Beelzebub’s Tales Presents a New Approach to Religion

The aim of this post is to show that Beelzebub’s Tales presents a new approach to Religion. By Religion, I do not mean organized Religion, although being a Catholic myself I attend Mass and respect the Church. But by Religion here I mean the feeling of religiousness described in details on pages 522-623 of Beelzebub’s Tales. This feeling, we are told, is caused by cosmic events and it is the cause of many of the religion festivities appearing here on Earth, such as “Easter,” “Bairam,” “Zadic,” “Ramadan,” “Kaialana,” and many others. Mr. Gurdjieff said that we have lost this feeling and I know this has been the case for me. I had this feeling in my childhood and then lost it. How did I lose it? The answer is very simple: the strong formation of buffers throughout the years of living under abnormal conditions of being-existence.

In order to show that Beelzebub’s Tales indeed presents a new approach to Religion, I will have to go back to an exchange between Mr. Gurdjieff and a young Russian disciple. During his arduous journey from Russia to France, around 1921, and with an entourage of thirty disciples by his side, Mr. Gurdjieff made a brief stop in Constantinople, now Istanbul. Among his closest disciples was a young Russian man by the name of Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch, also known as Able Seaman Tcheslaw. Later Tchekhovitch would write a very interesting book entitled Gurdjieff A Master in Life which I recommend to all those interested in the practical aspects of the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff. One exercise Mr. Gurdjieff gives to Tchekhovitch and that he mentions in his book is to keep a stupid smile for two hours every day. In his book Tchekhovitch recounts how one day Mr. Gurdjieff addressed him telling him, and I quote the exact words from page 46 of the book:

“There also exists a ‘fourth way’, based on the sacred impulse emanating from conscience, of which a germ is deposited in each human being. This leads to another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion.”

What struck me the most when I read that pronouncement was the phrase– This leads to another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion.

I have to confess that when I read this pronouncement the question that came to my mind was this: “Why is Mr. Gurdjieff saying this?” I knew that he never made idle statements and that behind everything he said there was also a purpose. The answer to my own question came very quickly. By the time I read this pronouncement I was already fully convinced that Mr. Gurdjieff had brought two teachings to humanity and I had written about this idea. The moment I read the pronouncement, I immediately realized that while he journeyed from Russia to France, Mr. Gurdjieff was seriously struggling with finding a new approach to the teaching he was bringing from the East to the West. He was not entirely satisfied with the way he has presented his teaching in Russia as faithfully recorded by Ouspensky in his book In Search of the Miraculous.  Something was missing in the presentation of his teaching. But now while journeying from Russia to France, his struggling was an inner struggle. However, he would have to wait until he was in France in order to end his inner struggle and finally find the new approach he was desperately searching for.

But finding this new approach did not come easily for Mr. Gurdjieff. Most often the resolution of an inner struggle, like the one Mr. Gurdjieff was going through, needs a shock to be resolved. Mr. Gurdjieff was in need of a shock, a big shock for that matter. This big shock came on July 8th, 1924 when while driving alone from Paris to Fontainebleau Mr. Gurdjieff has a near-fatal automobile accident. Against medical expectation he makes a slow and painful recovery. He then decides to change the approach to his teaching. About three years later Mr. Gurdjieff refers to this fact on the first pages of the Prologue of Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am.” Here it is from page 3 of that book:

“For more than three years up till then I had been writing, almost day and night, with constant self-driving, the books I had resolved to publish.

I say with constant self-driving because, due to the consequences of an automobile accident which happened to me just before beginning to write these books, I had been very ill and weak, and therefore, of course, had not had the possibility tor any active action.

Yet I had not spared myself, and had worked very hard in such a state, chiefly thanks to the factors that formed in my consciousness, from the very beginning, the following idee fixe notion:

Since I had not, when in full strength and health, succeeded in introducing in practice into the life of people the beneficial truths elucidated for them by me, then I must at least, at any cost, succeed in doing this in theory, before my death.”

Mr. Gurdjieff becomes a writer. He now presents his teaching in book form. On December 6th, 1924, a few months after his automobile accident, he commences his magnum opus: Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. Of course, it is a well-known fact that while he writes and writes, he also continues with the oral teaching; a fact that has been accounted for by the testimonies of many of his disciples in France.

Let us now go beyond what is already self-evident; that is to say, the fact that after his automobile accident in the summer of 1924 Mr. Gurdjieff finds a new approach to the presentation and deliverance of his teaching. Sometimes by going deeper we discover new things.

