Willem A. Nyland was born in Utrecht, Holland. A chemist by profession, he came to the United States and earned his doctorate at Columbia University. In 1924 he and his wife, the artist Ilonka Karasz, heard Mr. Gurdjieff speak during Gurdjieff’s first visit to the United States. After this first encounter, the Nylands began to work closely with Gurdjieff’s representative in America, A. R. Orage. Thereafter, they both remained active in the Gurdjieff teaching and often traveled to France to see Gurdjieff.
Near the end of his life, Mr. Gurdjieff asked Mr. Nyland to start a group in America, for which he would receive special material from Gurdjieff every week. After Gurdjieff died in 1949, Mr. Nyland was one of the founders and trustees of the Gurdjieff Foundation. He remained active in the Foundation until he formed his own independent groups in the early 1960s.
Anyone who has listened to a few of the 2600 recordings of meetings with Mr. Nyland, made between the late 1950s and 1975, cannot help but feel that Mr. Nyland was extraordinarily devoted to the Gurdjieff teaching. His strength lay in his combination of honesty, practicality, and perspective. Although Mr. Nyland died in 1975, his spirit and attitude, coupled with his teacher’s gift for clarity and communication, continue to be the hallmarks of our group.