The Bezels of Beelzebub


            Richard Hodges

© 2018



The Bezels of Wisdom[1] is the title given to the earliest full English translation of one of the most important Sufi texts, Ibn al-Arabi’s Fusus al-Hikam. It was written, or rather “received,” in the early 13th century, and represents a climactic pinnacle of the development of Sufi mysticism in Islam. Like many Arabic words, “Fusus” has a number of meanings; it can refer to the bezel or mounting of a gemstone, or to the gemstone itself, or to a facet of a gem. It is the  metaphor that organizes the book: a chapter is devoted to each of 27 prophets or saints whose stories are told in the Quran, whom Ibn al-Arabi interprets as the bearer of a particular “wisdom,” a unique Gem, as it were.

It is said that the 27 “bezels” correspond to the 27 fundamental types of Mohammedan saints. Gurdjieff says that there are 27 fundamental types of three-brained beings[2]. Is this possibly a reference to the Fusus? A speculative way of reaching the number 27 that may connect with types is the number of possible combinations of one the three subparts (moving/instinctual, emotional, intelligent) of each of the three centers (body, feelings, thought)[3]. Other speculations have also been proposed[4].

Gurdjieff said that he spent periods of time with Dervishes[5]; since almost all Sufi orders regard Ibn al-Arabi as “Shaikh al-akbar,” Greatest Teacher, and revere the Fusus as a foundational mystical document, Gurdjieff would likely have been familiar with the book. Perhaps his use of the method of writing with “pictures” and “stories” in order to reach the subconscious was influenced by Ibn al-Arabi, who was a master of the art.

Bezels of Wisdom came out in 1980. I remember how John Pentland, the founder of  Gurdjieff Foundation groups in San Francisco, encouraged people to read it. He was not afraid to bring material from other traditions when it served to wake people up. It is a very difficult book; reading it challenges many preconceived ideas and awakens one to the possibility of a level of understanding far above the ordinary, and to a new way of engaging with spiritual texts and stories. I tried to read it then but was not ready; it took many years before I was able to open its pages again and work with it.

One of the sources of astonishment in Bezels of Wisdom is the way Ibn al-Arabi interprets the Quranic stories. In Sufism it is said that everything must be interpreted, pondered with a deeper understanding than the literal. Ibn al-Arabi’s interpretations were often very provocative. Some literalists accused him of heresy and called for his execution; but his Islamic credentials, and his connections to power possessing beings of his times, proved unassailable. Unlike many provocative contemporaries[6] he survived and did not need martyrdom to make his legacy immortal. As a quick example, Ibn al-Arabi interprets the story of Noah[7], which is similar but not quite the same as in the Old Testament, as a story of misunderstanding of God’s commandment: Noah scolded people for their sins and drove most of them away. Those who followed him onto the ark were misled; what God really intended was that people drown in the ocean of his love! This is only a very rough gloss of what Ibn al-Arabi says about Noah; the chapter is extremely subtle and difficult to fully understand.

I will here use the idea of bezels to organize a reading of Beelzebub’s Tales as a series of settings of stories of significant individuals.

It is sometimes said that Hassein represents us, the person to whom BT is really addressed; but for this to be true would require that we become able to really listen, to engage an attention that is not clouded by attachment to the cacophony of associations, judgments, self-glorifications, etc. which usually accompany our efforts to listen or read. This is one way BT works on us, by showing us how different we actually are from the way we imagine ourselves, and making us feel the need to become more “becoming”. It is reported[8] that Gurdjieff said that no book could really be a teacher, but if there was one that could be our teacher it would be BT.



The Bezels

Here I list 27 “Bezels” of BT. The list is somewhat arbitrary, it could have been a bit longer, but these are the main individuals whose stories comprise a major part of Gurdjieff’s message.




Beelzebub (the protagonist/narrator. Ch I, Arousing of Thought)

Hassein (grandson of Beelzebub, to whom the “tales” are addressed)

Gurdjieff (the Author)

The Reader

Mullah Nasr Eddin (Ch I, Arousing of Thought)


Karapet of Tiflis (Ch I, Arousing of Thought)

Transcaucasian Kurd (Ch I, Arousing of Thought)

Ahoon (Introduced in Ch II, Why Beelzebub was in Our Solar System)

King Appolis (Ch XV, First Descent)

Priest Abdil (Ch XIX, Second Descent)

King Konuzion (Ch XX, Third Descent)

Saint Buddha (Ch XXI, First Visit to India, and Ch XXII First Time in Tibet)

Gornahoor Harharkh (Ch XXIII, Fourth Sojourn)

