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]
We can now move on to comparing the content of Gurdjieff’s original
work to the content of The Revision. Again, there are many aspects to this, which we consider one by one.
Gurdjieff ’s use of footnotes is enigmatic. We have little doubt that he uses them intentionally, in consideration of their impact on the reader, but we have yet to discover why he chooses to insert a footnote at a specific point. At many points in the text, when he introduces a neologism, he happily supplies an explanation of the meaning of the word that he is using. And yet, in some cases, he chooses instead to use a footnote. He uses 14 such footnotes in total. The Revision removes most of these, preferring instead to provide explanations in the text.
So, as an example, in Chapter 45, The Revision reads:
I became completely convinced that this undesirable state occurred in me each time our large “life-chakhan,” or “dynamo,” was in operation.
The original does not mention “dynamo” in the text but instead provides the footnote:
Lifechakan approximately corresponds to what on Earth is called a “dynamo.”
The Revision preserves Gurdjieff’s footnotes for “Cheshma,” “Kilpreno,” “Zilnotrago,” “Teskooano,” “Paischakir” and “Ornakra.” Curiously, it invents two new footnotes of its own. In the original text, when Mullah Nassr Eddin is first mentioned, the following text appears:
(Mullah Nassr Eddin, or as he is also called, Hodja Nassr Eddin, is, it seems, little known in Europe and America, but he is very well known in all countries of the continent of Asia; this legendary personage corresponds to the American Uncle Sam or the German Till Eulenspiegel. Numerous tales popular in the East, akin to the wise sayings, some of long-standing and others newly arisen, were ascribed and are still ascribed to this Nassr Eddin.)
Clearly this parenthesized text could have been made a footnote, but Gurdjieff chose otherwise. The Revision decides to make it a footnote as follows:
* Mullah Nasr Eddin or as he is also called Nasr Eddin Hodja is little known in Europe and America but is very well known in all the countries of the continent of Asia. He is a legendary personage corresponding somewhat to the German Till Eulenspiegel. Many popular tales and sayings are attributed to this Nasr Eddin some of long standing and others more recent all expressing “life wisdom.”
The other newly minted footnote is as follows in The Revision. The text reads:
As a result, the three-brained beings breeding on that planet can see freely everywhere, however great the ‘kldatsakhti,’* and can move about not only on the planet but also in its atmosphere, and occasionally some of them even manage to travel beyond its limits.
The footnote reads:
“Kldatsakhti” means “darkness “
The original text reads:
“As a result, the three-brained beings breeding on that planet can see freely everywhere, whatever the ‘Kal-da-zakh-tee,’ and they can also move not only over the planet itself but also in its atmosphere and some of them occasionally even manage to travel beyond the limits of its atmosphere.
In the original text the neologism “Kal-da-zakh-tee” is later spelt “kldatzacht,” and followed in the text by “they call it ‘night’ and refer to it as ‘it-is-dark.’” This is essentially the same but with a different ending for a different context of usage. In The Revision it is always spelt “Kldatsakhti” without variance of the ending.
We find it interesting that in the French version of The Tales the meaning given in the footnote to “Kldatsakhti” is “obscurité.” This French word can indeed mean “darkness,” but can also mean “obscurity,” “opacity” and “dimness.” Those seeking to discover the meaning of this neologism will be rewarded by considering the meaning of “obscurité.”
If we compare the footnotes from the French version of The Tales with The Revision we discover that it has followed the French version for approximately the first half of the book, after which it abandons footnotes and provides definitions in line in the text. There is no obvious rationale to this.
Finally, in the original, at the end of Chapter 41, the following note is included:
Note: If anyone is very interested in the ideas presented in this chapter, I advise him to read, without fail, my proposed book entitled The Opiumists, if, of course, for the writing of this book there will be sufficient French armagnac and Khaizarian bastourma.
A note is also included in the revised version at the end of Chapter 41, which reads entirely differently:
NOTE If anyone is, by chance, interested in the ideas presented in this chapter—seriously interested, not taking them “lightly” as contemporary people usually do—and if he is endowed with physical, moral, psychic, and material data whose quality is satisfactory according to my understanding, I earnestly advise him to mobilize his forces and, above all, bring together in himself the requisite conditions for becoming worthy to be an “all-rights- possessing pupil” of my “universal laboratory”—the laboratory I intend to open after completing my writings, and the creation of which will be connected with the last phase of my intense activity for the good of all mankind.
The above text has been translated almost word for word from the French version of The Tales. We have good reason to believe that this was indeed written by Gurdjieff rather than being invented by someone else. However the fact is that Gurdjieff did not include it in his published version of The Tales. The German version of The Tales includes the same note as the English original at the end of Chapter 41, with the same enigmatic reference to The Opiumists.