Notes on the 1992 Revision of The Tales

The Revision of The Tales

[An Excerpt from To Fathom The Gist, Vol 2 – The Arch Absurd]

Typographic Style

Gurdjieff ’s use of typographic style is intentional, extensive and distinct. He deliberately uses each of the following typographical techniques to convey meaning: full capitalization, italics, hyphens, quotation marks, initial capitalization and footnotes. We examine these techniques one by one.

Full Capitalization

Gurdjieff ’s only mundane use of full capitalization is in his depiction of the business card of Mr. Chatterlitz. This reads as follows:

13 North 293rd Street’

Typographically, this is different from all Gurdjieff’s other uses of full capitalization because it uses a mixture of large and small capitals. Everywhere else throughout The Tales he uses only small capitals for full capitalization—the size of the font is reduced by two points and large capitals (i.e. full font size) are never used. We have followed this convention for full capitalization in the text of this book.

Gurdjieff uses full capitalization for every one of the 153 direct references to God in The Tales. There are four other occasions where he uses it. On one occasion he uses it to refer to the Heropass (ALL-COMMON MASTER THE MERCILESS HEROPASS). On another occasion he quotes the CREATOR’s words placed over the entrance to the holy planet Purgatory: ‘ONLY-HE-MAY- ENTER-HERE-WHO-PUTS-HIMSELF-IN-THE-POSITION-OF-THE-OTHER- RESULTS-OF-MY-LABORS.’

On yet another occasion, he uses the expression the GREAT WHOLE, referring, in a sacred way, to everything. Finally, he uses full capitalization to refer to “our seven MOST VERY SAINTLY OMNICOSMIC INDIVIDUALS” and “HIGHER-SACRED-INDIVIDUALS.” It’s notable that he never uses full capitalization to refer to Angels, Archangels, Cherubim or Seraphim.

In The Revision Gurdjieff ’s use of full capitalization has been abandoned entirely. Full capitalization is used only twice, for the business card of Mr. Chatterlitz and for the words that sit over the entrance to the holy planet Purgatory, which the 1992 revised text gives as: ‘ONLY HE MAY ENTER HERE WHO ENTERS INTO THE POSITION OF THE OTHER RESULTS OF MY LABORS,’ with the hyphens having been removed.

The only other version of The Tales that we know Mr. Gurdjieff worked on directly is the German version, supervising Louise March’s translation from the English original. In the German version he uses full capitalization in exactly the same way, for references to the divine. For example he writes UNSER ALLER VATER for OUR COMMON FATHER and UNSEREM ERSCHAFFER for OUR CREATOR.

However, the French version of The Tales, which Gurdjieff did not complete but worked on to some degree, was not published until 1956, over six years after Gurdjieff’s death, does not use full capitalization. The Revision appears to have been based, in quite a few respects, on the French version of The Tales.

By ignoring Gurdjieff’s full capitalization, The Revision eliminates an important distinction that is clear in Gurdjieff ’s original text. For example, Angels, Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim and even Hasnamuss individuals that appear as characters in The Tales are accorded the same respect as OUR ENDLESSNESS.