Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson
An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man
The arousing of thought
AMONG ALL the convictions formed in my “common presence” during my responsible, peculiarly composed life, there is one unshakable conviction that people—whatever the degree of development of their understanding and whatever the form taken by the factors present in their individuality for engendering all kinds of ideals—always and everywhere on the Earth feel the imperative need, on beginning anything new, to pronounce aloud, or if not aloud at least mentally, that particular invocation understandable to even the most ignorant person, which has been formulated in different ways in different epochs, and in our day is expressed in the following words “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost Amen.”
That is why I now also, in setting forth on this venture quite new for me, namely authorship, begin by pronouncing this invocation, and pronounce it not only aloud but even very distinctly and, as the ancient Toulousites used to say, with a “fully manifested intonation”—of course only to the extent permitted by data already formed in my whole presence and thoroughly rooted in it for such a manifestation, data, by the way, which are generally formed in man’s nature during his preparatory years, and which later, during his responsible life, determine the character and vivifyingness of such an intonation.
Having begun thus, I can now be quite at ease and should even, according to contemporary notions of “religious morality,” be completely assured that from now on everything in this new venture of mine will proceed, as is said, “like a pianola.”
In any case, this is the way I have begun, and how the rest will go I can only say, as the blind man put it, “we shall see.”
First and foremost, I shall place my hand, moreover the right one, which— although at the moment it is slightly injured due to an accident that recently befell me—is nevertheless really my own, and has never once failed me in all my life, on my heart, of course also my own—but on the constancy or inconstancy of this part of my whole I see no need to expatiate here—and frankly confess that I myself have not the slightest wish to write, but am constrained to do so by circumstances quite independent of me, though whether these circumstances arose accidentally or were created intentionally by extraneous forces I do not yet know I only know that these circumstances bid me write not just some trifle for reading oneself to sleep, but thick and weighty tomes.
However that may be, I begin . . .
But begin with what?
Oh, the devil! Will there indeed be repeated that strange and extremely unpleasant sensation it befell me to experience about three weeks ago, while I was composing in my thoughts the scheme and sequence of the ideas I intended to publish and did not know then, either, how to begin?
This sensation I could only describe in these words “the fear of drowning in the overflow of my own thoughts.”
To stop this disagreeable sensation I might still have had recourse to that maleficent property inherent in me, as in all contemporary people, which enables us, without experiencing any remorse of conscience whatever, to put off anything we wish to do “till tomorrow “
I could have done this very easily because before beginning the actual writing there seemed to be plenty of time, but today this is no longer so and, cost what it may, “even though I burst,” I must begin.
But begin with what?
Hurrah! . . . Eureka!
Almost all the books I have happened to read in my life have begun with a preface. So I too must begin with something of the kind.
I say “of the kind.” because in my entire life, from the moment I began to distinguish a boy from a girl, I have always done everything, absolutely everything, not as it is done by other, like myself, biped destroyers of Nature’s good. Therefore I ought now, and am perhaps even bound on principle, to begin not as any other writer would.
In any case, instead of the conventional preface I shall begin quite simply with a warning.
Beginning with a warning will be most judicious on my part, if only because it will not contradict any of my principles, whether organic, psychic, or even “willful” At the same time it will be quite honest—honest, of course, in the objective sense, since I expect without the least doubt, as do all those who know me well, that owing to my writings there will entirely disappear in the majority of readers— immediately and not gradually, as sooner or later must occur to everyone—all the “treasures” they have acquired, either by inheritance or by their own labor, in the form of “quieting notions” that evoke only romantic images of their present lives or naive dreams about the future
Professional writers usually begin such introductions with an address to the reader full of all kinds of bombastic, magniloquent, and so to say “honeyed” and inflated phrases.
In this alone I shall follow their example and also begin with an “address to the reader,” but I shall try not to make it as sugary as they usually do with their evil wiseacring, by which they titillate the sensibilities of the more or less normal reader.
Thus . . .
My dear, highly honored, strong-willed, and of course very patient Sirs, and my very dear, charming, and impartial Ladies—forgive me, I have omitted the most important— my in no wise hysterical Ladies!
I have the honor to inform you that although, due to circumstances that have arisen in one of the later stages of my life, I am now going to write books, during my whole life I have never written a single book or “instructive article,” or even a letter in which it was necessary to observe what is called “grammaticality,” so that although I am about to become a “professional writer” I have no practice at all in the established rules and procedures or in what is called “bon ton literary language,” and am therefore constrained to write not as ordinary “patented” writers do, to whose form of writing you are in all probability as much accustomed as to your own smell.
In my opinion, what will be troublesome for you in all this is chiefly that in childhood there was implanted in you—and has now become perfectly harmonized with your general psyche—an excellently working automatism for perceiving all kinds of new impressions, thanks to which “blessing” you have now, during your responsible life, no need to make any individual effort whatsoever.
To speak frankly, I personally see the central point of my confession not in my lack of experience in the rules and procedures of writers, but in my ignorance of what I have called “bon ton literary language,” required in contemporary life not only of authors but even of all ordinary mortals.
As regards the former, that is to say, my lack of experience in the rules and procedures of writers, I am not greatly disturbed. And I am not disturbed, because in the life of contemporary people this lack of experience is in the order of things.
This new “blessing” arose and is flourishing everywhere
on Earth thanks to an extraordinary disease which, for the last twenty or thirty years, for some reason or other, has afflicted all those persons from among the three sexes who sleep with half-open eyes, and whose faces are fertile soil for the growth of every kind of pimple.
This strange disease is manifested thus if the invalid is somewhat literate and his rent is paid for three months in advance, he, she, or it inevitably starts writing some “instructive article,” if not a whole book.
Knowing all about this new human disease and its epidemic spread on Earth, I naturally have the right to assume that you have acquired “immunity” to it, as the “medical experts” would say, and that you will therefore not be too indignant at my lack of experience in the rules and procedures of writers That is why I make the center of gravity of my warning my ignorance of
“bon ton literary language.”
In self-justification, and also perhaps to lessen the disapproval in your waking consciousness of my ignorance of this language indispensable for contemporary life, I consider it necessary to say, with humble heart and cheeks flushed with shame, that although I too was taught this language in my childhood, and although some of my elders who prepared me for responsible life constantly forced me, without sparing any means of intimidation, to learn by rote the host of nuances that in their totality compose this contemporary “delight,” yet unfortunately, of course for you, of all that I learned by rote nothing stuck, and nothing whatever has survived for my present activities as a writer.
And if nothing stuck, it was not through any fault of mine or of my former “respected” and “nonrespected” teachers This human labor was spent in vain owing to an unexpected and quite exceptional event that occurred at the moment of my appearance on God’s Earth, at which moment—as a certain well-known European occultist explained to me after very minute what are called “psycho-physico-astrological” investigations— through the hole in the window pane made by our crazy lame goat, there poured vibrations of sound from an Edison phonograph in the neighbor’s house, while the midwife who delivered me had in her mouth a lozenge saturated with cocaine of German make, moreover not ersatz, which she was sucking to the sound of the music without the proper enjoyment.
Aside from this event, rare in the everyday life of people, my present situation also came about because later on in my preparatory and adult life— as, I must confess, I myself surmised after long reflection based on the method of the German professor Herr Stumpfsinnschmausen—I always, both instinctively and automatically, and sometimes even consciously, that is, on principle, avoided using this language for intercourse with others.
And I manifested myself thus in regard to this trifle, perhaps not such a trifle, thanks to three data formed in my entirety during my preparatory age— about which data I intend to inform you in this first chapter of my writings.
