Gurdjieff International Review

The First Page of Beelzebub’s Tales

Irv Givot

This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the 2012 All & Everything Conference.

An Audio Recording of Irv reading this paper at the Conference was made on April 27, 2012.

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and in the name of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” Now that I’ve spoken those words, upon beginning this commentary on the first page of Chapter One, “The Arousing of Thought,” I begin from a different place in myself: more open, more grounded, more in touch with my aim and myself.

It was because of my reading of Keith Buzzell’s book, Perspectives on Beelzebub’s Tales,1 by the way, that this writing came about. In the chapter titled “Conviction,” Dr. Buzzell gives many examples from throughout Beelzebub’s Tales showing the emphasis Gurdjieff placed upon convictions in general, especially those derived from one’s own reasoned deliberations, as opposed to those acquired from outer influences and conditioning.

An example that drives home Dr. Buzzell’s point is that a reference to this appears in the very first sentence of the first page of Beelzebub’s Tales, which starts thus:

So, after reading Buzzell’s chapter on convictions, I was moved to reread the first page of “The Arousing of Thought.” Later, I was dozing off to sleep in my outdoor bed under a brilliant canopy of stars on a warm August night. For some reason that might be attributed to Grace, or maybe planetary alignment, I found myself in a state where more sincere self-reflection became possible.

I began to peer into my own past experience in terms of the question, “how many times in my life have I begun new projects, or ‘anything new’ for that matter, by saying these words or even having the thought, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son and in the name of the Holy Ghost. Amen’?” Certainly not even once before I first read Beelzebub’s Tales, and pitifully few times since then. In fact I could only remember a small number of times in connection with group work of various kinds.

The problem, as I began to see it that night, was that one would need to wake up just at the moment of starting something new—which is precisely the point in time, for me anyway—when my head has been filled with a hundred different considerations, not to mention distractions, preoccupations and/or fixations on some aspect of the new project. And not only to wake up at that moment, which I know for myself takes many years of practice, but also to remember at that same moment to “intone” as Gurdjieff describes in paragraph two of the first page, this universal formulation. Without a specific aim to work in this way, it became obvious to me that it just wouldn’t happen.

As I lie there under the stars, memories of the way I have started new ventures came back to me, and these ways could not even politely be called “consciously,” but would better be characterized by words or phrases starting with ‘H’, as in: hit-or-miss, haphazard, helter-skelter, half-assed, or haltingly.

~ • ~

The humor here somehow allowed me to stay in touch with the twinge of remorse I was feeling, and enlarged the scale of my pondering. I thought to myself, “if there’s one thing I’ve learned by this time, it’s that I’m not unique or special, and if I don’t remember to say this or any other particular invocation upon starting something new, probably very few other people do either.

I then asked myself, “how many people do I know that ‘unfailingly pronounce aloud or, if not aloud, at least mentally’ this invocation to the Holy Trinity when starting something new?” I couldn’t think of anybody that I was certain could remember to do it “unfailingly.” The next question, “have I ever known anyone in my entire life capable of always remembering to intone these words at the appropriate moment?” Maybe a small handful of people, a very small handful.

But he said in the first paragraph with such force, “an indubitable conviction—that always and everywhere on the earth ... there is acquired the tendency ... unfailingly to pronounce ... that definite utterance ...”

Here is where I began to smell a rat. Here is when I first suspected that maybe I couldn’t just literally accept what he wrote in that first paragraph as I had always done before. From this suspicion, a new understanding began to dawn on me.

As an aside, I have to say that I love the metaphor of the “dawning of a new understanding.” Because it is as though I had been in the darkness, stuck with a passively acquired belief for many years, and now, slowly, inexorably, a new light comes in that allows me to see what I’ve accepted as fact in a new and different way. And once that light enters, it is never again the same.

