Some Notes on the Beginning of Gurdjieff’s ‘Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson’ (R8)

Re-reading BTTHG again… Reading matter that’s not for the sqeamish or for anybody just setting out to discover what the Gurdjieff canon is all about.

§1 Many moons ago, when I taught Eng Lit, in order to encourage students to be bold, I used to preface any course by referring to Sartre (1947) who is eloquent on the idea of reading as a re-creative process; every reader of any book, bringing their own learning, experience & thinking to bear on it, makes a new book out of what they read: Beelzebub is no exception—when twenty different readers set out to read it there are twenty different books.  The way you have chosen to be programmed since birth enables you to get what you want from it.

§2 Mr G says that ‘every stick has two ends’. His whole teaching is  in line with this. It’s never a question of either/or—it’s always both/and… Not either your idea or my idea but both your interpretation and mine which opens up opportunities for some creative reconciling in between. All events and phenomena have at least two possible interpretations. Sticks have two ends but there can also be an infinite number of notches along a stick.

§3 Since the notion of  ‘God’ appears very early on in the book it’s worth saying that at one end of a stick there’s no such being as ‘God’—the very concept itself is unnecessary; at the other end there’s the absolutist certainty of God; somewhere in the middle there’s the statement: It all depends what you mean by ‘god’… I think that this is one of the great exciting challenges of Tales. G refers to ‘His Endlessness’ in many different ways.

§4 Elsewhere, Mr G says that when you begin any enterprise you should sound a bold note DOH! He could have started Tales in this way but he chooses to use the mechanical formula phrase, ‘In the name of the Father… etc…’ perhaps to demonstrate that it’s part of his programming—and the programming of Toulousites as well as Londonites and Chicagoites—and also to put himself at ease, ‘completely assured that from now on everything in this new venture… will proceed like a pianola…’

§5 This seems to me to be where Mr G starts seriously larking about—so early on: ‘As the blind man put it, “We shall see…”’ That things should proceed in the manner of a mechanical piano is exactly what Mr G does not intend to happen, his object being to mercilessly destroy all mechanically accepted beliefs about and views of so-called ‘reality’ now and forever.

§6 I remember long ago being very disappointed with Descartes when, after making his really positive statement of systematic doubt as the first step in his Theory of Knowledge, he excluded God from the process. I don’t think that Mr G goes the same way. When you get to pages 650-700 you’ll perhaps ask the question why there are at least twenty different circumlocutions for ‘God’ there…

§7 All beliefs without exception are to be fully examined. ‘All quieting notions’, everything that could lead to self-calming, ‘all romantic images and naive dreams’ will disappear under his analysis. Even the belief that Tales is the panacea must go.

§8 We tend to be educated out of asking the kind of searching questions we ask as little kids and we learn to play safe, relying on received wisdom to save the hard work of thinking. So it’s just as well maybe that we have ‘an excellently working automatism for perceiving all kinds of new impressions… thanks to which [there’s] no need to make any individual effort whatsoever…’ Under Capitalism, run by those whom Mr G calls ‘the Power Possessors, current notions of ‘education’ are designed to turn little kids into machines instead of getting them to question everything. In Tales, on the contrary, what will be demanded of us is a thorough-going individual effort after meaning. The original meaning in the Ancient Greek of the word ‘school’ is the opportunity offered for leisure to find out for yourself what everything means; now it’s a matter of conforming to somebody else’s ‘attainment targets’.

§9 Mr G says he’s obsessed by ‘the process of human mentation…’ What is thinking? How do we think? How do we know things? What counts as knowing? Is there anything we can know for sure? Instead of just submitting to Suggestibility managed by the curse of the Media… He has an interesting Theory of Knowledge. Part of his answer is that thinking takes place in one of two ways: (1) by means of words as empty sounds, always with relative meaning, carrying subjective meaning only, but, when we identify with them, likely to help maintain our state of sleep… (2) by means of forms—by which he clearly means not Plato’s Forms but just, as he says, ‘picturing’ and therefore perhaps metaphor, visualisation, images, pattern—such forms undergo intentional blending with one’s Being, somewhere in the Other-than-conscious part of it. There’s no doubting the meaning of Red Peppers or, at the end of the book, Divided Waters—both metaphors carry meaning without the need for words. The lovely paradox is that there are quite a lot of mere words in the thousand-plus pages of Tales

§10 Mr G’s concern about the limitations of words reminds me of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: ‘the words we have at our disposal create the world in which we imagine we live…’ The way we label the world (and all its contents) determines our response to it.

