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Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson: Part One: The Question of Organization

By Roya Monajem, Tehran


Gurdjieff's Mullah Nassr Eddin

This article will be in 3 parts to make it as short as possible. To write or not to write it has been a harsh struggle in the past few months, mainly for the fear of mere wiseacring - using Gurdjieff's term for subjective writers. What finally gave heart to do write it is the incredible help this unique book can offer particularly in the time of crises as we are experiencing now throughout the world. It can create real genuine faith, love and most of all hope when Terror of the Situation is so absolutely overwhelming. The first part deals with the question of Organization, the second with the question of Gender and the third with the question of Time and Unity of Being.


Still in the state of suspension wondering about whether the initiation to Gurdjieff's teaching through his books was a curse or blessing (as described in Merci Monsieur Gurdjieff,) with the re-assurance received meanwhile through whom i call big Gurdjieffians, that the genuine English translation of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson is what is now known as 1950-1999 reprint and not that faked 1992 revision which i had naively came to the conclusion when i first realized their differences in one of the early re-readings and amendments of the Persian translation, that as there is not much semantic differences between the two English editions, so it is not any of my business as a translator - it appeared that the best thing to do while still waiting for the publication permit, was to go over the translation for the last time before its appearance, this time taking the genuine reprint as the source - with the hope that what Gurdjieff promises in his Friendly Advice at the beginning of this unbelievably unique book might come true and the state of 'burning in a frying pan like a piece of steak' ends somehow. Huh, what a long sentence! Let's take a breath before going to describe the resulting Shock.

(Note: All quotations are in blue)


Comparing the two editions through the translation sentence by sentence, the state was:

Oh, my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh no, incredible, it sounds like a different English translation all together! How could they commit such a sin? What a Fool I was not to get it before!

And didn't I "grow vainly indignant!" with smoke roaring out of my "bobtailed" or "madcap brain!" and i don't know what could happen if not remembering this part in Beelzebub and thus bursting out laughing:

"... the beings of the planet Earth are inconceivably proud and touchy. If someone does not share their views or agree to do as they do, or criticizes their manifestations, they are, oh, very indignant and offended." So fearing the inevitable outcome of such indignation as described there, i.e "derangement of both physical and astral body (if the latter exists) (see Beelzebub p.637), i appealed to the "inner evil god of self-calming" who prescribed to hum and sing the old Persian proverb: Enemy will do us good if God wills" accompanied with a feeling of gratitude that the publication permit for that initial translation was not issued before this 'finding.'

Actual Differences

As mentioned in the first article Gurdjieff the Founder of American Mysticism, this unique miraculous book Beelzebub's Tales ... with the subtitle: An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, and the aim of "destroying mercilessly without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world," Beelzebub simultaneously works on our three centres most probably in the following way:

1) The Motor Part (the physical brain-mind) of the Physical centre through the tales it recounts - in the same way as stories, fables and fairy tales affect small children with only their physical and later their emotional centre developed. Rhymes and rhythms plays an important role here too, the best way to remember and learn by heart.

2) The Emotional centre most probably by the word Favourite - mentioned almost in every page of the book - which is usually used for earthly and heavenly beloved and thus automatically and un- and sub-consciously bringing about corresponding emotional associations of love. Rhymes and rhythms leave their impressions on this center too.

3) The Mental centre through all the difficult questions it puts forth which requires active attention, confrontation and mentation to be grasped according to the level of being.

Now, what at the first glance appears some simple shifts of phrases in the second infamous edition (infamous most of all because the editors were not even that honest to mention it in the beginning of the book as the western tradition requires), if looked at from purely Gurdjieff's point of view is altogether a new translation.

It is a new translation because by those 'simple shifts', the whole rhythm of the writing is changed and thereby the impression it produces on our being. To put it in the briefest way: it is like shifting the verses of a rhythmic transforming poem. The overall meaning might not be changed, but the emotional and sensual impression will be changed and henceforth the whole sequence of the images and probable associations. And remember the 'mentation by form' is what according to Gurdjieff in Arousing of Thought (prologue to Beelzebub)

...all writing must be also perceived, and after conscious confrontation with information already possessed, be assimilated."

