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G. I. Gurdjieff's teaching, research, books, conferences


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And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling place for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant. KJV. Jeremiah 51:37

This is an invitation to explore the relation between the ‘missing’ paragraphs and the loss of the keys in G. I. Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. I’ll come back to precisely which paragraphs and which keys later.

This enquiry was prompted by work done recently in a series of seminars I attended relating to a critical reading of Biblical texts  (*see note below).This has re-introduced me to examples of oral structures used in writing.  I’d already found evidence of oral structures in the Tales, for example, Gurdjieff’s long sentences which run on and on without the paragraphing structure we expect, are termed paratactic, (or loose structured) and are found in archaic epics and poetry. 

‘Aristotle thought that a style consisting of only loose sentences seemed like the parts were just tacked together and had no natural pauses. He also thought that the sentences only stop because the speaker or writer has no more to say about a subject.'( )

The seminars have made me curious to look at the Tales again, specifically  in relation to patterning known as ring composition (or chiasmic patterning). 

Ring composition is a narrative technique said to be characteristic of preliterate peoples and oral modes of composition. [ …]. In ring composition, a narrator touches on a number of topics until a significant topic is reached, then continues on in the narrative by retracing in reverse order the topics which were mentioned on the way to the significant point. Ring composition is an important element in epic poetry like Beowulf, Homeric epics, [ … ] and in many other traditional texts that show signs of being composed orally. [ Mary Douglas, Thinking in circles: An essay on ring composition, Yale Univ. Press, 2007] composition retrieved 17.3.2012 (my emphasis) 

This kind of patterning is also evident in music, dance and other art forms.

The word chiasmus is derived from the 22nd letter in the Greek alphabet, chi (X), and when used graphically a simple chiasmus takes on the form of an X: here is an example:


This can be expanded in written form as: A: Foods – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  – — – – – – – – – – – B: for  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – C: Stomach – – – –  – – – – – – – – – – –  – – – – – – – – C: Stomach – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  B: for – – – – – –  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  – – – – A: Foods  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  – – – – – – –  One of the reasons that Chiasmus was used in the Hebrew writings was because the patterned language with the main theme in the middle made it easier to remember for oral repetition.

I found the above image and info at:

#–Part-4 retrieved 16.3.12

In the Tales, the missing paragraphs are:

‘two paragraphs omitted even from Orage’s cyclostyled edition of THE BOOK. They were circulate among New York groups as separate fragments .’Webb, James. The Harmonious Circle, The Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky and their Followers, London, Thames and Hudson, 1980. 549, Webb’s emphasis; retrieved 16.3.2012)

The 1950 edition is currently available as a photographic facsimile of the original 1950 English edition from Two Rivers Press. Since the Two Rivers Press publication is a facsimile of the original 1950 English edition it does not include various minor corrections which were made in reprintings by earlier publishers after the original 1950 publication. The two missing paragraphs and the errata are now being included as a bound-in appendix to this edition. (retrieved 16.3.2012)

(These missing paragraphs have been inserted in a searchable online version of the Tales. If you do come across this, although extremely useful in many ways, its worth noting that there is an inaccuratae indication of the Tales pagination within the online pages, so the ‘missing paragraphs’ are not placed on the same page as in the original edition.)

Although the paragraphs were not printed in the 1950 edition we do have an indication of the exact place the paragraphs should go: this is after line 18 on page 568 and so, thinking about ring structuring, I wanted to see if these paragraphs were central to the whole book, they were not; nor were they central to the Second Book- chapters 29 – 39  of the Tales; they were however exactly on the central page of Chapter 32, Hypnotism.

Here are the paragraphs:

And so, when thanks to a change of tempo of their blood circulation there is obtained a temporary  suspension of the action of the localization of that false consciousness which has already become the ‘autocratic ruler’ of their common presences, thereby giving the sacred data of their genuine consciousness the possibility of unhindered blending with the total functioning of the planetary body during the period of their waking state, then indeed my boy, if the crystallization of data for engendering in that localization an idea of something opposite to that which had already arisen in them and somehow become fixed, is assisted in a corresponding manner, and if moreover the actions evoked by this idea are directed upon a disharmonized part of the planetary body, an accelerated change in it is possible.

When, during the period of the Tikliamishian civilization, the learned beings of the locality Maralpleicie first constated in their common psyche the special possibility of such ‘combinations,’ and began to search for ways of intentionally bringing one another into this special state, they soon understood and found the possibility of actualising this by means of what is called ‘being-Hanbledzoin,’ namely, that cosmic substance, the essence of which the three-brained beings of the contemporary civilization came close to understanding, and which they called ‘animal magnetism.’  

They occur on the central page of the chapter, in the place which according to ring structuring is the most important place, the central message of the whole chapter.

