Around 1927, Mr. Gurdjieff began embodying his teaching in a series of books. The result, after many years of work and revision, is three series of books. His books followed a definite plan. We quote here from the opening frontispiece of the first series:
Ten Books in Three Series
FIRST SERIES: Three books under the title of "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson: An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man".
SECOND SERIES: Two books under the common title of "Meetings with Remarkable Men".
THIRD SERIES: Five Books under the title of "Life is Real Only Then, When "I Am" ".
All written according to entirely new principles of logical reasoning and directed toward the accomplishment of the following three fundamental tasks:
FIRST SERIES: To destroy, mercilessly and without any compromise whatever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.
SECOND SERIES: To acquaint the reader with the material required for a new creation and to prove the soundness and good quality of it.
THIRD SERIES: To assist the arising, in the mentation and in the feelings of the reader, of a veritable, nonfantastic representation not of that illusory world which he now perceives, but of the world existing in reality.
Mr. Gurdjieff maintained that literature was one of the chief means of the development of the mind of man, but that unfortunately, modern western literature is chiefly, in his opinion, "word prostitution". He appreciated the deep richness of the Oriental oral tradition, with its fine understanding of the human psyche embodied in seemingly fantastic tales, and contrast that with that of modern literature, which, he claimed, "had no soul."
Gurdjieff's own writings have this 'oriental' flavor although the three series have very different style. His first book, 'Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson,' a 1200+ page magnum opus, is written in such a way that it conceals its secrets from all but the most persistent readers. Yet, the act of reading it can be the very exercise of attention needed to understand it or, for that matter, to live properly one's life. The next book, 'Meetings with Remarkable Men,' reads very well and can be taken by an unsuspecting reader as simply a very interesting travel log. In his last book, Mr. Gurdjieff picks up again some of the attention demanding elements of the style he used in the First Series.
A final book, recently published by Shambala, entitled "The Reality of Being; the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff", an edited compilation from the notebooks of Madame de Salzmann, could also be considered in the category of direct transmission, like the works by Mr. Gurdjieff himself. This extraordinary book has been compiled by members of the Gurdjieff Foundation from the notebooks of Madame de Salzmann after her death. It is widely available including from good independent booksellers, the large book dealers and Amazon (ISBN 1590308158).