Fourth Way Perspectives

Book Review
Believers, Prophecies & The Evil One
Journeys in Islamic Countries

by J. G. Bennett
Bennett Books, 243 pp.

J.G. Bennett, Gurdjieff, Fourth Way, Islamic

Written nearly fifty years ago, J.G. Bennett's account of an eleven-week journey he took to Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Armenia gives a prescient view of many aspects of the Islamic way of life the West faces today. Setting out in late September 1953, Bennett's zeal, openness, knowledge and ability to speak Turkish opened many doors which otherwise would have remained closed. He met with mullahs, Sufis, dervishes, Yezidis and charlatans and in so doing a new appreciation of Mr. Gurdjieff emerged.

"Only since I have been here," Bennett writes, "have I begun to understand what a stupendous undertaking it was for Gurdjieff to bring the Work to Europe. He was thoroughly and completely an Asiatic, and yet he boldly turned his back on Asia at the age of forty-nine."

The mullahs and Sufis, he comes to realize, "have far less than we have learned from Gurdjieff about methods of inner work. They make up by the intensity and continuity of their work for the more effective methods we have been taught." Living more in essence, they don’t have to contend with the veil of personality that Westerners must. "On the other hand," Bennett says, "essence can be lazy and self-indulgent."

A man of the modern world, he has difficulty accepting the ideas of polygamy and veiling. A man can have four wives (girls being eligible for marriage at eleven to fourteen) and can divorce them simply by repeating his displeasure four times. Some men keep their wives only until they reach fifteen or sixteen.

In the Koranic doctrine of reward and retribution—wherein each person has an angel on each shoulder, the angel on the right recording the good deeds, the angel on the left the bad—Bennett recognizes that it is "almost word for word that of [Gurdjieff's] King Konuzion." He marvels that Gurdjieff could bring to the West a teaching that cuts directly to the roots of our problems, seeing that it had the power and scale to become "a world teaching."

In Adana, Turkey, Bennett meets with an old Turkish acquaintance, Hassan Effendi, a Naq’shbandi dervish, who speaks of the three-fold nature of man—body, spirit and soul—and the seven gradations possible for man, from the first level of animal to the sixth of established spirit. The seventh, that of the Messengers, is attained not by works but by birth.

In the Last Days

In Damascus, Bennett meets the dervish Emin Bey who believes in the Second Coming of Christ in which Christ will return to earth and reign for forty days to give a dispensation of Love and Justice. During this time He will separate the good from the bad and will empower those who have devoted themselves to God’s service. The dervish tells Bennett that in the Koran and in the sayings of the Prophet it is said that the world will be divided into two powers. They will engage in a war in which only those who have served God will not perish. According to Emin Bey, the Prophet said that in the last days before the Second Coming people would turn away from religion and act toward one another like beasts. The last sign would be when the Jews take possession of the holy places of Jerusalem and after that would come the world war. "In the Koran," Bey says, "it is prophesied that one day women would cease to cover themselves and would expose men to every kind of temptation. As a result, the work of self-perfecting would almost disappear from the world and the rule of the Evil One would begin. When that will happen, it will be a sign that the last days of this Epoch are approaching and Armageddon is imminent."

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