A Short Biography of Paul Henry Beidler
(10/20/1906 - 09/11/1998)
" Consccious Labor and Intentional Suffering; the two pillars of the Work."
" Man has been given a new organ: being."
- Paul Henry Beidler
"A teacher's task is not to convey knowledge, but to set up situations
in which students cannot help but learn something. Teachers exist
not to tell stuudents what they themselves know, but to find ways
to share with students the pure fun of discovery; the sense that
learning is only slightly less exciting than falling in love.
No teacher can claim anything like success in any of this;
a few of us, however, can be proud that we have not failed
with every student."
- The Paul Henry Beidler entry in Who's Who in America
Mr. Paul Henry Beidler, an American of Swiss descent, was born in Lehighton, PA and trained at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a B.Arch. in 1931. From 1931-1932 Beidler was in Amsterdam, working for Jan Duiker. He followed this experience with two years with Frank Lloyd Wright, adding other years of draftsman experience with Webster & Wilson in 1935, D. B. Kirby in 1936, and Claude Albon Stiehl in Honolulu, 1937-1938. In 1938 he organized his own office.
Paul Beidler was active in archaeological expeditions organized by the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Under their auspices he travelled to Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Italy, the British Honduras, Africa, and Asia. He became Housing Adviser to the government of Iraq (1954-1955). From 1945 to 1946 he lectured at Black Mountain College; in 1946 he lectured and exhibited his works at the University of North Carolina; and in 1947 he began a series of annual lectures on modern architecture at Lehigh University.
Paul Beidler was accepted as a personal student by Gurdjieff in Paris in 1923. He was in Paris at the time as an architectural student studying with Le Corbusier, and it was Alton Altair, a draftsman from Le Corbusier's studio, who took the young Paul Beidler to meet Gurdjieff one evening. Also there at that time in Paris and Fontainbleu with Gurdjieff was the future Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright, Olgivanna..
Early in life he decided not to do as others in the way of having a life long vocation, but instead he spent ten years as an architect; ten years as an engineer; ten years as an archaeologist; and ten years as a ship's captain.
At the age of 17, Paul had gone with his archaeology class from the University of Pennsylvania into the mountains of Iraq and Turkey to study the Kurds. He was accepted as a serious student by the Yezidis, and was initiated into the mysteries of Sheik Adi, the ancestral spiritual head of the Yezedi order. He stayed for two years with the Yezedis to study them - from the inside out - and when he met Gurdjieff later in Paris, Gurdjieff was extremely interested in what the young Paul Beidler had learned about the Yezidis and their ideas.
In 1930, Paul took part in an archaeological expedition to Meydum, Egypt, to survey the Meydum Pyramid complex.
Gurdjieff had told Paul about a certain nearly hidden group in the Gobi dessert that he believed had a certain comprehension of "advanced ideas", and that if at all possible in his lifetime, he should try to visit this group of men and women. Paul told several of his close students that in fact he had made contact. He also wrote that the Sarmoun Monastery is now underground in what is now Russia and that their existence is threatened and must be protected from exposure. Along with other isolated (secret) monasteries of the 3rd way, they are already being replaced by the 4th and 5th ways. He said further, that while we are grateful for the discoveries made in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ways, we must recognize that in the course of evolutionary change the burdens of development have been passed onto the shoulders of seekers in the course of ordinary daily life. He told his students that when you do what you will do with this teaching, it can't be just a Gurdjieff school.
At the age of 28 he worked with Frank Lloyd Wright from 1932 to 1934 in Wisconsin as an architectural teachers assistant for the first class of the then newly formed Taliesin School of Organic Architecture at Spring Green just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Gurdjieff showed up there unexpectedly in early 1934, staying for a few months and cooking for the students while there. Paul relates that Gurdjieff loved movies and that he, Gurdjieff and Olgivanna went to the movie house in Madison. During that time, Paul helped to bring into existence the Eaglefeather font that Frank Lloyd Wright used on his architectural drawings. Paul is mentioned in Frank Lloyd Wright's book "Letters to Apprentices".
Paul spent every weekend for 7 years at Franklin Farms in Mendam, New Jersey, during WWII and shortly afterwards. He studied with Madame Ouspensky at that time. Madame Ouspensky ran Franklin Farms, while Mr. Ouspensky stayed in New York City most of the time, with his group of pupils. Paul had been a student of Madame Ouspensky, and he was very clear about this. I don't think he was too fond of Mr. Ouspensky. Paul was good friends with C. S. Nott, who also spent some time there at Franklin Farms. Paul never taught the Enneagram at Northeon Forest. He claimed that it was nothing more than an illustrative diagram 'sketched in the sand' for Ouspensky one day to illustrate a minor point in the Work. Paul's main emphasis in the direction of the Laws was towards the law of Three and the Law of Seven. He deemed an understanding of the Law of Three as absolutely essential in the Work.
