Started work as a journalist and translator in Petersburg. Became known as an adherent of the theory of different levels of consciousness, according to which each of these
levels or orders have their own characteristics and laws, and only the lowest is capable of being observed by the physical senses. Travelled widely in Turkey, Greece, India, Ceylon and Egypt before World War I. Met the Caucasian mystic Gurdjieff in 1915 in Moscow, and later reinterpreted his occult ideas for Western society.
During the Civil War, went to the Caucasus, again met Gurdjieff, emigrated to Turkey in 1921, invited to England by Lady Rothermere. His studies of the fourth dimension and such subjects as yoga, the tarot, dreams, hypnotism and eternal recurrence made an impact on sympathetic Western groups, especially between the wars. Brought Gurdjieff to England, and later helped him to set up a sort of guru community in France.
Broke with Gurdjieff in 1924, and returned to his English disciples. His lectures just before World War II attracted up to a thousand people. Soon after the outbreak of the war, left London and moved to the USA. Tried to organize groups of disciples in America, without much success.
Returned to England, 1947. Resumed his lectures, preaching new levels of self-awareness, but his declining health soon prevented this activity. After his death, his wife returned to America (where she died in 1963) and published his works popularizing the esoteric teachings of Gurdjieff.
These writings gained a wide audience and remain influential in theosophical circles. All his documents and records are held at the library of the University of Yale.