The Two Teachings

It is my contention that Mr. Gurdjieff brought to us two teachings and for lack of better words I will refer to them as the Old Teaching and the New Teaching, although expressions such as old vibration and new vibration are also suitable. It is not the first time that similar expressions are used in the world of spirituality. The best example of other uses is the Old Testament and the New Testament. The implication in those two expressions is not one of separation but one of fulfillment and completeness. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

The Old Teaching in reference to what Mr. Gurdjieff brought to the West at the beginning of the Twenty Century, is the one he presented in Russia and faithfully recorded by Ouspensky in his book In Search of the Miraculous (ISOM). The New Teaching is the one Mr. Gurdjieff completed in France and that he recorded in his Legominism All and Everything and very specifically in his magnum opus, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (BTTHG).

It is also my contention that both teachings “are as much alike as the beard of the famous English Shakespeare and the no less famous French Armagnac.” And in this respect I am not the only one in the so-called Gurdjieff Community who has expressed this view. Here is a full quote from an interview in the Gurdjieff-Internet-Guide that Adam Nott, the son of the well know disciple of Mr. Gurdjieff C. S. Nott, gave to Adam Turner few months ago:

“My understanding is, Gurdjieff presented his teaching in different ways at different times, because if you compare the material that is so well recorded by Ouspensky when he was with Gurdjieff in Moscow, with Beelzebub, you can’t imagine that they came from the same source. They have their place and different people are brought by different things.”

This is exactly my understanding too and what I have been saying again and again in several of my articles and website blogs on the two teachings and for which I have attacked so strongly and viciously. And I think I can prove it mathematically using the two most important twenty-century theorems on mathematical logic: Godel’s two theorems of incompleteness. In Search of the Miraculous is incomplete with respect to Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, that is the whole point I have trying to make all along.

But why the change of teachings from Russia to France, one may ask? I suggest that when he arrived in Moscow in 1912, Mr. Gurdjieff had the fundamentals of his teaching but he was still working in completing his Being, as much as Beelzebub was doing the same during his many years of exile in this remote corner of the Universe called the solar system Ors. Completion of Being is not an easy task and for us now here on this lunatic planet Earth, it requires a residency in Purgatory. It was in France during the period between of July 8, 1924 and November 6, 1927 that Mr. Gurdjieff spent his residency in Purgatory. During that period he had his car accident, he lost both his beloved wife and beloved mother, he lost the “Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man,” and he understood that all he had written for the completion of BTTHG was inappropriate and unsuitable for future generations. It was therefore during this period that he went through the state of inner suffering that only Holy Purgatory can provide. All this is exposed in the Prologue of Life is real only then, when “I am.” We have to learn how to listen.

But is it important for me to know all this? What benefit can I derive from this knowledge? Well, like a three brained being of this lunatic planet, I must also make my residency in Purgatory and the only way to make it is by leaving behind the old. That is what Mr. Gurdjieff did. He left behind Russia for France, the old for the new. It is like Dante when he arrived to Purgatory. His first act was to have his faced washed by Virgil in the dew of Purgatory (Purgatory, Canto I). It is when I leave behind what I must leave behind, that I become a candidate to enter Holy Purgatory.

And finally, is there any sign in the Legominism that may serve as an indication of all that has seen said here? As a matter of fact, there is. It is in one of the shortest chapters in BTTHG: “A Change in the Appointed Course of the Falling of the Ship Karnak.” This chapter is located precisely between the chapters on Russia and France and the Karnak, according to many serious students of BTTHG, is the embodiment of the teaching. Therefore, this chapter is a strong indicator that the embodiment of the teaching is changed from Russia to France. But not only that; there is additionally the allegorical meaning of the Karnak falling towards Purgatory, as Mr. Gurdjieff falls from Russia towards France. Hence, Mr. Gurdjieff is telling us that he is falling towards his own Purgatory. We have to learn how to listen.

