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You are here You are here: Home Study Psychology & Mind Fourth Way Blog Unusual Assemblage of Syllables
  Unusual Assemblage of Syllables       
Commentary on Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
all and everything 230

quote small leftA deliberate and rigorous obscurity …
   of confusing terms and tangential
   associations in interminable sentencesquote small right

quote small leftJargon-ridden and intentionally obtusequote small right

“For several reasons, including the unique difficulties presented by Gurdjieff’s writing style, little commentary has been written on Beelzebub’s Tales.”

“Without a determined decision on the part of the reader to make great efforts to understand these writings, without the reader’s constant and conscious participation in the act of reading, little if any sense can be gotten from the Tales.”


Some of the reasons given for Gurdjieff's writing style include:

  • Primary reason is man's inner slavery to suggestibility.
  • Counteract our tendency to act as passive receptors and believe whatever we are told.
  • Writing style directly opposed to all our comfortable habits.
  • Without active attention there can be no real understanding.
  • Pythagoras’ law of reserve, in an arcane manner concealing mysteries from the uninitiated.
  • Bury every nugget of information. If it's too clear, it must be buried further.
  • Only for a few, not for everybody.

The question arises: How many man-hours have been spent trying to decipher Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson?

Deliberate and Rigorous Obscurity

Excerpts from: The Tales Themselves, An Overview by Dr. Anna Challenger (Click tab above for Full Article)

“The secret must be kept from all non-people;
the mystery must be hidden from all idiots.”

Omar Khayyam, 11th c. Sufi poet

For several reasons, including the unique difficulties presented by Gurdjieff’s writing style, little commentary has been written on Beelzebub’s Tales. John Bennett did extensive work on the Tales, giving lectures on them from the time of Gurdjieff’s death in 1949 until his own death in 1974.
...

Both Bennett and Orage had the advantage of being able to converse with Gurdjieff about his writings and to verify their understanding of his work. Bennett spoke with Gurdjieff for the last time one week before Gurdjieff’s death, and their conversation addressed the topic of humankind’s lost ability to make independent judgments. Gurdjieff felt that suggestibility to the written and spoken word or, as he also put it, the “readiness to believe any old tale,” [23] is one of the greatest tragedies of modern humanity. This type of inner slavery, he believed, makes obtaining Objective Reason impossible, and thereby destroys our possibility for a normal existence on Earth. In Beelzebub’s Tales this weakness is presented as a prime reason for the unhappy plight of humanity. Bennett uses these views of Gurdjieff about inner slavery to suggestibility to explain the writing style of Beelzebub’s Tales.

Bennett asserts that Gurdjieff’s writing style is directly connected with his fundamental concepts of human nature and destiny. If we are to serve the high purpose for which we were created, we must free ourselves from any form of inner slavery. Above all we must work toward attaining a capacity for independent judgment, strive to acquire Objective Reason, and not live according to the ways which are delegated as right and proper by others. And, as Bennett observes, “suggestibility cannot be cured by suggestion.” [24] What he means is that a different kind of writing is needed to counteract our tendency to act as passive receptors and believe whatever we are told. The style of Beelzebub’s Tales makes passive response impossible. Without a determined decision on the part of the reader to make great efforts to understand these writings, without the reader’s constant and conscious participation in the act of reading, little if any sense can be gotten from the Tales.

Recognizing this aspect of Gurdjieff’s style, Bennett says, is the first secret to understanding his writing. As a defense against suggestibility, Gurdjieff piles obstacle upon obstacle to ensure that progress can only be made by the reader’s unwavering decision to overcome those obstacles. The point is, Bennett says, “When we have organized ideas put in front of us that our minds are able to accept, it is very hard to prevent this mind from being lazy. We say: ‘Now I understand’ and we do not feel the need to do any work.” [25] Gurdjieff’s intention is obviously to have the opposite effect on the reader:

  • quote small leftGurdjieff’s methods are directly opposed to all our comfortable habits. He was concerned to bring people to understand for themselves and with this aim always before him, he never made anything easy or tried to convince anyone of anything. On the contrary, he made the approach to his ideas difficult, both intellectually and emotionally. However hard in itself a theme might be to understand, he would always make it harder by incompleteness of exposition, by introducing inner contradictions and even absurdities, and by breaking off [explanation] as soon as comprehension had begun to dawn…quote small right [26]

An important part of Gurdjieff’s method of exposition is the use of obstacles to insure the willful participation of the reader as a prerequisite for achieving understanding.

When confronted with a work like the Tales, Bennett emphasizes, the uncommitted and “suggestible” reader is either forced away or forced to commit himself or herself to great efforts to make any progress in understanding. “The issue before the man who begins reading Beelzebub’s Tales is not ‘Shall I accept or not what is written here?’ but ‘Shall I even read it and in doing so try to understand something?’” [27] A conflict takes place in the reader, but it is not an intellectual conflict of whether to affirm or deny Gurdjieff’s perceptions and points of view. Nor is the struggle one of whether to accept what is written on the basis of faith. Gurdjieff’s writing prevents either of these responses. The casual reader, first confronted by the intimidating length of the work and then prevented from easily understanding it because of the difficult style and idiosyncratic terminology, is in no position to either agree or disagree, accept or reject what is written. The struggle which takes place in the reader of Beelzebub’s Tales is with his or her inner nature: whether to take the easier path of giving way to the law of inertia, justifying the decision on the basis of the length and extreme difficulty of the work, or whether to make the effort of will required by the task of trying to fathom such a writing, even at the risk of gaining little or no understanding in the end for the invested effort.

If the decision is made to go forward and work through the labyrinth which one writer describes as “a deliberate and rigorous obscurity … of confusing terms and tangential associations in interminable sentences” [28] the reader is still forced to renew commitment repeatedly in the face of constant temptation to abandon the project. Gurdjieff’s insistent style demands constant affirmation from the reader, and each affirmation results in a victory of will over inertia. In this way Gurdjieff creates the possibility for the reader to strengthen will and create being. The ability of the work itself to act creatively on the reader is part of what led Bennett to evaluate Beelzebub’s Tales so highly as a piece of literature:

  • quote small leftIn its complexities and obscurities like an alchemical text, in its humor and robustness like a Rabelaisian chronicle, in its breadth like a monumental work of historical analysis, in its passion like a sermon and in its compassion like something almost sacramental — Beelzebub’s Tales surpasses all ordinary points of view. It belongs to a new kind of thought… It is an expression of Objective Reason.quote small right [29]

[23] Bennett, Talks on Beelzebub’s Tales, p. 11

[24] Ibid., p. 11

[25] Ibid., p. 8

[26] Ibid., p. 9

[27] Ibid., p. 11

[28] J. Walter Driscoll, GURDJIEFF: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland Publishers, 1985), p. viii

[29] Bennett, Talks on Beelzebub’s Tales, p. 4–5

The Tales Themselves

About the Author   

 About Anna Challenger

Anna Challenger holds an M.A. in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in American and Comparative Literature from Kent State University.

  • She currently teaches Literature and Advanced Writing courses at the American College of Thessaloniki in Greece, where she serves as Chairperson of the English Department.

Anna first became absorbed in the teachings of George Gurdjieff as a philosophy graduate student.

  • In the midst of studying the traditional philosophers, she was introduced by a fellow philosophy student to the works of Gurdjieff.
  • From that day forward, traditional philosophy took secondary place to the living philosophy of Gurdjieff, and for the next twenty years, Gurdjieff remained the central personal focus of Anna’s study.
  • Her specific aim over the years has been to expose Gurdjieff’s teachings to the academic world, and to cultivate respect for his living philosophy and literature among academics.
  • To this purpose, and against predictable opposition, she wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on An Introduction to Gurdjieff’s “Beelzebub”: A Modern Sufi Teaching Tale.

This dissertation has been reworked over the years and will be published in book form by Rodopi Press (Atlanta, Georgia, and Amsterdam) in 1999 as Philosophy and Art in Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub: A Modern Odyssey.

  • This essay is representative of chapters from this forthcoming book.

Copyright © 1990 Dr. Anna Challenger

 
Introduction

“The secret must be kept from all non-people;
the mystery must be hidden from all idiots.”
Omar Khayyam | 11th c. Sufi poet

In John Bennett’s Talks on Beelzebub’s Tales, he recalls one night spent in Gurdjieff’s Paris apartment shortly before the latter’s death. There was a typical gathering of students: among them English, Americans, French, Greeks — more than fifty people assembled in a small apartment to have dinner with Gurdjieff and to listen to him speak. Gurdjieff offered a toast which in its simplicity seemed forceful: “Everyone must have an aim. If you have not an aim, you are not a man. I will tell you a very simple aim, to die an honorable death. Everyone can take this aim without any philosophizing — not to perish like a dog. [1] “As always,” Bennett recalls, “he suddenly turns the conversation to a joke and in a minute the room is shaken with laughter at some story about the peculiarities of the English. But the impression remains of the overwhelming seriousness of our human situation, of the choice which confronts us between life and death.” [2]

all and everything

What seems simple, not to perish like a dog, is for Gurdjieff the most difficult aim a person can have. And making us aware of the choice between life and death, or between kinds and qualities of death, is a main concern of Beelzebub’s Tales. In the Tales, however, the choice is presented in far more complex terms: we can either live our lives and die our deaths passively and mechanically, for the sole purpose of unconsciously supplying the Cosmos with required energies, whereby upon death we sacrifice our individuality; alternatively, we can live in such a way as to supply required Cosmic energies consciously, and of sufficient quantity and quality, so that death carries the potential of amounting to more than a payment of transformed energy, and we gain the possibility of becoming “immortal within the limits of the Solar System.” [3] The choice between life and death as expressed in these terms is related to Gurdjieff’s Theory of Reciprocal Maintenance, which embodies his answer to the question, “What is the meaning and purpose of life on Earth, and in particular of human life?”  Like all organic life on Earth, human beings are apparatuses for transforming energies which are required for some other purpose. However, as a more complicated type of transforming apparatus than plants or animals, human beings possess some choice regarding how to supply the energies required by their existence. They can transform energy consciously or unconsciously, in greater or lesser quantities, and of varying qualities, thereby influencing the purpose and outcome of their deaths. These are among the choices of which Gurdjieff wants to make us aware in his Tales. Manuel Rainoird aptly likens Gurdjieff in his work to a train guard who, out of sheer kind-heartedness, jostles and rouses the passengers before their train reaches some frontier, so that they will be ready and things will go smoothly. [4]Beelzebub’s Tales does serve this purpose, but the setting is more dramatic than the analogy leads us to believe. In the Tales Gurdjieff is trying to rouse his readers from sleep so that they might get things in order before reaching their final destination: death. For Gurdjieff, preparing for an “honorable death” means acquiring all possible understanding about life and the role of human beings in it. To this end, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson is appropriately subtitled All and Everything. Here Gurdjieff presents us with all the fruits of his conscious labors, all the understanding about human existence which he acquired, through tremendous efforts, in the course of his lifetime. His hope is that we might share part of this understanding.


[1] J. G. Bennett, Talks on Beelzebub’s Tales (Gloucestershire: Coombe Springs Press, 1977), p. 1. Reissued, Youk Beach, Maine: Weiser, 1988, vii.

[2] Ibid.

[3] G. I. Gurdjieff, as recorded by P. D. Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), p. 94

[4] Manuel Rainoird as quoted by Michel Waldberg in Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), p. 28

[5] Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, (New York: Harcourt, Brace 1950), p. 52

The Scenario

“Everything” unfolds through the story of Beelzebub, a wise old being from the planet Karatas, which belongs to a solar system distant from Earth’s. Due to circumstances connected with Beelzebub’s youth, however, he has spent the greatest part of his long existence in this part of the Universe, “in conditions not proper to his nature,” [5] traveling between Mars and Earth in an attempt to cure Earth beings from the afflictions which result from their wrong perception of reality.

Many years ago, we are told, in Beelzebub’s splendid and fiery youth, he saw something in the functioning of the World which, to his then unformed reason and limited understanding, struck him as illogical. And because he had a strong and forceful nature, many other beings were persuaded by Beelzebub to rebel against HIS ENDLESSNESS to such a degree that the center of the Megalocosmos was nearly brought to a state of revolution. Then,

  • quote small leftHaving learned of this,HIS ENDLESSNESS, notwithstanding HIS all-lovingness and all-forgiveness, was constrained to banish Beelzebub with his comrades to one of the remote corners of the Universe, namely, to the solar system “Ors” … and to assign as the place of their existence one of the planets of that solar system, namely, Mars, with the privilege of existing on other planets also, though only of the same solar system.quote small right [6]

Among those banished to Mars were sympathizers with Beelzebub and others who served as their attendants. In this way Mars came to be populated by three-centered beings from the center of the Universe, and Beelzebub came to spend his life in a place foreign to him, taking in “perceptions unusual for his nature” and “experiences not proper to his essence,” [7] all of which left a mark on Beelzebub and contributed to his exceptional nature.

During Beelzebub’s exile to Mars, he made several extended visits to the Earth. His first descent to this planet took him to Atlantis shortly before its disappearance, and the last involved a three-hundred year stay which brought Beelzebub into the twentieth century. Altogether he descended on six occasions to Earth, his visits spanning a period of several millennia, landing him in times and places as diverse as ancient Babylon and twentieth-century America, Afghanistan at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. Beelzebub built a large observatory during his exile on Mars, and this enabled him to observe events taking place on Earth during his absence from the planet. As a result of these circumstances, Beelzebub was exposed in some fashion to human beings and situations for hundreds of years, and his long interaction with the planet provided him with much food for thought concerning the Earth, its history, and the behavior and psyche of its people.

When Beelzebub’s narrative begins, he is no longer in exile. Through the intervention of the holy Ashiata Shiemash, a messenger who had at one time been sent by HIS ENDLESSNESS to coordinate life on Earth with the general harmony of the World, Beelzebub has been pardoned for fulfilling needs connected with the Earth. Because of Ashiata Shiemash’s request, and “the modest and cognisant existence of Beelzebub himself,” [8] Beelzebub has been given permission by HIS ENDLESSNESS to return to his place of origin, the planet Karatas at the center of the Universe.


[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p. 51

[7] Ibid., p. 54

[8] Ibid.

The Scenario II

In spite of his long absence from home, the influence and authority which Beelzebub possessed as a youth have even increased. As a result of his having lived in circumstances of unusual hardship and deprivation, “all those around him were clearly aware that, thanks to his prolonged existence in … unusual conditions, his knowledge and experience must have broadened and deepened.”  [9] Although Beelzebub is now aged and tired and has only recently returned to Karatas, at the opening of the Tales he is embarking on yet another interplanetary journey to attend a conference which concerns events of great Cosmic importance about which he might offer his wisdom and experience.

Traveling with Beelzebub on the spaceship “Karnak” are the ship’s crew, the attendants of Beelzebub (including his long-time servant Ahoon), and Beelzebub’s grandson Hassein, son of his favorite son Tooloof. Having only met Hassein for the first time upon his return to Karatas, Beelzebub found that his grandson was at the significant age when his reason needed to be guided and developed (about twelve or thirteen years of age by Earth calculation), and he decided to assume responsibility for Hassein’s education. The education commences with Hassein accompanying his grandfather to the conference on the planet Revozvradendr.

As Beelzebub begins his narration about his many years in exile, he is seated with Hassein and Ahoon on the upper deck of the Karnak where they are talking among themselves while gazing out at the “boundless space.” Beelzebub is starting to relate stories about the solar system to which he was exiled, when the ship’s Captain interrupts them with an urgent message: the ship will be unable to travel to its destination by the most direct route, for passing through that same space will be the large comet Sakoor, which emits harmful gases. The original travel plans must be altered, and the Captain recognizes two alternatives: the first is to make a long detour around the gases, and the second is to wait until the gases have dispersed. In either case a long delay will result. The Captain, out of respect, has consulted Beelzebub regarding what should be done.

In response to the Captain’s inquiry, Beelzebub recalls the wisdom of the Sufi sage Mullah Nassr Eddin, who for every possible occasion had “an apt and pithy saying.” [10] Beelzebub muses about Mullah Nassr Eddin in the presence of the Captain,

  • quote small left“As all his sayings were full of the sense of truth for existence there, I also used them there as a guide, in order to have a comfortable existence among the beings of that planet.
  • “And in the given case, too, my dear Captain, I intend to profit by one of his wise sayings.
  • “In such a situation as has befallen us, he would probably say:
  • “‘You cannot jump over your knees and it is absurd to try to kiss your own elbow.’
  • “I now say the same to you, and I add: there is nothing to be done; when an event is impending which arises from forces immeasurably greater than our own, one must submit.”quote small right [11]

  • [9] Ibid.

    [10] Ibid.

    [11] Ibid., p. 57

    The Scenario III

    The decision is to wait somewhere until the gases have dispersed so as not to cause unnecessary wear and tear to the ship, and to pass the time of the delay in a way which is productive for all — by Beelzebub narrating to the others his experiences in the solar system Ors, in particular on the planet Earth. The accounts of Beelzebub’s experiences while in exile, related to Hassein and Ahoon during the time of the ship’s delay and during travel time to and from Revozvradendr, make up the bulk of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.

    After this postponement, which provides opportunity for many stories, the ship reaches Revozvradendr where Beelzebub and the others remain for two months. The events of this time, however, are not disclosed to the reader. Not until the Karnak is returning to Karatas do the tales of Beelzebub resume. The return trip is then interrupted by a visit to ‘The Holy Planet Purgatory,’ the title and focus of Chapter 39, pages 744 to 810, which forms the culmination of Book Two. There, Beelzebub wishes to give his regards to members of his family, including his other son Tooilan, and to a teacher from his youth. The detour to Purgatory takes us to the heart of Gurdjieff’s book. Other than this visit to The Holy Planet Purgatory, the ship is in transit from the beginning to the end of the Tales, and it serves as the only setting for the dialogues between Beelzebub and Hassein.

    As the Karnak nears the outer spaces of Beelzebub’s home planet, it is unexpectedly approached by a host of Cosmic beings, including several archangels, a multitude of angels, and some cherubim and seraphim. The entire procession enters the ship bearing branches of palm for Beelzebub and singing the “Hymn to HIS ENDLESSNESS.” The purpose for their visit is to restore to Beelzebub what he was deprived of at the time of his exile: his horns. This is accomplished by the most venerable archangel’s holding over Beelzebub’s head a sacred rod which gradually causes Beelzebub’s long-lost horns to grow.

    All present observe the ceremony with much anticipation, for they understand that the degree of Objective Reason obtained by a being of Beelzebub’s nature is revealed by the number of forks which appear on his horns. In Beelzebub’s case, “First one fork appeared, then another, and then a third, and as each fork made its appearance a clearly perceptible thrill of joy and unconcealed satisfaction proceeded among all those present.” [12] As yet a fourth fork appears, tension reaches its height and all assume the ceremony to be at an end, for inconceivable to any being present is the possibility that Beelzebub could have exceeded this already sacred level of Reason. But before those assembled have time to recover from their excitement over Beelzebub’s fourth horn,

    • quote small leftThere suddenly and unexpectedly appeared on the horns of Beelzebub quite independently a fifth fork of a special form known to them all.
    • Thereupon all without exception, even the venerable archangel himself, fell prostrate before Beelzebub, who had now risen to his feet and stood transfigured with a majestic appearance, owing to the truly majestic horns which had arisen on his head.quote small right [13]

    The fifth fork signifies that Beelzebub has attained a level of Reason only four degrees removed from the Absolute Reason of HIS ENDLESSNESS, so that even the archangels are inferior in Reason to Beelzebub.


    [12] Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, p. 1176

    [13] Ibid., p. 1177

    The Scenario IV

    When all those present recover from this moving experience, the most venerable archangel gives a speech in honor of Beelzebub who, “although he first transgressed on account of his youth, yet afterwards was able by his conscious labors and intentional sufferings to become worthy with his essence to be one of the very rare Sacred individuals of the whole of our Great Universe.” [14] Through his own efforts Beelzebub has achieved the highest level of Reason that “in general any being can attain.” [15]

    At this point all the angels and cherubim leave the Karnak and disappear into space, and the others resume their places as the ship moves toward its final destination. Beelzebub, “now with a transfigured appearance corresponding to His merits and visible to all,” [16] returns with Hassein and Ahoon to that part of the ship where their previous talks have taken place. As a result of the ceremony they have witnessed, Beelzebub’s grandson and servant both feel remorse for their own low levels of being, and “by their movements and the translucency of their inner psyche, it was evident that there had been a marked change in their attitude toward the person of Beelzebub…” [17]

    In this state of humility Hassein is overcome with timidity in the presence of his grandfather. His humility also gives rise to feelings of deep love and compassion for the three-brained beings from Earth whom he has learned of through his grandfather’s stories. Assured by Beelzebub that the tales about Earth will continue after they have returned home, Hassein is given permission to ask one final question of Beelzebub before the landing of the ship. Encouraged by the opportunity, he addresses his grandfather boldly to ask how Beelzebub would reply if HIS ENDLESSNESS HIMSELF were to summon Beelzebub before HIM and say,

    • quote small left“Beelzebub!!!!
    • “You, as one of the anticipated, accelerated results of all My actualizations, manifest briefly the sum of your long-centuried impartial observations and studies of the psyche of the three-brained beings arising on the planet Earth and state in words whether it is possible by some means or other to save them and to direct them into the becoming path?”quote small right [18]

    Beelzebub answers Hassein with a twofold response. First, he says, the question is itself proof that Hassein’s education is proceeding well and that Beelzebub’s stories have achieved in him sought-for results. Then, after meditating on the question, Beelzebub responds in a penetrating tone:

    • quote small left“The sole means now for the saving of the beings of the planet Earth would be … [if] every one of those unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as of the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests.”quote small right [19]

    Only with death kept always in the forefront on their minds would human beings be able to overcome the egoism that has destroyed their Essences, caused all their abnormalities, and made them harmful, not only to themselves, but to the whole of the Universe.


    [14] Ibid., p. 1178

    [15] Ibid., p. 1177

    [16] Ibid., p. 1178

    [17] Ibid., p. 1181

    [18] Ibid., p. 1182

    [19] Ibid., p. 1183

    The Commentaries

    For several reasons, including the unique difficulties presented by Gurdjieff’s writing style, little commentary has been written on Beelzebub’s Tales. John Bennett did extensive work on the Tales, giving lectures on them from the time of Gurdjieff’s death in 1949 until his own death in 1974. A few of these lectures were recorded and published in book form as Talks on Beelzebub’s Tales. The English critic Alfred Orage, a long-time student of Gurdjieff, played a leading role in editing the English language drafts of Beelzebub’s Tales between 1925 and 1931. Orage died in 1934 but C. S. Nott published almost a hundred pages of his notes on Orage’s numerous talks on Beelzebub’s Tales which, although not intended for publication offer valuable insights into Gurdjieff’s work. [20]

    A beautifully written and inspiring essay by a Frenchman, Manuel Rainoird, entitled Belzebuth, un coup de maitre (“Beelzebub: A Master’s Stroke”), includes insightful commentary on the work. [21] Finally, a book by Michel Waldberg, also a Frenchman, contains a serious and thoughtful chapter on Beelzebub’s Tales which includes valuable excerpts from the private notes of Charles Duits, another French writer. Duits felt indebted to Beelzebub’s Tales for the influence it had on his personal life and work, and he wished to repay this debt by recording his seasoned understanding of the Tales. Duits’ notes, however, remain unpublished. [22] Aside from these works, commentary is fragmentary and often superficial.

    Both Bennett and Orage had the advantage of being able to converse with Gurdjieff about his writings and to verify their understanding of his work. Bennett spoke with Gurdjieff for the last time one week before Gurdjieff’s death, and their conversation addressed the topic of humankind’s lost ability to make independent judgments. Gurdjieff felt that suggestibility to the written and spoken word or, as he also put it, the “readiness to believe any old tale,” [23] is one of the greatest tragedies of modern humanity. This type of inner slavery, he believed, makes obtaining Objective Reason impossible, and thereby destroys our possibility for a normal existence on Earth. In Beelzebub’s Tales this weakness is presented as a prime reason for the unhappy plight of humanity. Bennett uses these views of Gurdjieff about inner slavery to suggestibility to explain the writing style of Beelzebub’s Tales.

    Bennett asserts that Gurdjieff’s writing style is directly connected with his fundamental concepts of human nature and destiny. If we are to serve the high purpose for which we were created, we must free ourselves from any form of inner slavery. Above all we must work toward attaining a capacity for independent judgment, strive to acquire Objective Reason, and not live according to the ways which are delegated as right and proper by others. And, as Bennett observes, “suggestibility cannot be cured by suggestion.” [24] What he means is that a different kind of writing is needed to counteract our tendency to act as passive receptors and believe whatever we are told. The style of Beelzebub’s Tales makes passive response impossible. Without a determined decision on the part of the reader to make great efforts to understand these writings, without the reader’s constant and conscious participation in the act of reading, little if any sense can be gotten from the Tales.

