Will Mesa, USA, interviewed by Guy Hoffman
Will, I’m very happy that you came here today to talk with me. I would like to
start out with some of the things I know about you. You were born in Cuba, your
were in the Gurdjieff Work in France and Venezuela, you’re a Professor of
Electrical Engineering, and you are now giving lectures on Beelzebub’s Tales.
Guy: Why are you giving lectures on Beelzebub’s Tales?
Will: For me Beelzebub’s Tales has been the way of salvation for my soul, I would say. Why? Because when I came to the Work in 1975, I went to Paris first, and I joined a group of Henri Tracol. I spent three years over there, and then I went back to Venezuela.
By that time I had already read Beelzebub two times; once in English, and once in French when I was in Paris; and then when I went back to Venezuela, I worked on the translation from French to Spanish. So by that time my aim and purpose in life had completely changed. It went from Ouspensky and the Work as it is taught in groups to the study of Beelzebub.
Guy: Let’s go back a little bit. How did you first get started in the Work?
Will: Okay. I was talking to a friend at the university in Venezuela where I was teaching. It’s very funny because I was talking to him about book on alchemy. Suddenly he stopped me and said: no, no, forget about that, it doesn’t work. What you have to do is have a sensation of your arm. And then he touched my right arm. And he said: sense it; feel it. I began to do it and I immediately realized I had no answer for him, no intellectual answer.
Guy: I’m not sure I understand, you had no answer to …
Will: To the conversation. The conversation started on alchemy. It was an intellectual conversation. After sensing my arm, he disarmed me because I was an intellectual.
Guy: (laughing) Right
Will: I said to him: where did you get this from? He said: This is the teaching of Gurdjieff. He was in a group, and I found out later it was a very crazy group. So I asked him for some books. It so happened that the owner of the bookstore was a Russian woman and she was with Gurdjieff in Paris. She gave me, and I don’t know why, the worst book of Gurdjieff to read. The book was Monsieur Gurdjieff by Louis Pauwels.
Guy: Oh, right, right, I know the book.
Will: It’s the most negative book
Guy: It’s true.(laughing)
Will: But that’s the book that I needed.
Will: Because the more I read the book the more I like Gurdjieff
Will: Because he was so negative.
Will: You know you approach spirituality by two ways; by the saint or by the devil. I went by the devil.
Guy: (hysterical laughter)
Will: She knew I was that kind of person so she gave me the right book. When I came back to the bookstore, she gave me Ouspensky. By the time I finished reading Ouspensky, I made up my mind to go to Paris and find one of the disciples of Gurdjieff. I was very lucky to find a group, because in l975 it wasn’t easy. I was taking a French course at the university and there was this young English lady there, and she asked me what I was doing in Paris, and I said I’m looking for a Gurdjieff group.
Will & Guy: (laughing)
Will: And she said, no kidding; my best friend is from Peru and he has been in a group for twenty years. And now she put me in touch with this guy. I call him up on the phone and he says let’s get together at the biggest mosque in Paris. He was Muslim; he changed from Christianity. I never met any guy who so resembled Gurdjieff . In fact, at that time they were making the movie Meetings with Remarkable Men and they considered him for the role of Gurdjieff. So when I saw him in the mosque—he had, what do you call it? uh, that Turkish hat, I said to myself: what the hell is going on here? Is this Gurdjieff himself?
Will: He was a senior member of the Henri Tracol group. A month later I was in the group.
Guy: How long were you in the group?
Will: Three years.
Guy: What did you learn there?
Will: The thing that I learned, and again I always go back to this, is that they were not reading Beelzebub. We met every Saturday to read Ouspensky.
Guy: Why do you think they should have been reading Beelzebub instead of Ouspensky?
Will: I always thought Ouspensky was the intellectual opening to the teaching, but Beelzebub was the book by Gurdjieff. Why not read it? That was always my question.
I once asked Tracol why are we not reading Beelzebub and what were his thoughts on the book. He said there is only one chapter in the book that is important and that is The Terror of the Situation.
Guy: You’re kidding.
