Archive for June 2011
THE JOHN ROBERT COLOMBO PAGE
Taming Your Inner Tyrant
The New Book by Patty de Llosa’s Is Reviewed by John Robert Colombo
It seems an odd thought for anyone to have, but whenever I think of Patty de Llosa, what comes to mind is the image of a tyrant. Now a tyrant is someone who illegitimately seizes and wields power for his (or her or its) own ends; who illegitimately supplants the rightful ruler; who despotically brings about the ruin of the state (or the state of one’s being). Some self-styled rulers turn into mild-mannered tyrants, more authoritarian than democratic, but all of them, in time, given their head, become autocrats. All of them are sedevacantists – that is, usurpers who have no right to their thrones of power or to their seats of judgement. The worst tyrants of all are our “inner demons.”
Let me hasten to say that Patty de Llosa is no tyrant for she is not the least bit tyrannical in person! She may be a woman of firm judgement, but her judgement and deportment are tempered with a sense of considerable presence. In some ways she is mild-mannered; in others, very direct in manner – a working combination of opposites. In person, and in print, she exudes the power of concentration. Although based in New York City, she has numerous contacts in North and South America, and is a frequent and welcome visitor to Work centres in Toronto and elsewhere.
Here is one paragraph of description taken from her website: “Patty de Llosa is a Contributing Editor of ‘Parabola Magazine.’ She has led group classes, day-long workshops and week-long intensives in the Gurdjieff work, T’ai Chi and Taoist meditation and teaches the Alexander Technique both privately and in group classes. Among her most recent venues are Northern Pines Health Resort; the Peruvian Akido Association; the Lake Conference Center, New York; Columbia University’s Graduate Theatre Program and the Society for Experimental Studies, Toronto.”
As an editor and writer, Ms. De Llosa is making a genuine contribution to “Parabola,” the quarterly magazine published by the Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition, now in its 36th year. She is the author of a valuable and highly readable memoir titled “The Practice of Presence” (issued in an attractive edition by Morning Light Press in 2006). In its pages she discusses five formative influences on her life. She calls these the “Five Paths for Daily Life” – T’ai Chi & Taoism, Jung & Individuation, The Teaching of Gurdjieff, Prayer & Meditation, F.M. Alexander’s Mind / Body Integration.
I now associate the word “tyrant” with Ms. De Llosa because of the title of her new book. To be sure, Ms. Llosa is a tyrant-tamer rather than a tyrannical being herself. The book is titled “Taming Your Inner Tyrant” and it bears the subtitle “A Path to Healing through Dialogues with Oneself.” (From now on, I will try to resist thinking of her as a pith-helmeted, lion-taming Clyde Beatty, wielding a mighty bull-whip!) Here are some bibliographical details.
The volume is a handsome trade paperback, 5.75″ x 8.5″, xviii + 214 pages, with a striking cover in an unusual shade of crimson which features a devil-mask that seems Middle or South American or Tibetan or Whatever! It is an all-purpose mask, fierce and fiery, evocative of the “Indian-giver” nature of depictions of powerful entities and deities in tribal art. The publisher a new one to me: A Spiritual Evolution Press, 8 Luccarelli Drive, Holmdel, New Jersey 07733, U.S.A. The company’s website < www.aSpiritualEvolution.com > was not up-and-running when I last checked. The author’s website is an active one < www.tamingyourinnertyrant.com >. The book’s ISBN is 978-0-9822323-1-6.
The text of the book consists of an introduction, seventeen chapters, and an epilogue, followed by sections of acknowledgements, author’s biography, and bibliography. The bibliography concentrates on books and tapes that are relevant to the contents of “Taming Your Inner Tyrant,” making this a book (at once a memoir and a self-help publication) that is both of interest and of use, especially to women. The book is dedicated “to my many teachers,” especially to G.I. Gurdjieff and Jeanne de Salzmann, but also to C.G. Jung and the Canadian therapist and author Marion Woodman. There are two epigraphs, the first from Gurdjieff about “the death of that ‘Tyrant’ from whom proceeds our slavery in this life,” and the second from Northrop Frye: “The tyrant is the man who narrows the scope of life, in other words creates a hell out of human life.”
The two epigraphs neatly skewer Ms. Llosa tyrant, “a hypercritical judge who monitors your every word and action, and tells you what’s wrong with you.” In the Introduction she writes about her very own inner tormentor, or tormentors, and how over the decades of her life she tried to come to terms with this inner demon, or these inner demons, principally employing the insights of Carl Jung’s “Active Imagination,” Marion Woodman’s notion of “the wounders and the wounded,” pharmaceuticals, disciplines like T’ai Chi, etc.
It is the present reviewer’s preference to refer to such a demon as “an impersonality” rather than as “a personality” – an “It” rather than a “He” or a “She” – because its essential nature is mechanicality. It can be counted upon to behave surprisingly, as if devilishly programmed. But Ms. De Llosa has found it more effective to personify or anthropomorphize these powers or presences or abilities (or disabilities) in order to deal with the legion of them. By following in the footsteps of Jung, she goes about “stripping them of their power.” She does this in an unusual way, which I will try to describe.
