Gurdjieff International Review
The Gurdjieff Literature
During the last weeks, while lying in bed, my body quite sick, I mentally drafted a summary of my future writings and thought out the form and sequence of their exposition, and I decided to make the chief hero of the first series of my writings do you know whom? the Great Beelzebub HimselfThe core writings of Gurdjieff, and the extensive secondary and tertiary literature about him and his influence, all pivot historically and thematically around Gurdjieff's magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. Between 1912 when he began giving talks in Russia and his death in France in 1949, very little was published by Gurdjieff or his students, except for the typescript of Beelzebub's Tales, of which 102 mimeographed copies were privately issued in 1930, and Gurdjieff's 87 page tract, The Herald of Coming Good, issued in 1933 and retracted by Gurdjieff in 1934. The grand exception to this was P. D. Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous, a record of Gurdjieff's talks in Russia. This was published in the Autumn of 1949 (two years after Ouspensky's death) at Gurdjieff's insistence, as a forerunner of Beelzebub's Tales, which was finally published by Harcourt Brace in the Spring of 1950.
G. I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub's Tales, p. 41
Thousands of books, articles, reviews and comments (mostly in English and French) have been published about Gurdjieff before and since 1950. What is the nature and significance of all this literature? As an excellent introduction to this vast topic, James Moore opens this issue with a sensitive and discerning guide to Gurdjieff's life and the classics of the Gurdjieff literature. This is followed by Dr. Andrew Rawlinson's review of GURDJIEFF: An Annotated Bibliography, where he provides an astute and helpful analysis of the Gurdjieff literature as a body.
We then focus on The "Tales" Themselves: An Overview, a chapter of Dr. Anna Challenger's Ph.D. dissertation (1990) from Kent State University in which she provides a glimpse of the deeply considered understanding each of us must find in our own reading of Beelzebub's Tales and forcefully reminds us of the book's central role in Gurdjieff's teaching. We are also very pleased to offer a penetrating and thought provoking essay by Martha Heyneman, The Disenchantment of the Dragon. Originally published in 1979, this article links the symbolic structures of the Arthurian legend cycle and Beelzebub's Tales to argue for the transformation rather than the slaying of the Dragon. Two brief commentaries on Beelzebub's Tales follow, the first by Gurdjieff himself and the second by Professor Denis Saurat. We conclude this section with two book reviews by J. Walter Driscoll.
We suggest that beginning readers who wish to approach Beelzebub's Tales as Gurdjieff intended, not allow the writings about Gurdjieff's books to become a substitute for reading them oneself. Gurdjieff said, "Read each of my written expositions thrice." Experience has shown that for the most favorable results, these initial readings are best done without discussion.
In other new features, James Moore provides a biographical sketch of Henriette Lannes, a pupil of Gurdjieff who played a key role in establishing groups in England. We close with A. R. Orage's discerning reflections on the question, "Are We Awake?" and the final installment of the unpublished three-part round table discussion about Good and Evil that was led by A. R. Orage in November 1927.
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
J. Walter Driscoll
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Featured: Fall 1998 Issue, Vol. II (1)