    Recognizing this aspect of Gurdjieff’s style, Bennett says, is the first secret to understanding his writing. As a defense against suggestibility, Gurdjieff piles obstacle upon obstacle to ensure that progress can only be made by the reader’s unwavering decision to overcome those obstacles. The point is, Bennett says, “When we have organized ideas put in front of us that our minds are able to accept, it is very hard to prevent this mind from being lazy. We say: ‘Now I understand’ and we do not feel the need to do any work.” [25] Gurdjieff’s intention is obviously to have the opposite effect on the reader:

    • quote small leftGurdjieff’s methods are directly opposed to all our comfortable habits. He was concerned to bring people to understand for themselves and with this aim always before him, he never made anything easy or tried to convince anyone of anything. On the contrary, he made the approach to his ideas difficult, both intellectually and emotionally. However hard in itself a theme might be to understand, he would always make it harder by incompleteness of exposition, by introducing inner contradictions and even absurdities, and by breaking off [explanation] as soon as comprehension had begun to dawn…quote small right [26]

    An important part of Gurdjieff’s method of exposition is the use of obstacles to insure the willful participation of the reader as a prerequisite for achieving understanding.


    [20] Notes on “Orage’s Commentary on ‘Beelzebub’” are contained in C. S. Nott’s Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Pupil’s Journal (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1962), pp. 125–215

    [21] Manuel Rainoird, Belzebuth, un coup de maitre (Paris: Monde Nouveau 104, Octobre, 1956).

    [22] Michel Waldberg, Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas

    [23] Bennett, Talks on Beelzebub’s Tales, p. 11

    [24] Ibid., p. 11

    [25] Ibid., p. 8

    [26] Ibid., p. 9

    The Commentaries II

    When confronted with a work like the Tales, Bennett emphasizes, the uncommitted and “suggestible” reader is either forced away or forced to commit himself or herself to great efforts to make any progress in understanding. “The issue before the man who begins reading Beelzebub’s Tales is not ‘Shall I accept or not what is written here?’ but ‘Shall I even read it and in doing so try to understand something?’” [27] A conflict takes place in the reader, but it is not an intellectual conflict of whether to affirm or deny Gurdjieff’s perceptions and points of view. Nor is the struggle one of whether to accept what is written on the basis of faith. Gurdjieff’s writing prevents either of these responses. The casual reader, first confronted by the intimidating length of the work and then prevented from easily understanding it because of the difficult style and idiosyncratic terminology, is in no position to either agree or disagree, accept or reject what is written. The struggle which takes place in the reader of Beelzebub’s Tales is with his or her inner nature: whether to take the easier path of giving way to the law of inertia, justifying the decision on the basis of the length and extreme difficulty of the work, or whether to make the effort of will required by the task of trying to fathom such a writing, even at the risk of gaining little or no understanding in the end for the invested effort.

    If the decision is made to go forward and work through the labyrinth which one writer describes as “a deliberate and rigorous obscurity … of confusing terms and tangential associations in interminable sentences” [28] the reader is still forced to renew commitment repeatedly in the face of constant temptation to abandon the project. Gurdjieff’s insistent style demands constant affirmation from the reader, and each affirmation results in a victory of will over inertia. In this way Gurdjieff creates the possibility for the reader to strengthen will and create being. The ability of the work itself to act creatively on the reader is part of what led Bennett to evaluate Beelzebub’s Tales so highly as a piece of literature:

    • quote small leftIn its complexities and obscurities like an alchemical text, in its humor and robustness like a Rabelaisian chronicle, in its breadth like a monumental work of historical analysis, in its passion like a sermon and in its compassion like something almost sacramental — Beelzebub’s Tales surpasses all ordinary points of view. It belongs to a new kind of thought… It is an expression of Objective Reason.quote small right [29]

    Moving from concerns of style to those of substance, the socialist Orage considers Gurdjieff’s conception of a normal human being. Human beings as we are, said Gurdjieff, can only be thought of as humans “in quotation marks”; at most we possess “a pleasing exterior and dubious interior.” [30] But as Orage points out in his commentary,

    • quote small leftIn Beelzebub’s Tales, one of the implications is the conception of a normal human being. We cannot conceive of a normal human being by taking the average of individuals. This distinction between average and [normal] is very important. A normal man is defined in the book, but this needs to be pondered for a long time to be grasped.quote small right [31]

    Certainly “normal man” for Gurdjieff is the antithesis of “average man,” who is unconscious, imbalanced, and mechanical — qualities which he considers completely abnormal. For Gurdjieff, normalcy is related to harmony. It implies a state of equilibrium brought about by the balance of intellectual, emotional, instinctive, and moving centers — a balance he finds lacking in most human beings.


    [27] Ibid., p. 11

    [28] J. Walter Driscoll, GURDJIEFF: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland Publishers, 1985), p. viii

    [29] Bennett, Talks on Beelzebub’s Tales, p. 4–5

    [30] Gurdjieff, as quoted in C. S. Nott’s Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Pupil’s Journal, p. 168

    [31] Alfred Orage, as quoted in Nott’s Teachings of Gurdjieff, p. 167

    The Commentaries III

    Without the equilibrium which a balance of centers provides, a person cannot be thought of as normal, for that person’s state is equivalent to being under the influence of a drug. Reminding a person of his or her normal condition if that person is under the influence of a strong emotion or is identified with a political ideal, for example, is impossible, as Orage reminds us. Both states are drunken states compared to the existence which is intended for three-centered beings. Even in such states of physical, emotional, or intellectual drunkenness, though, an average person may still have at times an intimation of a different kind of existence, a more coherent and connected way of being for which he or she longs. Gurdjieff calls this intimation of something better a state of “Organic Shame;” it is the condition of lower vibrations aspiring to share the experience of higher vibrations. Orage understands the state of Organic Shame as the beginning of normalcy.

    Normal human beings try to understand the reason for existence so that they might fulfill their obligations in life. It is our objective inheritance, says Orage, that we should know why we are here and know it early enough in life to be able to act on the knowledge and carry out our cosmic function. Plants and animals, in their natural states, fulfill the purposes for which they exist. Only human beings behave unnaturally by living indifferently to their cosmic significance. Referring to Gurdjieff’s Theory of Reciprocal Maintenance, Orage writes,

    • quote small leftMan exists for a purpose not his own. This includes all beings — animals, birds, insects and bacteria. Each species is designed for a certain cosmic use. The norm of man is the discharge of the design for which he was created — like a machine designed to do a bit of work.quote small right [32]

    But we have become abnormal and fail to fulfil our design, and our unnatural living has become such a menace that Nature has to constantly struggle to adapt so that existence on Earth can continue.

    Our present abnormal manner of living has its roots in a system of education which lacks essential understanding of the purpose of human existence. Because of the emphasis given by formal education, says Orage, cognisance of the cosmos has disappeared from the psyche of human beings. Just as we are aware of the flora and fauna of nature and of the civilization in which we exist, “so three-centered beings should be aware of the function of the cosmos — the sun in relation to the planets, the Earth to the moon… A normal three-centered being would understand cosmic phenomena and how he is affected by radiations, emanations and tensions.” [33] Such an understanding of cosmic laws Gurdjieff calls “being-knowledge,” which he believes should be the possession of every normal human being. If systems of education were to emphasize a knowledge of cosmic phenomena, believes Gurdjieff, we would find ourselves developing naturally in the direction of Objective Reason.

    According to Orage, Beelzebub himself is the most significant clue to what Gurdjieff considers a respectable human existence. Although not human, Beelzebub deviates so slightly in appearance from Earth beings that he was able to exist undetected on this planet for hundreds of years. And although of a remotely distant solar system, Beelzebub’s makeup is still that of a three-centered being; he therefore falls under the same laws and possesses the same limitations and possibilities as does every other three-centered being in the Universe. Orage is correct in emphasizing that Beelzebub’s different origin is a technicality, and that we are to take Beelzebub as Gurdjieff’s example of a worthy human being.

    Beelzebub possesses all the basic attributes of normalcy that Orage finds highlighted in Beelzebub’s Tales. He is balanced and is informed about the workings of the Cosmos. He has suffered and has learned to interpret suffering constructively, to recognize it as a cosmic necessity. He lives consciously and works unselfishly to lighten the burdens of HIS UNIQUE BURDEN-BEARING ENDLESSNESS; and through his efforts he strives always to attain a greater degree of Objective Reason. Orage summarizes Beelzebub’s commendable “human” properties as follows:

    • quote small leftBeelzebub represents the ideal normal man… He has the whole of human experience behind him. He has a critique of human nature. He is objective, impartial and unprejudiced. He is indignant, but capable of pity and benevolence. He has made use of his exile to lead a conscious existence, and has spared no effort to actualize his potentialities. He is what we might be. He is what we ought to be. In his talks he presents us with a method by which we may become what we ought to be.quote small right [34]

    If human beings were to follow Beelzebub’s example, the implication is, then existence on Earth might approximate its intended state. “Our planet, the earth,” writes Orage, “is the shame of the solar system. It is the ugly duckling, the misshapen dwarf, the beast of the fairy tales… The idea is that, if men could become normal, this planet might redeem the solar system.” [35]


    [32] Ibid., p. 194

    [33] Ibid., p. 141

    [34] Ibid.

    [35] Ibid., p. 142

    The Commentaries IV

    Returning again to stylistic matters, Manuel Rainoird comments on the narrative point of view of the Tales. Full of admiration for Beelzebub’s Tales and for the “literary mastery” of its author, Rainoird describes his general response to the work:

    • quote small leftI feel the strong necessity, once having read Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson — if I say ‘read’ it is for want of a better word, for the work is much more than that suggests, like an infinitely testing trial, a substance both assimilable and unassimilable by every organ — to pronounce in the midst of my stunned astonishment the words ‘great’ and ‘new’. But as I also run my eye through the library of contemporary fiction, I realize that here there is no possible term of comparison, and that when it comes to ‘great’ and ‘new’ there is no book to approach it — what work of philosophy, science, legend or history? And yet it is our history which is in question, yours and mine, universal and personal.quote small right [36]

    Rainoird continues his excited evaluation:

    • quote small leftWhat do we know of the meaning of our life on Earth? If G. I. Gurdjieff works within a literary form so that this question may some day occur to us, he does so like no one else. All commentaries past, present and future are mere pools compared with this ocean. We are actually dealing here with the disconcerting question: ‘Who are we, where are we going?’, but strongly flavored according to an unfamiliar recipe, and with an accompaniment of cymbals and other sonorous and percussive instruments. In this recipe iced water and itching powder are also included.quote small right [37]

    Rainoird makes interesting observations regarding the point of view from which the Tales are told. The remote distance from the Earth of Beelzebub’s home planet, Rainoird points out, is at the same time coupled with his similarity to Earth beings. Beelzebub is from a planet and solar system which lie at the center of our Universe and yet are unknown to Earth beings. His experiences include exposure to places and beings unthought of by human beings, yet, at the same time, he is quite like a human being. Beelzebub’s physical appearance allows him to pass undetected on this planet for many years, and his three-centered nature is identical to ours. He can therefore be thought of as representing human nature taken toward its evolutionary conclusion. Yet, concurrently, Beelzebub views human nature from a remotely distant perspective:

    • quote small leftThis vision from a very great distance … this overview on the scale of our Great Universe engulfs any reader and bathes him in an extraordinarily clear light, so that far from blurring the details … it has the effect of revealing them all the more.quote small right

    And this distance has a two-fold effect, Rainoird postulates:

    • quote small leftThe greater the height to which Beelzebub goes, the more the confusion of our usual jumble of ideas is dispelled. What emerges is the opposite — we see in high relief what was previously screened and misunderstood. The high has illuminated the low. Infinite spaces have ceased to frighten us… [Instead,] they become living transmitting matter … of which Beelzebub is a more and more conscious emanation, through his merits and efforts.quote small right [38]

    [36] Manuel Rainoird, as quoted by Michel Waldberg in Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas, p. 26.

    [37] Ibid., p. 27

    [38] Ibid., p. 28

    The Commentaries V

    We can accept Beelzebub as “a kind of standard or model” [39] because his makeup is so similar to ours; his identical three-fold nature gives him our same possibilities and limitations, thereby allowing us to take seriously his judgment and to listen attentively to his advice. Beelzebub gains our sympathy because his “sins” parallel ours; they had to do with his once having forgotten his place and function in the Universe. He has suffered, therefore, as we suffer, the unfortunate consequences of having forgotten who and what we are. Beelzebub, though, is distant from human beings in that he has far exceeded us in the process of retribution. While we remain ignorant of having even forgotten our place and function in the Universe, he has already more than rectified the wrong he did many centuries ago. He is therefore distant in an evolutionary as well as a cosmic sense. This twofold distance, combined with his likeness, is what makes Beelzebub as narrator so illuminating according to Rainoird. Beelzebub’s point of view is based on first-hand experience, yet expressed through an evolutionary and spatial distance so that, although what we recognize in his narrative is ourselves, we come to view ourselves as something familiar yet alien, understandable yet strange, observing ourselves from close up and from afar in one and the same glance. The overall effect of such narration, as Rainoird concludes, is a disconcerting illumination about ourselves as a species. Our manner of existence comes to be seen as one possible way of being among others. The benefit is that we are forced to rethink ourselves as three-centered beings, recognizing Beelzebub as an example of our evolutionary potentiality.

    Similar comments on the disorienting effect of Beelzebub as narrator are made by Charles Duits in the excerpts from his unpublished manuscript contained in Waldberg’s book on Gurdjieff. Duits points out that Beelzebub’s long discourses about the planet Earth are all addressed to his grandson, a child for whom everything about the Earth is alien. Beelzebub is forced, therefore, to translate ordinary Earth terms into Hassein’s native language and to simplify his talk to a level understandable by one whose reason is in the early stages of development. This process of translating ordinary Earth terms into the language of Karatas accounts in part for the elaborate terminology of Beelzebub’s Tales, claims Duits, and contributes greatly to the disconcerting effect of the narrative. (“Telescope” for instance in Karatian is “teskooano,” “water” is “saliakooriapa,” “death” is “rascooarno,” etc.) Duits is correct that the distancing effect of the vocabulary is not the sole purpose behind Gurdjieff’s involved terminology; but whatever Gurdjieff’s objective, his use of “foreign” vocabulary contributes much toward forcing the reader to view every day life from a fresh perspective. As Duits writes,

    • quote small left[When] the reader quickly reaches the point of considering the earth words from the viewpoint of the inhabitants of Karatas… [that reader] has begun to consider mankind from the outside, and from much further outside than when he slipped into the skin of Montequieu’s Persians or Voltaire’s Ingenu. It is our whole language, and hence our whole world which loses its familiarity, and no longer just various manners, customs, laws and conventions. Like Montesquieu, and like Voltaire, Gurdjieff interposes a distance between the reader and mankind. But here the process is radicalized to the utmost. It is not our society which is made foreign, but the whole earth, its history and geography, the most common and ordinary things.quote small right [40]

    Through his use of language Gurdjieff “exotocizes” us so that our lives and everyday activities display their underlying structure. “Life could be different,” Gurdjieff manages to say. “Things are not just ‘as they are.’” [41]

    Waldberg, too, is interested in Gurdjieff’s disarming language and antagonistic style. In addition to his strong endorsement of Duits’ insights about Gurdjieff’s work, Waldberg’s analysis of Gurdjieff’s writing style emphasizes the connection of bewilderment to the phenomenon of awakening, “One of the unique virtues of Gurdjieff’s books,” says Waldberg, “is that they establish a distance between the real and all that is banal and ordinary, and show us that the banal and ordinary are actually deeply foreign to us.” [42] Under the effect of Gurdjieff’s prose, the reader cannot help but be bewildered.

    Yet “to bewilder, baffle and disorientate are the paramount actions of the master,” [43] Waldberg reminds us, for disorientation is the beginning of awakening. Waldberg quotes Gurdjieff in conversation with Ouspensky: “Awakening begins,” said Gurdjieff, “when a man realizes that he is going nowhere and does not know where to go.” [44] When we find ourselves in a state of bewilderment or disorientation, we tend to be more open to new ideas and possibilities. At such opportune moments some kind of action or intervention on the part of the master is needed so that we are not lulled back to sleep by everyday life. “How does the master go about creating a state of bewilderment in his student and then prolonging that bewilderment until illumination occurs?”, Waldberg asks. The answer in the case of Beelzebub’s Tales is “by means of paradoxes, contradictions, repetitions, exclamations, apparently indolent answers or even refusals to reply, and with many other unexpected means” [45] — all of which are used by Gurdjieff for the purpose of disabusing and then enlightening the readers about themselves and their existence.


    [39] Ibid., p. 29

    [40] Ibid., pp. 22–23

    [41] Ibid., p. 23

    [42] Michel Waldberg, Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas, p. 9

    [43] Ibid.

    [44] Ibid., p. 10

    [45] Ibid., p. 11

    Reflections

    In the above summaries of the main commentaries on Beelzebub’s Tales, we considered Bennett’s and Waldberg’s rationales for Gurdjieff’s ‘antagonistic’ style; Rainoird’s observations on the relevance of Beelzebub’s remote distance from Earth (coupled with his similarity as a three-brained being); Duits’ remarks regarding Hassein’s level of reason; and Orage’s allusions to the theme of ‘normal human being’ as embodied in the Tales. These men offered us a tremendous service by helping to break ground for our understanding of Beelzebub’s Tales and to suggest fruitful avenues we might explore. As valuable and acute as their insights are, however, they only begin to unlock the riddles and unearth the riches of this profound and utterly unique book that transcends literature and philosophy. The task of continuing our exploration of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson requires a major individual and collaborative effort on the part of dedicated readers, particularly those who are well-seasoned in Gurdjieff’s teaching.

    We have yet to probe the complex literary and religious issue of Beelzebub (Iblis in Sufism; Arch-traitor in exoteric Christianity) as Gurdjieff’s choice of narrator. The significant question of Gurdjieff’s choice of narrative point of view has remained essentially unexplored. So many facets of this enigmatic work invite an extensive examination; Gurdjieff’s use of symbolic and figurative language; the significance of setting in the Tales; his style as a merging of Eastern and Western conceptions of art; the relevance of Hassein as receptor of Beelzebub’s teaching. And these are only a few of the major unexamined issues in these Tales.

    How are we to comprehend the grave existential significance of his metaphor of the river of humanity which divides into two streams: that which flows back toward its source, emptying into the vast ocean; and that which gradually filters down through the rocks at the bottom of the stream, seeping into the underground? The first stream, as we know, represents the way of evolution; its individual drops of water, upon entering the ocean, retain the potential for evolving into higher forms or concentrations. Those drops which make up the second stream bear no individual significance, but collectively serve nature by means of an involutionary process. We are aware, as Gurdjieff has warned us, that a crossing over from the involutionary to the evolutionary stream demands of us a “constant unquenchable impulse of desire for this crossing.” It is in Beelzebub’s Tales that Gurdjieff has passed on to us the methods for escape and survival. Now unable to transfer to his followers his own “hanbledzoin” (personal magnetism created by being-efforts), Gurdjieff has left us with the character of Beelzebub to inspire us and to provide us with an exemplary lifestyle for a three-centered being. It is to Beelzebub we must look for guidance in our efforts to enter the evolutionary stream.

    None of us, I expect, has been as fortunate in our upbringing as Hassein, who at the age of twelve, and with Beelzebub as his grandfather and personal mentor, is already deeply initiated into the workings of the fundamental laws of world-creation and world-maintenance, and is in the process of developing his being-mentation. No doubt, Hassein will reach adulthood having acquired his own “I” and with conscious labors and intentional suffering, will enter the first stream, evolving towards the acquisition of Objective Reason. Most of us, in character with Ahoon, are products of faulty educational systems which never taught us the meaning or significance of making conscious efforts or of undergoing voluntary suffering. As a result, we have stumbled through life under the law of accident, only occasionally, if ever, sensing the actual terror of our situation. But also like Ahoon, we may have lived for years in close proximity to the character of Beelzebub without having realized his full significance or the possible role he can play in our survival.

    Only at the conclusion of Beelzebub’s Tales, when Beelzebub receives the sacred and inevitable results of his supreme efforts towards maintaining cosmic harmony and his own self-perfection, does Ahoon feel in his master’s presence remorse of conscience for his own level of being. As Ahoon apologizes to Beelzebub for having allowed so many years of lost opportunity to elapse, Beelzebub looks upon Ahoon with “love mingled with grief and resignation to the inevitable.” The “inevitable” is that Ahoon alone can transform his remorse and chagrin into an unflagging desire to avoid filtering through the bottom of the stream of involution into nothingness. Like a buffoon, he has so frequently imitated the external gestures and mannerisms of Beelzebub and has failed to do the necessary work to develop his being as Beelzebub has developed his. Beelzebub’s grief and resignation to the inevitable result from his understanding that he is powerless to make any efforts for Ahoon. Beelzebub can only indicate the way for others by means of his own worthy example.

    Let us not repeat Ahoon’s mistake — that is to say, let us not, like buffoons, imitate the external gestures of Beelzebub or Gurdjieff while failing to do the inner (and outer) work needed to develop our own being. The greatest tribute we can pay Gurdjieff is the effort to repay our debt to him for this book and his teaching, by engaging in our own life-long struggle to understand, share and apply his rich traditional and contemporary legacy and to not treat Beelzebub’s Tales like Holy Writ — final and fixed words, beyond the approach of sincere and sustained study.

    Outlandishly Long and Complex Sentences

    gurdjieff 2d

    All and Everything: Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson
    Commentary by Terry Winter Owens and Suzanne D. Smith (LINK)
    (Click tab above right for Full Article.) 


    In many ways, Gurdjieff seems to be trying to discourage people from reading All and Everything. In the introduction, which he calls “Arousing of Thought,” not only thought, but many feelings are aroused — some unpleasant ones toward Gurdjieff himself. Gurdjieff helps to invoke these by such statements as,

    • quote small left…cheerful and swaggering candidate for a buyer of my writing… before embarking in the reading… reflect seriously and then undertake it… you might lose your… appetite for you favorite dish and for your… neighbor, the brunette.quote small right

    Apparently Gurdjieff does this to keep the reader from being lulled or feeling complacent. He wants to agitate and unsettle us — shake us loose from our ordinary way of thinking and of receiving new impressions.

    One of the aspects of the book that is quite decidedly “arousing” is the very manner in which it is presented. Sometimes there is digression upon digression, so that Gurdjieff appears rambling and disconnected. But actually each seeming digression adds a new dimension to that which is being discussed. Another problem is that people are so used to what Gurdjieff calls “bon ton literary language” — exciting images and lulling reveries requiring little effort on the reader’s part. Gurdjieff writes quite otherwise on purpose; he constructs sentences which are, at times, outlandishly long and complex — sometimes a quarter of a page in length.

    Gurdjieff seems hell bent on disturbing our equilibrium, for there is hardly a “quiet” moment in the book that is not disturbed by one of Gurdjieff’s classic “Otherwises.” This, as he explains in the introduction, is based on an injunction from his grandmother which states,

    • quote small leftIn life never do as others do… Either do nothing — just go to school — or do something nobody else does.quote small right

    It is sometimes hard to determine when Gurdjieff is being humorous and when serious. He will often discuss a most weighty problem in a tone which is light, sometimes facetious, often with tongue-in-cheek. A prime example of this is his discussion of our responsibilities towards, as he puts it, “Mister God.” In reverse, in the chapter “America,” Gurdjieff discusses many topics with mock seriousness — the American “dollar-business,” drinking and prohibition, the Chatterlitz school of languages, a strange fellow from Chicago called Mr. Bellybutton and on and on. This chapter is really spiced with pungent wit!

    One of the best elements of Gurdjieff’s humor is his timing. He doesn’t allow the reader to get heavy and ponderous, because he sprinkles his humor strategically throughout. Often when considering a most serious question, he interrupts with a quote from the legendary Arab philosopher, Mullah Nassr Eddin.

    Also contributing to the fact that the course of the reading is not, to quote Mullah Nassr Eddin, “Roses, roses,” is the liberal usage of the Karatasian language — the strange words that belong to Beelzebub’s vocabulary. These words are often an unusual assemblage of syllables with three of four consecutive vowels. Some of the roots are traceable such as Triamazikamno (tri=three) coming from ‘tri’ for three and Egoplastikoori and Legominism (ego=I), coming from ‘ego’ for I; but always connected with them are syllables not so easily traceable. It is not that Gurdjieff leaves the reader hanging, for he often goes to great length to define and illustrate these words. But an examination of their construction can no doubt shed even further light on them, and Gurdjieff offers quite an adventure in word exploration for those so inclined. There is the word zion in the names of two “searchers after truth” — King Konuzion and Makary Kronbernkzion. Then there are words which seem to come directly from various eastern languages, like the name of the space ship Karnak that Beelzebub and his company are traveling in, which means “dead body” in Armenian.