Let us ask the following questions: What is the true nature of the new approach Mr. Gurdjieff finds after his automobile accident? Is it only a matter of presenting his teaching in written form?

I think and claim that this is only the superficial aspect of the new approach he has found. I claim that after his automobile accident in 1924 Mr. Gurdjieff finds the answer to the question he has been struggling with during his journey between Russia and France. I claim that after his accident Mr. Gurdjieff felt he was missing something in relation to the exposition of the teaching he had given in Russia, as faithfully recorded by Ouspensky.

But what is this something that he finds missing in the teaching he presents in Russia? In order to address this question we have to go back to the statement Mr. Gurdjieff makes to Tchekhovitch in Constantinople and that he records in his book Gurdjieff A Master in Life. I will repeat it here:

“‘There also exists a ‘fourth way’, based on the sacred impulse emanating from conscience, of which a germ is deposited in each human being. This leads to another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion.”

I already said that what struck me the most, when I read that statement, was the phrase “This leads to another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion.” I claim that what Mr. Gurdjieff finds after his automobile accident in the summer of 1924 is “another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion.”

While slowly and painfully recovering from his accident, Mr. Gurdjieff is also slowly and painfully discovering another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion. This is the resolution to the inner struggle Mr. Gurdjieff carries with him during his journey from Russia to France, a resolution that he allegorically indicates in the short chapter of Beelzebub’s Tales with the title “A Change in the Appointed Course of the Falling of the Transship Karnak.” The slow and painful discovery process leads to the revelation of Beelzebub’s Tales. According to Orage the entire content of Beelzebub is revealed to Mr. Gurdjieff in a moment of ecstasies. Of course, it would take years to put the revelation into writing but the whole idea is there from the very beginning. And, as I will try to show now, the teaching in the book does represent a new approach to religion. One may say that the revelation is the result of the inner struggle Mr. Gurdjieff carried with him during his journey from Russia to France.

It has been reported that when asked about his strongest whim in life, Mr. Gurdjieff had replied that his whim in life was to bring a new conception of God. Yet there is very little about a new conception of God in the teaching delivered by Mr. Gurdjieff in Russia and faithfully recorded by Ouspensky in his book In Search of the Miraculous. As a matter of fact, the word God and a new conception of God are very rarely presented in Ouspensky’s book. Everything moves around the word and a conception of the Absolute. The fact is that the teaching given in Russia does not in any way represent “another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion.” Here is a man who confesses to us that his second tutor is the Dean of a Russian Orthodox Cathedral and that his first confessor later becomes the abbot of the chief monastery of the Essene Brotherhood, and yet when this man presents his teaching for the first time in Russia, he rarely speaks of religion. Something is missing here. Maybe it was necessary to do it that way, given the audience and circumstances presented at the moment the teaching is given. But something is definitely missing. And this missing something is part of the inner struggle Mr. Gurdjieff carries with him during his journey from Russia to France.

All this becomes more to the point when we compare the languages in both books, In Search of the Miraculous and Beelzebub’s Tales. The language in Ouspensky’s book is highly scientific or techno-scientific. God is the Absolute and many of the most significant aspects of the teaching are presented in the form of tables and diagrams, the motion of the laws, the table of hydrogens, the enneagram and the Ray of Creation, the table of food, the table of time in different cosmoses and so on. That is probably the reason why the book had so much appeal to humanity today, because the language of today is the language of science. And that is probably why the great majority of people who came to the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff did it through Ouspensky’s book.

That was my case and I am sure it has been the case for many here in this room. By the time I first read the book I already had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering which is the closest to have a Ph.D. in physics. My knowledge of engineering and physics resonated very well with the material contained in the book.

On the other hand, the language in Beelzebub’s Tales is more religious than that in Ouspensky’s book. This does not mean that there is no science in The Tales. We find lots of science in the book; particularly in the first half of the book, during the narrative about the first four descents of Beelzebub to Earth. In fact, in the chapter “The Arch-Absurd” we find this formulation of Objective Science:

“‘… everything without exception in the Universe is material.’

But the language used in The Tales to describe Objective Science or ancient science as we can also call it, is different from the language used to describe what we now can refer to as subjective science or contemporary science. This is due to the fact that both sciences are different in nature. In Beelzebub’s Tales Objective Science is presented in terms of the works of the members of the Society of Akhaldan, as fully described during the fourth descent of Beelzebub to Earth. One of the meanings of this word Akhaldan is to go against the Moon. Another of its meanings is expressed as:

“The striving to become aware of the sense and aim of the Being of beings.”

