October 22, 2010



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On G. I. Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson

Section I

3.  “The Slugs”
The “slugs” is a term used on only a few occasions within The Tales.  The first occasion is in a short two-page chapter, entitled “The Impudent Brat Hassein, Beelzebub’s Grandson, Dares to Call Men “Slugs.”  Beelzebub’s grandson Hassein is attempting to refer back to those “three brained beings” on that planet Earth which have been the subject of Beelzebub’s tales.  Hassein is not sure of their name and refers to them as “slugs.”  This is the story line in this excerpt which gives a background setting to the larger Tales:

    Hassein immediately sat down at Beelzebub’s feet and coaxingly said: “ ... Dear and kind Grandfather, tell me then something about those ... how? ... those ... I forget ... yes, about those ‘slugs.’”

 “What? About what slugs?” asked Beelzebub, not understanding the boy’s question.

 “Don’t you remember, Grandfather, that a little while ago, when you spoke about the three-centered beings breeding on the various planets of that solar system where you existed for such a long time, you happened to say that on one planet–I forget how you called it–that on that planet exist three-centered beings who, on the whole, are like us, but whose skin is a little slimier than ours.”

 “Ah!” laughed Beelzebub.  “You are surely asking about those beings who breed on the planet Earth and who call themselves ‘men.’
 “Yes, Grandfather, yes, just that. Tell me about those ‘men-beings,’ a little more in detail.  I should like to know more about them,” concluded Hassein.

 Then Beelzebub said: “About them I could tell you a great deal, for I often visited that planet and existed among them for a long time and even made friends with many of those terrestrial three-brained beings.

 “Indeed, you will find it very interesting to know more about these beings, for they are very peculiar.

 “There are many things among them which you would not see among any other beings of any other planet of our Universe.

 “I know them very well, because their arising, their further development, and their existence during many, many centuries, by their time calculations, have occurred before my eyes.

 “And not only their own arising occurred before my eyes, but even the accomplished formation of the planet itself on which they arise and exist.
 “When we first arrived on that solar system and settled on the planet Mars, nothing yet existed on that planet Earth, which had not yet even had time to cool off completely after its concentration.

 “From the very beginning, this same planet has been the cause of many serious troubles to our ENDLESSNESS.

 “If you wish I will tell you first of all about the events of general cosmic character connected with this planet ...”    (pp. 79-80)

Thus, in the Tales, Beelzebub is a cosmic character who has been living on Mars within the solar system of “Ors” even before the Earth was completely cooled and consolidated.  He later visits the planet on six occasions during different periods of human history.  The first visit is during the time of Atlantis, then in Babylon and Egypt, later in India and Tibet, and elsewhere.  The final visit of Beelzebub was to Germany, Russia, France and America in the period of the early nineteenth century–Gurdjieff’s own era and the period of his visits to these countries.

The term “slugs” was a term used in an offhanded way by Hassein in conversation with his Grandfather, to refer to those “men-beings” on that planet Earth, who cause such problems for the greater cosmic harmony.  Its inhabitants are, according to Beelzebub, most peculiar and strange, and manifest in ways so unnatural, as to be unknown in the larger Universe.  During his visits to Earth, Beelzebub studies humankind while in disguise and living among them.  Although Beelzebub was able to pass himself off as a human, this was only because he had “lost his horns” when he had been exiled from his home planet within a distant solar system.  Further, he had to hide his tail while living among the “men-beings.”  One reason why Beelzebub visited the Earth was to report to a High Commission on the problems of those three-brained beings breeding on that ill-fated planet.  This is a basic background to the wonderful, humorous and enchanting Tales.
A second reference to “slugs” occurs when Beelzebub is elaborating upon the evolution of life on Earth.  The first living beings to arise were “Similitudes-of-the-Whole,” or “microcosmoses”–or cells.  These then aggregated together to produce two forms of vegetation, called “Oduristelnian” and “Polormedekhric.”  The microcosmoses also grouped together to form the more complex “Tetartocosmoses” –the three-brained beings.

“And among these latter there then first arose just those biped “Tetartocosmoses” whom you a while ago called “slugs.”  (p.  86)
Beelzebub explains further that those “men-beings” on planet Earth:

 “... had in them in the beginning the same possibilities for perfecting the functions for the acquisition of being-Reason as have all other forms of ‘Tetartocosmoses’ arising throughout the whole Universe.” (p. 86)

Humankind have latent faculties for attaining different levels of being-Reason, as well as for refining “higher being-bodies” for the life of the soul–just as do all other three-brained Tetartocosmoses within other solar systems.