And he defines this kind of mentation as: the mentation formed in people in dependence upon the conditions of geographical locality, climate, time, and, in general, upon the whole environment in which the arising of the given man has proceeded and in which his existence has flowed up to manhood (human-hood).

It is just unbelievably maddening that despite all Gurdjieff's explanations and clarifications not only in Beelzebub itself, but also in the second series Meeting with Remarkable Men about language and grammar and his Warning that he is 'going not to write as 'professional writers', write, Beelzebub is revised?! He must have taken into consideration the above-mentioned factor in relation to mentation by form too. Otherwise, Beelzebub would not be such a unique writing. One may say that most probably the Planet Earth is taken as the 'geographical conditions' shared by the whole humanity.

Now let us take only one example of the 'art' of the new translators- editors, where not only the shifts and change of rhythm are remarkable, but even the words have been changed.

Having said this, Beelzebub then turned to Hassein and spoke as follows:

"This same already definite idea there, now existing there under the enomination art is, at the present time for those unhappy favorites of yours, one of those automatically acting data the totality of which of itself gradually, and though almost imperceptibly yet very surely, converts them-that is, beings having in their presences every possibility for becoming particles of a part of Divinity-merely into what is called 'living flesh.'

Now read the 1991 revision:

Beelzebub then turned to Hassein and spoke as follows:

"This definite concept, now existing there under the name of 'art' is one of those automatically acting data, the totality of which gradually and almost imperceptibly, yet very surely converts these unhappy favourites of yours - beings who have in their presence all the possibilities for becoming particles of a part of divinity- merely into what is called 'live meat.'

"Idea" changed to "concept", "denomination" (not only conveying name, but also value and quantity) to "name"; the poetical expression - and the resulting image- 'living flesh' to "live meat", associating by the way the part about Chicago Slaughterhouse in the chapter on America, which can appear not only as the 'goriest' part of the book, but as one of the most 'boring' and thus puzzling parts. Not to diverge from the main discussion, the finding and insight in this regard will be discussed later.

To summarize: Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson unfortunately and unluckily suffers the same fate that Gurdjieff illustrated in regard to other great teachings throughout history and time; they are changed by their very 'devoted' followers - let's say even with the 'good intention'- so that by the third generation, they turn into something unrecognizable even to the founder. With respect to Beelzebub, it happened within the first generation, i.e. before - as it is said in a Persian proverb -Gurdjieff's coffin was dried.

Now if the 'good' intention of new translators-editors has been to make this unique book more 'accessible', or 'readable', one can wonder why instead of revising the translation carried out under Gurdjieff's meticulous - if not obsessive - inspection, as an account in his Life is Real Only Then When I AM, suggests- with Orage as the original editor in chief for example, not help readers by offering a simple guideline?

In Life is Real...., Gurdjieff informs that after finishing the first version of Beelzebub which he wrote following his recuperation from his near-to-death car-accident, he realizes that it is only accessible to those who knew him and were initiated to some extent. In order to remove this shortcoming, he decides to re-write it. Knowing that the book was read to those always present around him while it was written (a ritual practiced throughout his life), this appears to be how he reached the above conclusion. If so, then there is still a point which might have been overlooked even then. The text was still read in the sphere of his magnetic field even if the audience was totally unfamiliar with his ideas. But what about now?

Not reading Gurdjieff's advice at the beginning of Beelzebub - to read it three times and how - the first thing that intimidated and discouraged me to continue the first reading, before studying and translating Ouspensky's In Search of Miraculous, was his coined words. They made me feel dumb and scared me with their length, the great difficulty in reading and pronouncing them, as though reading Zarathustra's Gathas in Pahlavi or Avestan language.

Yet, if there were some guidelines mentioning that the first functions of these words can be: 1) to prevent one from falling asleep (be dragged after one's thoughts and daydreaming) as it happens when reading any books, 2) to help one to maintain one's attention on what one is reading, then surely they wouldn't appear that intimidating.