The Aim of objective science is then the study of the sense and aim of existence. For this purpose, the members of the Society divide themselves into seven groups. All this is extensively described in the chapter on the fourth descent of Beelzebub to Earth. We find physicists, mathematicians, chemists, astrologers, psychologists and other kinds of scientists among the members of the Society Akhaldan. But the aim of their research is different from that of contemporary scientists because, as already said, the aim of objective or ancient science is different from that of subjective or contemporary science. As already stated, the aim of objective science is the study of the sense or aim of existence; while the aim of subjective or contemporary science is to anatomize the corpse of the Universe without any sequence and order, all and everything at random, as Orage well pointed out in his commentaries on Beelzebub’s Tales. Contemporary science is not nor can it be interested in the study of the sense and aim of existence because for contemporary science there is and there can be no sense and no aim in the Universe.

It is during the fifth descent of Beelzebub to Earth, the descent to Babylon and the Babylonian civilization, that the language in The Tales becomes highly religious. That it happens during the fifth descent is not a coincidence. Each descent of Beelzebub to Earth can be taken as a Stopinder in the book’s fundamental law of seven; with the seventh descent being our own descent in order to fulfil the teaching in the book. And it is precisely from the fifth Stopinder that the motion of the law of seven finds its vivifying power. This fact is clearly indicated in the following statement taken from The Tales:

“It is necessary at this point in connection with the actualization of the fifth Stopinder of the sacred Heptaparaparshinokh to trace a parallel between two processes which externally have nothing in common with one another, namely: in the same manner as the first being-food cannot acquire its vivifying power until after its transformation into being-piandjiëhari, in the same manner on this piano the vibrations of a chord do not acquire a corresponding vivifying power until they have been fused with the preceding vibrations  note ‘sol.’”

Now Mr. Gurdjieff is at the note “sol” of the fundamental law of seven of his own book and he is ready to present what he calls “a new approach to religion.” He has found from his great knowledge and understanding of the first cosmic law the vivifying power of what he calls “a new approach to religion.”

But before he does that, Mr. Gurdjieff needs to do something. He needs to give us a very important warning. He opens the fifth descent of Beelzebub to Earth with the situation found in Babylon, then the most important center of culture on Earth during that fifth descent. What Beelzebub finds in Babylon during his descent to that center of culture is the “building-of-the-tower-of-Babel” or the time period known as the “confusion of the tongs.”

Hundreds of “learned beings of new formation” have gathered in that city to engage in a discussion of the “burning question of the day.” This question is the question of the beyond or, put more simply, whether or not there is a soul in man. Many teachings arise out of these discussions but in his tales to Hassein, Beelzebub puts emphasis on one of them. This is one of the atheistic teachings of that period. It basically says that there is no God in the world, and moreover no soul in man, “and hence that all those talks and discussions about the soul are nothing more than the deliriums of sick visionaries.” The atheistic teaching had many followers and one may say that contemporary science as we know it is the hair of this teaching. Many of the most intelligent scientists of our time repeat the same statements of those “learned beings of new formation” gathered in Babylon thousands of years ago, although now these scientists use a different language. Stephen Hawking, considered to be one of the most brilliant scientists of our time, said that we do not need God because science has revealed that the universe is self-created. And Sir Frances Crick, one of the two discoverers of the DNA, who spent the last years of his life studying the mechanism of consciousness, said and I quote his exact words:

“ … the most profound implication of an operational understanding of consciousness is that it will lead to the death of the soul.”

Before presenting his new approach to religion Mr. Gurdjieff wants to make sure that we are fully aware that the atheistic teaching arising during the building of the tower of Babel in Babylon is well alive among us. Maybe it was to these atheists that Jesus spoke when He said:

“I thank you Father, lord of heaven and earth, for having hidden these secrets from the wise and learned, and revealing them to children.”

Now, after having given vivifying power to his own teaching through the fifth Stopinder of the law of seven and having warned us about the living presence among us of the Babylonian atheistic teaching, Mr. Gurdjieff is ready to present a fourth way based on the sacred impulse emanating from conscience; another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion, as he mentioned to Tchekhovitch during their exchange in Constantinople on the way from Russia to France. This fourth way, this other specific form of teaching leading to a new approach to religion, is the teaching of Ashiata Shiemash on the Divine Impulse Conscience. As already stated, this is done during the fifth descent of Beelzebub to Earth, during the fifth Stopinder of the law of seven of the book; this fifth Stopinder being the most critical one in the operational characteristic of the law.