    All and Everything
    Commentary by Terry Winter Owens and Suzanne D. Smith (LINK)

    This book is without doubt one of the most extraordinary books ever published. Its title is no exaggeration, for the book not only touches on all and every conceivable subject, but it also is all and everything — that is, a collection of science fiction tales, an allegory, a satire, a philosophical treatise, a sociological essay, an introduction to psychology, a cryptogram and, for those who follow Gurdjieff’s teachings, a bible. It is a highly unusual mixture of entertainment and esotericism, humor and seriousness, obscurity and clarity.

    gurdjieff 2dGEORGE IVANOVITCH GURDJIEFF ranks among the most controversial men of the 20th century, and he may well be one of the most important. He was born in 1877 of Greek ancestry in Russian Armenia and died in Paris in 1949. As a young man he devoted his energies to searching for the fundamental truths of life. He traveled extensively throughout the East, sometimes gaining entrance to esoteric schools that few, if any, Westerners had ever been admitted to. He became convinced that there was a way for man to become much more than what he is. He then set about putting what he had learned into a form that would be understandable and meaningful to the Western world. He developed a method whereby a man could evolve through his own efforts. The basis of the method seems simple enough—to observe oneself objectively, impartially and at each moment. But the execution of it is extremely difficult, which led to it being called “the Work.” Through efforts “to work on oneself” and increase one’s self-awareness or consciousness, Gurdjieff maintains that a man can develop new faculties which, because they are based on objectivity and impartiality, enable man to function harmoniously. Gurdjieff believes, unlike many religious philosophers, that man has to develop a soul—he is not born with it—and these new faculties contribute to the development of the soul. He presented his ideas in three forms—lectures and writing, music, and sacred dances and movements to correspond to the three main areas of man—his intellect, his emotions, and his physical body. What was possibly most important and unique about Gurdjieff was that he was a living example of what his method could produce. Even people who didn’t like him had to admit that here was a man in control of himself, a man who operated from the inside out rather than being in the power of external influences like most men.

    It is fortunate that he put his ideas in writing, because throughout history we can see what has happened when wise men have entrusted the dissemination of their teachings solely to their disciples. Distortions, disagreements and even reversals are inevitably the final result. This is not to say that many of the books written about the ideas and method of Gurdjieff are not quite good. Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous, Kenneth Walker’s A Study of Gurdjieff’s Teachings, and C. Daly King’s The States of Human Consciousness are excellent introductions to Gurdjieff and his ideas. But these are secondhand and consequently not as complete or as accurate as something coming directly from Gurdjieff himself.

    Because the book is so unique, the reading of it does present certain challenges. Gurdjieff suggests that All and Everything be read three times, and not until the third reading should the reader try to fathom the gist of it. However, this does not mean that a tremendous amount cannot be gleaned from the first reading. A good guide to understanding the book is the section “From the Author” at the very end. Here Gurdjieff steps out of his role as storyteller and talks to the reader directly.

    Another guide is to keep in mind Gurdjieff’s purpose in writing All and Everything, which he states in no uncertain terms: to destroy mercilessly all man’s beliefs and views about everything existing in the world. To reinforce this aim, Gurdjieff selects a most diabolical name for his hero—the name of the devil himself—Beelzebub. However, All and Everything is not like so many philosophy books that brilliantly show man what a farce he is and then leave it at that. Its exposé of man is not an end in itself, but rather a beginning. Gurdjieff sets out to destroy only in order to create. He believes that before man can proceed to uncover and develop his hidden possibilities, he must first question the condition in which he is, must feel dissatisfaction, must have an inkling that there is more to life than what the senses perceive.

    Two other important points to keep in mind are the sub-title, “An Objectively Impartial Criticism of Man,” which implies this is no ordinary criticism, and Gurdjieff’s statement that the book is written “according to entirely new principles of logical reasoning.” It is impossible to explore here all the ramifications of these two points, but they mean that Gurdjieff does not propose palliative measures of reform nor does he present his arguments in a traditional way. He makes it clear that mankind cannot be “worked on” from the outside; that is, things like war or disease cannot be eliminated even through the best forms of legislation or science or artistic endeavors. The only possible solution is that enough men embark on a road leading to higher states of consciousness.

    Probably the biggest challenge in reading the book lies in its richness of content. What is said can be taken on so many different levels, and it is often hard to know how to go about deciphering it. In general, it could be said that Gurdjieff is working on the hypothesis “as above, so below.” Thus, when he talks about the universe and the sun and the moon, he is also talking about man and what he is composed of.

    SINCE GURDJIEFF HAS CHOSEN to present his ideas in part in the form of allegory, one can read those parts of this book simply as fascinating science-fiction. The story opens aboard the space ship Karnak. Beelzebub is traveling to a conference where his sage advice is needed on matters of cosmic significance. He is accompanied by his grandson, Hassein, and his old and faithful servant Ahoon. As they travel, Beelzebub regales Hassein with tales about the Earth, about events in the universe, and about cosmological and psychological law. Beelzebub tells Hassein how he happened to become interested in the planet Earth. During his youth, he intervened in affairs that were of no concern to him and as punishment was banished to Mars, in a “remote corner of the Universe” (our solar system). There he builds a telescope in order to study the goings-on on Earth and to observe the strange customs of its inhabitants. He finds man’s inclination to “destroy the existence of others” particularly strange and repugnant. The significance of Mars is perhaps in its distance—that is, one cannot become as easily prejudiced if one has perspective.

    Beelzebub then relates an engrossing story about the early life of Earth, which is filled with psychological implications. Due to cosmological disturbances, two fragments broke off from the Earth early in its creation—one was the moon, the other what Gurdjieff calls Anulios which Earthmen do not know exists. In order to maintain the balance of the universe, it was necessary to ensure that these two satellites remain orbiting around the Earth, and Earthmen were required to give off a certain substance that would facilitate that end. Fearing that if the Earthmen found out what their function was, they might find no reason for continuing to live, the higher powers implanted an organ in them called Kundabuffer which prevented them from perceiving their true condition. Later the organ was removed, but unfortunately its consequences remained and they remain to this day. The Kundabuffer was only intended to prevent man from seeing reality, but it also caused the additional qualities of self-love, vanity, swagger, pride, etc. These qualities are psychological and emotional props which put a cloud over the true nature of man. Hence, man needs a vantage point beyond the cloud, as if from Mars, to see this real nature and to discover there the purpose of his life. Gurdjieff presents this purpose not only as an aim, but as a duty—a duty quite separate from the usual ethical and moral obligations.

    Beelzebub also tells of his personal visits to Earth where he learns more about the nature of man after gaining preliminary knowledge through his telescope. These trips may be construed as a more advanced step in the method of working on oneself—perhaps implying that once having acquired the ability to see oneself objectively as if from the outside, one can then make closer observations and still retain one’s state of impartiality. These descents to Earth are narrated to his grandson for educational purposes, but they are always entertaining stories. In all, Beelzebub makes six trips to Earth, each possibly representing a specific portion of the body or psyche deserving study.

    Beelzebub is not alone in his quest after development, and he tells his grandson of other people—some extra-terrestrials, some Earthmen and some of divine origin—also in pursuit of objective truth. The first of them is Gornahoor Harharkh, whom we first meet in the chapter “The Arch-preposterous.” He is an “essence-friend” of Beelzebub’s living on Saturn. His prime interest is in electricity called Okidanokh which participates in the formation of all new arisings. Gornahoor Harharkh invents a machine which demonstrates and makes available for his use the properties of Okidanokh. The purpose of his experiments is to develop his Reason—an attribute which, according to Gurdjieff, man does not have by nature but must acquire through effort. The machine is described in great detail, and the experiment might correspond to an exercise or practice connected with “the Work.”

    Perhaps the most outstanding character in the book (outside of Beelzebub) is Ashiata Shiemash. We learn about him in a series of four chapters which are some of the most emotionally stimulating in the book. Ashiata Shiemash was sent to Earth as a messenger from above, a messiah figure of enormous nobility and beauty. His writings are unusually moving and have a scriptural tone and quality. An example are his three verses on what he calls the sacred being-impulses of Faith, Love and Hope:

    Faith of consciousness is freedom
    Faith of feeling is weakness
    Faith of body is stupidity.

    gurdjieff 3dLove of consciousness evokes the same in response
    Love of feeling evokes the opposite
    Love of body depends only on type and polarity.

    Hope of consciousness is strength
    Hope of feeling is slavery
    Hope of body is disease.

    Ashiata Shiemash establishes the Being-Obligolnian Strivings, five rules of objective morality which lead to genuine conscience. These five rules are:

    1. to have everything satisfying and really necessary for one’s body,
    2. to have a constant and unflagging instinctive need for self-perfection in the sense of being,
    3. the conscious striving to know ever more and more concerning the laws of World-creation and World-maintenance,
    4. to strive from the beginning of one’s existence to pay for one’s arising and individuality as quickly as possible, in order afterwards to be free to lighten as much as possible the Sorrow of our Common Father,
    5. the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of self-individuality.

    Gurdjieff points out that one of the psychological traits of contemporary man which impedes the formation of a conscience is the “disease of tomorrow” — i.e., putting off until later or tomorrow what should be done now.

    WOVEN INTO BEELZEBUB’S STORIES are pieces of information that seem quite straightforward. For instance, Beelzebub explains to his grandson that man is composed of three brains or centers. They are the instinctive or moving center, the emotional or feeling center, and the intellectual or thinking center. Perhaps Beelzebub and his party can be seen as a demonstration of the three centers functioning together as a unit, each having a definite role to fulfill. Beelzebub himself would correspond to the thinking center. He has all the information, is the maker of plans and decisions, and is the leader of the group. Ahoon, the servant, represents the physical center. He is described as faithful. He is always there, ready to serve and does not intrude with his own personal desires—perhaps a more ideal condition for the body to be in than is generally the case with man. Hassein represents the emotional center. He is young, not fully developed, is in the process of being educated, has willingness and eagerness to grow up, and is often intensely moved by what Beelzebub tells him. In this analogy it can be seen how Gurdjieff’s method, which has been called the Fourth Way, differs from the three ways of the monk, the yogi and the fakir. They each try to develop primarily through the means of one center: the fakir through chastisement of the body, the yogi through mental discipline, and the monk through prayer and belief, which are chiefly emotional. For Gurdjieff’s work, all three centers must be utilized so that man can develop harmoniously, not lopsidedly.

    The knowledge of this concept of three centers is prerequisite to Gurdjieff’s treatment of the Law of Three. It is quite an unusual concept and rarely, if ever, appears in contemporary scientific knowledge. Yet Gurdjieff maintains that it is the underlying principle in all phenomena and also plays a very significant role in man’s possible development. The Law of Three states that there are three rather than two forces always in operation. We generally, of course, know of only positive and negative. To this, Gurdjieff adds the neutralizing force.

    Beelzebub tells how each of man’s three centers can play a part in his development through the use of consciously ingested and digested substances. Unfortunately, man in his present condition does not take in these substances and therefore does not fulfill his potentialities. The chapter “Hypnotism” goes into it, telling what these substances are, how they are to be ingested and digested, and what the results of this can be.

    Towards the end of the book, in the chapter “Form and Sequence,” Gurdjieff draws a distinction between knowing and understanding. Understanding can only result through the conscious verification of knowledge. So, although the book presents knowledge, and perhaps knowledge of a very high order, it is not in itself useful unless one puts it to the test—digests it and converts it into understanding.

    all and everythingINTERSPERSED WITH HIS STORIES, Beelzebub discusses various theoretical and philosophical subjects. At one point in their travels through space, Beelzebub’s party learns of the impending appearance of a comet which could, if they cross its path, poison the ship’s passengers. Beelzebub decides that the Karnak should wait in outer space until the comet has gone by. He makes use of this time to explain to Hassein the dynamics of space ships, much as the contemporary father explains the workings of an automobile to his young son, and also in keeping with the best tradition in science-fiction. But here, in allegory perhaps, are principles dealing with the methodology of “work on oneself.” Included in his explanations is the idea of perpetual motion which Beelzebub puts forth in such a plausible way that one is hard put to find any theoretical flaw in it. Perhaps there are indications here of what kind of fuel could be used to keep oneself in perpetual effort to develop.

    Another exciting principle which Gurdjieff brings forth is the Law of Seven, to which he devotes a whole chapter. If one can in any way sum up the intricate logic of this law, it is that all events proceed in seven steps or “deflections,” each step having specific attributes and properties which determine the progress of every activity. Gurdjieff links this law and its progressions rather intimately with the stages of a man’s development.

    The Law of Seven has at least several illustrations in contemporary knowledge—obviously in the music octave, but more profoundly in the periodic table of elements in chemistry. When the elements are lined up in tabular form, each series headed by an inert element, it can be seen that certain of their characteristics repeat in patterns of seven. It is interesting to note here that the electrons of inert elements have closed orbits; they cannot combine with the other elements of this world easily. Thus, we see that Gurdjieff’s theories are not solely a product of his rich imagination, and it is fascinating to see how he finds psychological applications in them.

    IN MANY WAYS, Gurdjieff seems to be trying to discourage people from reading All and Everything. In the introduction, which he calls “Arousing of Thought,” not only thought, but many feelings are aroused—some unpleasant ones toward Gurdjieff himself. Gurdjieff helps to invoke these by such statements as, “cheerful and swaggering candidate for a buyer of my writing…before embarking in the reading…reflect seriously and then undertake it…you might lose your…appetite for you favorite dish and for your…neighbor, the brunette.” Apparently Gurdjieff does this to keep the reader from being lulled or feeling complacent. He wants to agitate and unsettle us—shake us loose from our ordinary way of thinking and of receiving new impressions.

    One of the aspects of the book that is quite decidedly “arousing” is the very manner in which it is presented. Sometimes there is digression upon digression, so that Gurdjieff appears rambling and disconnected. But actually each seeming digression adds a new dimension to that which is being discussed. Another problem is that people are so used to what Gurdjieff calls “bon ton literary language”—exciting images and lulling reveries requiring little effort on the reader’s part. Gurdjieff writes quite otherwise on purpose; he constructs sentences which are, at times, outlandishly long and complex—sometimes a quarter of a page in length.

    Gurdjieff seems hell bent on disturbing our equilibrium, for there is hardly a “quiet” moment in the book that is not disturbed by one of Gurdjieff’s classic “Otherwises.” This, as he explains in the introduction, is based on an injunction from his grandmother which states, “In life never do as others do…Either do nothing—just go to school—or do something nobody else does.”

    It is sometimes hard to determine when Gurdjieff is being humorous and when serious. He will often discuss a most weighty problem in a tone which is light, sometimes facetious, often with tongue-in-cheek. A prime example of this is his discussion of our responsibilities towards, as he puts it, “Mister God.” In reverse, in the chapter “America,” Gurdjieff discusses many topics with mock seriousness—the American “dollar-business,” drinking and prohibition, the Chatterlitz school of languages, a strange fellow from Chicago called Mr. Bellybutton and on and on. This chapter is really spiced with pungent wit!

    One of the best elements of Gurdjieff’s humor is his timing. He doesn’t allow the reader to get heavy and ponderous, because he sprinkles his humor strategically throughout. Often when considering a most serious question, he interrupts with a quote from the legendary Arab philosopher, Mullah Nassr Eddin.

    Also contributing to the fact that the course of the reading is not, to quote Mullah Nassr Eddin, “Roses, roses,” is the liberal usage of the Karatasian language—the strange words that belong to Beelzebub’s vocabulary. These words are often an unusual assemblage of syllables with three of four consecutive vowels. Some of the roots are traceable such as Triamazikamno (tri=three) coming from ‘tri’ for three and Egoplastikoori and Legominism (ego=I), coming from ‘ego’ for I; but always connected with them are syllables not so easily traceable. It is not that Gurdjieff leaves the reader hanging, for he often goes to great length to define and illustrate these words. But an examination of their construction can no doubt shed even further light on them, and Gurdjieff offers quite an adventure in word exploration for those so inclined. There is the word zion in the names of two “searchers after truth”—King Konuzion and Makary Kronbernkzion. Then there are words which seem to come directly from various eastern languages, like the name of the space ship Karnak that Beelzebub and his company are traveling in, which means “dead body” in Armenian.

    DESPITE ALL THE inherent difficulties which Gurdjieff has implanted in this book, the rewards are there. But and in keeping with Gurdjieff’s philosophy, the rewards are commensurate with the reader’s struggle to find them. The book is certainly well worth the struggle.

    In the last chapter, Beelzebub, in an exultant experience, is graduated to a state of higher Reason, which he has earned through his efforts to develop. The ritual connected with this has the solemnity of a religious ceremony and is deeply moving and inspiring. So, “An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man” ends with a triumphal sense of hope, of salvation, of redemption. But not before Hassein is invited to ask one final question of his grandfather. Hassein asks what hope there is for the salvation of people on Earth, and most aptly the story ends with the reply:

    • quote small leftThe sole means now for the saving of the beings of the planet Earth would be to implant again into their presences a new organ, an organ like Kundabuffer, but this time of such properties that every one of these unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as of the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests.
    • Only such a sensation and such a cognizance can now destroy the egoism completely crystallized in them that has swallowed up the whole of their Essence and also that tendency to hate others which flows from it—the tendency, namely, which engenders all those mutual relationships existing there, which serve as the chief cause of all their abnormalities unbecoming to three-brained beings and maleficent for them themselves and for the whole of the Universe.quote small right
    ~ • ~

    [Revised by J. Walter Driscoll and Greg Loy with permission of the authors.]

    Errors or Intentional Inexactitudes

    “…in this book there are a number
       of observations which indicate
       a superterrestrial source.”

    Commentary by Denis Saurat (LINK)

    I have again read with the greatest interest naturally this astonishing book by G. Gurdjieff. I believe that the most important thing, objectively, is that in this book there are a number of observations which indicate a superterrestrial source:

    • The point of view about devils.
    • The affirmation that there are, at present, four centres of initiates on the earth, and the situation of these centres.
    • The forbidding to impart true information directly to ordinary minds.
    • The difference between mental knowledge, which is an obstacle to real understanding; and
      the knowledge of “being” — the only real knowledge.
      This, perhaps, is the most important point.
    • The fact that it is Buddhism (in its distorted forms) that has produced occultism, theosophy, psychoanalysis and so on.
    • The fact that only revelation can teach us something.
    • The suffering of God.
    • We are thus in the presence of one who, in a certain measure, speaks with authority.

    In the second place, very many of the ideas, though common-sensical, are based on intuitions well above the normal:

    • Every criticism of modern life and of human history is perfectly just, and this is perhaps one of the most important things in the book, since it is absolutely necessary to understand that all our ideas have been falsified — before we have been able to correct at least some of them.
    • The Greeks and the Romans have been responsible for putting in train fundamental errors — and then the Germans.
    • God forgives all.
    • The importance of the lawful inexactitudes in the transmission of real teaching in Art.
    • The criticisms of the doctrine of reincarnation.

    In the third place it is necessary to state that a great part of the book is not clear, and one has the right to suspect that G.G. has done this intentionally. Leaving his sense of humour on one side one can follow his idea that it is forbidden to teach directly, and that one can tell lies if these lies are useful to humanity; this shows that he has probably put errors or intentional inexactitudes in his book so as to compel his followers to exercise their own judgment and thus themselves develop and reach a higher level, to which — according to the theories of G.G., these followers would not arrive at if he, G.G., taught them the truth directly. In the latter case they would be in the category which is called “mental knowledge”, whereas G.G. wishes them to reach the category of “knowledge of being”, and the first hinders the second.

    It is on this that each reader must take his own stand. I am quite ready to tell you mine. I place among the myths which are to be rejected, completed or explained:

    • The person of Beelzebub, who is evidently a transformation of G.G. himself — leaving on one side the question of who is G.G.
    • All the story of the central sun, of the planets, of the earth and the moon; and of eternal retribution for a small number of beings, which contradicts the idea of a universal pardon.
    • The idea of Christ as only one of the messengers; in this case it is necessary to identify the Logos, which is perfectly indicated in the chapter on purgatory.

    In conclusion, it seems to me that the teachings of G.G. should be able to play a very important role in our time if they are explained by minds first of all endowed with a certain preliminary knowledge and a developed critical sense.

    I think further that it is a compliment to G.G. to believe that this is exactly what he intended himself. You know as well as I, and even better, that he had a critical sense and a sense of humour extremely well developed; and further, a very poor opinion of the intellectual capacity of people to whom he spoke in general. I shall be very happy to know what you think of these points of view, and I shake you very cordially by the hand.

    Once, in our talks I said, ‘But so few people know about Beelzebub’s Tales. What‘s going to happen to it, supposing it does get published?’ Saurat said,

    Nothing much may happen in our time. We are in too much of a hurry. We have no sense of real time in the West. Perhaps in fifty, or a hundred years a group of key men will read it. They will say, ‘This is what we’ve been looking for’, and on an understanding of it, may start a movement which could raise the level of civilization.

    Gurdjieff is a Lohan.* In China there is the cave of a hundred Lohans, presumably all that have appeared in China in over four thousand years. A Lohan is a man who has gone to schools and by incredible exertions and study has perfected himself. He then comes back into ordinary life, sits in cafes, drinks, has women, and lives the life of a man, but more intensely. It was accepted that the rules of ordinary man did not apply to him. He teaches, and people come to him to learn objective truths. In the East a Lohan was understood. The West does not understand. A teacher in the West must appear to behave like an English gentleman.


    * In Chinese mythology, the Lohan are enlightened Theravada Buddhist sages. Traditionally there are five hundred of them, following the number that were believed to have gathered at the First Council in India following Shakyamuni Buddha’s death (approx. 483 BC). Wall paintings and bas-reliefs of these are often found in Chinese Buddhist caves. Saurat’s comment about “comes back into ordinary life…” seems to refer also to the Mahayana Buddhist ideal of the Bodhisattva, who after his (or her) awakening becomes devoted to helping other people become awakened. For example, the last stage of the Ten Oxherding Pictures of Chan/Zen is called “Return to the marketplace with open hands,” and depicts such a person.

    Beelzebub’s Tales – Fifty Years Later
    Commentary by Denis Saurat (LINK)

    [An excerpt from C. S. Nott’s Journey Through This World: the second journal of a pupil (subsequently titled Further Teachings of Gurdjieff). Nott recounts how he started a modestly successful publishing business and reproduces Denis Saurat’s comments about Beelzebub’s Tales.]


    G13

    I published Denis Saurat’s Three Conventions, which brought about a close friendship. He had met Gurdjieff at the Prieuré at Orage’s suggestion and had been profoundly impressed. Saurat, a son of peasants, had a deep understanding of the rich current of life that, flowing under the glittering exterior, has almost nothing in common with this exterior—I mean the life of simple people, peasants and the middle classes who themselves are almost unconscious of it. He wrote about it in Gods of the People, The End of Fear, The Christ at Chartres; also, he had traced the influence of the occult tradition in English literature from Spenser to Milton and Blake. Rebecca West said that he was the wisest man she knew.

    He had written for The New Age and Revue des Deux Mondes. At the time I met him he was professor of French Literature in Kings College and was head of the French Institute in London. I spoke to him about Gurdjieff’s book, Beelzebub’s Tales, and later lent him my typescript copy. He wrote:

    • Thank you for allowing me to see it. It is, in my opinion, a great book and it is a thousand pities that it cannot be published. There is a very great amount of wisdom and knowledge in it and, as I became more familiar with it I realized that practically every page is full of sense and information. Beyond some excusable mannerisms and the peculiarities which give charm to every author, I see nothing in the book that could be objected to. But no doubt its allegorical or philosophical meaning which is easy enough to someone who has studied the traditions, would be completely beyond the public. I am glad to say that I found no difficulties in the book. It is a work of art of the first magnitude in its own peculiar way.
    •      Please remember that if an opportunity should arise of meeting Gurdjieff again I would be delighted to do so. If you can convey to him my appreciation of his book — and you will note I make no restrictions — you will give me pleasure.
    •      If only it were possible, which I do not think it is, it would give me the greatest pleasure to give a regular course of lectures to explain the book according to my lights. Of course, you will realize that each commentator would have his own way of explaining the book.
    • Sincerely,
      D. Saurat.

    Years later, when Beelzebub was published, I sent him a copy. He wrote:

    • Thank you for sending Beelzebub, and in which I am immersed. I like it immensely — but I wonder what the French translation will be like. I do not believe you can play with French in the way English has been played with there. I cannot give any answers as to a review, and cannot think of any journal that would accept, at present, an article even. Also, I’m deep down with an attack of flu, and you seem to be the same.
    •      Later, I’ll send you some comments on The Tales.
    • Affectionately,
      D. Saurat.

    The commentary arrived in due course, in French, which I translate as follows:

    • I have again read with the greatest interest naturally this astonishing book by G. Gurdjieff. I believe that the most important thing, objectively, is that in this book there are a number of observations which indicate a superterrestrial source:
      • The point of view about devils.
      • The affirmation that there are, at present, four centres of initiates on the earth, and the situation of these centres.
      • The forbidding to impart true information directly to ordinary minds.
      • The difference between mental knowledge, which is an obstacle to real understanding; and the knowledge of “being” — the only real knowledge. This, perhaps, is the most important point.
      • The fact that it is Buddhism (in its distorted forms) that has produced occultism, theosophy, psychoanalysis and so on.
      • The fact that only revelation can teach us something.
      • The suffering of God.
      • We are thus in the presence of one who, in a certain measure, speaks with authority.

