Alfred Richard Orage

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Alfred R. Orage
Born (1873-01-22)22 January 1873
Dacre, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died 6 November 1934(1934-11-06) (aged 61)
London, England
Nationality English
Occupation teacher, lecturer, writer, editor, publisher
Known for Editor of The New Age
Religion Nonconformist
Spouse(s) Jean Walker (first spouse maiden name), Jessie Richards Dwight (second and last spouse maiden name)
Children Richard and Ann
Parents William Orage, Sarah Anne McGuire (mother's maiden name)
Relatives David, Marcus, Linnet, Carolyn, Piers, Toby and Peregrine (grandchildren)

Alfred Richard Orage (22 January 1873 – 6 November 1934) was a British intellectual, now best known for editing the magazine The New Age. While working as a schoolteacher in Leeds, he pursued various interests, including Plato, the Independent Labour Party, and theosophy. In 1900 Orage met Holbrook Jackson and three years later they co-founded the Leeds Arts Club, which became a centre of modernist culture in pre-World War I Britain. In 1905, Orage resigned his teaching position and moved to London. There, in 1907, he bought and edited the English weekly The New Age, at first with Holbrook Jackson, and became an influential figure in socialist politics and modernist culture, especially at the height of the magazine's fame before the First World War.[1]

In 1924 Orage sold The New Age and went to France to work with George Gurdjieff, the spiritual teacher P. D. Ouspensky had recommended to him. After spending some time of preliminary training in the Gurdjieff System, Orage was sent to America by Gurdjieff himself to raise funds and lecture on the new system of self-development which emphasized the harmonious work of intellectual, emotional and moving functions. Orage also worked with Gurdjieff in translating the first version of Gurdjieff's All and Everything as well as Meetings With Remarkable Men from Russian to English; however, neither book was ever published in their lifetime.

In 1927 his first wife, Jean, granted him a divorce and in September he married Jessie Richards Dwight (1901–1985), the co-owner of the Sunwise Turn bookshop where Orage first lectured on the Gurdjieff System. Orage and Jessie had two children, a boy and a girl: Richard and Ann. While in New York, Orage and Jessie often catered to celebrities such as Paul Robeson fresh from his London Tour. In 1930, Orage returned to England and in 1931 he published the New English Weekly, remaining in London until his death on 6 November 1934.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born James Alfred Orage in Dacre, near Harrogate, in the West Riding of Yorkshire into a nonconformist religious family, he was generally known as Dickie and he dropped the name James altogether and adopted the middle name Richard. He became a schoolteacher in a Leeds Board elementary school at the age of twenty one and helped to found the Leeds branch of the Independent Labour Party in 1894, writing a weekly literary column for the Labour Leader, from 1895 to 1897. He brought a philosophical outlook to the paper, including in particular the thought of Plato and Edward Carpenter. All in all, Orage devoted seven years of study to Plato, from 1893 to 1900; he also devoted seven years of his life to the study of Nietzsche's philosophy, from 1900 to 1907; from 1907 to 1914 he became a student of the Mahabharata.[3]

By the late 1890s, Orage was disillusioned with conventional socialism and turned for a while to theosophy. In 1900, he met Holbrook Jackson in a Leeds bookshop, and lent him a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita. In return, Jackson lent him Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, which led him to study Nietzsche's work in depth. In 1903, Orage, Jackson and the architect Arthur J. Penty helped to found the lively and successful Leeds Arts Club, with the intention of promoting the work of radical thinkers including G. B. Shaw whom Orage had met in 1898, Henrik Ibsen, and Nietzsche. During this period he returned to socialist platforms but by 1906, he was determined to combine Carpenter's socialism with Nietzsche and theosophy. Concentrating on this and in the presence of Beatrice Hastings was too much for Jean, the wife of his first marriage, the same wife who had shared in his own theosophic and aesthetic interests of his early activities in the Leeds Arts Club, who did not grant him a divorce but went to live instead with Holbrook Jackson and worked the rest of her life as a skilled craftswoman in the tradition of William Morris. In 1906, Beatrice Hastings whose real name was Emily Alice Haigh hailing from Port Elizabeth, a green-eyed beauty of twenty-six with literary ambitions, could be seen with Orage and would eventually become a regular contributor to the New Age. By 1907, it became an intimate relationship and as Beatrice Hastings herself would later confess, ″Aphrodite amused herself at our expense.″[4]

Orage explored his new ideas in several books. He saw Nietzsche's Übermensch as a metaphor for the "higher state of consciousness" sought by mystics and attempted to define a route to this, insisting this must involve a rejection of civilisation and conventional morality. Instead, he moved through a celebration of Dionysus to declare he was in favour not of an ordered socialism but of an anarchic movement.[5]

In a one-year period, from 1906 to 1907, he published three books, Consciousness: Animal, Human and Superhuman based on his experience with Theosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche: the Dionysian Spirit of the Age and Nietzsche in Outline and Aphorism. His rational critique of Theosophy evoked an editorial rebuttal from The Theosophical Review and in 1907, he terminated his association with the Society. The two books on Nietzsche were the first to be published in England as a systematic introduction to Nietzschean thought.[6]

Editor in London[edit]

In 1906, he resigned his teaching post and moved to London, following Arthur Penty, another Leeds Art Club friend. Orage attempted to form a league for the restoration of a guild system, much as described by William Morris.

