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From the beginning, he called me 'Mélange’. This may have come from my name, Solange, but, other nicknames given to my companions, such as – Little one, Quarter-asleep, Half-asleep, Mouse, Brioche, Skinny, Fifty-fifty, and others - revealed an aspect of the person, a character trait, or their deepest being.

What did my nickname mean?

I observed, for example, that ‘Little One’ did not have a negative meaning for the person given this nickname.. ..quite the opposite!

G. Gurdjieff was often ironic, but never scornful.

When G. called me this with the ‘g’ pronounced ‘che’: Mélanche, I didn't question it. But later, I asked myself, what mixture? There were various hereditary elements, influences from very different social milieux, at every level, from the top to the bottom of the social ladder, in which I had lived as a child and throughout my life.

From childhood I had been in the middle of conflict: between both people and situations. I always tried to understand what separated them, and to find what they had in common. For me, the outer differences were like clothes or colours. I have always been in search of the real meaning of the human being in life, in his own life.

Still searching, I realised that in the West, the idea of ‘mixture or muddle’ is negative, whereas in the ancient traditions, ‘mélange’ signifies the balance between two opposites, the link or the union between the fine and the coarse, the spiritual and the temporal.

Observing myself, I felt I had an out-going aspect, a need to live everything to the full. And at the same time, on the contrary, an unrelenting inner need to develop an ascetic self-discipline beneath the veil.

I had always lived these two aspects simultaneously, without being conscious of it. This nickname Mélange was an important lesson for me, like the name Compassionate, stirring up my whole being.

In ‘Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson’, G.Gurdjieff said that ‘being’ means: having two natures.'

In G. Gurdjieff s teaching, the aim is 'to be in the middle of one's two natures, between them, consciously,' without one encroaching on the other, without one preventing the other from functioning.

~ Solange Claustres “Becoming Conscious with Mr. Gurdjieff”



Questioner: I did the two exercises that you had given me during the vacation, the exercise on the division into two and on the sensations of hot, cold, and tears. I cannot say that I have had much result from these exercises, but I have had a result in the understanding. For the division into two, I cannot say that I have succeeded in doing it, but the work has given me a center of gravity in my head. This has changed many things for me and has allowed me to de-identify myself a little from my body and I can see more clearly in my work. I know better what I am doing and how I must do it. This has changed values.

Gurdjieff: I already understood that you had a personality. Now you feel in yourself something, a separation. The body is one thing and you are another thing.

Questioner: That is what I feel, and it is a thing which judges.

Gurdjieff: You must congratulate yourself. I am content with all my being. It is the first thing. Without this you can never continue. Without this for ten years, one hundred years, your work shall be only titillation.

Questioner: It seems to me that now something has been surmounted.

Gurdjieff: Now you must fix this. One must nourish the child so that he might grow. Give him good milk, some eggs, everything that is necessary for a child. When he is a young boy, he shall be able to talk and I shall be able to understand him. For me your account is long enough.

~ George Gurdjieff "Paris/Wartime Meetings"



"It will be useful if we compare human life in general to a large river which arises from various sources and flows into two separate streams, that is to say, there occurs in this river a dividing of the waters, and we can compare the life of any one man to one of the drops of water composing this river of life. On account of the unbecoming life of people, it was established for the purposes of the common actualizing of everything existing that, in general, human life on the Earth should flow in two streams. Great Nature foresaw and gradually fixed in the common presence of humanity a corresponding property, so that, before the dividing of the waters, in each drop that has this corresponding inner subjective "struggle with one's own denying part," there might arise that "something," thanks to which certain properties are acquired which give the possibility, at the place of the branching of the waters of life, of entering one or the other stream.

"Thus there are two directions in the life of humanity: active and passive. Laws are the same everywhere. These two laws, these two currents, continually meet, now crossing each other, now running parallel. But they never mix; they support each other, they are indispensable for each other.

"It was always so and so it will remain!

"Now, the life of all ordinary men taken together can be I thought of as one of these rivers in which each life, whether of a man or of any other living being, is represented by a drop in the river, and the river in itself is a link in the cosmic chain. In accordance with general cosmic laws, the river flows in a fixed direction. All its turns, all its bends, all these changes have a definite purpose. In this purpose every drop plays a part insofar as it is part of the river, but the law of the river as a whole does not extend to the individual drops. The changes of position, movement and direction of the drops are completely accidental. At one moment a drop is here; the next moment it is there; now it is on the surface, now it has gone to the bottom. Accidentally it rises, accidentally it collides with another and descends; now it moves quickly, now slowly. Whether its life is easy or difficult depends on where it happens to be. There is no individual law for it, no personal fate. Only the whole river has a fate, which is common to all the drops. Personal sorrow and joy, happiness, and suffering—in that current, all these are accidental.