    • In the second place, very many of the ideas, though common-sensical, are based on intuitions well above the normal:
      • Every criticism of modern life and of human history is perfectly just, and this is perhaps one of the most important things in the book, since it is absolutely necessary to understand that all our ideas have been falsified — before we have been able to correct at least some of them.
      • The Greeks and the Romans have been responsible for putting in train fundamental errors — and then the Germans.
      • God forgives all.
      • The importance of the lawful inexactitudes in the transmission of real teaching in Art.
      • The criticisms of the doctrine of reincarnation.

    • In the third place it is necessary to state that a great part of the book is not clear, and one has the right to suspect that G.G. has done this intentionally. Leaving his sense of humour on one side one can follow his idea that it is forbidden to teach directly, and that one can tell lies if these lies are useful to humanity; this shows that he has probably put errors or intentional inexactitudes in his book so as to compel his followers to exercise their own judgment and thus themselves develop and reach a higher level, to which — according to the theories of G.G., these followers would not arrive at if he, G.G., taught them the truth directly. In the latter case they would be in the category which is called “mental knowledge”, whereas G.G. wishes them to reach the category of “knowledge of being”, and the first hinders the second.
    •      It is on this that each reader must take his own stand. I am quite ready to tell you mine. I place among the myths which are to be rejected, completed or explained:
      • The person of Beelzebub, who is evidently a transformation of G.G. himself — leaving on one side the question of who is G.G.
      • All the story of the central sun, of the planets, of the earth and the moon; and of eternal retribution for a small number of beings, which contradicts the idea of a universal pardon.
      • The idea of Christ as only one of the messengers; in this case it is necessary to identify the Logos, which is perfectly indicated in the chapter on purgatory.
    • In conclusion, it seems to me that the teachings of G.G. should be able to play a very important role in our time if they are explained by minds first of all endowed with a certain preliminary knowledge and a developed critical sense.
    •      I think further that it is a compliment to G.G. to believe that this is exactly what he intended himself. You know as well as I, and even better, that he had a critical sense and a sense of humour extremely well developed; and further, a very poor opinion of the intellectual capacity of people to whom he spoke in general. I shall be very happy to know what you think of these points of view, and I shake you very cordially by the hand.

    Once, in our talks I said, ‘But so few people know about Beelzebub’s Tales. What‘s going to happen to it, supposing it does get published?’ Saurat said,

    • Nothing much may happen in our time. We are in too much of a hurry. We have no sense of real time in the West. Perhaps in fifty, or a hundred years a group of key men will read it. They will say, ‘This is what we’ve been looking for’, and on an understanding of it, may start a movement which could raise the level of civilization.
    •      Gurdjieff is a Lohan.* In China there is the cave of a hundred Lohans, presumably all that have appeared in China in over four thousand years. A Lohan is a man who has gone to schools and by incredible exertions and study has perfected himself. He then comes back into ordinary life, sits in cafes, drinks, has women, and lives the life of a man, but more intensely. It was accepted that the rules of ordinary man did not apply to him. He teaches, and people come to him to learn objective truths. In the East a Lohan was understood. The West does not understand. A teacher in the West must appear to behave like an English gentleman.

    * In Chinese mythology, the Lohan are enlightened Theravada Buddhist sages. Traditionally there are five hundred of them, following the number that were believed to have gathered at the First Council in India following Shakyamuni Buddha’s death (approx. 483 BC). Wall paintings and bas-reliefs of these are often found in Chinese Buddhist caves. Saurat’s comment about “comes back into ordinary life…” seems to refer also to the Mahayana Buddhist ideal of the Bodhisattva, who after his (or her) awakening becomes devoted to helping other people become awakened. For example, the last stage of the Ten Oxherding Pictures of Chan/Zen is called “Return to the marketplace with open hands,” and depicts such a person.

    Endnote compliments of David R. Loy, Prof. Comparative Religions, Bunkyo University, Japan

    Copyright © 1969 C. S. Nott

    Gurdjieff and Greek Esoteric Thought   From: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

    From: “Gurdjieff and Greek Esoteric Thought”, by George L. Beke

    George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was certainly a serious man. He traversed continents digging up ancient knowledge, which he then brought to the Western world. But he was also a playful man. He loved to confound people, to upset their automatic expectations, and for a very important reason.

    Gurdjieff realized that when the average person is presented with new information, brand new material, three things can happen:
       1) The material is rejected out of hand;
       2) The material is viewed skeptically, without understanding; or
       3) The material is accepted whole, but still without understanding.
    These results occur because most people receive information mechanically, without engaging their active attention. And without active attention there can be no real understanding.

    In order to engage our interest and awaken our active attention, Gurdjieff constructed a mighty puzzle, a labyrinth with twists, detours and tantalizing clues that, when deciphered and digested, could lead a person to a new and encompassing vision of the Universe.

    This maze, this cosmic puzzle, is the book Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, originally conceived as a crucial part of his grand opus, All & Everything. In this book, which is read religiously by students of Gurdjieff, a millennia-old “devil,” Beelzebub himself, explains the secrets of the Universe to his grandson Hassein (and thus to the persevering reader) over more than a thousand pages which demand patience, unflagging interest, and most of all, active attention.

    Gurdjieff's literary method, as he explained to his editors, was to “bury” every nugget of information. To gain any true understanding, we are forced to dig. When we dig, we work; we labor and toil, and finally… find! And then, every hard-won nugget becomes our own, an integral part of our understanding, which we will not forget.

    In the use of this method, Gurdjieff was following the practice of the ancient Pythagoreans, which Cicero alludes to: “It is not that you are hiding things from me, as Pythagoras used to do from outsiders…” [1]

    The Neoplatonist Iamblichus, a later head of the Academy, explains the evasive method of the Pythagoreans:

    • quote small leftTheir writings were not composed in popular or vulgar diction, or in manner usual to all other writers, so as to be immediately understood, but in a way not to be easily apprehended by their readers. For they adopted Pythagoras’ law of reserve, in an arcane manner concealing mysteries from the uninitiated, obscuring their writings and mutual conversations.quote small right [2]

    A good example of Gurdjieff “burying the bone” is found in Chapter 18 of Beelzebub’s Tales, titled “The Arch-Preposterous.” Here Beelzebub visits the planet Saturn, the home of a scientist called Harharkh, a large bird whose invention converts metals to gold. Viewing this transmutation under a special apparatus, Beelzebub witnesses, at one point, a process similar to Death, or the decomposing of bodies on Earth.

    Those familiar with Alchemy will quickly recognize the clues buried here. The planet Saturn symbolizes the metal lead, which alchemists sought to turn into gold. The large bird is the Raven, symbol of Saturn, which stands for the Black stage of the alchemical process, the Nigredo. Also called Death, it is represented by Saturn, the Old Man with a Sickle who harvests the life of mortals. The Raven is not mentioned in this chapter, and neither is Alchemy, but it is obvious that Gurdjieff is “burying” this information here, right under our noses.


    [1] Walsh, Cicero: The Nature of the Gods, 28.

    [2] Guthrie, The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, 83.

    Forum Rant

    COMMENT (LINK)

    So, I'm reading Beelzebub's Tales. I so far find it useless in guiding one along a path of spiritual growth. I don't think I'll continue much past the 100 or so pages I've completed. It occurs to me that Gurdjieff might be playing a joke on the readers. I have read stories of how he would set up wild goose chases for students to test their level of discernment and critical thinking. My initial impression is that this book is just such a ruse, fantasy disguised as esotericism, and not the other way around. I think he even left clues that it is just such a ruse, and starting with the instructions to read it three times, so as to waste as much time as possible.

    The first chapter is a rambling, narcissistic rant. I am giving Gurdjieff the benefit of the doubt that he is a teacher of wisdom, crazy wisdom perhaps, but wisdom. With that to his supposed credit, it seems obvious to me that first chapter is intended to impress the reader to read the whole thing, regardless of how much it might be nonsense. The repeated assertions that his writing style is unique and not to be compared to conventional writing, is the clue. How can one possible get anything from a book when the writing is totally obfuscated?

    The arrogance of his unique way of being, as guided by his grandmother, is another clue. Once impressed with his erudition, you now have to double-down on his imperative to not be like everyone else. What would everyone else do, at least, those he disparages? They would not read the book. With that hypnotic suggestion, he has all but convinced the reader to read the book, because nobody else will, because they can't understand it, because nobody can, and not because the readers are obtuse, because the writing is deliberately nonsensical.

    And, once convinced that only specially developed people will bother to read the book, only those brave enough to ignore the explicit warning not to read it, only they can understand it, and then they also must read it three times. And for what, to learn that humanity is trapped in all manner of habitual conditioning, physical, emotional and mental? That's spirituality 101, and it doesn't need 1000+ pages times 3 reads to understand.

    OK, so that's my criticism. Maybe I've missed the point, but the first 10% of the book I find totally useless, except for the first chapter which I find the true value of the book, as it gives the fair warning for those who would take the good advice.

    So, can anyone who has read it, even once, not necessarily three times, tell me one useful thing that was learned as a result of reading it?


    REPLY

    I don't get the impression you'd be open to what 'useful thing was learned' since you have obviously made up your mind after 1/10th of the whole. The Tales were written for a very specific type of person, and I don't think that person is you. And that's okay! But it would really be a waste of time to try and convey any understanding contained in the book — to ask is missing the point entirely.

    Instead of simply putting it aside, however, I suspect you will cover it in all your theories, obfuscating not the book but yourself from yourself :rolleyes:

    Obscurantism, Deliberate Obfuscation and Secrecy
    This page is intentionally blank

    Saurat was on the right track…

    • quote small leftI have again read with the greatest interest naturally this astonishing book by G. Gurdjieff. I believe that the most important thing, objectively, is that in this book there are a number of observations which indicate a superterrestrial source…quote small right

       

       

    Obscurantism   From: Wikipedia
    Introduction

    Obscurantism (/ɵbˈskjʊərəntɪsm/) is the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known. There are two common historical and intellectual denotations to Obscurantism: (1) deliberately restricting knowledge—opposition to the spread of knowledge, a policy of withholding knowledge from the public; and, (2) deliberate obscurity—an abstruse style (as in literature and art) characterized by deliberate vagueness. [1][2] The name comes from French: obscurantisme, from the Latin obscurans, "darkening".

    The term obscurantism derives from the title of the 16th-century satire Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum (Letters of Obscure Men), based upon the intellectual dispute between the German humanist Johann Reuchlin and Dominican monks, such as Johannes Pfefferkorn, about whether or not all Jewish books should be burned as un-Christian.

    Earlier, in 1509, the monk Pfefferkorn had obtained permission from Maximilian I (1486–1519), the Holy Roman Emperor, to incinerate all copies of the Talmud (Jewish law and Jewish ethics) known to be in the Holy Roman Empire (AD 926–1806); the Letters of Obscure Men satirized the Dominican monks' arguments at burning "un-Christian" works.

    In the 18th century, Enlightenment philosophers used the term "obscurantism" to denote the enemies of the Enlightenment and its concept of the liberal diffusion of knowledge. Moreover, in the 19th century, in distinguishing the varieties of obscurantism found in metaphysics and theology from the "more subtle" obscurantism of the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and of modern philosophical skepticism, Friedrich Nietzsche said: "The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding, but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence." [3]

    Restricting knowledge
    Introduction

    In restricting knowledge to an élite ruling class of "the few", obscurantism is fundamentally anti-democratic, because its component anti-intellectualism and elitism exclude the people as intellectually unworthy of knowing the facts and truth about the government of their City-State. [4][5] In 18th century monarchic France, the Marquis de Condorcet, as a political scientist, documented the aristocracy's obscurantism about the social problems that provoked the French Revolution (1789–99) that deposed them and their King, Louis XVI of France.

    In the 19th century, the mathematician William Kingdon Clifford, an early proponent of Darwinism, devoted some writings to uprooting obscurantism in England, after hearing clerics — who privately agreed with him about evolution — publicly denounce evolution as un-Christian. Moreover, in the realm of organized religion, obscurantism is a distinct strain of thought independent of theologic allegiance. The distinction is that fundamentalism presupposes sincere religious belief, whereas obscurantism is based upon minority manipulation of the popular faith as political praxis, (cf. Censorship). [6]

    The obscurantist can be personally a scientist, a philosopher, a truly faithful person, a naturalist, a mischievous student, or just agnostic, but, as one member of the society, believes that religion among the populace serves the aim of social control. To that effect, the obscurant limits the publication, extension, and dissemination of knowledge, of evidence countering the common-belief status quo with which the nation are ruled — the local variety of the necessary Noble Lie, introduced to political discourse by the Classical Greek philosopher Plato in 380 BC. Hence the "stable-status quo restriction of knowledge" denotation of obscurantism applied by pro-science reformers within religious movements, [6] and by skeptics such as H.L. Mencken in critiquing religion. [7]

    Leo Strauss Political philosophy

    In the 20th century, the American conservative political philosopher Leo Strauss, for whom philosophy and politics intertwined, and his Neo-conservative adherents adopted the notion of government by the enlightened few as political strategy. He noted that intellectuals, dating from Plato, confronted the dilemma of either an informed populace "interfering" with government, or if it were possible for good politicians to be truthful and still govern to maintain a stable society — hence the Noble Lie necessary in securing public acquiescence. In The City and Man (1964), he discusses the myths in The Republic that Plato proposes effective governing requires, among them, the belief that the country (land) ruled by the State belongs to it (despite some having been conquered from others), and that citizenship derives from more than the accident of birth in the City-State. Thus, in the New Yorker magazine article Selective Intelligence, Seymour Hersh observes that Strauss endorsed the "Noble Lie" concept: the myths politicians use in maintaining a cohesive society. [4][5]

    Prof. Shadia Drury criticized Strauss's acceptance of dissembling and deception of the populace as "the peculiar justice of the wise", whereas Plato proposed the Noble Lie as based upon moral good. In criticizing Natural Right and History (1953), she said that "Strauss thinks that the superiority of the ruling philosophers is an intellectual superiority and not a moral one … [he] is the only interpreter who gives a sinister reading to Plato, and then celebrates him." [8]

    Leo Strauss Esoteric texts

    Leo Strauss also was criticized for proposing the notion of "esoteric" meanings to ancient texts, obscure knowledge inaccessible to the "ordinary" intellect. In Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952), he proposes that some philosophers write esoterically to avert persecution by the political or religious authorities, and, per his knowledge of Maimonides, Al Farabi, and Plato, proposed that an esoteric writing style is proper for the philosophic text. Rather than explicitly presenting his thoughts, the philosopher's esoteric writing compels the reader to think independently of the text, and so learn. In the Phædrus, Socrates notes that writing does not reply to questions, but invites dialogue with the reader, thereby minimizing the problems of grasping the written word. Strauss noted that one of writing's political dangers is students' too-readily accepting dangerous ideas — as in the trial of Socrates, wherein the relationship with Alcibiades was used to prosecute him.

    For Leo Strauss, philosophers' texts offered the reader lucid "exoteric" (salutary) and obscure "esoteric" (true) teachings, which are concealed to the reader of ordinary intellect; emphasizing that writers often left contradictions and other errors to encourage the reader's more scrupulous (re-)reading of the text. In observing and maintaining the "exoteric – esoteric" dichotomy, Strauss was accused of obscurantism, and for writing esoterically.

    Bill Joy

    In the Wired magazine article, "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" (April 2000), the computer scientist Bill Joy, then a Sun Microsystems chief scientist, in the sub-title proposed that: "Our most powerful twenty-first-century technologies — robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech[nology] — are threatening to make humans an endangered species"; in the body, he posits that:

    • quote small leftThe experiences of the atomic scientists clearly show the need to take personal responsibility, the danger that things will move too fast, and the way in which a process can take on a life of its own. We can, as they did, create insurmountable problems in almost no time flat. We must do more thinking up front if we are not to be similarly surprised and shocked by the consequences of our inventions.quote small right[9]

    Joy's proposal for limiting the dissemination of "certain" knowledge, in behalf of preserving society, was quickly likened to obscurantism. A year later, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in the Science and Technology Policy Yearbook 2001, published the article "A Response to Bill Joy and the Doom-and-Gloom Technofuturists", wherein the computer scientists John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid countered his proposal as technological tunnel vision, and the predicted technologically derived problems as infeasible, for disregarding the influence of non-scientists upon such societal problems. [10]

    Deliberate obscurity
    Deliberate obscurity

    In the second sense, "obscurantism" denotes making knowledge abstrusely difficult to grasp.[citation needed] In the 19th and 20th centuries "obscurantism" became a polemical term for accusing an author of deliberately writing obscurely, to hide his or her intellectual vacuousness.

    Philosophers who are neither empiricists nor positivists often are accused of obscurantism in describing the abstract concepts of their disciplines. For philosophic reasons, these authors might modify, or reject, verifiability, falsifiability, or logical non-contradiction.

    From said perspective, obscure (clouded, vague, abstruse) writing does not necessarily signal that the writer has a poor grasp of the subject, because unintelligible writing sometimes is purposeful and philosophically considered. [11]

    Aristotle

    In contemporary discussions of virtue ethics, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (The Ethics) stand accused of ethical obscurantism, because of the technical, philosophic language and writing style, and their purpose being the education of a cultured governing elite. [12]

    Kant

    Kant employed technical terms that were not commonly understood. Schopenhauer contended that post-Kantian philosophers such as Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel deliberately mimicked Kant's way of writing. "Because of his style which was obscure, Kant was properly understood by exceedingly few. And it is as if all the philosophical writers, who since Kant had had some success, had devoted themselves to writing still more unintelligibly than Kant. This was bound to succeed!" [13]

    According to analytic philosopher: Hegel

    G. W. F. Hegel's philosophy, and the philosophies of those he influenced, especially Karl Marx, have been accused of obscurantism. Analytic and positivistic philosophers, such as A. J. Ayer, Bertrand Russell, and the critical-rationalist Karl Popper, accused Hegel and Hegelianism of being obscure. About Hegel's philosophy, Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that it is: "... a colossal piece of mystification, which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage. ..." [14]

    Nevertheless, biographer Terry Pinkard notes "Hegel has refused to go away, even in analytic philosophy, itself." [15] Hegel was aware of his obscurantism, and perceived it as part of philosophical thinking — to accept and transcend the limitations of quotidian thought and its concepts. In the essay "Who Thinks Abstractly?", he said that it is not the philosopher who thinks abstractly, but the layman, who uses concepts as givens that are immutable, without context. It is the philosopher who thinks concretely, because he transcends the limits of quotidian concepts, in order to understand their broader context. This makes philosophical thought and language appear obscure, esoteric, and mysterious to the layman.

    According to analytic philosopher: Marx and Marxism

    In his early works, [16] Karl Marx criticized German and French philosophy, especially German Idealism, for its traditions of German irrationalism and ideologically motivated obscurantism. [17] Later thinkers whom he influenced, such as the philosopher György Lukács and the sociologist Jürgen Habermas, followed with similar arguments of their own. [18] However, philosophers such as Karl Popper and Friedrich Hayek in turn criticized Marx and Marxist philosophy as obscurantist (however, see below for Hayek's particular interpretation of the term). [19]

    According to analytic philosopher: Wittgenstein

    Ludwig Wittgenstein's obscurantism is illuminated by the criticism of the limits-of-language proposition presented in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), and in abandoning empirical explanation of linguistic description in later works. Friedrich Waismann accused Wittgenstein of "complete obscurantism" for betraying empirical inquiry; [20] this criticism then was developed by Ernest Gellner. [21] In Wittgenstein on Freud and Frazer (1988), Frank Cioffi discusses "limits obscurantism", "method obscurantism", and "sensibility obscurantism" as the varieties of obscurantism found in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. [22]

    According to analytic philosopher: Heidegger

    Martin Heidegger, and those influenced by him, such as Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas, have been labeled obscurantists by critics from Analytic Philosophy and the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Of Heidegger, Bertrand Russell wrote, "his philosophy is extremely obscure. One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot. An interesting point in his speculations is the insistence that nothingness is something positive. As with much else in Existentialism, this is a psychological observation made to pass for logic." [23] That is Russell's complete entry on Heidegger, and it expresses the sentiments of many 20th-century Analytic philosophers concerning Heidegger. [24]

    According to analytic philosopher: Derrida

    In their obituaries, "Jacques Derrida, Abstruse Theorist, Dies at 74" (10 October 2004) and "Obituary of Jacques Derrida, French intellectual" (21 October 2004), The New York Times newspaper [25] and The Economist magazine, [26] described Derrida as a deliberately obscure philosopher.

    In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), Richard Rorty proposed that in The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond (1978), Jacques Derrida purposefully used undefinable words (e.g. Différance), and used defined words in contexts so diverse that they render the words unintelligible, hence, the reader is unable to establish a context for his literary self. In that way, the philosopher Derrida escapes metaphysical accounts of his work. Since the work ostensibly contains no metaphysics, Derrida has, consequently, escaped metaphysics. [11]

    Derrida's philosophic work is especially controversial among American and British academics, as when the University of Cambridge awarded him an honorary doctorate, despite opposition from among the Cambridge philosophy faculty and analytical philosophers worldwide. To wit, in opposing the decision, slated for 16 May 1992, Barry Smith, editor of The Monist, W. V. O. Quine, David Armstrong, Ruth Barcan Marcus, René Thom, and twelve others, published a letter of protestation, From Professor Barry Smith and others, in The Times of London, arguing that "his works employ a written style that defies comprehension . . . [thus] Academic status based on what seems to us to be little more than semi-intelligible attacks upon the values of reason, truth, and scholarship is not, we submit, sufficient grounds for the awarding of an honorary degree in a distinguished university." [27]

    Despite the academics' public letter of protestation, Cambridge University conferred the honorary doctorate upon him, albeit with a vote of only 62%.

    In the New York Review of Books article "An Exchange on Deconstruction" (February 1984), John Searle comments on Deconstruction: ". . . anyone who reads deconstructive texts with an open mind is likely to be struck by the same phenomena that initially surprised me: the low level of philosophical argumentation, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, the wildly exaggerated claims, and the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity, by making claims that seem paradoxical, but under analysis often turn out to be silly or trivial." [28]

    According to analytic philosopher: Lacan

    Jacques Lacan was an intellectual who defended obscurantism to a degree. To his students' complaint about the deliberate obscurity of his lectures, he replied: "The less you understand, the better you listen." [29] In the 1973 seminar Encore, he said that his Écrits (Writings) were not to be understood, but would effect a meaning in the reader, like that induced by mystical texts. The obscurity is not in his writing style, but in the repeated allusions to Hegel, derived from Alexandre Kojève's lectures on Hegel, and similar theoretic divergences.

    According to analytic philosopher: Sokal

    Deference to Authority: obscurantism internalized

    • quote small leftThe Displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter, by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is — second only to American political campaigns — the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time. — Larry Laudan, Science and Relativism (1990)quote small right

    The Sokal Affair (1996) was a publishing hoax that New York University physicist Alan Sokal perpetrated on the editors and readers of Social Text, an academic journal of post-modern cultural studies that was not then peer-reviewed. In 1996, as an experiment testing editorial integrity (fact-checking, peer review), Prof. Sokal submitted a pseudoscientific article — proposing that physical reality is a social construct — to learn if Social Text would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if: (a) it sounded good, and, (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions." [30]

    Social Text published the article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", by Prof. Alan Sokal, in the Spring/Summer 1996 issue, dedicated to the Science Wars, then occurring in US academia, about the conceptual validity of scientific objectivity. [31] Amid intellectual battles about the nature of scientific theory, among scientific realists and postmodern critics, Prof. Sokal submitted his hoax article for publication. The raison de guerre being that postmodernist critics questioned the objectivity of science, usually via the criticism of scientific method and knowledge, usually in the disciplines of cultural studies, cultural anthropology, feminist studies, comparative literature, media studies, and science and technology studies. Whereas the scientific realists countered that objective scientific knowledge exists, riposting that postmodernist critics almost knew nothing of the science they criticized. In the event, editorial deference to "Academic Authority" (the Author-Professor) prompted the editors of Social Text not to fact-check Prof. Sokal's manuscript by submitting it to peer review by a scientist.

    Hence, in the May 1996 edition of the Lingua Franca journal, in the article "A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies", Prof. Sokal announced that his transformative hermeneutics article was a parody, submitted "to test the prevailing intellectual standards", concluding that, as an academic publication, Social Text ignored the requisite intellectual rigor of verification and "felt comfortable publishing an article on quantum physics without bothering to consult anyone knowledgeable in the subject." [30][32] Moreover, as a public intellectual, Prof. Sokal said his hoax was an action protesting against the contemporary tendency towards obscurantism — abstruse, esoteric, and vague writing in the social sciences:

    • quote small leftIn short, my concern over the spread of subjectivist thinking is both intellectual and political. Intellectually, the problem with such doctrines is that they are false (when not simply meaningless). There is a real world; its properties are not merely social constructions; facts and evidence do matter. What sane person would contend otherwise? And yet, much contemporary academic theorizing consists precisely of attempts to blur these obvious truths — the utter absurdity of it all being concealed through obscure and pretentious language.[30]quote small right

    Moreover, independent of the hoax, as a pseudoscientific opus, the article "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" is described as an exemplar "pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense, centered on the claim that physical reality is merely a social construct." [33]

    Appealing to emotion

    The economist Friedrich von Hayek used the term "obscurantism" differently, to denote and describe the denial of the truth of scientific theory because of disagreeable moral consequences. In the essay "Why I Am Not a Conservative" (1960), he disparages conservatism for its inability to adapt to changing human realities, or to offer a positive political program.

