On Idiocy and Idiots.

NOTE:  This is a rather long post but if you study it, you may find out what kind of idiot you are. I know what kind of idiot I am now because idiocy, contrary to chief feature which is permanent in the life of people, idiocy typology changes with time. You have to find what kind of idiot you are these days and maybe change to another category. Both endeavors can be done without the need of a teacher. But one has to be sincere with oneself. Enjoy it!

This post is about one of Mr. Gurdjieff’s greatest invention and contribution to humanity: The Science of Idiots. It is to be noticed that after the death of Mr. Gurdjieff in 1949, the ritual known as the toast to idiots was abandoned because none was at the level of Mr. Gurdjiefff to carry on these very original toasts.

The Toast to Idiots.

According to Mr. Gurdjieff this ritual goes back to thousands of years ago. He just updated it. The ritual was totally abandoned after the death of Mr. G, the reason being that only a Master and under the guidance and supervision of a Master can the ritual be performed. For instance, the ritual involved heavy drinking of heavy substances (wine was never used). According to many who have reported about the ritual never a person participating in it got drunk. They were under the watchful eyes of the Master. People participating in the ritual had to choose their own idiots or were assigned their idiots by Mr. G.

What is an idiot?

Idiot is a word derived from the Greek ἰδιώτης, idiōtēs (“person lacking professional skill,” “a private citizen,” “individual”), from ἴδιος, idios (“private,” “one’s own”).[1] In Latin the word idiota (“ordinary person, layman”) preceded the Late Latin meaning “uneducated or ignorant person.”[2] Its modern meaning and form dates back to Middle English around the year 1300, from the Old French idiote (“uneducated or ignorant person”). The related word idiocy dates to 1487 and may have been analogously modeled on the words prophet [3] and prophecy.[4][5] The word has cognates in many other languages.

I will add that the best I have heard as far as it concerns the use of Mr. Gurdjieff of the word idiot is that the Greek root idios means particularity. Our idiocy is a particularity of us, that is to say, something exceptionally selective or noticeable in us.

The Twenty-one Category of Idiots in Ascending Order

  1. The ordinary idiot
  2. The super idiot
  3. The arch idiot
  4. The hopeless idiot
  5. The Compassionate idiot
  6. The squirming idiot
  7. The square idiot
  8. The round idiot
  9. The zigzag idiot
  10. The enlightened idiot

11 The doubting idiot

12 The swaggering idiot.

  1. The “true” (born) idiot
  2. The smart idiot
  3. The ingenious idiot
  4. The polyhedral idiot
  5. The masterly idiot
  6. The perfect idiot
  7. The holy idiot
  8. The cosmic idiot
  9. The unique idiot

It should be noted that, as far as I know, in the toast to idiots only the first 12 were used, although at one time or another the rest may have been used but I do not know of any particular case

Characteristics of Some Idiots.

The description I give here is based on what I have been able to gather here and there, from books and from people I have spoken to about the subject and, more than anything else, from my own experience. I am using my own words here. I use “he” for simplification purpose but “he” or” she” is the same.