However that may be, the fact remains, illuminated from every side like an American advertisement—which fact cannot now be changed by any forces, even with the know-how of the “experts in monkey business”—that I, who have in recent years been considered by many people a rather good teacher of temple dances, have today become a professional writer, and will of course write a great deal—as it has been proper to me since childhood whenever I do anything to do a great deal of it—nevertheless, not having, as you see, the automatically acquired and automatically manifested practice needed for this, I shall be obliged to write all I have thought out in the plain, simple everyday language established by life, without any “literary manipulations” or “grammatical wiseacrings.”
But the pot is not yet full! . . . I have still not decided the most important question of all in which language to write.
Although I have begun to write in Russian, nevertheless in that language,
as the wisest of the wise, Mullah Nasr Eddin, would say, “you cannot go far.”*
The Russian language is very good—it cannot be denied I even like it, but
only for swapping anecdotes and for referring to someone’s parentage.
The Russian language is like the English, which is also very good, but only
for discussing in “smoking rooms,” while settled in an easy chair with legs
stretched out on another one, the topic of “Australian frozen meat” or, perhaps, the “Indian question.”
Both these languages are like the dish known in Moscow as “solianka,” into
which goes anything and everything except you and me—in fact, everything you wish, even the after-dinner “cheshma”† of Scheherazade.
It must also be said that owing to all kinds of conditions accidentally, or perhaps not accidentally, formed in my youth, I have had to learn, very seriously and of course always with self-compulsion, to speak, read, and write a great many languages, and to such a degree of fluency that if in following this profession unexpectedly forced on me by fate I decided not to take advantage of the “automatism” acquired by practice, I could perhaps write in any one of them.
But in order to make judicious use of this automatism acquired by long practice, I would have to write either in
* 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 savings are attributed to this Nasr Eddin some of long standing and others more recent all expressing “life wisdom.”
† “Cheshma” means veil
Russian or in Armenian, because during the last two or three decades the circumstances of my life have been such that I have had to use just these two languages for communication with others, and consequently have had more practice in them.
Oh the devil! Even in a case like this, one of the aspects of my peculiar psyche, unusual for a normal man, has already begun to torment the whole of me.
And the “torment” I feel at this moment, at my almost too mellow age, is derived from a property implanted in childhood in my peculiar psyche, with a lot of rubbish unnecessary for contemporary life, that automatically compels the whole of me always and in everything to act only according to popular wisdom.
In the present case, as always when I am in doubt, there has just slipped uninvited into my brain, which is constructed unsuccessfully to the point of mockery, that saying of popular wisdom which existed in very ancient times and which has come down to our day in the following words “Every stick has two ends.”
In trying to understand the underlying thought and real meaning hidden in this strange formulation, any more or less sane-thinking man will, in my opinion, soon come to the conclusion that all the ideas contained in this saying are based on the truth, recognized by people for centuries, that every phenomenon in the life of man is due to two causes of opposite character, and divides into two exactly opposite results, which in their turn become the cause of new phenomena For example, if “something” obtained from two opposing causes produces light, then this “something” must also inevitably produce the opposite phenomenon, that is, darkness, or again, if a factor engenders an impulse of palpable satisfaction in the organism of a living creature, it likewise inevitably engenders dissatisfaction, of course also palpable, and so on and so forth, always and in everything.
Adopting here this example of popular wisdom formed in the course of centuries and expressed by the image of a stick, which as was said has indeed two ends, one end considered good and the other bad, then if I take advantage of the mentioned automatism acquired by me through long practice, it will of course be very good for me personally, but according to this saying, for the reader it will be just the opposite; and what the opposite of good is, even every nonpossessor of hemorrhoids can easily understand.
In short, if I exercise my prerogative and take the good end of the stick, the bad end will inevitably fall “on the reader’s head.”
This may indeed happen, for in Russian it is impossible to express the so to say niceties of philosophical questions, which I intend to touch upon in my writings rather fully; whereas, although it is possible to do so in Armenian, this language, to the misfortune of all contemporary Armenians, has now become quite impractical for expressing contemporary notions.
In order to assuage the bitterness of my inner hurt owing to this, I must say that in my early youth, when I became interested in philological questions and was deeply absorbed in them, I preferred the Armenian language to all the others I then spoke, even including my native tongue.
This language was my favorite at that time chiefly because it had its own character and had nothing in common with the neighboring or kindred languages All its “tonalities,” as the learned philologists say, were peculiar to it alone and, as I understood even then, it corresponded perfectly to the psyche of the people of that nation.
But during the last thirty or forty years I have witnessed such a change in this language that although it has not completely lost the originality and independence it had possessed since the remote past, it has now become a sort of “clownish potpourri of languages” whose consonances, falling on the
ear of a more or less attentive and conscious listener, sound like a collection of Turkish, Persian, French, Kurdish, and Russian tones, mixed with other “indigestible” and inarticulate noises.
Almost the same might be said about my native language, Greek, which I spoke in childhood, and the taste of whose “automatic associative power” I still retain. I could, I dare say, express anything I wish in it even now, but it is impossible for me to employ it here for the simple and rather comical reason that someone must transcribe my writings and translate them into other languages. And who could do this?
It can be said with certainty that even the best expert in modern Greek would understand simply nothing of what I would write in the tongue I assimilated in childhood, because during the last thirty or forty years my dear “compatriots,” inflamed with the desire to be at all costs like the represen-tatives of contemporary civilization even in their conversation, have treated my dear native language just as the Armenians, anxious to become Russian “intelligentsia,” have treated theirs.
The Greek language whose spirit and essence were transmitted to me by heredity and the language now spoken by contemporary Greeks are as much alike as, according to the expression of Mullah Nasr Eddin, “a nail is like a requiem.”
So what is now to be done?
Ah me! Never mind, esteemed buyer of my wiseacrings. As long as there is plenty of French armagnac and Khaizarian “bastourma,” I shall find a way even out of this tight corner.
I am an old hand at this.
In life, I have so often gotten into difficult situations and out of them that this has become almost a matter of habit with me.
Meanwhile, I shall write partly in Russian and partly in Armenian, all the more since among those people always hanging around me there are several who know how to get along more or less easily in both these languages, and I somehow entertain the hope that they will be able to transcribe and translate them fairly well for me.
In any case I repeat, and repeat so that you may remember it well—not as you are in the habit of “remembering” other things, and on the basis of which you are accustomed to keeping your word of honor to others or to yourself—that no matter what language I use, I shall always and in everything avoid what I have called “bon ton literary language.”
With regard to this it is an extremely curious fact, perhaps more worthy of your love of knowledge than you may suppose, that from my earliest childhood, that is to say, ever since the birth in me of the need to rob birds’ nests and to tease my friends’ sisters, there arose in my “planetary body,” as the ancient theosophists called it, and moreover—why I don’t know—chiefly in the right half, an involuntary, instinctive sensation that up to the period of my life when I became a “teacher of dancing” was gradually formed into a definite feeling, and later, when thanks to this profession of mine I came in contact with people of many different types, the conviction also began to arise in what is called my “mind” that these languages, or rather their “grammars,” are composed by people who with respect to knowledge of language are exactly like those biped animals whom the esteemed Mullah Nasr Eddin characterizes thus “All they can do is wrangle with pigs about the quality of oranges.”
People of this kind, who, due to rotten heredity and nauseating upbringing, on reaching a certain age have been turned into “voracious moths,” destroying the good prepared and left for us by our ancestors and by time, have not the slightest notion and have never even heard of the blatantly obvious fact that during preparatory age there is acquired in the brain functioning of every creature, and thus
of man also, a definite property whose automatic manifestations proceed according to a certain law that the ancient Korkolans called the “law of associations,” and that the process of mentation of every creature, especially man, flows exclusively in accordance with this law.