The failure of this project spurred him in 1907, supported by George Bernard Shaw, to buy the weekly magazine The New Age, in partnership with Holbrook Jackson. He quite soon turned it into his conception of a forum for politics, literature and the arts. Although many contributors were Fabians, he to some extent distanced himself from their politics, and a wide range of political viewpoints were represented. The magazine launched an attack on parliamentary politics, while Orage argued the need for utopianism. He also attacked the trade union leadership, while offering some support to syndicalism, and tried to combine this with the guild system. Combining these two viewpoints resulted in Guild socialism, a political philosophy he began to argue for from about 1910.

Between 1908 and 1914 The New Age was undoubtedly the premier little magazine in the UK. It was instrumental in pioneering the British avant-garde, from vorticism to imagism. Some of its contributors at this time included T.E. Hulme, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, Herbert Read and many others. Apart from his undoubted genius as an editor, it might be said that Orage's real talent was as a conversationalist and a ″bringer together″ of people. The modernists of London were scattered between 1905 and 1910. Between 1910 and 1914, largely thanks to Orage, a sense of a genuine ″movement″ was created. In other words, Orage successfully ran a forum which at least assumed (and perhaps created) a commonality between the seemingly unfathomable philosophies and artistic practices then being created.[7]

Orage's politics[edit]

Orage declared himself a socialist, and followed Georges Sorel in arguing that trade unions should pursue an increasingly aggressive policy as regards issues such as wage deals and working conditions. He approved of the increasing militancy of the unions in the pre-war era, and seems to have shared Sorel's belief in the necessity of a Trade Union-led General Strike, leading to a re-evolutionary situation.[8] However, for Orage, economic power precedes political power and political reform is useless without economic reform.[9]

In the early issues of The New Age, Orage supported the women's suffrage movement, but became increasingly hostile as the Women's Social and Political Union became more prominent and more militant. Pro-suffragette articles were not published after 1910, but heated debate on this subject took place in the correspondence column.

During World War I, Orage defended the interests of the working class. On 6 August 1914, Orage wrote in Notes of the Week of The New Age: ″We believe that England is necessary to Socialism, as Socialism is necessary to the world.″ In 1917, in the published work Political Ideals, Bertrand Russell mentions for the first time Orage Guild Socialism.[10] On 14 November 1918, Orage wrote of the coming Treaty of Versailles: "... The next world-war, if unhappily there should be another, will in all probability be contained within the clauses and conditions attaching to the present peace settlement." By the end of the war, Orage was convinced the hardships of the working class were the result of the monetary policies of banking and government. If Great Britain could remove the pound from the gold standard during the war and reestablish the gold standard after the war, then the gold standard is not as necessary as the oligarchic monetary few would want the proletariat many to believe. On 15 July 1920, Orage wrote: ″We should be the first to admit that the subject of Money is difficult to understand. It is 'intended' to be, by the minute oligarchy that governs the world by means of it."[11]

After the First World War, he was influenced by C. H. Douglas and became a supporter of Social credit. On 2 January 1919, Orage published the first article by C. H. Douglas to appear in The New Age: ″A Mechanical View of Economics″.[12]

With Gurdjieff[edit]

In 1914 Orage met with P. D. Ouspensky, whose ideas left a lasting impression. When Ouspensky moved to London in 1921, Orage began attending his lectures on "Fragments of an unknown teaching", the subject of which would later be published as In Search of the Miraculous. From this point on Orage became less and less interested in literature and art, instead focusing his attention in the greater part of the 1920s on the problems of the theory and practice of mysticism without having to run away from the world. His correspondence with Harry Houdini on these subjects moved him to explore ideas of the afterlife. He returned to the idea that there were absolute truths and felt these were embodied in the Mahabharata.

