first met Paul Reynard in 1971, when he stopped by the print shop during a Sunday workday at St. Elmo, the Gurdjieff Foundation house in San Francisco, to see what the team was working on. I was in my late twenties and he in his mid-forties. When he gave his surname during our introductory greeting, I tried to cover my feeling of insecurity with cleverness, saying, “Oh, like the fox!” Paul just smiled quietly with an affirmative nod and proceeded to look around the shop. Little did I know then that, during the next thirty-four years, I would work under his direction with accelerating intensity.
I had just returned to the Bay Area after serving two years in the Army. Significant changes had taken place in San Francisco while I was away. Under Lord Pentland’s direction, new groups and Movements classes had been formed to accommodate the many new people being drawn to the Gurdjieff teaching. Following the untimely death of Alfred Etievant, who had directed the Movements in North America through the fifties and early sixties, Jeanne de Salzmann had sent Paul Reynard to continue the work with Movements there. After relocating from Paris to New York, Paul had begun coming to San Francisco regularly. From his experience as a young man with Gurdjieff and years of work with Mme. de Salzmann, particularly in relation to the Movements, Paul was uniquely suited for this role. The synchronous arrival of Paul with expanding classes of young people and the construction of a new hall marked the beginning of a new era of study of the Movements in San Francisco.
Devoted to the Work and to the Movements, Paul had a long-term vision of what he wished to accomplish, both inwardly and externally. In 1972, during one of the monthly trips he made to San Francisco with Lord Pentland, Paul made a special point of visiting each of our Movements classes. Struggling to stay in touch with ourselves as we engaged in exercises and dances, we felt his attention on us. Based on his observations, Paul selected a group of men and women for a new class to which he would bring a demanding program to be developed over many years. From that class, he gradually selected a young cadre to serve as Movements assistants in the decades ahead.
In a class with Paul, we felt guidance not just from his words, but from his being. Sometimes we understood what he wished to convey just from the attention he turned toward us, felt his inner authority, and were glad to submit to it. We responded to the strong demand he made on us because we saw how he made the same demand on himself. He would not let us become complacent or satisfied, always asking us to bring more of ourselves to the dance, dervish, or prayer at hand. He sometimes asked us to stop and hold difficult postures, to sense our positions, and, without looking, to correct or refine them. He taught us not to be satisfied until we were able, through sensation, to take each position to the best of our ability. Taking us further, he enjoined us to discover the movement between positions. When we lapsed into an habitual attitude, Paul saw it and called us back with a strong word or fierce look. Paul had no patience for any kind of pretense, but he showed generosity and warmth to those who worked. At the same time that he demanded our best effort in filling the form of a Movement, he always gave the inner work precedence, constantly reminding us that we were there to wake up, to see ourselves, to struggle with our automatism, and to gradually bring the whole of ourselves to a Movement in the service of a new level of attention. In his class, we came to our own living understanding of why the Movements are called Sacred Dances. . .
[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]
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Bill Jordan has been a member of the Gurdjieff Foundation of California since 1965. Under the guidance of Lord Pentland and Paul Reynard, he began leading groups and Movements classes in the late 1970s.
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Featured: Winter 2018/2019 Issue, Vol. XIII (1)
Revision: July 1, 2019