Since I have happened to touch upon a question that has recently become almost an “obsession” of mine, namely, the process of human mentation, I consider it possible, without waiting for the place in my writings I had designated for the elucidation of this question, to speak at least a little in this first chapter about some information that accidentally became known to me According to this information, it was customary in long-past centuries on Earth for every man bold enough to aspire to the right to be considered by others and to consider himself a “conscious thinker” to be instructed, while still in the early years of his responsible existence, that man has two kinds of mentation one kind, mentation by thought, expressed by words always possessing a relative meaning, and another kind, proper to all animals as well as to man, which I would call “mentation by form.”
The second kind of mentation, that is, “mentation by form”—through which, by the way, the exact meaning of all writing should be perceived and then assimilated after conscious confrontation with information previously acquired—is determined in people by the conditions of geographical locality, climate, time, and in general the whole environment in which they have arisen and in which their existence has flowed up to adulthood.
Thus, in the brains of people of different races living in different geographical localities under different conditions, there arise in regard to one and the same thing or idea quite different independent forms, which during the flow of associations evoke in their being a definite sensation giving
rise to a definite picturing, and this picturing is expressed by some word or other that serves only for its outer subjective expression.
That is why each word for the same thing or idea almost always acquires for people of different geographical localities and races a quite specific and entirely different so to say “inner content.”
In other words, if in the “presence” of a man who has arisen and grown up in a given locality a certain “form” has been fixed as a result of specific local influences and impressions, this “form” evokes in him by association the sensation of a definite “inner content,” and consequently a definite picturing or concept, for the expression of which he uses some word that has become habitual and, as I said, subjective to him, but the hearer of that word—in whose being, owing to the different conditions of his arising and growth, a form with a different “inner content” has been fixed for the given word—will always perceive and infallibly understand that word in quite another sense.
This fact, by the way, can be clearly established by attentive and impartial observation during an exchange of opinions between persons belonging to different races or who arose and were formed in different geographical localities.
And so, cheerful and swaggering candidate for a buyer of my “wiseacrings,” having warned you that I am going to write not as professional writers usually do but quite otherwise, I advise you to reflect seriously before you embark on reading my further expositions, and only then to undertake it Otherwise, I am afraid that your hearing and other perceptive as well as digestive organs may be so thoroughly automatized to the “literary language of the intelligentsia” prevailing at the present time on Earth that these writings of mine might affect you very, very cacophonously, and thereby you might lose . . . do you know what? . . . your
appetite for your favorite dish, and that special psychic feature of yours which particularly “titillates your vitals” on catching sight of your neighbor, the brunette.
That my language, or rather the form of my mentation, can produce such an effect I am, thanks to repeated past experiences, as much convinced with my whole being as a “thoroughbred donkey” is convinced of the rightness and justice of his obstinacy.
Now that I have warned you of what is most important, I am tranquil about all that will follow. For if any misunderstanding should arise on account of my writings, you alone will be to blame, and my conscience will be as clear as for instance . . . ex-Kaiser Wilhelm’s.
In all probability you are now thinking that I am a young man with an “auspicious exterior” and, as some express it, “suspicious interior,” and that, as a novice at writing, I am deliberately trying to be eccentric in the hope of becoming famous and thereby rich.
If you really think so, you are very, very mistaken.
First of all, I am not young I have already lived so much that, as is said, I have not only been “through the mill” but “through all the grindstones”; and second, I am not writing in order to make a career for myself, or to “plant myself firmly on my own feet” by means of this profession which, I must add, in my opinion provides for those who practice it many openings to become candidates direct for Hell— assuming of course that such people can in fact perfect their being to that extent—because, knowing nothing whatever themselves, they write all kinds of “claptrap” and, thus automatically acquiring authority, they develop year by year one of the chief factors for the weakening of the psyche of people, already sufficiently weakened without this
And as regards my personal career, thanks to all forces high and low and, if you like, even right and left, I have
established it long ago, and have long been standing on “firm feet” and, it may be, on very good feet I am certain moreover that their strength will suffice for many more years, to the dismay of all my past, present, and future enemies.
Yes. . . I think I might as well tell you about an idea that has only just arisen in my madcap brain, which is specially to request the printer to whom I shall entrust my first book to print this initial chapter of my writings in such a way that anybody can read it without cutting the pages of the book itself, whereupon, on learning that it is not written in the usual manner, that is, to help produce in the mind of the reader, very smoothly and easily, exciting images and lulling reveries, he may if he wishes, without wasting words with the bookseller, return it and get his money back, money perhaps earned by the sweat of his brow.
And I shall do this without fail because I have just remembered the story of what happened to a certain Trans-caucasian Kurd, a story I heard in my early youth and which in later years, whenever I recalled it in similar cases, aroused in me an enduring and inextinguishable impulse of tenderness I think it will be very useful for me, as well as for you, if I relate this story in some detail.
It will be useful chiefly because I have already decided to make the “salt” or, as contemporary “pure-blooded” Jewish businessmen would say, the “tzimmes” of this story one of the basic principles of that new literary form I intend to use for attaining the aim I am now pursuing in this new profession of mine.
This Transcaucasian Kurd once set out from his village on some business or other to town, and there in the market he saw in a fruit stall a handsomely arranged display of all kinds of fruit.
In this display he noticed one particular fruit, very beautiful in both color and form, and its appearance so took his fancy and he so longed to try it that in spite of having scarcely any money he decided come what may to buy at least one of these gifts of Great Nature, and taste it.
Then with intense eagerness and a boldness not customary to him, he entered the shop and, pointing with his horny finger at the fruit that had taken his fancy, asked the shopkeeper its price The shopkeeper replied that a pound of the fruit cost six coppers.
Finding that the price was not at all high for what in his opinion was such beautiful fruit, our Kurd decided to buy a whole pound.
Having finished his business in town, he set off again on foot for home that same day.
Walking at sunset over the hills and dales, and willy-nilly perceiving the exterior aspect of those enchanting parts of the bosom of Great Nature, our Common Mother, and involuntarily inhaling the pure air, uncontaminated by the usual exhalations of industrial towns, our Kurd quite naturally felt a sudden wish to gratify himself with some ordinary food also, so sitting down by the side of the road, he took some bread from his provision bag and the “fruits” that had looked so good to him, and leisurely began to eat.
But. . . horror of horrors! . . . very soon everything inside him began to burn.
Yet in spite of this he kept on eating.
And this hapless biped creature of our planet kept on eating, thanks only to that particular human inherency I mentioned, the principle of which I have decided to use as the basis of the new literary form I have created, and which will serve as a “guiding beacon” leading me to one of my aims You will, I am sure, soon grasp the sense and meaning of this—of course according to the degree of your comprehension—during the reading of any subsequent chapter of my writings, that is, if you take the risk and read further,or perhaps even at the end of this first chapter you will already “smell” something.
And so, just at the moment when our Kurd was overwhelmed by all the unusual sensations aroused within him by this strange repast on the bosom of Nature, there came along the same road a fellow villager of his, reputed by those who knew him to be very clever and experienced, and seeing that the whole face of the Kurd was aflame and that his eyes were streaming with tears, and that in spite of this, as if intent upon the fulfillment of his most important duty, he was eating real “red pepper pods,” he said to him
“What are you doing, you Jericho jackass? You’ll be burnt alive! Stop eating that barbarous stuff, so foreign to your nature.”
But our Kurd replied “No, for nothing on Earth will I stop. Didn’t I pay my last six coppers for them? Even if my soul departs from my body, I will go on eating.”
Whereupon our resolute Kurd—it must of course be assumed that he was such—did not stop, but went on eating the red peppers.