Will: No. And when I went back to Venezuela and joined the group of Nathalie Etievan, the daughter of Mme. de Salzmann, I found the same thing. I asked them why they were not reading Beelzebub. The answer I got was it’s a “jig saw,” nobody can understand it. Another said, “it’s the Bible, but we don’t read it.” If it’s the Bible, why don’t you read it? By l982, a friend of mine at the college who was a member of a Gnostic group knew I was reading Beelzebub. At that time I was through my third reading, this time in Spanish. He said, why don’t you come to our group and give six lectures on Beelzebub. At the first lecture there was only about twelve people. By the sixth lecture there was no room for people. So I ask myself, how come these people …
Will: are so interested in Beelzebub and the people in the Work don’t care about it. So I decided to make a change. I wanted to bring my family to New York. I didn’t even care about asking about the Foundation in New York because I knew they were doing the same thing.
Guy: So what did Beelzebub do for you, I mean …
Will: First, it gave me answers to questions I was searching for that I could not find in Ouspensky. In Search of the Miraculous, as we know, is a very intellectual book; it gives you a lot of information. But Beelzebub has the magic of touching you emotionally; your higher emotional center. And since I’m a person who really likes to laugh…the first time I read it I laughed so much … you know, I really fell in love with the book.
Guy: That’s good. That’s good.
Will: I really fell in love with the book.
Guy: Now, can you go back to your childhood. Was there anything you can relate to that would have some bearing on your interest in Beelzebub?
Will: I was born in a small town in Cuba. I remember all kids on the block got together with an old man who was always telling us tales. And my favorite two books were Don Quixote and Arabian Nights. I was always interested in tales. The thing that shocked me when I read Beelzebub and began to understand, and this related to my childhood, is …
you know in the book there are three catastrophes to the planet. One is the comet Kondoor striking Eartth, the other is the sinking of Atlantis, and the other is the dispersing of the races. I began to see that these same catastrophes happen in our life. We, as Beings of the planet Earth, repeat in ourselves the catastrophes of the planet, only on a smaller scale. When I began to understand that, I searched in my mind to see what were the three catastrophes in my life. It didn’t take me too much time see that the comet hit me when I was ten years old; my mother died. The death of my mother was the breaking up of my being, like the Earth breaking into fragments after being struck by Kondoor. It was devastating for me; I was put in an orphanage. Now when I was seventeen I began to do things against my father that was not proper. You might call it a sin. Maybe it was because he put me in the orphanage. Later when I was going through these three catastrophes of my life, I thought of it as the sinking of Atlantis. Because what is the sinking of Atlantis? It is the sinking of conscience into the depth of our being. That’s what it represents in Beelzebub, the sinking of the divine impulse of objective conscience. After that everything began to get abnormal. Later I had the opportunity to work on that because I had to take care of my father when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. That was a good way of freeing myself from for the sins I did against him. And then when I was twenty-eight years old I had the third catastrophe in my life. I was working on my doctoral dissertation and I had a terrible nervous breakdown to the point that I was taken to the hospital for a whole week where all the crazy people were, and people on drugs. But the experience was good. You see, one of the things about the third catastrophe is that the three great civilizations separated, I mean Tikliamish, Maralpleicie, and Pearl-Land. So the analogy here is that your three centers, each one of them represents a civilization, are separated from each other. Well that’s exactly what happened to me at that time. My three centers were all going their own way. I experience that for one week. Later I had to work to put myself back together.
Will: There is in the book an explanation of our own life. This idea of making a connection between our life and the Tales is for me the way to approach the book. This is now, but ten, fifteen years ago it was more intellectual.
Guy: Besides Beelzebub, did the Work help you in your life?
Will: Yes, the exercises of having a sensation of my body and the Movements. For an intellectual like me, the Movements were very good. If you only read Ouspensky and do nothing else, it just becomes an intellectual exercise.
Guy: Where do you think the Gurdjieff Work is going to now?
Will: In Beelzebub, there are two currents; two rivers. One group, I think, is going to continue in the traditional group meetings with the movements and all that. There is now another group that is now being formed around the world that is into Beelzebub. Just three days ago, I was in a discussion group from the All & Everything conference. I said in one of my emails that the teacher is now Mr. Beelzebub; it’s not only Mr. Gurdjieff, it’s Mr. Beelzebub. I can quote Gurdjieff saying the same thing. When they asked him about his book, he said, “That’s not my book; it Mr. Beelzebub’s book.”
Read also Will Mesas article called "An Experiment Extracted from Beelzebub's Tales".
Will Mesa lectures in New York on Beelzebub's Tales.