Unfortunately, some of the most prominent disciples of Mr. Gurdjieff from the first generation got stuck in the Old Teaching and never made it to the New Teaching. Among them and most noticeable are Ouspensky, Nicoll, and Jean Vaysse, as it is obvious from a superficial examination of their writings. One has only to study Ouspenky’s major work The New Model of the Universe in order to understand how he departs from the teaching Mr. Gurdjieff recorded in BTTHG. If one study Ouspensky’s book in details, one would find the almost incredible fact that the topic of Conscience, the major topic in BTTHG, not only is never covered but the word conscience is not mentioned even one time. However, the word consciousness is mentioned 185 times, all in connection with the expansion of consciousness, when this aspect is not emphasized in BTTHG. And then we have Nicoll’s six volumes of commentaries on the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, when the teacher who brought the teaching was Mr. Gurdjieff and not Ouspensky. And finally there is the book Towards Awakening by Jean Vaysee who was a Paris disciple of Mr. Gurdjieff and who apparently never studied BTTHG, as it is known that Ouspensky and Nicoll never did. On one of the last pages of his book, he claims that MORAL CONSCIENCE (in capital letter) interior calls to be myself. The view presented in BTTHG is radically different. The Divine Impulse of Conscience, as it is referred in BTTHG, does not call to be myself. Objective Conscience calls to be a Son of God, as it summarized in the book on page 368 of the original 1950 English Edition with the meaning of the brotherhood “Heechtvory,” which signifies:


Of all the disciples of this first generation, A. R. Orage stands as one of the disciples who best understood the New Teaching Mr. Gurdjieff brought to us. He was the one who was in charge of rendering into English the original Edition of Beelzebub’s Tales, the only authorized and supervised by Mr. Gurdjieff, the one the people at the New York Foundation under the auspices of Jeanne de Salzmann later revised twice mostly for profit motives.


Will Mesa


About willmesa

I have been studying and working with the ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff exposed in his Opus Magnum Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. The intention of this blog is to share these ideas with people around the world. For more information about me, please search in Google for Will Mesa
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11 Responses to The Two Teachings

  1. Scott Krause says:

    I have never thought of ISOM and BTTHG to be exclusive of one another. I considered ISOM as a “practical” explanation and narrative; general outlines, and a “pupil’s journey.” It is written by a nicely developed scientific and mathematical mind. I read in a book (obviously) that Gurdjieff read ISOM and remarked, “I used to hate him (Ouspensky) and now I love him.” And, then BTTHG as an Objective work of science, art, and/or religion – written by the “Source.” Each a wonderful piece to help whomever whenever along the path. Just as Nichol’s work, as he calls it, are only “commentaries” about the Work.
    Granted, BTTHG would contain “everything” … and if and when someone’s mind is able to understand and decipher it, I would bet many angels would be rejoicing.

    Is your hypothesis that BTTHG would (or should) exclude the earlier teaching presented in ISOM? Or would you say that each was along G.’s path .. representing different stages? If so, then each book(s) would be useful to all who then have to traverse the path, yes?

    Let me apologize if my remarks are off-the-mark … if I have missed other posts that would render my post not very apropos.


    • willmesa says:

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your comments.

      My point of view is that ISOM is for people in the Work and that is what the majority of people in the Work read. BTTHG is for humanity and yes, my hypothesis is that you do not need to read ISOM in order to read BTTHG, although I read it three times. It would be better not to read at all in order to understand BTTHG. But the fact remains that Mr. Gurdjieff could not have written BTTHG without first having given the teaching in Russia and that Ouspensky faithfully recorded in ISOM. My whole point of view is that the Living Teaching contained in BTTHG and the so-called Work books have nothing in common and that more people in life read BTTHG than people in the Work and not only will continue to be so but it will increase as Time goes on. The Work is involutionary while BTTHG is evolutionary. Another thing, neither Ouspensky nor Nicoll ever read BTTHG and their teachings and commentaries come, as your well said, from the Work.

      But again, that is my experience. I just submitted an abstract to the 2011 All and Everything International Conference, to be held in Prague, with the title Beelzebub’s Tales and the Work in which I try to show that BTTHG cannot find its way into humanity through the Work.


