12 Jul Alys Bentley, Studio 61 Carnegie Hall – Ouspensky, Gurdjieff and Orage – Neville Goddard Research
Neville and Alys E. Bentley
In one of Neville Goddard Lectures: “His Eternal Play“, he mentions a success story of a friend of his Alice Bentley or for short Ali-Ben. Ali he says had a space in Carnegie Hall in New York which she rented out to people like Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. This is Alys E. Bentley (c.1869-1951) (typo in the transcription of the lecture)
From The New York Times, Tuesday, January 9, 1951:
“Miss Alys E. Bentley, a teacher of dancing and music in Washington and New York for more than fifty years, died yesterday at Malone, N. Y.. She was 82 years old.
From 1912 to 1938 she occupied the largest studio, 61, at Carnegie Hall, where she gave instruction in various aspects of rhythmics. She acted as teacher and consultant to many persons prominent in the arts, including Geraldine Farrar, Mary Ellis and Jerome Robbins, who received his first formal dancing instruction from her.
Born at Cateaugay, N. Y., Miss Bentley began her career in Washington, where she was director of public school music for twenty years. She introduced choral singing in the public schools there and published several music books, including a collection of songs that she wrote and set to music.
After leaving Carnegie Hall, Miss Bentley taught at the Edgewood School, Greenwich, Conn., until her retirement in 1949. She also had taught at her own summer camp on Chateaugay Lake at Merrill, N. Y.. Sherwood Anderson was among the pupils who came there for instruction each summer.”
From Neville’s “His Eternal Play”
“In New York City, many years ago, my friend, Alice Bentley—she’s now gone from this world—she was a darling soul. Ouspensky and Gurdjieff all used her studio at Carnegie Hall. And Ali was just one wonderful person. Her name was Alice Bentley; we called her Ali-Ben. Ali used to walk the streets of New York without shoes with this lovely shock of white hair, long flowing Indian robes, and she was quite the character. But, people like Ouspensky and Gurdjieff and all of them arrived, when they came here, it was Ali’s studio that they all used. And so one day, so this lady told me—she ran all the restaurants in the Wellington Hotel—and Ali told me the next day, after the event, she said, “Know what happened to me last night, Neville?” I hadn’t the slightest idea. Well, she said, “You appeared bodily in the room and called this lady’s name”—who was the manager of all the restaurants, and she lived at the hotel. I appeared in her room, so she said, and I said to her, “Ali needs money, and she must have it right away. I want you to go downstairs right now and take all the money you have in your purse and empty it right into Ali’s lap.” Well, she said, I spoke so convincingly that when I disappeared she thought this was some divine message; she went right downstairs to Ali, took all the money in her purse, and emptied it in Ali’s lap. Ali thanked her profusely for the most generous gift. Ali did need the money…she owed rent. But I, with my conceptual mind, restrained as I am, I never would have done that. Never would I have even suggested that she help Ali. That’s not my province in this world. But when truth begins to spring within man, unmodified by the conceptual mind, he can play any part. And so, when God sends his messenger into the world, it is unmodified by any conceptual mind, so he can be the perfect messenger to execute anything in this world. And so the God within her, praying for some light, some succor, something, and then all of a sudden she conjures one she trusts, and I became her messenger. And the suspended conceptual mind, I could stand boldly in the presence of a lady I didn’t know very well, the wee hours of the morning, and tell her that she has to go right downstairs and empty the contents of her purse into Ali’s lap. And so, that’s how this wonderful world works.
This is a play. So you don’t have to play the evil part. You don’t have to play the good part. But you are ushered in unwillingly into this fabulous world of experience that you may know good and evil, and then rise above it all into a far more noble state; and that state I call Imagination. I call it the liberating state, because when man arrives at that point he is Christ Jesus. So the end of the play is Christ Jesus. The end is when the name is on your forehead. And what name is placed upon the forehead? You’re told, “his name”…speaking now of the one who went through the battle, all the battles, and the Father’s name. Well, the Father’s name is I AM, and he who went through the battle is Jesus. So on your forehead is “I AM Jesus.” Who else do you think played it? Through the entire journey only God is playing all the parts. So “God only acts and is in all existing beings or men.”