My first reaction—after my pondering in the starlight—was that I’d been tricked. His conviction was that there are people everywhere in all times who always invoke the Holy Trinity, upon starting something new, and I believed him. So much for “indubitable convictions.” I must have read those opening paragraphs at least twenty times, and I never before suspected anything amiss. I never questioned his conviction. My reaction now seemed analogous to a baseball batter expecting a fastball from the pitcher and being fooled by a curve. Even worse, a batter not even suspecting he’d been fooled. It was a feeling of suddenly realizing that I’d been outsmarted by someone far more clever than me.

But these analogies are not quite an exact representation. It’s more like, here in the first sentence of the entire book there is already a teaching but it requires thinking out of the box to grasp it, and I’ve been too oblivious ever to notice it after all these years.

What could this teaching be?

First, I will confess that I’ve had a lifelong habit—a trait I suppose I could blame on my ancestors—of being quick to jump to conclusions. Fortunately my son, who has suffered by acquiring this unbecoming habit, and my wife, who lives with it every day, have joined forces to gently persuade me to undermine my habit by always considering other possibilities besides my initial conclusion. Thus I’ve learned from them to question, and in this case I remembered to ask, “what are all the possibilities I can think of for why there should be this glaring discrepancy between my own experience—after decades of Work—and Gurdjieff’s “indubitable conviction?”

So I will list and discuss some of the more plausible possibilities for his clearly intentional either deception, exaggeration, metaphor, joke, symbolic truth disguised by seemingly untrue assertions, or whatever is going on in that first sentence of Beelzebub’s Tales.

One possibility is that this is the first example in a theme that recurs throughout the book, asserting that contemporary people have a degenerate psyche, and that some efforts that have always been possible for humans in the past are no longer possible. In other words, in past epochs when people had a higher degree of individuality, his conviction would have been true. But for us “men” in quotation marks born in the twentieth century, who in general are not even remotely in touch with genuine being impulses, the “tendency” to utter those words upon starting something new has never been acquired.

One practical value of interpreting his conviction in this way is that it can lead to a feeling of remorse, as it did for me (after the twentieth or so reading) when I finally began to question the hidden intent of that first sentence.

But there is something unsatisfying about this latter interpretation, because 1) he said that people “always and everywhere on the earth” utter those words upon starting something new—always and everywhere includes the present time also, and 2) “civilized” people at least back to the ancient Romans were about as degenerate as we are, in my opinion, in terms of cognizing the need to actualize the Obligolnian strivings, or to make being-efforts in general. So it seems there has to be more to it than this.

Another possibility is that the first sentence is a teaching about suggestibility. About how easy it is for Gurdjieff to make us believe anything he chooses. After all, this isn’t just “Smith or Brown” informing us about the sacred invocation, but Gurdjieff himself.

How automatic it is to want to believe an authority that I not only trust, but for whom I have the deepest respect. Why shouldn’t I believe it? Gurdjieff said it, it sounds right, and he’s my teacher. He would not mislead me. Except that like the mythical Coyote of Native American lore, he’s a trickster.

The irony is that the stated aim for the whole First Series expressed in the Foreword, is “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.”

However as I’ve realized, he does this throughout Beelzebub’s Tales not in the obvious way, as in, “you believed A, B, and C? What a fool you are!” but with “entirely new principles of logical reasoning.” This latter phrase is a concept I don’t pretend to understand in depth, but I caught a glimpse of it on the first page. He created the conditions by which we can see, if we dig deep enough, how we acquire beliefs in the first place.

How bold is that, and how subtle at the same time, to begin the first page of the entire book by slipping that curve ball past us, thrusting that new idea at the reader, and inducing us to believe it just by the force of a long, quintessentially Gurdjieffian sentence of prose. The point is that I had always accepted his “indubitable conviction” passively, without questioning. But isn’t this in general how most of our beliefs are acquired? That is, by accepting uncritically what we’ve heard or read from an authority we trust. This would be the teaching in a nutshell.

I will remind you, this is only a possibility for the understanding of this first paragraph, but there are other aspects of this particular possibility that should be considered.