      • Scott Krause says:

        Wow – that could shake things up a bit for me. I’ll have to ponder and digest that reply over time. So, I can assume that BTTHG is being read by people not in the Work? I had never thought that was even possible. I’ve known more than one group that starts people with ISOM and then goes to BTTHG; and I had figured what could someone without background comprehend. But, thinking now, of course that would make sense as that would be how G. would have done it – I mean, in regards to the reading of books. He wouldn’t (I don’t think) advise ISOM, although he did seem to think it was a good book. Are you in alignment with the readings of all G.’s books in the order he set forth, i.e. First Series, Second Series, etc.? Unfortunately the group I was first introduced to told me to read Meetings with Remarkable Men first … obviously not knowing, remembering or caring about their order set forth so earnestly in BTTHG. I often wonder how I would be – if I would feel or be different had I read them the order they were meant. -Scott

  2. willmesa says:

    Hi Scott,

    ISOM is a good book and my intention has never been to put it down. I read it three times and, like many others, it opened the doors to the Work which later transformed into what I call the Living Teaching contained in BTTHG. I spent ten whole years in the heart of the Work, the so-called Gurdjieff Foundations, both in Paris and Caracas. I left when I realized that BTTHG was non been read. In the ten years I was at the Foundations, the book was read only once while ISOM was read almost on a weekly basis. This has changed now with more group readings in the Foundations but there still a resistance to the book among Foundations people. And then there was that something I call the abomination of all abominations and that it was the revision of the original 1950 English edition of BTTHG, the only one Mr. Gurdjieff supervised and approved and made so much efforts to publish before he died. As we all know, the rendering of this edition into English was under the direction of A. R. Orage, the best literary critic England produced for over 100 years , according to George Bernard Shaw. How then could this original edition be improved by people who never had the expertise Orage had. And, furthermore, one may ask: what changes in the English language have taken place since the time the book was published in 1950 and the time it was first revised in 1993? Now we know that the revision was under the auspices of Jeanne de Salzmann and the principle motive was to obtain a copyright of the book under a copyright law that establishes that a book which was not copyrighted, as it was the case for BTTHG in 1993, can be copyrighted if at least 20% of the content of the book is changed. This is what the team at the New York Foundation did and which resulted in alterations in many paragraphs of the intended meaning. That is why I call these two revisions the abomination of all abominations, not only because it was not called for but because of the profit motive that was the motor behind both revisions (the first revision was so a total failure that the revision had to be revised with a second revision- that in itself explains it all).

    But going back to ISOM and its relation to BTTHG, I would dare to speculate that the reason why it was read before the readings of BTTHG during those Paris readings under the direction of Mr. Gurdjieff, the main reason, and this is my personal opinion which I cannot prove, was that Mr. Gurdjieff was experimenting, as he always was. For the fulfillment of his aim with BTTHG, Mr. Gurdjieff wanted to explore the difference in people reactions of the two kinds of languages he mentions in the first chapter of BTTHG, namely, the language of mentation by thought and the language of mentation by form. One of the most important aspects on BTTHG is the invention of a new language and only future generation will have the full capacity of absorbing the new language Mr. Gurdjieff brought to humanity. The old language used for thousands of years was the language used in ISOM. So, by exposing his disciples to both languages in the spur of the moment, Mr. Gurdjieff was calibrating the impact of the new language he had invented. This language was so invasive in everything Mr. Gurdjieff did that even his oral teaching was impregnated by this language. So, his statement of first hating Ouspensky and then loving him very well meant that he was thanking Ouspensky for giving him the opportunity to experiment as he loved to do in everything he did. But then again, all this is mere speculations on my part and I assume full responsibility for them, knowing in my heart that in no way are my speculations of the Hasnamussian kinds for the simple reason that Mr. Gurdjieff did indeed praise Ouspensky for having so faithfully transcribed the teaching given in Russia. Did he not praise Ouspensky as being a good journalist?