Alys Bentley and “The Dance of the Mind”
In Hiie Saumaa (2016) Alys Bentley’s Dance Impulse, Embodied Learning, and the Dancing Mind, Dance Chronicle, 39:3, 249-278, DOI: 10.1080/01472526.2016.1228352
“Bentley also started offering music and dance lessons at Studio 61 in Carnegie Hall, where she taught from 1912 to 1938. Studio 61 was, for many years, the largest dance rehearsal space in New York City; Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and Mikhail Mordkin worked there. Ethel Peyser, in her 1936 account of Carnegie Hall, noted that Bentley viewed her dance studio as a “soul laboratory” to develop the mind, body, and soul through dance. Peyser commented, “In her work she has stressed the value of sandals, life, relaxation, and even a vegetarian diet!”18 Peyser quoted Bentley praising the venue: “I feel there is something deﬁnitely valuable in the traditions of this place, which makes our work easier here, and in the vibrations which sustain us. In short, New York means Carnegie Hall to me.”
At Carnegie Hall, Bentley had several students who later became famous in the realms of dance, music, performance, and education. Their writings reveal clues to Bentley’s teaching methods. In her autobiography, actor and singer Mary Ellis (1897–2003) described Bentley as “a remarkable woman with a noble Roman face and a short mane of grey hair”;her “ringing voice …could raise the roof,” and she possessed “a kind of robust earthiness.” In her view, Bentley had “developed an amazing combination of yoga, eurhythmics, dancing exercises, vegetarianism, and relaxation.” Bentley taught her students to “cook and eat in a way that has become commonplace today. She called it all ‘fundamentalism.’” Ellis became a “demonstration pupil” in Bentley’s summer school and Bentley helped her through many “stumbling-blocks of extreme shyness.” Volunteering at hospitals during World War II, Ellis instructed a small group of children, evacuated from war-torn areas, and gave ﬁtness exercises to the staff, modeling them on Bentley’s classes. Her lessons from Bentley in her youth “became a godsend to tired nurses.”
In 1933, Bentley published The Dance of the Mind, a work which has eluded critical attention aside from brief references.86 Walter Rideout refers to “Bentley’s curious pamphlet” in his footnotes; Janice Ross, too, calls it “a curious little book,” adding that it is “as much anticapitalist as pro a variety of health regimes,” and that it “has about it the simplistic ambiguity of a private ﬁtness regimen touted as a cure for a global malaise.” Aside from these comments, neither Rideout nor Ross delve into the book or provide more information about it.
These scholars’ lack of deeper engagement with the text and the absence of further critical attention to it might stem from this book’s experimental nature and playfulness. It is difﬁcult to even place The Dance of the Mind in one particular genre:it is part health pamphlet, part manifesto, and part instructional manual, each developing the central themes of health, money, and mental habits.
Above all, it is an artistic work, a work of experimental poetry that, in its form, explores the congruence of several art forms. The title, The Dance of the Mind, immediately signiﬁes the work’s concern with dance and movement. It poses the question: What is it like to sense the mind as movement, as dance? How would a reader imagine the mind as dancing? How does one capture a suggested dance movement of the mind in writing? The titles of the book’s seven sections, each featuring a long narrative poem or a set of instructions rendered as poetry, evoke musical moods, genres, or forms: “Phantasy,” “Prelude,” “Five Etudes,” “Scherzo,” “Agitato,” “Trio,” and “Technique.”
The book announces itself as a work of experimental poetry most immediately in its visual layout. The visually complex presentation of the work draws attention to the activity we engage in while reading: we move the eyes. From the very ﬁrst page, words, phrases, and lines appear as different shapes: as circles, squares, domes, and arrows.
Words are capitalized, syllables are repeated on multiple lines, lines ascend and descend, and letters are placed unevenly or look like falling raindrops. The different shapes make the reader question where to start reading: how does one read a text that is shaped into a square? The angular or swirling lines and shapes suggest movement, but they can also denote static, stable structures. For example, in “Trio,” the phrase “human adjustment” is placed on a vertical line, ﬂanked by the words “wealth” and “health” on the right and left (p. 19).
The form of the poem, placed in the center of the page, mimics the content, that of alignment. Throughout this work, readers’ eyes must ﬁnd new ways of moving on the space of the page—in lines, in circles, in jagged jumps—and as a result, to construct different meanings behind the words. This jostling movement for the eyes constitutes one way to experience “the dance of the mind.”
