Note: Originally published in “STOPINDER – A Gurdjieff Journal for our Time” – Number Twelve – Spring 2003 

Here is a true story Gurdjieff told in connection with Objective Art.

“In the course of our travels in Central Asia we found, in the desert at the foot of the Hindu Kush, a strange figure which we thought at first was some ancient god or devil. At first it produced upon us simply the impression of being a curiosity. But after a while we began to feel that this figure contained many things, a big, complete, and complex system of cosmology. It was in the body of the figure, in its legs, in its arms, in its head, in its eyes, in its ears; everywhere. In the whole statue there was nothing accidental, nothing without meaning. And gradually we understood the aim of the people who built this statue. We began to feel their thoughts, their feelings. Some of us thought that we saw their faces, heard their voices. At all events, we grasped the meaning of what they wanted to convey to us across thousands of years, and not only the meaning, but all the feelings and the emotions with it as well. That indeed was art.” (P.D.Ouspensky – IN THE SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS)

This description of the strange figure has come to my mind many a times during my years of reading and studying BEELZEBUB’S TALES. I remember that during my first reading the book produced upon me the impression of being a curiosity, much as the strange figure did to Gurdjieff and his friends. In the beginning I took it to be a very funny description of the history of the Universe and of the history of the planet Earth. But as my readings of the book progressed, I began to feel that it contained “many things, a big, complete, and complex system of cosmology.”

It was in every chapter of the book, in its heavy arguments and in its funny stories, in its strong indictments and in its compassionate views; everywhere. By my fourth reading, when listening to the tales of Beelzebub to his grandson Hassein, I began to hear Gurdjieff s thoughts and to feel his feelings. By now I am convinced that in the whole book there is “nothing accidental, nothing without meaning.”

And here we come to one of the major characteristics of Objective Art as described by Gurdjieff: “There can be nothing accidental either in the creation or in the impressions of Objective Art.” I must confess that I have struggled with this determinant every time I have come across statements in the TALES that baffle me and make me wonder why they were put in the book in the first place. But having been able with time to decipher statements that at one time seemed undecipherable I no longer doubt that in the whole book there is nothing accidental. Each and every statement in the book has a purpose and has a meaning. And I no longer doubt that thousands of years from now readers and students of the TALES will be grasping the meaning of what our Teacher wanted to convey to them across all those years, and not only the meaning, but all the feelings and emotions with it as well. That indeed is art.

But is it Objective Art?

We need to examine the question on the basis of both the grand scale and the small scale the TALES reveals to us.


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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  3. jonedae says:

    There are other criteria, but, one of the main tests of objective art is, does it affect each person who sees it the same way? If it does, then it is objective art (when the other criteria are met as well). And BTTG will indeed affect every sane, intelligent, adult the same way. Not included are persons that suffer from medical or psychological abnormalities, and so on. I meant to simplify, and hope I haven’t oversimplified.

  4. willmesa says:

    Dear Jone,
    You write and I quote:
    “Not included are persons that suffer from medical or psychological abnormalities, and so on.”
    But I wonder if that is true. What about those who have those illnesses and are able to overcome them through work on themselves. Do you think this is possible?
    Thanks for your comments.

    • jonedae says:

      It was Mr. G that often stipulated, in those contexts, that the person be ‘normal’. But also, those with sensory or psychiatric disorders won’t perceive any art in the normal way, not at all. *Normal people* are not aware of themselves enough to be able to discern objective from subjective art; they lack the Active Partnership, the work between essence and personality. The disabled would then be even worse of than them, than us.
      Those with healthy minds are in the same place as the rest of us, even with physical weaknesses or whatever; but I think G used that specific word, deformity. A person too physically deformed, won’t be able to complete the Work, owing to the missing training and coordination of the three main centers, owing to their not being able to do The Movements, or any equivalent to it. The body and etc. must be a full participant on all work on ourselves or for others. Those kinds of distinctions make the Work seem cold to some outsiders, but there it is.
      We are all playing the lottery. That is, our chances of transcending enough to, ease the suffering of the creator or convince it that we love it, are about as great as they are of winning the Lottery. But starting from the additional burden of deformity makes our chances even smaller still. That’s my understanding of these things; and views like mine are never socially acceptable in america; but I’ve told you what truth I know.

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