Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson

Beelzebub's Tales To His GrandsonWe generally include a study of Gurdjieff's extraordinary 'book', Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, as a central part of our work together. We've made a PDF copy of the 1950 edition of the Tales available through the link below. Use the comment section of this page to share your thoughts on BBT.

For those who have taken on the task of reading the whole of Beelzebub's Tales the menu on the left gives three different approaches: daily, weekly and over a period of two years. This breakdown comes from


The link above is for the 1950 Edition of the Tales. There have been several editions of the Tales with minor corrections and other editions with more substantial changes, along with the inevitable controversy arising from those changes. A history of BBT publications is available through this link.


Paul Beekman Taylor provided some interesting information and commentary on the controversy surrounding the 1992 Arkana edition in his article:
The Making of All and Everything: 1924 to 1950


I can't even figure out how to start a new paragraph - don't know how Tim and John work this magic.  Tim, do you still want excerpt from 1950 edition?

I’ve always been amazed at one peculiar tendency that I’ve often seen in myself and others who profess to be using the 4th Way approach to self-development. Specifically, the 4th Way is a way in life, a way that uses the opportunities and challenges of life as the means for this development.  And yet I often find myself saying something like, “This is an actual real-world practical situation, so I don’t have the time, energy and attention to make it into a Work situation.” I then usually ‘reason’ with myself that once I have the ‘extra’ time, energy and attention needed to work on myself, I’ll certainly do just that.

This statement from Florence may not have anything to do with what I’ve described above, but it did trigger a reminder that we need to discuss and be clear about just this aspect of work on oneself.

Idries Shah was well known for extolling the value of Sufi teaching stories. Here are a couple of commentaries on certain aspects of how these stories 'work' on us. These are taken from the Wikipedia article on Shah. Undoubtedly Beelzebub's Tales have a similar effect on readers... and more besides.

Ivan Tyrrell and social psychologist Joe Griffin, in their book about innate emotional needs, Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking, wrote that Shah "more than anyone else, understood and appreciated the real significance of the givens of human nature".[108] In another book, Godhead: The Brain’s Big Bang – The explosive origin of creativity, mysticism and mental illness, they said that Shah’s stories, "when told to young and old alike [...] lay down blueprints in the mind, not only for living and overcoming everyday difficulties but also for travelling the spiritual path. Their impact may not be recognized or felt for months or years after first hearing or reading them, but eventually the structural content they contain will exploit the pattern-matching nature of the brain and make it possible for students to observe the functioning of their own emotionally conditioned responses to changing life circumstances. It then makes it easier for them to take any action required by reality, and for their minds to connect to higher realms. Teaching stories should be read, told and reflected on, but not intellectually analysed, because that destroys the beneficial impact that they would otherwise have had on your mind." Shah, they added, was "a great collector and publisher of tales and writings that contain this ‘long-term impact’ quality. He understood the vital importance for humanity of the ‘mental blueprint’ aspect of them and his books are full of nourishing examples."

Speaking of Shah's book, "The Sufis"...

The book also employed a deliberately "scattered" style; Shah wrote to Graves that its aim was to "de-condition people, and prevent their reconditioning"; had it been otherwise, he might have used a more conventional form of exposition.


These stories are technical documents, they are like maps, or kind of blueprints. What I do is show people how to use the maps, because they have forgotten. You may think it's a strange way to teach – with stories – but long ago this was the way people passed on wisdom. Everyone knew how to take the wisdom from the story. They could see through the layers, in the same way you see a fish frozen in a block of ice. But the world where we are living has lost this skill, a skill they certainly once had. They hear the stories and they like them, because the stories amuse them, make them feel warm. But they can't see past the first layer, into the ice.



Let's talk about Beelzebub's tales some more.

Your suggestion, Florence, is a good one, and it's been much on my mind lately. One possibility is that we might set ourselves the task of reading the whole of the Tales together and sharing what we understand of that experience. The picture that arises is to create a special 'group' for this, available to all online participants who have the time and interest.


I'm interested too

I've been slowly re-reading Beelzebub (first reading was 36 years ago!) and am amazed at how differently I am receiving it in this go-around. It would be great to do it with a group so please count me in. 

I read Idris Shaw and Robert Graves years before I ever heard of Gurdjieff.  Their works, I believe, cleared a pathway for me to be open to the Work..... And the works of the Work cleared a pathway of meaning for all that followed. I didn't even realize it at the time.

While I do have much appreciation for this chapter, I am most eager to move on to why B. was  in our solar system.

I may not make the Sunday session, however, I have had a death in the family.

Will be there if possible.

What jumped out at me this fourth week of reading BT was "that not only must one not oppose higher forces but submit and receive all their results with reverence while glorifying the works of our Lord Creator."

My power went off during the second reading at our Feb.7 meeting. I immediately became enraged and downhearted because I was afraid I would miss the rest of the reading.

Realizing that, in the words of Mullah Nassr Eddin, you can't jump over your knees and it  is absurd to try to kiss your own elbow, I waited, hoping my computer would be fast.

I was comforted by remembering that the reading was still going on so I continued to read also.

The session was almost over when I got back on - but I can watch the recording.

Submitting is hard but doable. The same with receiving with reverence. I failed miserably, however, at glorifying the works of our Lord Creator in the midst of it all. Maybe next time.

Lord have mercy.