Anthony Blake’s reading of Beelzebub’s Tales is now available as an Audiobook at Audible, Amazon, and Apple Books. I purchased it from Audible, and am pleased to have done so. I have already commented on Blake’s reading of some of Gurdjieff’s and Ouspensky’s work (see the links below), but here I wish to address another issue. One of the attractive features of this recording is the use of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music, played by Wim van Dullemen.
The music is not a secondary feature, it is a critical element; an intrinsic part of the success of this project. When I first heard the music, I thought to myself, “this is nice, I hope it doesn’t waste valuable listening time.” I think that what happened was that when I heard that there would be this music, I experienced the associative thought that I have many recordings of the music, and could put them on any time I wished. This led to the “thought” I have described.
But from the moment I heard the playing, my attitude changed. It is impossible, or at least beyond my capacity to explain why it should be so, but the fact is that I experienced the music as in continuity with the reading, and making possible the better digestion of what had been read. I am not sure that I would say the music was essential in and of itself, but I would say that it helped to receive and “assimilate” the reading the way it has occurred. At first I thought the music might open each chapter, but that is not so. However, when it does appear, the playing adds a feeling element.
I can barely add to what I have said before about the value of hearing someone else read. There are certain words which we subliminally discount, not stopping to ponder them. I cannot say precisely what it is about Anthony’s reading, except that something of his own understanding comes through, and what he has pondered is given a fine, barely noticeable position which does not accord with how I read and understand. Let me take but one example:
First, the word “coat,” as in “coating higher being-bodies.” It is odd, perhaps, since “to coat” is “to clothe, to cover with a coating.” Yet the higher being-bodies do not obviously cover the physical body. They are often thought of as forming inside the physical body, even if that formation permeates the physical body, like a substance that enters into a cotton fabric. The Russian is облекаются, which means “clothe (or invest) themselves.” It seems either that Gurdjieff was using a word which came as close as possible to what he wished to express, but had to settle for something close, and a little inexact, or else, in some way we cannot perceive, the higher bodies envelop the physical body. It could be, I don’t know, but my point is that it was Blake’s reading which prompted me to wonder.
Addition, 25 November 2023
I have now finished listening to the recording. I am more impressed than ever by Blake’s measured and expressive reading. Also, I have now listened to the reading of the 1931 version of “The Holy Planet Purgatory.” Some of what Gurdjieff says in that version, and not in the final, is of the first importance for the inner exercises. Let he who has ears to hear, hear.
But one thing I will venture to say something about is that Gurdjieff’s description of why souls cannot blend with the Sun Absolute but must go to Purgatory first to be cleansed of “chemical impurities” may come down to this – when a soul descends in the process of evolution, it can perfect itself and return. But upon its return it is no longer quite the soul it had been. It has acquired the chemical taint. This has to be purged. An analogy may be how if one leaves home and then returns, one is not exactly the same person who left. No matter how little time has passed, there will be some metabolic changes. The longer the time, the more likely the changes will be significant. I think this is part of the meaning of the Odyssey, which I think Numenius and those who followed him may well have been correct to see as a teaching story about the soul. But whether it is so or not, I think this is what Gurdjieff is indicating. And it may well be that but for listening to this bonus chapter, I would not have pondered the matter as I have. In any event, I did hear it, and it did stimulate me to ponder. I think this goes to show that the operation of parts of the brain we exercise when we are reading may in fact displace the operation of a more discerning intelligence within us. It does not have to be that way, but it seems that it very often is, and therefore, listening to someone read well is a great help in making new associations and in coming to a deeper comprehension.