The Making of All and Everything: 1924 to 1950 by Paul Beekman Taylor
When Gurdjieff remained in New York City after the departure of his performance troupe in April 1924, he dictated to Lili Chaverdian episodes from his early life that would, eventually, become incorporated in Meetings with Remarkable Men. A few days after his return to France from New York City in June, he suffered a severe automobile accident that left him bed-ridden for some time. As he recovered his mental and physical stamina, he closed the Institute, temporarily, and started composing All and Everything. His work occupied a major portion of his time, and, due to countless ups and downs in his work, it was until a few months after his death in late October 1949, that the First Series of the work—Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson—was published, though throughout the thirties and forties, the work was read to groups of adults and children.
In 1992, Penguin Arkana published a revised All and Everything under the name G. Gurdjieff, though Gurdjieff, who died in 1949, neither wrote the book nor authorized its publication. Though it is unusual, if not unheard of, for survivors of an author to place his name on a revision of his work, the compilers of the new text justified the revision on the grounds that the 1950 Harcourt Brace edition was a flawed translation of the original Russian text. Of course, there are scores of instances where a translation of a text into another language lacks literalness purposely. Who would find fault with Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of Omar Khayyam, W. H. Auden’s Icelandic, Alexander Pope’s Homer, or Nabokov’s Pushkin for not being word-for-word true to the original. Nabokov is an apt example to cite here, since he translated his own Russian fiction into English with the aid of his son, just as Gurdjieff translated his own Вce и Bcя into English with the aid of Hartmann, Metz and Orage. The art of a translator consists in producing a text which has the characteristics of his own language, a task that Orage was eminently qualified to do. In the pages that follow, I will test that rationale by tracing the steps from the original 1925 translation to the 1950 published edition to show that it is unreasonable to argue that a text is a flawed translation when it is not a translation at all.
What one can say of the putative “original” Russian text was that it was partially dictated and partially written in note form by Gurdjieff. In her unpublished memoir entitled “What For,” Olga expands on the moment: “This took place on December 16, 1934, at 47, Blvd Pereire [sic]. On this specific night, Mr. Gurdjieff called his talk The Conversation of the Old Devil with the Young One.” Gurdjieff dictated three pages that evening which I quote here.
That happened in the 123rd year after the creation of the world.
Through space, flew the ship ‘Karnak.’
It went from ‘Sirius’ by the Milky Way to the planet ‘Karatas.’ On the ship was Beelzebub with his kinsmen and near attendants. He returned home after the quite extraordinary events on the planet ‘Karatas,’ by the demands of his old friends. He consented to go to the conference about the events in which he was to take part.
Although he was already old to go such a long way, with all the inconveniences it presented, and it was not an easy work for his age, he in memory of his old friendship decided to accept this invitation. Only some months before this trip, he had returned to his home.
He passed many years far away in very inevitable conditions and this long and difficult life in quite unavoidable conditions, left on his health a big heaviness. Even time had already made him older, but these quite extraordinary conditions of his life, brought him to this state. In former times he had a strong, boiling and beautiful youth.
A long, long time ago, when he still existed among others as himself and lived on the Solar System Absolute, he was one of the nearest to the Eternal God. He, owing to his quite extraordinary burning, but not yet formed common sense because of his youth and inexperience, but also his unrestrained thought, but narrow understanding, convenient to each young brain—so once, in the organization of then world, he saw unlogical things according to his young understanding, and having found support among others also, some young brains also as he, he mixed himself up in what was none of his business. This mixing up owing to his boiling nature, already contaminated many other young brains, and practically brought a revolution to this enormous kingdom.
Learning about it, His Endlessness, in spite of his love, was obliged to send him away in exile, with the others, to a very far place, in the system ‘Ors,’ which is what this place was called in this solar system, and pointed out his special living place on one of the planets on this system, by the name of ‘Mars.’
This exile was shared with him by many of his kinsmen and subordinates and also by those who felt the same as he.
They went to this far away place, with all their household, so that during a year on this planet, a whole colony was built with all the things that happen in such cases. Little by little, this population accustomed itself to the new place and even found occupations on this planet as well as on those nearby . . .