  1. The ordinary idiot is he who has such a sense of self-importance that he always strives to be recognized. As it has been said, he does not take himself for dog’s tail. The good thing is that the ordinary idiot is the idiot we all have to return to if we want to be the masters of our idiocy instead of our idiocy be our masters.. I explain this in details later.
  2. The super idiot goes through life from one celebration to another. What does he celebrate? He celebrates the fact that he is a super idiot. What else? He has been described as having five Fridays a week, always celebrating. His celebrations are so notorious that he too is described as one having the characteristic of hysterical women. Every day of the week is like a Friday and accordingly he behaves hysterically. In a previous post I said the super idiot loves dancing Tango. A tango is a serious and rigorous celebration of a tragedy. You will never see two Tango dancers smiling. That is exactly the situation of the super idiot: he will never smile during a celebration. How could he if he is hysterical.
  3. The arch idiot loves hierarchies and structures. He is always very respectful of organizations and structures, like an archivist or an archdeacon or an architect. In the Work he is always found in a position of leadership. He would be almost at lost without the Group and he protects it like a cat protects her kittens.
  4. The hopeless idiot is without doubt one of the most outstanding classes of idiots. It is the only category with a subdivision: subjective hopeless and objective hopeless. The subjective hopeless has real hope. He is the only idiot who can see his nothingness. He is so hopeless that he realizes that he is nothing. The objective has no hope. Mr. G called him shit. He is objectively without hope. This is the worst kind of idiot of the entire spectrum and I do not wish it to anyone.
  5. The compassionate idiot is he who goes to a movie, sees a dog being killed and cries. He cannot help being compassionate and will do anything so others are no uncomfortable. Of all the idiots he is the one most taken advantage of by other idiots. When two compassionate idiots meet, they always cry on each other’s shoulders, without knowing what they are crying for. In a funeral, the compassionate idiot is always the closest to the sarcophagus.
  6. The round idiot is the only idiot that is idiot all the time. Other idiots have a break from time to time but not the idiot; that is why he is round. Another characteristic is that he is always going around and around without even knowing why he is doing it. In a post I said that only ordinary idiots dance Waltz. Just look at yourself dancing a Waltz, going around and around without any reason and you will see a round idiot dancing. Contrary to the super idiot dancing Tango who never smiles, the round idiot dancing Waltz does smile but even smiling he is an idiot dancing a Waltz.
  7. The zigzag idiot moves in all directions but never around like the round idiot but rather in a zigzag manner. In the Work he goes one way, learns something useful, and then moves in another direction learning something else. He is always trying to learn something new by moving in different directions but the only problem is that he cannot choose one path. He finishes a book in Hinduism and then goes for another one in Jung psychology, and then to another one on Zen, and so and so. There is nothing a zigzag idiot loves most than a living room full of books with a small flower in a center table as a little reminder that there is such things as Life and Nature. A zigzag idiot in the Work is always quoting from books about the Work he had read. I know a young woman dear essence-friend of mine, the personification of the zigzag idiot, who is always quoting from Work books. “Oh, yes, I saw that in Commentaries.” “Well, that is in the New Model of the Universe.” “You telling me, I saw the same thing in The New Man.” One day I asked her not to quote anymore and to use her own words as a way to develop her own individuality and that what she was doing was a sort of eternal recurrence and she responded: “Well, now that you mention it, I saw that in The Strange Live of Ivan Osokin.” At the end, the zigzag idiot has read so many books that he does not remember any. But he is without doubt a high class of idiot because while he is moving zigzagging he always learns something. If he dies as a zigzag idiot he will have enough knowledge for at least ten successive reincarnations.
  8. The enlightened idiot thinks that he knows all. He can talk about all, he can discuss all. He is the perfect erudite. In the Work group he is always in the library, while everybody else is in a Movement class. He is not really searching for anything in particular like the zigzag; no, he just wants to know more and more about everything until he gets to the point that his enlightenment is total confusion. If an enlightened idiot and a zigzag idiot meet at some place in space and time, the enlightened will continue straight while the zigzag will make a forty-five degree detour. However they will never acknowledge each other because each one is too occupied minding his own search. Can you imagine an enlightened idiot and a zigzag idiot married to each other? Even the refrigerator of their apartment will be filled with books and they probably will make love on top of the bookcase because the bed is also covered with books, of course if they ever make love because while one always moves in a straight line the other always moves diagonally. How difficult would it be?
  9. The doubting idiot, of course, doubts everything. He questions everything just for that heck of it. I had a friend who was a consummate doubt idiot and he was very funny. You show him a knife and even before he looked at it he would ask, yes but what kind of knife is it? It is a silver knife. Yes, but what is the weight of silver in it? You won’t believe me but one day I asked him why he always was asking question instead of accepting things as they are without so much doubting and questioning and his response was: How do you know that I always ask questions?
  10. The swaggering idiot is a showman. Everything is about him and him only, all the great things he has done in life, ninety percent of which are lies invented by him to impress others. He is a liar, a complete liar. In the Work he will invent all kinds of wonderful experiences or all the work he has done just to impress everybody. He will never make it to group leader because then he will not have a chance to share his wonderful experiences. Of all the idiots he is the one who feels the most comfortable with other idiots, as long as he is given a chance to talk.

Examples of idiots

The world of literature, as well as the real world is a nest of idiots. Here are some examples.

Hamlet—a doubting idiot: to be or not to be, that is the doubt.

Don Quijote—a compassionate hero. He goes insane just for the sake of being compassionate.

Candide (main personage in Voltaire’s classic)—round idiot. He is always an idiot.

George Wells (author of War of the Worlds, Time Machine, etc, .etc.)—the consummate swaggering idiot. Here is the epitaph he himself wrote to be placed in his tomb: “I told you so.” He took his swaggering beyond the grave.