Woman (Ch XXIII, Fourth Sojourn)

Belcultassi (Ch XXIII, Fourth Sojourn)

Hamolinadir (Ch XXIV, Fifth Flight)

Ashiata Shiemash (Introduced in Ch XXV)

Aksharpanziar (Ch XXX Art)

The messengers: Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Lama (Ch XXXVIII, Religion)

Choon-Kil-Tez and Choon-Tro-Pel (Ch XL, Heptaparaparshinokh)

Hadji-Asvatz-Troov (Ch XLI. The Bokharian Dervish)

Atarnakh the Kurd (Ch XLIII. War)

Makary Kronbernkzion (Ch XLIV. Justice)


For reasons of brevity we shall not be able here to study all 27 Bezels. We now proceed to an examination of some of the key ones.




Gurdjieff said[9] that his school taught “individuation,” and this meant that a man must find his own unique aim or purpose in life. He said that his own aim, or “whim”, was to bring about “a new conception of God in the world, a change in the very meaning of the word.” What does BT say about this? There are these words on the first page of BT, in which Gurdjieff defines his aim for the book: “To destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world”. As is made clear in many passages, what must be destroyed are all conventional ideas about religion, and about God. Beelzebub uses the word “God” for the most part in a way that implies it is a mistaken idea that people have. Here is a key passage[10]:


“Here you should know that your contemporary favorites very often use a notion…expressed by them in the following words: ‘We are the images of God.’

“These unfortunates do not even suspect that, of everything known to most of them concerning cosmic truths, this expression of theirs is the only true one of them all.

“And indeed, each of them is the image of God, not of that ‘God’ which they have in their bobtailed picturings, but of the real God, by which word we sometimes still call our common Megalocosmos.

Each of them to the smallest detail is exactly similar, but of course in miniature, to the whole of our Megalocosmos, and in each of them there are all of those separate functionings, which in our common Megalocosmos actualize the cosmic harmonious Iraniranumange or ‘exchange of substances,’ maintaining the existence of everything existing in the Megalocosmos as one whole.”


Rather than the word “God”, when he is being serious Beelzebub almost always uses capitalized appellations containing the word ENDLESSNESS, for example “our UNI-BEING ENDLESSNESS.”[11] This indeed appears to conform to Gurdjieff’s statements about his aim, and with the idea that God is “the World,” as expressed in the above passage.


The idea of the Image deserves deeper examination. For the Christian West, the source of “the image of God” is presumably Genesis 1:27, and most people take it to mean that Man was somehow created to be “like God”. Gurdjieff supports this in statements such as the one quoted above. But in the works of Ibn Arabi, the idea of “image” is much more metaphysical than the way this is usually understood: there is a plane of existence which he calls the “Alam Al-mithal”, the “Realm of Images”, which is a world intermediary between the physical world and the Divine world proper. It is this realm in which subsist those entities such as Angels, and even God, through which Man has contact with the Divine; and in which God has contact with Man.


Henry Corbin, the important 20th century scholar-mystic of Ibn Arabi’s thought, opens up a more precise understanding in his great book Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi, particularly in chapter V “Man’s Prayer and God’s Prayer,” in which he explains the idea of a reciprocal creation, in which Man “prays” God into existence and God “prays” Man into existence; this co-creation takes place in the “imaginal” realm, Corbin’s translation of Alam Al-mithal.


Are we correct in our supposition that Gurdjieff’s idea of God was influenced by the Sufi idea just explained? This would distance Beelzebub’s idea of God even more decisively from the dogmatic received ideas according to which God has an existence which is like that of a “thing”. Can we agree that God “is” an image? And so is Man? And so is the World?



There are four individual human beings whose stories overarch the whole of BT: Beelzebub; Hassein, Beelzebub’s grandson[12]; the author Gurdjieff[13]; the reader[14], and the mysterious Mullah Nasr Eddin. Gurdjieff and the reader appear as characters in the first and last chapters; Beelzebub is both narrator and among the dramatis personae of almost every chapter; Hassein’s story is told in the development of his understanding as he listens to his grandfather’s tales.


Mullah Nasr Eddin[15]


“Mullah” is an Arabic word meaning originally “guardian” or “vicar” or “religious teacher”; “Nasr” means “victory” and also “help”[16]; and Eddin (al-Din) means “of faith, religion (i.e. Islam)”. So “Mullah Nasr Eddin” means something like “Teacher of help of faith”. There are many traditional Sufi “teaching stories,” often humorous, about him. He appears to be based on an actual person born possibly in the 13th century in Turkey near Konya[17], thus roughly contemporary with Ibn al-Arabi.


