excerpt from Chaper Two, MY FATHER, Meetings With Remarkable Men, by G. I. Gurdjieff
Among the many strong impressions from these various stories of my father‘s, which left their mark on my whole life, there was one that served for me in later years, perhaps no less than five times, as a ‘spiritualizing factor‘ enabling me to comprehend the incomprehensible.
This strong impression, which later served for me as a spiritualizing factor, became crystallized in me while, one evening, my father was reciting and singing the legend of the ‘Flood before the Flood‘ and there arose between him and a certain friend of his a discussion on this subject.
This took place at the period when, owing to the dictates of life circumstances, my father was compelled to become a professional carpenter.
This friend of his often dropped in to see him at his workshop, and sometimes they would sit all night long pondering on the meaning of the ancient legends and sayings.
His friend was no other than Dean Borsh of Kars Military Cathedral, the man who was soon to become my first tutor, the founder and creator of my present individuality, and, so to say, the ‘third aspect of my inner God’.
On the night when this discussion took place, I too was in the workshop, as well as my uncle, who had come to town that evening from a neighbouring village where he had large market-gardens and vineyards.
My uncle and I sat together quietly on the soft shavings in the corner and listened to the singing of my father, who was chanting the legend of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh and explaining its meaning.
The discussion arose when my father had finished the twenty-first song of the legend, in which a certain Ut-Napishtim relates to Gilgamesh the story of the destruction by flood of the land of Shuruppak.
After this song, when my father paused to fill his pipe, he said that in his opinion the legend of Gilgamesh came from the Sumerians, a people more ancient than the Babylonians, and that undoubtedly just this same legend was the origin of the account of the Flood in the Hebrew Bible and served as a basis of the Christian world view; only the names and some details had been changed in certain places.
Then father dean began to object, bringing forward many data to the contrary, and the argument became so heated that they even forgot about sending me off to bed as they usually did on such occasions.
And my uncle and I also became so interested in their controversy that, without moving, we lay on the soft shavings until daybreak, when at last my father and his friend ended their discussion and parted.
This twenty-first song was repeated in the course of that night so many times that it was engraved on my memory for life.
In this song it is said:
I will tell thee, Gilgamesh,
Of a mournful mystery of the Gods:
How once, having met together,
They resolved to flood the land of Shuruppak.
Clear-eyed Ea, saying nothing to his father, Anu,
Nor to the Lord, the great Enlil,
Nor to the spreader of happiness, Nemuru,
Nor even to the underworld prince, Enua,
Called to him his son Ubara-Tut;
Said to him: ”Build thyself a ship, Take with thee thy near ones,
And what birds and beasts thou wilt;
Irrevocably have the Gods resolved To flood the land of Shuruppak,”
The data formed in me, during my childhood, thanks to the strong impressions I received during this discussion on an abstract theme between these two persons who had lived their lives to old age relatively normally, led to a beneficent result for the formation of my individuality which I first became aware of only much later, namely, just before the general European war; and from then on it began to serve for me as the above-mentioned spiritualizing factor.
The initial shock for my mental and feeling associations, which brought about this awareness, was the following:
One day I read in a certain magazine an article in which it was said that there had been found among the ruins of Babylon some tablets with inscriptions which scholars were certain were no less than four thousand years old. This magazine also printed the inscriptions and the deciphered text — it was the legend of the hero Gilgamesh.
When I realized that here was that same legend which I had so often heard as a child from my father, and particularly when I read in this text the twenty-first song of the legend in almost the same form of exposition as in the songs and tales of my father, I experienced such an inner excitement that it was as if my whole future destiny depended on all this. And I was struck by the fact, at first inexplicable to me, that this legend had been handed down by ashokhs from generation to generation for thousands of years, and yet had reached our day almost unchanged.
After this occurrence, when the beneficent result of the impressions formed in my childhood from the narratives of my father finally became clear to me—a result that crystallized in me a spiritualizing factor enabling me to comprehend that which usually appears incomprehensible — I often regretted having begun too late to give the legends of antiquity the immense significance that I now understand they really have.
There was another legend I had heard from my father, again about the ‘Flood before the Flood‘, which after this occurrence also acquired for me a quite particular significance.
In this legend it was said, also in verse, that long, long ago, as far back as seventy generations before the last deluge (and a generation was counted as a hundred years), when there was dry land where now is water and water where now is dry land, there existed on earth a great civilization, the centre of which was the former island Haninn, which was also the centre of the earth itself.
As I elucidated from other historical data, the island of Haninn was approximately where Greece is now situated.
The sole survivors of the earlier deluge were certain brethren of the former Imastun Brotherhood, whose members had constituted a whole caste spread all over the earth, but whose centre had been on this island.
These Imastun brethren were learned men and, among other things, they studied astrology. Just before the deluge, they were scattered all over the earth for the purpose of observing celestial phenomena from different places. But however great the distance between them, they maintained constant communication with one another and reported everything to the centre by means of telepathy.
For this, they made use of what are called pythonesses, who served them, as it were, as receiving apparatuses. These pythonesses, in a trance, unconsciously received and recorded all that was transmitted to them from various places by the Imastuns, writing it down in four different agreed directions according to the direction from which the information reached them. That is to say, they wrote from top to bottom communications coming from localities lying to the east of the island; from right to left those from the south; from bottom to top those which came from the west (from the regions where Atlantis was and where America is now); and from left to right communications transmitted from the place now occupied by Europe.