First of all, how would an “indubitable conviction” like this possibly be acquired? Is this a conviction based upon a deep understanding of the human psyche? A conclusion he reached by active mentation? That every person, at some level of consciousness, has the ability to make a connection with the creative force of the universe upon beginning or creating something new? Or is his conviction a result of extensive surveying and interviewing of individuals from many cultures—in other words, gathering of data? If the latter were true, it would have been necessary to sample people from all past epochs as well. This could only be attempted by someone whose level of reason was advanced enough to be able to consult the Akhashic record, or as Beelzebub calls it, the “Korkaptilnian thought tapes.” (By which, for example, he accessed the thought process of Belcultassi, the first person to realize the necessity of Work on oneself.)

Because my own relationship to the Akhashic record is in its nascent stage—occasionally I tap into something, usually I don’t, and I can’t yet trust what I see—I cannot independently verify whether people in past epochs had the tendency to verbalize these words upon new beginnings. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that this particular question of how he acquired his conviction has the quality of a dead end. Except it was a necessary part of the process to consider it.

~ • ~

Another aspect of any not-to-be-doubted conviction, from the point of view of how people influence each other’s beliefs, is the following phenomenon: the more strongly and forcefully people believe and promote an idea, to the point of being dogmatic, even fanatic about it, the more likely their belief, later judged from a historical perspective, turns out to be based upon either confusion, lack of common sense, lack of data, some kind of prejudice (pre-judgment), or simply the consequences of the properties of the organ Kundabuffer. Two examples are: 1) all prior beliefs about the cosmos, inevitably placing us at the center of the universe in one way or another, and 2) all kinds of strange religious beliefs (that usually have as their central motivation the desire of a priesthood to exert control over their congregation). In other words, most beliefs turn out to be wrong.

In spite of this phenomenon, human beings, perhaps because we really are hard-wired to be suggestible, seem to have an irresistible desire to believe anyone with whom we feel a connection when they express their opinion with enough force and repetition. That is why advertising is so effective, and political propaganda, and religious dogma, “educational” training, military indoctrination, peer pressure, and on and on.

In recent times, I’ve seen people mindlessly pick up beliefs from radio talk-show hosts, from leaders of political parties, from the pastor of their church, from their doctor, from spiritual teachers, from scientific researchers, from the anchorman on the T.V. news, from facilitators of workshops they’ve attended, in short, anyone with whom they have the faintest trust, where there is some “kinship of vibrations.”

In fact, the only way not to be suggestible is to be awake to a sufficient degree, and to base one’s convictions upon one’s own reason and experience, and not upon authority.

So, perhaps this is what Gurdjieff is trying to tell us in this first paragraph: beware of any unverifiable statements made by anyone—including me—who is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are true.

~ • ~

There are one or two more possibilities for understanding the first paragraph that I feel constrained to consider before moving on to the equally fascinating third and second paragraphs of the first page of Beelzebub’s Tales.

The next possibility is difficult for me personally to face, because this one is that maybe I misunderstood what he was implying. That is, on more careful reading I see that he wrote, not that there have always been many people who unfailingly invoke the three holy forces upon beginning something new, but that the tendency to intone these words arises “among people of every degree of development of understanding.” In other words, it might be a select few individuals “among people.” Not every person. So if this interpretation is correct, the deception or exaggeration on his part that I inferred, was simply a result of my being unable to dig the real meaning out of a very difficult sentence.

For me, this means that the initial understanding that dawned on me, that he was deceiving us intentionally, might have been wrong. This possibility first appeared in my mind in the middle of the night after waking from a dream. I realized that maybe I had misread that passage and I would have to abandon my newly acquired conclusion. It is so interesting how much more difficult it was for me to let go of an idea that I had discovered for myself, through my own deliberations, than it had been earlier to let go of the literal meaning that had been acquired passively. (The former often happens to scientists, by the way, who occasionally go to their graves refusing to give up a pet theory they’ve invented, even when the data against it eventually becomes overwhelming. Einstein’s philosophical objection to quantum mechanics “God doesn’t play dice with the universe” is the most famous recent example of this.)