His character in BT is shadowy: he appears in BT as the apocryphal source of over 100 pithy phrases which though very puzzling seem somehow apropos. In some sense the whole thrust of BT is condensed into the numerous brief, often mocking, phrases that Beelzebub quotes from the Mullah to illustrate some story.


Beelzebub (as a Bezel)


Why and how did Gurdjieff decide[18] to make his main character this personage known as the Devil in Christian tradition, and widely reviled? Gurdjieff says that he made this decision “not without cunning”, and that he hoped to appeal to Beelzebub’s well-known vanity by advertising his name. Why? So that Beelzebub would help him, with his powers and knowledge. He does this even though, or even precisely because, it will offend the reader. To explain this G resorts to the story of our next Bezel:


Karapet of Tiflis


The Karapet[19] had the job of blowing a steam whistle every morning to wake up the railway workers. It also woke up everybody else, which greatly annoyed them. While doing this, the Karapet had the strange practice of cursing everybody he might awaken. “Why?” Gurdjieff asked him. Long story short, he had discovered that everybody cursed him every morning for waking them up, which caused bad results for him; but if he cursed them in advance it would protect him from their curses. We now begin to understand something of Gurdjieff’s method, of which we will soon observe many examples…


Gornahoor Harharkh


Gornahoor Harharkh, Beelzebub’s “essence friend”, is a raven being who lives on Saturn. He first appears in Chapter XVIII “The Arch Preposterous” (p. 151). He demonstrates to Beelzebub a vacuum chamber in which the three independent holy forces, having been separated from each other, can be reblended. Their “striving to reblend” has a force of 3,040,000 “volts”. Unfortunately Gornahoor makes a mistake in pulling certain levers and Beelzebub briefly fears for his life. Preposterous things transpire in Gornahoor’s laboratory, including an electrical explosion which renders Beelzebub temporarily blind, and a mistake by Gornahoor in operating his equipment which causes Beelzebub to experience the process of ‘Rascooarno’, i.e. death—he became unconscious in his ‘Thinking’ ‘Feeling’ and ‘Moving’ centers. He momentarily experiences a “criminally egoistic anxiety” for his own existence, for the “first and also the last time” in his life. Fortunately, Gornahoor is able to correct his mistake. Later in the chapter, Gornahoor contrives to transform copper into gold by invoking in the copper a process that Beelzebub compares to war on the planet earth.


We are told[20] that Gornahoor who had once been considered a great scientist was now considered a has-been, eclipsed by his own son Gornahoor Rhakhoork, Beelzebub’s godson. In chapter XLV “In the Opinion of Beelzebub, Man's Extraction of Electricity from Nature and Its Destruction During Its Use, Is One of the Chief Causes of the Shortening of the Life of Man”[21] we finally discover that Gornahoor Harharkh agreed with Rhakhoork that his long occupation with investigations of ‘the omnipresent cosmic substance [Okidanokh]’ had been an ‘unredeemable sin’. Rhakhoork explains his conclusions, from long study, that the extraction from Okidanokh of ‘electricity’ by ‘three-brained beings’ of Earth, similar to what his father had done on Saturn, and its use for ‘egoistic aims,’ was the chief reason the lifespan of these beings had decreased so dramatically.


Abdil, a priest


Beelzebub made his second descent to Earth[22] soon after the “Second Transapalnian Perturbation,” the submergence of Atlantis. The reason he did so was because he was asked by His Conformity the Archangel Looisos to see if he could find a way to convince people of the senselessness of the practice of animal sacrifice. As Looisos explained, Earth’s visible moon and its other invisible moon Anulios required for the regulation of their atmospheres a certain sacred substance that was liberated from of animals and human beings at their deaths; but recently due to the widespread practice of animal sacrifice, there was an excess production of this substance which threatened to produce a cosmic catastrophe.


After settling for a while in a city up the river Amu Darya, Beelzebub happened to meet a sympathetic priest named Abdil. Perceiving that Abdil could be useful for his purpose, he made friends with him, and convinced him of the absurdity of animal sacrifice. Preaching at his temple, he gave a speech that was so successful he became widely popular. This threatened the other priests of the country, who depended on animal sacrifice for their living. They organized an ecumenical trial at which he was condemned. Like many other truth-speaking priests, he was executed. But his teachings had an effect: the practice of animal sacrifice was noticeably reduced.


Woman, and the ‘Ape question’[23]


Beelzebub invited Gornahoor Harharkh to come to Mars to assist in constructing a Teskooano (telescope), which increased the visibility of remote cosmic concentrations 7,000,285 times. While observing Earth with this telescope they had serious conversations about the three-brained beings living there. Beelzebub decided to descend to the planet for the fourth time and bring back to Saturn some ‘apes’ from the planet Earth in order to carry out certain ‘elucidating experiments’. The nature of these experiments is not explained.


