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Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson (All and Everything/First) Hardcover – March 23, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the All and Everything Series

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Editors' Note

Gurdjieff wrote Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson from 1924 through 1931, and continued in later years to make significant revisions. Before his death in 1949 he entrusted the book and his other writings to Jeanne de Salzmann, his closest pupil, with instructions for future publication. Mme. de Salzmann had followed Gurdjieff for over 30 years and played a central role in his decision in the l940s to organize the practice of his teaching.

Gurdjieff wrote Beelzebub's Tales in Russian and Armenian, and the original manuscript was typed and revised in Russian. An English translation was produced in successive steps at the Prieuré. It consisted initially of a word-by-word interlinear translation with each word in English placed above the corresponding Russian word in the typescript. Reworked by different pupils at different times, the translation was finally edited by the well-known author and editor A.R. Orage, mostly in New York. Although he worked closely with Russian speakers and, indeed, Gurdjieff himself, Orage knew no Russian and was unable to read Gurdjieff's original text.

The English version was first published in 1950, just a few months after Gurdjieff died. He had overruled objections that the translation needed more work, insisting that the time had come to launch his ideas into the mainstream of Western thinking. As the English text was the initial publication of the book in any language, it was assumed by many readers to have been written or specifically approved by Gurdjieff. Although a prefatory note stated that the original was written in Russian and Armenian, the significance of this was easily disregarded in the absence of a published edition of the original Russian text. The note also stated that the author had personally directed the translation, and Gurdjieff had often been present when the translation was read aloud to English-speaking pupils and visitors.

What few readers knew was that, in fact, all of Gurdjieff's work in completing the book was in Russian. His spoken English, like his spoken French, was effective and memorably colorful for his purposes as a teacher in conversation with his pupils, but since his arrival in Western Europe in the early 1920s, he had not taken the time to master either language. He could not have judged, much less approved, the English text and had to rely on Mme. de Salzmann, who was fluent in Russian and English, for reassurance that the meaning was preserved. Gurdjieff did not approve the writing style of the English translation.

Although before his death Gurdjieff had insisted on immediate publication, he reportedly acknowledged that the English book was a "rough diamond" and asked Mme. de Salzmann to revise it at a later time. Her first priority was to prepare the French edition based on the Russian manuscript, a task that was not completed until 1956. Thereafter, she began work with selected American pupils to revise the English language version. The primary aim was to bring it closer in substance to the Russian text, using the widely admired and well accepted French edition as a model. A secondary but important aim was to have it correspond more faithfully in style to Gurdjieff's Russian writing, particularly to make it as clear and understandable as the Russian. Mme. de Salzmann herself worked for a number of years with the editorial team and then left them to complete the project. The revision, despite interruptions, was finally completed more than 30 years later.

About the Author

G. I. Gurdjieff was born in 1887 in Alexandropol. After studying with spiritual masters in the Near East and Asia, he founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France.