§11 Mr G says he will eschew ‘grammaticality’ and ‘literary language’ but he’s very skilful indeed at setting up complex cadences that determine a rhythm of thinking, first one way then another—in the Second Series this is described potently as the SWING OF THOUGHT. It’s hugely satisfying to get into Mr G’s Swing of Thought: penduluming between the serious and the comic, between the promising of things (sowing ideas) and the not fulfilling the promise (make up your own mind), between lively short bursts of prose and long-windedness, between complex constructions and simple throwaway colloquialisms, between calculated lunacy and simple good sense, between obfuscation and total clarity. What is the purpose of this Swing of Thought? To get readers to settle on their own ideas in a centred, reconciling kind of way.

§12 To return to his Theory of Knowledge, addressing the question of human mentation, Mr G frequently emphasises the concept of crystallisation. In the opening chapter of Tales he points to the importance of ‘three definite & peculiar psychic data crystallised in my common presence…’ As a mental process, crystallisation is about how we can know things for absolute certainty. Crystal is a hard, interestingly shaped, many-faceted, solid deposit; as a metaphor it connotes the rock-bottom certainty of something that has settled and grown in our being. Mr G’s grandmother’s advice that he should never do as others do is a crystallised deposit in his being. But crystal is somewhat dead and therefore needs something to bring it to life, to ‘vivify’ it. What brought his grandmother’s advice to life were the two vivifying processes, Always seek to learn the real causes of things by constantly asking questions and Going the Whole Hog, including the postage.

§13 Vivifyingness is ‘a certain something’ that when applied to ideas and thoughts (crystallised deposits) turns them into whole body possessions; it’s a ‘something’ that flows everywhere ‘through my whole presence, settled forever in each atom composing it…’ This brings to my mind ANWhitehead’s dictum that the object of education, properly understood, is to convert ‘inert ideas’ into something that is your own unique possession. Vivifyingness is Mr G’s word for the process that happens when ideas/concepts are assimilated or blended into the muscle, into the ‘something’ that’s hardly really known—into some ‘I’, or cluster of ‘I’s, or, as G says,  ‘a relatively mobile arising depending on the quality of functioning of thought, feeling and organic automatism..’ An idea is truly vivified when it’s felt in all Centres—Thinking, Feeling, Moving.

§14 Although the aim of Tales is merciless destruction of all mechanically accepted beliefs about and views of so-called ‘reality’ now and forever, etc, we already have here the beginnings of the positive side of the whole Series: we are to consider the words we use carefully, work with ‘forms’ (metaphors, story, visual images) and concentrate on ways to vivify positive crystallisations

§15 ‘Never doing as others do…’  One could, of course, ask the question “Never doing as WHICH others…?” Gurdjieff, Ouspensky? Can one be choosy about the ‘others’ one is going to model on?

§16 ‘Impartial attitude’   How far is it really possible to have such an attitude when we are always conditioned by upbringing and education to have a particular perspective on things?  Like Mr G we can assert that we have an impartial attitude but the assertion does not necessarily create a true ‘reality’…  ‘Local influences and impressions’ affect the way we interpret what we like to think of as ‘the same world’…  Even Beelzebub has a good share of vanity and won’t do something unless he has his palm greased…  He’s not perfect.

§17 Putting that on one side, grabbing the other end of the stick, what might it require to get to an impartial attitude?  Open-mindedness, suspension of disbelief, toleration of ambiguity, infinite play, not to suffer from the Sin of Seriousness, ability to stand apart from everything while at the same time being constantly inquisitive about everything… These seem to me to be some of the things that Mr G is advocating: operating from a spaceship is a great metaphor for separating oneself from everything in order to be able to be inquisitive about them and then diving down into them to study what’s really happening; Beelzebub constantly plays with ideas, in this way, requires that we suspend disbelief, exercise an open mind, question everything…

§18 A committed person (somebody who’s lost in identification with an idea, a belief, a point of view, an enthusiasm, with the book called Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson) cannot, by definition, have an impartial attitude. They are committed to, they identify with, a specific way of seeing things. The result is that they don’t/can’t see things any other way—they are partial to one way of seeing things—their own way.

§19 Mr G often plays with us. His heroes are not to be any old Tom Dick or Harry but ‘Beelzebub’, chosen to inspire ‘automatic contradictory impulses’ crystallised in people by standard ‘religious morality’. So this is a deliberate ploy to get people to study their automaticity.

