Intentional striving for the capacity to understand one's own and mankind's true
significance is undertaken at Northeon Forest by applying an integrated set of practices
derived in part from ancient traditions. These practices were introduced to western
society through the initiative of Gurdjieff and were transmitted by an oral tradition
throughout Middle Asia, Europe, and more recently America. Although these practices were
never popular, serious seekers were attracted to them, recognizing that their force
originated from a higher than ordinary source. Convinced that mankind was destined for a
transcendent purpose, seekers took up this exploratory inner journey and began to combat
the disharmony and impediments they found within themselves.
Georges I. Gurdjieff (1867-1949) was raised in the Caucasus by a Greek father and an
Armenian mother. While still a young man, he and a group of other remarkable men set out
in search of "real universal Knowledge." For Gurdjieff, the hardships and
dangers encountered on their journeys were the true stuff of Existence. In 1922, Gurdjieff
and a group of followers established themselves at the Chateau du Prieure near the Forest
of Fountainbleau in Central France.
Gurdjieff never disclosed the exact source of his inspiration. It is possible to
discover parallels in various traditions, but the fundamental features of his method have
not been traced to any one source. He recommended a special kind of inner struggle that
sought to destroy complacency and made adherents aware of the limitations of their present
levels of existence.
Only by what Gurdjieff called "conscious labors and intentional sufferings"
was it possible to bring about inner development. "The Work," as his method came
to be called, was only too accurately named. Direction was given in fragments - and his
followers had to learn to put the pieces together through personal observations and
experiences. An intrepid few were placed into special bands, each member depending upon
the others, much like mountain climbers upon a rope. He occupied each with a different
work "according to the state of their preparation and their powers." By the very
nature of his search he could not have many followers, and, for many, the special
nourishment that was offered was too hard to digest.
Each aspect of Gurdjieff's last days was a reminder that "man must live until he
dies." To "live" in Gurdjieff's sense was to labor consciously and to
suffer intentionally. He practiced this in his own life with constancy and deliberateness
until the 29th of October, 1949. Gurdjieff's grave near the Forest of Fountainbleau bears
no name or epitaph. Since his death The Search has continued under an authority springing
from the influences which The Search itself invokes.
Paul H. Beidler (1906-1998), a native Pennsylvanian of early Swiss-German ancestry, has devoted much of his adult life to the study of Eastern systems for inner transformation. Early in his archaeological career, Beidler had come under the influence of Sufi dervishes in Egypt, Iraq, and Persia. For two years, he lived among Yezidi priests in Kurdistan, where he was admitted to the hidden mysteries of Sheikh Adi. In the mid-1920s, as a young architectural student with Le Corbusier in Paris, he met Gurdjieff at the Prieure. He also spent some time with Gurdjieff at Taliesin in Wisconsin during Gurdjieff's visits to Frank Lloyd Wright and Olgivanna.
Then, impelled by the force that Gurdjieff and his predecessors represented, Beidler
set out on a series of four distinct careers, abandoning each one after he had reached its
plateau of accomplishment. These careers were external patterns within which the precepts
of Gurdjieff were applied.
In 1949 Beidler associated himself with the newly formed Gurdjieff Foundation. Six
years later, as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, he left for Asia to prepare himself
for his eventual role. In 1973, after a quarter century of exploration in selected regions
of Asia, he returned to undertake The Search at Northeon Forest. He had confirmed that
"work on himself" was best sought under the disruptive and trying conditions of
everyday life, but that the deterrent influences that normally prevail under these
conditions are powerful enough to overwhelm even the most ardent searchers unless their
efforts are reinforced by energies generated at a focal point of higher striving. Northeon
Forest is becoming that focal point.
Beidler's approach encourages personal verification by emphasizing that seekers must
individually search, labor, and suffer. Practices and exercises are created by the seekers
of Northeon Forest around programs, written by Beidler, as well as their own discoveries
in the search. Seminars, sacred dances, meditation, and rhythmic movements with music
complement the work at Northeon forest.
A basic premise of The Search at Northeon Forest is that systematic inner inquiry can lead to transcendent fulfillments when pursued within the fabric of everyday activities. Efforts toward inner transformation will be especially productive when carried out around a focal point of supportive influences and sustained by the vital energy generated by individuals working toward shared higher goals. Inner tasks, performed while confronting the trials and frustrations encountered in normal vocational and domestic environments, are reinforced with new energy when parallel activities take place in the sanctuary provided at Northeon Forest. Important threefold outcomes, however provisional, can be derived while carrying out customary house-holding responsibilities.
Northeon Forest as a focus of high endeavor was founded for - and is nurtured by -
those who have chosen to search for inner transformation within the normal context of
their daily lives. The seeker's efforts toward coordinated levels of mind, spirit, and
body are strengthened and invigorated by the nurturing conditions found at Northeon
Forest. No aspect of external life is overlooked as a fruitful outer framework for
parallel inner effort. The hours spent in making a living, eating, sleep, and home life
are constantly examined for their potential to provide opportunities for inner work.