    See also

      Anti-intellectualism             Paternalism   Positivism
      Philosopher king   Politicization of science             Scientism
      Cover-up   Pseudophilosophy   Fundamentalism
      Doublespeak   Pseudointellectual  
    Notes

    [1] Merriam-Webster Online, "Human, All Too Human", retrieved on 4 August 2007.

    [2] Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (1996) p. 1337

    [3] Nietzsche, F. (1878) Human, All Too Human Vol. II, Part 1, 27. Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (November 13, 1996). ISBN 978-0-521-56704-6

    [4] Seymour M. Hersh, "Selective Intelligence", The New Yorker, 12 May 2003, accessed June 1, 2007.

    [5] Brian Doherty, "Origin of the Specious: Why Do Neoconservatives Doubt Darwin?", Reason Online July 1997, accessed 16 February 2007.

    [6] Syed, I. (2002) "Obscurantism". From: Intellectual Achievements of Muslims. New Delhi: Star Publications. Excerpt available online. Retrieved on: 4 August 2007.

    [7] Mencken, H.L. (2002). H.L. Mencken on Religion. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-982-0

    [8] Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neocons, and Iraq openDemocracy

    [9] Khushf, George (2004). "The Ethics of Nanotechnology: Vision and Values for a New Generation of Science and Engineering", Emerging Technologies and Ethical Issues in Engineering, National Academy of Engineering, pp. 31–32. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-09271-X

    [10]  "A Response to Bill Joy and the Doom-and- Gloom Technofuturists" (PDF).

    [11] Rorty, Richard (1989) Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Ch. 6: "From ironist theory to private allusions: Derrida." ISBN 0-521-36781-6.

    [12] Lisa van Alstyne, "Aristotle's Alleged Ethical Obscurantism." Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 285 (July , 1998), pp. 429–452.

    [13] Schopenhauer, Manuscript Remains, Vol. 4, "Cogitata I," § 107.

    [14] Schopenhauer, Arthur (1965). On the Basis of Morality, trans. E.F.J. Payne. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, pp.15–16.

    [15] Hegel: A Biography, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, xii.

    [16] See his The German Ideology (1844), The Poverty of Philosophy (1845), and The Holy Family (1847).

    [17] See, Dallmayr, Fred R., "The Discourse of Modernity: Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger (and Habermas)", PRAXIS International (4/1988), pp. 377–404.

    [18] György Lukács's The Destruction of Reason; Jürgen Habermas's The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity

    [19] Wright, E. O., Levine, A., & Sober, E. (1992). Reconstructing Marxism: essays on explanation and the theory of history. London: Verso, 107.

    [20] Shanker, S., & Shanker, V. A. (1986), Ludwig Wittgenstein: critical assessments. London: Croom Helm,50–51.

    [21] Words and things: An examination of, and an attack on, linguistic philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979, 1959.

    [22] Cioffi, F. (1998), Wittgenstein on Freud and Frazer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 183ff, chapter 7 on Wittgenstein and obscurantism.

    [23] Russell, Bertrand (1989). Wisdom of the West. Crescent Books. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-517-69041-3.

    [24] Amazon.com: Heidegger: An Introduction: Books: Richard F. H. Polt

    [25] Jacques Derrida, Abstruse Theorist, Dies at 74

    [26] Obituary of Jacques Derrida, French intellectual

    [27] Barry Smith et al., "Open letter against Derrida receiving an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University," The Times [London], 9 May 1992. [1]

    [28] Mackey, Louis H. (February 2, 1984). "An Exchange on Deconstruction (Reply by John R. Searle)". New York Review of Books 31 (1). Retrieved 2007-08-17.

    [29] Lacan, Jacques (1988). "The ego in Freud's theory and in the technique of psychoanalysis, 1954–1955". ISBN 978-0-521-31801-3.

    [30] Sokal, Alan D. (May 1996). "A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies". Lingua Franca. Retrieved April 3, 2007.

    [31] Sokal, Alan D. (Spring–Summer 1996) [1994 (original version published 1994-11-28, revised 1995-05-13)]. "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". Social Text (46/47). Duke University Press. pp. 217–252. Archived from the original on 26 March 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007.

    [32] Sokal, Alan (May–June 1996). "A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies" (PDF). Lingua Franca. p. 2. Retrieved 27 January 2010.

    [33] Harrell, Evans (October 1996). "A Report from the Front of the "Science Wars": The controversy over the book Higher Superstition, by Gross and Levitt and the recent articles by Sokal" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society 43 (10): 1132–1136. Retrieved 2007-09-16.

    Obfuscation   From: Wikipedia

    Obfuscation is the obscuring of intended meaning in communication, making the message confusing, willfully ambiguous, or harder to understand.

    It may be intentional or unintentional (although the former is usually connoted) and may result from circumlocution (yielding wordiness) or from use of jargon or even argot (yielding economy of words but excluding outsiders from the communicative value).

    Unintended obfuscation in expository writing is usually a natural trait of early drafts in the writing process, when the composition is not yet advanced, and it can be improved with critical thinking and revising, either by the writer or by another person with sufficient reading comprehension and editing skills.

    The name comes from Latin obfuscatio, from obfuscāre ("to darken"). Obfustication is a common variant of the name, especially in British English.

    Synonyms include beclouding and abstrusity.

    Obscurantism is intentional obscurity, whether by withholding communication, obfuscating it, or both.

    Background

    Obfuscation may be used for many purposes. Doctors have been accused of using jargon to conceal unpleasant facts from a patient; American author Michael Crichton claimed that medical writing is a "highly skilled, calculated attempt to confuse the reader". [1]

    B. F. Skinner, noted psychologist, commented on medical notation as a form of multiple audience control, which allows the doctor to communicate to the pharmacist things which might be opposed by the patient if they could understand it. [2]

    Code Obfuscation

    Code obfuscation is transforming the software program into code that’s difficult to disassemble and understand, but has the same functionality as the original so the software remains completely functional but impervious to reverse-engineering. Code Obfuscation hides the vulnerabilities of software to prevent theft and safeguard it’s intellectual property.

    Eschew obfuscation

    "Eschew obfuscation", also stated as "eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation", is a humorous fumblerule used by English teachers and professors when lecturing about proper writing techniques. Literally, the phrase means "avoid being unclear" or "avoid being unclear, support being clear", but the use of relatively uncommon words causes confusion in much of the audience (those lacking the vocabulary), making the statement an example of irony, and more precisely a heterological phrase. The phrase has appeared in print at least as early as 1959, when it was used as a section heading in a NASA document. [3]

    An earlier similar phrase appears in Mark Twain's Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, [4] where he lists rule fourteen of good writing as "eschew surplusage".

    The philosopher Paul Grice used the phrase in the "Maxim of Manner", one of the Gricean maxims.

    See also

      Fallacy of quoting out of context   Propaganda
      Plain English   Prolixity
      Politics and the English Language             Obfuscated code

    References

    [1] Appendix 25 - Medspeak

    [2] Skinner, B.F. (1957) Verbal Behavior p.232

    [3] United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA Technical Memorandum (1959), p. 171.

    [4] Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (1895)

    External links

    "Binghamton Research"

    Verbosity   From: Wikipedia
    Introduction

    Verbosity or verboseness is speech or writing which is deemed to use an excess of words. A common example is "Despite the fact that" as a common replacement for "Although". The opposite of verbosity is succinctness, which can be found in plain language (including Plain English), and laconism.

    Some teachers, including the author of The Elements of Style, warn writers not to be verbose. Similarly, some authors, including Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, use a succinct style and avoid verbosity.

    Synonyms for verbosity include wordiness, verbiage, prolixity, grandiloquence, garrulousness, expatiation, logorrhea, and Sesquipedalianism. Corresponding adjectival forms are verbose, wordy, prolix, grandiloquent, garrulous, and logorrheic. Slang terms such as verbal diarrhea also refer to the practice.

    Examples of verbosity are common in political speech, academic prose, and other genres.

    Scientific jargon

    The word logorrhoea is often used pejoratively to describe prose which is highly abstract, and, consequently, contains little concrete language. Since abstract writing is hard to visualize, it often seems as though it makes no sense, and that all the words are excessive. Writers in academic fields which concern themselves mostly with the abstract, such as philosophy, especially postmodernism, often fail to include extensive concrete examples of their ideas; so an examination of their work might lead one to believe that it is all nonsense.

    In an attempt to prove this lack of academic rigor, physics professor Alan Sokal wrote a nonsensical essay, and had it published in a respected journal (Social Text) as a practical joke. The journal kept defending it as a genuine article even after its own author rebuked the editors publicly in a subsequent article in another academic journal. The episode has come to be known as the Sokal Affair. [1]

    The term is also sometimes less precisely applied to unnecessarily (and often redundantly) wordy speech in general; this is more usually referred to as prolixity. Some people defend the use of additional words which sometimes look unnecessary as idiomatic, a matter of artistic preference, or helpful in explaining complex ideas or messages.

    Reference performers

    Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States, was noted as a grandiloquent speaker, with a florid style unusual even in his era. A Democrat leader, William Gibbs McAdoo, described Harding's speeches as "an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea." [2]

    Senator Robert C. Byrd (Democrat, of West Virginia) lost his position as Majority Leader in 1989 because his colleagues felt his grandiloquent speeches, often employing obscure allusions to ancient Rome and Greece, were not an asset to the party base. [3] This trait has been exemplified by oratory quoting Shakespeare in reference to the stock market. [4]

    The Michigan Law Review published a 229-page parody of postmodern writing titled "Pomobabble: Postmodern Newspeak and Constitutional 'Meaning' for the Uninitiated". The article consists of extremely complicated and highly context sensitive self-referencing narratives about the article itself. The text is peppered with an absolutely excessive number of parenthetical citations and asides, which is supposed to mock the cluttered postmodernist style of writing. [5]

    In The King's English, Fowler gives as one of his examples this passage from The Times: "The Emperor received yesterday and to-day General Baron von Beck.... It may therefore be assumed with some confidence that the terms of a feasible solution are maturing themselves in His Majesty's mind and may form the basis of further negotiations with Hungarian party leaders when the Monarch goes again to Budapest." [6] Fowler objected to this passage because The Emperor, His Majesty, and the Monarch all refer to the same person: "the effect", he pointed out in Modern English Usage, "is to set readers wondering what the significance of the change is, only to conclude that there is none."

    Style advice

    William Strunk, an American professor of English, wrote about the balance between being clear and being concise in 1918. He advised "Use the active voice: Put statements in positive form; Omit needless words." [7]

    In A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) Henry Watson Fowler says, "It is the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly, & still more those whose notions of style are based on a few misleading rules of thumb, that are chiefly open to the allurements of elegant variation," Fowler's term for the over-use of synonyms. [8] Contrary to Fowler's criticism of multiple words to name the same thing in English prose, in some other languages, including French, it might be thought to be a good writing style. [9][10]

    Mark Twain (1835–1910) wrote "generally, the fewer the words that fully communicate or evoke the intended ideas and feelings, the more effective the communication." [11]

    Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), the 1954 Nobel laureate for literature, defended his concise style against a charge by William Faulkner that he "had never been known to use a word that might send the reader to the dictionary." [12] Hemingway responded by saying, "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use." [13]

    An inquiry into the 2005 London bombings found that verbosity can be dangerous if used by emergency services. It can lead to delay that could cost lives. [14]

    A 2005 study from the psychology department of Princeton University found that using long and obscure words does not make people seem more intelligent. Dr. Daniel M. Oppenheimer did research which showed that students rated short, concise texts as being written by the most intelligent authors. But those who used long words or complex font types were seen as less intelligent. [15]

    In William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, one of Polonius's many sententious maxims reads

    • quote small leftTherefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
          And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
          I will be brief.quote small right

    However, despite this line becoming proverbial over time, Shakespeare's audiences were not necessarily inclined to read Polonius as someone who is perfectly wise; his sentences, like that of much early modern drama, can easily be seen as part of a comic trope.

    George Orwell mocked logorrhoea in "Politics and the English Language" (1946). He took verse (9:11) from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible

    • quote small leftI returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.quote small right

    and rewrote it as

    • quote small leftObjective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.quote small right

    Orwell’s deliberate usage of unnecessary words only serves to further complicate the statement. For instance, the words "objective", "contemporary" and "invariably" could be cut, with virtually no loss of meaning. What both the Bible and Orwell were trying to say could be paraphrased (albeit obtusely) in three words: "Success is stochastic".

    It was especially risky to use scientific jargon in front of quantum physicist Richard Feynman. Nothing made him as angry as intellectual pretense achieved though making simple things sound complex. [16][17] Outstanding talent for clarity, he taught the mastery of technical presentation: Don’t say 'reflected acoustic wave', say 'echo'. Forget all that `local minima'. Just say there's a 'bubble' caught in the crystal and you have to shake it. [18] In his anecdote collection, he recalls his participation in a multi-disciplinary conference discussing the nebulous topic "the ethics of equality". Feynman was at first apprehensive, having read none of the books which the conference organizers had recommended. A sociologist brought a paper which he had written beforehand to the committee where Feynman served, asking everyone to read it. Feynman found it completely incomprehensible, and feared that he was out of his depth — until he decided to pick a sentence at random and parse it until he understood. Feynman discovered that

    • quote small leftThe individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channelsquote small right

    stood for "People read". The rest of the paper soon made sense in the same fashion, e.g. "The medical community indicates that a program of downsizing average total daily caloric intake is maximally efficacious in the field of proactive weight-reduction methodologies" meant merely "Doctors say that the best way to lose weight is to eat less".

    Other labels

    The word verbosity comes from Latin verbosus, "word". There are many other English words that also refer to the use of excessive words.

    Prolixity comes from Latin prolixus, "extended". Prolixity can also be used to refer to the length of a monologue or speech, especially a formal address such as a lawyer's oral argument. [19]

    Grandiloquence is complex speech or writing judged to be pompous or bombastic diction. It is a combination of the Latin words grandis ("great") and loqui ("to speak"). [20]

    Logorrhea or logorrhoea (from Greek λογόρροια, logorrhoia, "word-flux") is an excessive flow of words. It is often used pejoratively to describe prose that is hard to understand because it is needlessly complicated or uses excessive jargon. The term is also sometimes applied to unnecessarily wordy speech in general.

    Sesquipedalianism is a linguistic style that involves the use of long words. Roman poet Horace coined the phrase sesquipedalia verba in his Ars Poetica. [21] It is a compound of sesqui, "one and a half", and pes, "foot", a reference to meter. The earliest recorded usage in English of sesquipedalian is in 1656, and of sesquipedalianism, 1863. [22]

    Garrulous comes from Latin garrulus, "talkative", a form of the verb garrīre, "to chatter". The adjective may describe a person who is excessively talkative, especially about trivial matters, or a speech that is excessively wordy or diffuse [23]

    The noun expatiation and the verb expatiate come from Latin expatiātus, past participle from spatiārī, "to wander". They refer to enlarging a discourse, text, or description. [24]

    References

    [1] The Sokal Affair

    [2] "Warren G. Harding". The White House. Retrieved 2013-01-23.

    [3] "At 87, Byrd Faces Re-election Battle of His Career". 2005-05-22. Retrieved 2014-01-23.

    [4] "Byrd speech from LOC". Thomas.loc.gov. 2001-03-20. Retrieved 2013-01-21.

    [5] Arrow, Dennis W. (December 1997). "Pomobabble: Postmodern Newspeak and Constitutional "Meaning" for the Uninitiated". Michigan Law Review 96 (3): 461–690. doi:10.2307/1290146. JSTOR 1290146.

    [6] Fowler, Henry Watson; Fowler, Francis George (1908). The King's English. Clarendon Press.

    [7] Strunk, William (1918). The Elements of Style. Paris: Feedbooks.

    [8] Fowler, Henry Watson (1994) [1926]. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 978-1-85326-318-7.

    [9] Paterson, Ann (2006). "Painting with words". In Eugenia Loffredo, Manuela Perteghella. Translation And Creativity: Perspectives on Creative Writing And Translation Studies. Continuum. p. 88. ISBN 0-8264-8793-9. . . . the rule of elegant variation (that is, using synonyms wherever possible), which purists consider to be essential for good style in French.

    [10] Fuller, Frederick (1984). The Translator's Handbook: (with special reference to conference translation from French and Spanish). Penn State University Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-271-00368-5. Elegant variation French tends to avoid repetition of proper names, with a description of the person, at second reference."

    [11] Reference for Prolixity". Search.com.

    [12] Rovit, Earl; Waldhorn, Arthur (2006). Hemingway and Faulkner in Their Time. Continuum. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-8264-1825-8. Retrieved 28 February 2011.

    [13] Shapiro, Fred R. (2006). The Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press. p. 354. ISBN 0-300-10798-6. Retrieved 28 February 2011.

    [14] "7/7 inquests: emergency services should use plain English". Telegraph. Retrieved 11 March 2011.

    [15] Oppenheimer, Daniel M. (2005). "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly" (PDF). Applied Cognitive Psychology 20: 139–15. doi:10.1002/acp.1178.

    [16] Feynman, Richard (Nov 1, 1992). SURELY YOU’RE JOKING, MR. FEYNMAN. Vintage Random House. p. 9. 'his almost compulsive need to solve puzzles, his provocative mischievousness, his indignant impatience with pretension and hypocrisy, and his talent for one-upping anybody who tries to one-up him'"

    [17] Susskind, Leonard (January 2011). My friend Richard Feynman (Speech). TED Talks. Caltech. Retrieved 5 Jan 2015. What Feynman hated worse than anything else was intellectual pretense -- phoniness, false sophistication, jargon"

    [18] Hillis, Daniel (1989). "Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine". Physics Today. Retrieved 5 Jan 2015.

    [19] Percy, Sholto; Reuben Percy (1826). The Percy Anecdotes. London: T. Boys. p. 9.

    [20] "Dictionary.com - Grandiloquence". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2013-01-21.

    [21] "Ars Poetica, l.97". Perseus Project. Retrieved 2 February 2011.

    [22] Simpson, J. A.; Weiner, E. S. C. (1989). The Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition). Oxford University Press.

    [23] "Dictionary.com - Garrulous". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2013-01-23.

    [24] "Dictionary.com - expatiation". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2013-01-23.

    Secrecy   From: Wikipedia
    Introduction

    this man may die mirror 240
    Secrecy is sometimes considered
    of life or death importance.
    U.S. soldier at camp during World War II.

    Secrecy (also called clandestinity or furtiveness) is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups, who do not have the "need to know" perhaps while sharing it with other individuals. That which is kept hidden is known as the secret.

    Secrecy is often controversial, depending on the content or nature of the secret, the group or people keeping the secret, and the motivation for secrecy.

    Secrecy by government entities is often decried as excessive or in promotion of poor operation; excessive revelation of information on individuals can conflict with virtues of privacy and confidentiality.

    It is often contrasted with social transparency.

    Secrecy in sociology and zoology

    Animals conceal the location of their den or nest from predators. Squirrels bury nuts, hiding them, and they try to remember their locations later.

    Humans attempt to consciously conceal aspects of themselves from others due to shame, or from fear of violence, rejection, harassment, loss of acceptance, or loss of employment.

    • Humans may also attempt to conceal aspects of their own self which they are not capable of incorporating psychologically into their conscious being.
    • Families sometimes maintain "family secrets", obliging family members never to discuss disagreeable issues concerning the family with outsiders or sometimes even within the family.
    • Many "family secrets" are maintained by using a mutually agreed-upon construct (an official family story) when speaking with outside members.
    • Agreement to maintain the secret is often coerced through "shaming" and reference to family honor.
    • The information may even be something as trivial as a recipe.

    Secrets are sometimes kept to provide the pleasure of surprise. This includes keeping secret about a surprise party, not telling spoilers of a story, and avoiding exposure of a magic trick.

    Keeping one's strategy secret is important in many aspects of game theory.


    Secret sharing (anthropology)

    In anthropology secret sharing is one way for men and women to establish traditional relations with other men and women. A commonly used narrative that describes this kind of behavior is Joseph Conrad's short story "The Secret Sharer".
    Government secrecy

    burnbag obama biden 240
    A burn bag and security classification stickers on a
    laptop computer, between President Barack Obama
    and Vice President Joe Biden during updates on
    Operation Geronimo, a mission against Osama bin Laden,
    in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011.

    Governments often attempt to conceal information from other governments and the public. These state secrets can include weapon designs, military plans, diplomatic negotiation tactics, and secrets obtained illicitly from others ("intelligence"). Most nations have some form of Official Secrets Act (the Espionage Act in the U.S.) and classify material according to the level of protection needed (hence the term "classified information"). An individual needs a security clearance for access and other protection methods, such as keeping documents in a safe, are stipulated.

    Few people dispute the desirability of keeping Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information secret, but many believe government secrecy to be excessive and too often employed for political purposes. Many countries have laws that attempt to limit government secrecy, such as the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and sunshine laws. Government officials sometimes leak information they are supposed to keep secret. (For a recent (2005) example, see Plame affair.)

    Secrecy in elections is a growing issue, particularly secrecy of vote counts on computerized vote counting machines. While voting, citizens are acting in a unique sovereign or "owner" capacity (instead of being a subject of the laws, as is true outside of elections) in selecting their government servants. It is argued that secrecy is impermissible as against the public in the area of elections where the government gets all of its power and taxing authority. In any event, permissible secrecy varies significantly with the context involved.

    Corporate secrecy

    Organizations, ranging from multi-national for profit corporations to nonprofit charities, keep secrets for competitive advantage, to meet legal requirements, or, in some cases, to conceal nefarious behavior. New products under development, unique manufacturing techniques, or simply lists of customers are types of information protected by trade secret laws. The patent system encourages inventors to publish information in exchange for a limited time monopoly on its use, though patent applications are initially secret. Secret societies use secrecy as a way to attract members by creating a sense of importance.

    Shell companies may be used to launder money from criminal activity, to finance terrorism, or to evade taxes. Registers of beneficial ownership aim at fighting corporate secrecy in that sense.

    Other laws require organizations to keep certain information secret, such as medical records (HIPAA in the U.S.), or financial reports that are under preparation (to limit insider trading). Europe has particularly strict laws about database privacy.

    In many countries, neoliberal reforms of government have included expanding the outsourcing of government tasks and functions to private businesses with the aim of improving efficiency and effectiveness in government administration. However, among the criticisms of these reforms is the claim that the pervasive use of "Commercial-in-confidence" (or secrecy) clauses in contracts between government and private providers further limits public accountability of governments and prevents proper public scrutiny of the performance and probity of the private companies. Concerns have been raised that 'commercial-in-confidence' is open to abuse because it can be deliberately used to hide corporate or government maladministration and even corruption.

    Technology secrecy

    Preservation of secrets is one of the goals of information security. Techniques used include physical security and cryptography. The latter depends on the secrecy of cryptographic keys. Many believe that security technology can be more effective if it itself is not kept secret.

    Information hiding is a design principle in much software engineering. It is considered easier to verify software reliability if one can be sure that different parts of the program can only access (and therefore depend on) a known limited amount of information.

    Military secrecy

    A military secret is information about martial affairs that is purposely not made available to the general public and hence to any enemy, in order to gain an advantage or to not reveal a weakness, to avoid embarrassment, or to help in propaganda efforts.

    Most military secrets are tactical in nature, such as the strengths and weaknesses of weapon systems, tactics, training methods, plans, and the number and location of specific weapons.

    Some secrets involve information in broader areas, such as secure communications, cryptography, intelligence operations, and cooperation with third parties.

    Views on secrecy

    Excessive secrecy is often cited[1] as a source of much human conflict. One may have to lie in order to hold a secret, which might lead to psychological repercussions.[original research?] The alternative, declining to answer when asked something, may suggest the answer and may therefore not always be suitable for keeping a secret.

    Also, the other may insist that one answer the question. Nearly 2500 years ago, Sophocles wrote, "Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all." And Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, once said "Three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth".

    Secrecy in art

    das geheimnis 240
    Das Geheimnis (The Secret),
    Felix Nussbaum
    stolen interview 240
    A Stolen Interview, Edmund Blair Leighto
    first secret confidence to venus 240
    First secret confidence to Venus,
    François Jouffroy
    secret from on high 240
    A Secret from on High, Hippolyte Moulin
    moritz stifter the secret 240
    The Secret, Moritz Stifter
    References

    [1] Lightfoot, Geoffrey, and Tomasz Piotr Wisniewski. "Information asymmetry and power in a surveillance society." Information and Organization 24.4 (2014): 214-235.

