The Education of Personality (Part 5)

The last of this series on the education of personality will mention, appropriately enough, Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson (although I am more and more warming to the title The First Series).

In chapter VII of the First Series, Beelzebub notices that his grandson, Hassein, is disturbed. Hassein explains that:

 “Only now have I come very clearly to understand that everything we have at the present time and everything we use – in a word, all the contemporary amenities and everything necessary for our comfort and welfare – have not always existed and did not make their appearance so easily. It seems that certain beings in the past have during very long periods laboured and suffered very much for this, and endured a great deal which perhaps they even need not have endured. … And now not only do we not thank them, but we do not even know a thing about them, but take it all as in the natural order, and neither ponder nor trouble ourselves about this question at all. … And so … there has arisen in me … the need to make clear to my Reason why I personally have all the comforts which I now use, and what obligations I am under for them. It is just because of this that at the present moment there proceeds in me a ‘process of remorse’.”

Beelzebub tells his grandson that he is too young to tackle such questions right now, he must wait until he is older and capable of ‘active mentation.” He goes on to state:

  “The time of your present age is not given you in which to pay for your existence, but for preparing yourself for the future, for the obligations becoming to a responsible three-brained being.

 So in the meantime, exist as you exist. Only do not forget one thing, namely, at your age it is indispensably necessary that every day, at sunrise, while watching the reflection of its splendour, you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your general presence. Try to make this state last and to convince the unconscious parts – not (sic) as if they were conscious – that if they hinder your general functioning, they, in the period of your responsible age, not only cannot fulfil the good that befits them, but your general presence of which they are part, will not be able to be a good servant of our COMMON ENDLESS CREATOR and by that will not even be worthy to pay for your arising and existence.”

The status of this exercise in the Gurdjieff groups is uncertain. So far as I am aware, despite the canonical status of Beelzebub, this exercise is – so far as I am aware – rarely referred to. One sometimes hears: “I do that exercise, but not exactly like that, I do it another way.”

Without judging which way might be better, if one is practising the exercise in another way, then one is not practising that exercise, because the method of practice is the essence of the exercise.

When Gurdjieff was asked about this exercise on 20 April 1944, he not only did not discourage it, but he even invited the lady who posed the question to ask Beelzebub himself! He said:

 It is not my book, it is Mr Beelzebub’s, and it is advice which he is giving to his grandson. … Beelzebub will explain it to you. As for me, I give you another piece of advice: get accustomed to calling Beelzebub, “my dear grandfather.” That will help you. The condition is that you address him respectfully … Then perhaps he will answer.

So that is the exercise. I think it is a good idea to get up and consciously appreciate in the sunrise. I think many people will agree that it is a good start to the day. The sunrise is a providential symbol of our highest aims. The splendour of the sunrise is a natural symbol for the splendour of holiness, goodness, truth and beauty. The dawning reminds us of the great gift of life. It is a pure, healthy dose of hope. Watching the sun rise, does not our own soul arise within us?

And it reminds us of the smallness of our earth and the greatness of the heavens: it gives us a perspective on the world more powerful than any philosophy, yet without words – and being without words, the connection to our feeling is all the more powerful.

But there is more even than that, although that is still pretty good. Implicit in this is Gurdjieff’s advice on how to reason actively with oneself. And this, as I have said in the previous post, is critical to the education of personality.

Mr Adie told us that the subconscious parts are well represented by our bodies: all we need to do is to sit down before the sunrise, consciously relax our bodies, raise our sensation to consciousness, quieten our emotions, and then speak to ourselves as if we were speaking to someone else. To the extent we sense ourselves and have some feeling of ourselves, we are addressing the subconsciousness. There is no special number to dial, no special wavelength to get onto, over and above that.

I don’t think that these words are the only ones which will work: it depends on our need. But I do think that the first thing is to be able to identify a need, and the second thing is to have a wish to meet that need.

So, how do we bring these other needs to the exercise? First of all, recall that we are speaking about the education of personality. It is a question of remaking, for our benefit, something which we have learned, or fallen into – a weakness which should be improved.

I recall when I was 15 years old, and was on board a ship, as a young Sea Cadet (I think it’s now the Naval Reserve). I was struck that one of the adult sailors said to us that he had given up going out on the weekend and getting drunk because he would wake up with a hangover. One fine morning, he asked himself if it was worth it? To ask the question was to answer it. From that day, he said, he would have a drink – he was not a teetotaller. But he no longer went out and got blind drunk every Friday and Saturday night. That struck me, young and stupid as I was, because he had, by virtue of his intelligence, made a change in his life in an area where people don’t often change.

I recently took my difficulty in getting up in the morning, and I reasoned with myself: did I have a good reason for wanting to get up at a particular time? Yes, I had a very good reason. Why did I not get up? For these two reasons. Were they good? Yes, one was, but no, the other was not. So I said to myself, having prepared myself Gurdjieff instructed, and gazing on the splendour of the sun: “Get out of bed when the alarm goes, unless it because of reason A, and if you do, this will help you play the role meant for you in life, and will also advance the good of my common presence, of which you are a part.”

