Constantinople Notes on the Transition to Man 4

​by Boris Ferapontoff

With an Introduction and Commentary by Joseph Azize

Foreword by Greg O'Connor

216 pages. 6x9 Trade Paperback

For Release: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0997693751

A copy of the Constantinople Notes of Boris Ferapontoff was found among George Adie’s papers at the time of his death. Of unknown provenance, these intriguing typewritten notes with some handwritten annotations  led me on a search to the P.D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection at Yale.

The collection included a copy of the notes, with many of the same handwritten annotations, although Adie’s copy had some additional annotations, which seem to have been made by Adie himself. Further, Adie’s copy lacked the introduction.

The quality of the notes is such that they practically demand publication. Who could take responsibility for allowing them to remain in the darkness of old cupboards and hoary library archives?

My aim here is to make these notes available and comprehensible. I have not attempted to systematically relate them to Gurdjieff’s system as a whole, or position them in the broad stream of Western Esotercism.

Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Ferapontoff

First, something must be said about Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff was, I would suggest, best thought of as a mystic, because his ideas and methods aimed at showing people first the need to formulate an aim to take conscious control of all one’s faculties by being simultaneously aware of our thought, feeling and sensation (that is, to be able to “remember oneself”). Then, when one can remember oneself, one can be consciously related to the creation. I have set out these ideas in an article, which also explains something of what Gurdjieff understood by that unity, and am presently working on a monograph which will expound and develop this thesis.[1] It is sufficient to note here that, at section 40.5, Ferapontoff restates this in saying: “Perhaps when we begin to see ourselves the Absolute too begins to see us.”[2]

Any system which states that we do not have conscious control of our faculties must have a psychological diagnosis of humanity. Gurdjieff insisted that we can only be studied in our context, and so he developed a theory of what he called “world creation and maintenance.” The inter-relation between us and our world is fundamental to Gurdjieff’s system, and Ferapontoff’s notes shed a new light upon this.

Since we have intellectual, emotional and physical faculties, and these need to consciously work together, each must be prepared: the mind, the feeling and the organic instinct are different “brains” or “centres,” and to train them to be fit in themselves, and to be able to cooperate, exercises and tasks are needed. Again, Ferapontoff’s notes shed some light on this aspect of Gurdjieff’s system.

That is the system. As for the man, Gurdjieff was probably born in Gyumri, Armenia (formerly Alexandropol)[3] on 28 December in either 1865 or 1866, according to the modern calendar. It is known that, in his youth, Gurdjieff travelled in Asia. The conjecture of his pupil, P.D. Ouspensky, that Gurdjieff developed his ideas and methods under the influence of teachers from Persia and Central Asia is probably correct.[4] Whatever his earlier history, Gurdjieff is known to have been in Moscow in 1914, when he had an advertisement placed in a newspaper. This is documented by Ouspensky, together with the details of Gurdjieff’s teaching, in his master-work, In Search of the Miraculous.

In 1921, Gurdjieff left for Europe, where he lived for almost all the rest of his life. Gurdjieff made eight trips to the USA, and may have briefly visited Asia, but this is by no means certain.[5] He died in France in 1949. His teaching and methods have never been completely and exhaustively expressed in one work. He wrote several books, and many of his talks have been collected. These can be found in the bibliography under his own name. The other major works on his ideas and methods are referred to throughout this book.

Of the books not written by Gurdjieff, the most important for understanding his system were written by P.D. Ouspensky (1878-1947). Although Ouspensky had had a promising career as a journalist and lecturer, especially to Theosophical audiences, he gave this up to teach the Gurdjieff system. He deliberately maintained a low profile.

He was separated from Gurdjieff for about the last 25 years of his life, but his presentations of Gurdjieff’s ideas are matchless. I am of the view that no satisfactory treatment of Ouspensky has yet emerged. For now, anyone wishing to understand his contribution to Western Esotericism is best advised to read In Search of the Miraculous and The Fourth Way, in that order.

As the little we know of Ferapontoff is concisely set out in the “Introduction” to the Yale manuscript, I thought it better to adjourn a discussion of him to the commentary on that “Introduction.”

Presenting the Ferapontoff Notes    

To read the notes is one thing, for they are quite concise, and even at time, dense. To study them is quite another. Persevering efforts to understand the contents has vindicated John G. Bennett’s opinion that Ferapontoff could have been a source for the spread of Gurdjieff’s ideas. Ferapontoff’s restatement of the ideas is often powerful, often original, often insightful. But, as stated, it is also often hard to follow his cryptic style.

It has seemed to my publisher and myself, that as the notes do deserve publication, it is best to present them as they are rather than edit them, and to add comments in separate sections to help elucidate their meaning. Sometimes an obscure reference can be confidently sourced, illustrated or expanded. Sometimes a reasoned conjecture can be made, and sometimes, the editor just has to declare that he does not understand. But the effort is worthwhile, and by stating my sources and setting out my reasoning, the reader is enabled to weigh my hypotheses, and to accept, reject or withhold judgment.

