Alfred Richard Orage (22 January 1873 â" 6 November 1934) was a British intellectual, now best known for editing the magazine The New Age. While he was working as a schoolteacher in Leeds he pursued various interests, including Plato, the Independent Labour Party and theosophy. In 1900 he met Holbrook Jackson and three years later they co-founded the Leeds Arts Club, which became a centre of modernist culture in Britain. In 1905 Orage resigned his teaching position and moved to London. There, in 1907, he bought and began editing the 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.
In 1924 Orage sold The New Age and went to France to work with George Gurdjieff, the spiritual teacher whom P. D. Ouspensky had recommended to him. After spending some time on 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 emphasised 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, but neither book was ever published in their lifetimes.
In 1927 Orage's first wife, Jean, granted him a divorce and in September he married Jessie Richards Dwight (1901â"1985), the co-owner of the Sunwise Turn bookshop where Orage first lectured on the Gurdjieff System. Orage and Jessie had two children, Richard and Ann. While they were 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 began publishing the New English Weekly. He remained in London until his death on 6 November 1934.
James Alfred Orage was born in Dacre, near Harrogate in the West Riding of Yorkshire, into a Nonconformist family. He was generally known as Dickie, and he eventually dropped the name James and adopted the middle name Richard.
In 1894 he became a schoolteacher in an elementary school in Leeds and helped to found the Leeds branch of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). He wrote a weekly literary column for the ILP's paper, 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. 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, and from 1907 to 1914 he was a student of the Mahabharata.
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 Orage to study Nietzsche's work in depth. In 1903 Orage, Jackson and the architect Arthur J. Penty helped to found the 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 Orage returned to socialist platforms, but by 1906 he was determined to combine Carpenter's socialism with Nietzsche's thought and theosophy.
In 1906 Beatrice Hastings, whose real name was Emily Alice Haigh and who hailed from Port Elizabeth, became a regular contributor to the New Age. By 1907 she and Orage had developed an intimate relationship. As Beatrice Hastings herself later put it, â³Aphrodite amused herself at our expense.â³ Orage's involvement with Beatrice Hastings was too much for Orage's wife Jean, who had shared his theosophical and aesthetic interests until then. She went to live with Holbrook Jackson and spent the rest of her life as a skilled craftswoman in the tradition of William Morris.
Orage explored his new ideas in several books. He saw Nietzsche's Ãbermensch as a metaphor for the "higher state of consciousness" sought by mystics and attempted to define a route to this higher state, insisting that it must involve a rejection of civilisation and conventional morality. He moved through a celebration of Dionysus to declare that he was in favour, not of an ordered socialism, but of an anarchic movement.
In 1906 and 1907 Orage 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. Orage's rational critique of theosophy evoked an editorial rebuttal from The Theosophical Review and in 1907 he terminated his association with the Theosophical Society. The two books on Nietzsche were the first systematic introductions to Nietzschean thought to be published in Britain.
Editor in London
In 1906 Orage resigned his teaching post and moved to London, following Arthur Penty, another friend from the Leeds Art Club. In London Orage attempted to form a league for the restoration of the guild system, in the spirit of the decentralised socialism of William Morris. The failure of this project spurred him to buy the weekly magazine The New Age in 1907, in partnership with Holbrook Jackson and with the support of George Bernard Shaw. Orage transformed the magazine to fit with his conception of a forum for politics, literature and the arts. Although many contributors were Fabians, he distanced himself from their politics to some extent and sought to have the magazine represent a wide range of political views. He used the magazine to launch attacks on parliamentary politics and argued the need for utopianism. He also attacked the trade union leadership, while offering some support to syndicalism, and tried to combine syndicalism with his ideal of a revived guild system. Combining these two ideas resulted in Guild socialism, the political philosophy Orage began to argue for from about 1910, though the specific term "guild socialism" seems not to have been mentioned in print until Bertrand Russell referred to it in his book Political Ideals (1917).
Between 1908 and 1914 The New Age was the premier little magazine in Britain. It was instrumental in pioneering the British avant-garde, from vorticism to imagism, and its contributors included T.E. Hulme, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound and Herbert Read. Orage's success as an editor was connected with his talent as a conversationalist and a â³bringer togetherâ³ of people. The modernists of London had been scattered between 1905 and 1910, but largely thanks to Orage a sense of a modernist â³movementâ³ was created from 1910 onwards.
Orage declared himself a socialist and followed Georges Sorel in arguing that trade unions should pursue an increasingly aggressive policy on wage deals and working conditions. He approved of the increasing militancy of the unions in the era before the First World War and seems to have shared Sorel's belief in the necessity of a union-led General Strike leading to a revolutionary situation. However, for Orage economic power precedes political power, and political reform was useless without economic reform.
In the early issues of The New Age Orage supported the women's suffrage movement, but he became increasingly hostile to it 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 columns.
During the First World War Orage defended what he saw as the interests of the working class. On 6 August 1914 he wrote in Notes of the Week in The New Age: â³We believe that England is necessary to Socialism, as Socialism is necessary to the world.â³ On 14 November 1918 Orage wrote of the coming peace settlement (embodies in the 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 then Orage was convinced that the hardships of the working class were the result of the monetary policies of banks and governments. If Britain could remove the pound from the gold standard during the war and re-establish the gold standard after the war, then the gold standard was not as necessary as the monetary oligarchs wanted the proletariat to believe it was. On 15 July 1920 Orage wrote: â³We 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."
