Voices in the Dark: Esoteric, Occult & Secular Voices in Nazi-Occupied Paris, 1940-44

William P. Patterson, Author
William P. Patterson, Author Arete Communications $34.95 (360p) ISBN 978-1-879514-99-7
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
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Few spiritual figures have inspired as much controversy as G.I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949), the Greek-Armenian mystic who has been called the Father of the New Age. In this unusual volume, Patterson, who has written about Gurdjieff and his students before (most recently in Ladies of the Rope), presents a striking picture of Nazi-occupied Paris, juxtaposing an informed and sensitive history of those caught in the city with q&a transcripts of the meetings Gurdjieff held with his followers at his city apartment. The book's epilogue carries a quote by Gurdjieff that highlights his uniqueness: ""I not interested in who wins war. Not have patriotism or big ideals about peace. Americans, with ideals, kill millions of Germans. Germans kill--with own ideals--English, French, Russian Belgian--all have ideals, all have peaceful purpose, all kill."" These words may horrify many, yet this same man, Patterson makes clear, arranged to have Jews hidden and fed the destitute during the war years. The history Patterson presents of the events leading to the Nazi invasion of subsequent complicity and of resistance gives a vivid sense of a world rent by madness. By contrast, the extensive transcripts depict a world ruled by reason, as Gurdjieff's followers struggle toward self-knowledge under his guidance: surely a living metaphor for Gurdjieff's message of a true Self hidden within the turbulent self of everyday suffering, and an active explanation for the seeming dissonance between Gurdjieff's actions and his expressed indifference about who might win the war. This book succeeds on several levels. Its primary appeal, of course, will be to those who relish yet more words from Gurdjieff; however, anyone curious about Paris during WWII, and more broadly about the psychology of those under extreme pressure, will find it of great interest. Photos, maps. (Dec.)
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