    Now let’s go to the matter of the impact on the future of humanity of BTTHG. As a very serious and dedicated student of the Living Teaching contained in the book, I am fully aware that all we are now doing is to scratch the very surface of the Living Teaching. This is a book written for future generations and not for our generations of these days and times. There are a total of 57 reviews of the book in so far and one is my own review with the title “The Unofficial Story.” It is the only one with exactly one thousand words because when I posted it in 2001, these were the maximum number of words allowed for a review in Later I added one word to my review and published it in the Gurdjieff Internet Guide and, having in mind one of my favorite books of all times, I published it with the title “A one Thousand and One Words Review of Beelzebub’s Tales.” I am not saying this in order to promote myself. The fact is that for me the best review in is not even closely mine. As I see it and feel it, the best review by far, is the one by someone with the name of Steve Adams from Danton, North Carolina, with the title “A Javelin Hurled into the Future.” I advise you to go to and search under “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson” for his review and that of many others, including the 14 reviews of the book that are very negative not only in content but in intention as well. Anyhow, if you read Steve’s review you will understand better than I can explain it why BTTHG was written not only for humanity but for future humanity as well and how BTTHG is at another level than ISOM, something that you acknowledge in your comments.

    Finally, on the matter of reading the three series of All and Everything in the order indicated and advised by Mr. Gurdjieff himself, I think he was refering to a saying he used many times: “Everything is according to Law.” The Law here is the Law of Three. The three series form a Law of Three with the frist series being the holy-denying, the second series the holy-affirming, and the third being the holy-reconciling and in this sense, Beelzebub’s Tales is the first book to be read. In any case, I have read the books in the advised order and I can see that it is the order to be followed. Most of what is expounded in the Tales is later brought to life in Meetings and Life is real only when “I am” is a practical application of the Living Teaching.

    Again, thanks for your comments. They have given me the opportunity to expand on certain aspects of the Living Teaching I have expounded on in other times and places.


  3. Scott Krause says:

    Wow again. The idea that someone would revise his work is really mind-blowing. I had heard she revised something (didn’t know it was BTTHG) but I assumed, wrongly, that it would have been revised somehow according to some obvious problem – and did not interfere with the result. I thought, in other words, as we, the general public often “think” … that people are always acting in a high accord for the good of all. To make at least a 20% revision is an Abomination. I have the 3 blue books, printed in 1973, copyright 1950; is that the old or new version?

    To inquire more about the meat of your assertion … you called ISOM involutionary. The dictionary definition is: enfolding, entangling, more complex. I think I can surmise and extrapolate your meaning for BTTHG as evolutionary (evolving, Living, growing outward, conscious expansion, and with a long time-line for generations in the future). So, two questions if you would like to elaborate:

    1. The meaning behind ISOM as involutionary? What does it mean … what does it mean for readers and practitioners?

    2. And BTTHG as evolutionary in so far as do you think it is progressing according to it’s plan – has it fulfilled and carried on the way G. meant it to? It’s a grand concept to me, thinking that it was devised with such a long plan, maybe even with the revisions; I am recalling just now that I did read in a book that Gurdjieff knew it would be revised and “damaged”. With that question about it’s success or lack thereof, I am thinking about G.’s statement in ISOM that “the time of the Earth is known. If a certain thing is done by a certain time, the Earth will continue. If it is not done, the Earth will perish having attained nothing. All I can say is that time is short.” And being that all the things associating with the demise of civilization on a grand scale are taking place, I wasn’t very hopeful that that thing had taken place. Our current civilization, as I see it, can not continue as it is.

    Thanks, Scott

    • willmesa says:

      Dear Scott,

      Thanks for providing the challenge that allows me to condense in one blog-post comments a series of thoughts I have been having in different avenues about Beelzebub’s Tales (BTTHG) and what people and not Mr. Gurdjieff call the Work. I just submitted a proposal for a paper to the 2011 All and EVERYTHING Conference with the title Beelzebub’s Tales and the Work. In that paper, which I hope will be accepted, I will expose my vision of why I strongly consider that BTTHG cannot find its way into the Subconscious of humanity through the new Church now call the Work. It will be a sort of final announcement of why I am now separating myself from the so-called Gurdjieff community. In 1985, I separated in body from the so-called Gurdjieff foundations which is the main embodiment of what is now is called the Work. Now my separation from the Work will be in body, soul, and mind.