In February 1922, Ouspensky introduced Orage to G. I. Gurdjieff. Selling the New Age, he moved to Paris to study at the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. In 1924 Orage was appointed by Gurdjieff to lead study groups in America. He taught the Gurdjieff System in America for seven years. Gurdjieff arrived in New York from France on 13 November 1930, and after a few years of teaching in New York, Orage was deposed by Gurdjieff and his groups were formally disbanded because Gurdjieff believed that they had been incorrectly taught and they were working under the misconception that self-observation could be practiced in the absence of self-remembering or in the presence of negative emotions. Members were allowed to continue study with Gurdjieff after taking an oath not to communicate with Orage (ironically Orage himself also signed the oath). Upon hearing that Orage had also signed, Gurdjieff wept. Gurdjieff had once considered Orage as a friend and brother and thought of Jessie as a bad choice by Orage for a mate. Orage was a chain smoker and Jessie was a heavy drinker.[13]

Orage, Ouspensky, and C. Daly King emphasized certain aspects of the Gurdjieff System while ignoring others. According to Gurdjieff himself, Orage emphasized self-observation. In Harlem, New York City, Jean Toomer, one of Orage's students at Greenwich Village and part and parcel of the Harlem Renaissance, was using Gurdjieff's work to confront the problem of racism.[14]

The Orages sailed back to New York from England on the S.S. Washington on 29 December 1930 and arrived at 9:30 AM on Thursday, 8 January 1931. The next day, while staying at the Irving Hotel, Orage wrote a letter to Gurdjieff unveiling a plan for the publication of All and Everything before the end of the year and promising a substantial amount of money.[15]

At lunch, on 21 February 1931, in New York City, Achmed Abdulla, a.k.a. Nadir Kahn, confided to the Orages that he had met Gurdjieff in Tibet and there Gurdjieff was a.k.a. Lama Dordjieff, a Tsarist agent and tutor to the Dalai Lama.[16]

After the separation with Gurdjieff, Orage returned to England with Jessie. In the privately published Third Series of writings, Gurdjieff wrote of Orage and his wife Jessie, ″his romance had ended in his marrying the saleswoman of 'Sunwise Turn,' a young American pampered out of all proportion to her position...″[17]

Last years[edit]

In May 1930, Orage returned to England and became seriously involved with political issues and was paramount in re-sparking interest in the Social Credit Movement. He was temporarily back in New York on 8 January 1931 to meet Gurdjieff's new demands. As Orage would confess to his wife, he would not be teaching the Gurdjieff System to any group past the end of the Spring. Orage was on the pier on 13 March 1931 to bid Gurdjieff farewell on his way back to France; the Orages sailed back to England on 3 July of the same year. Back in England, Orage founded a new journal, The New English Weekly, in April 1932. By the beginning of 1933, The New English Weekly was an established success with the critics but the economic effects of the Great Depression made it difficult as a monetary venture; they were hard put for money. On 18 May 1933, Orage published Dylan Thomas first poem, And Death Shall Have No Dominion. On September 1933, Jessie gave birth to a daughter, Ann. On January 1934, Senator Bronson M. Cutting presented before the United States Senate Orage's Social Credit Plan as one of the tools of Roosevelt's economic policies; the news appeared in the 2 February issue of The New English Weekly. At the beginning of August 1934, Gurdjieff asked Orage to revise a new edition of The Herald of Coming Good. On 20 August, Orage wrote his last letter to Gurdjieff: "Dear Mr. Gurdjieff, I've found very little to revise..."[18]

Toward the end of his life, Orage was attacked by a severe pain below the heart, an ailment that had been diagnosed a couple of years back as simply functional and he did not again seek medical advice.

He was working on Social Credit and prepared a speech to be broadcast on "Property in Plenty". During the broadcast, he experienced an excruciating pain but continued the speech as if nothing were happening. After leaving the studio, he spent the evening with his wife and friends and made plans to see the doctor next day. On reaching home after midnight, he went to bed and died in his sleep.[19]

On 6 November 1934, Gurdjieff was in New York City where he received the telegram "...from London saying that Mr. Orage had died the same morning."[20] On hearing of Orage's death, Gurdjieff issued the following invitation: "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."[21] On 7 December 1934, in a letter to Ezra Pound, T. E. Lawrence expresses sadness at the death of A. R. Orage.[22] Orage's former students of the Gurdjieff System left the enneagram inscribed on his tombstone.