This second dawning of mine, which threatened to overturn my new “understanding,” was not exactly like a light flooding in, but this time it was more like an early winter morning in Oregon when a thick fog has rolled in, and the first inkling of dawn is a very uncertain doubt about whether it’s still pitch-black out there. Then the doubt becomes an ambiguity, and finally, much later there is a gray, foggy morning that never actually gets very light.

In other words, after all this contemplation, the whole question of the real meaning of that first paragraph became shrouded again, back into a foggy mystery, and for a moment, I doubted whether I had really learned anything after all.

However, upon further reflection, it became clear that I had learned a great deal (which I will speak more of later). Also I stumbled upon a way to read that is more active. Maybe one of the first steps of “fathoming the gist” of Gurdjieff’s writing is to confront his assertions and convictions with data from one’s own “Work memory,” and/or one’s common sense, as I did on that late August night. If there is a dissonance in this confrontation; if something doesn’t seem right, it is a question of trusting one’s own experience, and probing further. The word “fathom” has to do with depth, and with understanding something profound and mysterious. A failure to ever come to this stage in one’s reading of the Tales can lead to absurdities like literally believing that the sun “neither lights nor heats.”

~ • ~

There are two further points that are important to note here. One is that even if I were certain of the true interpretation of the first paragraph, it would not necessarily be a service to elucidate it completely at this time. If I did, I would be robbing the reader of his/her own experience of going through their own process of “digging” to find a deeper meaning. That was one point Mrs. Staveley (my teacher) was very firm about. Let people have their own experience. Don’t just give them answers.

Therefore what I’m trying to communicate here is the process I went through as much as any result I achieved, along with presenting possibilities instead of conclusions, and thus treading the fine line between mentioning a couple of discoveries I’ve made that have lain largely hidden on that first page for over 50 years, and not providing so much information that the reader might be discouraged from initiating their own investigation.

So in that sense it is good that I’m still in a fog about his meaning in the first paragraph, but the second point that I’ve understood is that it is lawful to be so. In other words, to resolve the question of whether some people “always and everywhere” unfailingly invoke the Holy Trinity on starting something new, there is a limitation on how much information can be gained simply by mentation alone, and by considering that one paragraph alone. The second two paragraphs of the first page represent the other two parts of a triad, and they provide data from the other brains or centers besides the head-brain.

For example, in paragraph three, Gurdjieff tells us how it feels to have pronounced the said words upon starting to write the book:

According to my Random House Unabridged Dictionary, “pianola” was a brand-name or trade-mark for a commercial player piano in the early twentieth century. So to paraphrase the second part of paragraph three: now that he intoned the universal invocation, his writing will unwind quite automatically like a mechanical, pre-programmed piano. And if this is the case, there would be no obstacles, no resisting force, no Harnel-Aoot, and no unforeseen circumstances to contend with; and again, he is “beyond all doubt assured” of this.

Even if I was too dull for many years (decades) to question his indubitable conviction in paragraph one, this tongue-in-cheek humor in paragraph three is so blatant that any “even quite illiterate person” should get the joke, but not necessarily with their left-brain.

But is his pianola analogy a message on the emotional level—a confirmation that paragraph one also contains some “monkey business?” Or on the other hand, is it to lighten things up—as he does in other parts of the book—with some absurd humor immediately after giving us a serious teaching? More possibilities.

One way to discern is to take an impression of the paragraph as a whole. When I re-read paragraph one, then paragraph three, I see that they have a very different tone. Again we come back to his declaration that this book was written according to “entirely new principles of logical reasoning.” To discern truth, I may have to learn to use different parts of my mind—as uncomfortable as that may seem.

The first part of paragraph three, about being “quite at ease” after performing an obligation, is a whole study in itself that deserves some scrutiny, but I will try to limit this discussion to a couple of pertinent examples that come to mind. Once I was listening to someone who knew John Bennett, telling me about her experience with a particular exercise where one decides in the evening—among other things—to perform a specific task the next day. She confided that she always was certain to complete it first thing in the morning, so she could be more at ease during the day and not have to worry about forgetting the task.

