Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson

Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson

Infobox Book
name = Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = The Penguin paperback edition
author = G. I. Gurdjieff
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country =
language = Russian and Armenian (original)
series =
subject =
genre =
publisher = Harcourt (1950)
E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. (1964, 1973)
Two Rivers Press (1993)
Penguin Arkana (1999)
release_date = 1950
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback), Audiobook
pages = P. 1248 (Penguin paperback edition)
p. 1152 (Tarcher hardcover edition)
isbn = ISBN 0140194738 (Penguin paperback edition)
ISBN 1585424579 (Tarcher hardcover edition)
ISBN 0-919608-16-7 (Audiobook read by William J. Welch)
preceded_by =
followed_by = Meetings with Remarkable Men

"Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" or "An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man" is the first volume of the All and Everything trilogy written by the Greek-Armenian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff. The All and Everything trilogy also includes "Meetings with Remarkable Men" (first published in 1963) and "Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'" (first privately printed in 1974).

Because the book was intended to be the main teaching tool for his teachings, Gurdjieff had gone to great lengths in order to increase the effort needed to read and understand it. Gurdjieff himself once said, “I bury the bone so deep that the dogs have to scratch for it." [ [ Gurdjieff International Review] ] The book deals with an enormous amount of subjects and questions. It is a vast allegorical myth structure in a literary form all its own. [cite book | title = Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas | authorlink = John Shirley | first = John | last = Shirley | publisher = Tarcher | year = 2004 | isbn = 1585422878 | pages = p. 43 ]

The plot of "Beelzebub's Tales" mainly revolves around the ruminations of an extraterrestrial known as "Beelzebub" to his grandson Hassein, as they travel through space towards Beelzebub's home planet "Karatas" on the spaceship "Karnak". It mainly recounts the adventures and travails of Beelzebub amongst the 'three-brained beings' (humans) of the planet Earth. Beelzebub covers the entire history of the strange behaviors and customs of these beings.

"Beelzebub's Tales" is included in Martin Seymour-Smith's "100 Most Influential Books Ever Written", with the comment that it is "...the most convincing fusion of Eastern and Western thought has yet been seen." [cite book | author = Seymour-Smith, Martin | title = The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today | isbn = 0806521929 | pages = pp. 447-452 | year = 2001 | publisher = C Trade Paper ]


The English translation was first published in 1950, after the death of Gurdjieff. The publication was authorized and approved by him before his death. In his prospectus for All and Everything, printed at the beginning of each part of the trilogy Gurdjieff states his aim in publishing these texts:

::"FIRST SERIES: Three books under the title of “An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man,” or, “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.”"

::"SECOND SERIES: Three books under the common title of “Meetings with Remarkable Men.”"

::"THIRD SERIES: Four books under the common title of “Life is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am.’”"

::"All written according to entirely new principles of logical reasoning and strictly directed towards the solution of the following three cardinal problems:"

::"FIRST SERIES: To destroy, 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."

::"SECOND SERIES: To acquaint the reader with the material required for a new creation and to prove the soundness and good quality of it."

::"THIRD SERIES: To assist the arising, in the mentation and in the feelings of the reader, of a veritable, non-fantastic representation not of that illusory world which he now perceives, but of the world existing in reality."

"Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" was retranslated and republished in the 1990s. It was first published in 1950 by Harcourt, Brace & Company (New York); Routledge & Kegan Paul (London). This first translation was made under the personal direction of the author by a group of translators chosen by him and specially trained according to their defined individualities. Later republished in 1964 by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., and again republished in 1973 by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. in paperback (3 volumes), then republished in 1993 by Two Rivers Press. Finally republished in 1999 by Penguin Arkana, in paperback which contains correction of errata and insertion of two paragraphs omitted from page 568 of Chapter 32 "Hypnotism" in earlier editions.cite web | title = Gurdjieff International Review - Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson | url = | publisher = Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing | year = 1998 | accessdate = 2007-03-15 ]