After what you have just perceived, I hope there may already be arising in your mentation a corresponding association, which should finally lead you, as sometimes happens with certain people, to what you call “understanding ” And then you will understand why I—well knowing and having often felt pity for this human inherency, whose inevitable manifestation is that if anybody pays money for something he is bound to use it to the end—was animated in my whole presence by the idea that arose in my mentation of taking every possible measure so that you, my “brother in appetite and in spirit,” as they say—in the event of your being accustomed to reading books written exclusively in the “language of the intelligentsia”—having already paid money for my writings, and discovering only afterward that they are not written in the usual convenient and easily read language, should not be compelled to read them through to the end at any cost, as our poor Transcaucasian Kurd was compelled to go on eating what he had fancied for its appearance alone—that not-to-be-joked-with, noble “red pepper.”
And so, to avoid any misunderstanding on account of this property, which arises from data formed in the “presence” of contemporary man thanks to his frequenting the cinema and never missing an opportunity of looking into the left eye of persons of the other sex, I wish to have this opening chapter of mine printed in the said manner, so that everyone can read it through without cutting the pages of the book itself.
Otherwise the bookseller will, as is said, “cavil,” and behave without fail according to the basic principle of all booksellers, formulated in the following words “You are more a fool than a fisherman if you let go the fish that has swallowed the bait,” and will decline to take back a book whose pages have been cut I have no doubt that this would happen Indeed, I fully expect such lack of conscience on the part of the booksellers.
My certainty about this lack of conscience on the part of booksellers comes from data formed in me during the period when I was a professional “Indian fakir” and, in order to clarify a certain “ultraphilosophical” question, I had to become familiar with the associative process of the manifestation of the automatically constructed psyche in contemporary booksellers and their salesmen, when palming off books on their buyers.
Knowing all this and having become, since the accident that befell me, just and fastidious in the extreme, I cannot help repeating, or rather I cannot help warning you again and even insistently advising you, before beginning to cut the pages of this first book of mine, to read very attentively, even more than once, this first chapter of my writings.
But if notwithstanding this warning of mine you still wish to become acquainted with the rest of my expositions, there is nothing left for me but to wish you with all my “genuine soul” a very, very good “appetite,” and that you may “digest” everything you read, not only for your own health but for the health of all those near you.
I said “with my genuine soul” because recently, living here in Europe, and frequently meeting people who on every appropriate and inappropriate occasion are fond of taking in vain sacred names that belong only to man’s inner life, that is to say, of swearing to no purpose, and being, as I have already confessed, a follower—not only in theory, like contemporary people, but also in practice—of the sayings of popular wisdom established throughout the centuries, among which is one that corresponds to the present case and is expressed in the words “When you are in Rome do as the Romans do”—in order not to be out of harmony with the custom established here in Europe of swearing in ordinary conversation, and at the same time to act according to the commandment enunciated by the holy lips of Saint Moses not to take the sacred names in vain—I decided to make use of one of the oddities of that freshly baked fashionable language called “English,” and each time the occa-sion requires it, to swear by my “English soul.”
The point is that in this fashionable language the word for “soul” and the word for the bottom of the foot, also “sole,” are pronounced and even written almost alike.
I do not know how it is for you, who are already half a candidate for a buyer of my writings, but as for me, no matter how great my mental desire, my peculiar nature cannot avoid being indignant at this manifestation of people of contemporary civilization, whereby the very highest in man, particularly beloved by our Common Father Creator, can be named and often understood as that which is lowest and dirtiest in man.
Well, enough of “philologizing.” Let us return to the main task of this initial chapter, intended, among other things, to stir up my drowsy thoughts as well as yours, and also to give the reader a warning.
I have already composed in my head the plan and sequence of my intended expositions, but what form they will take on paper, speaking frankly, I do not yet know with my consciousness; but in my subconscious, I already definitely feel that on the whole they will take the form of something, so to say, “hot,” and will act on the common presence of every reader just as the red pepper pods did on the poor Transcaucasian Kurd.
Now that you have become familiar with the story of our common countryman, the Transcaucasian Kurd, I consider it my duty to make a confession to you. Before going on with this first chapter, which serves as an introduction to all that I plan to write, I wish to inform your so-called “pure waking consciousness” of the fact that, in the chapters following this warning, I shall expound my thoughts intentionally in such a sequence and with such logical confrontation that the essence of certain real ideas may pass automatically from this “waking consciousness,” which most people in their ignorance mistake for the real consciousness, but which I affirm and experimentally prove is the fictitious one, into what you call the “subconscious”— which in my opinion ought to be the real human con-sciousness—in order that these concepts may mechanically bring about by themselves that transformation which in general should proceed in the common presence of a man and give him, by means of his own active mentation, the results proper to him as a man and not merely as a one- or two-brained animal I decided to do this without fail so that this introductory chapter, intended as I have already said to awaken your consciousness, may fully justify its purpose and, reaching not only your, in my opinion, “fictitious consciousness” but also your real consciousness, that is to say, what you call your “subconscious,” may compel you for the first time to reflect actively.
In the “presence” of every man, irrespective of his heredity and education, there are formed two independent consciousnesses, having almost nothing in common either in their functioning or in their manifestations.
One consciousness is formed from the perception of all kinds of mechanical impressions, arising accidentally or deliberately produced by others, including almost all words, which are indeed only empty “sounds”, and the other consciousness is formed partly from the “previously fixed material results” transmitted to a man by heredity, which have become blended with the corresponding parts of his common presence, and partly from his intentionally evoked associative confrontations of these “materialized results.
This second human consciousness, which in itself as well as in its manifestations is none other than what is called the “subconscious,” and which is formed, as I have just said, from the “materialized results” of heredity and the confrontations produced by a man’s own intention, is the one that in my opinion—based on many years of experimental investigations carried out under exceptionally favorable conditions—should predominate in his common presence.
In view of this conviction of mine, which doubtless seems to you the fantasy of an afflicted mind, I cannot now, as you yourself see, disregard this second consciousness, and am thus obliged by my essence to construct this first chapter of my writings, which should serve as a preface for all that follows, in such a way that it will reach and, in the manner required for my aim, “ruffle” the perceptions accumulated in both these consciousnesses of yours.
Continuing my exposition with this idea in mind, I must first of all inform your fictitious consciousness that, thanks to three definite and peculiar psychic data crystallized in my common presence during my preparatory age, I am really “unique” at so to say “muddling and befuddling” all the notions and convictions supposedly firmly fixed in the presences of people with whom I come in contact.
Tut! Tut! Tut! I already sense that in your false—but according to you “real”—consciousness there are beginning to be agitated, like horseflies, all kinds of data bequeathed to you by heredity from your “uncle” and “mama,” the totality of which, always and in everything, engenders in you the really touching impulse of curiosity—in this instance, to find out as quickly as possible why I, a mere novice at writing, whose name has not even once been mentioned in the newspapers, have suddenly become unique.
Never mind! I personally am very pleased to see this curiosity arise in you, even though only in your “false” consciousness, as I know from experience that this impulse unworthy of man can sometimes change its nature and become a worthy impulse called the “desire for knowledge,” which in its turn helps a contemporary man to perceive and even to understand more clearly the essence of any object on which his attention happens to be concentrated, and therefore I am willing and even glad to satisfy this curiosity that has arisen in you So listen, and try to justify and not disappoint my expectations.
This original personality of mine, already “sniffed out” by certain Individuals from both choirs of the Judgment Seat Above whence Objective Justice proceeds, and also here on
Earth by an as yet very limited number of people, is based, as I have already said, on three specific data formed in me at different times during my preparatory age.
