Gurdjieff’s All and Everything J. G. Bennett Riders Review Autumn 1950


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Bennett grapples with the contradiction of trying to elucidate a “book that defies verbal analysis” and concludes that Beelzebub’s Tales is an epoch-making work that represents the first new mythology in 4000 years.
“Ouspensky records a conversation in St. Petersburg during the summer of 1916 in which Gurdjieff discussed the problem of communication, and the impossibility of conveying in our ordinary language ideas which are intelligible and obvious only for a higher state of consciousness. Speaking of the unity between man, the Universe, and God, he said that the objective knowledge by which alone this unity is to be understood can never be expressed in words or logical forms. At this point, Gurdjieff made a statement which is a key to the understanding of his own subsequent writings.
He said: Realising the imperfection and weakness of ordinary language, the people who have possessed objective knowledge have tried to express the idea of unity in ‘myths,’ in ‘symbols,’ and in particular ‘verbal formulas,’ which, having been transmitted without alteration, have carried on the idea from one school to another, often from one epoch to another.
In All and Everything Gurdjieff makes extensive use of these three forms, that is, symbol, myth, and verbal formula. There is no need in these mathematical days to defend the use of symbolism. It is regarded by many schools of modern thought as the only safe form of language. Wittgenstein treats symbols as something more than conventional signs, and regards them as corresponding in some way to the reality to which they refer. He would probably accept Gurdjieff’s dictum that: “symbols not only transmit knowledge but show the way to it.”