The revised translation was first published in 1992 by Arkana, an imprint of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA. This newer translation was begun on the initiative of Jeanne de Salzmann. The translation team included members of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, aided by members of the Gurdjieff Society (London) and the Institut Gurdjieff (Paris), as well as Triangle Editions, the holder of the copyright of the new translation. This translation was regarded by many Gurdjieff's followers as a major degeneration and a total disregard towards Gurdjieff's work. [cite web| title = Moveable Feasts: The Gurdjieff Work | url = | format = PDF | first = James | last = Moore | authorlink = James Moore (Cornish author) | year = 1994 | accessdate = 2007-03-19]


G.I. Gurdjieff

Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (Георгий Иванович Гюрджиев, "Georgiy Ivanovich Gyurdzhiev" (or "Gurdjiev"); (January 13 1866? – October 29 1949), was an Armenian mystic, a teacher of sacred dances, and a spiritual teacher, most notable for introducing the Fourth Way. At different times in his life he formed and liquidated various schools around the world to utilize his teachings. He claimed that the teachings he brought to the West from his own experiences and early travels expressed the truth found in other ancient religions and wisdom teachings relating to self-awareness in one's daily life and humanity's place and role in the universe. It might be summed up by the title of his third series of writings: "Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'", while his complete series of books is entitled "All and Everything".

Writing Beelzebub's Tales

After Gurdjieff was in a serious car accident in 1924, he decided to pass on something of his theoretical teachings by writing a number of detailed books. After many writings and rewritings, the first volume was released under the title "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson". Gurdjieff first mainly dictated "Beelzebub's Tales" in Russian and Armenian between 1924 and 1927,cite web | title = Beelzebub's Tales - Page Correlation Table | url = | author = Driscoll, J. Walter | publisher = Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing | year = 1997 | accessdate = 2007-03-15 ] as he was initially unable to write personally because of his condition after the accident. After realizing from the various public readings of his texts that those people who were not familiar with his form of mentation and expression would not be able to understand anything, he decided to completely rewrite everything.

Throughout his writing career Gurdjieff often held various readings of his texts to both his students and strangers. William Buehler Seabrook noted that Gurdjieff asked him to invite some of his friends to Gurdjieff's apartment, where Gurdjieff gave a reading from his manuscript Beelezbub's Tale. Apparently the listeners (who included the behaviorist John Watson, Lincoln Steffens, and George Seldes) were perplexed and unimpressed. [William Buehler Seabrook (1940) "Witchcraft: Its Power in the World Today" Part Three: White Magic, Professor Rhine, the Supernormal, and Justine]

Many other details of what Gurdjieff did while writing Beelzebub's Tales can be found in his third book Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'.


Gurdjieff said that he had answered every question that could possibly arise in a person's mind.

In his introduction to the book Gurdjieff states the following:

::Friendly Advice ::" [Written impromptu by the author on delivering this book, already prepared for publication, to the printer.] "

::"ACCORDING TO the numerous deductions and conclusions made by me during experimental elucidations concerning the productivity of the perception by contemporary people of new impressions from what is heard and read, and also according to the thought of one of the sayings of popular wisdom I have just remembered, handed down to our days from very ancient times, which declares: “Any prayer may be heard by the Higher Powers and a corresponding answer obtained only if it is uttered thrice:"

::"Firstly—for the welfare or the peace of the souls of one’s parents."::"Secondly—for the welfare of one’s neighbor."::"And only thirdly—for oneself personally.”"

::"I find it necessary on the first page of this book, quite ready for publication, to give the following advice:"

::"“Read each of my written expositions thrice:"

::"* Firstly: at least as you have already become mechanized to read all your contemporary books and newspapers. "

::"* Secondly: as if you were reading aloud to another person."

::"* And only thirdly: try and fathom the gist of my writings."

