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]

Poor Word Choices

The Revision of The Tales is imprecise in its word choices at times. Consider the word: “Changelessness.” In Chapter 3, the Captain of the Karnak says:

“Everything has undergone change and is changed since then; only our LORD AND SOVEREIGN remains unchanged. The blessings of ‘Amenzano’ on HIS UNCHANGEABLENESS throughout Eternity!

In The Revision, this paragraph reads as follows:

“Everything has changed and has been changed since then only our Lord and Sovereign remains unchanged. May the blessings of ‘Amenzano’ be on His Changelessness throughout eternity!

The words “Changelessness” and “Unchangeableness” have slightly different meanings. Something that is changeless remains the same indefinitely, whereas something unchangeable is not able to be altered by external action. It can change of itself, but not be changed. If we look at the French text, we find:

Depuis lors, tout s’est changé, et tout a été changé. Seul est resté immuable Notre Souverain Seigneur—que la bénédiction « Amenzâno » soit sur Son Immutabilité dans tous les siècle des siècles!

The French “Immutabilité” (meaning immutability) clearly suggests unchangeableness as does the German “Unveränderlichkeit” (also meaning immutability):

Alles hat sich seitdem verändert und ist verändert — unverändert blieb allein unser HERR UND HERRSCHER. Der Segen ,Amenzano’ sei mit seiner Unveränderlichkeit in alle Ewigkeit!

For another example of doubtful word choice in The Revision, consider “misfortune.”

“On this first visit of mine, our ship landed on the shores of that very continent which later, during the second misfortune to this planet, disappeared entirely from its surface.

Gurdjieff ’s original text reads:

“Our ship landed on this first visit of mine, on the shores of just that continent which during the second catastrophe to this planet, disappeared entirely from its surface.

We might think that the word “misfortune” has been chosen because of its appearance in the French text but this is not so. The French text has “catastrophe.” A “misfortune” implies chance or luck, from the Latin goddess Fortuna who was supposed to preside over such things. The word “catastrophe” ultimately comes from the Greek katastrophē, a “sudden turn” or “overturning” or “down turning.” This is simply very poor word choice.

Another example of inexpert word choice in The Revision is provided by its name for “The Trusteeship of People’s Temperance,” which can be found at the beginning of Chapter 34, Russia. The Revision chooses to call this the “People’s Temperance League.”

A “league” is not a “trusteeship.” The dictionary defines a “league” as a collection of people often representing different countries or interest groups that combine for a particular purpose—in effect, an alliance. The etymology goes back to Latin, from legare meaning “to bind.” In contrast, a “trusteeship” consists of a board of individuals with control, or at least powers of administration, over something (often assets), with a legal obligation to administer it solely for explicitly defined purposes.

Gurdjieff ’s selection of the word “trusteeship” is critical to understanding the allegorical nature of this particular part of The Tales. Here, it is clearly not “assets” that are administered “in trust.” The long and involved tale, that begins here, concerns “alcohol,” which has a specific psychological as well as physical meaning throughout The Tales (as does opium). Allegorically, this can be viewed as an inner “trusteeship.” It is not a league.

It is hard to understand where the revisers might have got the idea that it was. The French text is clear about this. It reads:

C’est pourquoi plusieurs d’entre les plus clairvoyants de mes compatriots ayant enfin compris toute la gravité de la situation qui s’était créée dans le pays, se sont récemment réunis afin de trouver les moyens de conjurer toute conséquences catastrophique. Pour mener à bien leur tache ils résolurent séance tenante de fonder une société sous le nom de « Comité de protection de la tempérance du peuple », et de me mettre à la tête de cette entreprise.

A “Comité de protection” is not a league.