§20 As for literary style, G engages the attention of the reader in the construction of ideas, deliberately guides the reader to understand the pattern of his ideas: ‘Hold on, old fellow…’  ‘Wait, wait…’   ‘It can’t be helped…’  G also paces the reader throughout the book; here eg ‘…not to fatigue him with the perception of numerous ideas over a short period of time…’ Acknowledges the possibility of ‘marked hostility… in every reader…’ [Not in this reader, except for three or four pages out of 1200!] I wonder if he’s intent on ‘pressing buttons’…

§21 However G declares that his experience of getting ‘one of those people who are always hanging around me… eager to enter paradise with their boots on…’ (without sufficient preparation?)  to read the first chapter aloud made him realise that he had contravened one of the fundamental commandments of Nasr Eddin never to poke your stick into a hornets’ nest.  This caused an emotional reaction in him (an intolerable itch just below the solar plexus) which he can get rid of by deliberately transferring his focus of attention to his Intellectual Centre & focussing on the story of Karapet of Tiflis.

§22 The moral of the story is that when you ask people to WAKE UP they will curse you no end because being asleep is a comfortable part of their nature.

§23 Karapet sensed ‘vibrations of malice’… To remain centred, one has to disidentify from other people’s responses: to do this Karapet started his activity by cursing first so other people’s curses were neither here nor there…


I happened to find these notes this morning, written a few years ago, stuck in some obscure corner of my computer. I wonder what else is there that I’ve forgotten about… 31st August 2012

43 thoughts on “Some Notes on the Beginning of Gurdjieff’s ‘Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson’ (R8)

  1. I always find it interesting how those who talk about the unreliance of words always put so much emphasis on them and use more than are necessary to get a point across.
    Of course people never see this in themselves and if they do they will make all kinds of excuses to keep on doing it.


  2. Yes, that is really interesting. I go with such an absorbing paradox.

    At the risk of being accused of making an excuse, it’s maybe what one tries to do with words that’s of consequence and how much time one takes to absorb meaning.

    And then one has to ask the question: Is it sufficient to rely on the lack of meaningful words in a sound-bite. For a very up-to-the-minute example OUR FUTURE IS OUR DESTINY (Romney) Obfuscation by abstraction…


  3. Great post Colin.

    Of course, this raises the question of precisely what a “more than necessary” amount of words is. And then there is Wittgenstein’s beautiful statement “My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)”

    Thanks for quoting Romney’s bizarre tautology! How do people let all this kind of guff pass? Oh wait, people aren’t taught to question things at school…that sure makes it easier to get away with things. Unbelievable that anyone would consider electing him president.


  4. Thanks Colin for another post that one could say uses words with a degree of sharpness and precision. Was the word precision necessary in my opening sentence, maybe not, but my ear has as much to do with how I string together words as anything else. It’s probably some note I feel that has to drop into place. Is this mechanical thinking or feeling?


    The human and the divine coexisting at the same time is real religion.

    This sounds interesting until I turn it upside down in my mind. Religion unreal is the human and the divine coexisting at the same time. Now religion is gone and if I wanted to I could play with these words in endless combinations, but I’m not sure if they would produce anything more than play. I’m not sure if it’s the amount of words we use that matters, as much as the amount of different ideas that we are connecting together in a way that produces an agility to enliven the readers mind.

    This post like many that you’ve written contains an abundance of fertile ideas, and I’ve just savored the first reading. If I wanted to do a proper write-up, one that could withstand the scrutiny of one of my professors that I admire, I would need a bit more time.

    As you know I think the spaceship metaphor works for me, it’s a way to see things in a new and fresh way.

    Poets use repetition to disrupt our habitual thinking, some poems by Robert Creely (Black Mountain poet) uses a meter in his poems like a powder keg, to blast away the ego. I’m not nearly as familiar with “Tales” as you are, but I do enjoy reading it out loud like a lunatic sometimes.

    Man looked at the sky one night and air pushed through his body, he said something, it had a sound, and he could shout it very loud, soon others began shouting this sound, they began dancing around and around shouting this sound, a song was born and man felt a great bond to this song, he’s been dancing ever since, although now the dance is almost lost, its grown stale & full of insults. Lawyers & the money grabbers feel like dying when they see the ancient dance. The essence remains the same, it’s the outside that changes form.


    1. man looked at the sky

      one night and air
      pushed through his body;
      he said something –
      it had a sound
      a song was born
      and man felt a great bond
      to this song he’s been dancing ever since

      although now the dance is almost lost
      it’s grown stale & full of insults
      lawyers & the money grabbers
      feel like dying
      when they see the ancient dance

      essence remains the same;
      the outcome changes form


      1. The mind of the lawyer is a very interesting issue to ponder. Here is an interesting quote on that issue that affected me.

        The Devil Generally Wears A Suit:
        C.S. Lewis line from The Screwtape Letters: “The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

        But, then I feel the lawyers mind is my mind – everyman’s mind. It is a sad training they receive and use to keep the world wrapped up in tape.

