George Gurdjieff was one of the most influential spiritual teachers of the 20th century. He was born in Alexandropol of Greek and Amenian parents. Of his early life little is known, although a somewhat fantastical and alluring autobiographical account is given in Meetings with Remarkable Men, wherein tales of searching for ancient esoteric traditions from Greece and Egypt in the West, and to Afghanistan and Tibet in the East are recounted.
Drawing from his early explorations, Gurdjieff was later able to say, "It will seem strange to many people when I say that this prehistoric Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ, that is to say, that its religion was composed of the same principles and ideas that constitute true Christianity." He also noted, "The words, 'Know thyself,' which are generally ascribed to Socrates, actually lie at the basis of many systems and schools far more ancient than the Socratic."
Gurdjieff transitioned from searching to teaching just after the time spent with the Sarmoun Brotherhood in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Northern Afghanistan. In 1912, Gurdjieff left Tashkent for Moscow where he began to attract a small gathering of students with a nameless teaching. The teaching was not a religion, nor a philosophy, but a practical teaching to be lived. Under this teaching, nothing is to be believed until verified by direct experience and life in the world is not to be renounced. It is a way in life in which, eventually, everything has to be questioned—one's beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, one's whole outlook on the life of man on Earth. In 1915, P. D. Ouspensky was accepted as a pupil, and by 1916 Gurdjieff had about 30 pupils.
During the following years, Gurdjieff traveled around western Europe, lecturing and giving demonstrations of his work. In 1922, he established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man south of Paris at in Fontainebleau-Avon. Starting in 1924, Gurdjieff made visits to North America where he also attracted students. That same year, Gurdjieff had a near-fatal car accident. After recovering, he officially disbanded the Institute and started to focus on writing. By 1935 he had completed Beelzebub Tales and Meeting with Remarkable Men and the first part of a planned third book, which he didn`t finish. It was published after his death with the title Life is Real Only Then, When I Am. Gurdjieff continued to teach in Paris until his death in 1949.
Gurdjieff`s message was powerful not in the least, because many people that came in contact with him felt that he was not an ordinary man, which explains why many of them, wrote books about their experience with him. However, Gurdjieff did not bring a new message, but a fresh version of the same timeless message.
More than sixty years after his death, Gurdjieff`s message is still reverberating.