I decided to look at another centre page, and because I remembered that there is a quotation of Gurdjieff responding when asked about the Tales, ‘it is not my book it is Mr Beelzebub’s’, I chose to look at the central page of Beelzebub’s own narrative in chapters 2 – 47, excluding the first and last chapters which are in Gurdjieff’s voice.

The central page is 517 in Chapter 30, Art in which Beelzebub explains to Hassein that scarcely anything has survived from the labors of the learned Babylonians, so that:

To the great sorrow of everything existing in the Universe, scarcely anything has survived, my boy, from the results of their labors, and hence nothing has become the property of your contemporary favorites.

“The information they indicated in the said manner passed from generation to generation, only, in all, for a few of their succeeding centuries.

Thanks to their chief particularity, namely, to the ‘periodic-process- of-reciprocal-destruction,’ there almost wholly disappeared from amongst the ordinary beings there, soon after the period of the ‘Babylonian-magnificence,’ not only the Legominism concerning the keys to the lawful inexactitudes in the Law of Sevenfoldness contained in each of the branches of the ‘being-Afalkalna’ and ‘Soldjinoha,’ but, as I have already told you, there gradually also disappeared even the very notion of the Universal Law of the holy Heptaparaparsahinokh, which in Babylon they then called the Law of Sevenfoldness.’

Adam and Eve cast out of timeless Eden into our world of time, suffering and death. 

The narrative of the Tales recounts the Fall of Beelzebub with the principle theme of the Fall of Man, shown in the above image painted by Masaccio.  

In the central page of Beelzebub’s narrative the reader finds an encapsulation of the whole of the Tales related to the almost total loss of wisdom and understanding that humanity has experienced.  The reader is faced with the loss of the keys to the lawful inexactitudes in the law of seven and even of the notion of such a law. 

In contrast, the loss of the ‘missing’ paragraphs in Hypnosis which encapsulate Beelzebub’s new or rediscovered method of hypnotism is now available to us, curiously both visible and invisible. In the place of most importance if we put it there. 

These passages are summaries of what Beelzebub suggests is humanity’s loss together with his possible solution which is his restoration of the lost form of consciousness by hypnosis. 

*A Note on Reading


Reading can be informal in the park  …

I’ve learned a great deal about critical reading from the group led by Anglia Ruskin University’s Chaplain the Reverend Nigel Cooper who is introducing us to areas of reading that I’ve not been aware of and which I think are equally useful in relation to reading the Tales so I  want to express my gratitude to everyone who has taken part in the group.

Anyone who has spent some time in a Gurdjieff studies, whether in a group, or independently reading Ouspensky and other pupil writings, will gather a series of interconnecting ideas about the teaching, and often the Tales are read, in order to amplify or explain the teaching, while the teaching is referred to in order to better understand the Tales. This somewhat circular mode of reading can have advantages, but it also promotes difficulties caused by prior layers of experience, understanding and thinking. These do make it it difficult to read exactly what is being said/written without the interference of the already held understandings and assumptions.

The wish to interpret writings, and interpret them correctly, or usefully, is strong, and can be easily seen in the different ways Biblical writings are interpreted by the many diverse forms of Christianity. This applies equally to the Tales which could never be considered an easy read. One method which helps to clear the mind as much as possible from already held knowledge and assumptions is helped by looking closely at exactly what is being said and by whom, by the author Gurdjieff, or by his protagonist Beelzebub? Would there be a difference between the two?

Our group reading of Mark has shown that although Mark is the author of his whole gospel, the words recounted are attributed sometimes to God, sometimes to Jesus, or to his disciples, or to evil spirits, and other sources. In the same way, although Gurdjieff is the author of the whole text, his voice is mediated through Beelzebub, whilst Beelzebub also mediates what he is saying through his stories which recount the words of others. 

It is far less easy than I had thought to read in this way, and this is shown in our study partly by the wish to interpret what is being read in a way that confirms faith or belief held by the reader and partly by all the information already gathered from the other gospels but which is not actually present in the sentences being examined. 

I’ve experienced how interpretation springing from these wishes and from prior knowledge often includes elements which stray away from what is stated in the text. This is a response which often aims to passively resolve difference and to make acceptable contradictions and anomalies which if acknowledged can provoke a more critical reading and a more active investigation.

Form criticism is a method of reading which looks at these questions and others, it groups kinds of narrative according to literary pattern, and there are many differing types of pattern in the Tales, Biblical as well as other forms of story-telling. The Tales is by definition of its title a book of stories, there are also five different direct references to stories. If any of this is useful to readers I am glad, but if not, there is no need to take any notice of it.

Read more about form criticism at:

 … or more formally in the the University of Coimbra General Library, Portugal


April 15, 2012 at 8:50 am

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