These little ‘islands’ lost in the big universe, were poor of nature but the people lived there for many, many years which people then called centuries.
Olga does not say that she passed on to her husband a typed text or her written text to translate. In Our Life With Mr. Gurdjieff, she writes that Gurdjieff dictated the opening pages of the book in Russian, “and on the first draft from the beginning to the last page—which was written in the Café de la Paix in Paris on a little round marble table—he worked only with me.” I know of no extant portion of her transcription in the Russian language which would be, in effect, the “original” Russian text. Gurdjieff was said to have destroyed drafts after he had rewritten them, and it is assumed that he transcribed his dictated texts, once he recovered a capacity to write that his accident in July 1924 had diminished. However, it is probable that Gurdjieff made voluminous notes wherever he worked, and then dictated to someone the text they represented.
Many other versions of the beginning of the book by persons close to the time of its beginning circulated. Gurdjieff himself writes later he began dictation on1 January, 1925, Old Style (Life Is Real 32), which corresponds with 13 January New Style, though this date, coinciding with the date of his birthday, appears symbolic. Jane Heap and Edith Taylor visited Gurdjieff in August 1924 and found him at work writing, but there is no evidence that he was at that time writing Tales. Orage and others were told that that Gurdjieff dictated much of the first part of the book in Armenian to Lili Galumnian Chaverdian, who translated it into a Russian which was then translated by Metz and Hartmann into English. Orage told Nott that Gurdjieff “writes in pencil in Armenian; this is translated into Russian, and then in literal English by Russians; it is then gone over by one or two English and American pupils at the Prieuré who have a rough knowledge of the use of words. All I can do at present is to revise the English when it obscures the sense” (Nott, Teachings 125).
During the summer of 1925, Fritz Peters was engaged with others in translating the text into many languages. In Boyhood With Gurdjieff, Peters writes that he understood that Gurdjieff composed in a “combination of Armenian and Russian; as he said that he could not find any single language which gave him sufficient freedom of expression for his complicated ideas and theories” (p. 30). Peters told me when I spoke with him in 1967 that the original mix of Armenian and Russian was translated first into crude French which was then translated into English by Bernard Metz. Gurdjieff himself wrote later: “Although I have begun to write in Russian, nevertheless, as the wisest of the wise, Mullah Nassr Eddin, would say, in that language you cannot go far” (p. 9). People who worked with him at the time reported that, as he rewrote the text he had dictated, Gurdjieff would insert words in a number of other languages into his text.
The bringing to life in an English language edition of Gurdjieff’s All and Everything a quarter century after Olga’s inscription of his dictation proved to be a long and complex process. The first important stage in the work came about, Stanley Nott indicated, when a packet of pages was sent to Orage in New York in March 1925. Orage found the text “completely unintelligible,” Nott said, and sent them back. ***When he received a revised version a few weeks later, Orage said: “This is entirely different. Now I begin to smell something very interesting” (Teachings 92). Gurdjieff worked on his text throughout the spring and summer of 1925 (Life Is Real 36), and sent new material piecemeal to Orage, who arrived at the Prieuré on 1 September to work side by side with Gurdjieff. On 23 September, 1925, Orage left France for New York and began intensive work on the first draft a few days after he arrived (Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage 101).
Jean Toomer collaborated with Orage in New York City through the spring of 1926, and worked with Gurdjieff on the editing of the translation at the Prieuré until Orage arrived in early June. Toomer left in October on Gurdjieff’s orders to form a group in Chicago (Taylor, Shadows 88–114), while Orage stayed on working with Gurdjieff until 20 December. On Thanksgiving Day, 1926, Orage wrote Jessie Orage that he, Hartmann, and Lili [Galumnian] Chaverdian were putting in twelve hours per day editing the complete draft that Miss Merston had typed. He wrote that he had finished with the “fully revised translation,” except for the chapter “Electricity,” “until Gurdjieff changes all the Russian again” (Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage 130). The 1926 revisions appear to be the last he made in Russian.