Whether one can find additional functions and meanings for them according to one's level of being and thus understanding, is another thing that may arrive in further readings. For example, in the chapter on Art, Gurdjieff says, once upon a time like all the other three-brained beings of the Universe, we "had and could pronounce consonants up to three hundred and fifty letters." And considering the great difficulty in articulation of his coined words -because of their high number of consonants - one may wonder if this is also a part of Gurdjieff's observation and experimentation with human psyche, that is to see if it is possible to revive that old faculty?! Surely, if human beings once upon a time enjoyed such a great capacity, they still should or could have them in their gene-pool on the basis of the cosmic law: "the assimilation of the results of oft-repeated acts" (mentioned in relation to that cursed organ Kundabuffer in the last chapter, From the Author, p.1223)?!

Let's just mention another possible function for Gurdjieff's coined words before moving on, and that is they can make us burst out laughing while trying to pronounce them. This is another unique feature of this book, it can bring about a lot of laughter, not only for that reason, but also for the jokes put into the mouth of Mullah Nassr Eddin, and the way he 'pulls his own leg' thereby teaching us in practice how not to take ourselves - 'I'- seriously.

What's wrong with giving this kind of hints or information to the readers, unless, these things are purposefully kept secret by the so-called first grade initiates or esoteric group, for mesoteric and exoteric followers joining Gurdjieff's groups and organizations- in short for those who would pay for it in cash? But let us not take it too hard on them, as one might say that they are obediently following Beelzebub's advice to his grandson in this respect:

"I wish to point out to you one great 'secret' of their psyche, namely, I wish to point out to you only one particularity of theirs which, if you know how to profit by it, might create in each one of them the same effect in their manifestations about which Ahoon spoke.

"If you will act upon them through this same particularity, then you will not only be on very good terms with them all, but even, if you wish, you will be able, knowing this 'secret' of their psyche, fully to ensure your tranquil and happy existence there both as regards 'money' necessarily required there, as well as other conveniences, the taste and blissful significance of which our dear Teacher expressed by the words 'Roses, Roses.'

Before continuing the discussion about clues or guidelines which can make Beelzebub more accessible to readers, let us look at the subject of organization as it seems to be one of Gurdjieff's main questions as well:

A New kind of Organization:

Organization seems to be one of Gurdjieff's main concerns. On one hand, it is a subject of Beelzebub's constant criticism not only in his tales about religious organizations, but also in regard to social humanist organizations, similar to UN (see the chapter on Beelzebub's opinion of war) and those established, for example to "struggle against alcoholism in Russia (see chapter on Russia)." On the other hand, from Gurdjieff's first appearance in Saint Petersburg in 1912 until his departure from this world in 1949- he kept organizing and dissolving groups -which is one of the things that outraged Ouspensky as mentioned in his In Search of Miraculous. Why? He gives the answer in The Herald of Coming Good:

"Secondly, with a view,-to counteracting the manifestation in people with whom I came in contact of that inherent trait which, embedded as it is in the psyche of people and acting as an impediment to the realization of my aims, evokes from them, when confronted with other more or less prominent people, the functioning of the feeling of enslavement, paralyzing once and for all their capacity for displaying the personal initiative of which I then stood in particular need."

In Rumi's words: imitation is what ruins people, or going back to the above quotation it paralyzes their personal initiative which Gurdjieff needed for his aim which in Hafez's words is:

Come and let us spread flowers and pour wine in the chalice

Break through the heaven's roof and design a new scheme.

One can more or less confidentially speculate that it is to break this feeling of enslavement in his followers that, he announced in The Herald of Coming Good - the only book published in his life time -that he used them as "Guinea Pigs!" This can explain his apparent trial-error approach to organizing-dissolving groups.

Beelzebub reaches the conclusion that this human trait (enslavement) arises from the division of people into casts and classes, and psychologically from Kundabufferian qualities, particularly self-conceit, vanity, etc.

Although one may wonder whether the division into castes or classes is really man-made because it is also seen among social animals like bees and ants too for example, and thus maybe after all it is rather a natural programming, nevertheless it makes one of the main foundations of Terror of the Situation (Chapter 26).