Joseph Campbell—a zigzzg idiot by his own admission: He went from one Myth to another without ever actualizing any one of them.

Philosopher Atarnakh (A personage in BTTHG)—enlightened idiot; He knew everything except the thing he had to know.

The dervish Hadji Ashvat Troov( a central personage in BTTHG)- idiot 17,the masterly idiot: He mastered his being.

Mr. Gurdjieff—idiot 18, the perfect idiot, by his own admission: he perfected his being. Here is a good and true story: Mr. Gordjieff was put in jail in New York for one day because of a misunderstanding involving a favor ha made. In his cell there was a Black American and he asked Mr. G who he was and why he was there: “I am Mr. Gurdjieff, and I am here because I am idiot number 18.”

GOD—idiot number 21, the Unique Idiot. I understood this after I understood a cryptic statement Mr. G once made: “God made only one mistake: He created the universe in the form of an umbrella instead of an enema.”

The Dynamic of Idiocy

Contrary to our chief feature that is a static characteristic of our essence, our idiocy is very dynamic because it is in our personality. Mr. Gurdjieff used to ask his disciples: What kind idiot you now? I am implying that our idiocy changes with time. But how is the change to take place. Here is where the secret lies. The movement or change must be downward and not upward. The idea is to go back to ordinary idiot and then grow again through all the different categories of idiots, but this time consciously, that is to say, playing a role. If we do not do that we run the risk of taking with us all the characteristics of the idiot we are. For instance if a person is enlightened idiot and try to go up to doubting, the possibility exists that this person now become an enlightened-doubting idiot. ” So, before we consciously grow back again into all or some of the categories, we must de-crystallize our unconscious idiocy.

I will use myself as an example here (remember that I have been in the Work for more than ten years). At one time I was a swaggering idiot, inventing lies, even during group exchanges just for the purpose of impressing others. Then, with time, I became an enlightened idiot and in relation to the Work that was the time I was reading ISOM, as I relate in my experience in Moments of Idiocy. Then, as I began to get deep into BTTHG, I de-crystallized this idiot and became a subjective hopeless idiot, in which category I spent a good time. Then I became the secretary and treasurer of a group and I became an arch-idiot, always defending the group working for the group. After I left the group after being convinced that the group was not at all interested in studying BTTHG which for me became the sense and aim of my existence, I made it to ordinary idiot where I find myself now. But I am working to go up to master and perfect idiot which should be our final aim. In order to do that I consciously and intentionally try to play the role of other idiots.


Behind everything Mr Gurdjieff did there was always some form of teaching, some form of helping us to see our reality and to work with it, some form of helping us to see the crystallization in us o/f the consequences of the properties of the organ Kundabuffer. The toast to idiots is a basic teaching to help us see our reality, our particularity at a given moment. The basic idea is

Mr. Guredjieff never said anything that he did not recorded in his books, and very particularly in Beelzebub’s Tales. We ought to expect that the category of 21 idiots to be present in BTTHG, allegorically of course.

A Closing Personal Note

I enjoyed writing this post and there was no effort in doing it, as it is always the case when we enjoy and love what we do. It is my hope that it will be of profit to some of you in finding your idiot. In this I tried to follow the advice of my fourth teacher, the one and only Mullah Nassr Eddin when he wrote:


In the Spirit of Our Imbecilities and Stupidities,

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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8 Responses to On Idiocy and Idiots.

  1. Marin says:

    Only that the ritual hasn’t been totally abandoned, in our school it’s still practiced

  2. Marin says:

    It is not part of the Foundation but it has a lot of former and current members of the foundation.

  3. willmesa says:

    I do not belong to any group but would like to know the name and location of your group. Thanks.

  4. Marnie Tunay says:

    There is an excellent book on this subject: ‘The Realized Idiot’ by Bruno Martin. Another solid source is the Appendix 1 – A Summary of Gurdjieff’s Science of Idiotism’ from the 2006 Proceedings of the ‘All and Everything’ International Humanities Conference on the writings of G.I. Gurdjieff.

  5. Gregory says:

    Thank you so very much for this, Will !
    I laughed and laughed and laughed until I cried and cried and cried
    And then I swallowed myself, blushing in walzing embarrassment as
    “Monsieur Gregoire,
    aka Supercillious Vain Idiot”

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