Note: This post is from a talk on esoteric Christianity I gave at the People’s Church for Divine Prophesy in Daytona Beach, Florida
Thanks Ashkhen and thanks you all for coming to listen to me this morning. I am going to talk about Esoteric Christianity and Beelzebub’s Tales. I will open my talk with this question: What is Esoteric Christianity to be exact? We know that Christianity has many denominations, like Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalian, Protestantism, and so on. Is Esoteric Christianity a denomination? I don’t think so. Let’s begin with a definition of the word esoteric. Here are two definitions taken from the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary:
- only taught to or understood by members of a special group : hard to understand
- limited to a small number of people
From these definitions, certain aspects of the four canonical gospels (Luke, Mark, Mathew, John) are very esoteric. Take for instance the so-called The High Priestly Prayer, the last prayer of Jesus with his disciples and the longest prayer in the Gospels. I am not going to go over it here because it is rather long but you can find it in John 17. It is really hard to understand and that makes it an esoteric prayer. Of the four canonical gospels, the gospel of John is the most esoteric one. The first letter of John also has many esoteric aspects. Take for instance this statement from chapter 3 of this letter:
“We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is.” Now, that is esoteric!
Another aspect of the expression of the term esoteric Christianity is the so-called Gnostic Gospels. On December of 1945, two farmers in an area of Egypt known as Nag Hammadi accidently discovered hidden in a cave a series of documents that eventually became known as the Nag Hammadi Library. They generally dated to the 4th century, although some scholars date them to the 2nd and 3rd century, and among them were a number of Gospels like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Phillips, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and many others. They are now known as the gnostic gospels because they were part of the teachings and practices of a first group of Christians known as Gnostics. This group of seekers were crushed and eradicated by the emerging Catholic Church. That is why they had to hide their teachings and it was not until 1945 that their hidden documents were found in a cave. An examination of these gospels shows that they are esoteric in nature. For instance, the Gospel of Thomas speaks of the secret sayings of Jesus in very esoteric terms but it does not refer to any of the miracles of Jesus, as the four canonical gospels do. The third secret saying of Jesus is as follows:
“Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourself, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.”
That is to say, follow yourself and not Jesus. Not only that is esoteric but blasphemy as well for many Christians who believe that following Jesus is the only way of salvation.
But all that is not the esoteric Christianity I want to talk about this morning. I became familiar with this term in 1975, when I was living in Venezuela. A friend gave me a very interesting book to read, by the name “In Search of the Miraculous,” written by a Russian journalist and mathematician by the name of P. D. Ouspensky. The book was all about the teaching of a man called G in the book. This G had arrived in Moscow in 1912 bringing with him a teaching or fragments of a teaching he had gathered during years travelling through the Middle and Far East, as well as parts of Africa. Now in Russia G gathered a number of disciples in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and was giving his teaching to his disciples. One day someone attending a meeting had this exchange with G:
“What is the relation of the teaching you are expounding to Christianity as we know it?” asked somebody present.
“I do not know what you know about Christianity,” answered G., emphasizing this word. “It would be necessary to talk a great deal and to talk for a long time in order to make clear what you understand by this term. But for the benefit of those who know already, I will say that, if you like, this is esoteric Christianity. We will talk in due course about the meaning of these words.”
I have to confess I was very much intrigued by the expression esoteric Christianity. But I was even more intrigued by the man called G in the book.
With time I came to know that the real name of G was George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. I also learned that he had been born around 1866 in the Greek quarter of Alexandropol, then a part of Russia. His father was Greek and his mother was Armenian. Years later, in 1878, Gurdjieff’s entire family moved to Kars, a city Russia had captured from Turkey during the Russian-Turkish war. It is in Kars that a well-known Russian-Orthodox priest, father Dean Borsh of the Russian military cathedral, assumes responsibility for Gurdjieff‘s private education. It is around 1883, when he was 17 years old, that Gurdjieff leaves home and starts a pilgrimage that takes him to remote places in the Middle and Far East and even to parts of Africa that would last around 20 years, travelling alone and with a group that calls itself The Seekers of Truth. Many years later, in the 1930’s and 40’s, while living in France, Gurdjieff writes a book entitled Meetings with Remarkable Men that in the seventies becomes a popular movie. His book is a fictional account of his travels alone and with The Seekers of Truth.