Unfortunately, “a misfortune” occurred.  Beelzebub relates:

“But afterwards, just in the period when they also, as it proceeds on other similar planets of our great Universe, were beginning gradually to be spiritualized by what is called ‘being-instinct,’ just then, unfortunately for them, there befell a misfortune which was unforseen from Above and most grievous for them.”  (p. 86)

Under normal conditions, human beings would have become “spiritualized” by “being-instinct,” but a series of misfortunes and miscalculations, to be recounted by Beelzebub, resulted in other peculiarities forming within the human psyche–properties particularily strange and unknown within the larger Universe.
On a third occasion, Beelzebub uses the term “slugs” in order to elaborate upon the strangeness of the human psyche.  In this instance, he explains to Hassein what would be done to him if those three-brained beings living on Earth happened to hear that Hassein had used such a derogatory word to describe them:

“Now let us return to those three-brained beings arising on the planet Earth, who have interested you most of all and whom you have called ‘slugs.’

 “I shall begin by saying how glad I am that you happened to be a long way from those three-centered beings whom you called by a word so ‘insulting to their dignity’ and that they are not likely ever to hear of it.

 “Do you know, you poor thing, you small boy not yet aware of himself, what they would do to you, particularly the contemporary beings there, if they should hear what you called them?

 “What they would have done to you if you had been there and if they got hold of you–I am seized with horror at the very mention of it.

 “At best they would have thrashed you so ....”

 ... “You must know that during the time of my observations of them from the planet Mars and during the periods of my existence among them, I studied the psyche of these strange three-brained beings very thoroughly, and so I already know very well what they would do to anybody who dared to give them such a nickname.  (p. 94)

Beelzebub then elucidates the strange psyche of humankind to Hassein in a fanciful characterization of human social life, the practices of ‘solemn councils’ and their intellectual nullity:

“Provoked by such an incident as your thus insulting them, if everything was rather ‘dull’ with them at the given moment, owing to the absence of any other similar absurd interest, they would arrange somewhere in a previously chosen place, with previously invited people, all of course dressed in costumes specially designed for such occasions, what is called a ‘solemn council.’ (pp. 95-96)

Beelzebub goes on to explain how this solemn council would select a ‘president’ and proceed with their ‘trial,’ where they would “‘pick you to pieces,’ and not only you, but your father, your grandfather, and perhaps even all the way back to Adam.”  If Hassein is found guilty, he would then be sentenced “according to the indications of a code of laws collated on the basis of former similar ‘puppet plays’ by beings called ‘old fossils.’”

Beelzebub carries on the tale, with the three-brained beings “pouring from the empty into the void,” all in efforts to “anathematize” poor Hassein for calling them slugs.  In this case:

“The most ‘important’ beings will decree to all the other beings that in all their appointed establishments, such as what are called ‘churches,’ ‘chapels,’ ‘synagogues,’ ‘town-halls,’ and so on, special officials shall on special occasions with appointed ceremonies wish for you in thought something like the following:

 “That you should lose your horns, or that your hair should turn prematurely gray, or that the food in your stomach should be turned into coffin nails, or that your future wife’s tongue should be three times its size, or that whenever you take a bite of your pet pie it should be turned into ‘soup,’ and so on and so forth in the same strain.

 “Do you understand to what dangers you exposed yourself when you called these remote three-brained freaks ‘slugs’?”
 Having finished thus, Beelzebub looked with a smile on his favorite.  (p. 97)

Beelzebub finished with a smile on his face, as might have Mr. Gurdjieff himself, after telling such a fanciful Tale to his grandson, Hassein.
In a final reference to ‘slugs,’ Beelzebub mentions that at particular periods on planet Earth, “the birth rate of what are called ‘slugs,’ ‘snails,’ ‘lice,’ ‘mole crickets,’ and many other similar parasites who destroy everything good, each time always increases more and more.” (p. 630) This reference to ‘slugs’ occurs during Beelzebub’s sixth visit to planet earth, when he is in Russia amidst a period of revolution and chaos.  ‘Slugs’ are parasites, who destroy everything good, and their numbers increase.  Although Beelzebub seldom refers to ‘slugs,’ those three-brained beings on planet Earth are most worthy of being so described, according to the Tales which elaborate upon humankind’s unknown history.   Beelzebub explains that in truth, those strange three-brained beings “know nothing about long-past events on their planet.” (p. 631)  Instead, among the contemporary beings, “the slugs,” it has “become quite proper to their nature to see only unreality.”  (p. 85)

Another term used repeatedly by Beelzebub in his stories to Hassein–to refer to those three-brained beings on planet Earth–is that of “your favorites.”  As Hassein, his grandson, loves to hear his grandfather’s stories, particularly about his visits to Earth, Beelzebub repeatedly refers back to “your favorites”–those men-beings who Hassein dared to call “slugs.”

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