Is this how we succumb to “contemporary religious morality?” That is, if I have fulfilled my initial being-obligation, then I’ve been a good boy—nothing bad will happen—and I can calmly and peacefully fall back to sleep. When we begin in the Work we are so enveloped with these Judeo-Christian ways of thinking that for a long time it’s almost impossible to observe them. (By the way, isn’t it amazing how he slipped that comment in there? Already taking a shot at one of our well-rooted subconscious beliefs.) For the mass of contemporary “Christians” in this regard, for most of the twentieth century, it was church on Sunday, then complacently assured that their spiritual duties were over for the rest of the week.

This may be what Gurdjieff is satirizing in the third paragraph, but there may be much more to it than the above.

Many years ago, I also had an experience, the memory of which was evoked by this first part of paragraph three: it was in 1977, and my “work in life” at that time was in part teaching Biochemistry to Chiropractic students. My group at Two Rivers Farm took as a weekly task, to make a sacrifice if we forgot to remember ourselves at a specified time each day. One morning of that week I decided that if I failed to remember myself while giving my lecture later that day at the College, I would intentionally not eat supper or anything else that evening. In those years I was a bit hypoglycemic and missing a meal was a big deal, a real sacrifice.

During the lecture there was a vivid moment that I’ll never forget, when I came back to myself while turning toward the blackboard with a piece of chalk in my hand. After a very brief second or two of being connected to something a little more essential, the first thought that came to my head was, “Oh, Boy! I get to eat tonight,” and in another moment or two, I was peacefully back to sleep.

Mrs. Staveley, amused by my effort, reassured me that my body knew that I was serious, so it helped me to remember. However this feeling of being “quite at ease” after an initial result (and yet underneath, not so much at ease) can go on for many years in students of the Work. As I recall there have been times, too numerous to tally, when I would perform a personal ritual in the morning, or say my grace before a meal, from a place in myself that was superficial enough that the predictable aftermath prevailed—total absorption and identification with the next thing, as in, “okay, I’ve done that, now let’s get on with it.”

In any case, by going through the process of trying “to fathom the gist” of this first page, one practical outcome is that I have rekindled a wish, and received a taste of performing my daily rituals in a deeper way. For example, by being totally there in the moment of saying grace before a meal, and saying it with the whole of myself, I touch a higher level, a finer vibration, and when I’m finished, something from that level stays with me for a while—permeates my presence as it were—and transforms my relationship with the meal. One does not feel complacent and “quite at ease,” after this quality of experience.

In relation to the above, the first page of Beelzebub’s Tales has been surprisingly transformed for me from an enigmatic and quasi-humorous introduction to the first chapter, into a practical guide to deepen my inner Work.

I think Gurdjieff is telling us from the first sentence, that if we continue to re-read this book passively and simply believe what is written, it will have limited value, and he will not have succeeded in his aim. But if we can delve and dig more deeply, as we become increasingly able, from our own acquired data and reasoning, there will be treasures buried where they are least expected.

~ • ~

Now let us consider one further possibility in order to expand our understanding of the first page: perhaps Mr. Gurdjieff is sounding a do in these first three paragraphs not only for the First Series of his writings, but for all three series at once. This idea came to me because the second paragraph seems to belong to the Third Series more than to Beelzebub’s Tales. It is already a preview of how a more conscious human being would actualize the “universal formulation:”

In this paragraph is the gem, the treasure that I have long overlooked right in the middle of the first page. So the first paragraph, seen in this light, could simply be a means to get our attention, a way to inform us that this “Trinity” that is being invoked, is really universal, sacred and vitally important—not only a Christian expression, but simply that in this era we formulate it in Christian terms.

Actually, it is one of many formulations of Triamazikamno, the Law of Three, and it is significant that the whole first page is devoted to it.