During his search, Mr. Gurdjieff carries with him a burning question: What is the significance of organic and human life on Earth? With this burning question as guiding beacon for his search, and with the help of his friends, members of the group The Seekers of Truth, Gurdjieff is able to put together an unknown teaching. Now in Russia, mainly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Gurdjieff begins to impart his teaching to a large number of disciples. Among those disciples is P. D. Ouspensky who years later, and from sheer memory, writes a faithful account in book form about the years of Gurdjieff in Russia. This book is published in London in 1949, two years after Ouspensky dies and months before Gurdjieff dies.
In 1920 Gurdieff and a number of few disciples leave Russia. After traveling for two years through Turkey and Germany, Gurdjieff and his group settle in France. Late in 1922 Gurdjieff and his group acquire and move to a small castle known as the Prieure de Basses Loges at Fontainebleau-Avon. There they form the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Gurdjieff begins a period of hard physical work with his group of Russian disciples and other disciples coming mainly from England and America. At the same time he engages in the composition of music and the development of sacred dances. In the summer of 1924 he has a near fatal car accident while driving alone from Paris to Fontainebleau. Nursed by his wife and mother, he makes a slow and painful recovery. In August he disbands his Institute keeping only the most dedicated disciples.
While still recovering from his car accident and still in bed, Gurdjieff has a sort of revelation concerning his mission. He sees that he has to change his mission from that of physical work and oral teaching, plus the composition of music and development of sacred dances, to that of writing books. In December Gurdjieff commences to write his magnum opus, the book in which he hopes to present his ideas to the world. His books is entitled An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man or Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. It is a long, about 1200 pages long, allegory in which Beelzebub is travelling through space with his grandson Hassein while telling him his tales about the time he spent in our solar system. For over 25 years Gurdjieff writes and rewrites his book, until his death in Paris in October of 1949. A year later, in 1950, his book is published. While writing his book Gurdjieff keeps by his side a number of disciples to which he continues imparting his oral teaching.
Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson is a book full of shocks. Gurdjieff was a teacher in the Eastern tradition, one who lived with his disciples and constantly and continuously shocked them. The most evident shock we see is the name of the protagonist of the book, Beelzebub himself. In the New Testament Beelzebub is acknowledged as the Prince of Darkness, one of the names of the Devil. In the book, the Prince of Darkness is objectively and impartially criticizing our life on Earth, our multiple abnormalities, with the intention of helping us to become normal. One of the greatest abnormality, one that is repeatedly mentioned in the book, is our long time habit of making war to others. In the book, it is referred to as “the need of occupying themselves with the destruction of each other’s existence.” The shocks at times get very provocative. We are told about “that completely formed Arch-Vainglorious Greek, Alexander of Macedonia.” We learn that the Divine Teacher Sacred Individual Jesus Christ is resurrected not in His physical but in His Astral body. Judas is not a traitor but the “most faithful and devoted” of all the disciples of Jesus Christ. Darwin, in the words of the very wise Mullah Nasser Eddin, a very funny character in the book, “is very successful, though not without luck, in finding the authentic godmother of the incomparable Scheherazade on an old dunghill.” Mesmer is a humble and honest learned being. Mendelejeff is “a contemporary comical earned chemist.” The continent of Atlantis is a place of the highest learning. A university “is just that `hearth’ on which everything acquired during decades and centuries by preceding beings is burned…” America is, during the present flow of Time, “the fundamental source of the issuing of new causes of abnormality.” But among Americans is the largest percentage of beings with “possibilities for the acquisition of Being nearer to the normal Being of men in general.” And much more we are told.
Beelzebub’s Tales is the esoteric book par excellence. It satisfies the two definitions of the esoteric term: 1) hard to understand and 2) limited to a small number of people. It is also a book about Christianity because Gurdjieff was raised and buried in the Russian Orthodox Church. So, we may say that the book is a good representation of what is known as esoteric Christianity.