The solution Gurdjieff gives for this seemingly insoluble 'enslavement' is to accept it and make a compromise (From the Author):

Although to be either masters or slaves in a collective existence among children, like ourselves, of the COMMON FATHER, is unworthy of man, yet thanks at the present time to the conditions existing which have already been thoroughly fixed in the process of the collective life of people, the source of which lies in remote antiquity, we must be reconciled to it and accept a compromise that, according to impartial reasoning, should correspond both to our own personal welfare, and also at the same time not be contrary to the commandments specially issuing to us people from the "Prime-Source-of-Everything-Existing."

Such a compromise, I think, is possible if certain people consciously set themselves, as the chief aim of their existence, to acquire in their presences all the corresponding data to become masters among those around them similar to themselves....But not a master in that sense and meaning which this word conveys to contemporary people, namely, one who has many slaves and much money, handed down, in most cases, by inheritance, but in the sense that a given man, thanks to his, in the objective sense, devout acts towards those around him-that is to say, acts manifested by him

according to the dictates of his pure Reason alone, without the participation of those impulses which in him as in all people are engendered from the mentioned consequences of the properties of the maleficent organ Kundabuffer- acquires in himself that something which of itself constrains all those about him to bow before him and with reverence carry out his orders.

The above part- the way to Gurdjieff's utopia- immediately associates Beelzebub's Tale about "The Very Saintly Ashiata Shiemash and his blissful Epoch, when as the result of his most saintly labours, Conscience was developed in the three-brained beings on Earth:

"And all this then so happened because when the actions of the data of the Divine being-impulse [meaning conscience] began to participate in the functioning of their ordinary waking consciousness, and the three-brained beings began manifesting themselves towards each other, solely in accordance with conscience, the consequence was that masters ceased to deprive their slaves of freedom, and various power-possessing beings of their own accord surrendered their unmerited rights, having become aware by conscience and sensing that they possessed and occupied these rights and positions not for the common welfare but only for the satisfaction of their various personal weaknesses,

such for instance as Vanity,' 'self-love,' 'self calming,' and so on.

Let us read just a little bit more about the state of affairs under Ashiatia Shiemash-Gurdjieff's Utopia:

"These favorites of yours also then began to have relations towards each other only as towards the manifestations varying in degree of a UNIQUE COMMON CREATOR and to pay respect to each other only according to the merits personally attained by means of 'being-Partkdolgduty,' that is, by means of personal conscious labors and intentional sufferings.

"That is why, during that period, there ceased to exist there the said two chief maleficent forms of their ordinary existence, namely, their separate independent communities and the division of themselves in these communities into various castes or classes. (Chapter 27, organization by Ashiata Shiemash's).

Alas, and unfortunate for us all, 'Egoism' did not allow the blissful Ashiata Shiemashian Epoch last. What might have happened then as the result of Egoism and its outcomes can be found in Gurdjieff's account of his life in relation to his activities and followers after his motor accident:

Certain of them, by the way, turned out subsequently, to my personal sincere regret, to have in their essence a predisposition to the speedy transformation of their psyche into the psyche called Hasnamussian-a predisposition which appeared and became fully visible and clearly sensible to all more or less normal persons around them, when, at the moment of desperate crisis for everything I had previously actualized, due to the said accident, they, as is said, "quaking for their skins," that is to say, fearing to lose their personal welfare which, by the way, I had created for them, deserted the common work and with their tails between their legs took themselves off to their kennels, where, profiting by the crumbs fallen from my so to say "idea table" they opened their, as I would say, "Shachermacherworkshop- booths," and with a secret feeling of hope and perhaps even joy at their speedy and complete release from my vigilant control, began manufacturing out of various unfortunate naive people, "candidates for lunatic asylums." (Beelzebub's Tales, From the Author)

And once his 'vigilant control' is over 'for good', they 'dare' to revise Beelzebub and publish it without even having the guts to mention it. When one sees how the same people failed to truly understand the above-mentioned points in regard to this exclusively exceptional text, the 'Last but not the Least' point in regard to the question of organization and followers is what is written in the introduction of Life is Real only Then When I Am:

"Publish as and when you are sure that the time has come. Publish the First and Second Series. But the essential thing, the first thing, is to prepare a nucleus of people capable of responding to the demand which will arise. "So long as there is no responsible nucleus, the action of the ideas will not go beyond a certain threshold. That will take time ... a lot of time, even.