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Product Details

  • Series: All and Everything/First
  • Hardcover: 1152 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee (March 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585424579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585424573
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.1 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #771,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Gardner on May 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best works of spirituality ever written. Gurdjieff admits in his forward ("The Arousing of Thought"'s Warning to the reader) that he tried conveying his "wiseacring" in a straightforward, "newsworthy" manner but found that it failed miserably. So, being enamored his entire life by both the form and content of the "1001 Nights", he tried another approach. The genius of his writing is that it not only imparts information to you the reader, but performs or enacts the "cosmic principles" he's discussing in the very way the sentences are constructed (which many people find extremely difficult, overloaded, and dense). But his book was intentionally composed in a rhythmic & musical fashion. The sentences have distinct cadences (many of them have multiple embedded clauses) which when read aloud, as Gurdjieff recommends, are apt to put one in a strange state of mind. It takes a while to acclimatize oneself to the rhythm, but once one does it becomes easier to intuit--with something other than the "intellectual center"--the ideas behind the words. His neologisms are also meant to dislocate, but they are simply combinations of Russian, Armenian, and newlyminted words.
About the content: Gurdjieff's system is often lumped in with many other fads and gurus' elixirs under the moniker "new age". Which is ironic, considering that these ways of being are apparently thousands of years old. But what feel-good new age movement starts with the axiom that human beings are basically in varying degrees of a hypnotic state, possessing only a shred of what Western philosophies call free will? (and that shred only "awakens" sometimes in "peak experiences" when the three centers work together--mortal danger, sexual union, etc., when the ego drops away).
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Format: Paperback
Gurdjieff's "Beelzebub Tales to His Grandson" is not your everyday type book. Its intentions are not to entertain, but to shock the reader into conscious awareness of the many mechanisms that control his/her own life. Ions after his fall from heaven we find Beelzebub completely transformed through experience into the wisest of beings. In a interplanetary mission to keep our galaxy in order, Beelzebub makes use of a delay to teach his grandson about many things of importance, and especially about those strange beings on the planet earth. The funny thing is that the reader becomes the grandson, and it is Gurdjieff whom teaches us about the reality of our unconscious "living". It is a book not intended to be an easy read, the book demands us to make great conscious efforts to understand the content and to keep alert. However, any effort put into the book is petty in comparison to the gain. "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" gives us a choice to remain the automatons we are, or to take a step into realizing our potential as conscious beings. It is one of the most important books...ever.
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Format: Paperback
When Gurdjieff discovered that his institute would fall short of accomplishing his aims and his condition after a severe automobile accident forced - or bookmarked - a re-evaluaton of what he must do, he turned to writng and produced this "Magnum Opus." He remarked that it was a javalin hurled into the future. I have read the book 3 times, and portions repeatedly, and contrary to the remarks of certain reviewers, I and others giving favorable reviews are not gullible. It took me three decades to see this issue in its true light, and the more I understand, the more I see I have a long way to go. The book is a legominism, to use Gurdjieff's own technical term defined in the text. It exists on several levels, and on occassion I have been able to verify that for myself by the perceptivity of its deeper currents. Actually I will be the first to confess that you cannot tell much about this book by the reviews. The reviews - pro and con - tell much more about their authors than they do about this book. That should be expected. Even my own review reminds me of Beelzebub's description of our species as those unfortunate three-brained beings that breed and multiply upon the face of that ill-fated planet Earth. Gurdjieff held up a mirror, and reviewers - including myself - seem eager to show our faces in it. Without question this is the most important work ever written on the issue of stopping wars, and that singular observation alone among many other comparable ones is sufficient to validate Leary's comment that this is the most important work produced in the twentieth century. But because of its inaccessibility to many audiences, I would also include Ouspensky's account of Gurdjieff's teaching, "In Search of the Miraculous," on a par with it.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This is Gurdjieff's magnum opus, his greatest and most potent work, but also his most difficult. This is not a book for those merely "curious" about Gurdjieff or for the casual reader (for those, I'd recommend "Meetings with Remarkable Men" or the works of Ouspensky as better introductions to Gurdjieff's teaching.)

This is one of the most difficult books I've ever read (and I have a Master's degree in English) but, having read it three times now, judge it to be one of the most rewarding for the effort one puts into it. Gurdjieff dictated this book aloud to a secretary and often had parts of it read aloud in group meetings; if he found a concept too easily grasped, he'd re-write that passage to make it more difficult. It compares to nothing else, though if you can imagine a combination of Swedenborg's "Heaven and Hell," Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine," the "Thousand and One Nights" (Arabian Nights), Nietzsche's "Thus Sprach Zarathustra," and "Don Quixote" you might have a little idea of the scope of this book.

Part of the difficulty of the book is simply Gurdjieff's deliberately archaic prose style, with long sentences that sometimes run for half a page and which require the reader to go back to the beginning of the sentence to find a single verb or noun referent that belongs to the concluding word at the end. If you're familiar with prose written prior to the 18th century, such as the works of Shakespeare, you'll have an easier time of it. Gurdjieff also makes up dozens of words, but usually their meaning is pretty clear from the context. (The final chapter, "From the Author," abandons most of these neologisms and is the easiest part of the book to read.)

Gurdjieff's ideas themselves, when put into plain English, are simple, logical (in their context) and powerful.
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