About Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson
Until 1924, George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff taught in the oriental manner, communicating his ideas only to a small circle of pupils, always directly, while being both theoretical and practical, and without ever allowing them to make notes on any of the instructions he provided. That year, following a severe accident, he judged that the time had come to make known the body of his ideas “in a form accessible to everyone”. It was a question then of evoking these ideas by means of a book and of awakening in the unknown reader an unaccustomed current of thoughts. To achieve this, he undertook to adopt the form, common to the great traditions, of a mythic tale “on the scale of the universe” but which would nevertheless be devoted to the essential problem: the meaning of human life.

From then on, without abandoning his other activities, he took up the craft of writing, with the alacrity and vigour which he brought to all his enterprises, and with the kind of artisan’s skill which had allowed him in his youth to learn so many crafts. His opus was written in conditions which were often difficult, and in the most diverse locales. As the work progressed, he had passages read aloud which he would then re-work.

A few years later, when Gurdjieff had accomplished his task, it was not a single book but a series which he had written. He entitled this monumental ensemble: All and Everything. The first part of this work was called Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.

This book is already legend. Its audacious character could have meant that it would never be published. However, in 1948, a year before his death, Gurdjieff had editions prepared in several languages. In 1950, it appeared simultaneously in America, England and Austria. And in 1956 the book appeared in France, seven years after the author’s death and twenty years after it had been completed.

This publication was also an event on the scale of humanity since the book speaks to all those who carry in themselves deep-rooted questions to which both science and modern philosophy seem unable to respond. For such readers, this book will be an adventure, a difficult one to be sure, in territory that is unknown and full of pitfalls, but nevertheless the greatest of adventures if there is awakened the desire for this adventure to be lived to the full.

(The first edition (1950) of Beelzebub's Tales is available in hard cover only from Two Rivers Press; see Publishing History. In 1999, Penguin Books, Arkana series, made this edition available in paperback, with errata corrected.)

The preceding text is taken from the dust jacket of the French edition of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (Paris: Janus, 1966).