The first of these three data, from the moment of its arising, became as it were the chief directing lever of my entire whole, while the other two became the “vivifying sources” for the nourishing and perfecting of the first.
This first datum arose in me when I was still, as is said, a “chubby mite ” My dear, now deceased, grandmother was then still alive and was a hundred and some years old.
When my grandmother—may she attain the Kingdom of Heaven—was dying, my mother, as was then the custom, took me to her bedside and, as I kissed her right hand, my dear grandmother placed her dying left hand on my head and said in a whisper, yet very distinctly:
“Eldest of my grandsons! Listen and always remember my strict injunction to you: In life never do as others do.”
Having said this, she gazed at the bridge of my nose and, evidently noticing
my perplexity and my obscure understanding of what she had said, added
somewhat angrily and imperiously:
“Either do nothing—just go to school—or do something nobody else does Whereupon she immediately, without hesitation and with a perceptible impulse of disdain for all around her, and with commendable self-cognizance, gave up her soul directly into the hands of His Faithfulness, the Archangel
I think it will be interesting and perhaps even instructive for you to know that all this made so powerful an impression on me that I was suddenly unable to endure anyone around me, and as soon as we left the room where the mortal “planetary body” of the cause of the cause of my arising lay, I, very quietly, trying not to attract attention, stole away to the pit where, during Lent, the bran and potato peelings were stored for our “sanitarians,” that is to say, our pigs.
And I lay there, without food or drink, in a tempest of whirling and confused thoughts—of which, fortunately for me, I still had only a very limited number in my childish brain— right until my mother’s return from the cemetery, when the weeping that was shaking her after finding me absent and searching for me in vain “broke in” on me. At once I climbed out of the pit and stood a moment on the edge, for some reason or other with hands outstretched; then I ran to her and, clinging fast to her skirt, involuntarily began to stamp my feet and—why I don’t know—to imitate the braying of the donkey that belonged to our neighbor, the bailiff.
Why all this produced such a strong impression on me just then, and why I almost automatically behaved so strangely, I still cannot make out, though during recent years, particularly on the days known as “Shrovetide,” I have pondered over it a great deal, trying to discover the reason.
I have only reached the logical supposition that it was because the room where this sacred scene occurred, which was to have tremendous significance for the whole of my future life, was permeated through and through with the scent of a special incense brought from a monastery of Mount Athos and very popular among followers of every shade of belief of the Christian religion. Whatever it may have been, those are the facts.
During the days following this event, nothing particular happened in my general state, unless it was that I walked more often than usual with my feet in the air, that is to say, on my hands.
My first act that was obviously not in accord with the manifestations of others, though without the participation either of my consciousness or of my subconscious, occurred on exactly the fortieth day after my grandmother’s death, when our family, our relatives, and all those who had esteemed my dear grandmother, who was loved by every-
body, were gathered in the cemetery, as was the custom, to perform over her mortal remains reposing in the grave what is called the “requiem service ” Suddenly, without rhyme or reason, instead of observing what was conventional among people of all degrees of tangible and intangible morality and of every station in life, that is, instead of standing quietly as if overwhelmed, with an expression of grief on one’s face and even if possible with tears in one’s eyes, I started skipping and dancing around the grave and sang:
Let her with the saints repose, She was a rare one, goodness knows! . . .
and so on and so forth.
And from this moment on, as regards any form of “aping,” that is, imitating the habitual automatized manifestations of those around me, a “something” always arose in my presence, engendering what I should now call an “irresistible urge” to do things not as others do.
At that age, for example, I did such things as the following: when my brother, sisters, and the neighbors’ children who came to play with us were learning to catch a ball only with the right hand, and threw it in the air, I would first bounce the ball hard on the ground, and when it rebounded, after first doing a somersault, would catch it, but only with the thumb and middle finger of the left hand; or if all the other children slid down the hill headfirst, I would try to do it, and moreover better and better each time, “backside first”; or if we were given various kinds of Abaramian pastries, and the others, before putting them into their mouths, would first of all lick them, evidently to try their flavor and prolong the pleasure, I would first sniff one on all sides and perhaps even put it to my ear and listen intently, and then, almost unconsciously, though very seriously, I would mutter to myself, “enough is enough, you don’t need to stuff!”
and humming to an appropriate rhythm, would swallow it whole without savoring it, and so on and so forth.
The first event that gave rise to one of the two data I mentioned, which became the “vivifying sources” for nourishing and perfecting my deceased grandmother’s injunction, occurred just at the age when I changed from a chubby mite into what is called a “young rascal,” and had already begun, as is sometimes said, to be a “candidate for a young man of pleasing appearance and dubious content.”
And this event occurred under the following circumstances, which were perhaps even specially combined by Fate.
One day, with a number of young rascals like myself, I was setting snares for pigeons on the roof of a neighbor’s house, when suddenly one of the boys who was standing over me and watching me closely said:
“I think the horsehair noose ought to be set so that the pigeon’s big toe never gets caught in it because, as our zoology teacher recently explained to us, it is just in that toe that the pigeon’s reserve strength is concentrated, and of course if this big toe gets caught in the noose, the pigeon might easily break it.”
Another boy, leaning over just opposite me—from whose mouth, by the way, whenever he spoke saliva always splashed abundantly in all directions— snapped at this remark of the first boy and delivered himself, with a copious shower of saliva, of the following words:
“Shut your trap, you hopeless mongrel offshoot of the Hottentots! What an abortion you are, just like your teacher’ Even if it’s true that the pigeon’s greatest physical force is concentrated in its big toe, then all the more reason for seeing that just that toe gets caught in the noose Only then can there be any importance for our aim—that is, catching these unfortunate pigeon creatures—in a certain particularity proper to all possessors of that soft and slippery ‘something,’ the brain, which consists in this, that when, thanks to the action of other influences, on which its insignificant power of manifestation depends, there arises what is called a ‘change of presence,’ periodically necessary according to law, the slight confusion that should proceed for the intensification of other manifestations of the general functioning immediately enables the center of gravity of the whole organism, in which this slippery ‘something’ plays a very small part, to shift temporarily from its usual place to another place, and this often leads to unexpected results in the general functioning, ridiculous to the point of absurdity.”
He discharged the last words with such a shower of saliva that it was as if my face had been exposed to one of those “atomizers”—not of ersatz production—invented by the Germans to spray material with aniline dyes.
This was more than I could endure, and without changing my squatting position, I flung myself at him head first, hitting him full force in the pit of the stomach, which instantly laid him out flat and made him, as is said, “lose consciousness.”
I do not know or wish to know what results will be formed in your mentation on learning about the strange convergence of life circumstances I will now describe, but for my mentation, this coincidence provided material for reinforcing my belief that all the events that occurred in my youth, far from being simply the results of chance, were created intentionally by certain extraneous forces.
The point is that this dexterity had been taught me very thoroughly only a few days before this event by a Greek priest from Turkey, who, persecuted by the Turks for his political convictions, had been compelled to flee from there, and on arriving in our town had been engaged by my parents to teach me the modern Greek language.
I do not know on what he based his political convictions and ideas, but I remember very well that in all our conversations, even when he was explaining the difference between ancient and modern Greek exclamations, it was apparent that this Greek priest was always dreaming of getting to the island of Crete as soon as possible, and manifesting himself there as befits a true patriot.
Well then, on beholding the effect of my skill, I was, I must confess, extremely frightened, because knowing nothing about such a reaction to a blow in that place, I was quite sure I had killed him.
While I was experiencing this fear, another boy, a cousin of the one who had become the first victim of my so to say “skill in self-defense,” seeing what I had done and obviously overcome by a feeling called “consanguinity,” without a moment’s pause leaped at me and with a wide swing punched me in the jaw.