Even though the book is an esoteric book, since its publication in 1950 it has become a more and more accepted book by the public at large. In the 90’s a British biographer by the name of Martin Seymour-Smith wrote a very interesting book with the title of the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today. It is a book of intellectual history. Beelzebub’s Tales is ranked 94 in the list of the 100 books. Martin Seymour-Smith justifies his choice by declaring that he had met many people who has been greatly influenced by Beelzebub’s Tales and that has helped to shape and even change their lives. I am one of these people.
I said at the opening of my talk that I had been very much impressed by the term esoteric Christianity while reading the book In Search of the Miraculous by the Russian mathematician P. D. Ouspensky, who had been a disciple of Gurdjieff in Russia. I also said that at that time I was living in Venezuela. Well, after finishing Ouspensky’s book and found out more about the life of Gurdjieff (G in Ouspensky’s book), I decided to go to Paris with the hope of finding a disciple of Gurdjieff. This was the year 1975 and I knew that Gurdjieff had died in Paris in 1949, where he had many disciples before he died. So, I reasoned some of his disciples were still alive in 1975. I moved to Paris with my family in the summer of 1975 and once there I went about searching for a disciple of Mr. Gurdjieff. After a rather long preliminary search I was successful in finding a long time disciple of Gurdjieff by the name of Henri Tracol. I joined one of his groups dedicated to the study and practice of the teaching of Gurdjieff. On my way from Venezuela to Paris, my family and I stopped in New York to visit my parents. It was there that I bought a copy of Beelzebub’s Tales. Once in Paris I began to read the book with great interest, with the interest of someone who has found the book he was looking for. Later, still in Paris, I read the book in its French edition. In 1978 I returned with my family to Venezuela and joined a Gurdjieff Venezuelan group. I then became part of a group working on the translation into Spanish of Beelzebub. In 1985 I moved with my family from Venezuela to New York where I found a job as a professor of electrical engineering. In New York, I continued my study of the book and in 2000 I started to publish articles on Beelzebub’s Tales in a Gurdjieff journal and, even more important, to meet people around the world who were also interested in the book.
I have to say that Beelzebub’s Tales is the book that has most impacted my life. I would say that it has sustained my life through years of despair. The book has given directions to my life and has helped me to find a center of stability and gravity. Without this book I would have long ago become a lunatic, probably engaged in many fantastic and meaningless enterprises. Mr. Gurdjieff once said that if one puts one’s attention in Beelzebub, one has the same attention in life. I have been able to verify that statement. So, in a way I can say that the book has changed my life. I mean my inner life because my outer life has not changed much, except in the fact that I have lived in many different place. But real change, as I understand it, is about inner change and not outer change. One can find real inner happiness in life, a happiness that is independent of one’s outer life. One can be happy even in jail. This change has come about by the fact that the book has been a mirror in which my inner life is reflected. In 2010 I started a WordPress Internet blog with the name “Gospel According to Beelzebub.” I have posted over 50 posts in my blog. One of them is entitle: “Beelzebub’s Tales is a Mirror.” This post is followed by another with the title: “Why We Need a Mirror.” I have attended several international conferences in England, Moscow, Holland, and the United States. Finally, two years ago, in 2014, my book “My Life with Mr. Beelzebub” was published by the Beech Hill Publishing Company, in Maine. As the title indicates, the book is a testimony of my almost 40 years of study and work with the ideas of Gurdjieff contained in Beelzebub’s Tales, putting my attention in the book so I can have the same attention in life. I am not claiming that all this is the so-called Gurdjieff work. I am convinced that nobody (including me of course) really understands what the Gurdjieff work is all about, in the same manner that nobody really understands the full meaning of the expression “the Lord works in mysterious ways.” I am only claiming that what I have done has been for me the work as I have understood it. As a friend of mine once told me, “It is what you do that saves you.”
I gave this talk on Esoteric Christianity on November 17, 2016. Since then I have been working seriously on the theoretical and practical applications of esoteric Christianity. I have to confess that I have not engaged in this work intentionally and by my own will but that I have been led to this work by a series of unforeseeable events. And furthermore, I I have been able to obtain unexpected results. My next post in this blog will be an exposition of the work that has been done through me. Until then.
- This is a link to a YouTube video of my talk at the People’s Church of Divine Prophesy. You do not have to watch the entire video. You can go to minute 36 of the video where my talk begins and lasts for 20 minutes.