        Have you read, “Words of My Perfect Teacher, by Patrul Rinpoche? Fire and brimstone on the hell realms we get stuck in due to our greed and desire or aversion to suffering.


  5. Hi Colin, I read this article with great interest. I have not studied Gurdjieff, but feel we are somehow, and in someway on the same pathless traceless beginningless intersection in time and space.

    I have studied myself experientially for twelve years via zazen. Form and formlessness, and working through experiences of being a fast moving deck of images in a nickolodeon. Crank the nickolodeon,and the images are moving in the present participle of the verb.

    I have also read and keep re-reading Krishnamurti. I also study many others like Osho, Mooji, zen masters words, on and on….

    Can you recommend some books by Gurdjieff? I am going to get this book you reviewed here, and read the pomes of Robert Creely. Great site! I always reap the benefits of what you generously offer.


    1. Being ‘…on the same pathless traceless beginningless intersection in time and space…’ I like that! Feels good! I like Kirshnamurti, Osho seems to be parallel to the Fourth Way. Alan Watts on Zen was a real starting point for me years ago…

      I wouldn’t start with Beelzebub. Though the first part sets out some fundamentals of Gurdjieff’s thinking the other thousand pages go off into metaphor – it’s a lifetime’s effort to come to terms with it. You’re supposed to read it three times before ever beginning to think that you’ve got anywhere with it! That’s the story anyway. I’ve got some way with it…

      As starters I’d go for Ouspensky’s ‘The Fourth Way’ and his ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ . Gurdjieff’s ‘Meetings with Remarkable Men’ is a great read and a great film.


      1. Have you read the three commentaries on Dogen’s Gengo Koan? (intersecting time and space) I resonate with Osho and he makes me laugh hard at times! Yep, Alan Watts…great!

        I went to the library yesterday, and their was only one book available at a different county library. “The Fourth Way,” is being sent to my library so I will read this one first. I went to Barnes and Noble in my area, and they did not have one book of Gurdjieff. I will have to peruse the web.

        I just looked up the film, “Meetings With Remarkable Men,” on you tube. They have it! I am a complete newbie regarding the work of Gurjieff, and ready to enter the stream. There is something I need to know, and have been on this journey to myself for years. I am looking at my mind all the time from different angles, it pettiness, the conclusions formed out of assumptions, and the delusional thinking. Can’t remember what zen master stated this but it “stuck” in my mind” The stomach produces gastric juices. The mind produces thoughts. The mind does not care what it thinks. And there is the making sense of my life as I approach the last stage. I am trying to read biographies, understand from my own senior self study the journey of humanity – is collective transformation a possibility? What of the work of Carl Jung. Krishnamurti grabbed my mind as did the zen masters…and now Gurdjieff.


    1. Screwtape Letters! Wow! I read that when I was 16… The piece you quote, Livvy, must have penetrated my other-than-conscious mind then! It’s spot on. And ‘The Problem of Pain’. But the key CSLewis text, one that, together with other books read about the same time, transformed my life was ‘Surprised by Joy’, a philosophical/autobiographical text.

      ‘The mind does not care what it thinks…’ Good for pondering!

      The mind doesn’t care but is there something in our Being that does care?

      Can we separate from the mind that doesn’t care?

      Jung excellent. The others you quote I don’t know yet.

      ‘…senior self study…’ I’m with you there!

      ‘…collective transformation…’ I think it may be possible with the right collectivity!


  6. I will certainly pick up the book Suprised By Joy. Thanks for the lead.

    Physiologically, the mind does not care what it thinks. But, you made a strong point, there is a part that cares. Where is this part? We cannot see it anatomically? We know it.

    Hmm, can we separate the mind that doesn’t care. Yes. We must step back from the mind that produces thoughts and stay in the gap before reaction occurs. Whew!

    For thousands of years, there have been people who knew how to stay in the gap…but we were never able to do it collectively. Your right, we cannot get the “collectivity!” LOL LOL


    1. Interesting. Hmm. I will say both. There is a stream. How can I negate one or the other? I must inquire from all perspectives with my limited ordinary mind. LOL Not an easy job!

      I am going to a lecture by Richard Tarnas: Understanding Our Moment in History the end of the month. I am interested in your perspective on evolving collectively. Inquiring.


  7. Note 14 – “we are to consider the words we use carefully, work with ‘forms’ (metaphors, story, visual images) and concentrate on ways to vivify positive crystallisations” – resonates strongly with me this morning, Colin. Last night at my weekly meditation group, our teacher’s topic was “wise speech” – one of the practices in Buddha’s “eightfold path” for the cessation of suffering. Carefully considering the words we use – and especially carefully considering the intentions we have in using those words – neatly sums up this practice.

