John G. Bennett

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John Godolphin Bennett (June 8, 1897December 13, 1974) was a British mathematician, scientist, technologist, industrial research director and author.


  • The impulse to understand, and not merely to know and to act, is an impulse characteristic of man and apparently not shared by other animals. I am not concerned here with the origin and nature of this impulse, but with its implications that there is something to be understood and that understanding is not reducible to knowledge and action.
    • J.G. Bennett (1963) "General Systematics" in: Systematics] (1963) Vol 1., no 1. p. 5; cited on The Primer Project on, 2007.07.03
  • True sensitivity is the beginning of what Gurdjieff calls Objective Reason and which he says, cannot be in this body and can only belong to the Second, or Kesdjanian Body, and when it is formed it can begin to acquire this direct perception of how things are, combined with experience that gives this vision a practical and realistic application. Out of this comes what he calls Objective Reason
    • J.G. Bennett (1973) "REACTIONS", Second Basic Course at Sherborne House, March 5th, 1973; cited on, 2009
  • G. I. Gurdjieff's sexual life was strange in its unpredictability. At certain times he led a strict, almost ascetic life, having no relation with women at all. At other times, his sex life seemed to go wild and it must be said that his unbridled periods were more frequent than the ascetic. At times, he had sexual relationships not only with almost any woman who happened to come within the sphere of his influence, but also with his own pupils. Quite a number of his women pupils bore him children and some of them remained closely connected with him all their lives. Others were just as close to him, as far as one could tell, without a sexual relationship.
    • John G. Bennett Gurdjieff: Making a New World (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), pp. 231-232: Cited in "Sexual Beliefs and Practices " on, accessed 2013-04-21
  • I must warn you that Gurdjieff is far more of an enigma than you can imagine. I am certain that he is deeply good, and that he is working for the good of mankind. But his methods are often incomprehensible. For example, he uses disgusting language, especially to ladies who are likely to be squeamish about such things. He has the reputation of behaving shamelessly over money matters, and with women also. At his table we have to drink spirits, often to the point of drunkenness. People have said that he is a magician, and that he uses his powers for his own ends... I do not believe that the scandalous tales told of Gurdjieff are true: but you must take into account that they may be true and act accordingly.
    • John G. Bennett (1974) Witness: The Autobiography of John G. Bennett. Tucson: Omen Press, p. 244. Cited in: "Controversial reputation" on, accessed 2013-04-21
  • Since we tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in the light of their actions, which are visible to us, we have a situation in which misunderstanding and injustice are the order of the day
    • John G. Bennett The Crisis in Human Affairs

Gurdjieff’s All and Everything (1950)[edit]

J.G. Bennett (1950) "Gurdjieff’s All and Everything: A Study by J. G. Bennett". September 1950; Republished in Gurdjieff International Review at
  • Ouspensky records a conversation in St. Petersburg during the summer of 1916 in which Gurdjieff discussed the problem of communication, and the impossibility of conveying in our ordinary language ideas which are intelligible and obvious only for a higher state of consciousness. Speaking of the unity between man, the Universe, and God, he said that the objective knowledge by which alone this unity is to be understood can never be expressed in words or logical forms. At this point, Gurdjieff made a statement which is a key to the understanding of his own subsequent writings. He said:

    Realising the imperfection and weakness of ordinary language, the people who have possessed objective knowledge have tried to express the idea of unity in ‘myths,’ in ‘symbols,’ and in particular ‘verbal formulas,’ which, having been transmitted without alteration, have carried on the idea from one school to another, often from one epoch to another.

    In All and Everything Gurdjieff makes extensive use of these three forms, that is, symbol, myth, and verbal formula....
  • There is no need in these mathematical days to defend the use of symbolism. It is regarded by many schools of modern thought as the only safe form of language. Wittgenstein treats symbols as something more than conventional signs, and regards them as corresponding in some way to the reality to which they refer. He would probably accept Gurdjieff’s dictum that:

    Symbols not only transmit knowledge but show the way to it.

    Even though other thinkers deny any objective reference to symbols, no one questions that symbolism has a power beyond that of ordinary language. It is different with the language of myth. This is despised by superficial thinkers, but the greatest philosophers have known its value.