After the First World War Orage was influenced by C. H. Douglas and became a supporter of the social credit movement. On 2 January 1919 Orage published the first article by C. H. Douglas to appear in The New Age: â³A Mechanical View of Economicsâ³.
Orage had met P. D. Ouspensky for the first time in 1914. Ouspensky's ideas had left a lasting impression and when he moved to London in 1921 Orage began attending his lectures on "Fragments of an Unknown Teaching", the basis of his book In Search of the Miraculous. From this time onwards Orage became less and less interested in literature and art, and instead focused most of his attention on mysticism. His correspondence with Harry Houdini on this subject moved him to explore ideas of the afterlife. He returned to the idea that there are absolute truths and concluded that they are embodied in the Mahabharata.
In February 1922 Ouspensky introduced Orage to G. I. Gurdjieff. Orage sold The New Age and moved to Paris to study at the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. In 1924 Gurdjieff appointed him to lead study groups in the United States, which he did for seven years. Soon after Gurdjieff arrived in New York from France, on 13 November 1930, he deposed Orage and disbanded his study groups, believing that Orage had been teaching them incorrectly: they had been working under the misconception that self-observation could be practised in the absence of self-remembering or in the presence of negative emotions. Members were allowed to continue their studies with Gurdjieff himself, after taking an oath not to communicate with Orage. Upon hearing that Orage had also signed the oath Gurdjieff wept. Gurdjieff had once considered Orage as a friend and brother, and thought of Jessie as a bad choice for a mate. Orage was a chain smoker and Jessie was a heavy drinker. In the privately published Third Series of his writings Gurdjieff wrote of Orage and his wife Jessie: â³his romance had ended in his marrying the saleswoman of 'Sunwise Turn,' a young American pampered out of all proportion to her position...â³
Orage, Ouspensky and C. Daly King emphasised certain aspects of the Gurdjieff System while ignoring others. According to Gurdjieff, Orage emphasised self-observation. In Harlem, New York City, Jean Toomer, one of Orage's students at Greenwich Village used Gurdjieff's work to confront the problem of racism.
The Orages sailed back to New York from England on the S.S. Washington on 29 December 1930, and arrived on Thursday 8 January 1931. The next day, while they were 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. At lunch in New York City on 21 February 1931 Achmed Abdulla, a.k.a. Nadir Kahn, told the Orages that he had met Gurdjieff in Tibet and that Gurdjieff had been known there as Lama Dordjieff, a Tsarist agent and tutor to the Dalai Lama.
In London Orage became involved in politics again through the social credit movement. He returned to New York on 8 January 1931 in an attempt to meet Gurdjieff's new demands, but he told his wife that 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 and the Orages sailed back to England on 3 July.
In April 1932 Orage founded a new journal, The New English Weekly. Dylan Thomas's first published poem, And Death Shall Have No Dominion, appeared in its issue dated 18 May 1933, but by then the magazine was not selling well and Orage was experiencing financial difficulties.
In September 1933 Jessie gave birth to a daughter, Ann. In January 1934 Senator Bronson M. Cutting presented Orage's Social Credit Plan to the United States Senate, proposing that it become one of the tools of Roosevelt's economic policy.
At the beginning of August 1934 Gurdjieff asked Orage to prepare 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 ..."
Towards the end of his life Orage was attacked by severe pain below the heart. This ailment had been diagnosed a couple of years before as simply functional and he did not again seek medical advice. While he was broadcasting a speech, "Property in Plenty", once again expounding the doctrine of social credit, he experienced excruciating pain, but he continued as if nothing was happening. After leaving the studio he spent the evening with his wife and friends, and made plans to see the doctor next day, but he died in his sleep that night. Orage's former students of the Gurdjieff System arranged for the enneagram to be inscribed on his tombstone.
- Friedrich Nietzsche: The Dionysian Spirit of the Age (1906)
- Nietzsche in Outline and Aphorism (1907)
- National Guilds: An Inquiry into the Wage System and the Way Out (1914) editor; a collection of articles from The New Age
- An Alphabet of Economics (1918)
- Readers and Writers (1917â"1921) (1922) as RHC
- 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 and Superman (1978)
- A. R. Orage's Commentaries on Gurdjieff's "All and Everything", edited by C. S. Nott
- A. R. Orage: A Memoir (1936) Philip Mairet
- Alfred Orage and the Leeds Arts Club (1893â"1923) (Scolar Press 1990) Tom Steele
- Gurdjieff and Orage: Brothers in Elysium (2001) Paul Beekman Taylor,
- English 480/680: Modernism In and Beyond the "Little Magazines", Winter 2007, Professor Ann Ardis, Brown University
- "Orage and the History of the New Age Periodical," Brown University, Modernist Journals Project
- Brown University, Modernist Journals Project main index
- EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica article on Orage
- Complete archive of The New Age under Orage's editorship
- Leeds University Library Brotherton Collection Manuscripts c20 Orage
- C. Daly King: "The Oragean Version" (1951) A record of Orage's transmission of Gurdjieff's ideas in New York City during the 1920s