It is always a question of discretion when to comment, and what to say. If I have not commented on a paragraph, it is because I thought it sufficiently clear. On some occasions, I have added a note, either to remark on the originality of the exposition (whether in content for form), or to draw attention to an important point which might be overlooked because it is obliquely stated. It is an honour to be able to note where Ferapontoff seems to have made a unique contribution to the Gurdjieff literature. I would mention as some of the most important ideas, not otherwise known, the following:

 • Karma (section 24)

• Studying the state of sleep and pathology (sections 15.1 and 20.5)

• The explanations of why we cannot see our many “I”s (21.2)

• That imagination drains our energy more than anything else (24.5)

• The correspondence of different knowledges to different bodies (30.6)

• The ideas on nutrition, including the changing nature of the planet, including everything from metals to bacilli and upwards (34 and 50)

• The perspective on the laws (39.1)

The original text has no division into chapters or sections, let alone by number. It has only paragraphs and underlined headings. I have broken the text into short sections distinguished by a number, and then into sub-paragraphs numbered by a decimal point and the relevant number, commencing with 1. Sometimes, as in the material on karma (section 24), the text as found in the manuscript was in a paragraph so long that reading, and so commenting, became difficult, so I broke the large paragraph into smaller ones. However, never have I joined short paragraphs together.

The Ferapontoff notes themselves are in bold typeface. Commentary is in regular typeface.

 The Yale manuscript is marked “2nd carbon copy” on the first page of the notes. As it is a typewritten carbon copy, the handwritten deletions and insertions must have been made to that carbon copy. I have shown all deletions with strikethrough (e.g. thus) and all insertions in italics. Where George Adie made notes to his copy, I have added a footnote to the text, rather than in my commentary. Adie made few changes, but these are invariably correct, e.g. in 45.1 where he suggests “interpretation” for “interruption.”

Generally speaking, I have presented the exact text of the Yale manuscript. Certainly, I have added nothing. However, if there is a minor correction in the manuscript (e.g. the addition of a “0” after “3000” in paragraphs 2.4 and 2.5), I have not noted it, as it was too minor and patently correct to warrant special observation.

Sometimes the corrections to the manuscript were made by hand, but sometimes they have been typed in. Why the difference? In section 7.1, for example’s sake, the word “intellectual” has been typed over with Xs, and the words “higher mental” typed in. Then, in section 7.2, the words “paintings” has similarly been crossed over, and “pictures” typed in. These corrections both feature new words typed in above the line. It is suggestive of a typist who has substituted their own paraphrase of what they are reading, and then, after they have gone on a little, see their error. In 9.8 however, the word “what” is crossed out and “that” appears right next to it. This seems like a typist catching an error as soon as it is made. If a word is crossed out, and then the word wanted has been typed right next to it on the line, I have shown the deletion, but have not marked the word on the line as an insertion: only handwritten additions or words above the line are marked as insertions.

In the footnotes, each book is introduced with its author’s name, but then, if the author is either Gurdjieff or Ouspensky, only the title, and sometimes an abbreviated title at that, is given. Full details of every book in the footnotes should be found in the bibliography at the end of this volume.


On one level, the most unexpected result of my research has been the revelation that Ferapontoff was one of the more understanding of Gurdjieff’s pupils. The learned James Webb does not mention him at all in his lengthy study of Gurdjieff and his pupils.[6] He is allowed but two mentions in passing by James Moore.[7] If this book can rehabilitate him, to some extent, the editor will be gratified. Certainly, I feel a debt of gratitude to him for what the trouble he took to make these notes, for so much as the Gurdjieff ideas and methods help you, you cannot but be profoundly grateful.[8]

Joseph Azize,

Honorary Associate

Dept of Studies in Religion
University of Sydney
20 January 2017


[1] See Joseph Azize, “Solar Mysticism in Gurdjieff and Neoplatonism,” Crossroads, 5.1 (2010). The book deals with Gurdjieff’s contemplation-like methods, but restates at greater length some of the ideas expounded in that article.

[2] See also the commentary to section 10.1.

[3] Paul Beekman Taylor, Gurdjieff: A New Life, 13.

[4] P.D. Ouspensky, A Further Record, 125.

[5] Taylor, Gurdjieff: A New Life, 226-229, and 188-191.

[6] James Webb, The Harmonious Circle.

[7] James Moore, Gurdjieff: The Anatomy of a Myth, 144 and 227.

[8] When, in my commentary, I speak of “Ferapontoff’s ideas,” or employ some parallel phrase, I mean “Ferapontoff’s exposition.” We do not and cannot know with certainty which ideas were taken from Gurdjieff or Ouspensky, although in some places I think it is clear that some ideas are from either Gurdjieff (e.g. those on Karma) or Ouspensky (the table of times).


Foreword by Greg Connor
Preface by Joseph Azize
Introduction: “Constantinople Notes”
       written by BORIS FERAPONTOFF

1. Attitude to Psychology
2. Centres
3. Work in Relation to Centres
4. Expenditure of Matter
5. Matter of Centres
6. Efforts
7. Higher Centres
8. Bodies
9. The Way
10. The Ways (Part 2)
11. The Ways (Part 3)
12. The Ways (Part 4)
13. Sleep
14. Sleep (Continued)
15. Physiological Sleep
16. Consciousness
17. Consciousness (Part 2)
18. Self-remembering
19. Observation (stating)
20. Identifying
21. Multiplicity of ‘I’s
22. Will
23. Mechanicalness
24. Karma
25. Fasting
26. The Table of Hydrogens
27. Table of Nutrition
28. Principle of Relativity
29. Language. Logic. Knowledge
30. Language. Logic. Knowledge (Part 2)
31. Language. Logic. Knowledge (Part 3)
32. The Principle of Relativity. Worlds
33. The Animate
34. Nutrition
35. Principle of Relativity. Worlds. Food
36. Table of Time
37. Man
38. Four Bodies
39. Man, His Place in the World
40. {Untitled}
41. Triads
42. {Untitled}
43. Higher Dimensions
44. Eternal Recurrence
45. Eternal Recurrence (cont.)
46. Eternal Recurrence (Part Three)
47. Immortality
48. Esotericism
49. The Hidden
50. Evolution
51. Starting Point
52. {Untitled}