Let us look now at the text immediately following which recounts one of the most disturbing tales in Beelzebub’s Tales, one which throws a certain light on our narrator-bezel, Beelzebub himself.


Beelzebub describes how the ‘Ape question’, whether apes descended from men or vice versa, became a burning question on the planet Earth two times: he bitterly attacks both an otherwise unknown ancient wiseacre Menitkel who “proved” that apes descended from feral men; and ‘Darwin’, who, much later, “proved” that men descended from apes.


Now comes the disturbing part. Quoting Mullah Nasr Eddin to the effect that “The cause of every misunderstanding must be sought only in woman” he tells how after the second Transapalnian perturbation (the loss of Atlantis) two things happened[24]: 1) people began to engage in sex only for pleasure; and 2) groups of men and of women had to live separate from each other. The men resorted to ‘onanism’ and ‘pederasty’, but the women, it seems, could not get enough pleasure in this way and began to have sex with various animals. Because the ‘passive’ sex is capable of conceiving from the sperm of two-brained beings, they gave birth to ‘misconceived’ beings called apes, which tended to resemble the two-brained being whose sperm gave rise to them.


Now…it is simple enough to understand that Gurdjieff enjoined us, more than once, not to take literally anything he said[25], and indeed it is possible by means of allegorical hermeneutics (see below) to understand something valuable from this tale, but what does Beelzebub’s flagrant disregard for literal truth, as well as for the feelings of women, who other than in this passage play almost no role in BT, tell us about his character and even about Gurdjieff’s? For one, it suggests that he is not entirely to be trusted, and not entirely to be admired, despite what Gurdjieff states is his aim in using Beelzebub as a main character.


Just as in Sufism, every story must be interpreted in order to fathom its gist. Here is one interpretation of the ‘ape’ story (not the only one possible, I hasten to add): the ‘passive sex’ represents the mechanical aspect of human nature; the ‘active sex’ represents the individual will. In the normal process of inner procreation the active will emanating from the mind of a complete three-brained being programs the mechanical part to be able to do something as-if consciously. For example, in learning to do something that is difficult, and which represents a high aim, such as playing a musical instrument, or performing a Sacred Dance, a conscious intent, a precise idea of an action that needs to be performed, is inculcated in the mechanical part by “practice”. Something very fine, of a nature intermediate between that of the body and that of the ‘I’ or consciousness, then gradually forms in the organism. This something is as if it were a semi-autonomous being which is capable of performing this action independently. The mind then simply initiates the action of the passive part and is free to contemplate, ecstatically, the experience and the meaning of the action (e.g. a piece of music or a ritual dance).


But as people ordinarily live, the ‘active’ will is not that of a three-brained being, rather it is conditioned by impulses that are merely emotional or moving/instinctual/sexual. The formation resulting from the action of such an impulse on the “passive” part is then capable only of a poor simulacrum of consciously initiated action—an abomination. Almost everything that people do consists of such ‘aping’.




Belcultassi is one of the most important Bezels of Beelzebub. Unlike many of the Bezels, we feel Belcultassi’s humanity, and that he went much further than we have had the courage to do in addressing his inherited flaws:


“When this same later Saint Individual Belcultassi was once contemplating, according to the practice of every normal being, and his thoughts were by association concentrated on himself, that is to say, on the sense and aim of his existence, he suddenly sensed and cognized that the process of the functioning of the whole of him had until then proceeded not as it should have proceeded according to sane logic.


“This unexpected constatation shocked him so profoundly that thereafter he devoted the whole of himself exclusively to be able at any cost to unravel this and understand.”


There is much import for us in this short passage, and in what follows in the chapter:


1)      One should have a practice of contemplation, in which one’s thoughts are concentrated on oneself.

2)      One should contemplate the “sense and aim” of one’s existence.

3)      One should cognize that there is something wrong in one’s functioning.

4)      One should devote oneself to understanding this fact.

5)      It is necessary to make intensive efforts to be ‘sincere’ with oneself, which means to conquer ‘self-love,’ ‘pride,’ ‘vanity,’ etc.

6)      One needs to find and work together with friends who have the same understanding.


Belcultassi therefore founded the society Akhaldan in order to pursue this program. It hardly needs saying that this is the charter of what we call “The Work.”