On the surface, The Dance of the Mind has a didactic component in that it advocates certain points of view. For example, the work repeats what sound like maxims: “Wealth consciousness produces more wealth. Health conscious-ness produces more health. It is the Secret. It is the Law” (p. 32)
The writer’s perspective gives the reader a moral lens through which to interpret the ﬁrst poem in the book (pp. 3–11), which is about a man who lectures on ﬁnancial abundance gained through prayer and advises his audience to kneel and ask for more. These suggestions are explicitly negated in the following poem, “Prelude,” in which the speaker addresses the reader: “You do not need to fall on your knees / You do not need to implore God” (p. 12). The writer, constantly addressing the reader, does not appear neutral, but rather seems to promote particular ways of seeing the world, drawing upon the Christian tradition as well as Eastern religions, apparent in the poem “Meditation of the Buddha” (p. 23)
However, a number of the sections ask the reader to act, try out, and experience by means of instructions presented in the poems. As I will show, most of the book highlights the experiential, rather than the didactic, intent of the poems. The outcomes of the instructions can be different for each reader. Through what I refer to as “experiential sections,” Bentley developed a particular trait in her poetry: she used poetry to enact the notion of practice as a repeated exercise. The idea of poetry as enacting a practice, a reliance on formal experimentation, and playfulness with language bring Bentley’s work in conversation with that of H. D. [Hilda Doolittle], Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, and Langston Hughes, among other modernist authors. The works of many modernist writers reﬂected a wider interest in what poetry can do as a written word and as a spoken word in recitation and elocution.
Bentley’s section titled “Five Etudes” features a set of instructions on how to practice ﬁve well-known Christian dictums: “love one another,” “love thy neighbour as yourself,” “agree with your adversaries quickly,” “judge not that ye be not judged,” and “turn the other cheek” (p. 13). Next to “turn the other cheek,” the reader ﬁnds: “Practice this very slowly at ﬁrst / Increase the tempo / For velocity /For dramatic occasions / Intuitive climaxes / Practice this many hours” (p. 13).
Instructions for moods, mindset, and time of the day are included: “practice this tenderly,” “practice this daily in the early dawn,” “accent all the weak passages /with understanding / with imagination / with humor / with kindness” (p. 13). The instructions echo the title, “Five Etudes,” in that they add nuance to the original material, similar to adding variations in tempo and mood when practic-ing musical material.
The section titled “Scherzo” is experiential in that it asks readers to actively explore their values through self-reﬂection. This poem, extending over several pages, unfolds as a series of inquiries, such as, “Is there any state of existence known as Health? Do you know anything about it? Do you believe people have it naturally? … Can we buy it? Save it? Steal it? … Will an operation help? Christian Science? Psycho-Analysis? Battle Creek? Coue? Nature Cure? … Is it associated with money? Salary? Paying rent?” (p. 14). Here, Bentley shows her awareness of the various health movements of the time. Borrowing the playful mood of the title, the poem poses surprising juxtapositions, such as, “Has it anything to do with what you eat? Drink? Do not drink? Think? Do not think? … Is there a certain amount of it in the world? Do you know anyone who has had it for a lifetime?” (p. 14). Some questions—”Can we ﬁnd anything about it in this country?” or “Has education helped to ﬁnd it?” (p. 15)—also bear politically and culturally critical overtones. Other questions appear tongue-in-cheek, while some provoke deeper reﬂections: “Do you have as much health as you want?” “Are you grateful that you are not in the hospital?” (p. 15). As a result of pondering these inquiries, one’s understanding of health, and of one’s beliefs and assumptions, can become heightened and more complex.
The poem “Technique” aims at raising readers’ awareness of how they speak and use language. Readers are asked to have one-minute conversations or write a letter to a friend without using “I,” “I am,” “I am not,” “I think,” “I do not think,” “I feel,” “I understand,” “I do not understand,” or “my life,” “my art,” “my work,” “my success,” and “my failure,” among others (pp. 24–27). These instructions are followed by commands or invitations to notice whether and how changing one’s linguistic habits around “I” and “my” affects the individual’s body and mind as well as interactions with others: “Observe how this will help you. Observe how this affects others” (p. 24); “Observe the change in your feeling. Observe the change in people” (p. 29); and “Observe the change in your body. Observe the change in your Mind” (p. 30). This poem thus asks readers not only to experiment with new linguistic usages, but also to be mindful of their own physical and mental states and their interlocutors’ responses while executing these new linguistic behaviors. Bentley was here training the reader to be both inwardly and outwardly aware, attentive to one’s own and other people’s responses and behavior in acts of communication.