    • Birchall, Clare (March 2011). ""There's been too much secrecy in this City": The false choice between secrecy and transparency in US politics". Cultural Politics (Duke University Press) 7 (1): 133–156. doi:10.2752/175174311X12861940861905.
    • Birchall, Clare (December 2011). "Introduction to ‘secrecy and transparency’: the politics of opacity and openness". Theory, Culture & Society (Sage) 28 (7–8): 7–25. doi:10.1177/0263276411427744.
    • Birchall, Clare (December 2011). "Transparency interrupted: secrets of the left". Theory, Culture & Society (Sage) 28 (7–8): 60–84. doi:10.1177/0263276411423040.
    • Bok, Sissela (1989). Secrets: on the ethics of concealment and revelation. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 9780679724735.
    • Schneier, Bruce (2004). Secrets and lies: digital security in a networked world. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley. ISBN 9780471453802.
    • Taylor, Henry (1991), "Sir Henry Taylor (1800-86): On secrecy", in Gross, John J., The Oxford book of essays, Oxford England New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780192141859.
      • Also available as: Taylor, Henry (1836), "On secrecy", in Taylor, Henry, The statesman, London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longman, pp. 128–131, OCLC 4790233. Preview.
    • Roberts, Alasdair (2006). Blacked out: government secrecy in the information age. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521858700.
    • "Secrecy legal news and research". JURIST.
    • Gidiere III, P. Stephen (2006). The federal information manual: how the government collects, manages, and discloses information under FOIA and other statutes. Chicago: American Bar Association. ISBN 9781590315798.
    • Canal, Vicente Aceituno (April 2006). "How secret is a secret?". ISSA Journal.
    • Plunkett, Geoff (2014). Death by mustard gas: how military secrecy and lost weapons can kill. Newport, New South Wales: Big Sky Publishing. ISBN 9781922132918.
    Sociological aspects of secrecy   From: Wikipedia
    Introduction

    georg simmel 240
    Georg Simmel

    The sociological aspects of secrecy were first studied by Georg Simmel in the early-1900s. Simmel describes secrecy as the ability or habit of keeping secrets. He defines the secret as the ultimate sociological form for the regulation of the flow and distribution of information.

    Simmel put it best by saying if human interaction is "conditioned by the capacity to speak, it is shaped by the capacity to be silent." It also can control the very essence of social relations though manipulations of the ratio of "knowledge" to "ignorance".

    The secrecy "concept"

    Simmel [1] defines the secret society as an interactional unit characterized in its total by the fact that reciprocal relations among its members are governed by the protective function of secrecy. This central feature is established on a dual contingency:

    1. Members of the interactonal unit are concerned with the protection of ideas, objects, activities, and/or sentiments to which they attach positive value (i.e., which are rewarding them)
    2. The members seek this protection by controlling the distribution of information about the valued elements (i.e., by creating and maintaining relevant conditions of ignorance in the external environment) depending upon the extensiveness of secrecy, the organization takes one of two forms; those in which the secret incorporates information about all aspects of the interactional unit, including its very existence; and those in which only some aspects, such as membership, regulations, or goals, remain secret.
    Simmel's Propositions

    Georg Simmel came up with some unifying threads that he summed up and called the "Propositions". [1][2] What these propositions function as is that they work together and apply primarily to the genetic and developmental conditions of the secret society. Here are a few of them.

    Proposition 1

    • The more value of an idea, object, activity, or sentiment is predicated on the restricted distribution of information about that idea, object, activity or sentiment, the more likely those persons who so define the value will organize as a secret society.

    Proposition 2

    • The more valued ideas, objects, activities, or sentiments of the members of a social unit are perceived as disproportionately threatened by those of nonmembers, the more likely the members will organize as a secret society.

    Proposition 3

    • The greater the tendency toward political oppression and totalitarian regimentation in the larger society, the greater the tendency toward development of secret societies within the larger society.

    Proposition 4

    • The greater the value of the ideas, objects, activities, or sentiments that constitute the focus of secrecy, the greater the tendency of the secret society toward total inclusion of its members' activities, sentiments, ideas and objects, and the greater the members' isolation from other interactional units.

    Proposition 5

    • The greater the tendency toward total inclusion, the more the organization adopts characteristics of the larger society.

    Proposition 6

    • The greater the tendency toward the total inclusion, the more likely the members possess aristocratic self-conceptions.

    Proposition 7

    • The more extensive the secrecy of the secret society, the greater the tendency toward centralization of authority.
    Rehabilitating the secret

    Some scholars working in sociology have attempted to rehabilitate the secret: to question the moral distaste it has accumulated in the current era of transparency in order to think through its more creative, productive or politically resistant possibilities. [3][4]

    The censorship idea

    Secrecy and censorship can involve norms about the control of information. This idea was integrated by saying that Censorship of communication in the modern sense is associated with large, complex urban societies with a degree of centralized control and technical means of effectively reaching a mass audience. [5]

    It involves a determination of what can, and can not (or in the case of non-governmental efforts should and should not) be expressed in light of given political, religious, cultural, and artistic standards. The appearance of new communications (e.g., the printing press or the Internet) technologies invariably create demands from conflicting groups for greater openness and freedom of communication and demands for greater control.

    Authorities try (often in vain) to control new techniques of mass communication. Three major means of direct censorship (pre-publication review, licensing and registration, and government monopolization) are preventive in nature. Among democracies there is considerable variation in censorship by content, media of communication, place, time period and across societies. There are degrees of censorship and individual interests are balanced against those of the community, however hard the latter is to define.

    More common than outright prohibition, is the segmentation of material involving time, place and person restrictions. Direct government means of censorship must be considered separately from the availability of resources to create and distribute information, the activities of private groups and from informal censorship, including exclusion from sources of information and self-censorship. In a democratic society secrecy and openness exist in a continual dynamic tension.

    See also

      Secrets (disambiguation)             Philosophy   Conspiracy theory
      Society   Marx   Deception
      Government   Microculture   Don't ask, don't tell  
      Conspiracy   Confidentiality             Espionage
    References

    [1] Georg Simmel. "The Sociology of Secrecy and of the Secret Societies" American Journal of Sociology 11(1906): 441-498

    [2] Hazelrigg, Lawrence E (1969). "A Re-examination of Simmel's 'The secret and the secret society': Nine Propositions'".

    [3] Birchall, Clare (December 2011). "'Transparency, Interrupted: Secrets of the Left". Theory, Culture & Society 28 (7-8). doi:10.1177/0263276411423040.

    [4] Bratich, Jack (2007). "Popular Secrecy and Occultural Studies". Cultural Studies 21 (1). doi:10.1080/09502380601046956.

    [5] Hazelrigg, Lawrence E (1969) "Social Forces"

    Additional resources

    The President and the Press
    Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961
    Editor's Note

    Tab 2 was compiled into this document before reading "The Hidden King(s)" by Miles Mathis.

    Since reading that analysis of the "JFK Assassination" fairy tale, I see that I am guilty of precisely what Miles points out about this speech by Kennedy and conspiracy theorists. The following is from "The Hidden King(s): The full speech can be found under Tab 3.

    As further support of this, I send you to the full speech of Kennedy on the shadow government, the one I mentioned earlier.

    • The web is now stiff with excerpts from this speech, and the excerpts are used for two main reasons.
    1. To show that Kennedy was fighting against this shadow government, in the way that Teddy Roosevelt is said to have done.
    2. To show us that this shadow government has now taken over, after the false flag of 911.
    • But the full speech does neither one. All you have to do is listen to the full speech to realize that the excerpts are taken out of context, and that the gist of the speech is the exact opposite of what we have been told.
    • JFK is in fact speaking in favor of governmental secrecy. There is no doubt of this, no room for debate. He says it outright, in plain language.
    • He is speaking before the press, asking them to censor themselves out of patriotism. He says that war has not been declared—so certain legal provisions are not in strict effect—but he asks the press and the American people to act as if they are in a declared war, and to therefore put up with heightened levels of governmental and official secrecy.
    • Not only is JFK’s speech not a contradiction of Bush’s speeches after 911, it is a clear precursor. JFK has a better speaking voice, but he is saying the same thing.
    • He is using the cold war as an excuse for secrecy and unaccountability.

    The real meaning of the full speech kills #1, above, since Kennedy was already a member of the shadow government, asking for more shade.

    The President and the Press
    Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961


    Secrecy is Repugnant

    The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

    For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence — on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

    Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed.

    No President should fear public scrutinity of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

    I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers — I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

    Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First (emphasized) Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants" — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

    This means greater coverage and analysis of international news — for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security…

    And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of mans deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

    The President and the Press: Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association


    Listen to speech here

    President John F. Kennedy
    Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City
    April 27, 1961

    Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

         I appreciate very much your generous invitation to be here tonight.

         You bear heavy responsibilities these days and an article I read some time ago reminded me of how particularly heavily the burdens of present day events bear upon your profession.

         You may remember that in 1851 the New York Herald Tribune under the sponsorship and publishing of Horace Greeley, employed as its London correspondent an obscure journalist by the name of Karl Marx.

         We are told that foreign correspondent Marx, stone broke, and with a family ill and undernourished, constantly appealed to Greeley and managing editor Charles Dana for an increase in his munificent salary of $5 per installment, a salary which he and Engels ungratefully labeled as the "lousiest petty bourgeois cheating."

         But when all his financial appeals were refused, Marx looked around for other means of livelihood and fame, eventually terminating his relationship with the Tribune and devoting his talents full time to the cause that would bequeath the world the seeds of Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and the cold war.

         If only this capitalistic New York newspaper had treated him more kindly; if only Marx had remained a foreign correspondent, history might have been different. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time they receive a poverty-stricken appeal for a small increase in the expense account from an obscure newspaper man.

         I have selected as the title of my remarks tonight "The President and the Press." Some may suggest that this would be more naturally worded "The President Versus the Press." But those are not my sentiments tonight.

         It is true, however, that when a well-known diplomat from another country demanded recently that our State Department repudiate certain newspaper attacks on his colleague it was unnecessary for us to reply that this Administration was not responsible for the press, for the press had already made it clear that it was not responsible for this Administration.

         Nevertheless, my purpose here tonight is not to deliver the usual assault on the so-called one party press. On the contrary, in recent months I have rarely heard any complaints about political bias in the press except from a few Republicans. Nor is it my purpose tonight to discuss or defend the televising of Presidential press conferences. I think it is highly beneficial to have some 20,000,000 Americans regularly sit in on these conferences to observe, if I may say so, the incisive, the intelligent and the courteous qualities displayed by your Washington correspondents.

         Nor, finally, are these remarks intended to examine the proper degree of privacy which the press should allow to any President and his family.

         If in the last few months your White House reporters and photographers have been attending church services with regularity, that has surely done them no harm.

         On the other hand, I realize that your staff and wire service photographers may be complaining that they do not enjoy the same green privileges at the local golf courses that they once did.

         It is true that my predecessor did not object as I do to pictures of one's golfing skill in action. But neither on the other hand did he ever bean a Secret Service man.
     

    My topic tonight is a more sober one of concern to publishers as well as editors.

         I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future—for reducing this threat or living with it—there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security—a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity.

         This deadly challenge imposes upon our society two requirements of direct concern both to the press and to the President—two requirements that may seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this national peril. I refer, first, to the need for a far greater public information; and, second, to the need for far greater official secrecy.
     

    I

         The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

         But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country's peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In time of "clear and present danger," the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public's need for national security.

         Today no war has been declared—and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.

         If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of "clear and present danger," then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.

         It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions—by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence—on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

         Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.

         Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security—and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion.

         For the facts of the matter are that this nation's foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire through theft, bribery or espionage; that details of this nation's covert preparations to counter the enemy's covert operations have been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike; that the size, the strength, the location and the nature of our forces and weapons, and our plans and strategy for their use, have all been pinpointed in the press and other news media to a degree sufficient to satisfy any foreign power; and that, in at least in one case, the publication of details concerning a secret mechanism whereby satellites were followed required its alteration at the expense of considerable time and money.

         The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible and well-meaning. Had we been engaged in open warfare, they undoubtedly would not have published such items. But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national security. And my question tonight is whether additional tests should not now be adopted.

         The question is for you alone to answer. No public official should answer it for you. No governmental plan should impose its restraints against your will. But I would be failing in my duty to the nation, in considering all of the responsibilities that we now bear and all of the means at hand to meet those responsibilities, if I did not commend this problem to your attention, and urge its thoughtful consideration.

          On many earlier occasions, I have said—and your newspapers have constantly said—that these are times that appeal to every citizen's sense of sacrifice and self-discipline. They call out to every citizen to weigh his rights and comforts against his obligations to the common good. I cannot now believe that those citizens who serve in the newspaper business consider themselves exempt from that appeal.

         I have no intention of establishing a new Office of War Information to govern the flow of news. I am not suggesting any new forms of censorship or any new types of security classifications. I have no easy answer to the dilemma that I have posed, and would not seek to impose it if I had one. But I am asking the members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.

         Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: "Is it news?" All I suggest is that you add the question: "Is it in the interest of the national security?" And I hope that every group in America—unions and businessmen and public officials at every level—will ask the same question of their endeavors, and subject their actions to the same exacting tests.

         And should the press of America consider and recommend the voluntary assumption of specific new steps or machinery, I can assure you that we will cooperate whole-heartedly with those recommendations.

         Perhaps there will be no recommendations. Perhaps there is no answer to the dilemma faced by a free and open society in a cold and secret war. In times of peace, any discussion of this subject, and any action that results, are both painful and without precedent. But this is a time of peace and peril which knows no precedent in history.
     

    II

         It is the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to your second obligation—an obligation which I share. And that is our obligation to inform and alert the American people—to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well—the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program and the choices that we face.

         No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

         I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers—I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

         Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed—and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment—the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"—but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

         This means greater coverage and analysis of international news—for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security—and we intend to do it.
     

    III

         It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder and the printing press. Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world's efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure.

         And so it is to the printing press—to the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news—that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

    Deliberate Obfuscation   From: Philosophy Stack Exchange
    Do some continental philosophers deliberately obfuscate their writing and why?

    In /r/philosophy a Redditor claims that certain continental philosophers deliberately write in a muddled (obscure, complicated) style, because:

    • They believe that to truly understand some ideas, a reader of philosophy should struggle with the text.
    • Fight through it, repeatedly trying to re-interpret mysterious sentences.

    They also say that the practice probably originated with Kierkegaard.

    • Did any continental philosopher admit to such practice?
    • For those, who hadn't directly acknowledge using such strategy, who we could confidently state they actually did?
    • When did this practice start?
    • What would be their exact reasons for that?

    If I'd, say, become a philosopher, for what reasons could I adopt this strategy?

    asked Jan 17 at 22:07 by Mirzhan Irkegulov



    Lacan is a good example (very close to imposture actually). I would't advise this strategy, unless you want to start a sect. – quen_tin Jan 17 at 22:19

    Having (tried to) read Kierkegaard that feels very likely. – Camil Staps Jan 18 at 0:21

    adorno says all philosophy should resist paraphrase.. – MATHEMATICIAN Jan 19 at 11:28

    It looks like to me, starting around the early 20th century, after the successors "dug up" the intrinsic part of the "philosophy", so called "philosophers"' purpose seems to be "contesting" with the difficult words in order to make they themselves find a new idea so that he or she can be an inheritor but with the aim to keep their position to be safe at their other hand. – Kentaro Tomono Apr 16 at 10:17

    I should have said the "philosophy for the philosophy's sake" is quite waste of time. Now I understand the importance of the application of the philosophy-social-science on human society, but here we encounter another problem. The failure is not allowed. Oh way yes, Stalin ( actually more by Kaganovic and Kruschev ) killed millions of Ukraineans by the imfamous famine-industrializaition, but can we call them "thinkers"?? More likely power pursuers. But you know now the main stream economists are applying their own theory. Well Greece is a nice example of their fault. – Kentaro Tomono Apr 16 at 11:16

    Try and ask one question at a time. You've bundled together half a dozen queries or so here. Ask a single one at a time, and if you have any questions following someone's answer, make a comment. – Sampark Sharma Jul 10 at 6:36

    Kierkegaard

    Kierkegaard did use a technique called "indirect communication" through which he sought to emphasize the need for the reader to actually engage what was being said. In his case, this is as specific response to Danish Hegelianism which claimed that everything was understood. For Kierkegaard, the point is that some things (specifically, things like what it would mean for God to become a man, the resurrection) were, in fact, not being understood at all but rather presumed to be understood.

    There are some 20th and 21st century "continental" philosophers who write in unclear ways. They might claim that their practice has an origin in Kierkegaard, but I don't know of any who do so for the same motive. Maybe in the broadest terms they do, because they might deny that everything is understood or that language can help us to understand everything. Surely, however, they don't agree with Kierkegaard's specific claims. In a weird way, they also see the specific claims of Christianity as speed bumps on the way to something else.

    In regards to who consciously engages in this practice among 20/21st century continental figures, it would be nearly impossible to catalogue them all. Derrida, at least according to my dissertation advisor, promised his mother never to write clearly.

    Regarding who we can confidently state does this, I don't know how that would be anything but contentious. First, the true believers in whichever figure X may deny that it's obscurantist. Second, there is a legitimate distinction between really hard to understand and gibberish.

    So for instance, returning to Kierkegaard, I wouldn't say every single sentence in every single work is easy to decipher lucid prose. But I do think he's actually a very good stylist and the difficult in understanding his philosophy stems not from obscurantism but from the wide-ranging source materials he's familiar with and the fluency he has in using them (incorporating deep knowledge of standard interpretations of the Greek and Latin philosophers).

    Sharing just my own opinions on some of the bigger figures:

    Husserl - very difficult ideas, very bad writing, not with the goal of obscuring Heidegger - simpler ideas, bad readings of other texts, not as hard to understand if you can read German, sometimes obscuring in style due to idiosyncratic usages. Sometimes obscurant for philosophical reasons related to his views of our understanding. Sartre - clearer if you understand Hegel and Husserl, difficult due to the style, not prone to obscurantism Levinas - hard to follow because of idiosyncratic vocabulary. In desperate need of an editor, somewhat intentionally obscurant due to opposition to what he sees as traditional modes of relating to the world Foucault - hard to follow to due to historiographic method of argumentation Derrida - sometimes intentionally obscurant

    Those are the main continental figures I know from the 20th and 21st century.


    In regards to "when did this practice start," without a clearer idea of what the practice is, I have no idea.

    In regards to "what would be their exact reasons," this part of your question is fundamentally unanswerable. Because (1) there may not be a common practice, (2) each thinker may have their own reasons for doing similar or common practices, and (3) no thinker was forced to write downwhy they wrote in the way we did.


    If you become a philosopher, I would strongly recommend against adopting the practice. While you might find a few universities that will let you write in this way, my experience has been that regardless of sub-field, philosophical writing is best done with clarity and directness. Or to put it another way, academic philosophy is different from famous people philosophy.

    The so-called "analytic continental" divide is a weird one, because "analytic" at this point refers to a method (having shifted from the claim that denied there is an metaphysics and saw philosophy just as the analysis of language) -- seeking clarity in our writing, and "continental" refers to a subject matter, i.e. certain philosophies from the continent of Europe starting from about Hegel onward.

    answered Jan 18 at 1:19 | virmaior♦



    "Derrida, at least according to my dissertation advisor, promised his mother never to write clearly." Such a good gem. – hellyale Jul 10 at 4:51

    Unaccustomed restraint imposed upon thought

    Interesting that Hegel himself writes about this in Phänomenologie des Geistes;
    In English translation this is paragraph 63 here

    quote small leftThis unaccustomed restraint imposed upon thought is for the most part the cause of the complaints concerning the unintelligibility of philosophical writings, when otherwise the individual has in him the requisite mental cultivation for understanding them. In what has been said we see the reason for the specific charge often made against them, that a good deal has to be read repeatedly before it can be understood – an accusation which is meant to convey something improper in the extreme, and one which if granted to be sound admits of no further reply. It is obvious from the above what is the state of the case here. The philosophical proposition, being a proposition, calls up the accepted view of the usual relation of subject and predicate, and suggests the idea of the customary procedure which takes place in knowledge. Its philosophical content destroys this way of proceeding and the ordinary view taken of this process. The common view discovers that the statement is intended in another sense than it is thinking of, and this correction of its opinion compels knowledge to recur to the proposition and take it now in some other sense.quote small right

    answered Jan 18 at 19:19 | Urs Schreiber



    i read the preface of the phenomenology of spirit and it was a pretty bizarre experience, probably the weirdest i've had reading philosophy. – MATHEMATICIAN Jan 20 at 1:31

    p>It seems to me the right perspective is to read it as a piece in gnosticism or mysticism. Chapter III is maybe the most astounding: a conciousness after perceiving its own existence and reflecting on it sees in that reflection the dynamics of the forces of nature appear. – Urs Schreiber Jan 20 at 11:16

    Yeah, isn't that fun, Hegel's explanation of why philosophical writing is hard to understand is itself hard to understand. But, take it easy. Some people like Jazz, others don't. Nothing to get worked up over. – Urs Schreiber Jan 24 at 22:13

    Urs Schreiber Lmao.He is just making potential readers go away. lol. – Kentaro Tomono Apr 16 at 9:58

    Analytical vs. evocative

    'Deliberate obfuscation' suggests that, privately, these philosophers have a clear formulation of their thoughts, but in writing they try to obscure them. I can't think of any reason to believe this would be true for any great philosopher.

    Kierkegaard's difficulty is for me mainly that, besides being long-winded, he speaks in 'hegelese', in the language of Hegel. Hegel's language is difficult because a lot of his terms differ (strongly) in meaning from (current) everyday usage. This, however, has been a feature of philosophy from the start. Plato used 'idea' (image) in an idiosyncratic way. The same goes for Aristotle's 'morphe', Descartes' 'cogito', Kant's 'Vorstellung', Carnap's 'framework', etc.

    Ernst Tugendhat (in Selbstbewußtsein und Selbstbestimmung, English: Self-consciousness and self-determination) described Heidegger's use of language as 'evocative'. Inspired on that I would differentiate between two forms of language in philosophy:

      • analytical: trying to break up and separate unknown notions into understandable, known notions. The goal is description, clarification. Its style is therefore critical, clear, argumentative.
      • strong>evocative: trying to conceive a change in meaning, a semantic shift, a mutation in terminology. The goal is a modified or new perspective. Its style is more obscure or, positively, more poetic, because the philosopher has to convey the new meaning using the 'old' words.

    I think both strands can be found in most philosophers. Some are more on the analytical side, while others on the evocative side.

    answered Apr 14 at 7:12 | jeroenk



    Convoluted

    There is the assumption here that the argument and its exposition are different things. This is not always the case, Adorno's philosophy is a case in point I think.

    So you'd be better off asking: why is some philosophy so convoluted.

    The answer to that is probably about both the knotted history of philosophy, and thought itself. You could say that a philosophy should always be clear etc., but as long as it isn't composed of nothing but naive questions, but philosophy also generates its own problems, then it seems quite fitting that their answer won't just be a resolution, but actively generates further questions, which may be of increasing complexity.

    answered Jan 19 at 12:38 | MATHEMATICIAN



    I wasn't the down vote but if you could rephrase your last point for clarity, you will have my up vote. As it stands, your last sentence is unintelligible. Other than that, I think your point that the argument is not always separate from the exposition is right on par and very interesting. – Dylan Williams Jan 20 at 20:22

    Georges Bataille

    The French philosopher and writer Georges Bataille has a particularly unique and challenging writing style which can be, at times, both obfuscating and contradictory. However, he justifies his usage of such a writing style for a number of reasons that are wholly integrated into his way of thinking. To explain his justification for this way of writing I will have to provide some background. I apologize for the length of this answer but I feel it is truly necessary to answer your question properly. I will try to outline the basic idea below but please understand that I am summarizing hundreds of pages writing into a couple of paragraphs so there will be a lot of deliberate oversimplification. Bataille's specific terminology is italicized.

    Systematic Thought

    n the 1933 article "The Psychological Structure of Fascism", Bataille creates specific vocabulary that will essentially form the basis of all other concepts and ideas he invents in his writing for the next ~30 years [1]. Bataille is interested in systematic human thought - the way humans tend to view things in terms of systems and structure. In his view, humans have a tendency to formulate structures that maintain stability between its interacting parts. One example of this could be social norms. Maintaining the status quo about say, homosexual rights and marriage, would allow the current system of structured beliefs to remain intact and allow the current identity of a current way of thinking to remain intact. Such a system would be a homogeneous system - one that exists to maintain itself. In opposition to this, there is always a heterogeneous system - one that exists as a result of the elements that were rejected or refused by the homogeneous system. Heterogeneity represents the loosely collected things that do not fit into the "norm". In this case it would be those in favor of changing the established system (those in favor of homosexual rights).

