It will come as no surprise to those who have read it, but George Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson is a difficult read. By way of quick introduction: Owing to his “extraordinarily resourceful intelligence,” a young Beelzebub, the key figure of the work, is taken into the service of HIS ENDLESSNESS. Owing also to this same resourceful intelligence, Beelzebub after a time begins to question whether the government of the universe might not be better in some key particulars. Because of his brilliance and his powerful presence, Beelzebub attracts a following of other young comrades and they, following his lead, interfere in “what is none of their business.” Notwithstanding the All-lovingness and All-forgiveness, HIS ENDLESSNESS is constrained to banish Beelzebub and his comrades to the far reaches of the Megalocosmos, to a far distant solar system the sun of which is called “Ors”.
Far from gnashing his teeth and plotting revenge, Beelzebub sets himself to various conscious labours — the fulfilling of which reflect in the conditions of service to those around him which he intentionally accepts as necessary to achieve these aims. He collects data through the deep observation of all and everything and this helps to answer questions that have arisen within himself about the conditions in this solar system that appear strange. Although governed by the same laws of world creation and world maintenance as all other systems and planets in the universe, this solar system presents many particularities especially with regard to the life arising on the planet called Earth and more particularly with regard to the strange history of the three-brained beings arising on this planet called “humans”.
The read is a difficult for many reasons, not the least being that it is not unusual for sentences to be 100 or 200 words in length. In the age of the soundbite, such manifestations of complete thought in print are daunting. Nevertheless, like so much of this book, the stamp of conscious intention appears at many levels, and one realizes after perseverance that even though many of the details of such complete thoughts escape one, that chewing on them has the effect of lengthening one’s attentiveness. Thus, the book’s “secrets” protect themselves in that a certain effort is needed to unlock them that cannot be given for free from the outside.
The reading that follows is from chapter 37 entitled, France. In this chapter, after many centuries of contact with the beings arising on that planet Earth, Beelzebub finds himself in a Parisian restaurant in the company of a young Persian whom he has befriended. Very little of what Paris has to offer in its depravity as the contemporary center of culture has to do with the French themselves. Everyone, it seems, is from somewhere else. In the passage the reader is privy to Beelzebub’s private impressions while he recollects his time in this solar system and on the Earth in particular.
The “being-Sarpitimnian-experiencing” that Beelzebub refers to is the same being-experience that must have accompanied Beelzebub’s earlier need to change the government of the universe. Listen for yourself for the deep note of compassion that Beelzebub sounds in his account. It is a compassion that is free from sentiment, and it is a short visit to a restaurant that takes into its measure the whole of human history as experienced firsthand by Beelzebub. Within the context of the entire book, Beelzebub gives us a voice that is somewhat more intimate and personal and in which the reader hears something of his own personal struggle in seeking to reconcile the need for order in the universe with the need for mercy.
The music that you hear in this recording is from the rich body of music that arose from the collaboration between George Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann, a principal pupil of Gurdjieff’s. The pieces, by name, are Mamasha and The Song of the Aisors.