So, it is clear that, in the second half of 1926, Gurdjieff was revising the original text he had composed in 1925, and his piecemeal revisions were being translated into an English text edited by Toomer and Orage. In January 1927, Orage began presenting his reading of a text which he continued to refine through the spring (Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage 135–36). Before the summer of 1927, Gurdjieff had Orage’s fully edited version in hand, and Toomer was with him working on further editing during the summer.
The year 1927 is important in the history of the book’s gestation. When Olga de Hartmann said that Beelzebub was “finished” in November 1927 (p. 186), she referred, obviously, to the first text edited by Orage, since her Russian transcription was completed during the course of 1925. The 1927 “finished” version is the one that Orage explicated to his New York City groups in the winter and spring of 1927. He writes in Life Is Real that he considered revising his text in September, and on 6 November 1927 he decided to “rewrite anew all my expositions, but in a new form” (33–35). He says that his decision to re-write included a number of resolutions. One was that, if he did not find the means to do so by the end of the year, he would destroy his writings and himself. He set his name day in April as a deadline for completing the task, and went to work on the first day of the year, the same day he says that he had started the work three years earlier (p. 43). He does not say when the re-writing was concluded, but indicates that the task was only one of May he set for himself in the course of the spring.
Despite Gurdjieff’s account of his decision in November to rewrite the book, it is clear that he had been at work on a revised text throughout the summer and fall of 1927, when many Americans—Nick Putnam, Payson Loomis, and Schuyler Jackson among them—were at the Prieuré engaged in editing the revised translation (Gurdjieff and Orage 142). Edith Taylor, who was working with Jeanne de Salzmann on the French translation, said that Gurdjieff was not writing a new Russian version, but rewriting the English edition that Orage had been explicating in New York throughout the spring. During that summer, 1927, newly edited material was sent to Orage in New York, along with requests that Orage come to the Prieuré as soon as possible. Impatient with Orage’s delay, Gurdjieff dispatched Ethel Merston to New York in November with more manuscripts to be edited and a demand that Orage to come to the Prieuré right away.
Orage finally relented and, with the material he had worked on over the summer and fall, he arrived with his wife at the Prieuré on 7 January 1928 in the company of Edith Taylor, whom Gurdjieff had sent to meet them at the boat train. In the next several weeks of 1928, the four of them worked at a feverish pitch at the Prieuré, in cafés, automobiles, and hotels until 29 February when Orage and his wife sailed back to New York with a fresh typescript in hand to edit. Neither Gurdjieff nor Orage indicated what became of the discarded 1927 version. Without it, it is impossible to judge how closely that “first” version had been faithful to the Russian text Gurdjieff had dictated three years earlier.
Orage finished his re-editing before the summer of 1928, when he and his bride traveled to the Southwest and California before consulting with Toomer in Chicago in October. Gurdjieff arrived in New York on 23 January 1929 and went over the new version with Orage until his departure in mid April. By the summer of 1929, Gurdjieff was satisfied enough with the new text to assign it to teams of translators to turn into other languages. When Louise Goepfert arrived at the Prieuré in June, 1929, she was given the task of translating the English version into German, while “Mme de Salzmann was translating the English into French.” In the fall of 1929 she typed a notice naming readers and translators as follows: Madame de Salzmann for French, Orage for English, herself for German, and Lili Galumnian Chaverdian for Russian.
Louise Goepfert March recalled the work on Beelzebub’s Tales throughout the summer of 1929, when the first chapter was rewritten into over a dozen versions from twenty to forty pages; and still some stories were left out. If the first chapter she refers to is “The Arousing of Thought,” its content must have changed considerably since it was first dictated in Russian to Olga de Hartmann three and one half years earlier. In translating Orage’s English version with Lili Chaverdian, Louise March compared her German with the Russian “original” (22–23), that is, the Russian text Lili was editing. The rewritten English passages reviewed by Payson Loomis and Nicholas Putnam, were forwarded from France to Orage, who never returned to the Prieuré.
Gurdjieff authorized Orage to find a publisher for the revised English text that was produced in the course of 1928 and 1929. When Knopf turned it down in the spring of 1931, Orage published it in one hundred typed and mimeographed copies, with Gurdjieff’s approval, in the fall (Gurdjieff and Orage 173, 182). In the spring of 1932, Louise Goepfert was finishing up her translation into German, using what she called in Gurdjieff’s presence, “the new English version,” not “translation.” That “version” was Orage’s 1931 text, and it would seem natural for Gurdjieff to have Orage do what he did best as the finest English editor of his generation: turn translated materials into English versions. At that time, Goepfert observed, the French translation was still being typed.
