Hugh Brockwell Ripman, 70, a retired official of the World Bank and the founder of the Gurdjieff movement in the Washington area, died of pneumonia Friday at the Washington Hospital Center.
Mr. Ripman was born in London and educated at Oxford University and the London School of Economics. He was an official of the British War Office during World War II. One of the problems he worked on there was the evenutal economic resuscitation of Germany.
He came to Washington in 1946 as a first secretary of the British Embassy. Two years later, he joined the World Bank. He was director of administration there at the time of his retirement in 1972.
The principal preoccupation of Mr. Ripman's life beginning in 1934 was the work of Georgi I. Gurdjieff, the founder of the study movement that bears his name. Gurdjieff was born in Russia, traveled in Tibet, fled through the Caucasus to Constantinople during the Russian Revolution and made his way to Berlin and finally to France.
In 1922, Gurdjieff established an institute at the Chateau du Prieure, outside Paris, to carry on his work. He visited the United States in 1924 and again in 1948. He died in 1949. His first great interpreter was Peter D. Ouspensky, a fellow white Russian.
A film about Gurdjieff's early life and travels, "Meetings With Remarkable Men," recently was shown in the Washington area.
His teachings concerned "the great adventure of the search for self." Mr. Ripman first learned of them through Ouspensky.
"I had met Ouspensky for the first time in 1934," he once said in an interview. "I never had the slightest doubt of Gurdjieff's truth, though he would often put people off and tell them, 'Don't believe a word I say. Find out for yourself.'"
Mr. Ripman renewed his acquaintance with Gurdjieff in 1948. He helped plan a trip to the United States for Grudjieff in 1949 and assembled a number of people who were interested in meeting him. Gurdjieff's death intervened.
So in 1949 Mr. Ripman started his own Gurdjieff movement. At first, he had about 30 students. At the time of his death, he had about 250, some of whom had been studying Gurdjieff's work for more than 20 years. They meet regularly in Vienna at FOCAS, an acronym for the Fourth way Center for Advanced Studies.
The aim of the Gurdjieff movement, according to Mr. Ripman, is self-knowledge and a consequent release of constructive energy. The process is internal -- there are no formulas, no panaceas, no proselytizing -- and it is called The Work.
The first steps towards self-awareness, according to Gurdjieff, is becoming aware of one's imperfections. In the process, a person sheds the illusion that he knows himself. He learns that he does not, in fact, pass his waking hours making clear, rational decisions.
"We are prisoners of our own past," Mr. Ripman used to say. "Our conscious state is semi-hypnotic sleep. Our attention is not under control. Our sense of self is constantly lost in all kinds of different things . . . You've got to set up a silent witness in yourself, not judgemental, just aware . . . We have different 'I's,' and they are contradictory."
Like his master, Mr. Ripman often told his students not to believe a word he said, but to work it out for themselves.
Mr. Ripman's survivors include his wife, Mildred G., of Washington, a son, Christopher R., of Belmont, Mass., and two sisters, Katherine R. Smithers, of Belmont, and Daphne Matchellajovic, of Buenos Aires, Argentina.