Not that Ashiata Shiemash is born during the time Beelzebub descends to Earth for the fifth time. In fact, and I have written about this in my blog, I claim that Ashiata is not in reality a Prophet from the past, but from the future. I showed this based on the fact that Beelzebub’s Tales, according to the previsions of the members of the “Club-of-Adherents-of-Legominism” must contain a number of lawful and intentional inexactitudes. Here is how I did it. The key to my discovery is this paragraph from Beelzebub in relation to some reflections by Ashiata:

“‘All the sacred Individuals here before me, especially and intentionally actualized from Above, have always endeavored while striving for the same aim to accomplish the task laid upon them through one or other of those three sacred ways for self-perfecting, foreordained by our ENDLESS CREATOR Himself, namely, through the sacred ways based on the being-impulses called “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Love.”

This statement contains a contradiction and it is by the way of contradiction (a very powerful mathematical tool in theorem proving) that the chronological inexactitude is proved. Here is the contradiction: The ways of “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” are specifically and unambiguously identified in the chapter Religion of the book as the way of the full-of-faith Saint Lama, the way of the full-of-hope Mohammed, and the way of the full-of-Love Divine Jesus Christ. Furthermore, no Sacred Individual in the book before Ashiata Shiemash is identified with any of these three ways. It is obvious that the statement above presents a contradiction and that Ashiata Shiemash could not have existed before Divine Jesus, Saint Mohammed, and Saint Lama. Ergo: Ashiata Shiemash is a prophet from the present and from the future and not from the past.

The proof is further corroborated by the fact that Ashiata Shiemash introduces the way of Conscience after having determined that the ways of “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Love” had deteriorated as valid ways of self-perfecting. How could Ashiata Shiemash have made this determination if the three ways had not yet been introduced when He made the determination, at least not in the context of Beelzebub’s Tales.

This is another fragrant contradiction. The only plausible answer is that Ashiata Shiemash is from the present and from the future. I think this fact is a very important one because it points to another very important fact; that with Ashiata Shiemash Mr. Gurdjieff is presenting a new approach to religion, one he is sending to future generations throughout the teaching of a Prophet from the future.

There is absolutely no doubt, in my mind and my feelings, that the teaching of Ashiata Shiemash indeed represents a new approach to religion. It is the one aspect of the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff that most has influenced me. And it is for me the most important teaching presented in Beelzebub’s Tales. Ashiata Shiemash is the central personage in The Tales. Four entire chapters are dedicated to Him. Allegorically He is now already one of the Highest Most Very Saintly common-cosmic Sacred Individuals. He attains the Reason of the sacred ‘Podkoolad’ and is one of the first assistants of our ENDLESSNESS in the government of the World. It is through His intervention before his ENDLESSNESS that Beelzebub attains His second and final pardon. He is the Essence-Loving Ashiata Shiemash, a Great Prophet from the Future. I claim that He is the javelin through which Mr. Gurdjieff is hurling his teaching into future generations.

Ashiata Shiemash introduces God. His teaching is religious in nature when compared with the teaching of the Society Akhaldan which is scientific in nature. Ashiata claims that different religions do not exist, that there is only one God. He introduces His teaching through the awakening of the Divine Impulse of Objective Conscience. He is very explicit and emphatic about this. He says that

“ … ‘Only-he-will-be-called-and-will-become-the-Son-of-God-who- acquires-in-himself-Conscience’.

He forms an organization for man’s existence which I see as the new approach to religion brought to us by Mr. Gurdjieff. It goes beyond the organization of the Society Akhaldan. It is an initiate organization for our time. It is an initiate organization for life. It is work for life in life. Anyone anywhere on Earth can do this work. All one really has to do is to understand what Conscience is and how Conscience is awakened. For this end, Ashiata explains to His disciples that

“‘The factors for the being-impulse conscience arise in the presences of the three-brained beings from the localization of the particles of the “emanations of-the-sorrow” of our OMNI-LOVING-AND-LONG-SUFFERING-ENDLESS-CREATOR; that is why the source of the manifestation of genuine conscience in three-centered beings is sometimes called the “REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CREATOR.”

There is absolutely nothing scientific in this formulation. What are the particles of the “emanations-of-the-sorrow” of our OMNI-LOVING-AND-LONG-SUFFERING-ENDLESS-CREATOR? It is a mystery. It obviously is a religious formulation. But there is more in this context. He also tells them that

“‘In all three-brained beings of the whole of our Universe without exception, among whom are also we men, owing to the data crystallized in our common presences for engendering in us the Divine impulse of conscience, “the-whole-of-us” and the whole of our essence, are, and must be, already in our foundation, only suffering.