      I say all this to you because it has been my experience in the last three years that most people in the Work, not all of course because every rule has exceptions, are not at all interested in BTTHG. For 27 months I was a member of the Gurdjieff website known as What is the Work (WITW), so fat the largest website on the Work in Internet, not necessarily the Living Teaching contained in BTTHG but predominantly the Work. About six months ago I deleted myself from that site after been called schizophrenic-obsessive, manic-depressive, mentally ill, dog, rat, swine, snake, and the worst animal from the esoteric point of view: A worm. And all that just because I repeatedly said that all we have to do is to go back to the Living Source of the teaching and that this Living Source is the Legominism All and Everything. All that, of course, put me in the category of Mr. Gurdjieff who was called from dilettante to drunk, passing through insane as Ouspensky called him after the accident Mr. Gurdjieff suffered in 1924. So, I am a good company. But the point is that all those insults I received mostly from two people from Foundations, one from the New York Foundation with the name of Richard Lloyd and another from a man form the Los Angeles Foundation with the name of James Taylor. So, I left WITW and then became active in another list with the name of the Open House which resulted in a very close House because all the censure from the moderators that we saw day after day. That list became dead by its own hand and now I too deleted from it. Of course, needless to say I was not a saint when I wrote my 60 blogs in WITW and 10 blogs in the Open House about why all we needed was to read the Legomnism All and Everything , with emphasis on Beelzebub’s Tales. I was aggressive at times and sarcastic most of the time, but not more than Mr. Gurdjieff when he writes about “sorry scientists” and “maleficent sciences” and Hasnamussian sciences and ‘Learned being of new formation” and all the sarcasm of our esteemed Mullah Nassr Eddin. But even when I was very aggressive in my post, the resistance from the members of Foundations and other groups was evident. But this is understandable given that reading and studying BTTHG demands full dedication and it is much easier to read Ouspensky and Nicoll.

      Fortunately, through what Mr. Gurdjieff called a conjury (“wish or not wish conjury your must believe because all life consists of conjury) I was invited to join a site with name of Fourth Way LA. As we say in Spanish, “ a la tercera va la vencida” (in English “third is the charm”), this third website has now become my home and since I have joined I have not only been received with respect and attention but I found in the founder of that site a source of knowledge that has allowed me to propagate the Living Teaching Mr. Gurdjieff brought to us. The founder is the Russian born photographer-artist Angelica Sarkisyan and she has now in a way has completed the movement Mr. Gurdjieff wished for his Living Teaching by bringing it to Los Angeles and the West Cost. Very soon I will put a post here in this blog dedicated to her.

      And then you have the Foundations and many of the so-called Gurdjieff groups, such as the Nyland group, telling us with great authority, that they have the method to understand BTTHG, when Mr. Gurdjieff himself said very emphatically that there are no methods. Here is a quote from one of the very few times that he referred to his own book i reply to a disciple who asked him if there was a method to the reading and studying of BTHG:

      “One thing I can tell you. Methods do not exist. I do not know any. But I can explain now everything simple. For example, in Beelzebub, I know there is everything one must know. It is a very interesting book. Everything is there. All that exists, all that existed, all that can exist. The beginning, the end, all the secrets of the creation of the world; all is there. But one must understand, and to understand depends on one’s individuality. The more man has been instructed in a certain way, the more he can see. Subjectively, everyone is able to understand according to the level he occupies, for it is an objective book, and everyone should understand something in it. One person understands one part, another a thousand times more. Now, find a way to put your attention on understanding all of Beelzebub. This will be your task, and it is a good way to fix a real attention. If you can put real attention on Beelzebub, you can have real attention in life. You didn’t know this secret. In Beelzebub there is everything, I have said it, even how to make an omelet. Among other things, it is explained; and at the same time there isn’t a word in Beelzebub about cooking. So, you put your attention on Beelzebub, another attention than that to which you are accustomed, and you will be able to have the same attention in life. (Gurdjieff International Review, Vol. II No.1, Fall 1998 Issue). ”

      So, who am I to believe, that Foundations and groups or the Teacher who labored consciously and suffered intentionally to bring to humanity his massage of real hope, that is to say, of Real Strength? Whom am I going to believe? Well, if you read my posts here in this Word-Press blog I have called “Gospel According to Beelzebub,” if you read them, you will naturally and effortless will see whom I believe.

