David Kherdian & Nonny Hogrogian Interview
Stopinder, a Gurdjieff Journal for Our Time, is a printed magazine that focuses around G. I. Gurdjieff and his teachings. The editor is David Kherdian. His wife Nonny Hogrogian is the Art Director. Nonny has illustrated scores of books and written some herself, while David has also written scores of books, some illustrated by Nonny. They joined the Gurdjieff Work together and were students of Mrs Staveley for nine years at the Two Rivers Farm, a Gurdjieff community in Oregon. During this time their project was the Two Rivers Press, which became established as a publisher of Work related books. In the Gurdjieff context Nonny's recent book 'The Tiger of Turkestan' tells the story of Gurdjieff to children of all ages with illustrations of the little tiger, Gurdjieff, who grows up to be a teacher of dancing. David is known for 'On a Spaceship with Beelzebub' which tells of their Work from when they got to know of the Work, and of their time at the Two Rivers Farm. David has recently published the updated version of his Work poems called 'Seeds of Light: Poems from a Gurdjieff Community, which is a corollary to his Spaceship, but written from a different sensibility, that of the poet.
GIG: I would like to ask you to tell the main details of your Work after you went away from the Farm.
David: I continued with my writing classes (a method for teaching the Work that I devised and divulged in 'On a Spaceship with Beelzebub'), giving classes at Claymont, Cornerstone in northern California, and to our first group in Morris, NY, where we began another small press.
Our next move was to Charlottesville, VA, where I conducted a writing class consisting of (with two exceptions) non-Work people, and the results were very positive, proving to me the efficacy of the Work, even when practiced on people who had no apparent interest in the ideas.
We later moved to California to work with a peer group, which did not pan out (the usual chiefs outnumbering the Indians). From this and another peer group that reformed (in both senses of the word) we learned that the age of teacher-groups was passe but that the knowledge and being necessary to form peer groups 'from a growing need and vision for community' was going to take more time and experimentation than we had counted on. Our "mistakes" became our school, and we began to see that our mistakes were but steps on the Way.
After that, for a short period of time, we studied with a Buddhist teacher from Thailand, and though we found we couldn't switch teachings, I did, at the suggestion of my publisher, write a narrative life of the Buddha (as yet unpublished).
GIG: In 'On a Spaceship' you tell about the writing classes at The Farm and how it took you five years to get them going. You also describe some of the methods you used, like writing about an experience in early life, so to say the first taste of ice cream. This could eventually help in getting through even to the writer's chief feature. Could you tell me more about this process?
David: The writing classes were devised to work directly on essence, and this was achieved when the instructions for writing were followed exactly as given. Working at the writing in this way one goes directly into the subconscious to unravel impressions that left their deposit but not their meaning, which require an adult mind, suffering, and a resolve to know the truth. Many patterns in our life are established early, without our knowledge or understanding, and we must see for ourselves how they took place, their hold on us now, and this will in turn make known to us the nature of our enslavement. In time each person in the class was given specific writing assignments as I became better acquainted with their "problems." It is very difficult to do this on one's own, without guidance and an outside eye. My own writing is largely autobiographical, and I began by wanting to understand my first twelve years, knowing that I would never be free (or even adult) if I could not accomplish this. What I learned in 20 years of hard work, I could help others to accomplish in two years or less.
GIG: Nonny, apart form your illustrations and writing, you had your own work also in the bookmaking, such as bookbinding and marbling. Did you get involved in teaching the writing classes?
Nonny: I took the writing class for two years when I was at The Farm in Aurora, Oregon. Since then, I do participate and support David with his
GIG: How and when was the idea of producing Stopinder born and when did you come out with the first issue?
David: We realized first of all that the Work was in transition, that nothing of substance was emerging from the existing groups we knew of, in particular the Foundation, and that we were essentially lost. We had to believe there were others like us, devoted and dedicated to the Work, who had moved on and were experimenting on their own, and that if this energy were harnessed a real community could be formed. Stopinder could be the focal point of such a movement. I was as certain of my vision as I was uncertain of the outcome. We are now in our third year and it is only with the latest (10th issue), that was built around our first Stopinder Conference of writer-subscribers, that I feel the fullfilment of that vision has taken its first real step.
GIG: Stopinder is defined in Beelzebub as 'gravity center of the fundamental common-cosmic sacred Heptaparaparshinokh'. Do you attach a special meaning to the name?
Nonny: Yes! Certainly we would not use the name lightly. We struggled with several names that did not seem to fit. We began work on the journal because we were between stools. We had a need to be in touch with other pupils of the Gurdjieff teaching, and we also felt that the Work needed to take a new step forward, now that most of those who studied directly with Gurdjieff and became our teachers had passed on.
We are the third generation. Our "grandfather" is gone, his pupils are gone, and it is now up to us. But in order to progress, we need to be able to allow shocks to come in and help us to move forward. This is the reason for the name Stopinder. One of our contributors recently suggested that we should call it The 5th Stopinder.
GIG: Was the purpose of Stopinder as a journal 'that encourages people to turn inward' and 'to re-examinine what their study has brought them to' clear to you when you began editing it?
David & Nonny: Yes, in the sense that we let potential contributors know that we were not interested in expository writing, but rather personal experiences personally experienced (Jane Heap's formulation) and also personal experiments and studies (in particular of the Tales). This also meant that we had to solicit material and to provide ideas for writers bearing in mind that few of our contributors were, or had ever been, writers. So it has been an interesting challenge for everyone.
GIG: When you started to find out what you would be printing at The Farm you found out that there were not going to be any contributions from the Foundations. My short experience of editing GIG has shown that there is no official interest in initiatives like GIG. Private interest exists and interest in reading does too. If this is also true of Stopinder can you see a way of getting through to the large number of people who could benefit of the 'exchanges within' as two way contributions?
David: It's a slow, arduous process. We have found that established Work groups do not accept or support what we are doing, with the exception of a few individuals inside those groups. Perhaps it will change, perhaps it will not. Our interest is in reaching those who care about moving forward, unafraid of making mistakes, and who are open to other people's experiences and experiments. We feel certain that it was Gurdjieff's intention not to codify the Work.
In the end, one serves the truth as one understands it.
If what we are doing is true, and if we can continue to grow from the shocks that come into us, we can trust that the results will be positive, and that we will have fulfilled our obligations as seen by us and actualized by us, for ourselves and for the good of the all.