The point is that the first paragraph now can be seen as a preparation, a way to galvanize our attention, so that we might notice that he is presenting us with an exercise in paragraph two, a ritual for beginning anything new, a ritual that invokes the creative forces of the universe and that we can practice for ourselves.

It is quite humbling to face the fact that it took me this long to notice/discover this exercise, but the popular wisdom is that we find things when we are ready for them. Hopefully, in a community of peers, one makes a discovery like this when we are all ready for it.

The heart of the exercise is the phrase, “wholly-manifested-intonation.”

From my experience, the above phrase is comparable to the effort of working in a “three-centered” way. The latter is something I strive toward, not something that can necessarily be done at will.

On rare occasions I can approach it in a movements class during very special moments when some kind of attunement becomes possible. I will try to describe one of those moments since this is my frame of reference for a “wholly-manifested” experience: after much practice, and often after much resistance, there may come a moment in a movements class when my body is completely at one with the rhythm and tempo of the movement, taking the positions in a relaxed but relatively precise way, and in synchrony with the people around me. My head-brain has overcome whatever distractions are present, and is quiet, following the body’s movement and that of the class as a whole, always holding the overall pattern of the movement with a small part of the attention, and even aware of more subtle qualities of energy passing through me and the room. My feelings are connected to the music and the particular emotions evoked by the movement itself and sometimes intensified by the Work of the group as a whole. All of the above dances within the field of my attention in these unique moments when I find myself in this higher “zone.”

~ • ~

For my Work to bear this kind of fruit, all the parts of myself need to be included. And whether this “three-centered” effort is attempted in order to participate fully in a movement, as I described above, or for example, to consciously stir a pot of soup, or even to actively listen to a reading, the principles are the same.

The exercise hidden in the second paragraph, that Gurdjieff is inviting us to practice if and when we recognize the opportunity, is to verbally invoke the three holy forces upon starting something new, with a “wholly-manifested intonation.” To include every part of myself during this utterance; to include my whole being, if possible.

I can strive toward this possibility and not allow myself to be discouraged from trying because, for example, unlike Gurdjieff, I did not have the proper data rooted in my “preparatory age,” or for that matter, because of many other worthy excuses. (As an aside, this reference to data acquired in the preparatory age seems like a very brief preview of the second series, where the first part of that book, Meetings With Remarkable Men, is devoted to Gurdjieff’s very unusual education.

~ • ~

So, after discovering this “gem” which I mentioned previously, now just before I begin something new, I first stand up in a relaxed yet erect posture and take a few moments to quiet myself. I bring my attention to my feeling center in the area of my heart, and sense its connection to my throat and tongue. I remember briefly that I am about to begin, that is, to create something, and that I have a wish to make contact with the creative force of the universe. I feel the intensity of this wish and allow it to permeate all of me.

At a moment chosen by my intention, I speak the words, “In the name of the Father,” as distinctly and consciously as I can, and listen to where they resonate in me. At the same moment I allow a wave of relaxation to instantly descend through my body, to melt any tensions that may have reappeared. Then I say, in the same way, “and of the Son.” I take a breath, relax again, re-establish my sense of presence, and focus my complete attention on pronouncing the final words, from a deep place in the center of my breast, “and in the name of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

I take a few moments, standing quietly, to let these words and the experience reverberate through me. Now I am ready to begin the new project.

This way of approaching the invocation, I feel, is only a beginning. Gurdjieff’s way of intoning these words would have been derived from a higher level of consciousness and resulted in another level of “fullness,” but I am convinced that the only way to progress toward his level of ability is to practice. To practice what I understand.

There are two pieces of advice from Wan Su Jian, my Chi Gong teacher in China that can be an encouragement here: the first is that even if one only receives a part of a technique; practice it anyway. Proficiency will eventually come through practice—which also seems to magically attract the missing pieces. Secondly, in regard to data from the preparatory age—when I was in China I was totally awed by the abilities of twelve year olds, who began working with this teacher when they were eight. In America, children never acquire these skills of attention at all (except by accident or in rare circumstances) and as a result, very few adults here ever achieve any kind of mastery of themselves. But this teacher’s encouragement was that though we missed these important preparations in our youth, we can still begin to learn what is needed even at the age of 50, if we are sincere enough and diligent enough. Hopefully, in this era of “delayed aging,” the advice would apply to people in their early 60’s as well.

