The Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation Archives
Anna Ilinishna Butkovsky-Hewitt (b 1875, d unknown)
Anna Ilinishna Butkovsky was born in Bessarabia, in the southern part of Russia, to a family of wealth and position, her father a counsel in the Ministry of Justice. She was the youngest of three children, a boy and another girl. In 1908 she married a Russian naval officer; the union was not a success and they parted.1 An accomplished pianist, Butkovsky studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire.2 In 1917 Butkovsky met, and the next year married, Englishman Charles Hewitt, who was a border in her mother's house while in St. Petersburg representing a British timber firm.3 With the Russian Revolution making the situation there untenable, the Hewitts left for England.4 After some years in Britain the Hewitts moved to Paris where she owned and operated a fashionable dress salon and her husband worked for the British Legion.5
Butkovsky had been fascinated with occult subjects ever since reading Mme Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine at an early age.6 In 19167 she attended her first Theosophical Society meeting in St. Petersburg, where she met P. D. Ouspensky. She was aware of who he was because she had read his book, Tertium Organum, which had been published in 1912.8 She and Ouspensky immediately became friends and spent considerable time together.
Ouspensky had met Gurdjieff in Moscow in April 1915, and so when Gurdjieff came to St. Petersburg that autumn he introduced her.9
Both Butkovsky and Ouspensky were part of Gurdjieff's original St. Petersburg group, composed of six people who met with him almost daily. In her book With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris, Butkovsky-Hewitt gives personal portraits of the other members of the group, including Gurdjieff's nicknames for each member; Ouspensky's nickname was "Wraps up the Thought," hers was "Wavering."10 About being with Gurdjieff, she wrote, "you felt that each phrase was being carefully and specially put together for that particular occasion...not at all like the ready-made phrases...devoid of creative power or individuality."11
She stayed with Gurdjieff until August 1917, when the revolution forced Gurdjieff to leave for Essentuki. Prior to that time, Ouspensky had replaced her in his affections with Sophie Grigorievna Volochine, who later became Mme Ouspensky.
While Butkovsky-Hewitt and her husband were in London in 1922 she and Ouspensky met. She says of their meeting, "He had developed a hard outer shell, and I wondered then why he had crushed the gentle, poetic radiance of his St. Petersburg days. Possibly he thought of this side of himself as a weakness, yet it was in this happy mood that his inspiration and vision were strongest: the intellect had nothing to do with it."12
In 1922 Butkovsky-Hewett met Gurdjieff again in Paris. She rejoined his group, but left in 1923, as "my own life no longer permitted me to follow the Quest for the Miracle."13
1. Anna Butkovsky-Hewitt, with Mary Cosh and Alicia Street, With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1978), viii-ix.
2. Ibid., ix.
3. Ibid., 110.
4. Ibid., 111.
5. Ibid., 126.
6. Ibid., 9.
7. William Patrick Patterson, Struggle of the Magicians (Fairfax, CA: Arete Communications, 1998), 23. Butkovsky-Hewitt says 1916 in her book, but Patterson writes that Ouspensky met Gurdjieff in the autumn of 1915 and Ouspensky already knew Butkovsky-Hewitt at that time.
8. Butkovsky-Hewitt, 16.
9. Patterson, 13.
10. Butkovsky-Hewitt, 6676, 102104.
11. Ibid., 36.
12. Ibid., 2223.
13. Ibid., 143.