    I’d like to know more about “vivifyingness” – perhaps you’ll do a post on it sometime?? And I too am curious about what other forgotten treasures you have tucked away on your computer!



    1. Dear Tom

      A great tie-up. I think it’s lovely when that happens. Thanks for making it here!

      I’ll have another clear-out when I’m stumped for a topic!

      ‘Vivfyingness’ is a lovely word that ‘Mr G’ uses – for me it signifies really getting a grasp of an idea, image, concept (etc), getting on the insdie of it, and making it come alive for yourself – something about living the essence of an idea – the result of really putting the result of a weekly meditation into practice. So maybe ‘carefully considering the words we use’ becomes a little vivified nugget that can be felt in the muscle as Robert Dilts is fond of saying.

      Turning whatever it might be from an ‘inert idea’ into something that you could call your very own possession. This is ANWhitehead in a vivified (for me!) phrase I often quote

      Maybe there’s something in the crypt about ‘vivifyingness’… I’ll do a search!

      This morning I happened to find a huge thing based on JGBennett’s ‘Dramatic Universe’ which is related!



      1. I am reading first time, The Fourth Way.” I have studied the writings of Krishnamurti for many years, and finding similarities in some of the statements made by Ouspensky. Of course, I will have to reread a few times, take some notes. I am also interested in doing some research on Ouspensky’s life…as I did on Krishnamurti.


      1. What an honor, Colin! I’ll be looking forward to reading this new post with even more than my usual dose of enthusiasm!! On my way out of town for a few days, driving my son and a carload of his belongings off to Philadelphia for his first year of college. Learning about vivifyingness will be at the top of my list as soon as I return home.



  8. Hello Colin,
    I found it curious that you compared Wittgenstein’s writings with those of Gurdjieff. Since G’s degree of being was higher than Wittgenstein’s, it would seem to me to be difficult to really compare their writings. Wittgenstein’s are opinions, observations, conclusions, etc,; Gurdjieff’s BTTG is a Legominism, and a consciously created one; they are completely different kinds or work. Gurdjieff can understand what is essential or important about Wittgenstein; Wittgenstein cannot understand Gurdjieff, nor his Legominism. What do you think of this?
    I also wanted to ask, is their a way for you to say what you mean in fewer words? Your blogs stop the reader, owing to their length and wordiness; or could you preface the posts with an abstract, synopsis, or precis? Curious.
    Let me add, if I might, that you come well recommended by Henry J. Koehler, from the 4th way LA forum; he is the one who sent me the link to your blog.
    Dr. Jone Dae.


    1. Hi Jone

      Your name is very familiar to me from Henry’s mentions in 4WLA. I gather that you’ve also done a paper on WITW from which I discharged myself in May 2009 after 18 months of brawling and mauling. I asked myself how long one had to put up with the unpleasant characteristics of others and decided that 18 months of self-containment was probably a sufficient length of time in addition to the lengthy period of self-discipline I’d spent dealing with kids and adults in teaching set-2’s of one kind and another for around fifty years. One Duncan Shockley is pretty much the same as another – is he still around?

      I was amazed at the vituperation and self-centred humbuggery let loose on the universe amongst people who were in principle on the same journey. Never having been in one of these renowned ‘schools’ ‘in the line’, in particular I shied away from those who said I knew nothing about anything because I hadn’t been in one – if they were the product of such a venture I’m not sure I’d ever have wished to be part of a ‘school’.

      I coined the phrase ‘Gurdjieff Wars’ as a description of what I had resigned from. I was quite an active participant for 18 months.

      In the exchanges above I think it was actually my mate Chris who talked about Wittgenstein and that only in the context of how many words are necessary… I’ve never thought of comparing the two! I suppose that Wittgenstein, if he’d had a mind to, could have made an effort to understand G just as we ordinary lesser mortals imagine that we can.

      In general, though, I find it interesting to make links between my wider ‘intellectual life’ (as I like to think of it) with what I find in 4W. The process uses the other Centres of Feeling and Action in constantly making comparisons on Ouspensky’s principle that although things seem separate they are in fact all connected. If I have a principle of life it’s summed up in the epigrammatic phrase at the beginning of EMForster’s novel ‘Howard’s End’ – ONLY CONNECT. I don’t know where it comes from but it works for me…

      Two other principles I work with…JGBennett’s dictum that ‘all explanation is a trap’ – put something over in a dumbed down, simplistic sort of way and there’s a danger that readers/listeners will just shrug their shoulders and say. “Got that… what’s next?” without spending any time pondering. This is linked to Gurdjieff’s saying that nothing should ever be transmitted in an obvious sort of way.

      I can’t remember what the second thing was!

