Partner Cady Wells
Santa Fe National Cemetery, 501 N Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Arthur "Fritz" Peters (March 2, 1913 - December 19, 1979), born in Madison, Wisconsin, was shaped by many physical and psychological "disasters" at an early age. His brother accidently blinded Fritz's right eye with a crochet hook; his parents divorced when he was about 18 months old; his mother subsequently married a lawyer who was cold towards Fritz. When Fritz was eight or nine, his mother experienced a nervous breakdown and was sent to a sanatorium. Fritz and his brother were then adopted by Margaret Anderson, his mother's sister, and Jane Heap, editors of The Little Review. Between 1947 and 1951, Cady Wells wintered in St. Croix, and engaged in two long-term affairs, his last with Fritz Peters.
In 1924 Anderson and Heap brought 11-year-old Fritz to George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Prieuré in Avon, France. Peters was under the impression Gurdjieff was a "prophet" or perhaps the "second coming of Christ." His initial trepidation vanished when he found Gurdjieff to be a "simple, straightforward man." Gurdjieff asked him how he saw life. "Life," Peters said, "is a gift." Gurdjieff, greatly pleased, asked what he wanted to know about life. Peters told him—"I want to know everything."
Gurdjieff made him his personal caretaker, having him clean his personal quarters, serve as his waiter, as well as receiving private lessons.
According to Gurdjieff, Peters had been able to remain "open" despite his childhood traumas, and thus had been a "garbage can" in which Gurdjieff could "dump" some of his accumulated learning.
In October 1929, Peters, now 15 years old, returned to his mother and stepfather in Chicago, only to discover his mother had experienced another nervous breakdown. Soon after Fritz found himself living on his own.
In 1934 Gurdjieff came to New York and Peters describes a nightmare train ride with him to Chicago in which Gurdjieff did everything in his power to annoy Peters and the other passengers. Upon their arrival, Gurdjieff proceeded to publicly denounce Peters in front of the Chicago group. Peters, reaching a breaking point, hurled some choice four-letter words at Gurdjieff and stormed out of the gathering. Several months later, Peters realized that Gurdjieff had intentionally forced an end to his unquestioning, idealistic love for Gurdjieff.
Peters contacted Gurdjieff groups in Chicago and New York, but invariably perceived them as phony and humorless. Gurdjieff told Peters: "You not learn my work from talk and book—you learn in skin, and you cannot escape."
Drafted during World War II, Peters was appalled by the different types of people he met and the effects of war. Peters' horrific experiences left him with grave doubts concerning the meaning of human existence. Finally, shell shocked and in a state close to madness, he went to see Gurdjieff in Paris. Gurdjieff did not immediately recognize him, but after Peters stated his name the two embraced and Gurdjieff loudly exclaimed, "My son!" Inside the apartment, an already weary Gurdjieff healed Peters by transmitting "a violent, electric blue light." A month later, at a luncheon in Gurdjieff's apartment, Gurdjieff said he could now die as he had found someone to whom he could transmit his life's work. Raising his arm, he made a dramatic sweeping gesture from student to student, only stopping when his extended finger pointed directly at Fritz Peters.
After the war Peters returned to America and began to establish himself as a successful author. His first novel, The World Next Door, published in 1949, is based on his experience in a VA hospital after World War II. The next year saw the publication of a children's story, The Book of the Year, and a short story entitled Hello Emily. In 1951, Peters' second novel, Finistére, followed, detailing the adolescence and homosexual encounters of its main character; it has been described as autobiographical. The Descent, published in 1952, explores what happens to those involved in a tragic auto accident. In 1966 Peters released Blind Flight, a novel about a mentally disturbed woman reevaluating her relationships to her family and herself. In 1978, a year before his death, he published his last book, Balanced Man, in which he further discussed Gurdjieff and his legacy.
The themes in Fritz's novels are drawn directly from his own life, which was filled with nervous breakdowns, alcoholism, a broken marriage and homosexuality. Very little has been written about the life of Fritz Peters or his relationship with Gurdjieff. William Patrick Patterson's novel, Struggle of the Magicians, includes an essay specifically exploring Peters' relationship with Gurdjieff. Peters can be seen through the eyes of others in such works as Ladies of the Rope: Gurdjieff's Special Left Bank Women's Group; Dear Tiny Heart: The Letters of Jane Heap and Florence Reynolds; The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; and Gertrude Stein: Her Life and Work. Reviews of Fritz Peters' major literary works are available, and there are some journal articles and books written about his contribution to gay literature. His daughter, Katherine, delivered a collection of Fritz Peters' papers to Boston University a few years after his death in 1979.
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