British film directed by Peter Brook
Meetings with Remarkable Men is the second volume of the All and Everything trilogy written by the Greek-Armenian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff. A book of autobiography, it was originally published in 1963 and tells the tale of the young Gurdjieff growing up in a world torn between his unexplainable experiences and the developing modern sciences.
The book takes the form of Gurdjieff’s reminiscences about various “remarkable men” that he has met, beginning with his father. They include the Armenian priest Pogossian; his friend Soloviev, Prince Lubovedsky, a Russian prince with metaphysical interests, and a couple of others.
In the course of describing these characters, Gurdjieff weaves their stories into the story of his own travels, and also into an overarching narrative which has them cooperate in locating spiritual texts and/or masters in various lands (mostly Central Asia). Gurdjieff calls this group the “Seekers of Truth”.
Most of them do in fact find “truth” in the form of some suitable spiritual destiny. The underlying philosophy, especially as articulated in an appendix, amounts to the assertion that people generally live their lives asleep, are unconscious of themselves, and accordingly behave like machines, subject to outside causes and pressures. Also, one of the chief assessments of the novel is that the people of the past epochs lived in more suitable outer conditions and at higher inner levels than the people today. Many additional hidden harmonies are noted or alluded to.
These contradictory towards modern beliefs claims have inspired some to question the book’s “autobiographical” character. For example, Gurdjieff claims to have first heard the Epic of Gilgamesh as an oral epic sung from memory by his father; to have made contact with various ancient brotherhoods including the Sarmoung Brotherhood; to have copied a map of “pre-sand Egypt”, and to have witnessed a number of miracles and esoteric phenomena. There is currently in existence an esoteric group of loosely affiliated individuals who engage in what is called “The Work”, which is the doing part of Gurdjieff’s teachings.
In a way it can be claimed that many of the vignettes in Meetings are meant to be symbolic, or “teaching stories”.