Witness: the Story of a Search (1962)[edit]

John G. Bennett (1962) Witness: the Story of a Search. London: Hodder & Stoughton
  • Gurdjieff said, “Change depends on you, and it will not come about through study. You can know everything and yet remain where you are. It is like a man who knows all about money and the laws of banking, but has no money of his own in the bank. What does all his knowledge do for him?”

    Here Gurdjieff suddenly changed his manner of speaking, and looking at me very directly he said: “You have the possibility of changing, but I must warn you that it will not be easy. You are still full of the idea that you can do what you like. In spite of all your study of free will and determinism, you have not yet understood that so long as you remain in this place, you can do nothing at all. Within this sphere there is no freedom. Neither your knowledge nor all your activity will give you freedom. This is because you have no …” Gurdjieff found it difficult to express what he wanted in Turkish. He used the word varlik, which means roughly the quality of being present. I thought he was referring to the experience of being separated from one’s body.

    Neither I nor the Prince [Sabaheddin] could understand what Gurdjieff wished to convey. I felt sad, because his manner of speaking left me in no doubt that he was telling me something of great importance. I answered, rather lamely, that I knew that knowledge was not enough, but what else was there to do but study?...
    • p. 46–48 cited in: "Gurdjieff’s Temple Dances by John G. Bennett", Gurdjieff International Review, on; About Constantinople 1920
  • Every evening after dinner, a new life began. There was no hurry. Some walked in the garden. Others smoked. About nine o’clock we made our way alone or in twos and threes to the Study House. Outdoor shoes came off and soft shoes or moccasins were put on. We sat quietly, each on his or her own cushion, round the floor in the centre. Men sat on the right, women on the left; never together.

    Some went straight on to the stage and began to practice the rhythmic exercises. On our first arrival, each of us had the right to choose his own teacher for the movements. I had chosen Vasili Ferapontoff, a young Russian, tall, with a sad studious face. He wore pince-nez, and looked the picture of the perpetual student, Trofimov, in The Cherry Orchard. He was a conscientious instructor, though not a brilliant performer. I came to value his friendship, which continued until his premature death ten years later. He told me in one of our first conversations that he expected to die young.

    The exercises were much the same as those I had seen in Constantinople three years before. The new pupils, such as myself, began with the series called Six Obligatory Exercises. I found them immensely exciting, and worked hard to master them quickly so that I could join in the work of the general class.
    • p. 90–91 cited in: "Gurdjieff’s Temple Dances by John G. Bennett", Gurdjieff International Review, on; About Fontainebleau 1923

The Dramatic Universe: Man and his nature (1966)[edit]

John Godolphin Bennett (1966) The Dramatic Universe: Man and his nature. Vol 3. Hodder & Stoughton
  • We do not know structures, but we know because of structures.
    • p. 7
  • Facts, that are no more than facts, are atomic and unrelated except by general laws. That is how the world was studied until the middle of the present century.
    • p. 7
  • Structure is a primary element of experience and not something that is added by the mind. In this respect, it can be said that the techniques of understanding call for a drastic revision of the usual modes of thought that treat being and understanding as independent or at least as separable from one another.
    • p. 9

Quotes about John G. Bennett[edit]

  • John Godolphin Bennett was a skilled player of the game, one who kept his mind open and was always ready to experiment. He had charisma. He had personal power. He had a way with people, especially young people. I had debated at length with myself and others whether his influence on his students had been beneficial or disastrous. No answer came. It was perhaps too early to tell. In any case, he was dead. One more link in the old chain was destroyed. Soon that particular chain would vanish entirely.
    • Robert S. De Ropp (1979) Warrior's way: the challenging life games. p. 336
  • John G. Bennett was a distinguished scientist, mathematician and linguist. In the course of his researches and travels all over the world, Bennett made contact with many remarkable men. He devoted his life to the study, practice and teaching of the theory and techniques for the development of the latent powers of man: the widening of the intellect, the discipline of the body, and the steadying of the emotions.
    • Saul Kuchinsky, John Godolphin Bennett (1985) Systematics: Search for Miraculous Management
  • John G. Bennett was a research scientist who discovered more efficient methods for burning coal, thereby enhancing productivity and reducing pollution. He also was an intellectual who in the four-volume The Dramatic Universe formulated a "cosmic context" for integrating the discussion of environmental ethics.
    • Bron Raymond Taylor (2005) The encyclopedia of religion and nature. Vol. 2 Lemma "Bennett, John G. (1897-1974)". p. 162

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