      In my next reply to your comments, I will address the three points you raise in you last comments on my blog. They are:
      1) The matter of the revision of BTTG by the New York Foundation under the auspices of Jeanne de Salzmann
      2) Why the Work, and not “In Search of the Miraculous,” as you wrongly understood, is involutionary.
      3) The future of the Living Teaching contained in BTTHG.

      Thanks again for your challenging comments and may 2011 be a year of great realizations in your search!


      • Scott Krause says:

        Hi Will,
        A new year … will it bring new things.

        I think I may understand what you mean by involution and evolution. I think you will speak of: The Work; involutionary, as what happened to all religions and Ways according to the Law of Seven. They started as one thing, then, in the course of time, ultimately must become something different, often even the opposite of its initial course. While the Living Teaching, which would contain Work, is not subject to involution. The Work, as presented and developed through Gurdjieff and his pupils, must “decay” in a certain way. BBTHG is of another order.
        Is that what you mean? It presents very interesting concepts for me … allows me to re-open my mind. In essence, to pull out of the involution that had naturally occured.
        If that isn’t what you mean, of course, I would hope to hear about that.


  4. a very good read. very interesting questions raised here.
    i think it matters that a person new to mr. gurdjieff should read the three books of his in the order proscribed. after all that is what he suggested.
    i also believe that both ouspensky’s books and gurdjieff’s series can be useful to the study of his ideas. both are even necessary to a balanced search. we will all be verifying pretty subjectively anyway…. just more grist for the mill.
    even “the strange life of ivan osokin” should be recommended to newcomers. now i have to mention daumal’s instructive fiction “mount analogue, which i think adds to the metaphysical aspect… an open road for growing minds.
    anyway, we need all the ‘clues’ we can get.

    • willmesa says:

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I read Ouspemsky’s In Search three times and in the beginning in parallel with Beelzebub’s Tales. The book is still a good opening to the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff. I also read Daumal’s Mount Analogue which I enjoyed tremendously. Now I am trying to bring all the attention to Beelzebub’s Tales which I consider to be the book for future generations, and I am convinced that we do not need to read Ouspensky’s book in order to understand Beelzebub’s Tales.

      Warm regards,


  5. Colin Looker says:

    I really find these comments about the reading of Ouspensky et al bizarre. What exactly is the problem? Mr Gurdjieff advises the reading of the books 3 X in a specific way. This is what he personally, a great Spiritual Master, advises us. So why run after all the imitators? Certainly I have read almost everything about Gurdjieff in a long life…but its obvious from the despair of his so-called “followers” (Ouspensky, Nicoll, etc) that they did NOT reach The Real. “Mr Gurdjieff, what is the Real World like?”…”Everything more vivid!”. These books…all of them..are of anecdotal interest only.
    Surely what matters is the Source Text and the Source. Later popularizations and bowlderizations for particular audiences (“Ouspensky” seems to appeal to a sort of secularist quasi-scientific reader typology…when in fact they need to be balanced by something OPPOSING their typology…not have their addictions catered to ) are not going to provide real insight into BT.

  6. willmesa says:

    Hi Colin,

    My intention with this post is to show that there is a difference between the teaching Mr. Gurdjieff gave in Russia and that Ouspensky faithfully recorded in his book In Search of the Miraculous and the teaching Mr. G gave in France and that he recorded in his book Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. That is all I am trying to say here.

    But I totally agree with you when you write: “Surely what matters is the Source Text and the Source. Later popularizations and bowdlerizations for particular audiences (“Ouspensky” seems to appeal to a sort of secularist quasi-scientific reader typology…when in fact they need to be balanced by something OPPOSING their typology…not have their addictions catered to ) are not going to provide real insight into BT.” There is also the fact that Beelzebub is written in the language of mentation by form while all of Ouspensky’s book are written in the language of mentation by though.

    Thanks for your valuable comments.



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