      So, yes, I could do a synopsis or summary of my Globs but it might be that people would only read that with a triumphant ‘Goddit!’ & on to the next thing. Sound-bites are all the rage – Facebook’s full of them and they just scroll down the page into e-oblivion.

      Of course one runs the risk that nobody will persevere but that’s not my problem. I think. I imagine that BTTHG is constructed on that principle. I’m certainly not up there with Beelzebub but it’s the principle that’s important to me. Milton Erikson had ‘artful vagueness’ and so did Gurdjieff though he didn’t call it that; the practice of judicious artful vagueness in teaching is that anybody determined to stick the course will just keep on pondering & working to make connections. On the whole I don’t think I’m too troubled with the idea that some won’t keep up…

      I look forward to further exchanges, Jone. Thanks for your comments.



      1. Hi Colin!
        I’m new to WordPress. I went to my dashboard, looking for a way to reply to your reply there, and couldn’t find one. That dashboard page, it is so clear, easy to read, etc., but didn’t have some important and obvious things, like an Inbox. The left-hand menu had no Inbox link. So, someone sends me a rely, and the blog page and dashboard page fail to show it. If you can help me with that, I’d appreciate it; I dislike help pages and menues, and FAQs, since they usually just waste your time, partly be being awkward to use, and partly by not having the info you’re looking for. Questions to admins and such, if answered at all, are sometimes automated replies, or redirect to the help menues and FAQs.
        The admins on WITW, by the way, never responded to any communications from me. Some were a test just to make contact, some were reports of abuse, one was a request for a new discussion to be approved, since the ones with invitation-only filters have to approved by them. And so on. Also, I posted on at least one discussion that Alice started, and she replied to none of them, not to me, and not to anyone else when I was there. Neither did Michael Garland. -Not complaining, just reporting a situation to someone who knows what I’m talking about.
        I completely agree with you about the “sound bites” or here I guess it would be “word bites”, and have made that point to others myself. With some of my material, I too have thought, it wasn’t really my fault (nor my problem) if someone had a short attention span, or was too busy to slow down and read what I’d written, and so on; and some of them replied by saying, I’m paraphrasing and condensing, that it was basically rude to send someone a long e-mail or to post a long comment. On WITW, it was one of the first things they complained about, saying that I posted too much. ? They ride on top of that site, and post there constantly, every day! On the other hand, sometimes I am in too much of a hurry to read something lengthy, but the difference is that I’m aware of it, I know when I’m moving too quickly to slow down, but I can also arrange to make the time to read something longer, or more difficult, etc.
        So, I didn’t mean my question in the sense of dumbing it down, or making it accessible tot the shallow, etc. People have shorter and shorter attention spans all the time. That can only be changed, IMHO, one person at a time, and only IRL. No, I was, if you’ll allow me to confess it, probing, to see what kind of person you are, such level of intelligence, personality traits (I’m probing for friendly vs. hostile, loving vs. stupid, etc.), and, you know, degree of being, such as Man Number a, b, or c, and so on.
        Actually, I’m in a favorite cafe writing now, and there is unexpected and unusual live music being performed here tonight, and I’ve learned that I can only stay until 7pm local time, instead of the 8pm that I had planned. So, all around me, all the tables have been moved, except mine, all the chairs moved, people wandering nervously around, more noise, etc., instead of the normally comfortable and quiet cafe that I am used to and that I expected. So, I won’t be able to give you the thoughtful reply tonight that I had planned to, and I’m disappointed, since you made several good points, which are important, whether or not I agree with them.
        Therefore, I’m going to break this reply up into two or more parts, so that I can give your thoughts the attention they deserve.
        Jone Dae.


  9. Your first statement reminded me of Krishnamurti’s teaching, that people find what they are looking for. The unknown can only come to them when they aren’t looking for anything, but rather just looking at what’s there, to paraphrase and condense. But also, there is what G himself said about BTTG, which is good for us, but not necessarily as an Intro for a newcomer:
    In 1943 Gurdjieff said:
    “For example, in Beelzebub, I know, there is everything one must know. It is a very interesting book. Everything is there. All that exists, all that has existed, all that can exist. The beginning, the end, all the secrets of the creation of the world; all is there. But one must understand, and to understand depends on one’s individuality. The more man can be instructed in a certain way, the more he can see. Subjectively, everyone is able to understand according to the level he occupies, for it is an objective book, and everyone should understand something in it. One person understands one part, another a thousand times more.”

    “Now, find a way to put your attention on understanding all of Beelzebub. This will be your task, and it is a good way to fix a real attention. If you can put real attention on Beelzebub, you can have a real attention in life. You didn’t know this secret. In Beelzebub there is everything, I have said it, even how to make an omelette. Among other things, it is explained; and at the same time there isn’t a word in Beelzebub about cooking. So, you put your attention on Beelzebub, another attention than that to which you are accustomed, and you will be able to have the same attention in life.”


