Category Archives: RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BIBLE: TALES & MEETINGS

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BIBLE: TALES & MEETINGS

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Recently I’ve received emails seeking to find and define differences betweenTales (Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson) and Meetings (Meetings With Remarkable Men). In my view there are many possible ways in which the texts might be explored, and understood.

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All of these must depend most fundamentally on the reader agreeing to do as Gurdjieff asks and read each of his texts (he includes Life Is Real Only Then, When ‘I’ Am but excludes The Herald of coming Good ) in order to receive the special benefit he wishes for us (Tales vi). This implies an invitation to understand these books in relation to each other, and also in relation to the reader’s understanding.

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I’ve written about some of the ways that Gurdjieff’s texts might be considered as related in a number of sections on, Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson, Meetings With Remarkable Men, Life is Real Only Then, When ‘I’ Am’, The Herald Of Coming Good , Astrology, Autobiographical writings, Myth, Writings, and Zodiac in Gurdjieff: the Key Concepts (Routledge 2003).

However, I have recently been re-reading Northrop Frye’s The Great Code: The Bible As Literature (Ark Paperbacks, 1983) in which he employs typology as a literary critical method to examine the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testaments.

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Typology is a method of biblical interpretation whereby an element found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament. The initial one is called the type and the fulfillment is designated the antitype. Either type or antitype may be a person, thing, or event, but often the type is messianic and frequently related to the idea of salvation. The use of Biblical typology enjoyed greater popularity in previous centuries, although even now it is by no means ignored as a hermeneutic.

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Typological interpretation is specifically the interpretation of the Old Testament based on the fundamental theological unity of the two Testaments whereby something in the Old shadows, prefigures, adumbrates something in the New. Hence, what is interpreted in the Old is not foreign or peculiar or hidden, but arises naturally out of the text due to the relationship of the two Testaments.

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(Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Baker, 1970) p. 223. http://www.theopedia.com/Biblical_typology

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Frye’s magisterial work: offers a correspondence of patterning between the two Testaments that in my view can also be found in the relationship betweenTales and Meetings.

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The following are examples of type and antitype:

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Jesus is the antitype of Adam, of Joshua, of prophets Moses and Elijah, of King Solomon.[ …] Christian baptism is the antitype of the saving of mankind from Noah’s flood. The Sermon on the Mount is the antitype to the Ten Commandments. Eternal life is the antitype of ritual observance. John’s “In the beginning” is the antitype to Genesis’s. The new, spiritual, heaven and earth in Revelations is the antitype to Genesis’s physical heaven and earth.

(Marion L. Billington – Frye, intro to typology – Mon, 2 Nov 98 5:58:46 EST ) on a site which discusses Frye’s work at length,

http://www.charm.net/~bfant/johnny/great/frye/Frye_Index.html

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Beginnings and Falls

As a brief example of reading the Bible in a relation of correspondence with Tales, we find that the Biblical creation story in closely followed by the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, (Genesis 1: 1-31) is echoed in Tales by His Endlessness’ creation of the world in order to expel time which is destroying his habitat (Tales 748 -49). The expulsion of Adam and Eve for knowing about good and evil is echoed in the expulsion of Beelzebub from his home planet Karatas, for knowing better than His Endlessness and thus threatening revolution and overthrow of the established order (Tales 52-3).

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Knowledge is the key reason for expulsion in both cases. Adam and Eve’s acquisition of knowledge from the Tree of Good and Evil creates God’s fear that they may also become Gods by eating from the Tree of Life, which would, in terms not directly explained in Genesis, certainly overthrow the established order.

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The Fall of Adam and Eve into a world of toil and suffering and the Fall of Beellzebub into our planetary system are both followed by series of further Falls. In Tales although there are periods of improvement these are always followed by loss and disorder which echo the series of biblical Falls (see Frye 170-71 ).

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Endings and Ascensions

The Biblical ascension of Ellijah taken up to heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings, 4: 11-13) is mentioned in the last two verses of the Old Testament (Malachi 4: 4-6) we might relate this to the ascension of Beelzebub, pardoned by His Endlessness and returning to his home planet in a spaceship at the end of the Tales. This also suggests a narrative link to the ascension of Christ having obtained forgiveness for humanity and his return to His Father in Heaven (Acts 1: 9-11).

At the end of Tales Hassein weeps in compassion for humanity (Tales 1161-64) this is echoed by Gurdjieff at the end of Meetings where, during their last meeting, the author and Professor Skridlov also ascend; they ascend a mountain and on the summit the Professor weeps ‘not from grief, no, but as though from tenderness.’ (Meetings 245-46). His life has been utterly changed by his meeting with Father Giovanni, this has been to his ‘worldly misfortune’ that is a casting out of his old values. Giovanni is the Italian name for John so in Biblical terms both the name and the effect of Giovanni’s teaching suggest the last book of the New Testament the Revelation of St John the Divine.

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So, although we have touched only lightly on the beginnings and endings of these texts and their interrelationship, I hope that this will encourage further exploration and suggest that Frye’s text can be a stimulus to new ways of reading and to moments of new understanding. The relation of Tales to Meetings in terms of Frye’s typology could lead to a reading that finds the type or types representing Beelzebub in Tales related to the Old Testament and the antitype of Gurdjieff in Meetings relating to the New Testament.

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Frye writes in The Great Code of the circular interpretation of the Old and New Testaments the gospel story is true ‘Because it confirms the prophecies of the Old Testament,’ while the Old Testament prophecies are true because they are confirmed by the New Testament. ‘They form a double mirror, each reflecting the other but neither the world outside (Frye 78). This applies also to readings of Gurdjieff’s writings which are often validated with reference to his cosmological and practical teachings, while in turn each of these is validated by his texts.

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I don’t want to suggest that readings of either kind would result in any fixed understanding of Gurdjieff’s writings, or that any fixed understanding would in itself be useful. The value of text exploration and analysis leads to moments of new understanding, and in turn these lead to changes of state. And although these new understandings cannot and need not be clung onto as a ‘final’ or ‘true’ meaning any more that our changes of state can be clung to, they are in themselves beneficial.

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