1947–1960 Dr F.C. Roles: New Beginnings

 
Francis Roles

Francis Roles

After Ouspensky’s death and according to his advice, some of his close associates contacted Madame Ouspensky to ask for her help with the task of ‘reconstruction’.  In April 1948, Francis Roles and two others went to see her at Mendham, but their questions remained unanswered. Instead, she advised them to join Gurdjieff’s organisation in Paris. Some did take her advice, but for Dr Roles and many of his friends this was an impossibility. It went against ‘Ouspensky’s rules’.  As early as 1923, Ouspensky had decided he ‘could not remain connected’ with Gurdjieff, and ‘very firmly decided to stand apart’. See more here.

Rodney Collin-Smith

Rodney Collin-Smith

Rodney Collin-Smith left Lyne Place for London to focus on writing. In June 1948 he departed for Mexico with a small group of followers where he built up a new organisation and a publishing imprint in Spanish-speaking Central and South America. For a time, he and Dr Roles collaborated on the task of reconstruction and there were reciprocal visits. Together, they wrote Last Remembrances of a Magician, their account of Ouspensky’s last days at Lyne, which remains unpublished. After Rodney’s death in 1956 the Mexican and London schools maintained contact, as they do to this day.

By general consent, Dr Roles assumed leadership of the remaining group of Ouspensky’s students in London. Lyne Place was sold and Dr Roles and his family moved to Waterton House, on the river Thames in Twickenham. Colet House passed to Madame Ouspensky and was used by Gurdjieff groups until 1954 when it was leased to the Royal Ballet.

Meetings of the Ouspensky groups were held at Dr Roles’s consulting rooms at 62 Wimpole Street and in private houses. They set about the task they had been given by Mr Ouspensky just before he died:

Begin with a few people. … People only must know to some extent what they want and must have courage. Courage to experiment. Get material from people. From this material, real facts, real questions, we begin to reconstruct. … Something changed for you. You have got something. … System as I learnt it was Gurdjieff’s. But what you can understand in your own experience is yours. No-one can take it from you. From this you can reconstruct.

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By 1951, numbers had grown to nearly 100 and a more formal structure was needed. In March 1951 Dr Roles set up ‘The Society for the Study of Normal Psychology’ (commonly known as ‘The Study Society’), which was registered as a Friendly Society. The following year, the Society rented 16a Marylebone Mews for meetings and lectures.

When the Royal Ballet was about to leave Colet House in 1957, the director, Ninette de Valois, tipped off her husband Dr Arthur Connell, a senior Ouspensky pupil and schoolboy friend of Francis Roles so that the Society was able to raise a subscription to purchase the freehold. By that time numbers had grown to almost 300. The membership included artists, musicians, actors and dancers. Ouspensky advocated the role that art can play in man’s evolution:

‘Art is based on emotional understanding, on the feeling of the Unknown which lies behind the visible and the tangible, and on creative power, the power, that is, to reconstruct in visible or audible forms the artist’s sensations, feelings, visions and moods, and especially a certain fugitive sensation, which is in fact the feeling of the harmonious interconnection and oneness of everything and the feeling of the “soul” of things and phenomena. Like science and philosophy, art is a definite way of knowledge. The artist, in creating, learns much that he did not know before.’
A New Model of the Universe, chapter 1..

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Accordingly, Dr Roles encouraged the use of members’ artistic talents in a wide range of performances, events and activities. The Society also included scientists and doctors; keeping abreast of developments in science, neuroscience and psychology was a key part of the approach to reconstruction.

Although much was done in developing System ideas and the Society rapidly grew to become a unique centre of inspiration and insight attracting a wide range of people from all walks of life, the main aim always remained of finding a simple and natural method of Self-remembering — and through that the source of the System. For thirteen years a great many possibilities and claims were thoroughly investigated and experimented with, but nothing convincingly authentic was discovered.

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