  10. I would like to add one more thing tonight, though. Obviously, with BTTG G. was trying to increase his readers’ attention spans, since this is of crucial importance. A legominism like that is the only way I know of to increase the attention span of more than one person at a time. But I also sometimes think of some of the things that Jan Cox said and taught. And by the way, I actually am familiar with hypnotism and it uses, and have read the works not only of Erikson, but of Bandler and Grinder, and Ernest Rossi, and Jay Haley, Gregory Bateson, and others. But about the ‘artful vagueness’, this too is something I came to understand in my life, and to use in some of my communications with others. Jan Cox, who was clearly in the Work or exposed to it at some point early in his life, talks about (paraphrased) “those darn people who won’t come to a darned conclusion!” . He uses humor well in his talks, and uses his “southern gentleman” character well. So, since I’m being basically chased out by the nervous band members and their groupies, here’s a link to a Jan Cox video that I think you’ll enjoy: }Questions and Hemlock, 15:51.


  11. Dear Jone

    I’m afraid I’m not very computer-savvy! I expect part of the reason why you didn’t get my reply was that I had not clicked ‘follow’ in your WordPress Thingy. I have done it now so I wonder if this response will come into your ordinary email. I avoid HELP signs completely because they are usually so helpful as to be quite useless – they never answer exactly what you want.

    There’s also a little sign top-left of a post page that illuminates when there’s a reply! It lit up with your latest reply and there was also a notification in my bulging in-box.

    On WITW I had somehow or the other got into very personal conversations with ‘Alice’ – not her real name – and I was encouraged to start things and contribute. But when I suddenly decided I’d had enough of suffering the unpleasant characteristics of others and took all my stuff down she stopped communicating completely. She had even sent me an Xmas present one year! I thought we were personal friends outside WITW!

    I fancy that I understood that you were ‘probing’ – it felt a bit like it! And I understand that. So many people on the Internet and so much that one might wish to avoid in ‘Real Life’.

    I walked all unsuspecting into WITW and found my straight-up posts became the victims of vituperation rather than being seen as contributions to genuine conversation. This was very new to me. It’s only 9 years since I got into the fantasy world of the Internet.

    Up till then I ploughed a contented (but not, I think, self-calming) furrow, making sense of 4W for myself. My ‘schooling’ was in the world of NLP which I have taught one way or another, one context or another, for twenty years; my ‘Work’ was with all kinds of people from business and consultancy.

    I think your brief account of your favourite cafe experience, with its ‘unexpected and unusual live music’ with ‘all the tables… moved, except mine, all the chairs moved, people wandering nervously around, more noise, etc., instead of the normally comfortable and quiet cafe that I am used to and that I expected…’ is a perfect metaphor (thinking by form!) for the way I see life: you get comfortable with something and then everything starts to move or change; then the knack is to hold on to a kind of flexible certainty until things settle to order again – till the cognitive dissonance is adjusted. Till it returns the next time

    It’s the fortification of one point of view that’s so horrifying. Part of the Terror of the Situation.

    The business of short attention spans is awful. I helped my oldest granddaughter through her philosophy degree – no stickability and counting the days till the end of it.

    Jan Cox is brilliant. I got to him via Henry!

    I wonder where we go from here!



    1. Hi Colin,
      Got your reply. It came to my e-mail, as well. I want to say a few more words about our last conversation. Today I’m busy catching-up on many things, but will write to you some more when I have some more time. If you have any thoughts on Will that would help me, I’d be grateful for that. That is, I think he’s a suitable co-author for my new blog, but, I have misjudged people before, and been surprised by them; and usually unpleasantly more often than pleasantly. I just need someone who understands electricity and magnetism, who knows cosmogonical theories and the natural sciences, AND who has read BTTG and lived with it, long enough for their transformation to have progressed. Such a person is difficult to find, and so I’ve been hoping that Will was the right one.
      I’ll see your replies when the come now, in my (hotmail) inbox.


  12. Hi Colin,

    Just surfing the internet looking for interesting things on Gurdjieff when I came across your blog and recognized your name from our WITW days.

    I was there in the very early days of WITW as I believe you were. I think I was the 11th member. I posted as “Beelzebob” (I think). I recall those early times, the first few years, with warm feelings. There was only a small, intimate group of us. Everyone got along and respected the others’ viewpoints.

    WITW eventually grew to over 1000 members. The nonsense on the site continued to grow worse after you left. The last few years, Alice became invisible, stopped participating on the site; stopped responding to emails.