I must add that reason A has to do with being fair to the body: it is that on some rare nights, I simply cannot get enough sleep because of a condition I have. But in the three weeks since I practised that exercise for that reason, I have not had the least trouble getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, and no matter how tired I am, it soon shifts.

But that is only a small example. The application to our spiritual lives is what really counts: the ability to do good and to conquer our vices. I won’t go into that, it starts to get too personal, and besides, what counts is the principle – which is the education of personality.

Joseph Azize, 14 June 2017


  1. Its funny you mention that you are warming to the label, first series, I too enjoy that, lately i been even calling the book An objectively impartial criticism of the life of man which seems to fit better then The Beelzebub title and to even combine them, The First Series, Beelzebub objectively impartial criticism of the life of man.

    I met many sun gazers and they all love this text in the book, I thought i would just add in what is said in Woman of the rope that mentions the Sun.

    “He said morning sun is best for us, the only time of day when the
    rays contain certain properties necessary for our understanding.”

    “At table, he speaks of sun worshippers. He says, “I can put in
    galoshes Canary and your President, with one question.” Then he tells about the ancient sun worshippers and how when Christianity
    began, these sun worshippers were then called devil worshippers,
    “Yet Christians do not change the form – Christians, why not
    change? Why always look toward sky? And not only Christians, but
    every religion since the sun worshippers.
    “You not think strange that now the holy day is called Sunday?
    Half world calls this seventh day, Sunday, and the other half called
    it by a word meaning Market Day. The day when man does not work,
    when he gathers together all results of his labors, he meets, he puts
    out his things, he looks at what he has done.”

    Along with the sun gazing aspect of this exercise what is the most important thing to actively ponder which many over look is….
    “you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your general presence’

    This is a very good example of how we think in general and what kind of thinking is needed when trying to understand Beelzebub. The sentence looks very simple, we take it simply but in reality this little sentence holds the key to everything.

    In the first chapter of Beelzebub, Gurdjieff states that man is divided into three parts, instincts, subconscious and consciousness. The instincts are connected to the spinal brain, the subconscious to the solar plexus brain and consciousness is connected to the head brain.

    Now we take that little sentence again..
    “you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your general presence’

    We then can think we need to bring about contact between the head brain and the spinal brain.

    If we go even deeper, each brain operates with a different force, the head brain the affirming, the spinal brain the denying and the solar plexus the reconciling.

    Again we go back and think about this little sentence..
    ‘you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your general presence’
    you bring about the contact of the affirming force to the denying force, from there what do we get.

    Beelzebub says that the contact of the affirming force with the denying force produces the reconciling force. If we think about this what does it mean.

    One other aspect to think about in all this is that throughout all Gurdjieff books it is mentioned that man has no consciousness. He speaks of it in the first chapter of Meetings with remarkable men and in the chapter the inner and outer world of man in Life is real only when i am, consciousness there is depicted has the third world of man.

    If we need this contact, which we do, and man has no consciousness, then what does this all mean?

  2. One of the things i came to understand when trying to study Beelzebub is that Gurdjieff mentions that we need to see the forms that are behind the ideas, ideas in the book seem to have two aspects like that of the idea of language, there is the word and the form behind the word. It seems the words of ideas are on one side and the form behind the word is on the other side and because of this the same form can have different words attached to them. Like the form behind consciousness is the same form behind the words head brain. To really start to understand Beelzebub we need to see the forms behind the words and when this is done the forms merge to form a bigger picture.

    In life in real only when i am Gurdjieff mentions…

    “I always could and even now still can remember where, in which notebook out of many thousands I have filled up, and in what connection with another thought a particular thought is expressed and has to be repeated in a different form and precisely in what other place”

    Seeing the whole as such we gain a broader understanding.

    To add another form to the forms above we could add another form to understand the above exercise.

    Man should like like this if we se him from a law of seven aspect.

    3.———————–DO RE MI FA SOL LA SI
    2.———–DO RE MI FA SOL LA SI

    But in fact he looks like this

    2.———–DO RE MI

    Man has no third world.

    If we add in consciousness we start to look like this.

    ———–DO RE MI

    When consciousness then has contact with the unconscious or instincts, that is the DO of the third world has contact with the SOL of the first world the law of three kicks in, the higher blends with the lower to actualize a middle, the mi of the second world then gets the help it needs to look like this…

    ———–DO RE MI FA SOL

    This contact we are talking about gives the force to the second world of man, the emotional world. It gives the force to the emotional word to start to function with its entirety. This action is called intentional suffering.

    The next action should then be at MI SOL SI …..

    ———————–DO RE MI
    ———–DO RE MI FA SOL

    This action Hessian is to young for, what Hessian needs to work on is acquiring the DO of the third world and make that contact that is talked about here and when he is older then he can work on the next action. the MI SOL SI which Beelzebub calls conscious labor.

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