Reading Gurdjieff: Merciless Destruction

First Series: To destroy, mercilessly...

The frontmatter of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson reads as follows:

“FIRST SERIES: To destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world…”

Gurdjieff’s first stated purpose for the first series of his writings is destruction. While Gurdjieff elsewhere states other purposes for the book—such as gaining information, strengthening attention, and raising questions—here he states its purpose is destruction.

What is to be destroyed? We are told the targets of the destruction are the reader’s beliefs and views. Further, we read that these beliefs and views are not a recent problem. They are not modern, at least not in the sense we tend to regard as modern. These beliefs and views apparently have been mentally and emotionally implanted in us for centuries, handed down and repeated over and over until they are for us invisible and pervasive attitudes and ironclad, self-evident truths.

This destruction we are told will be merciless—in other words, without pity and utterly ruthless. Even more, this destruction will be without any compromises whatsoever—nothing is to be spared, no negotiations will result in concessions, and no attempts at justification will yield exceptions.

Which beliefs and views are to be destroyed? Our beliefs and views about everything existing in the world. The subtitle of the book is not facetiously named: An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man. This book is for those who suspect that, on the whole, and for a long time, individually and collectively, at its roots, something has been terribly wrong with our way of life. And that the solution begins with subjecting our own beliefs and views to a thorough examination and eradication.

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