This language is even less scientific. We do not find this kind of language in Ouspensky’s book. It is the language of religion.

In the same way that the teaching in the Old Testament is basically summarized in the Ten Commandments and the teaching of the New Testament is basically summarized in the two greatest commandments given by Jesus Christ, the teaching of Ashiata Shiemash is basically summarized in the five “being-obligolnian-strivings” or five strivings of objective morality. These are strivings and not commandments. In the Way of Conscience, we need no commandments; we need strivings. In The Tales Mr. Gurdjieff raised Conscience to a level higher than the Conscience derived from the Ten Commandments. These strivings are given for humanity and together with the two aspects of being-Partkdolg duty they represent all man needs for the fulfillment of life on Earth. As Orage said,

“… on these two basic principles—Being-Partkdolg-duty and the Strivings—hang all the law and prophesying of the Gurdjieff teaching. They form a basic octave, and nothing can be added to or taken away from them.”

Much has been said about the five strivings and they have been listed again and again in many references. We do not have to get into all that here. Let us say that the first and second strivings are of a personal character. They have to do with the process of development of my body and my being. A connection or a bridge to the Cosmos is now in order. Otherwise our development is only for the service of the Trogoautoegocrat process of local character. The third striving is the required bridge. It is the striving bridging the personal with the cosmic. The fourth and fifth strivings call for participation at the cosmic level. We are here on Earth not only to serve our individual egoism but more importantly to serve the Cosmos through our inevitable participation in the process of reciprocal feeding as well as the process of Creation initiated by the CREATOR of all that exist in the entire Megalocosmos. Our function at the level of the fourth striving is to live our life from the very beginning consciously and intentional in order to alleviate the Sorrow of our COMMON FATHER. Once this is fulfilled, we can engage in helping other beings to attain self-individuality. The fifth strivings is a call to serve others creatures of our COMMON FATHER and it reflects what Mr. Gurdjieff calls the true aim and sense of existence on Earth:

“The highest aim and sense of human life is the striving to attain the welfare of one’s neighbor, and that this is possible exclusively only by the conscious renunciation of one’s own.”

Once again, in the strivings we find a strong religious language that has no resemblance with the scientific language of contemporary science. What we find in the strivings, particularly in the fourth and fifth strivings is a language of the higher emotional center. We know that we first have to pass through the higher emotional center before reaching the higher intellectual center. Otherwise, our development is lopsided. The Hasnamuss, we have been told, is one who reaches the higher intellectual center without having passed through the higher emotional center. This is not the language of the mind but the language of the heart.

I think I have now shown that with the teaching of Ashiata Shiemash, Mr. Gurdjieff has fulfilled the pronouncement he made to Tchekhovitch in Constantinople, during the journey from Russia to France, and that once again I repeat here:

“There also exists a ‘fourth way’, based on the sacred impulse emanating from conscience, of which a germ is deposited in each human being. This leads to another specific form of teaching, a new approach to religion.”

And now I go a little further. I claim that this new approach to religion Mr. Gurdjieff brought to humanity with the teaching of Ashiata Shiemash has a very strong Christian flavor. No wonder, in the first draft of Beelzebub’s Tales (the manuscript edition of 1931), Ashiata Shiemash is the Divine Teacher Jesus Christ. In later versions of the book (like the 1950 English edition that Mr. Gurdjieff personally supervised and authorized), and because of obvious reason, Mr. Gurdjieff replaced the Divine Teacher Jesus Christ by Ashiata Shiemash.

So, to conclude, not only Beelzebub’s tales presents a new approach to religion but this new approach has a very strong Christian flavor, all in accordance with the fact that Mr. Gurdjieff grew up under the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and was buried following the rites and ceremonies of this Eastern Church.


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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2 Responses to Beelzebub’s Tales Presents a New Approach to Religion

  1. Scott K says:

    Thanks Will – that’s quite a document you wrote!! I look forward to unpacking it over a few days. I’ve already enjoyed and gleaned good info from it. Sincerely, Scott K

  2. Scott K says:

    Phew. I’m halfway through. I did buy the book by Tcheslaw – I had never heard of it but its a must-read for Gurdjieff followers. And I’m gaining from your essay here … Stopinders and Law of Seven – it is opening ideas up for me. Thank you.

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