Northeon Forest, in its outward appearance, is a tree farm and wildlife refuge. The
forest terrain and turbulent streams offer an environment especially fertile for the
practice of inner tasks. This inner work serves to reinforce the conscious labor performed
amidst the diverting influences that prevail elsewhere. Using materials and situations
indigenous to the land, projects such as forestry, gardening, building, woodworking, wood
gathering, cooking, and beekeeping are undertaken.
Activities that result in a useful product are favored in preference to those that bear
no useful purpose. Competitiveness is discouraged since it does not contribute to those
higher emotional levels on which Being rests.
Existence can be seen to be organized and leading toward the fulfillment of a higher
purpose. It is necessary to try to understand the constraints within which transformation
may be earned. By concerted inner effort, intercession from higher powers may be sought,
and there is evidence that assistance in sincere effort is provided in tangible ways.
Enlightened messengers gifted with transcendent insight have stressed the special
benefits to be derived from stress, poverty, humility, hardship, risk, and danger, when
creatively endured. The rigors encountered in a natural life are to be valued as occasions
to be used, rather than avoided.
Truths are revealed according to each individual's own level of comprehension. As the
seeker's Being evolves, the perception of truth emerges correspondingly. Although
accidental patterns of life are usually fertile enough, other alternatives are sometimes
advisable to eliminate conditions too overwhelming for the beginner. There is an implicit
obligation to use the gift of life in a manner designed to extend one's given capacities
far beyond what is expected by the accepted standards of the day. To assist mankind toward
its ultimate destiny becomes both a reasonable goal and a compelling responsibility.
Those who embark on this journey of inner inquiry and conscious labor, accompanied by sacrifice, are inevitably confronted by these questions:
These and other questions are addressed at Northeon Forest. Answers are deemed
provisional, pending the expansion of our understanding. Then, when underlying meanings
begin to emerge, segments of insight formerly disconnected begin to fall into place. This
may then be interpreted as preparation for a conscious function within a cosmic pattern of
supreme scope and importance.
The Search at Northeon Forest is not intended to and will never become popular. Its
integrity is preserved by avoiding, to the extent possible, its becoming defiled by the
institutions of society. It does not court popular acceptance but attracts those few
individuals who can find no lasting meaning in mundane goals and who find that they must
search for truth within themselves. Deeply dissatisfied with much of what is available to
them in contemporary society they must often "risk everything," only to find
that it is mainly their illusions that were risked. Their Search opens paths to new
perception when such common pursuits as pleasure, comfort, satisfaction, and happiness are
found to be illusory dead ends. The forces that are generated at Northeon Forest
counteract the abundant diversions in contemporary society.
The seminars and meetings are attended not only by the resident core but also by other
committed seekers commuting from various towns and countries. They comprise an important
element in the sum of energies generated. Their individual life-styles vary considerably,
providing opportunities to search, labor, and confirm their experiences under conditions
vastly different from those that exist at Northeon Forest. The rays of influence that they
represent extend out into the surrounding areas.
When types of inner exploration are taking place, the reading of books concerning
"The Work" is discouraged. Participants are advised to see themselves as the
"best book," where truth is to be sought without distortion from association
with something previously read. On those occasions when books are read, Gurdjieff's own
three series are preferred. Books by his acquaintances and "pupils" are
recognized as personal interpretations.
Conversation and social intercourse not clearly essential are minimized in deference to
higher aspirations. Altering social behavior among participants illuminates the true
purpose of The Search. Emphasis is always upon vertical aspirations unhampered by ordinary
relationships with one another.
Only by self-generated effort within oneself and by sincere individual service to the
ultimate destiny of humanity can genuine payment be made. In order to stress these
requisites, there is no monetary payment for engaging in The Search at Northeon Forest.
Money is relegated to a place more appropriate to house-holding affairs. This discourages
those who cannot recognize intrinsic value unless marked by a definite price. It may also
temporarily attract individuals who undertake nothing that requires sacrifice but who soon
tire under the relentless pressure of The Search. This curb on commercial enterprise
closes an avenue leading to spiritual deterioration and corruption. The absence of
monetary concerns promotes feelings of reverence for and kinship with all mankind.
There are intentionally no commercial or academic endeavors at Northeon Forest that
require fiscal support. Genuine payment in the form of substantive inner work - as a way
of life - is stressed. The continued functioning of Northeon Forest is not dependent upon
the support of "students" or "donors."
There is a profound obligation to respond to the needs of those rare individuals who
are genuinely drawn to the goals of The Search at Northeon Forest. The epic quality of The
Search - with the value given to hardship and difficulty - will challenge the hardy seeker
who had the strength to persist along the arduous path of service and sacrifice despite
impediments along the way.
The Endless Search © 2004 Ian C. MacFarlane