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Gurdjieff, Art, and the Legominism of Ashiata Shiemash

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Gurdjieff’s theory of art brings together several strands of thought expressed in his magnum opus Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950). In particular, Gurdjieff presents art as a means for the transmission of certain ideas through history, and interpreted by properly informed individuals. In one chapter, Beelzebub’s grandson, Hassein, asks him about the meaning of “legominism.” Beelzebub describes legominism as, “one of the means existing there of transmitting from generation to generation information about certain events of long-past ages, through just those three-brained beings who are thought worthy to be and who are called initiates” (Gurdjieff 349). This article will first briefly consider Gurdjieff’s presentation of art, particularly as it reflects Gurdjieff’s notion of legominism, and the transmission of knowledge to subsequent generations. I will then focus on Ashiata Shiemash, one of the chief exemplars found in Beelzebub’s Tales that exhibits the potentialities of an authentic legominism. As I will offer, the continuing potency of Gurdjieff’s narrative is that it operates on both a deconstructive level, to destroy or wipe away the destructive notions, past and present, just as it creates a space for a more positive view of the potential for certain aspects of cultural forms, such as art and religion.

Affiliations: 1: Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences


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