::"Only then will you be able to count upon forming your own impartial judgment, proper to yourself alone, on my writings. And only then can my hope be actualized that according to your understanding you will obtain the specific benefit for yourself which I anticipate, and which I wish for you with all my being.”"

Ever since it was written, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson has been intended not to be intensely studied alone, but to have various pieces of understanding conveyed to the reader through oral tradition to enable a much greater degree of understanding as to what is being written about.


Main characters

Beelzebub is the protagonist of the book, who ruminates his past experiences in a solar system called "Ors" (our solar system) where he had been banished for rebelling against His Endlessness. He spent his exile in observation of the solar system, and of Earth and humans in particular. He visited Earth six times and observed it from just after its creation until 1922. Because of his help in the eradication of animal sacrifice on Earth, Beelzebub was pardoned from his sentence.

Beelzebub tells the tales to his grandson Hassein while they are traveling together on the spaceship Karnak for his conference on another planet, shortly after his return from the exile. He took Hassein with him so he could use his free time during this journey for the purpose of giving a proper education to his grandson. Hassein listens to his grandfather's stories patiently, and with admiration. Ahoon is a devoted old servant of Beelzebub who accompanies him and Hassein throughout the space journey.

The name "Beelzebub" is a derogatory Hebrew renaming of the pre-Judaic Canaanite god Baal (monotheistic Jewish reference to Baal was almost certainly pejorative, and grew to be used among other terms for Satan. The name later appears as the name of a demon or devil, often interchanged with Beelzebul), while the name "Hassein" has the same linguistic root with "Husayn" ( _ar. حسین)).cite book | title = Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts (Routledge Key Guides) | first = Sophia | last = Wellbeloved | pages = p. 22 | isbn = 0415248973 | publisher = Routledge | year = 2002] Sigmund Freud theorized Judaism and Christianity as expressing a relationship between father (Judaism) and son (Christianity). [cite book | title = Moses and Monotheism | first = Sigmund | last = Freud | authorlink = Sigmund Freud | year = 1939] In this light, Gurdjieff's choice of grandfather and grandson suggests a pre-Judaic and post-Christian relationship.

The spaceship Karnak derives its name from a famous temple in Egypt, located on the banks of the River Nile. When humans are liberated enough to ascend through the ancient knowledge, they could travel through the universe, hence the temple's name for the spaceship. [cite book | title = Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas | authorlink = John Shirley | first = John | last = Shirley | publisher = Tarcher | year = 2004 | isbn = 1585422878 | pages = p. 232 ]

Another possible allegory about the three main characters in this book is that they might represent Gurdjieff's representation of the three human brains, or centers.

1) Beelzebub - Intellectual center

2) Hassein - Emotional center

3) Ahoon - Moving Center.

Also, "Karnak" could be translated from Armenian to English as "dead body", and thus, this analogy shows how the mind educates the emotions.

Other major characters

Mullah Nassreddin is an impartial teacher who had a wise saying for every life situation.

Lentrohamsanin is a being who destroyed all of the traces of the Holy labors and teachings of Ashiata Shiemash.

Gornahoor Harharkh is a scientist on the planet Saturn who specializes in elucidating the particularities of Okidanokh, as well as he was Beelzebub's essence friend.

Archangel Looisos is the Arch-Chemist-Physician of the Universe who invented the special organ "Kundabuffer", which was implanted at the base of the human spine in order that they should not perceive reality. The original word "Kundabuffer" was at some period in history transformed into the word "Kundalini". Looisos approached Beelzebub for the problem of the widespread practice of animal sacrifice on Earth, the quantity of which was endangering the formation of an atmosphere on the moon.

Belcultassi is the founder of the society Akhaldan which was, and still is, unmatched in terms of knowledge on Earth.

King Konuzion is the one who invented "Hell" and "Paradise" as a means of making people stop chewing opium.