~ • ~

Before concluding this account of my recent reading of the first page of Beelzebub’s Tales, let us consider two final questions.

First, who were these ancient Toulousites that Gurdjieff tantalizingly mentions in the second paragraph? If they were possibly the Cathars of the twelfth and thirteenth century who did indeed live in that area, one relevant fact about them is their unfortunate fate. They were the first independent Christian sect that was mass-murdered by other Christians because of their beliefs (in the so-called Albigensian Crusades ordered by the Vatican in the year 1207).

In this theme about beliefs that is woven between the lines on the first page, the teaching here would be: be careful how you express your beliefs. If they are perceived as a threat to the power-possessors, they can get you killed.

The stated reason that the ancient Toulousites were mentioned, of course, was because of their “wholly-manifested intonation,” and it is coincidental in this regard that the Cathars were very much interested in the trinity. I will leave it to the reader to delve further into this very interesting information that might also have a practical benefit for our Work.

And second, speaking of the trinity, what is this “Holy Ghost” all about?

In the formulation of the trinity, that is, the three holy forces presented on the first page, “the Father” would represent the active force, the creator. “The Son” would be the force associated with that which was created, which has a more passive character. And the “Holy Ghost” therefore must be the third force, in this case that which connects the creator and his creation. What could that be? That is, what could that be, from our own experience?

Beelzebub intimates indirectly in the chapter, The Arch-Preposterous, that we cannot perceive nor sense the action of the forces. They are forces, not material objects, nor “formations,” and as such are completely invisible. Especially the third force, because it is difficult even to conceive what it would be. It is ghost-like. It is like an apparition. It is there and it is not there. With ghosts, a few people claim to have seen them; most of us will never see one. Likewise, with the third force, a few individuals who understand the Law of Three may “see” it, that is comprehend its action; the rest of us do not, except for rare glimpses, or by assigning synonyms to it, or by passively believing someone else’s interpretation. For me anyway, the third force is truly a Holy Ghost.

~ • ~

In conclusion, there is one additional phenomenon to notice. That is, the amazing holographic nature of the book in general. Any individual page may contain material that opens as a window to the book as a whole, or at least to several other parts of the book. This may not be true of every single page, but of very many special pages, of which the first page is an example. It is as though in addition to the linear flow of the story, there is a non-linear movement, where the narrative sometimes projects ahead, sometimes jumps backward, repeats the same ideas in different ways in succeeding paragraphs, pages and chapters; and everything is interconnected through some other dimension of time as well as through the inner lines of the enneagram.

Therefore it is no wonder that the more one probes into the first page—or any of about 500 others—the more the inquiry seems to lead deeper into the teaching, further into unexpected areas, and as I discovered, further into myself.

I now understand better how monks of one isolated Taoist sect in Old China could spend five years or more contemplating a single page, or even a single passage of their scripture. One particle of truth, if pursued into its essence, can open up into the whole world.

~ • ~

Irv Givot has been studying and practicing the teachings of Gurdjieff for over 35 years. He was a member of Two Rivers Farm in Aurora, Oregon for fifteen years under the direction of A.L. Staveley, the last five years of which he was given the responsibility of leading groups. He is the author of Seven Aspects of Self-Observation, Aurora, Oregon: Two Rivers Press, 1998. He currently works with a small group in Bend, Oregon.

Copyright © 2012 Irv Givot and Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Revision: October 15, 2012


1 Perspectives on Beelzebub’s Tales and Other of Gurdjieff’s Writings, Keith A. Buzzell, Salt Lake City: Fifth Press, 2005, 228p.

(A facsimile of the First Edition, 1950)