"But the drop has, in principle, a possibility of escaping from this general current and jumping across to the other, the neighboring, stream.

"This too is a law of Nature. But, for this, the drop must know how to make use of accidental shocks, and of the momentum of the whole river, so as to come to the surface and be closer to the bank at those places where it is easier to jump across. It must choose not only the right place but also the right time, to make use of winds, currents and storms. Then the drop has a chance to rise with the spray and jump across into the other river."

~ George Gurdjieff "Views from the Real World"



The experiments reawakened some of my questions about Gurdjieff, but more than anything else they produced a certain resistance in me. What I began to find difficult and irritating about just such things was that they tended to lead me into a realm in which I was lost. Much as I might have liked, at that age, to believe in "miracles" or to find reasons and answers concerning man's existence, I wanted some sort of tangible proof. Gurdjieff's own personal magnetism was often enough proof of his superior knowledge. He was generally credible to me because he was sufficiently "different" from other people—from anyone I had ever known—to be a convincing "super" man. On the other hand, I was troubled because I would always come up against a seemingly obvious fact: anyone who sets himself up as a teacher in any mystical or other-worldly sense had to be some sort of fanatic—totally convinced, totally devoted to a particular course, and, therefore, automatically opposed to the socially accepted, generally recognized, philosophies or religions. It was not only difficult to argue with him, there was nothing to argue against. One could, of course, argue about questions of method or technique but before that it was necessary to have agreed on some aim or purpose. I had no objection to his aim of "harmonious development" for mankind. There was nothing in the words that anyone could oppose.

It seemed to me that the only possible answer would have to lie in some sort of results: tangible, visible results in people—not in Gurdjieff—he was, as I have said, convincing enough. But what about his students? If they had been practising his method of harmonious development for several years, most of them, wouldn't it be somehow visible?

Except for Madame Ostrovsky, his deceased wife, I could think of no one other than Gurdjieff himself who had "commanded" any sort of respect by the simple fact of their presence. One thing that a great many of the other, older students did have in common was what I thought of as a kind of "affected serenity". They managed to look composed and controlled or unruffled most of the time, but it was never quite believable. They gave an impression of being outwardly controlled that never rang quite true, particularly as it was easy enough for Gurdjieff to upset their equilibrium whenever he chose to do so, with the result that most of the senior students were always alternating between states of outward calm and hysteria. Their control seemed to me to be achieved by repression or suppression—I always felt that these words were synonyms—which I could not believe was desirable or worthwhile as an aim, other than socially. Gurdjieff frequently gave the impression of serenity, also, but it never seemed to be false in his case— generally speaking, he manifested whatever he happened to want to manifest at a particular time, and usually for a reason. One might well argue with the reason, and discuss his motives at length, but at least there was a reason—he appeared to know what he was doing and to have a direction; which was not so in the case of his students. Where his students seemed to attempt to rise above the ordinary tribulations of life by affecting a certain disregard for them, Gurdjieff at no time manifested calmness or "serenity" as if it were an aim in itself. He was far more likely to fly into a rage or to enjoy himself in an apparently uncontrolled fit of animal spirits than any of his students. On many occasions I heard him mock the seriousness of people, and remind them that it was essential for any wellrounded human being to "play". He used the word "play" and pointed out the example of nature—all animals knew, as humans did not, the value of "playing" every day. It seemed as simple as the trite "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"; no one could accuse Gurdjieff of not playing. By comparison his elder students were lugubrious and morose and were not very convincing examples of "harmonious development" which — if it was generally harmonious—would certainly include humour, laughter, etc., as at least aspects of well-rounded growth.

The women, particularly, were no help. The men, at least in the baths and at the swimming pool, did engage in earthy backyard human humour and seemed to enjoy themselves, but the women not only did not indulge in any humour, they even dressed the part of "disciples", wearing the kind of flowing clothing that is properly associated with people who become involved in "movements" of whatever kind. They gave the outer impression of being priestesses or novitiates in some religious order. None of it was either enlightening or convincing to a thirteen-year-old.

~ Fritz Peters “Balanced Man”

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