Choon-Kil-Tez and Choon-Tro-Pel are Chinese twin brothers who rediscovered the law of sevenfoldness, and invented an apparatus called "Alla-Attapan".

Hadji-Astvatz-Troov is a Bokharian Dervish who is well familiarized with all of the laws of vibrations and their effects.

aintly cosmic individuals

Ashiata Shiemash, Saint Budda, Saint Lama, Saint Jesus Christ, Saint Moses, Saint Mohammed, Saint Kirminasha, Saint Krishnatkharna

Minor characters and historical figures mentioned

Leonardo Da Vinci, Pythagoras, Alexander of Macedonia, Menitkel, Darwin, Ignatius, Mesmer, Mendelejeff, "Various Angels", "Various Archangels", and "many others".

Unknown words

Throughout the book, Gurdjieff gave certain meaning to many of his original words such as "Triamazikamno" - law of three, "Heptaparaparshinokh" - law of sevenfoldness, "Solioonensius" - certain cosmic law, and so on. Whether Gurdjieff invented these words, or applied certain concepts to them is unclear. Many of these words have roots in modern languages, while others have roots in ancient languages. Another possibility is noted in "Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'", where Gurdjieff wrote that he accidentally learned of the word "Solioonensius" from a Dervish.

Gurdjieff applied these words to minor concepts, as well as some major ones. One of the major concepts is where Gurdjieff applies the word "Hasnamuss" to certain types of people. According to "Beelzebub's Tales", Hasnamuss is a being who acquires "something" which creates certain harmful factors for himself, as well as for those around him. According to Gurdjieff this applies to "average people" as well as to those who are on "higher levels".

This "something" is formed in beings as a result of the following manifestations:

1) Every kind of depravity, conscious as well as unconscious

2) The feeling of self-satisfaction from leading others astray

3) The irresistible inclination to destroy the existence of other breathing creatures

4) The urge to become free from the necessity of actualizing the being-efforts demanded by nature

5) The attempt by every kind to artificially conceal from others what in their opinion are one's physical defects

6) The calm self-contentment in the use of what is not personally deserved

7) The striving to be not what one is

Complication of the plot

Gurdjieff had done many things in order to complicate his book. Beelzebub's Tales is some of the most difficult reading that could ever be taken upon oneself. At times it appears dry, long winded, and seemingly ridiculous. Gurdjieff also added a huge list of complicated words which appear frequently throughout the text. Many times the definition of those words is given later on in the text, and thereby further understanding of the book is further complicated.

The first chapter, entitled "The Arousing of Thought", was edited or rewritten by Gurdjieff thirty times. Gurdjieff also expounded one of the book's most controversial ideas in an early chapter entitled "The Arch-absurd: According to the assertion of Beelzebub, our Sun neither lights or heats".

One of Gurdjieff's chief criticisms of modern society, expressed quite clearly even to the casual reader in this particular volume, is the inexactitude of modern language. What follows is the first sentence of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson:

::" "AMONG other convictions formed in my common presence during my responsible, peculiarly composed life, there is one such also—an indubitable conviction—that always and everywhere on the earth, among people of every degree of development of understanding and of every form of manifestation of the factors which engender in their individuality all kinds of ideals, there is acquired the tendency, when beginning anything new, unfailingly to pronounce aloud or, if not aloud, at least mentally, that definite utterance understandable to every even quite illiterate person, which in different epochs has been formulated variously and in our day is formulated in the following words: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and in the name of the Holy Ghost, Amen."

The reason for complicating so far the plot of this book is to increase the effort and the attention required from the reader to understand this book. This is because of Gurdjieff's conviction that knowledge which comes without any effort from the student is completely useless for that student. He thought that true knowledge comes from personal experiences and individual confrontations actualized by one's own intentions.

The complexity and the length of this book limited the readers to only those who are interested in Gurdjieff's ideas. Thereby it also significantly limited criticism towards it.


External links

* [ Description of the Characters mentioned in the book]

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