From this blow I “saw stars,” as is said, and at the same time my mouth felt as full as if it had been stuffed with enough food for the artificial fattening of a thousand chickens.
After a little while, when both these strange sensations had calmed down within me, I discovered that there actually was some foreign substance in my mouth, and when I pulled it out with my fingers, it turned out to be nothing less than a tooth of large dimensions and strange form.
Seeing me staring at this extraordinary tooth, all the boys swarmed around me, and also began staring at it with great curiosity and in deep silence.
By this time the boy who had been laid out flat recovered and, picking himself up, also began to stare at my tooth with the other boys, just as if nothing had happened to him.
This strange tooth had seven prongs, and at the end of each of them a drop of blood stood out in relief, and through each separate drop there shone clearly and distinctly one of the seven aspects of the manifestation of the white ray.
After this silence, rare among us young rascals, the usual hubbub broke out again, and in noisy chorus we decided to go at once to the barber, a specialist in extracting teeth, and to ask him why this tooth was like that.
So we all clambered down from the roof and went off to the barber’s And I, as the “hero of the day,” stalked at the head of them all.
The barber, after a casual glance, said it was simply a “wisdom tooth” and that all members of the male sex have one like it—that is, all those who up to the time when they can say “papa” and “mama” are fed exclusively on their own mother’s milk, and who are able at first sight to pick out from many others the face of their own father.
From all the effects of this event in which my poor “wisdom tooth” became a complete sacrifice, not only did my consciousness begin, from that time onward, to absorb on every occasion the very essence of the essence of my deceased grandmother’s behest—may she attain the Kingdom of Heaven—but also, because I did not go to a “qualified dentist” to have the socket of my former tooth treated, which as a matter of fact I could not do since we lived too far from any contemporary center of culture, a “something” began to ooze chronically from this socket, which had the property—as was only recently explained to me by a famous meteorologist with whom I chanced to become bosom friends during frequent meetings in the all-night restaurants of Montmartre—of arousing an interest in and a tendency to seek out the causes of every suspicious “actual fact”, and this property, not transmitted by heredity to my common presence, gradually and automatically led to my becoming a specialist in the investigation of every “suspicious phe-nomenon” that, as so often happened, came my way.
And when, of course with the cooperation of our All-Common Master, the Merciless Heropass, that is, the “flow of time,” I was transformed into the young man I have
already described, this new property became a real inextinguishable hearth, always burning, of consciousness.
The second vivifying factor I mentioned, which brought about the complete fusion of my dear grandmother’s injunction with all the data making up my individuality, was the totality of impressions received from information I chanced to acquire concerning the origin here on Earth of a principle, which later became—as was demonstrated by Mr. Allan Kardec during an “absolutely secret” spiritualistic séance—one of the chief “life principles” among beings arising and existing on all the other planets of our Great Universe.
This all-universal principle of living is formulated in the following words:
“If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.”
As this now-universal principle arose on the same planet as you and where, moreover, you spend most of your time lolling about on a bed of roses and frequently dance the fox trot, I consider that I have no right to withhold from you the information I have that will help you understand certain details of the origin of that universal principle.
Soon after the inculcation in my nature of the new inherency I mentioned, that is, the unaccountable striving to learn the real causes of all sorts of “actual facts,” I arrived for the first time in the heart of Russia, in the city of Moscow, where, finding nothing else for the satisfaction of my psychic needs, I occupied myself with investigating Russian legends and sayings. And one day—whether accidentally or as a result of some objective lawful chain of circumstances, I do not know—I came across the following story.
Once upon a time a certain Russian, who to all appearances was just a simple merchant, had to go on some business or other from his provincial town to this second capital of his
country, the city of Moscow, and his son—his favorite one, because he resembled only his mother—asked him to bring back a certain book.
When the great, unconscious author of this all-universal principle of living
arrived in Moscow, he and a friend of his, as was and still is the custom there,
got “blind drunk” on genuine Russian vodka.
And when these two members of one of the large contemporary groupings of biped breathing creatures had drunk the proper number of glasses of this “Russian blessing,” and were launched on a discussion about what is called “public education”—a topic with which it has long been customary to begin a conversation—our merchant suddenly remembered by association his dear son’s request, and decided to set off at once with his friend to a bookshop to buy the book.
In the shop, after looking through the book that the salesman had handed him, the merchant asked its price.
The salesman replied that the book cost sixty kopecks.
Noticing that the price marked on the cover of the book was only forty-five kopecks, our merchant first began to ponder in an unusual way—especially unusual for Russians—and then, with a certain movement of his shoulders, he straightened himself up like a ramrod and, throwing out his chest like an officer of the guards, said after a little pause, very quietly but in a tone of great authority:
“But it is marked here forty-five kopecks. Why do you ask sixty?” Thereupon the salesman, putting on the “oleaginous” face proper to all salesmen, replied that indeed the book cost only forty-five kopecks, but had to be sold for sixty because fifteen kopecks were added for postage.
At this reply our Russian merchant was greatly perplexed by these two quite contradictory but obviously reconcilable facts, and something visibly began to proceed in him, and gazing up at the ceiling he again began to ponder, this time like an English professor who has just invented a capsule for castor oil, then, suddenly turning to his friend, he delivered himself for the first time on Earth of the verbal formulation which, expressing in its essence an indubitable objective truth, has since assumed the character of a proverb.
And he put it to his friend as follows:
“Never mind, old fellow, we’ll take the book. Anyhow we’re on a spree today, and ‘if you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.’ “
As for me, unfortunately doomed while still living to experience the delights of Hell, as soon as I had become aware of all this, something very strange that I have never experienced before or since began to proceed in me and continued for rather a long time, it was as if all the usual associations and experiences from various sources were, as contemporary Hivintzes would say, “running races” inside me.
At the same time, in the whole region of my spine there began an intense, almost unbearable itching and in the very center of my solar plexus an equally unbearable colic, and after a while these two mutually stimulating sensations gave way suddenly to a peaceful inner state such as I experienced in later life only once, when the ceremony of the “great initiation” into the brotherhood of the “makers of butter from air” was performed over me And later, when my “I,” that is, this “something unknown” which in ancient times a certain eccentric—called by those around him a “learned man,” as we still call such persons—defined as a “relatively mobile arising, depending on the quality of functioning of thought, feeling, and organic automatism,” and which another renowned scholar of antiquity, the Arabian Mal el-Lel, defined as “the compound result of consciousness, the subconscious, and instinct”—a definition, by the way, which was later “borrowed” and repeated in a different form by the no less renowned and learned Greek, Xenophon—
when this same “I” turned its dazed attention within, I first constated very clearly that everything, even down to each single word of this saying, recognized as an “all-universal life principle,” was transformed in me into a special cosmic substance which, merging with the data crystallized long before from my deceased grandmother’s behest, was converted into a “something” which, flowing everywhere through my whole presence, settled forever in each atom composing it There and then my ill-fated “I” felt distinctly and, with an impulse of submission, became aware of the for me sad fact that, from that moment on, always and in everything, without exception, I would willy-nilly have to manifest myself according to this inherency formed in me, not in accordance with the laws of heredity or even under the influence of surrounding conditions, but arising in my common presence from the action of three external, accidental causes having nothing in common first, from the injunction of a person who had become, without the slightest desire on my part, the passive cause of the cause of my arising, second, because a tooth of mine was knocked out by some ragamuffin, chiefly on account of somebody else’s “slobbering”, and third, thanks to the verbal formulation delivered in a drunken state by a person totally unknown to me—a certain “Russian merchant.”
