DOWN FROM ABOVE, UP FROM BELOW: Working With Lord Pentland and the Gurdjieff Ideas.
Jane Madeline Gold. www.DownFromAbove.net. 2021. PP. 160. $20 Paper
Reviewed by Tracy Cochran
“Lord Pentland was and remains my foremost teacher,” writes Jane Madeline Gold in a deeply personal and fascinating account of what it was like to work with this unique and compelling man. “Even after I stopped attending the [Gurdjieff] Foundation for a time, he told a friend, ‘Tell Jane I’m still her teacher.’ Lest I not grasp that fact, he made it explicit.
“That relationship was characterized by love. And by love, I mean Lord Pentland attended. He once said in a group meeting, ‘What is love, if not attention?’ And, as noted earlier, ‘the wonderful thing about love is, you can give it and give it and give it, and there is always more to give.’ I am sure he was referring to that inexhaustible fount of love that is there at the core of our being and the universe.”
This memoir is shot through with love–experienced in Pentland’s astute observations and words of wisdom, and also in Gold’s own glimpses of the light behind the appearances of this world. Gold, a psychotherapist who has a private practice in California, worked for years as Pentland’s secretary and remained his pupil and friend.
Lord Pentland (Henry John Sinclair) was a pupil of P.D. Ouspensky and G.I. Gurdjieff, who appointed him to lead the Gurdjieff Work in North America. Pentland became president of the Gurdjieff Foundation when it was established in New York in 1953, and remained in that position until his death in 1984.
A man of great heart and humor as well as mind, Pentland imparted to Gold and many others that another life is possible if we are willing to do the work of seeing ourselves as we are. For example, Gold recalls Pentland telephoning her from a beautiful center the Gurdjieff Foundation once possessed in San Francisco. It was known by Gold and others that Carlos Castaneda and some of his pupils had been to visit Pentland at this place, but in this call Pentland promised to pass the phone to Castaneda’s own mysterious shaman, the legendary Don Juan.
“‘Would you like to ask Don Juan a question?’ I didn’t want to miss the opportunity, so I had to think fast. And I did come up with one. ‘Okay, put him on,’ I say, ‘I’ve got a question.’
“‘April Fool!’ [Pentland] says, laughing uproariously at his own joke.”
“I understood from him that to have a question is more meaningful than to have an answer. It feels to me to be a higher state of mind. But this feeling goes against our conditioning that calls out for knowing and certainty.”
This book will fill readers with wonder. ◆
Tracy Cochran is the editorial director of Parabola.