“Within us has awakened an instinct for searching, experiencing, knowing.”
– Henriette Lannes
We are located near the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a short walk from Central Square. Cambridge is well known for colleges and universities, innovative companies and organizations, arts and culture, and a lively population of all ages.
Our house of work, purchased in 1996, was built in the early 1900s as an orthodox Jewish synagogue. In the mid-1950s, the building was acquired by an African American Baptist congregation. In the mid-1960s, it changed hands to become the workshop and home of a celebrated harpsichord builder. After years of renovations, much completed by ourselves, we have meeting rooms, a Movements hall, craft spaces, a good working kitchen, sleeping quarters, a library/salon, and workshop spaces.
In the mid-1960s, the group incorporated under the name Boston Society for Experimental Studies. Central to the life of the early group was Minor White, whose photography and teaching methods are now considered classic. He is still remembered as having had a special connection with young people in the group. Dorothea Dooling, a direct pupil of Gurdjieff, joined us in 1970 and assumed responsibility for the Boston group in 1976. In the early 1980s, we became The Gurdjieff Society of Massachusetts. Following the years of Mrs. Dooling’s exceptional leadership, several members of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York have traveled to Boston to help and support our efforts, among them the author Roger Lipsey, who continues to join us regularly.
We are organized as a school where students and teachers, all of whom remain students, come and go in the course of a week. Participation in the school supports each person’s engagement in his and her own life as a thinking individual, as a member of a family, profession or trade, and as a concerned citizen of this country and the world.
Minor White was a celebrated American photographer and educator. He taught at the California School of Fine Arts, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and at MIT. His classes, workshops, and retreats were popular and well attended. He was committed to his students and to technical mastery; he believed in photography as art. His vision of his art was guided by his spiritual insight.
Minor helped to found the photography magazine Aperture, considered the only periodical produced for and by photographers practicing the medium as fine art. He served as its editor for many years. After his death in 1976, he was hailed as one of America's greatest photographers. "Be still with yourself,” he taught, “until the object of your attention affirms your presence."
Dorothea Dooling, who assumed responsibility for the group in 1970, was the predominant figure in the formation of the present-day Boston group. She came to Boston from Manhattan with regularity for 20 years. Her remarkable commitment was a call requiring a corresponding response from group members.
She was committed to work in the present and used craft as a means of approach. For many years the crafts we as a group chose to pursue were those essential for the renovation of the houses of work we purchased and occupied.
Mrs. Dooling, as she was known to us, was a direct student of Gurdjieff in the 1940s until his death in 1949. A member of the Boston group wrote, “The sharpness and discipline of her mind was tempered by much emotional warmth. Quick to smile with an easy laugh, she dispelled the common notion that followers of Gurdjieff are a humorless lot. With a conspiratorial glance, she made us feel special, a part of something, as she ushered us into her sphere of exploratory, expansive thought.”
She wrote, “Gurdjieff taught that there is another quality of mind—a real vision, that is accessible to us—but not without effort. It seems it cannot be attained without the participation of real feeling and real presence.”
Guided by her lifelong interest in religion, mythology, and folklore, she founded Parabola, The Magazine of Myth and Tradition when she was 65.The quarterly quickly earned a reputation as the major journal in its field. Each issue explores the quest for meaning in life through investigating a universal theme. Her editorial prefaces to each issue are still read today for their breadth of knowledge and insight.
We are dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the Gurdjieff teaching as a living influence, a resource for inquiring people.
We are an affiliate of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York and nurture close ties with Gurdjieff centers in Paris, London, San Francisco, and other cities in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia. The Society is nonsectarian and nondenominational. Our membership is composed of individuals of all ages from a wide variety of personal, ethnic, and professional backgrounds.