Throughout the thirties and forties, that book, with occasional alterations, was read publicly in Gurdjieff’s presence as well as privately throughout the United States and France. In 1932, it can be assumed that Gurdjieff used those occasions to review that text and make minor changes before announcing in New York in 1948 that he was authorizing publication. He told his followers in New York and Paris that he was pleased with the book, and appointed representatives for England, France and the United States to advertize and sell it.
What we can know with some confidence about the path from a 1924 dictated Russian text to the 1950 printing of All and Everything can be summarized as follows:
1. A Russian text taken down in dictation and written in 1925 is the base.
2. That text was, consequently, translated into English in various forms and edited from the spring of 1925, by Orage and others.
3. Revisions in Russian were made by Gurdjieff throughout 1926.
4. From the second half of 1927 through1928 a new English text was composed and edited.
5. That text, modified in 1929 in New York and France, was offered to Knopf and printed in mimeograph form in the fall of1931.
6. With changes inserted over the years since 1931, All and Everything was published in 1950 by Harcourt Brace in New York and in London by Routledge & Kegan Paul.
The evidence of the history of production of the book suggests that any case for an “original” Russian text badly translated cannot hold water. First of all, if the term “original” is meant to identify the Russian text written down from Gurdjieff’s dictation by Olga de Hartmann or Lili Chaverdian or both, then all the changes that took place since the moment in 1925 that the dictation was concluded nullify the concept of “original.” Though there is evidence that the Russian language text written and taken down in dictation in 1925 was altered by Gurdjieff himself in the course of 1926, the 1926 Russian version might well have been considered “original.” Unfortunately, there are no traces of the changes made to the 1925 text.
Coincidently, “The Publication History” notes that corrections made to the 1950 edition were “done with careful reference to the source manuscripts in Russian.” The plural form suggests more than one “original,” source, perhaps Gurdjieff’s 1925 and 1926 Russian texts. The only reference to an original Russian text in the recollections of people who worked with Gurdjieff on the book is Louise Goepfert’s, cited above.
The unpublished Russian version that I have seen in typescript is dated 1933. What part Gurdjieff might have played in it is not recorded, as far as I know.  A close scan of it might reveal an affinity with the 1931 text edited by Orage with Gurdjieff’s approval. Louise March recalled in 1929 that Lil Chaverdian was responsible for readings from a Russian. So, just as Jeanne de Salzmann and Louise Goepfert (March), were translating the English text into French and German versions, respectively, Lili may well have been translating the English into Russian. Without that text in hand, it is impossible to know if this is so. If “original” in the words of those who argued for a new translation, refers to the 1933 Russian text, it could not have been the text translated into the 1950 English book, since the book developed from a copy that appeared two years earlier in 1931.
I have been told by those responsible for the Toronto 2000 Russian text of Beelzebub’s Tales that it was, essentially, a revision of the 1933 Russian text produced by Alla Gutoff, a Russian translator with experience working for the United Nations. What she did, basically, working with others in New York and Paris, was to revise the 1933 text by normalizing the grammar and correcting apparent errors, and what she produced was reviewed by a linguist trained in the Moscow University of Foreign Languages. The version published in Moscow by Ripon, based on the Toronto edition, made further minor editorial changes.
I know of no evidence that the 1992 edition of Beelzebub’s Tales was based on the reworking of the 1933 version, but the team of editors that produced it—including Jeanne and Michel de Salzmann, Peggy Flinsch, Louise and William Welch, Roger Lipsey—certainly used it as a reference. My information is that the 1992 text was a reworking of the 1950 text based on the French translation of Jeanne de Salzmann and her French collaborators. It is not, as far as I can surmise, based on Gurdjieff’s “original” Russian.