    Remember that Bataille was writing in the 1930's and so his thought is follows directly from Marxist ideology. As such, he also describes class structures as being quite similar - it is the pariahs, madmen, thieves, and rebels that form the heterogeneous class structure opposed to the homogeneity of government and the employed class that exists to better and further fuel the structure and stability of the economy and social order. Bataille is often seen as a precursor to Poststructralist thinking so it is not surprising that his ideas are also quite Marxist.

    Experience and Subjectivity

    Bataille will extend this idea beyond social/economic structures and into a discussion about human identity and self-consciousness. Bataille sees human beings as beings torn between two states of mind. There is on the one hand the animal, non-rational, instinctual, emotional (subjective, heterogeneous) side that wants to live in the moment of the experience and the rational, forward-thinking, calculated (objective, homogeneous) side that creates systems and structures. In his view, humans deeply desire intimate connections with one another and achieve this when their subjective experiences are pushed to their limits and when they abandon themselves to the moment (referred to as intimacy by Bataille in Theory of Religion and related to Durkheim's left-hand sacred). He sees these experiences as the basis for the human desire for "useless" experiences such as entertainment/games, religion/mystical experiences, jewelery/ornamentation, sexuality (for pleasure), and so forth.[2] In other words, things that do not fit into a utilitarian framework of rational, "useful", calculated output - things that are wasteful.[3]

    Identity, and one's cohesive concept of self is, in Bataille's view, the restricted form of being (homogenous existence). Human beings desperately want to feel, want an intimate connection with the world around them (continuity) and only do so when they shatter and transgress beyond the boundaries or limits of their established beliefs, ideas, and self-mastery. It the loss of one's identity that let's one truly experience subjectivity, the loss of self-mastery which allows one to be sovereign, not identity itself (this may be seen as a reversal of Hegel's master-slave dialectic).

    It is when one "loses one's head", one's rational mind, that the expansive form of being (represented by Bataille as a fictional character called Acephale, French for "headless") that one actual exists.

    quote small leftHuman life is exhausted from serving as the head of, or the reason for, the universe. To the extent that it becomes this head and this reason, to the extent that it becomes necessary to the universe, it accepts servitude. If it is not free, existence becomes empty or neutral and, if it is free, it is in play... Man however has remained free not to respond to any necessity; he is free to resemble everything that is not himself in the universe... Man has escaped from his head just as the condemned man has escaped from his prison.[4]quote small right

    Bataille represents this situation using an ontological construction called ipse which is torn between both modes of being - the desire to maintain one's cohesive self and the desire to lose oneself in the moment of experience.[5][6] Such powerful (sovereign) moments can be found in laughter, tears, sexuality, mourning/encounters with death, communication/shared moments and so forth - powerful experiences that strip oneself away from the calculated future. In other words, heterogeneous experiences such as these oppose and threaten the structure of homogeneous identity and one's sense of self. The concept of transgression - deliberately violating one's beliefs, social norms, taboos and so forth are powerful to Bataille because they push us beyond our limits and open us up to "true", expansive being (similar to Heidegger usage of "Being" with a capital B). Transgression is something that is both painful and ecstatic, the coincidence of horror and joy; it includes the stripping bare of one's self combined with the freedom of escaping one's own bonds. Foucault analyzes this idea in his article on Bataille ("A Preface to Transgression"). In terms of human autonomy, this flies directly in the face of the principle of individuation. One does not make oneself different by doing (becoming), in fact, the question is misguided. Human beings will achieve satisfaction by not doing (being), by being incomplete. In this sense, Bataille's philosophy is completely anti-teleological (immanence as opposed to transcendence). It is the loss of goals, the loss of meaning, the loss of structure (absence, Void) at the extreme limit which gives the context for meaning in the first place represented as a kind of negative dialectic. At the final moment, Hegel's dialectic will undo itself when Absolute Knowledge is actually attained, unraveling the entire edifice.[7]

    Writing and Structure

    So finally, we arrive at writing and language. To Bataille, writing is itself a mode of expression of identity that allows one to maintain their own cohesion and sense of self. Everything that we are is wrapped up in words and language. Language is an expression of the homogeneous form of being as it maintains the intactness of our sense of self and identity.

    quote small leftWords - we use them, we make them the instruments of useful acts. We wouldn't be human if language within us had to be entirely servile. Nor can we do with the efficacious relationships that words introduce between men and things. But we tear words from these relationships in a delirium.[8]quote small right

    This leads to the question then about Bataille's own writing. Is he not using words, structures, ideas and concepts? How can he possibly write critically against systematic thought when that is precisely the tool he is using? For this final section, I will now address some of your questions directly.

    1. Did any continental philosopher admit to such practice? For those, who hadn't directly acknowledge using such strategy, who we could confidently state they actually did?

    Bataille's reasons for doing this are sometimes articulated directly and sometimes a bit more subtle. He certainly did not write like this all of his career. By his own admission, the only adequate expression of his philosophy would actually be silence.

    quote small leftAnd this difficulty is expressed in this way: the word silence is still a sound, to speak is to imagine knowing, and to no longer know, it would be necessary to no longer speak… It is through an 'intimate cession of every intellectual operation' that the mind is laid bare.[9]quote small right

    To Bataille, language is associated with thought, with knowledge, with future planning. Thought is subordinated temporally to a time which has not yet occurred and is therefore servile.[10] The moment, the NOW, is all that exists for Bataille and it is the realm of experience, outside language which can only describe its effects. One way to describe Bataille's goal is to escape the limits of language and discursive thought by pushing it to its limits. Bataille is attempting to write a system of thought which will ruin and destroy itself. The language is self-destructive and unstable, paradoxical and contradictory for the purpose of internal subversion. It is meant to evoke something powerful within the reader that takes them into the moment out of rational thought. The general idea here is Bataille is attempting to "free" words and concepts from the grasp of functional, calculated language by ungluing them from their traditional, normal usage.

    quote small leftKnowledge relating objects to the sovereign moment risks in the end being confused with this moment itself.

    This knowledge that one might call liberated (but that I prefer to call neutral) is the use of a function detached (liberated) from the servitude that is its principle: the function related the unknown to the known (to the solid), whereas dating it from the moment in which it was detached, it related the known to the unknown[11]quote small right

    And that is why he says poetry (or general poetic writing) is "the sacrifice in which words are victims." [12]

    So this armchair theorizing is all well and good but does this actually work for Bataille in practice? In my humble opinion, I would say it works marginally well. Some of his more poetic and aphoristic works are very personal and convey some of these themes. Over the course of his writing career he constantly revisited the same basic concepts (homogeneity/heterogeneity) in completely different ways and the definitions slowly shift, contradict, or only maintain a loose cohesion with early concepts. On the whole, there is a general system in place but it is never directly specified or laid out. To make an analogy to graph theory, while many ideas in philosophical works might be organized conceptually into some kind of hierarchical nesting, the equivalent for Bataille's work would form a disorganized web of interrelated concepts with high connectivity. There is no good starting point since every concept relies heavily on other concepts. Shockingly, this applies in many ways to his earliest works which sometimes require later works for context despite the fact that they had not yet been written. So overall, it works - so long as you don't try to take Bataille too seriously. That too is the point - Bataille's notion of laughter and not taking himself seriously undermines his own arguments.

    2. What would be their exact reasons for that?

    For one thing, Bataille definitely saw his writing as "heterogeneous philosophy". It is philosophy that goes against academic, homogeneous writing standards. He would likely have been proud that his philosophy is the useless, rejected waste matter of proper objective philosophy. Ultimately this is because Bataille is trying to convey subjective experience through discursive thought. In his view, an experience cannot be described (we can't describe laughter only what it felt like after it happened) but it can be communicated. His language tries to evoke something beyond the objective, rational mind which has a calculated reason for its operations (i.e. he is in favor of emotions experienced in the moment).

    Alternatively, the point is for your to figure it out on your own and come to your own conclusions (not unlike, say, the riddles common to aspects of Zen Buddhism). The idea is that your subjective experience will dictate the way you interpret his work and the ambiguity allows you to experience it the way you want to. In a more academic sense, it is a way of learning through experience. I am a graduate student in the biological sciences and I frequently utilize a kind of Socratic technique with my students where I ask a question in a deliberately complicated way so they can unravel it and find the answer themselves. This does not work with all students but if done correctly I feel the students learn better because they have not just memorized but measured their current experiences and knowledge against new facts to integrate it into their working knowledge. The satisfaction the students have when they work backward through my questions is immense and they have told me that they felt they learned and understood the concept far better than if I had told them directly. I see Bataille's approach to be along the same lines.

    3. If I'd, say, become a philosopher, for what reasons could I adopt this strategy?

    It depends on what you are trying to say and do. Bataille's approach is not appropriate for academic philosophy or rhetoric about how to act in the real world. It is not meant to be "used" for anything (for that would in the realm of homogeneous, objective, and rational thinking). I think Bataille's strategy is appropriate because it matches his general ideology (which is, of course, somewhat systematic by his own admission). Even Bataille toned down this writing style when he spoke to audiences or wrote more technical, empirical articles. Ultimately, it is about what your message is about and who is supposed to receive it.


    Footnotes and References:

    [1] Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927-1939, Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt, and Donald M. Leslie, Jr., 1985, University of Minnesota Press: 137-160.

    [2] ibid. 116-129

    [3] This last point (Bataille's "paradox of absolute utility"), from an economic standpoint is certainly dubious and he has been criticized for it. See "General Economics and Postmodern Capitalism", Jean-Joseph Goux, Yale French Studies 78, 1990: 206-224 for a criticism, The Sunday of the Negative: Reading Bataille Reading Hegel, Christopher M. Gemerchak, 2003, SUNY Albany: 75-113 for a neutral reading, and Bataille's Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability, Allan Stoekl, 2007, University of Minnesota for a defense of this view.

    [4] See "The Sacred Conspiracy" in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927-1939, Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt, and Donald M. Leslie, Jr., 1985, University of Minnesota Press: 180-181.

    [5] See "The Labyrinth" in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927-1939, Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt, and Donald M. Leslie, Jr., 1985, University of Minnesota Press: 171-177 and Inner Experience, Georges Bataille, Trans. Stuart Kendall, 2014, SUNY Albany: 85-100 for a revised version of "The Labyrinth" which includes elaboration on the themes presented there.

    [6] Sartre would later claim the term ipseity as being borrowed by Bataille from the Corbin translation of Heidegger's Being and Time - a rendition of the German word Selbstheit. See "A New Mystic". Jean-Paul Sartre, Trans. Chris Turner, Critical Essays, 2010: 219-293.

    [7] See "Hegel, Death, and Sacrifice", Georges Bataile, Yale French Studies 78, 1990: 9-28.

    [8] Inner Experience, Georges Bataille, Trans. Stuart Kendall, 2014, SUNY Albany: 135

    [9] ibid. 20

    [10] Bataille discusses this extensively throughout the Accursed Share Volume 3.

    [11] See "Method of Meditation" in Inner Experience, Georges Bataille, Trans. Stuart Kendall, 2014, SUNY Albany: 192, emphasis Bataille.

    [12] ibid. 135

    answered Jul 16 at 2:36 | syntonicC



    Two things. First, this is really long even with formatting. Structurally, large parts seem pasted in from a different product like a term paper and then an end is stapled to bring it on topic. (But it could just be so long that it exceeds my patience for random writing on the internet). Second, it seems moderately cogent. These two things lead me to ask if you can edit down a bit. – virmaior♦ Jul 16 at 5:48

    I am completely self-taught in philosophy so if my writing sounds even remotely academic I take that as a huge compliment. Basically, I have no one to discuss these ideas with and just jumped at the opportunity on here. I just sat and wrote for about an hour and I guess it all came out at once. It would help me greatly if you and other readers can give me some indication on what I can remove that still allows the concluding sections to remain understandable - I found it difficult to express my conclusion without the proper background. In the mean time I will work on doing the same. Thanks! – syntonicC Jul 16 at 11:48

    You could probably replace the first paragraph with "I'm going to answer this question about and with respect to George Bataille." Second and third paragraph, Bataille was a marxist and in "The Psychological Structure of Fascism" proposed homongeous systems (unchanged, such as maintaining the status quo on gay marriage) and heteronomous (changed, such a society with conflicting values). (I think you may be trivializing the difference there by identifying it with pro-gay values) – virmaior♦ Jul 16 at 14:09

    Next group of paragraphs "for Bataille, this also happens on the level of the individual and identity" and proceed to condense like that. – virmaior♦ Jul 16 at 14:10

    Post modernity

    My theory: Yes, it is deliberate. Why?

    Science has explained enough to make people self-aware, thus threatening the "nobility" and the lies they use to keep their privileged position.

    That's why "nobility" attacks the sciences, clarity, and logic itself. I consider these to be three traits of "post modernity." Thus confusing the students that could enlighten the masses even more, to the point where the "nobility" would not just be threatened, but "extinct".

    answered Jan 27 at 22:12 | Rodrigo

    edited Jul 10 at 5:54 | hellyale

    When did it begin?

    When did it begin? Before Schopenhauer, for sure, since he writes about this in his "The Art of Literature" ("A Arte de Escrever", in portuguese). He says that when somebody doesn't have anything to say, it's useful to hide this absence under obscure sentences.

    In the 20th century, this has become more common, and even widespread in what has been called "post-modernism". One of the basis of this movement is the attack of reason. Their justification is that reason enables technology, and modern technology is enslaving humankind. Beautiful, BUT: the industry will keep on using technology AND reason to enslave humankind, but humankind has everyday less reason to defend itself.

    What I think it's going on is: the Enlightenment, and the science and philosophy after it, have gradually reduced the power of religion to enslave humankind. Darwin gave the "mercy shot" in the monotheistic god, Marx developed a system where religion was abandoned, and humankind could at last (in theory) be free. Of course there would be a reaction. The power of the religious elite is big enough to put "thinkers" inside important universities, to publish their books, to make flattering reviews and so on. It seems to me it began with the so-called "Frankfurt school" (composed mostly of jews, a group that owns lots of things, from universities to newspapers and industries).

    Other points they repeatedly assert: "there is no truth", if there is no truth, than there is no lie, and the religions again can lie without anyone say they're lying. They also write a lot about "fragmentation", since a fragmented society is weak to defend itself against the powerful ones (be it the industry or the churches).

    But why use a cryptic style to convey such message? Because, in a rational society, their lies would be immediately unveiled. With their style, they can always answer "that's not what we said!" But there is more to their style: they mix cryptic passages with very clear ones - and the clear ones are of two kind: 1) the one that makes obvious claims, thus serving as an anchor to the reader's thinking ("oh, now I'm getting what he is saying...") and usually giving a left-wing sensation, what makes them popular in the "developing" world; 2) some subliminal passages where they spread their real values, i.e. putting theology and philosophy as "equal", and both above the natural sciences; accusing science of mistakes made by religion; saying that "the world is a human construct", that "the truth is inside each head"; etc.

    Part of it has been explained by Sokal in his famous "affair". But other critics have said similar things about other "thinkers", for instance, Derrida.

    Finally, if you should write in such style? Of course not! One who thinks clearly must write clearly. If one is on the side of the people, it should be able to communicate with the people. I suggest writing as clear as possible, like Bertolt Brecht, Schopenhauer, Noam Chomsky, Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Dostoievski and many others.

    answered Jan 22 at 14:21 | Rodrigo



    “composed mostly of jews, a group that owns lots of things, from universities to newspapers and industries”—dude, seriously? Some Jews were super-rich, some Jews were writing on philosophy, these 2 groups mostly did not intersect. Being a Jew is just one property, among many. It's basic set theory/logic, WTF.

     – Mirzhan Irkegulov | Jan 22 at 17:03

    "Mostly did not intersect"? How do you know? So you believe in that story that they attacked the logic trying to help people? Why not attack the industries that used logic and technology to enslave people? That's the approach used by Noam Chomsky, and it seems far more useful to me. –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 20:07

    Regardless of intentions and evilness of Frankfurt School, saying that they are Jews is a non-sequitur, saying that Jews controlled something is a non-sequitur, speculating what I believe is a non-sequitur. Dude, you shouldn't be talking about logic if you use logical fallacies. All I'm saying your argument is weak as hell regardless whether it happens to be true or not. –  Mirzhan Irkegulov | Jan 22 at 21:19

    I didn't speculate what you think. I ASKED what you think. And you didn't answer. It seems you are one more interested in keeping the religious status quo, most western philosophers are exactly like that. Jews dominate the west. Most of the tv channels in Brazil and other countries are pro-Israel. If hundreds of palestines die, they don't give a damn. Only one jew dies, that's news. One must take a look at the big picture, before trying to grasp what is and what is not logical. –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 21:38

    And those downvotes are completely foreseeable. Say the monotheism is a disgrace to the world, and most philosophers won't even ask why, they'll just knock you out. –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 21:40

    Dude, you're wrong. Not in arguments themselves, there are loads of shit happening around the world, capitalism, imperialism, wars, hypocrisy. My country is an authoritarian shithole, for one. I am a super-cynical ultra-leftist myself. But your argument is logically invalid. If one asks you whether continental philosophers deliberately write crap, it's logically incorrect to answer that they are Jews, that Brazil is pro-Israel, that the asker is pro-monotheistic, or whatever. It just has nothing to do with the question. And even if it is true, you don't support it properly. All I'm sayin'. –  Mirzhan Irkegulov | Jan 22 at 21:49

    They are promoting a neo-obscurantism, upon which they profit. What haven't you understood? Philosophy long ago was about trying to understand the world. Today it is more about citing the "great ones" and pretending they have to be right, since they are "great". THIS is a fallacy. Now, if you were a philosopher, you would try to understand what I'm saying, instead of saying I'm wrong just because you didn't get it. –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 21:57

    Dude, I am not a philosopher, I am a programmer. I ask questions on this website because I want detailed answers with high amount of information. I don't pay for information, so you are not obliged to answer, but it's still true that the more information you provide, the better this answer is for me. The best answer is the one that can be a foundation of my further investigation in the topic. For that I need lucid logic, directions to where investigate further, intuition pumps, etc. You don't have that. You just ask me to believe you. I want to believe you, but I can't do it without evidence.> –  Mirzhan Irkegulov | Jan 22 at 22:01

    So can't you connect the dots? Don't you see that there are powerful people who profit from a confused world? That they write like that as a way to attack the logic that almost destroyed the religion and the capitalism that makes them so powerful? You should ask, whenever you don't get something, instead of saying the speaker is wrong. I gave you things to investigate: postmodernism is a lie to keep the power of some. It's done in a style that avoids criticism. I'm getting used with people like you who always defend the status quo, but in an indirect way, just like the postmoderns do. –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 22:14

    Dude, I am not defending the status quo. You are confused. And you are going to be heavily downvoted. Not because you are against capitalism, or Jews, or Frankfurt School, or monotheism. But because your argument is crap. The logic, not the content. Hell, I would upvote you even if you were a neo-Nazi (and I hate neo-Nazis), provided you had a coherent and valid argument. I'm sorry I can't explain myself so that you would see that claiming that Frankfurt school conspired with, say, Rotschilds, because they are both Jews, is a crap argument, and not "connecting the dots", as you think. –  Mirzhan Irkegulov | Jan 22 at 22:18

    Well, the facts are: 1) Frankfurt school promoted obscurantism; 2) we are seeing a ressurgence of religion because of that; 3) someone must be profiting on it; 4) most scholars from Frankfurt school were jews; 5) obscurantism increases christianism; 6) jews benefit from christianism (who else would "forgive their offenders"?). It's more than just "both are jews". The other point is: being owners of so many media vehicles, they have the power to put those LIARS in the spotlight, and make so many stupid westerners think "oh, I can't even understand them, they might be very intelligent!" –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 22:29

    Dude, again, I'm not interested in Frankfurt school, Juws, Christianity, "religious elite", Rotschilds, Anunaks, Nibiru or whatever. It has nothing to do with the original question. You have to give evidence for your reasoning. Do you even know how evidence looks like? Your argument is crap, you don't give coherent logic, or reference the events or historical facts that would raise posterior probability of your assertions, or give a detailed framework, or whatever. You just throw random unsupported propositions and become angry nobody agrees. Your argument is crap. Deal with it. –  Mirzhan Irkegulov | Jan 22 at 22:37

    Yes, it is a bit complex. Mostly when you are "not interested" in the figures behind it. But I told you WHY they deliberately write like that. If you don't want to understand, it's up to you. But I know my argument is far more logic than the texts you refer to in first place. –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 22:41

    Again: you can think as much as you wish that this is why they write this way. But you don't provide sufficient evidence for that. The world is complex as hell, so just saying something that looks convincing only to someone who doesn't know game theory or cognitive psychology is not enough. Whining that everybody is against you because nobody is willing to agree with you right away is a failure mode, it's some kindergarten bullshit. I'm sorry, but you're argument is really primitive, you just have no idea what you're talking about. – Mirzhan Irkegulov | Jan 22 at 23:02

    Yes, I don't have all the evidences. I only have some clues. But philosophy is not always made of evidences. What I wrote is what sounds logical to me, and I am suggesting you to investigate too. If you prefer to choose as the correct answer that "doing so they are evidencing the traps of language", go ahead. But be prepared to be deceived. –  Rodrigo | Jan 22 at 23:21

    Deliberate Obfuscation |   By Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner

    This came to me so strong… so strong. It is not pretty. It is not meant to be pretty. It is designed to bring light to the horror of FGM and other means of holding women back. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    fgm

    OUTRAGE comes in many
    godless beliefs.
    It screams from broken shards
    of glass, cries in
    each slice of a razor
    blade dulled by time,
    debased with dirt and blood,
    on tender flesh:
    Woman must be scraped from
    the crotches of
    innocent little girls
    to prove herself
    worthy of a husband,
    evidence of
    the last butchering still
    wet on the tip.

    It also comes in the
    burqa and veil
    diminishing females
    to shapeless forms
    of anonymity:
    sexless lumps draped
    to be invisible,
    to have no voice.
    Blending in the background,
    she has no name -
    she is not important.
    Deliberate
    obfuscation meant to
    keep WOMAN in
    her place … lower than life,
    than animals.

    © 2006, Karla Dorman.

    Truth, or Consequence: Considering the Cost of Secrecy  From: UFOinfo
    Introduction - A Dangerous Precedence

    roswell daily record july8 1947 250
    Click to view full size

    Yes, I believe UFO's are invading our airspace. I can't say why or by whom. Does the whole world think I am a nutcase? Surprisingly, a significant number of Americans agree with me. A recent National Geographic poll indicates 36% of Americans believe aliens definitely exist, 17% do not, and 48% percent are undecided. [1]

    Why so many undecided? Could it be that most people are afraid or embarrassed to report a UFO sighting because of the social stigma attached?

    roswell daily record july9 1947 250
    Click to view full size

    On July 8, 1947; the day after the infamous Roswell incident, the defenders and elected officials that govern the United States set into place a precedence that has cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars every year. It was decided to deny the Roswell UFO crash occurred. They would change the truth; and those officials that let the "disc out of the bag" were to be painted as Air Force officials that can't tell an intelligently controlled flying vehicle from a balloon. Retractions were issued by the media. The truth just became a bold-faced lie. The CIA was created and directed to proceed with disinformation, public humiliation and ridicule [2] to protect 'the lie'. The Department of Defense was in charge of securing and hiding 'the lie'. We, the taxpaying citizens are unknowingly financing these agencies and our government to hide 'the lie' from the citizens. The single most important event in human history and we haven't been told the truth by our own government. They want us to believe it never occurred, while we foot the bill.

    If I were our leader, and an unknown and technologically superior threat was landing in my fields mutilating my cattle, abducting my children, [3] violating my airspace and disarming my defense weaponry; I would want to know about it. As a courtesy I would also inform my neighbors to be wary of the danger so they would have a chance to prepare for it. I would mandate the reporting of sightings through a federally managed public network reporting system. The preponderance and volume of evidence that currently exists is more than sufficient to justify the public acknowledgement of extraterrestrial visitation. The American people have placed our trust in our government to make the right decisions on matters of national and international concern. Do they really have our best interests in mind?

    mutilation1 240

    Disclosure and a higher level of transparency would save the United States taxpayers billions of dollars anually. Secrecy costs money. Black project programs cost tens of billions of dollars every year, yet even the President doesn't have "the need to know" how and for what black project funding is spent. We, the People, wrote a 51 billion dollar blank check to the Department of Defense in 2012 for black projects. [4] Hiding the UFO secret and associated technology doesn't use the entire amount. Weapons development, national security and secret scientific tech use a significant portion, so what is actually spent to hide the UFO secret we may never know. We need to understand that black projects involving weapons and related technology must remain classified for national security reasons. For the United States to maintain military superiority over possible aggressors, we will always have a black projects budget. That is, until the nations of this world learn to behave and work together against greater dangers; such as an extraterrestrial threat to our species.


    [1] Ufology Research Website
    http://uforum.blogspot.com/2012/06/lies-damn-lies-and-polls-about-ufos.html

    [2] The UFO Encyclopedia - Central Intelligence Agency pg. 53-54.

