Conscious love evokes the same in response.

Gurdjieff International Review

The Armenian Boy Sarkis

a Gurdjieff Anecdote

One day Mr. Gurdjieff happened to be lunching alone at a small Paris restaurant. His attention was called to a table nearby where he saw a couple, clearly very anxious about the boy sitting with them. He seemed almost like an animal greedily eating the food before him. He was fat, very fat, far overweight. He ate like an animal. Mr. Gurdjieff overheard one or two remarks the couple were making and knew they were talking Armenian. Now it happened that he had a great weakness for Armenians. He said they were a wonderful people of great antiquity. They had not let their country be overrun by Western civilization. They had kept up their old customs, particularly the roots of their language, which was full of old sayings, old customs of the past, and this kept their people clean and unspoiled by the slime of the West.

When Mr. Gurdjieff spoke to them in Armenian, they were clearly surprised and delighted. They got into conversation, he joined them at their table and, of course, being Mr. G, it wasn't long before they were treating him as an old friend. Only the son went on eating, taking no notice. Mr. G explained he was a Russian, a doctor, a child specialist, but of course unknown in Paris, where he was still making his reputation. They arranged to meet again and Mr. G succeeded in getting their confidence and hearing more about their deep anxiety about their son.

He told them that, in his opinion, it was their love that had spoiled the boy. His condition had become a disease. It was quite well known in Russia, where parents were often overindulgent to their children. It was fear of starvation really. They had known terrible days of famine. Their children must never know that, so they encouraged them to eat and eat well, with the result that some of them could not stop and the thing became compulsive, serious…

He was very busy, he told them, and it was only because he had a weakness for Armenians that … well, he would make them an offer: "Give your son to me. I will cure him. It will take about three months. But there are conditions. You must not see him, write to him, or come anywhere near him during this time. Your absence is part of the cure." They were a bit doubtful about this, adoring their son and never having been parted from him. "Besides, three months … that's a long time … what will it cost?" Gurdjieff brushed all this aside. "It will cost what it costs. Whatever it costs, you must promise to pay it without question. Your faith in me is part of your son's cure…" Well … finally they agreed. Probably it was only because Mr. Gurdjieff was what he was that such an extraordinary arrangement was possible…

The first thing was to gain the trust of Sarkis—that was the boy's name—his trust and affection, that was all-important and not difficult. He had a naturally open and affectionate nature. Gurdjieff started by painting a pitiable picture of his own state. A terrible thing had happened. "Just today! Just when I was going to take off on holiday with you!" he said. "I was robbed! In business." The man would be caught, of course. He would be rich again, but for the moment he had nothing. They would have hardly enough to eat. But soon everything would be better! (He kept on inventing these 'bad luck' stories). But tomorrow never came, they had hardly enough to eat, but now they trusted each other, shared everything, it would be bound to come out all right.

Well, Sarkis believed him and began to adore him and over the next weeks, getting used to starving without noticing it, he grew into a healthy young man, ready to do anything and everything Gurdjieff asked of him. The money never turned up and they were always very poor, had to work, had to struggle to make ends meet, but together they would make it. This regime went on for weeks, Gurdjieff putting more and more work on Sarkis' shoulders, with the excuse that he himself was getting weaker, older…

At last, at the end of a long day when they had climbed all the stairs up to the top flat where they were living, Mr. G accidentally tripped over the trash can and sent the whole lot—it was full—cascading down the staircase and landings below. Starting in at once to pick up all the mess, piece by piece, and get it back in the bin, without the least sign of any blame or irritation at Mr. G's carelessness was a climax. The boy was cured, both in body and mind. Gurdjieff threw his arms round him. It was over!

At the family reunion the parents, overjoyed at their newborn son, now an athletic and normal young man, almost timidly asked Mr. G for the bill. Mr. G showed them the itemized account Sarkis and he had made together of what they had spent. Every detail was shown. The total was so small it looked ridiculous.

Copyright © 1993 Cecil Lewis
This webpage © 1998 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Winter 1997/1998 Issue, Vol. I (2)
Revision: April 1, 2000