The idiotplayers podcast is a caravanserai of conversations with important thinkers, be-ers and doers. The idiotplayers podcast aims to explore art, creativity and expression. If there is an elephant standing in the dark, as the Sufi story goes, we want to do more than grope and theorize. We invite conversations with people who aim from the heart to make practical, the far-reaching.
The idiotplayers welcome George Bennett to the conversation caravanserai. In our conversation George speaks about his years growing up at Coombe Springs. Coombe Springs was an experimental community started by his father John G. Bennett in Surrey, England. It was experimental in the sense that JG Bennett took a widely experimental approach to what a spiritual life might be in the post-nuclear age. He invited from all over the world people who had learned something of value about themselves, consciousness and love and could teach something of this to others.
He speaks practically about his experience as a teacher of the Movements, his work with children and adults and his professional life as a school teacher. It’s an excellent visit together presented for the listener of the idiotplayers podcast. This is part 01 of the conversation recorded on Sunday, October 16, 2011.
George Bennett was born in 1951, and was raised at Coombe Springs, the experimental spiritual community led by his father, JG Bennett. The ideas and practices of GI Gurdjieff, Subud, the Shivapuri Baba and Idris Shah formed some of the background of his childhood. After gaining a bachelors degree in history, George attended the third basic course run by JG Bennett at Sherborne in Gloucestershire, England. These ten-month courses were designed to give people an experience of the reality of the spiritual life, establish practices and spiritual ‘tools’ that could be developed over a lifetime, and to impart a sense of the spiritual task that confronts every individual, and humanity as a whole.
After Sherborne, George completed a masters degree in US history and then spent seven years as an international truck driver, an occupation that took him to countries across Eastern and Western Europe, and the Middle East. In 1982, having given up his driving career, George spent some months in the USA, where a visit to George and Mary Cornelius, long-time students of JG Bennett, reconnected him to ‘the Work’ as expounded by Bennett and Gurdjieff. Subsequently, George attended several seminars at the Cornelius’s institute in southern Oregon.
Working as a journalist in magazines specializing in trucks and transport, he learned the business of magazine publishing. He became editor of two magazines and, for a while, was responsible for the production of the market-leading ‘Car’ magazine in Britain. In 1990 George, with a business partner, bought the trucking titles he’d worked on from the Murdoch organization, and set up a small publishing company, which he co-owned for seven years before selling it in 1997. In 2001 George qualified as a school teacher and currently works as a 4th-6th grade teacher at The Village School, a small private elementary school set up twenty-two years ago by a group of Gurdjieff-Bennett students in Massachusetts, operating under the name Millers River Educational Cooperative (MREC).
Since the early 1990s, George has been involved in an international group running annual ‘Work’ seminars in the UK, and in 1994 he convened a conference at Claymont in West Virginia, on the twentieth anniversary of the death of JG Bennett. Some one hundred and fifty people attended the conference, mostly former students of Bennett who had taken his training as a point of departure, and had tried to develop their own understanding and methods of transmitting the ideas and practices of Bennett and Gurdjieff.
George currently helps to run a group in Boston, Massachusetts, but he remains convinced of the value of longer courses, to give people sustained experience of practical and spiritual work together. To that end he, with a small group including Elan Sicroff, the foremost specialist in the music of Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann, initiated an experimental fourteen-week course in the fall of 2006 at Camp Caravan, a facility owned by MREC. This course was followed by a six-week ‘Intensive’ in the summer of 2010.
While it became clear that longer courses continue to have a real value, it is also apparent that people find it much harder than they did forty years ago to take a long period away from work or studies. As a result George, with a small group of collaborators, is currently experimenting with a series of shorter, ‘modular’ courses on specific aspects of the Work. The first of these two-week courses will be held at Camp Caravan in July of 2012. For further information, contact George on firstname.lastname@example.org.
jgbennett.net, Coombe Springs, Shivapuri Baba, Pak Subud, Sherborne House, the medium of hope, Millers River Educational Cooperative MREC http://www.campcaravan.org/, Claymont Court, the Gurdjieff Movements, Gurdjieff’s ideas of objective art, Number 17 (Gurdjieff Movement), The Village School, experience with children learning the Gurdjieff Movements, jgbennett.net, Diane Cilento, Robert Fripp.
Music by the idiotplayers urgent carnival and advice to the drunk at heart.