The word ‘Akhaldan’ meant, we are told, “the striving to become aware of the Being of beings.” This is an extremely interesting idea: that beings, including oneself, have a property that can be called Being, which it is possible and necessary to become aware of. As said previously, the practice of contemplation means to concentrate one’s thoughts on oneself, i.e. one’s own Being. Further we understand that in relation to others, we should strive to be aware of their Being. Being includes the whole of oneself—this is very different from the way in which one usually considers only a fraction of oneself, or of another person, usually based on an egoistic desire.


We learn in chapter XXXIX “Purgatory” (p. 764) that “being” means having three ‘bodies’ that are of a different nature, are composed of substances from different cosmic sources. The contemplation of the Being of oneself and of others must include the awareness of at least the possibility of a second and third body.


Perhaps the most powerful image in Beelzebub’s Tales is the emblem of the society Akhaldan, a statue called “Conscience”: “An allegorical being [with the trunk of a] ‘Bull’ [legs of a] ‘Lion’ [wings of an] ‘Eagle’, [and in place of a head, two] ‘Breasts of a virgin’ [affixed to the trunk by] ‘amber’” We are challenged, but perhaps not too surprised, by the idea that the ‘Bull’ represents the indefatigability of the labors necessary to ‘regenerate’ oneself; and that the ‘Lion’ means that we must perform these labors with ‘cognizance and feeling of courage and faith in one’s “might”’.


What is more surprising is that the ‘Wings’ mean that “it is necessary to meditate continually on questions not related to the direct manifestations required for ordinary being-existence.” And then the ‘Breasts’ symbolize that Love should always predominate in our practice; and the ‘amber’ indicates that this Love should be “strictly impartial…completely separated from other functions”.


Do we really practice in this way?




Hamolinadir[27] is one of the learned beings who was forcibly brought by the Persian King to the Learned Conference in Babylon. He was an initiate of the highest ‘school’ existing on earth, in Egypt, the “School of Materializing Thought.”[28] He is described as having his own ‘I’, the power of rationally directing the functioning of his common presence.


Now, in Babylon at that time, the burning question had become the question of the Soul: whether man had a soul, or not. Hamolinadir’s speech to the Learned Conference took the theme of the “Instability of Human Reason.” Shouting and sobbing at the same time he said that while known as an exceedingly wise man, having finished a course of study higher than any that ever existed or may ever exist, he simply did not know the answer—he found himself agreeing, mechanically, with whatever argument he had most recently heard.


He also speaks of the “tower” that is being built in Babylon, in order to ascend to “heaven.” This tower is being built of disparate materials and inevitably will fall and crush everything. Presumably one meaning of the “tower” is people’s structure of noncongruent ideas about what Hamolinadir calls “questions of the beyond”[29]. To avoid being crushed, Hamolinadir leaves Babylon and goes to “Nineveh” to raise “maize.”


I detect a provocative interpretation here: “maize” can only mean Zea Mays, Indian corn, a plant which at the time of the Learned Conference (6th century BCE?) was only known in the New World; the word “maize” is derived from an indigenous language of Hispaniola, the island where Columbus landed. Now, is it possible that Hamolinadir went to the New World? I discuss elsewhere[30] the possibility that he did so and became the semi-divine personage Quetzalcoatl, promethean bringer to ancient Meso-America of culture, arts, poetry, and high religion. Nineveh, an ancient sacred site near the Kurdish city Mosul, is sacred to Ishtar, whose story has some deep parallels to Quetzalcoatl’s.


Ashiata Shiemash


The name Ashiata Shiemash means, possibly, “Sun of Asia”. Some observers think that the prototype for Ashiata was the ancient prophet Zarathustra[31] (also spelled Zoroaster). Although Zarathustra’s exact dates and places are in dispute (current scholarship seems to converge on the area Northeast of present-day Iran and dates around 1200-1000 BCE[32]), the account in BT may fit: it says that Ashiata was born in Sumeria 700 years before the Learned Conference in Babylon. Many Sufis think that Sufism has pre-Islamic roots including especially Zoroastrian mysteries, and Corbin says that Iranians while nominally Muslim feel themselves almost as much spiritual followers of Zarathustra as of Mohammed. Zarathustra’s main written scripture, the Zend Avesta, was written in a proto-Iranian language that was quite close to the language of the Hindu Vedas. Probably Zoroastrian teachings spread in two main branches, one moving westward and informing Iranian religion, the other southward to become a source of Indian tradition. J. G. Bennett says[33] that “Sarmoung,” the name of the brotherhood where Gurdjieff says he received his teaching[34], was an Armenian pronunciation of a Persian word “Sarman” which means “bee”, a reference to collecting and preserving the honey of traditional wisdom, and may mean “he who preserves the teaching of Zoroaster.”


