The Angel Moroni, in the skies of Salt Lake City

Our 2nd-3rd Series study group, has finished its journey through the 2nd and 3rd series and has begun to focus on The Herald of Coming Good. The first clear fact that steps out of the pages of this short paperback, his first published is that Gurdjieff employs a deliberately complex writing style, every bit as complex as can be found in The Tales and in Life is Real.

The Dimensions of An Engima

The Herald of Coming Good is shrouded in mystery and confusion.
The presence of a short questionnaire at the front and registration blanks on the back pages suggest that it was intended to be some kind of marketing campaign. It was produced by Gurdjieff at some expense and (as far as we can tell) was it was never sold by any bookshops, despite the fact that the text of the book suggests that the sellers of the book will be gathering information for Gurdjieff in respect of those who “buy” it.

So what was its purpose?

Significantly, The Herald of Coming Good announces Gurdjieff’s forthcoming work, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson – implying that the reader may wish to acquire this “soon to be published” book.

However, it wasn’t “soon to be published.” It was published 17 years after The Herald.

In his book Life is Real, Gurdjieff advises readers not to read The Herald. He writes:

If you as yet have not read this book entitled The Herald of Coming Good, then thank the circumstance and do not read it.

That seems pretty definite, except for two things:

1. If you tell people not to do something, many of them will become curious and, ignoring you, do it anyway – something Gurdjieff was no doubt aware of and possibly depending on.

2. He later mentions The Herald specifically in respect of the word “Tzvarnoharno” – something he discusses nowhere else except in The Herald and as follows, in Life is Real:

Unfortunately, nothing of the concrete consequences for general human welfare expected from this program, which had been foreseen in the smallest details, could be realized, on account of the event known to all of you which happened to me six years ago and which many learned and ordinary people and all those who knew me and who heard about it attributed with their usual superficial understanding merely to a “motor accident,” although in reality—as I supposed from the first when I recovered my senses, and as I am now quite convinced—it was the last chord of the manifestation toward me of that “something” usually accumulating in the common life of people, which, as is mentioned by me in The Herald of Coming Good, was first noticed by the Great, really Great King of Judea, Solomon, and was called “Tzvarnoharno.” (p81)

To understand anything further about Tzvarnoharno you must of necessity go to The Herald, where he writes:

…the formation, in relation to me, of that already noted from ancient times “something,” termed by the great Solomon, King of Juda, “Tzvarnoharno,” which, as was set out by our ancestors, forms itself by a natural process in the communal life of people as an outcome of a conjunction of the evil actions of so-called “common people” and leads to the destruction of both him that tries to achieve something for general human welfare and of all that he has already accomplished to this end. (p6)

It is hard not to conclude from the above that Gurdjieff wanted people to read The Herald.

But, of course, this does not explain why he published The Herald and what we should do to appreciate its meaning.

Some in the study group suggested that perhaps The Herald is intended to be strongly associated with Life is Real, perhaps it is even a fragment that should be included with that book’s other Fragments. After all, Life is Real itself feels more like three fragments thrown together rather than a book in its own right. Perhaps The Herald is its fourth fragment.