    I removed myself from the site a few years ago and deleted my posts although it seems that Alice or someone subsequenlty re-posted at least some of them. Like you, I felt I had a personal connection with Alice and am disappointed that she never responded to any of my subsequent attempts to contact her after that. I am not sure, but I think WITW is gone. One can still pull up the site on the internet but it appears to get very few “hits”. At one time, a Google search of “WITW Gurdjieff” would have been at the top of the search engine list.

    It is nice to know you are doing well.




    1. Hi Bob

      Good to hear from you! I remember you well! ‘Our WITW daze’ – those were the days!

      I left WITW somewhere around May 2009 I think after 18 months which I decided was quite enough time to practise putting up with the unpleasant characteristics of others, as it is advised quite rightly to do. It was such a relief. I tried one or two other Gurdjieff related sites afterwards withdrawing from 4WLA last January recognising the same old patterns of responses and knowing very well that I no longer needed to relate to them! They get you into a trance – or rather you put yourself into a trance; only when you’ve quit do you realise this!

      I was told I knew nothing about 4W because I hadn’t been in a group or school ‘in the line’, that my views on the enneagram were those of a charlatan, that Moving/Feeling/Intellectual Centres had nothing to do with parts of the brain, that NLP and philosophy could not possibly shift G’s brilliant teaching into the ‘modern era’, on and on… Having joined WITW with excitement because I thought I might at last find out what 4W was really about from people who would be in the know I spent most of the time trying to understand the acrimony! I can’t imagine how ‘the nonsense’ could have been any worse than it was when I left!

      I took down all my WITW posts much to Alice’s upset and put them in a file labelled ‘WITW Leftovers’ which I sometimes mine. From exchanging gifts at Xmas it went to total silence…

      Keep in touch!



      1. Alice shed no tears when I left WITW, Colin. On the other hand, I served them and was of service to them, rather than just being nice to them. Alice or one of the other site admins, strongly objected to that. ?!?


    1. Hi Colin
      I’m a bit late with this thread and I’ve only skimmed it. However I thought you and your readers wd be interested in the following. When I workeed in Bradford in the early 70s I joined a Gurdjieff Group run by one of his disciples, Rina Hands! We practised the movements, did practical work read Beelzebub and even started writing up an index for it. I’m not sure if it was ever published!? By the way what does WITW stand for?


      1. Hi Eric! WITW = ‘What is the Work’ an Internet site I had a hard time in for 18 months to Spring 2009. I learned a lot. I don’t know if it still exists. I got out when I decided that I’d done enough toleration of the unfortunate characteristics of others… I think there is a key to BBTTHG.


  13. I saw the movie Meetings, surprised at the wooden acting, very limited movement vocabulary. Are these actors the results of “the work”? By their fruits you shall know them, is this what I wish to ripen into?

    What are the “attainments” of our highest attainers from this third generation after Gurdjieff? Is there anyone who has gotten to man 4? or 5? alive today who could give me some pointers?


  14. Hi Benjamin

    Nice to see you here.

    Strange that I’ve never thought of the acting in ‘Meetings’ as ‘wooden’. I just found/find the whole film a trance-inducing experience. I don’t think I’ve really considered the acting. Right from the first sequence I’m in the film, as it were, climbing that hill… Then it’s all about ‘seeking’.

    Peter Brook is/was a committed Gurdjieffian, Jeanne de Salzmann & Thomas de Hartmann were associated with the film.

    If you think the acting ‘wooden’ then, of course, you wouldn’t want anything to do with the unsystem system called The Fourth Way! Quite right! But see §1 above – each of us tells our own story about anything we interpret.

    But I’d say that the film is perhaps not the best way to begin to ponder The Fourth Way and certainly not ‘Beelzebub’s Tales’. I may be a heretic but I’d recommend Ouspensky’s ‘The Fourth Way’.

    The first three ways are ways pursued by people who choose to limit themselves to the use of only one part of their Being: the Intellectual Part which thinks too much; the Emotional Part which relies more or less exclusively on feelings; or the Action Part which prefers to get on with just doing things – athletically, for example. First one would have to find out honestly which part of the human faculties one was locked into like a prison.

    By considerable practice it’s possible to abandon self-imposed limitations and get a balance between the functions the human brain is capable of. Anybody who claims to be Man 4 or 5 probably isn’t but it’s possible for anybody who has been ‘at it’ for some time offer ‘pointers’ as to how to get to be something like Person 4.

    Person 5 has integrated Intellect/Emotion/Action sufficiently to be able to advance to true Capital C Consciousness. We lesser mortals can only imagine what that might be.

    And as for 6 & 7…



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