who did most of the writing and the organizing of the book. Why in hell do we see here two photographs of Steve Allen and Jim Backus, respectively, two Hollywood celebrities, in a book about Mr. Gurdjieff? In order to answer this question we have to have known Dushka in person. She was the quintessential social person. She loved people and she loved to be with people. She loved to be visited by people. She loved to talk to people and she loved to listen to people. And she would speak to people the way she was. She would tell you how she saw you right in front of your face and you will either take it or leave it. She did not care. I visited her this past Thursday after she was taken to the Hospice where she gave her last breath of life. I was blessed that she was alone in her room because all the time people were coming in and out to visit her. She was kind of sleeping with her eyes closed and her breath was heavy and difficult. I touched her arm and she opened her eyes and said: "Oh, Will, I am so happy to see you." Then for more than an hour we spoke about many things. I will soon report on our last conversation here in the Open House. But I can say now that even in great pain she was full of life, as she always was. And that is why we see more than 950 photos of people in her book, because she loved people. We can see all this reflected in the first quote in the book that came from Dushka herself:
"We were blessed in our lives to come close to some special human beings. Special, yes, because they had more being than the rest of us. But that doesn't mean they were any less human. Quite the contrary!"
"It's up to Ourselves" has already become a best seller in the Gurdjieff community at large. Dushka herself sold 1,200 copies. The book is the most complete detailed account of what may be called the Gurdjieff movement in its infancy and adulthood. It contains personal letters, photos, history, stories, gossips, superficialities, and Dharma as well, all in the unique style of Dushka. It will be a definite source of reference for future historian trying to report on the Gurdjieff movement.
The book has a total of 511 pages with a total of 35 chapters. A good part of the book is dedicated to movements because both Dushka's mother and Dushka herself were gifted teachers of movements. Dushka went around the world teaching movements and people from all over the world would come to her apartment to talk to her about movements, even when she was bed ridden as she was during two the last two years. Here are some of my favorite chapters.
Chapter 2: The Viex Colombier," Gurdjieff leaves Russia.
A historic account of how Mr. Gurdjieff and his entourage traveled all the way from Russia to France, A vivid description of the front and back cover of the book, a painting of the ballet "the Struggle of the Magicians" that Mr. Gurdjieff commissioned to Alexandre de Salzmann while they were living in Tiflis on their way to Paris. I will never forget when Dushka described to me all the details in the painting. You will see in the painting Mr. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartman on a balcony of musicians having tea; P.D.Ouspensky charming a snake; women walking along wearing the chuddar, except Mme. Ouspensky who is unveiled; Mme de Salzmann. Aged 20 or 22, beautifully dressed in a whit tunic, with a green scarf around her waist, wearing a chuddar but her face uncovered. In the back cover of the book , in the middle and the extreme right of the painting, you will see a monkey climbing a roof (this description is not in the book). When Dushka was describing the painting tome she observed that Alexandre was a man full of humor and she told me this story. It so happens that when Olga de Hartman saw the painting she complained to Alexandre hat she had been left out of the painting. Then Alexandre replied: "But I put you in the painting. Olga. Do you see that monkey climbing a roof? That is you." Olga laughed and really liked to have been depicted as a monkey. Of course, we have to understand the meaning of monkeys in esoteric symbolism.
Chapter 4: Gurdjieff's Institute at Fontainebleau.
I love this chapter because it is a very pictorial description of life at the Prieuré.
Chapter 16: Paris 1949,
"Sophie," "The Calves," Auto trips.
I love this chapter because it is all about Dushka in France with Mr. Gurdjieff , the year she met him for the first time and found out the he was her father, and the year he died. Lots of photos taken by Dushka herself.
Chapter 17: Photos of G.
Forty-one photos of Mr. G in all kinds of environments, including the one that appears in the first page of Beelzebub's Tales and my favorite photo, when he is sitting on a bench on a Paris sidewalk.
Chapter 32: Madame Ouspensky
I love this chapter. I had never before this book read about the work Mme. Ouspensky did and her in this chapter we see a description of what she did and her unedited thoughts about the teaching. I like her depth and her way of approaching the teaching. Dushka once told me that after Mr. Gurdjieff himself, Mme Ouspensky with her Being was the person that most impressed her.
Chapter 35: The Legacy
Dushka speaks her heart about the work that her mother did in teaching movements and the faithfulness she always showed in her teaching of movements. This is a very interesting chapter for those who teach movements around the world.
Of course, these are some of my favorite chapters because they touch a part of me. You will find other chapters more interesting and more in tuned with your affinity to this teaching.
Dushka loved life with full grace and full commitment. Her book is a reflection of her love for life and for people.
We manifest ourselves in what we do.
laying down the law
you are the daughter
your mother was
yours was the last
the two of you,
the two of you
& in this trust
Dushka awakes us
A large number of people here and abroad… share a sincere wish to preserve, practice and pass on Gurdjieff’s teaching undistorted. …
… there are proven modern methods that can and must be used to arrest and reverse deterioration.
do not budge from perfection.
The Master said:
let your actions flow
May reconciliation, hope, diligence and justice be ever with you all.
Dushka reminds us:
It’s Up to Ourselves.