To Fathom The Gist, Vol 2: The Arch-Absurd
It might be expected that the second volume of To Fathom The Gist would continue to plough the furrow so diligently farmed by the first volume, and proceed a little further. It does not.
Instead, the author chose to approach The Tales from an entirely different direction. He tried to envisage himself in Mr Gurdjieff’s position as the author and investigated the book from that perspective. In essence, the theory behind this volume is: “the more we can find out about how Gurdjieff wrote the book, the better we will be able to understand it.”
As with the previous volume, the book is alive with revelations about the meaning of various passages, given en passant as examples when the author explains aspects of how he believes the book was written, and how Gurdjieff intended the book to be read. It investigates Gurdjieff’s philology in depth—not through intent, but because wherever the author turned he seemed to barge into it. Indeed, it will become clear to the reader that, in order to fathom the gist, you a need to become familiar with Gurdjieff’s approach to language.
At times the author was obliged to refer to and study both the German and French versions of The Tales to identify style and word choice variations between languages. He compared the 1931 private edition to the 1950 edition to identify compositional and editing changes. He conducted a thorough review of the much (and rightly) criticized 1992 version of The Tales. (If you need proof that the 1992 version should be ignored, you will find it clearly laid out in this book.)
All of this activity leaps from the pages of the book, as the reader moves from chapter to chapter, enticing him or her to try and fathom the gist of Gurdjieff’s masterpiece.