If before my acquaintance with this “all-universal principle of living” I had manifested myself differently from other biped animals like myself, arising and vegetating on the same planet, I did so automatically and sometimes only half-consciously, but after this event I began to do so consciously and, moreover, with an instinctive sensation of the two blended impulses of self-satisfaction and self-awareness, in correctly and honorably fulfilling my duty to Great Nature.
It must be emphasized that although even before this event I did everything not as others did, my manifestations scarcely attracted the attention of those around me but, from the moment when the essence of this principle of living was assimilated in my nature, then on the one hand all my manifestations, whether directed toward an aim or merely to “pass the time,” acquired vivifyingness, and began to assist the formation of “corns” on the organs of perception of every creature similar to me, without exception, who turned his attention directly or indirectly toward my actions, and on the other hand I began to carry out all these actions in accordance with the injunction of my deceased grandmother to the utmost possible limits, moreover, the practice was automatically acquired in me when beginning anything new and also at any change, of course on a large scale, always to utter, silently or aloud:
“If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.”
In the present case, for example, since owing to causes not dependent on me but flowing from the strange and accidental circumstances of my life I happen to be writing books, I am compelled to do this also in keeping with that same principle, which has gradually been fixed in me by various extraordinary coincidences created by life itself, and has blended with each atom of my common presence.
This time I shall put this psycho-organic principle of mine into practice by not following the custom of all writers, established from the remote past down to the present, of taking as the theme of their various writings the events that supposedly have occurred or are now occurring on Earth, but instead I shall take events on the scale of the whole Universe Thus also in the present case, “If you take, then take!”—that is to say, “If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, including the postage.”
Any writer can write on the scale of the Earth, but I am not any writer
Can I confine myself merely to this “paltry Earth” of ours—paltry, that is, in the objective sense?
No, this I cannot do I cannot take for my writings the same themes that other writers generally take, if only because what our learned spiritualists affirm might suddenly come true and my grandmother might hear of this, and do you realize what might happen to her, to my dear beloved grandmother? Would she not turn in her grave, as they say? And not only once, but—as I understand her, especially now that I have become quite skillful at entering into the position of another—she would turn so many times that she might al-most be transformed into an “Irish weathercock.”
Please, reader, do not be alarmed I shall, of course, also write of the Earth, but with such an impartial attitude that this comparatively small planet and everything on it will correspond to the place it occupies in reality, and which, even according to your own sane logic—arrived at thanks, of course, to my guidance—it must occupy in our Great Universe.
And of course I must make the various what are called “heroes” of my writings not such types as in general the writers of all ranks and in all epochs on Earth have described and extolled, that is, types such as those Toms, Dicks, or Harrys who are born through a misunderstanding and, during the process of their formation up to “responsible life” fail to acquire anything proper to a creature in the image of God—that is to say, a man—and who, until their last breath, progressively cultivate in themselves only such “charms” as “lasciviousness,” “mawkishness,” “amorousness,” “malice,” “chicken-heartedness,” “envy,” and similar vices unworthy of a man.
I intend to introduce in my writings heroes of such a kind that everybody must willy-nilly sense them with his whole being as real, and about whom data must inevitably be crys-
tallized in every reader for the notion that each one of them is indeed a “somebody” and not just “anybody.”
During these last weeks, while lying in bed, my body completely exhausted, I mentally drafted a summary of my future writings and thought out the form and sequence of their exposition; and I decided to make the chief hero of the first series of my writings … do you know whom? . . . the great Beelzebub himself. And I did this in spite of the fact that, from the very outset, this choice of mine might evoke in the mentation of most of my readers such associations as would engender in them all kinds of automatic contradictory impulses coming from the data infallibly formed in the psyche of people by all the established abnormal conditions of their external existence, and in general “crystallized” in them thanks to the famous “religious morality” rooted in their life—all of which must inevitably result in an inexplicable hostility toward me personally.
But do you know what, reader?
In the event that you decide, despite this warning, to risk further acquaintance with my writings, and you try to absorb them always in a spirit of impartiality and try to understand the very essence of the questions I intend to elucidate, I now wish—in view of an inherency in the human psyche whereby the good can be perceived without opposition only when a “contact of mutual frankness and confidence” is established—to make a sincere confession to you about the associations that arose in me and precipitated in the corresponding sphere of my consciousness the data that prompted the whole of my individuality to select as the chief hero of my writings just such an individual as is presented before your inner eyes by this same Mr. Beelzebub.
I did this not without cunning. My cunning lies simply in the logical supposition that if I pay him this attention he
will infallibly—as up till now I have no reason to doubt— show his gratitude by helping me in my intended writings with all the means at his command.
Although Mr Beelzebub is, as the saying goes, of “a different clay,” yet— as I learned long ago from the treatise of the famous Catholic monk, Brother Foolon—he has a curly tail, so I—being thoroughly convinced from experi-ence that curls are never natural but can be obtained only by various intentional manipulations—have to conclude, according to the “sane logic” formed in my consciousness from reading books on chiromancy, that Mr Beelzebub must also have a good share of vanity, and will therefore find it extremely awkward not to help someone who is going to advertise his name.
It is not for nothing that our incomparable teacher, Mullah Nasr Eddin, frequently says:
“Without greasing the palm, not only is it impossible to live tolerably anywhere but even to breathe.”
And another terrestrial sage, named Till Eulenspiegel, who also based his wisdom on the crass stupidity of people, has expressed the same idea in the following words:
“If you don’t grease the wheels the cart won’t go.”
Knowing these and many other sayings of popular wisdom, formed throughout the centuries in the collective life of people, I have decided to “grease the palm” of Mr Beelzebub, who, as everyone realizes, has means and knowledge enough and to spare.
Hold on, old fellow! Joking, even philosophical joking, aside, it seems that with all these digressions, you have violated one of the chief principles that you had made the basis of the system you planned for actualizing your dreams through this new profession the principle to remember and always take into account the weakening of the function of
thinking in the contemporary reader, and not to fatigue him with the perception of numerous ideas over a short period of time.
Moreover, when I asked one of those people who are always hanging around me, “eager to enter Paradise without fail with their boots on,” to read aloud straight through everything I have written in this introductory chapter, what is called my “I”—of course, with the participation of all the data formed in my peculiar psyche during the course of my life, which have given me, among other things, an understanding of the psyche of creatures like myself but of different types—my “I” perceived and cognized with certainty that, thanks to this chapter alone, there must inevitably arise in the common presence of every reader without exception a “something” automatically engendering a marked hostility toward me personally.
To tell the truth, it is not this which worries me the most at the moment, what worries me is the fact that at the end of the reading I also perceived that in the sum total of everything expounded in this chapter, my whole presence, in which the aforesaid “I” plays a very small part, manifested itself in a way quite contrary to one of the fundamental commandments of that universal teacher whom I particularly esteem, Mullah Nasr Eddin, which he expressed in the words:
“Never poke your stick into a hornets’ nest.”
But the agitation that had pervaded the whole system animating my feelings when I realized that an animosity toward me must necessarily arise in the reader immediately quieted down when I remembered the ancient Russian proverb that states “There is no offence which with time will not blow over—time grinds every grain into flour ” Since then, the agitation that arose from realizing my failure to obey the commandment of Mullah Nasr Eddin no longer troubles me in the least, nevertheless, a very strange process
has begun in both of my recently acquired “souls,” taking the form of an unusual itching, which has increased progressively until it now produces an almost intolerable pain in the region a little below the right half of my already over-exercised “solar plexus.”