The argument in favor of the 1992 All and Everything includes the supposition that Gurdjieff did not know English well enough to realize that his Russian was badly translated in the 1950 English version. According to the records, after the end of the nineteen twenties, Gurdjieff wrote little in Russian. Meetings was originally composed in Russian, but it was completed, translated and edited in 1928. In 1932, Gurdjieff wrote a draft in Russian of The Herald of Coming Good, translated into English by Payson Loomis, who was fluent in Russian. Edith Taylor, who was at the Prieuré with her two children in 1932 and the first half of 1933, wrote a letter over Gurdjieff’s signature to Orage in London asking him to edit the work. Orage refused and so it was published in Loomis’s version in April 1933. I have not found any evidence of a published version of Herald in Russian.
Gurdjieff’s ability to read and write English with discernment at the time is evidenced by a half line addition he made in pencil to Taylor’s letter. There is ample testimony and historical evidence elsewhere that Gurdjieff understood English very well. There is no complaint about his English speech or comprehension in the written records of Toomer, Hulme, Heap, Anderson, Kirstein, Pound, Wilder as well as in the memoirs of members of the Orage groups in New York. The only remarks about Gurdjieff’s poor English in all the records I have scanned are made by those who heard him speak publicly, and it is likely that Gurdjieff “programmed” his poor English on those occasions in playing a role.
He had multiple occasions in the thirties and forties to note that the English text of Tales did not represent to his satisfaction the sense of his “original” Russian. Besides reading English competently, Gurdjieff was able to have his spoken English understood without difficulty. His teaching sessions with “The Rope” group in the late thirties, recorded by Solita Solano and others, were entirely in English. I heard him speak completely understandable English in New York and Paris in 1948 and 1949, though his listeners were obliged to pay close attention to his speech.
The ultimate rebuttal to the charge that the “original” Russian text was mistranslated is that the 1950 text is not a translation at all, unlike the Second Series, Meetings, but is but one of a number of versions. It is unlikely that what Gurdjieff added to his text over the years were additions in Russian to what he dictated in 1925 and revised in 1926. For one thing, there is material in the 1950 All and Everything that would have been unlikely to be translation from the Russian. In the chapter “Beelzebub in America,” for example, there are reflections on and passages of American-English language that would hardly have been translated from Russian. In other words, it is difficult at the moment to know what direction in some instances the translations went: from Russian to English or, in some cases, from English to Russian and back to English.
A comparison of the 1992 with the 1950 text reveals many differences in “translating” the 1933 Russian. For one, in “The Arousing of Thought,” Gurdjieff relates how he sang and danced and sang about the grave of his grandmother. The Russian, translated literally in the 1992 text, has “she was not a simple human being,” whereas the 1950 English is “Let her with the saints repose / Now that she’s turned up her toes,” a jingle rhythm that is quite appropriate to context. Elsewhere, the 1992 text has the word “Archifantasy” as a corrective to the 1950 “Arch-Preposterous” (Tales 149) , and the 1950 “Jericho Ass” (Tales 21) is corrected into “idiot.” I think Gurdjieff would have preferred the rhythm and alliteration of the 1950 version. After all, he was a musician and sensitive to prosodic patterns. One could go on to question why “self-abuse” and “onanism” should be preferred to “titillate” and “masturbate,” words Gurdjieff habitually employed in his speech. What I am arguing, of course, is that word-for-word translation may be necessary in instruction manuals but it quells the spirit of a literary text. Translators of literature have always preferred the term “version,” because they are turning someone else’s prose into their own, which Orage did well.
For another thing, there is a calendar context that suggests that whatever was dictated in 1925 was added to later. Orage arrived at the Prieuré in late summer of 1925 to work on the text translated from the Russian, and yet his 1931 edition, as well as the 1950 published version, describes events that took place most likely after the 1925 Russian dictation was completed. The notion of apes descending from man is an obvious allusion to the July 1925 Tennessee Scopes trial (Tales 271). The opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which Beelzebub mentions (707), took place on 1 April 1925. The banning of Dervish ritual dancing and the wearing of the fez (Tales 711–12), refer to Kemal Ataturk’s Hat Law of 25 November 1925. I suppose one could compile a list of references in the book that refer to events that would have been unlikely to appear in the “original” Russian dictated text. It would appear aberrant, then, to argue that the “original” Russian taken down in dictation was mistranslated.