    [3] MUFON UFO Journal - Missing Persons May Be Tied To UFO Cases; David Paulides Oct. 2013, pg.1

    [4] AllGov.com
    http://www.allgov.com/news/where-is-the-money-going/

    The Results Are In

    truth11

    As direct result of the CIA's public humiliation protocol, as many as 70-90% of all UFO sightings go unreported; or reported anonymously. Anonymous reports have zero credibility to investigative groups and researchers, because it is impossible to tell whether the report is genuine or a hoax. Hoaxes are another unfortunate result of the CIA protocol. MUFON investigators require a valid I.D. card when a witness is interviewed in order to help discourage false reports; or hoaxes. Witnesses normally won't lie when it becomes a matter of record.

    People would rather try to forget what they saw than become the town fool. A large number of sightings go unreported; thus leaving an inaccurate representation of the frequency, volume and geographical location of visitations. MUFON receives 500 reports a month; up 67% from 2010. A true representation is more likely 1000-2000 sightings a month; worldwide. UFO's are very elusive, silent, maneuver erratically at incredible speeds, and they defy the laws of inertia and centrifugal force. The military doesn't publicly acknowledge their existence; so we, as citizens, have zero warning if we were invaded by a possibly aggressive alien species. To discourage reports has set a dangerous and costly precedence.

    If the UFO secret were to be disclosed; more Americans would be watching the skies. Mainstream scientists would accept UFO research as a valid field of study. New science and technology jobs would spring forth from disclosure. The entire world would benefit through cooperative efforts to find solutions and unify to protect the planet; instead of just protecting their sovereign nations. The humiliation and ridicule would become a thing of the past, and the budget spent to hide lies would no longer be necessary. Redirected funds could be used for research and development of acquired advanced extraterrestrial technology, launching energy, propulsion and fuel systems tech ahead thousands of years. Relieving our planet from the petrochemical onslaught currently employed is essential and overdue. To deprive our race of planet-saving technology is criminal and those hiding it should be held accountable.

    We, the people

    We, the people are the United States of America. The group of elected officials and industrial complex elite that govern our great nation should not be allowed to hide knowledge that could either benefit or threaten American citizens. We, the people, are entitled to the benefits available through technologies gleaned from crashed vehicles, such as interstellar propulsion systems, physical force manipulation devices (anti-gravity, inertia cancellation), clean and free energy technology. Instead of pumping billions of dollars into covering lies and hiding secrets, our agencies should do the world a favor and help save our planet with hidden advanced technologies.

    24 countries have acknowledged the existence of extraterrestrial vehicles operating within our planets airspace to their citizens. [5] If the United States of America truly is the greatest country in the world, our government should lead by example; not be the last one to do the right thing. The aforementioned National Geographic poll indicates that 79% of Americans believe we are being lied to by our own government on this most important subject. [1] How can other nations respect a government that continues to lie about the obvious to its own people when 36% of them know ET's exist and 79% of that group know they are being lied to? The world is ready for disclosure, and it would be nice if we, the people, were included.


    [5] Educating Humanity - UFO/Alien Disclosure
    http://www.educatinghumanity.com/2011/01/list-of-countries-that-have-disclosed.html

    [1] Ufology Research Website
    http://uforum.blogspot.com/2012/06/lies-damn-lies-and-polls-about-ufos.html

    The Secret Is Out

    July 7, 1947 was also the day that debunkers of the UFO phenomenon were conceived. There is a difference between a debunker and an investigator. As a Field Investigator for MUFON I am trained to use a scientific process and make an educated determination based on relevant and available evidence. I then add a degree of certainty for my conclusion on the report. I have to be skeptical, but will not discount the sighting unless I can provide with reasonable certainty an adequate terrestrial explanation.

    When a UFO story breaks or a UFO book is published, debunkers seem to pick the weaker evidence apart with conjecture and personal opinion, omitting the strong evidence they can't dispute. This practice simply undermines their integrity and presents an apathetic approach to investigative journalism; often reducing their statements to unfounded banter and verbal provocation.

    Bring Lots of Ammo

    UFO researchers and investigators will agree that in any debate, the best weapon to defeat the opposition is well prepared presentation of the facts; using verifiable documentation, reports, historical and statistical data, web links, visual aids etc. Simply put, we know that you can bring a gun to a gunfight; but unless you have the right type and adequate amount of ammunition you will lose.

    Breakthroughs and Discoveries

    truth4

    Recent discoveries support the very real probability of life throughout the universe. The Cassini Saturn probe fly-through of the geysers at the south pole of Enceladus; a moon of Saturn proved to be an unexpected boost for those that believe in extraterrestrial life. Carolyn Porco; the Team Leader of Cassini Imaging reported the existence of Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Benzene, Hydrogen Cyanide and Propane, ingredients and/or bi-products of prebiotic life, making the possibility of at least primordial life not of Earthly origin very real. [6] The discovery of mineral and clay deposits from prehistoric lakes on Mars bolster this belief; and NASA's analysis of possible microscopic life in Martian meteors will soon validate life there as well. [7] Another possible candidate is Saturn's largest moon Titan, host to vast oceans under its icy crust and also containing hydrocarbons in its atmosphere..

    The Panspermia Theory is looking very credible. [8] Life will find a way to exist throughout the universe; even under the most adverse and volatile conditions (lava tubes, arsenic environments, extreme pressures, extreme heat and cold, etc.) as proven by microbiologists within the last decade. [9] To find life on the first celestial bodies explored right here within our little solar system rules out any assumption by debunkers of life NOT existing everywhere in the universe.


    [6] Carolyn Porco: Could a Saturn Moon Harbor Life?; TED Talks, May2009
    http://www.ted.com/talks/carolyn_porco_could_a_saturn_moon_harbor_life.html

    [7] HowStuffWorks Website
    http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/extremophile4.htm

    [8] Panspermia Theory
    http://www.panspermia-theory.com/

    [9] NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical 12/02/2009
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/astrobiology_toxic_chemical.html

    Let's Do The Math

    N = N* fp ne fl fi fc fL [10]

    N* = the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy: let's use 100 billion

    fp = fraction of stars with planets around them: likely at least 20%

    ne = number of planets per star ecologically able to sustain life: 1

    fl = fraction of those planets where life actually evolves: 30%

    fi = the fraction of fl that evolves intelligent life: 20%

    fc = the fraction of fi that communicates: 20%

    fL = the fraction of the planet's life during which the communicating civilizations survives: 1/1,000,000th [est. based on planet life of 10 billion years] = 10,000 years

    N = the number of communicating civilizations in the galaxy = 360; just within our galaxy, and there are billions of galaxies. Even if input values were reduced 99%; we would have still have 3.6 extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way. This is one galaxy amongst 300 - 500 billion in the universe. [11]

    This means that it is possible that there may be between 1,080-1,800 billion intelligent civilizations in our vast universe. Sounds impossible? Being skeptical of the numbers, I have added my own "Hansen Variables" to the Drake Equation.

    N = N* fp ne fl fi fc fL x .1/few/ fd

    Few is for inhabitant-initiated ecological disaster and/or war with weapons of mass destruction resulting in self-destruction of planetary life.

    Fd is for catastrophic natural destruction of civilization or planet, such as asteroids, comets, supernovae, volcanic, atmospheric, orbit change by gravitation, etc..

    Let's factor in Fd cataclysmic disasters that destroyed the intelligent life prematurely and divide our answer by 1000. Answer: 1.8 Billion - 5 Billion

    Knowing how our species behaves let's factor in Few self-destruction due to war or ecological disaster and divide it by 1000 again. Answer: 1.8 Million - 5 Million

    From only 1.0% of the Drake Equation's initial result, we divided the reduced answer by 1,000,000 using the Hansen Variables; and still have a huge number! Add your own variables! Anyway you break it down; life is flourishing throughout the universe.


    [10] Active Mind website - The Drake Equation
    http://www.activemind.com/Mysterious/topics/seti/drake_equation.html

    [11] NASA website - How Many Galaxies Are There?
    http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/021127a.html

    A Technological Advantage

    truth5

    A civilization between 100,000 - 1 million years ahead of us in technology would have easily overcome the propulsion, speed of light and inertia issues we have yet to conquer, and be quite able to conduct inter-galactic (or inter-dimensional) exploration. We are still taking baby steps when it comes to off-planet exploration; but keep in mind that, until just over 100 years ago, we had to jump into the air or climb a ladder to leave our planet's surface. We have progressed by leaps and bounds; you might say.

    In light of the aforementioned discoveries, a UFO debunker would be hard pressed to find a solid foundation to back up the antiquated ideology that an intelligent species capable of space exploration doesn't exist. Or, the old adage "...we are the only intelligent life form in the universe." They might as well say that the Earth is flat.

    Take Me To Your Leader

    truth6 240

    A common argument debunkers often make is "...If extraterrestrial beings are visiting wouldn't they show themselves and communicate?"The old "take me to your leader" of cartoon fame mentality. The logical answer is no, for several reasons. Before I mention the reasons commonly accepted by ufologists and researchers, you will need to think about why we are attempting to explore the universe ourselves; and then you will have answered the reason why we are being visited.

    First Reason: Disease/Biohazard Control. Our human immune system has developed to protect us from dangerous earthbound micro-organisms. EBE's (Extraterrestrial Biological Entities) probably have some form of immune system designed to combat the microscopic dangers that exist on their worlds. To emphasize how fragile and indigenous immune systems are, we will discuss the Native Hawaiian people.

    In 1778, Capt. James Cook excitedly proclaimed to the world he had found a tropical paradise; inhabited by the friendly and accommodating native Hawaiians. Recognizing the economic potential for agricultural crops such as sugar cane and pineapple, western Europeans and Asians poured onto Hawaii's shores bringing with them a long list of nasty and deadly diseases. Syphilis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, Hansen's disease (leprosy), measles, influenza, cholera, gastroenteritis, mumps, scarlet fever, dengue, bubonic plague, scabies, sylvatic plague, etc. [12] Stowaway rats, cockroaches, centipedes and common flies also took up residence and had no natural predators to control their populations.

    truth7 240

    Between 1778-1878 sickness and disease spread in epidemic proportions, reducing the native population from 800,000 to about 40,000. The Hawaiian race was nearly decimated because they had never been exposed to these foreign illnesses; and had not developed antibodies to fend them off. Life is resilient; but it takes generations to adapt to unknown microorganisms.

    Have you ever fallen ill when traveling or soon after? It is very common for those who travel long distances to contract illnesses not indigenous to the geographical area they live in. We are exposed to and exchange foreign airborne germs, bacteria and viruses when we are in the sealed environments of international flights, buses, trains, air-conditioned office spaces, school rooms etc.

    Second Reason: Safety. Let's examine this hypothetical situation. A team of human scientists are sent on a mission to explore a planet inhabited with 6 billion aggressive beings roughly twice their mass. These beings have been in a continuous state of war with their own species for thousands of years. They have the intelligence (but not the wisdom) to create and utilize nuclear/chemical/biological weapons of mass destruction, guided missiles, rocket launchers, high speed jets, organized troops, terrorists, death squads and mercenaries. But wait! There's more! These beings also electrocute, poison, hang, shoot, euthanize, torture and isolate their own kind. All things considered; even armed with highly advanced weaponry, a stealth approach would be in the best interest of the visiting research team and the planet's inhabitants. This team would want to observe the inhabitants without having to destroy them, upset their environment, evolution or their progression as a species. The research team would also have a hard time convincing such a paranoid and violent race that they were merely conducting scientific research; and have no intention of harming them or their world.

    truth8 240

    Third Reason: Physical Environmental Compatability Issues. They could be water creatures. They may be silicon based. Plant-like. Insect-like. Reptilian. They may breathe methane or helium. They may be very acidic in nature. They might be used to three times our gravity. Their time scale may be different or out of sync with ours. They may exist in another dimension or in multi-dimensions simultaneously. They might think as a group rather than as individuals. They may absorb matter or discharge electrical phenomenon. They might evaporate or change physical state if exposed to our environment. Our cell phone frequencies may scramble their brains or cell phone radiation may destroy their reproductive systems. Our noise level may exceed what they can tolerate. Water may be very acidic or even toxic to their physiology. Who knows? These may be some of the questions they are here to find the answers to; and provides a logical answer for their visitation.


    [12] Highlights
    http://www.cjhp.org/Volume1_2003/IssueHI-TEXTONLY/01-09-hope.pdf

    Not A Doubt In My Mind

    truth9 240

    Having been on this planet for fifty two years I have had the privilege of witnessing incredible advances in relativistic and quantum physics, astrophysics, sociology, biology, propulsion, weaponry, education, philosophy, anthropology, art, music and culture. We are advancing scientifically at an exponential rate.. Within my lifetime I have seen science fiction become science fact. If we can dream it; we can achieve it. Take music for instance...modern man has musically progressed from beating a log with a stick, to incredibly intricate symphonies, ingeniously performed and arranged in as few as 1 session, then digitally mastered in three-dimensional, spatial acoustical balance with noise cancellation, multi band frequency adjustment, effects processing and dB filtering. Compositions created by a teen-age prodigy with a laptop. (That is, once her homework and chores were finished, of course! )

    There is no question we are becoming smarter faster, living longer, multi-tasking and processing stimulus en masse alongside billions of other human beings every waking moment. To predict what we will have accomplished in a million years defies comprehension. We will probably be the subject of a less advanced civilization's debunker; who resides on an Earth-like planet, in some distant star system that we were curious about. There is no doubt in my mind.

    Remember, the wonders of the universe can only be viewed through an aware and open mind; so enjoy the beauty of the next starry night. You may be surprised what an enlightened mind might see.

    Written by Ric Hansen; Field Investigator #20050; MUFON International; Oregon Unit. © Sept 30, 2013

    Unsolved History   From: Google Books
    Introduction: History and the Investgative Approach

    Man's view of history - the world's significant past events - does not remain static. Just as science came to discredit the theory of geocentricism (the belief that the earth is the center of the universe) and to acknowledge the truth of reports that stones fell from the sky, so it is with historiography (the writing of history): [1] One generation's dubious legend may become another's accepted historical fact - and vice versa.

    Take ancient Troy, for example. That citadel of Asia Minor had been made famous by Homer's epic poem, The Iliad, which related how the Greeks besieged troy to rescue the beautiful Helen. Later pseudochronicles helped diffuse the legend of the Trojan War throughout western Europe. There even arose a patriotic tradition, lasting for a millennium, that the dispersed heroes of the tale had founded such Western nations as England and France. [2] By the nineteenth century, however, most scholars had come to dismiss the tale of the Iliad - and with it the city of Troy - as mere fiction. [3]

    Now the view has again changed, owing in part to the archaeological investigations of Heinrich Schliemann and others. In the 1870s Schliemann, a self-taught scholar, excavated what is now generally believed to be the fabled fortress of Troy. On the basis of much additional data - notably evidence that Troy was apparently sacked by invading Greeks about the twelfth or thirteenth century B.C. - the skeptical attitude toward the epic tradition has considerably softened. [4]


    [1] For a discussion of historiography, see "Historiography and Historical Methodology,"
        Encyclopedia Britannia, 1980, Macropaedia 8: 945.

    [2] "Troy, Medieval Legends of," Encyclopedia Britannia, 1980, Micropaedia 10: 146.

    [3] Mysteries of the Ancient World (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1979), 146;
        "Troy," New Standard Encyclopedia, 1982, 13: 415.

    [4] Ibid.; "Trojan War," New Standard Encyclopedia, 1982, 13: 405;
        John Bowie, The Concise Encyclopedia Of World History (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1958), 50.

    Investigation: the Attempt to Solve a Specific Mystery

    Schliemann had set out with a determination to uncover evidence of Homer's ancient world. His success was fabulous: In addition to the legendary city, he discovered - across the Aegean Sea in Greece - royal graves with astonishing riches. His successful approach - which culminated in the unearthing of clear proof of the great culture we now know as Mycenae [5] - was essentially a dramatic investigative one.

    While the verbs research and investigate can be used interchangeably, and indeed may denote the same activity, the latter term connotes a particular type of scholarly or scientific examination or inquiry. Not only does investigation involve an attempt to bring information to light, but it implies a type of information that is particularly obfuscated. Thus we may speak of conducting paleontological research, but of investigating the "mystery" of the dinosaurs' extinction. When there may be a suggestion of deliberate obfuscation, as in the clandestine or even criminal activities of individuals, the term investigate may seem especially appropriate. Therefore, while we "research" the effects of smoking or the causes of economic growth, we "investigate" a diversion of funds or a homicide. In short, the systematic seeking of knowledge is research, the attempt to solve a specific mystery an investigation.

    We may extend the distinction to the historical arena. Thus "historical investigation" is defined as that aspect of research in which appropriate methodologies are applied toward the resolution of historical conundrums. For example, whereas one might refer broadly to Revolutionary War research, one would doubtless speak of an investigation to determine whether some questioned battle actually took place. Again, one may conduct research toward the writing of an important figure's biography, but investigate an apparent secret in his or her life.


    [5] Mysteries, 146-47.

    Hypothesis is the Most Important Mental Technique

    The results of historical investigation may solve cultural, political, biographic, or other enigmas, or may shed light on additional historical problems. While some of these results may become only footnotes to history, they obviate the need for further investigation, may open up new areas for study, and may enhance the interpretation of that which was already known.

    Procedurally, just as with a problem in law or science, the investigation of a historical mystery may involve several potentially applicable hypotheses. As David Binder and Paul Bergman state in their legal text, Fact Investigation: From Hypothesis to Proof, “Investigation is often all too readily thought of as merely a time to learn evidence. But remember that the evidence-gathering phase of investigation is normally preceded by analysis which ultimately dictates what evidence one pursues. This analysis concerns in part the potential legal theories and factual hypotheses that one may pursue during investigation.” [6] Additionally, W.I.B. Beveridge - in his The Art of Scientific Investigation - describes the significance of hypothesis in investigation: “Hypothesis is the most important mental technique of the investigator, and its main function is to suggest new experiments or new observations. Indeed, most experiments and many observations are carried out with the deliberate object of testing an hypothesis. Another function is to help one see the significance of an object or event that otherwise would mean nothing. For instance, a mind prepared by the hypothesis of evolution would make many more significant observations on a field excursion than one not so prepared. Hypotheses should be used as tools to uncover new facts rather than as ends in themselves.” [7]


    [6] David A. Binder and Paul Bergman, Fact Investigation: From Hypothesis to Proof
        
    (St. Paul: West, 1984), 162.

    [7] W.I.B. Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation (New York: Vintage, n.d.), 63

    Occam's Razor

    The goal of the investigator - who abandons or modifies hypotheses as necessary - is the development of proof, in favor of one hypothesis, that is sufficient to solve the original problem. The standard of proof or persuasion required to settle historical questions has not been codified but can be characterized by analogy to the two standards used in civil law.

    The lower standard (equivalent to "a preponderance of the evidence" in civil cases) would be represented in historical matters by the establishment of the preferred hypothesis. Basically, this would mean arriving at the one hypothesis, among those that can be advanced, which appears to account for all the evidence or at least which explains more data than do competing hypotheses.

    When more than one hypothesis can account for the known facts, the preferred hypothesis can be determined by invoking "Occam's razor." Named for William of Ockham, the influential fourteenth-century philosopher, this principle affirms that the simplest explanation - that is the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions - is most likely to be correct and is to be preferred. [8]

    The second, or higher standard of persuasion would be comparable to that termed "clear and convincing evidence" in civil law. (The highest legal standard-required in criminal cases and known as "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" - would seem impractical for historical questions, although such a standard might well be achieved.) [9] Such a higher standard would of course involve evidence of a weight significantly greater than that sufficient to establish a preferred hypothesis. In general, the "clear and convincing" standard would apply to a hypothesis that had been rigorously tested (scientifically or critically) or could otherwise be upgraded to the status of accepted "theory." [10] Yet, as Martin Gardner cautions (albeit in a scientific context), “there are no known methods for giving precise 'probability values' to hypotheses.” [11]


    [8] Beveridge, 115-16; Elie A. Shneour, "Occam's Razor," Skeptical Inquirer 10 (1986): 310-13.

    [9] Myron G. Hill, Jr., Howard M. Rossen, and Wilton S. Sogg, Evidence (St. Paul: West, 1978), 49.

    [10] In science, a hierarchy exists from "hypothesis" to "theory" to "law"; Beveridge, 64.

    [11] Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York: Dover, 1957).

    Wishful Thinking: Subordinating Ideas to Facts

    In any case, either the "preferred hypothesis" or the accepted theory may yet have flaws or leave some questions unanswered, so the mere raising of objections will be insufficient to remove it from its advantaged position. As Binder and Bergman state, regarding legal matters, “In most cases, despite the fact that the plaintiff has the burden of proof, both plaintiffs and defendants present affirmative as well as rebuttal evidence.” [12] (In historical disputes, substitute "advocate of the new idea" for "plaintiff," and for "defendant" read "challenger of the assertion.") Therefore, it would seem appropriate that removal of a hypothesis or theory from its preferential position should come through development of a demonstrably superior hypothesis that would itself achieve advantaged status. Of course, evidence clearly fatal to a hypothesis or theory would cause its removal even in the absence of a replacement.

    Another cautionary note regarding hypotheses involves bias, and Beveridge urges “the intellectual discipline of subordinating ideas to facts.” As he explains: “A danger constantly to be guarded against is that as soon as one formulates an hypothesis, parental affection tends to influence observations, interpretation and judgment; 'wishful thinking' is likely to start unconsciously.” He adds, “The best protection against these tendencies is to cultivate an intellectual habit of subordinating one's opinions and wishes to objective evidence and a reverence for things as they really are, and to keep constantly in mind that the hypothesis is only a supposition.” [13]

    The "wishful thinking" Beveridge warns against can even lead to a hypothesis being imposed on the data. A case in point is a 1982 article that attempts to identify Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, as the perpetrator of the Piltdown Skull hoax. Ignoring the considerable prima facie evidence pointing to Charles Dawson - who not once but twice "discovered" sets of the doctored bones and was otherwise linked to the hoax the writer seems to have arrived at Conan Doyle by drawing his name out of a hat. Having once done so, however, he manages to marshal numerous insinuations and innuendoes as supposed evidence for his notion: Conan Doyle lived near tile gravel pit where the bones were discovered (and hence could have planted them); he had a special knowledge of skulls; and so forth. [14] In sum, the article seems a classic example of starting with the answer and working backward to the facts.


    [12] Binder and Bergman, 13.

    [13] Beveridge, 67-68.

    [14] John Hathaway Winslow and Alfred Meyer, "The Perpetrator at Putdown,"
         Science 83 4.7 (1983): 33-43.

    Investigative Genres

    Apart from such general guidelines for the formulation of hypotheses and the avoidance of bias, it is difficult to specify investigatory procedures. Even cases falling within the same general investigative area, and even having similar goals, probably require such different approaches as ultimately to have little in common from an investigative standpoint. For example, instances of biographical research - say the attempt to identify a nineteenth-century politician's mistress, and the search for clues to a sixteenth-century king's place of birth - would doubtless require investigative methodologies with little resemblance to each other.

    Nevertheless, by recognizing some of the various divisions - or investigative genres - of the field of historical investigation, it is possible to gain an understanding of the types of problems each entails, together with some of the distinctive methodologies and standards of proof that have been applied in the past. That is the scope and purpose of the following chapters which focus on these major areas:
         ■ Ancient riddles
         ■ Biographical enigmas
         ■ Hidden identity
         ■ "Fakelore"
         ■ Questioned artifacts
         ■ Suspect documents
         ■ Lost texts
         ■ Obscured sources
         ■ Scientific challenges
    Each chapter begins with an introduction to the specified area, follows with brief abstracts of typical cases that apply to it, and consists largely of an illustrative problem investigated by the writer.

    These areas comprise a limited list; they can be easily divided and multiplied. The cited cases and illustrated methodologies are likewise only selections. Still, the chapters should be sufficient to characterize the field of historica1 investigation, provide some criteria for consideration, and perhaps suggest some specific approaches or even inspire the creation of new ones.

    Recommended Works

    The American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1961. A bibliography of 20,000 published works in history and related fields, selected and annotated; useful sourcebook for the historical investigator.

    Binder, David A., and Paul Bergman. Fact Investigation: From Hypothesis to Proof (St. Paul: West, 1984). A legal text that discusses such matters as gathering evidence, formulating a hypothesis, and developing proof.

    "Historiography and Historical Methodology." Encyclopedia Britannia, 1980, Macropaedia 8: 945ff. A concise, readable discussion of how the writing of history has changed over the centuries.

    Stevenson, Noel C. Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History. Laguna Hills, Calif.: Aegean Park Press, 1979. A standard work.

    Winks, Robin W., ed. The Historian as Detective. New York: Harper and Row, 1969. Indispensable textbook for the historical investigator, featuring essays on evidence, biography, lost manuscripts, etc. Case studies include the Kennedy assassination, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and many more.

    About the Author

    joe nickell

    Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is:
         ■ Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI)
         ■ "Investigative Files" Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer.

    A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher.
    He is author of numerous books, including:
         ■ Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998)
         ■ Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003)
         ■ Unsolved History (2005)
         ■ Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007)

    He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC's Today Show.

    His personal website is at LINK

    Fourth Way Blog

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