  • Friedrich Nietzsche, the Dionysian spirit of the age (1906)[23]
  • Nietzsche in Outline and Aphorism (1907)[24]
  • National Guilds: An inquiry into the wage system and the way out (1914) editor, articles from The New Age
  • An alphabet of economics (1918)
  • Readers and writers (1917–1921) (1922) as RHC[25]
  • Psychological Exercises and Essays (1930)
  • The Art of Reading (1930)
  • On Love. Freely Adapted form the Tibetan (Unicorn Press 1932)
  • Selected Essays and Critical Writings (1935) edited by Herbert Read and Denis Saurat
  • Political and Economic Writings. From 'The New English Weekly' 1932-34, with a preliminary section from 'The New Age 1912' (1936) edited by Montgomery Butchart, 'with the advice of Maurice Colbourne, T. S. Eliot, Philip Mairet, Will Dyson and others'
  • Essays and Aphorisms (1954)
  • The Active Mind - Adventures in Awareness (1954)
  • Orage as Critic (1974) edited by Wallace Martin
  • Consciousness: Animal, Human & Superman (1978)
  • A. R. Orage's Commentaries on Gurdjieff's All and Everything, edited by C. S. Nott


  1. ^ Mairet, Philip (1966). A. R. Orage. University Books Inc. p. 63. "No better 'argumentative' English was ever written." 
  2. ^ Mairet, Philip (1966). A. R. Orage. University Books. p. 121. "The man who, as Bernard Shaw said, was the most brilliant editor..." 
  3. ^ The purchase of The New Age p. 17
  4. ^ Carswell, John (1978). Lives and Letters. New Directions Publishing. pp. 28–31. ISBN 0-8112-0681-5. "...his little book introducing the philosophy of Nietzche... appeared in 1906..." 
  5. ^ Luckhurst, Roger (2002). The invention of telepathy (1870-1901). Oxford University Press. p. 257. ISBN 0-19-924962-8. "...the main problem of the mystics of all ages has been the problem of how to develop the superconsciousness, of how to become supermen." 
  6. ^ Orage, A. R. (1975). Wallace Martin, ed. Orage as critic. Routledge. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-7100-7982-6. "...Orage did not lack activities to engage his intellectual interests." 
  7. ^ Rooms in the Darwin Hotel pp. 98-127
  8. ^ Ferrall, Charles (2001). Modernist writing and reactionary politics. Cambridge University Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-521-79345-9. "Thus Orage remembered that..." 
  9. ^ cite book |last=Redman |first=Tim |title=Ezra Pound and Italian fascism |page=49 |
  10. ^ Ironside, Philip (1996). The social and political thought of Bertrand Russell. Cambridge University Press. p. 104. ISBN 0-521-47383-7. 
  11. ^ Redman, Tim (1991). Ezra Pound and Italian fascism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 24, 33, 45–47. ISBN 0-521-37305-0. 
  12. ^ Hutchinson, Frances; Burkitt, Brian (1997). The political economy of social credit and guild socialism. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-14709-3. "Douglas's birth... and his meeting with Orage in 1918 remain the subject of mystery and speculation..." 
  13. ^ Gurdjieff, George (1978). Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am' (2nd private ed.). New York: Triangle Editions, Inc. p. 67. LCCN 75-15225. "On the first evening of my arrival in New York..." 
  14. ^ Woodson, Jon (1999). To make a new race. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 38–41. ISBN 1-57806-131-8. "Jean Toomer...was encouraged by Orage to undertake groups of his own." 
  15. ^ Taylor, Paul Beekman (2001). Gurdjieff and Orage. Weiser. p. 173. ISBN 1-57863-128-9. "Dear and kind author of The Tales of Beelzebub..." 
  16. ^ Taylor, Paul Beekman (2001). Gurdjieff and Orage. Weiser. p. 178. ISBN 1-57863-128-9. "On St. Valentine's day ...bootleg whisky Gurdjieff had offered them in honor of the Saint of Love." 
  17. ^ Gurdjieff, George (1978). Life is real only then when I am (2nd Private ed.). New York: Triangle Editions Inc. p. 95. LCCN 75-15225. "...Mr. Orage ... realizing the necessity and at the same time all the difficulties of getting means on the one hand for sending money to me, and on the other hand for meeting the excessive expenditures of his new family life..." 
  18. ^ Taylor, Paul Beekman (2001). Gurdjieff and Orage. Weiser. pp. 179–194. ISBN 1-57863-128-9. "There has been a great fight here over the question of Orage. Now I understand Orage has returned to the fold." 
  19. ^ Philip Mairet A. R. Orage, A Memoir, pp. 118-120, University Books, 1966 ASIN: B000Q0VV8E; 1st ed. 1936
  20. ^ G. I. Gurdjieff Life is real only then, when 'I am' , p. 152, E. P. Dutton, 1978 ASIN: B000VAZW3Y; 1st ed. Paris 1976
  21. ^ A. R. Orage: Introduction and Bibliography p. 2
  22. ^ Marriot, Paul; Argent, Yvonne (1998). The Last Days of T. E. Lawrence: a leaf in the wind. Sussex Academic Press. p. 18. ISBN 1-898595-22-4. 
  23. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche, the Dionysian spirit of the age
  24. ^ Nietzche in Outline and Aphorism
  25. ^ Readers and writers (1917-1921)

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