Wait! Wait! . . . This process, it seems, is also quieting down, and in the depths of my consciousness—let us say meanwhile even of my “subconscious”—there is beginning to arise everything required to assure me that it will cease entirely, for I have just remembered another fragment of life wisdom, which leads me to understand that if indeed I acted against the advice of the highly esteemed Mullah Nasr Eddin, I nevertheless did so without premeditation according to the principle of that extremely engaging—not widely known on Earth, yet unforgettable by anyone who once met him —that precious nugget, Karapet of Tiflis.
Well, it can’t be helped . . . now that my introductory chapter has turned out to be so long, it will not matter if I spin it out a little more to tell you also about this extremely engaging Karapet of Tiflis.
First of all I must state that twenty or twenty-five years ago the Tiflis railway station had a “steam whistle “
It was blown every morning to wake up the railway workers and station hands and, as the Tiflis station stood on a hill, this whistle was heard almost all over the town, and woke up not only the railway workers but all the other inhabitants as well.
The Tiflis local government, as I recall it, even entered into a lengthy correspondence with the railway authorities about the disturbance of the morning sleep of the peaceful citizens.
To release the steam into the whistle every morning was the job of this same Karapet, who was employed in the station
When he would come in the morning to the rope by which he released the steam into the whistle, before taking hold of the rope and pulling it, he would wave his arms in all directions, and solemnly, like a Muslim mullah from a minaret, cry in a loud voice:
“Your mother is a —! Your father is a —! Your grandfather is more than a —! May your eyes, ears, nose, spleen, liver, corns, . . . ” et cetera In short, he pronounced in various keys all the curses he knew, and not until he had done so would he pull the rope.
When I heard about this Karapet and this practice of his, I went to see him one evening after the day’s work, with a small “boordook” of Kahketeenian wine, and after performing the indispensable solemn “toasting ritual” of the locality, I asked him, of course in a suitable form, according to the local code of “amenities” established for mutual relationship, why he did this.
He emptied his glass at a draught and, having sung the famous Georgian song “Drink up again, boys,” obligatory when drinking, he began in a leisurely way to answer as follows:
“Since you drink wine not as people do today, that is, merely for appearances, but in fact honestly, this already shows me that, unlike our engineers and technicians who plague me with questions, you wish to know about this practice of mine not out of curiosity but from a genuine desire for knowledge, and therefore I wish, and even consider it my duty, to confess to you sincerely the exact reason for the inner so to say scrupulous considerations that led me to this.”
He then related the following:
“Formerly I used to work in this station at night cleaning the boilers, but when they put in the steam whistle, the stationmaster, evidently considering my age and incapacity for the heavy work I was doing, gave me the one job of
releasing the steam into the whistle, for which I had to arrive punctually every morning and evening.
“The very first week of my new service, I noticed that after performing this duty of mine I felt vaguely ill at ease for an hour or two.
“But when this queer feeling, increasing day by day, eventually became a definite instinctive uneasiness from which even my appetite for ‘makokh’ disappeared, I began to rack my brains in order to find out the cause I thought about it with particular intensity, for some reason or other, while going to and coming from my work, but however hard I tried I could not make anything clear to myself, even approximately.
“Things went on like this for almost six months, and the palms of my hands had become calloused from the rope of the steam whistle when, quite suddenly and accidentally, I understood why I was experiencing this uneasiness.
“The shock that brought about a correct understanding, resulting in the formation of an unshakable conviction, was a certain exclamation I happened to hear in the following rather peculiar circumstances.
“One morning when I had not had enough sleep, since I spent the first half of the night at the christening of my neighbor’s ninth daughter, and the other half reading a rare and very interesting book I had come across entitled Dreams and Witchcraft, I was hurrying on my way to release the steam, when I suddenly saw at a street corner a barber-surgeon I knew, employed in the local government service, who beckoned me to stop.
“The function of this barber-surgeon friend of mine was to go through the town at certain hours, accompanied by an assistant pushing a specially constructed cart, and to seize all the stray dogs whose collars lacked the metal tags issued by the local authorities on payment of the tax He then had to take these dogs to the municipal slaughterhouse, where
they were kept for two weeks at the town’s expense and fed on slaughterhouse offal. If by the end of this period their owners had not claimed them and paid the tax, these dogs were driven, with a certain solemnity, down a passageway that led directly to a specially designed oven.
“Shortly afterward, from the other end of this remarkable and salutary oven, there flowed, with a delightful gurgling sound, a certain quantity of pellucid and ideally clean fat, to the profit of the fathers of our town, for the manufacture of soap and also perhaps of something else, while, with a purling sound no less delightful to the ear, there poured out a fair quantity of useful substances for fertilizer.
“My friend, the barber-surgeon, proceeded in the following simple and admirably skillful manner to catch the dogs.
“He had somewhere obtained an old, quite large fishing net, which he carried on his broad shoulders, folded in a suitable manner, and during these peculiar excursions of his through the slums of our town for the good of humanity, when a dog ‘without its passport’ came within range of his all-seeing and for the whole canine species terrible eye, he, without haste and with the softness of a panther, would steal up close to it and, seizing a favorable moment when his victim was interested and attracted by something, would cast his net over it and quickly entangle it. Then, pulling up the cart to which a cage was attached, he would disentangle the dog in such a way that it found itself imprisoned in the cage.
“When my friend the barber-surgeon beckoned me to stop, he was just waiting for the opportune moment to throw the net over his next victim, which at that moment was standing and wagging his tail at a bitch. My friend was just about to cast his net when suddenly the bells of a neighboring church rang out, calling the people to early prayer. At this unexpected sound ringing out in the morning quiet,
the doe took fright and, springing aside, shot off down the empty street at its full canine velocity.
“This so infuriated the barber-surgeon that his hair, even in his armpits, stood on end and, flinging his net down on the pavement, he spat over his left shoulder and cried out:
” ‘Oh, Hell! What a time to ring!”
“As soon as this exclamation of his reached my reflecting apparatus, numerous thoughts began to swarm in it which ultimately led, in my view, to a correct understanding of lust why there proceeded in me the aforesaid instinctive uneasiness.
“The moment I understood this I even felt annoyed at myself that such a simple and clear idea had not entered my head before
“I sensed with the whole of my being that my interference in the communal life could have no other result than the very sensation that had been proceeding in me all this time.
“And indeed, everyone awakened from his sweet morning slumbers by the blast of my steam whistle must doubtless curse me by everything under the sun—just me, the cause of this infernal din—and thanks to this, there must surely flow from all directions toward my person vibrations of all kinds of malice.
“On that memorable morning, after performing my duties, while sitting in my usual mood of depression in a neighboring ‘dukhan’ and eating ‘hachi’ with garlic, I continued to ponder, and I came to the conclusion that if I should curse beforehand all those who are outraged by my service for the benefit of some of them, then according to the book I had read the night before, however much all those still lying in the ‘realm of idiocy’—that is, between sleep and drowsiness—might curse me, it would have no effect on me at all
“And in fact, since I began to do this, I no longer feel that ‘instinctive uneasiness. ‘ “
Well now, patient reader, I must really conclude this opening chapter. It has only to be signed.
Stop! Misconceived formulation! With a signature there must be no joking. Otherwise the same thing will happen to you as happened once before in one of the countries of Central Europe, when you were forced to pay ten years’ rent for a house you occupied for only three months, simply because you had signed a paper obliging you to renew the lease for the house each year.
After this and many similar life experiences, I must, in any case as regards my own signature, be very, very careful.
Very well, then.
He who in childhood was called “Tatakh”; in early youth, “Darky”; later, the “Black Greek”; in middle age, the “Tiger of Turkestan”; and now, not just anybody, but the genuine “Monsieur” or “Mister” Gurdjieff, or the “nephew of Prince Mukhransky,” or finally, simply a “teacher of dancing.”
Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson