Will Mesa An Introduction to the Teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff Based on Material Taken from Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson

Dedicated to Frankie Hutton


Note 1: From October 2nd to the 4th, an international gathering of disciples of the Living Teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff will take place in Moscow.  Disciples will gather in that city to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff to that city in Russia. I will be attending the gathering and will present a paper with the title “a god walking among us.” Mr. Gurdjieff arrived in the streets and cafes of Moscow in the first months of 1912. He was coming form some twenty-five years of travels to inaccessible places in the Middle East, Central and Far Asia, and even North Africa, mainly to Egypt. During his many years of travels with a group he called “Seekers of Truth”, he was able to put together an extraordinary teaching that now he wanted to give to the Western World. In Moscow and later in Saint Petersburg, the not yet very young Gurdjieff gathered a number of people around him and to these groups of people he gave his teaching. One of his disciples in Russia was the newpaper journalist and mathematician P. D. Ouspensky. Later, towards 1947 and before his death, Ouspensky published a book with the titles Fragments of an Unknown Teaching or In Search of the Miraculous. His book contained a very faithfull transcription of the teaching Mr. Gurdjieff gave during his Russian years. Later, Mr. Gurdjieff travelled to Central Europe where he finally settled in Avon-Fontainebleau and later in Paris where he lived unti his death at the American Hospital in Paris on October 29th of 1949. . It was during these French years that he wrote what is now considered to be his Opus Magnum, a 1238 pages book with the title An Impartially Objective Criticism of the Life of Man or Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson or. It is from the content of this book that the material for this talk has been taken.  


Note 2: This is a talk I gave several months ago to the Baltimore Theosophical Society. Frankie Hutton has a smal Gurdjieff group in Baltimore and invited me to give this talk. What I found very interesting and even amusing is that during the Questions and Answers section that followed my talk a young man in his early twenties asked me three questions that showed me that his understanding of my talk was greater than the rest in the audience. After the talk we had a social refreshment and I approached the young man and asked him what group he belonged to. The young man said that he did not belong to any group and that he was walking by and saw a flyer announcing my talk and since he had nothing to do he decided to attend my talk. He said he was a musician in a local band. I then pressed him a little bit more and he confessed he had read two books on alchemy and that this topic had interested him for some time. I then asked him a very direct question: What was the part of my talk that most has impressed him? He thought for a moment and then in a very direct way he said: “If we have no “I” we are dead.” When you read the content of my talk you will see that this young man really understood my talk. And I would add that he understood it better than all the rest of the audience who were all theosophists.


On the way back home, while on the train, I thought about this young man who has never before had been exposed to the Teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff had so well understood the content of my talk. Then, by the inevitable law of associations, I thought about something Mr. Gurdjieff said in the Prologue to “Life is real then, when I am” about the writing of Beelzebub’s Tales. Here is (P. 5);


“During this common reading, by the way, I enlightened myself for the first time with regard to the particular form in which it would be necessary to write in order that it might be accessible to the understanding of everyone.”


I think that “everyone” means everyone. And the young man attending my talk showed to me that “everyone” really means everyone.




Note 3: The content of my talk is not very introductory for people who have read Beelzebub’s Tales several times. But for those who have never read the book, it will be a good introduction to the material presented in Beelzebub’s Tales.


Most introductions to the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff are based on material taken from Ouspensky’s book, In Search of the Miraculous. This is understandable given that Ouspensky’s book presents a clear and concise introduction to the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff.  For many people approaching the teaching for the first time, In Search is a good place where to begin. In this talk, I have opted to introduce Mr. Gurdjieff’s teaching straight from his Opus Magnus. It is probably more difficult to do but it has the advantage of introducing Beelzebub’s Tales from the very beginning and, as Mr Gurdjieff shows in his book, the beginning is the end and vice versa.


In Beelzebub’s Tales, Mr. Gurdjieff takes us as we are: We are abnormal three-brained beings. This is a very strong indictment that deserves further consideration.


First, we are three-brained beings, we know that. We have three brains:  the thinking brain, the feeling brain, and the moving brain. Each brain is a center of consciousness that participates in man’s global functioning and the exchange of substances constantly and continuously taking place between man and his environment which extends all the way to include the needs of Great Nature. We can expand on that but this is not the topic of this talk.


Second, we are abnormal because our three brains do not function in harmony with each other and as a totality. Most of the time, we function from one brain and we are super-abnormal. Sometimes we function from two brains and we are less abnormal. Very rarely we function from the three brains and we are normal. So, normality can be defined as the functioning of the three brains in harmony with each other and as a totality. There is no better definition of normality.


Observe that our abnormality is all we need in order to live a successful life. We can see examples of this in our everyday ordinary life. A person functioning exclusively from one brain can have a very successful life. One example is people in sports. Just by functioning almost exclusively from the moving brain, a person can become a millionaire and even a very admired and respected person, an example to be followed, while in reality this person is an abnormality. The same can be said of an artist (feeling brain) and an intellectual (thinking brain). Observe that normality excludes any form of genius.


Why are we abnormal? The answer to this question, as the answer to all questions, is inBeelzebub’s Tales. We are abnormal because of two main reasons


The first reason has to do with the operation of Nature. It has to do with the implantation in our ancestors of an organ possessing two strange properties. The first property is that implantation of the organ made three-brained beings to perceive reality topsy-turvy. The second property is that “every repeated impression from outside should crystallize in them data which would engender factors for..

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