Zoroastrianism was the earliest historically known religion addressed by a Teacher or Messenger to mankind as a whole, rather than a local or tribal religion. This is not the place to examine the very complex tradition of Zoroastrianism in detail—I will only say that it emphasizes the importance of conscience.


In BT, Ashiata was said to be the only “messenger sent from above who…succeeded in creating conditions [which] somewhat resembled [normal] existence of three-brained beings.”[35] Ashiata did not “preach” anything and therefore “none of His Teachings” were passed down—except in the form of a “Legominism” with the title “The Terror of the Situation.” [36] In this legominism Ashiata reviews the efforts of preceding messengers to use the being-impulses “Faith”, “Hope”, and “Love”—but finds that these impulses have so degenerated among human beings that they are almost the opposite of what they should be. What he turns to instead is “conscience,” which still survives because it is buried in the “subconsciousness.” His method was to create “conditions” in which this buried conscience might become conscious. The conditions of Gurdjieff’s work communities are intended to fulfill exactly this function, mainly by enabling people to see their own unbecoming inner and outer manifestations when they work with others.


A very important survival of Ashiata’s legacy is the inscription on a marble tablet which is the property of the “Brotherhood Olbogmek”:


‘Faith,’ ‘Love,’ and ‘Hope’


Faith of consciousness is freedom

Faith of feeling is weakness

Faith of body is stupidity.

Love of consciousness evokes the same in response

Love of feeling evokes the opposite

Love of body depends only on type and polarity.

Hope of consciousness is strength

Hope of feeling is slavery

Hope of body is disease.


The way in which Gurdjieff’s conditions of work help is mainly what is said here about Love: as taught by the allegorical statue “Conscience,” the emblem of the society Akhaldan, conscience demands that we always “Love” “Impartially.” The situation that these conditions help us to sense the terror of is that our “Love” is almost always based in feeling, or in physical attraction—rarely is it impartial, conscious.




A society arose around 1500 CE with the aim of eliminating or reducing the evil of war which had reached unprecedented ferocity in Central Asia[38]. They held an organizational conference in Mosulopolis, presumably the ancient city of Mosul in Iraq, which is still a hub of discord. Among the programs of the society were to establish a common language and a common religion. The Kurdish philosopher Atarnakh, who was learned and charismatic, but vain and proud, spoke at the conference, delivering a treatise with the title “Why do Wars Occur on the Earth?” Through intensive studies he had arrived at an understanding that the cosmic law of “reciprocal maintenance” required a certain definite quantity of deaths each year on earth, and this was the cause of war. This talk greatly affected the gathered learned beings. They split into two parties: one party agreed with Atarnakh; the other party believed that war could be stopped if the society simple enacted a suitable program. After a vicious quarrel, Atarnakh himself settled the question by proposing a resolution, which was accepted by the society, that nothing could be done about war and that the society might as well dissolve itself.


But then Atarnakh changed his mind: in another speech, he said that the deaths required were not necessarily those of human beings, but that deaths of animals would suffice. He proposed re-establishing the ancient practice of animal sacrifice on a wide scale. This was done, and as a result the human mortality rate as well as the birth rate declined because, as Beelzebub reminds us, the main purpose of the life of human beings is, by means of conscious labors and intentional suffering, to create substances required as food for the moon and food for the sun, and these substances are only released to serve this function upon death.


Later, a certain Persian dervish Assadula Ibrahim Ogly did not have Atarnakh’s understanding and only saw in these sacrificial customs a horrible injustice. Thanks to his preachings, the sacrifices greatly decreased.[39] The unfortunate result of this was, according to Beelzebub, the First World War.


What is the take-home from the stories of Abdil and of Atarnakh and Ogly, who each tried to intervene in the practice of animal sacrifice, as did Beelzebub himself? It seems to have been all in vain, or worse. And in the concluding paragraphs of the chapter on war[40] Beelzebub advises Hassein—us?—that it is a fool’s errand to try to end war:


“We can only say now, that if this property of terrestrial beings is to disappear from that unfortunate planet, then it will be with Time alone, thanks either to the guidance of a certain Being with very high Reason or to certain exceptional cosmic events.”


Makary Kronbernkzion[41]


Several of the stories in BT have the subtext that very High Beings, cosmic as well as human, with grandiloquent titles such as “His All-Quarters-Maintainer the Arch-cherub Helkgematios,”[42] sometimes do things that have bad consequences. It seems that they do not always have common sense, but operate from a conviction of the rightness of an understanding that is merely theoretical. The story in chapter XLIV, “In the opinion of Beelzebub, Man’s Understanding of Justice is for Him in the Objective Sense an Accursed Mirage” is a dramatic example.


