The Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation Archives
Jane Heap (1883–1964)
Jane Heap was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1883 to an English father and a Norwegian/Lapp mother.1 She grew up on the grounds of a mental asylum where her father worked as warden. As a young adult, she attended the Art Institute of Chicago and became a member of Maurice Browne's Chicago Little Theater, a groundbreaking avant-garde theatre group. She was an editor, publisher, and an important contributor to the development and transmission of literary modernism in the United States and Europe during the early 1900s. From 1914 to 1929, Heap worked with Margaret Anderson, her lover, to create the avant-garde literary magazine The Little Review. The magazine's motto was "Making No Compromise with the Public Taste." True to its word, it published articles promoting sexual freedom, feminism and anarchism2 by such influential writers as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane and William Butler Yeats. Heap also wrote contributions to the magazine, which were recognized for their "penetrating criticism and dry commentary."3 Openly lesbian, she dressed in a traditionally male manner. Although Anderson and Heap separated romantically in 1921, they continued as co-editors of the magazine in its evolving forms until 1929, and were also bound by Heap's adoption of Anderson's two nephews, Fritz and Tom Peters. Heap lived between New York and Paris and became an important figure in the French expatriate community of artists and writers. She died in 1964 due to complications from diabetes.
Heap and Anderson knew A. R. Orage from their literary circles,4 and in 1924 he introduced them to the Work, and to Gurdjieff himself when he visited New York. Heap was immediately attracted to his teaching of self-transformation, and in 1925 she and Anderson relocated to Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man outside of Paris. With Gurdjieff's permission she began teaching women's groups in Paris in 1927. In 1929 she decided to end publication of The Little Review in order to focus on the Work. Through Heap, Gurdjieff became well known in the expatriate artists community.5 In 1935 Gurdjieff instructed Heap to leave Paris for London to lead a new study group there, and he then led the group that called itself "the Rope." He appointed Elizabeth Gordon as its secretary, all the rest were lesbians: Kathryn Hulme, Alice Rohrer, Solita Solano, Louise Davidson, Margaret Anderson and Georgette Leblanc.
Heap continued to live in London for the rest of her life, establishing herself as an important teacher of Gurdjieff's Fourth Way. She visited Gurdjieff in Paris periodically, often taking part in the Rope. Before he died in 1949, she brought her students to meet him, the best known of which is Annie Lou Staveley. After Gurdjieff's death, Heap accepted Madame de Salzmann's leadership and worked with her closely.6
Jane Heap herself did not publish any Fourth Way writings during her life, but she appears in Margaret Anderson's biographies and her The Unknowable Gurdjieff, Fritz Peters' Boyhood with Gurdjieff, and Kathryn Hulme's Undiscovered Country. In 2000, letters she exchanged with her friend Florence Reynolds between 1908 and 1945 were edited by Holly Baggett and published as Dear Tiny Heart: The Letters of Jane Heap and Florence Reynolds. Heap's Work notes were published in 1983 as The Notes of Jane Heap.
Anderson wrote a three-volume autobiography, My Thirty Years' War (1930), The Fiery Fountains (1951), and The Strange Necessity (1962). She also wrote a memoir of her time with Gurdjieff, The Unknowable Gurdjieff (1962).
After Heap's death, some of her students put together a collection of her aphorisms, which included:
"Love your enemies—they may tell you the truth."
"Wish is organic. Wish is a movement towards something."
"Growth of understanding becomes hunger for Being."
"The essence is in the emotions, but not of them. The "I" is in the essence, but not of it."
In Ladies of the Rope, William Patrick Patterson writes several stories that give insights about Jane Heap. For instance, he recounts how Gurdjieff described Heap:
Gurdjieff referred to Jane Heap as Mees Keep7 and said that her inner animal was a walrus. "'This walrus sit, look around. In him are all idiots, like in man. Everything like man he have, even brain. And so it goes, down to tail part. All parts in him idiot, all idiots in him—except, of course, unique.'"8
Patterson also recounts how Margaret Anderson described Heap's intelligence and understanding:
While Margaret found Gurdjieff's teaching tough going, Jane was immediately taken up in it. Said Margaret:
"Jane knew more about life and art than other people did. The things that 'became known' to her were the most important things anyone ever discussed in my hearing until the day we went to Gurdjieff, and from then on Jane talked more profoundly about his knowledge than anyone else ever did—even, to me, Ouspensky.'"9
Later, Patterson describes how Heap prepared her students to meet Gurdjieff for the first time:
Jane Heap, who had continued meetings and readings of the First Series throughout the war, now brought her people over from London. Crossing the channel she told them, "If Gurdjieff asks you something, don't tell him because whatever you say I said, I didn't.' In Gurdjieff's presence, she told them, they were to be free and on their own. 'He's a multitude. But if you watch, sometimes you see the sage pass by.' Sensing their tenseness, she gave the reassurance, 'Whatever happens, whatever he says to you, I endorse you.' There was no need for warning. After their first meal, Gurdjieff told them, 'Do not be afraid anymore. You are at home here. I am your new father.' There were toasts and teachings, indirect usually and sly, at the luncheons and dinners and unexpectedly they were also filled with humor—as one said, 'delicate jests, the broad jokes, the gales of laughter that sometimes swept through the room, eating [the] unbearable tensions.' The magus was still at work."10
1. Sophia Wellbeloved, Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts (New York: Routledge, 2003), 240.
2. Holly Baggett, ed., Dear Tiny Heart: The Letters of Jane Heap and Florence Raynolds (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 2.
3. Ibid., 3.
4. Wellbeloved, 240.
5. Ibid., 241.
6. William Patrick Patterson, Ladies of the Rope (Fairfax, CA: Arete Communications, 1999), 202.
7. Ibid., 108.
8. Ibid., 119.
9. Ibid., 54.
10. Ibid., 189–90.