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GURDJIEFF AS BLACK & WHITE MAGICIAN: How Gurdjieff’s Four Books relate to each other & his Law of Three
Above are some of the many images of Gurdjieff. It is interesting to see how one of these is often chosen, for blogs or publications about him, so as to express an opinion or judgement of him, to define him according to the writer’s own views.
How Gurdjieff’s Four Books relate to each other
& to his Law of Three
A while ago I wrote a review of Herald of Coming Good which I have extended here. My initial impulse to write the review came after going to a conference in which someone told me they hadn’t read Herald, ‘because our teacher told us not to.’
This advice was probably in response and obedience to Gurdjieff’s own withdrawing of his text. However, I will show below that it is important to read Herald, as it is an essential text, it completes Gurdjieff’s teaching and in doing so the text itself draws attention to what the pupil should reject.
It also, according to James Webb, revealed three of Gurdjieff’s techniques of manipulation that he
‘consistently employed: for one man the carrot, for another the stick, for the third hidden persuasion.’
Webb goes on to suggest that Gurdjieff’s pupils:
‘might have found the keys to a dozen puzzling experiences. If they had chosen to look’, but most of them did not. (Webb, James, The Harmonious Circle, London: Thames & Hudson, 1980 p. 428).
In Herald of Coming GoodGurdjieff portrays himself as a black magician in contrast to his role a white magician in Life is real only then, when “I am”’.
Gurdjieff’s Law of Three
In terms of Gurdjieff’s Law of Three:
1. Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson – represents a negative or destructive 2nd force
2. Meetings With Remarkable Men – represents a positive or creative force 1st force
3. Herald of Coming Good represents a negative reconciling 3rd force
4. Life is real only then, when “I am” represents a positive reconciling 3rd force
So, seen in this context, although he ‘exiled’ Herald, echoing Beelzebub’s exile from the Sun Absolute, readers may ignore Gurdjieff’s instructions not to read it and like the committee who restored Beelzebub’s horns, may pardon the ill results of his teaching that Gurdjieff claims for himself in Herald. The text can now be re-embraced back into the sequence of Gurdjieff’s writings where it belongs, just as Beelzebub was himself pardoned and allowed to return to the Sun Absolute
All four of Gurdjieff’s books have themes related to time. The Tales shows a continuing devolution from past to present, while Meetings shows Gurdjieff and the Seekers ‘reversing time’ by returning to the past sources of ancient wisdom via teachings in texts and monasteries. The title of Life is Real Only Then When ‘I am‘, emphasises the eternal present while the Herald Of Coming Good suggests the unreality of the future.
If we look at Gurdjieff’s books in this way it makes sense to follow his instructions to read three of them in the order he prescribes, and also to disobey his instruction not to read Herald.