Really?! Is that so?

The author speaks in such a tone as though Gurdjieff himself did nothing all those years in regard to preparing such a nucleus and nuclei?! Wasn't the author in fact one of the members of such nuclei? Disregarding all the other groups Gurdjieff formed and dissolved before his car-accident in 1924, didn't he lead a new series of Meetings if not throughout the WWII, for a period of time? Weren't Ouspensky and his wife spreading Gurdjieff's ideas and movements in England and America since their first initiation before WWI? Wasn't Orage, Maurice Nicolle and... doing the same?...

If we believe in what the author says here, then one naturally wonders that if this were so vital, why didn't Gurdjieff do it himself? Why did he actually attempted just the opposite, that is dissolving everything achieved with 'unbelievable efforts" and instead directing all his energies to writing Beelzebub after his car accident (disregarding the attempts made before the WWII in reorganizing the group in US, and leading groups during the war in Paris mentioned above as part of the publicly known evidence refuting the author's claim)?

Beelzebub shows one thing quiet clearly in this regard and that is that throughout history organizations go hand in hand with secrets (and naturally with intrigues, excluding the exceptions he mentions himself) which is maybe the most important thing that brings about their downfall at the end. The best and at the same time the most puzzling example Beelzebub recounts is his tale about Tibetan Group of Seven which briefly goes like that:

When the English attack Tibet, the top member of this Group of Seven, the guardians of Saint Lama's Teaching, ventures to go to the conference of the heads of the country held to decide what to do with those invaders, and after persuading the other members of that Council not to take any counter attack measures by reminding: "The existence of every being is equally precious and dear to our COMMON CREATOR GOD; therefore the destruction of these beings, so great a number of them too, would give no small grief to THAT ONE, WHO, even without this, is overburdened with the care and sorrow of all that exists among us on Earth." The council accepts and he is chosen as one of the members of the council sent: to those districts through which these foreign beings (the English) would pass, in order to warn in advance the local population of the considered decision of their leaders, and persuade them to permit nobody, under any circumstances, to hinder the passing of these foreigners." And he is killed by a stray bullet before having the chance to pass the last secrets of the Teaching to others, associating the fate of Jesus Christ with the difference that in regard to Jesus Christ, according to Gurdjieff's interpretation or narrative, the apostles managed to perform the sacred sacrament - through the sacrifice made by Judas -necessary to contact his astral body after his death, but in regard to the Tibetan Group, not only they fail, but due to thunderstorms accidentally taking place above that locality, an extensive explosion takes place, destroying everything including the other six brothers and all the books and "other things which had served as means for keeping in memory everything concerning all the three genuine Sacred Individuals intentionally actualized from Above, and, namely, Saint Krishnatkharna, Saint Buddha, and Saint Lama."

How could such higher individuals take such a risk when there is still un-passed secret teaching? Is it an allusion to power of Chance, lack of foresight or erroneous miscalculations on the part of some Sacred Individuals concerned with matters of World-Creation and World-Maintenance?

Couldn't it be looking at organizations from another perspective, and how even at that Highest level of knowledge-being they still are capable of making such irreparable unforgivable mistakes?

Yet, when even Higher Sacred Individuals responsible for World-Maintenance can commit such mistakes leading to genesis of the Moon and the subsequent implantation of that cursed organ of Kundabuffer in our ancestors causing us 'to take fantasy as reality,' then the mistake made by the Group of Seven -which after all were still living in their earthly bodies - becomes more understandable, doesn't it? It can very well be a hint to relativity of knowledge and ignorance, if not a critique of organization.