It seems that certain higher being bodies (“souls”?) living on the Holy Planet Purgatory once tried to understand what was wrong with beings of the planet Earth. They assembled a committee to investigate, and it was decided that the cause was that earth beings believed that “Good” and “Evil” were special factors outside the essence of beings and were responsible for their good and bad manifestations. They made a resolution, which was sanctioned at the highest cosmic levels, declaring anathema whatever human being had been the cause of this notion. A certain Makary Kronbernkzion, a human being who had developed a higher being body, was discovered to have been the originator of the idea of this “good” and “evil”. Unfortunately the resolution could not be vacated; but a mitigation was agreed to, that his higher being body would exist perpetually on Purgatory without the possibility of merging with the Sun Absolute.


Beelzebub himself was not convinced of the guilt of Kronbernkzion. After an intensive search he was able to discover the book created by Kronbernkzion in which the notion “Good and Evil” was first employed. It turns out that what he had meant by this notion was not at all what he was being punished for. By “Good” he meant the downward-flowing ‘passive’ current of cosmic creation; and by “Evil” the backward-flowing ‘active’ current of the efforts of beings to return to the Source. But earth people, not having the data for ‘various being-aspects of a world view,’ instead formed a world view based on a vastly oversimplified misunderstanding of “good” and “evil.”




We have met Hassein, as the listener to Beelzebub’s tales, over and over. Finally, in chapter XLVI “Beelzebub Explains to His Grandson the Significance of the Form and Sequence Which He Chose for Expounding the Information Concerning Man,”[43] we meet the mature Hassein. He is weeping for the fact, which he now understands, that through causes depending only on “the unforeseeingness[44] of certain Most High Sacred Individuals”, who long ago implanted the organ of illusion called “Kundabuffer” in their ancestors; and even though this organ was later removed, its residual consequences still deprive people of the possibility of experiencing “bliss” during “sacred feeding of the second being-food.”[45] Second being-food is, of course, air, and the “sacred feeding” seems to mean something like “meditation.”


Beelzebub is joyful that his grandson has put himself in the place of another, and though Hassein himself does experience this bliss, he wept because others could not.


Does Hassein represent “Us”? How then are we to perform our “being partkdolg duty,”[46] how to engender that fire, that “Zernofookalnian friction”[47] between “yes” and “no” in ourselves, which alone can generate the higher substances needed for the creation of our higher bodies, how perseveringly actualize the striving toward the manifestation of our own individuality? What aim can we undertake, as a personal duty, a whim that is uniquely our own? How to experience our own bliss, and allow and encourage others to have theirs? How to do that which is the most sacred duty of every human being—to do good, for others? Yet with a certain modesty about what it means to do good which is expressed so clearly by what I heard our teacher Pentland say, many times, especially in the last year of his life: “We cannot help. Help yourself.”



[1] The Bezels of Wisdom, by Ibn al-Arabi (Author), R. W. J. Austin (Translator),Titus Burkhardt (Preface), Paulist Press (November 1, 1980). Many other translations and commentaries have appeared since.

[2] BT p. 485 the chapter “Art”. [In the following text and notes BT refers to Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, 1950 edition.]

[3] See P. D. Ouspensky, The Fourth Way. My website has a visual image of this idea.

[4] For example by Lee van Laer (private communication).

[5] In Meetings with Remarkable Men in the chapter “Soloviev” Gurdjieff describes living near Bukhara and encountering Dervishes of various sects, including his “old friend Bogga-Eddin.” In the chapter “Skridlov” he tells that he stayed in the ruins of Old Merv for a year studying so that he and Skridlov could pass themselves off as Dervishes. Also, Chapter 41 of  BT describes in details an encounter with the Bokharian Dervish Hadji-Asvatz-Troov.


[6] For example Mansur al-Hallaj. Al-Hallaj means “the carder,” i.e. to straighten the fibers of raw wool. It was said that as a Sufi teacher he was a “carder of souls.” He famously said “I am the Truth.” “The Truth” (Al-Haqq) is one of the Names of God, and literalists interpreted this as a claim to personal divinity, a heresy. He was executed in 922 CE.

[7] The Bezels of Wisdom, chapter 3. The Quranic story is in Sura (chapter) 71 “Nuh” (Noah). The Old Testament story is in chapters 6-9 of Genesis.

[8] Oral communication of John Pentland


[9] Philip Mairet, A. R. Orage: A Memoir pp. 104-105

[10] BT chapter XXXIX “The Holy Planet Purgatory,” p. 775

[11] BT chapter XVI “The Relative Understanding of Time,” p. 124. Similar appellations occur many times in the text, almost all with slight differences which may or may not be significant.