At Mendham there was Russian couple, the Kadloubovskys. In the l940's, Ouspensky, who had an interest in Eastern Orthodox religion, asked the Kadloubovskys if they would start the translation into English of the Philokalia, the collection of the writings of the early Orthodox Church Fathers from the first to the twelfth centuries. The Kadloubovskys helped to translate some of Gurdjieff's Russian writings. Paul cautioned his students about "believing" what Gurdjieff's books contained, as it wasn't always Gurdjieff speaking - it was sometimes the translators.
When Ouspensky died in 1947, his main student, Rodney Collin of England, left Mendham to start a Work study group in Mexico City. Paul followed Rodney Collin there and worked with him in that setting for a period.
After Gurdjieff died in 1949, and the students in the New York City area decided to establish the Gurdjieff Foundation. Paul served on the original board of directors, but left after a few years when he become disenchanted with the direction that they were taking.
Mr. Beidler is mentioned in Chapter 24 of the book "Witness" by John G. Bennett. The reference in Witness is about a journey the two of them took to Iraq and the ruins of Babylon in 1955. At that time Paul was stationed in Baghdad. On this particular trip, Paul's first wife Margaret was also with them, as was John Bennett's future second wife, Elizabeth. The two of them were able to speak with some very old Dervishes. Paul spoke Aramaic, Turkish and several other middle Eastern languages, and was helpful to John Bennett in translating some of the conversations. Paul actually did the speaking and listening, then translated back to Bennett. Bennett was a copious note taker, and Paul always chuckled when he talked of Bennett - that he missed half of the conversation because he was taking notes so much.
In the mid 1980s, Elizabeth Bennett visited Mr. Beidler at Northeon Forest and asked him to become the Spiritual Director at the Claymont College for Continuous Education, the Fourth Way School founded by John Bennett in the USA, but he declined.
Pauls's attitude towards money can best be summed up by this statement in his
Prospectus for Northeon Forest - "This curb on commercial enterprise closes an avenue leading to spiritual deterioration and corruption. The absence of monetary concerns promotes feelings of reverence for and kinship with all mankind."
All that Mr. Beidler ever asked in return for his teaching was that his students
make genuine efforts towards Being.
Paul studied in Asia for some twenty five years, exploring the ancient ways of cutting through our illusions to see ourselves objectively. In Thailand, he became an ordained Buddhist Monk under the tutelage of the Ajaan Chah, a teacher in the Thai Forest Tradition. He also studied at the Temple of Hui Neng in south China. One of the readings he recommended to students was the Diamond Sutra. Paul also often used to read to us from the writings of Ajaan Chah, some of which are collected in the book "A Still Forest Stream", and others on this Buddhist website.
Another book that Paul is mentioned in is "Secrets of Chinese Mediation", a small classic by the Taoist master Lu Kwan Yu, who wrote under the English name of Charles Luk. Paul is mentioned in the preface, along with several other notable figures. Here is an excerpt from the preface -
"[...] To prevent disbelief in the involuntary movements described in Chapters 6 and 7, I have given a sixty-five-minute demonstration of them to two British Bhikkhus, the Ven. Khema and the Ven. Aruno who are graduates of Oxford and Cambridge respectively and who happened to be in Hong Kong. The Ven. Aruno is Mr. Harding's son. Before their arrival, I gave the same demonstration to Mr. Hugh Ripman, a British banker, Mr. Paul H. Beidler, an American engineer, Dr. Huston Smith, professor of philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Holmes Welch, author of The Parting of the Way, Madame Maurice Lebovich, a French painter, and a few well-known Chinese Buddhists, including Mr. K. S. Fung, chief delegate of the Chinese Buddhists of the Hong Kong-Macao area at the Sixth Congress of the World Fellowship of Buddhists at Pnompenh, Cambodia, in 1961." - Extract from preface, Lu K'uan Yu (Charles Luk), The Secrets Of Chinese Meditation, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser Inc., 1969.
Paul studied Taoism with Lu K'uan Yu in Hong Kong during the early 1960s. He recounted that Lu Kwan Yu would take his pupils up into the cliffs surrounding Hong Kong and there on top of the cliffs, he would pull a ginger root out of his pocket and cut it into small pieces with his small knife, then hand a little piece to each of them to meditate on.
In 1973, Paul Beidler started a 5th way school near Easton, Pennsylvania, called "The Search at Northeon Forest". Northeon Forest attracted students from Canada, USA, and Switzerland.
Paul Beidler is mentioned in Kathleen Riordan Speeth's book, "The Gurdjieff Work".
He passed away in 1998 at 92, the same age that Olgivanna Wright lived to. Paul
recounted once that he had visited with Olgivanna when she had just turned 91; they looked at each and laughed - where life had taken them now!
The Endless Search © 2004 - 2005 Ian C. MacFarlane