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Ouspensky, Palmer and Father Nikon
The Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky was an important instructor of the teachings of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff over a period of nearly 30 years. In this time he lived in England, in the United States and later again back in England. His influence in spreading the ideas of Gurdjieff was great; hundreds came to his lectures in wherever he lived.
In our days two organisations full of life, based or influenced on the ideas that came through Ouspensky, are still going strong: The London School of Economic Science
Link and The Study Society Link. It is well worth looking at what they are doing.
As for Ouspensky, towards his death in England in 1947, Ouspensky was getting more and more disappointed in his own situation as “a copy of a guru” and in addition, he was also drinking too much.
Behind Ouspensky, his wife, generally known as Madame O., was a great driving force. This is very well depicted in a humoristic way by John Maxwell Taylor in his song Group Activity from the musical Crazy Wisdom Link, as well as in many books.
Madame Ouspensky loved to read and get inspiration from Russian Orthodox literature, which at the time was hardly available in any other language than Russian. (Interestingly, relating to my own dillidallyings, I started translating "Unseen Warfare" into Finnish in the early eighties without knowing anything of these developments in the Ouspenskiis).
Indeed, in his last years Ouspensky admonished his pupils to abandon the “system”, as he called the teachings of Gurdjieff, and find the source of his ideas. He indicated that a contact with Mount Athos should be made.
This brings us to Gerald (Gerald Eustace Howell) Palmer and further on to Father Nikon of Karoulia. Gerald Palmer was born in 1904 and died in 1984. Apart from having been an MP (Member of the Parliament) and a cricket player, Palmer was one of those who were following the teachings of Ouspensky, and he headed to Mount Athos with the aim of searching for a Spiritual Father.
As Bishop Kallistos tells in the enclosed article, Palmer was very lucky; he came to Mount Athos in 1948 and he found a Spiritual Father on this visit! This is quite remarkable in many ways. First of all to find a real Spiritual Father, even if you are looking for one in the most likely place within the Orthodox Christianity, in Mount Athos, where it is known there are some, even perhaps a dozen within the 2000 odd monks on the peninsula, it can be compared to the old riddle of“finding a pin in a hay stack”. ( I was there a couple of years ago on a guided tour, but we did not see any Spiritual Fathers, and we got around to 10 monasteries and just as many sketes.)
The other remarkable detail about Palmer finding Father Nikon of Karoulia, was the fact, that the Karoulia hermitage is at the southern end of the Athos peninsula, far away from even the trodden pilgrim paths of our time, and that Father Nikon apparently came to visit the monastery, where Palmer happened to be searching, on one of his yearly visits out of Karoulia!
It really is “In Search of the Miraculous” becoming true!
The five following pages are photos of the book called “The Monastic Magnet: Roads To and from Mount Athos, written by Rene Gothoni and Graham Speake. A link to buying this book: here.
The photo of Father Nikon is from Graham Speake’s award winning book called “Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise”— Link: Renewal, which I have found to be the best introduction to Mount Athos that I have come across.
I hope you enjoy the story of Gerald Palmer by Bishop Kallistos on the next pages!
Amden 9 April 2013
Father Nikon of Karoulia