[12] Note that the grandson of The Prophet Muhammed was named Hassein (often spelled Husayn)

[13] Gurdjieff appears in his own persona in BT mainly in the introductory matter, in Chapter I “The Arousing of Thought” p. 3, and in Chapter XLVIII “From the Author”, p. 1184.

[14] The reader is addressed directly in Chapter I “The Arousing of Thought”, and in  Chapter XLVIII “From the Author”.

[15] Mullah Nasr Eddin first appears in BT chapter I, p. 9, and is quoted throughout the book.

[16] “Victory” is the common meaning. In Quran 110 al-nasr has the older meaning of “help [from God]”

[17] See

[18] BT chapter I, p. 41

[19] BT chapter I “The Arousing of Thought” p. 44

[20] BT p. 166

[21] BT p. 1145

[22] BT chapter XIX “Second Descent to the Planet Earth”, pp 177 ff

[23] BT Chapter XXIII “Beelzebub’s fourth sojourn”

[24] BT chapter XXIII “Beelzebub’s fourth sojourn” pp. 276 ff.

[25] For example Views from the Real World, New York February 24, 1924 “Influences” p. 196

[26] Belcultassi appears first in BT chapter XXIII, p. 294

[27] First appears BT Chapter XXIV “Beelzebub’s fifth flight”, p. 332

[28] We are reminded here of the Tibetan Buddhist practice of ‘Tulpa’, a paranormal being or object that is created and projected by the mind of an adept and becomes visible to others. See . Sometimes a tulpa may be created without intention, especially when a very intense emotion occurs. When this happens at death, it is the origin of ‘ghosts’. The practice of ‘Tulku’ or intentional reincarnation is a more advanced form of this technique; this is how incarnate Lamas ensure the continuation of their lineage.

[29] We recommend to the reader a most interesting essay by Jacques Derrida “Des Tours de Babel” (1985) which deeply ponders the meaning and implication of the Biblical story, and of what the term “Babel” has come to mean in culture, and in particular about the simultaneous necessity and impossibility of “translation.” It is worth observing, as Derrida does, that in some European languages the word for “translation” and for “distortion” (traduction) are almost identical. We take no position on the “translation wars” concerning Beelzebub’s Tales, but the ponderings of Derrida are certainly relevant.

[30] “The Way of Sacrifice and the Light Within”,

[31] See for example the web page

[32] Peter Kingsley, “The Greek Origin of the Sixth-Century Dating of Zoroaster,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 53, 1990, pp. 245-65. Kingsley convincingly demolishes the earlier scholarly opinion favoring a date around 600 BCE.

[33] Bennett, John G., Gurdjieff: Making of A New World, pp 56-57, Bennett Pub. Co., 1992

[34] Gurdjieff, G. I., Meetings with Remarkable Men, Penguin 1991

[35] BT p. 318.

[36] BT chapter XXVI “The Legominism…‘The Terror of the Situation’ ” p. 361

[37] Besides the account in BT chapter XLIII “Beelzebub’s Opinion of War” pp. 1091 ff, one of the piano pieces by Gurdjieff and de Hartmann has the title “Atarnakh.” It is a charming composition, with a martial rhythm that evokes nomad warriors galloping through central Asia.

[38] Tamerlane, who is said to have sent a representative to this society, in his efforts to re-establish the fractured Khanate of Genghis Khan, is estimated to have killed as many as 17 million people ( We note that similarly dire slaughter was taking place at the same time in the New World—an epoch of solioonensius?

[39] The name of this dervish given in BT p. 1103 does not seem to be capable of being aligned with any historically known person. Ogly is a very common Azerbaijani surname. I could find no historical record that the Islamic custom of sacrificing animals during certain rituals ever decreased in this way. In fact, the number of such sacrifices seems to have increased dramatically over the last several centuries and now amounts to tens of millions of animals every year. That said, the meat from the sacrificed animals is eaten, and a part of it is distributed in a prescribed manner to the poor; so this is not perhaps any worse than the nearly invisible slaughter for food of much larger numbers of animals in the modern world.

[40] BT Chapter XLIII p. 1118

[41] BT Chapter XLIV p. 1127 ff

[42] BT p. 1125

[43] BT, p. 1161

[44] “unforeseeingness” occurs many times in BT in relation to “High Beings”, here p. 1162

[45] BT p. 1162

[46] The term “being-Partkdolg duty” occurs many times in BT, here p. 1167

[47] BT p. 1168