Preface to the First Edition of the
Guide and Index to Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
There has been a demand on the part of many people trying to
understand the First Series of G. I. Gurdjieff's All and
Everything, namely Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson,
for some help in approaching a book that more and more is taking its
place in the world as the vehicle of a true teaching. Though
irresistibly drawn to the ideas, they feel disconcerted. It may be
because Gurdjieff speaks to the whole of a man at once, and we are
unaccustomed to that call.
This guide and index to Beelzebub's Tales is the effort
of a small group of people to move towards meeting this demand. We
have not tried to produce a concordance that would make every
reference available or a lexicon that would explain all the unusual
words. What we have tried to produce is a guide and index that would
be useful to the serious student of Beelzebub's Tales.
We began with the realization that the meaning of Gurdjieff's book
will not open to conceptual attack, but requires thought and feeling
of quite another kind. We are concerned not with making the book
easier, but more approachable. The truth may well be that our primary
reason for undertaking a guide and index at all was our own desire to
get closer to the heart of Beelzebub's Tales. And to our
surprise and delight, we found that there were ways of doing so.
For instance, as we divided the words alphabetically among us for
individual study, we discovered that one word would become a thread
to the entire teaching as it wove through explanations, parables and
humorous anecdotes attaching to itself more and more clusters of
meaning. One of us would declare that the clue to the book was the
word being; another pursued conscience and a third,
Mullah Nassr Eddin, who sometimes appeared to all of us as
the key to the character of Beelzebub himself. In the end we agreed
that all the words were a necessary study and that our work could not
possibly take the place of the reader's own search.
We shall be happy if any student finds our guide and index useful,
but we had in mind primarily those interested not only in
understanding Beelzebub's Tales, but also in practicing the
spiritual discipline Gurdjieff believed his work to be. Perhaps the
best summary of our effort is that we were trying to carry out the
third instruction Gurdjieff gave in his “Friendly Advice”:
- Read each of my written expositions thrice:
- Firstly: at least as you have already become
mechanized to read all your contemporary books and newspapers.
Secondly: as if you were reading aloud to another
And only thirdly: try and fathom the gist of my
Only then will you be able to count upon forming your own
impartial judgment, proper to yourself alone, on my writings.
And only then can my hope be actualized that according to your
understanding you will obtain the specific benefit for yourself
which I anticipate, and which I wish for you with all my