“Technique” resembles meditative or auto-suggestive practices that use language in an attempt to heal the mind and body. The reader is asked to repeat the phrases of “they/he/she are all right” about others: someone who is far away or very near (p. 29) (see Figure 8). To contemporary readers this might sound like a loving-kindness meditation that sends compassion to people near and far, people one loves, and to those with whom one struggles. Readers need to repeat “they are all right” or “it is all right,” moving sequentially through the body: the head, heart, eyes, throat, nose, ears, blood, nerves, circulations, back, spine, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, feet, bowels, lungs, liver, kidneys, skin, glands, hair, and teeth (p. 30). The list moves from individual body parts to mental phenomena—the brain, mind, and thinking. Readers should send these parts of the body and mind a message that they are “all right” (p. 30). This sequential process suggests the body scanning practices found in many somatic and contemplative techniques. Here, readers are supposed not merely to observe the body, but also to try to heal it by sending their awareness, with a curative intent, to different body parts.
Why did Bentley cast these experiential exercises of mental and physical habits and practices of awareness in the form of poetry? A number of choreographers, dancers, and performance artists, particularly in the wake of experimental and improvisational dance forms in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, turned to the written word in search of artful linguistic ways to express sensory, intellectual, or spiritual experiences of movement and embodiment. For example, Simone Forti’s Handbook in Motion included essays and poetic writing, descriptions of scores and choreographed dances, and brief thought pieces similar to maxims, side by side with drawings, photographs, and images of handwritten text. Deborah Hay, in My Body, The Buddhist, playfully and imaginatively experimented with language, text, and image in her exploration of art, choreography, and philosophy of the body, drawing from Buddhism.91 Jackson Mac Low produced a series of poems used by Judson Church dancers to experiment with the possibility of per-forming incongruous actions.
However, it is rare in dance writing and in poetry to see a work that relies almost in its entirety on an artistic use of instructions, an explicit turn to “you,” rather than recounting the experiences of the “I,” the writer—the latter being much more common in experimental dance writing. As a rare example, Yoko Ono, in her col-lections Grapefruit and Acorn, made use of a range of possible writerly intentions and readerly responses to her instructional poetry. For example, “Clock Piece” in Grapefruit reads: “Steal all the clocks and watches / in the world. / Destroy them.” Under “Travel Piece,” in the same work, Ono says: “Make a key / Find a lock that ﬁts. If you ﬁnd it, burn the house / that is attached to it.” It is clear that these instructions are not to be followed but only exercised in imagination. “Drill a small, almost invisible, hole / in the center of the canvas and see / the room through it” is an example of instructions that could in essence be followed; it can serve as a creative prompt. In Acorn, however, readers ﬁnd many poems that invite participation: “Touch the earth directly with your bare feet. / Let the Earth energy circulate / from your feet to your head / and back again.”
The examples quoted above point to the question inherent in instructional poetry: Are these commands and invitations meant to be followed? Indeed, can they be followed? The Dance of the Mind is built upon an inherent tension: are readers going to submit to the speaker’s instructions? The experiential nature of Bentley’s poems discussed above is the work’s potential: these instructions might or might not be carried out. It seems that Bentley’sinten-tion, unlike Ono’s, was that the reader should execute rather than only imagine her suggestions. However, by casting her work in a poetic form, Bentley gave the reader the license to not follow her commands. Instructions in how-to books or health manuals imply that they are there to be followed: readers expect to see practical advice and suggestions in these genres. One turns to a work of poetry, however, primarily to have an aesthetic experience. Perhaps one reason why Bentley used poetry is that it offered her a more artistic way to present her ideas: the book offers imaginative, creative ways for thinking about health, awareness, technique, and practice. Her ideas on health, cast in an artistic form, are not prescriptive or simply dogmatic; The Dance of the Mind creates a space for serious reﬂection and greater awareness of mental and physical habits in a form that is unusual and whimsical. Some of the text seems humorous and ironic, rather than didactic, and its methods are playful, much like the games Bentley used with children.
Alys Bentley’s The Dance of the Mind (New York: Shemin Printing Corporation, 1933)
Neville’s Friend Alys Bentley, Studio 61 Carnegie Hall – Ouspensky, Gurdjieff and Orage
On hearing of Orage’s death, Gurdjieff issued the following invitation: November 6, 1934 I have just now learned of the death of Mr. Orage, who was for many years your guide and teacher and my inner world essence friend. I invite you to attend a meeting, to pay homage to him and to speak in his memory, on Friday evening, November 9th, at 9 o’clock, in Miss Bentley’s studio in Carnegie Hall, at which time, likewise, will be played some of his favorite music and some of those pieces dedicated to him which were composed by me while he was at the Prieuré.
Also Gurdjieff and Orage: Brothers in Elysium By Paul Beekman Taylor
Hiie Saumaa (2016) Alys Bentley’s Dance Impulse, Embodied Learning, and the Dancing Mind, Dance Chronicle, 39:3, 249-278, DOI: 10.1080/01472526.2016.1228352