Rina Hands

30 Jan, 1908 to 10 Oct 1994

Rina Hands was the daughter of a shipyard owner from the Tyneside in the North East of England. He built ships for the Russians, prior to the revolution and gave his daughter a Russian name. In the 1920s she attended University College in London, studying English Literature. Following university, she hung around the Bloomsbury Set (the group of writers and poets that included many leading lights including T S Elliott, Aldous Huxley, and D H Laurence.)

By then Orage was already in America, but some of the Bloomsbury Set were fascinated by Ouspensky and joined his group. Rina was among them. This was how she met J G Bennett, whom she worked for as a personal secretary and she became his pupil as much as she was Ouspensky’s. When Bennett went to Paris to meet Gurdjieff again, she went with him.

Sitting in Gurdjieff’s dining room she recounted how when the ritual of the Toast of the Idiots was performed and it came time to toast all Compassionate Idiots, Gurdjieff suddenly asked her, “You, Blonde there—natural or not I never know—are you Compassionate Idiot?” She writes about this in her book The Diary of Madame Égout Pour Sweet

She made herself useful to Gurdjieff by volunteering to type up copies of Beelzebub’s Tales and in Gurdjieff’s last year she was part of his Paris retinue, learning to do the movements and become a movements teacher under the guidance of Madame de Salzmann. In the ritual Toasts of the Idiots, Gurdejiff designated her Madame Égout Pour Sweet.

Following Gurdjieff’s death, she returned to London becoming part of J G Bennett’s group. When Bennett fell out with The Gurdjieff Foundation, she took over that group along with Madame Nott. She ran groups both in London, where she lived, and in Bradford in the North of England. She was an inspirational group leader. She died in 1994 and is buried next to Jane Heap in a cemetery in North London.

In 1988, Robin Bloor met and became a pupil of Rina Hands. Rina’s Northern Group (The Bradford Gurdjieff Society)  still continues and he is a distant member—running the Austin Gurdjieff Society, in Texas.