One could answer that argument more precisely if one of the “original” Russian texts of 1925 and 1926 could be scanned. The 1927 rewriting was of the English, not the Russian text. The Russian edition of the Tales, published in Toronto and Moscow, is in modern Russian with alphabet, grammar and diction established after the Revolution. Olga de Hartmann and Lili Chaverdian would have transcribed Gurdjieff’s dictation in pre-Soviet Russian, one in which used other letters and in which there were no adverbial forms. It is no mean task to “modernize” a text of this length, and whoever did it must have known modern Russian very well.
The evidence, then, leads me to assert once again that the 1950 published version of All and Everything is a “version” and not a translation of an “original” or “core” Russian text. The 1950 publication was not represented by Gurdjieff as a translation of an original Russian text. Even were it somehow possible to demonstrate that the 1950 edition was a flawed translation, it was published as such under Gurdjieff’s name and has authenticity behind it that obviates revision by others. In conversations in New York and Paris that I overheard, Gurdjieff vaunted his English authorship without ever mentioning his Russian ur-text. It is aberrant that he is identified now as the author of a 1992 version of All and Everything that he did not write.
Anonymous. “Publication of G. I. Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.” Traditional Studies Press web site, 8 December 2008.
Gurdjieff, G[eorgii] I[vanovich]. All and Everything. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1950.
———. All and Everything. NY and London: Penguin Viking Arkana, 1992.
———. Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am.” London: Penguin Arkana, 1991.
Hartmann, Thomas de. Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972.
Hartmann, Olga de. “What For.” Unpublished memoir in typescript.
March, Louise Goepfert. The Gurdjieff Years 1929–1949: Recollections of Louise [Goepfert] March. Ed. Beth McCorkle. Walworth, NY: The Work Study Association, Inc, 1990.
Nott, C[harles] S[tanley]. Teachings of Gurdjieff: Journal of a Pupil. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961.
Peters, Fritz. Boyhood with Gurdjieff. London: Victor Gollanz, 1964.
Taylor, Paul Beekman. G. I. Gurdjieff: A New Life. Utrecht: Eureka Editions, 2008
Gurdjieff and Orage: Brothers in Elysium. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 2001.
———. Shadows of Heaven: Gurdjieff and Toomer. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 1998.
 Because the 1950 edition was not correctly copyrighted, the publication of the 1992 edition secured rights to the book for Triangle Editions, directed jointly by New York City, London and Paris Gurdjieff groups.
 In her diary, Jessie Orage recalls that in 1928, she typed Gurdjieff’s dictation while seated in a moving automobile.
All and Everything 9. Whether he dictated “Arousing of Thought,” to Olga is not clear. I suspect the chapter was written after the book’s “story” was completed.
 The Traditional Studies Press “Publication History of G. I. Gurdjieff’s Tales to His Grandson,” which appeared on its web site on 8 December 2004, has a completely different history of the preparation of Gurdjieff’s text, saying “a Russian typescript of the book was prepared, chapter by chapter, and further edited by Gurdjieff.” I cannot find any trace of a 1925 Russian typescript.
 .As well as making modifications on the text and scrutinizing the various translations, Gurdjieff worked daily on the Third Series, Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am.” Material that would comprise the Second Series had been begun in New York in the spring of 1924, even before the plan for All and Everything was formulated in 1925. Meetings was completed with Orage’s help in the course of 1928.
 Gurdjieff’s daughter, Dushka Howarth, insisted repeatedly that Gurdjieff announced publicly that he had no intention to have an edition prepared in the Russian language.
 A detailed history of the production of the Russian text has been given me by Jack Cain who was responsible for the Toronto publication.
 Orage wrote Jessie Dwight from the Prieuré in November 1926 that the Russian text of Meetings was ready for translation (Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage 131).
 “Publication History” states that “In 2001, Traditional Studies Press released its edition of the original Russian text simultaneously with a publication in St. Petersburg by Zhurnal ‘Zvezda’ [“Journal ‘Star’].”
 I have profited from the careful scrutiny of this exposition by Jack Cain and Roger Lipsey.