With what is said above and much more found in Beelzebub's Tales, and how each one of us in our ways have heard and witnessed the metamorphosis of the most so-called humanist groups and organizations to some kind of vampires, how can one maintain hope in any organization in the conventional sense of the word?

So what is the solution? The clues can be found from what Beelzebub relates about the blissful Ashiata Shiemashian epoch, when "there continued to be all kinds of chiefs, directors and 'adviser-specialists,' who became such chiefly from difference of age and from what is called 'essence-power,' just as there are everywhere on all planets of the Universe on which there breed three brained beings of varying degrees of self-perfecting, and they then became such, neither by hereditary right nor by election, as was the case before this blissful Ashiatian epoch and as again afterwards became and even till now continues to be the case."

"All these chiefs, directors and advisers then became such in accordance with the objective merits they personally acquired, and which could be really sensed by all the beings around them."

On this basis it is not surprising that Gurdjieff calls himself Monsieur or Mister or simply Dancing Teacher, and not Guru-Master. In fact nothing that he has done is like any traditional master. What he actually did was just the opposite, that is by leaving a genuine account of his life and his inner journey until quite late in life, he destroyed the chance of any attempts to make a saint out of him, as followers are historically conditioned to do. What he leaves behind is the Tale of a genuine Seeker to the end, as the next station even if all the higher bodies are formed through Conscious labour and Intentional Suffering apparently is after all, the Holy Planet of Purgatory, a life as in Paradise with the Hell of finding a way to unite with the Primal Cause of All & Everything.

Now going back to the question of organization, as mentioned above, it is somehow hard to come into terms with the idea that the primary cause of division of people into casts and classes came to being only as the result of Kundabufferian world view. As "Ontology repeats Phylogeny" we should have that same ant-ian or bee-ism predisposition of dividing into classes, too. To go beyond this division is thus harder if it only were the result of Kudabufferian world-view. Yet, division of labour does not necessarily imply division into classes as in the case of the biological division between males and females. There is a species of ants called bearded ants - 'beards' really do seem to have something to do with intelligence?! - with no strict division of classes, and division of labour. They do what needs to be done, with 'soldiers' turning into scavengers, scavengers to foragers, the last two to soldiers as needs arise communicated through the dominant here-now pheromones. In other words, there is a flowing kind of division of labour and thus organization rather than a strict inflexible class-like one within them. Among humans, the same situation can be seen during major crisis, as in wars or natural catastrophes, or in the way work is organized in Rajnish's community or Vipassan's centers; the jobs are carried out by the volunteers who feel adept in that job. Yet, the last two are still organizations in the conventional sense hardly helping us to break through the herd instinct, the main cause of enslavement, transforming all relationships to master-slave ones with the result that with the departure of the 'master', the same old story of conflicts, intrigues, sectarianism and thiat recurring.

The next person will be the one who would become such in accordance with the objective merits they personally acquired, and which could be really sensed by all the beings around them." That is merits acquired by Partkdolgduty that is Conscious labour and intentional Suffering.

In addition, quoting Gurdjieff in the Chapter on Enneagram, Ouspensky says in The Search of Miraculous: "If two men who have been in different schools meet, they will draw the enneagram and with its help they will be able at once to establish which of them knows more and which, consequently, stands upon which step, that is to say, which is the elder, which is the teacher and which the pupil. The enneagram is the fundamental hieroglyph of a universal language which has as many different meanings as there are levels of men.

And Beelzebub's Tales is in itself an enneagram which can be used for this purpose. In this way there is no need either for the inheritability of the position of the Teacher-Pir or for election, or its selection by the Teacher before his departure which as Beelzebub shows would inevitably lead to sectarianism due to Egoism and other Kundabufferian qualities. In fact Beelzebub's Tales can be taken as the pir (literally wise elder) or master, the most reliable and unchanging master totally devoid of threatening Kundabufferian traits.

As long as organizations are run on the same traditional ways with some modifications at most, it will only reinforce the Kundabufferian feeling of enslavement and thus automatically promotes only the natural disposition of slavery rather than development of individuals with "capacity for displaying personal initiative which" as always is the urgent need.


... Payvand News - 08/31/12 ... --

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