The seventeen chapters in effect recount the story of Ms. De Llosa’s life, which took her from her childhood in New York City to married life in Lima, Peru, and then back to New York City where she was the sole support for her three children. She worked with distinction as a writer and editor for Henry Luce’s publications. Hovering over the narrative are her parents, Louise and William Welch, who were very active in the Gurdjieff work in New York City, Toronto, Halifax, and presumably other centres as well, where their memories remain ever green.
In the pages of “The Practice of Presence” she writes autobiographically. Of particular interest is how at the age of fifteen years she met Gurdjieff at the Wellington Hotel in January 1949. The meeting left a lasting impression. (The story of the eight silver dollars that he presented to her as a challenge is a Work classic.) But in the present book, it is inner disturbances and difficulties that are highlighted, if that is the verb to use to refer to illumining “the dark side” of the human personality. Here the reader will encounter detailed descriptions of the specific approaches that she developed to handle these ever-present, ever-irritating tyrants of negativity. In doing so, she drew on the teachings of Gurdjieff and Jung, T’ai Chi and the Alexander method, etc.
Ms. De Llosa’s “tyrants” may be seen variously as “personality fragments,” archetypes, roles, complexes, secondary personalities, “other selves,” etc. The author wisely steers clear of a single definition of the dynamics involved, for she is most concerned with recognizing their presence within her personality or psyche. She does so, chapter by chapter, in terms of her own experiences. She gives these tyrants labels or names – like Woman in a Coma, the Frightened Child, Nice-Guy, and Mrs. Rigid – and then she proceeds to converse with them, questioning them, and in the process disarming them.
Each chapter comes in three parts. The first part of a chapter consists of a straight-forward description of a painful episode in the author’s life. Readers will identify with these difficulties because they are neither common nor uncommon but characteristic problems and wounds, traumas and injuries, of our time. The second part of each chapter takes the form of a dialogue between the author’s conscious self and one of her unconscious selves. Here the author’s questions appear in italics, and the answers that were given to her appear in bold italics. The third part of each chapter adds an unexpected dimension to the book, a contribution that alone is worth the list price of $14.95. This unique feature consists of advice, in bold type, about the general attitude one should take to one’s self, one’s problems, one’s possibilities, and everyday living.
Chapter 14 offers a good instance of the three-part work in progress. The chapter is titled “Woman in a Coma” and it begins with a short description of the advent of the feeling of inertia, sleepiness, and indecision that will overcome most people, usually later in life, often in the early afternoon. Following the description is the exchange in dialogue form. It may seem innocent enough on the surface, but there are surprises beneath the surface. Q. “Why am I afraid? How can I live more in balance?” A. “Know whom you serve.” The response sounds a little like the one of those replies generated by the Ouija board, but this is only one exchange in a series of about three dozen in that chapter alone. Indeed, whom does one serve? The responses provoke thinking and evoke feeling.
The unique feature in this chapter consists of a series of separately titled paragraphs. Each paragraph offers a different “take” on the situation. There are nine “takes” for this chapter and these are, in effect, nine meditations, each one a single paragraph in length. The first one seems reasonable enough: “Accept Inner Division.” The second one may seem debatable: “Only gentleness can deal with fearfulness.” The third one strikes me as very relevant: “Challenge the attitude that life is an ordeal.” The fourth one makes a distinct psychological contribution: “Question reactions, look for responses.” I could continue to summarize the rest, but instead will jump to the ninth which goes like this: “The benefit of the doubt is real, too.” These meditations are a singular and irreplaceable part of this book.
So when I think about Patty de Llosa, the conditioned response I have is to think about her as a tyrant-slayer, Clyde Beatty. But that is wrong because that is not what “Taming Your Inner Tyrant” is about. It is about learning to live with one’s contradictions, with these “presences” that Freud called “reaction formations” and Jung termed “enantiodromias.” The attractive characteristic of “Taming Your Inner Tyrant” is that the author’s approach is a awesome flowering from the tangled roots of the possibilities, contradictions, setbacks, and successes of her own life. This flowering offers readers the fruits of her own, hard-won wisdom – principles and procedures and approaches that will prove to be useful to every attentive reader.
John Robert Colombo is a Toronto-based author and editor with a special interest in Canadiana and the mysterious. His current book, published by Dundurn Group, is titled “Fascinating Canada.” Earlier this year he published a collection of aphorisms called “Improbabilities.” He is an occasional reviewer of Work-related publications for this website. His own website is www.colombo.ca
THE JOSEPH AZIZE PAGE
Efforts to Change: An Exchange with George Adie,
29 November 1979
[It is possible to actually come to a point of change. The only questions are when and how. Too frequently, we’re needlessly passive before our denying factors. But it is a fact: progress is possible.]
Sam opened: “Last week, Mr Adie, I’ve experienced a lot of loneliness, what I call a feeling of despair, and self-pity, and thoughts about myself being on my own. I’ve tried, with what feels like some success, to work against this by choosing one person in the day for external consideration; to consider one person in the day, particularly, to shift the focus from myself. And … along with these observations, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about where it comes from.”
“Where the depression comes from? What have you come to?”
“Well, the events in my life are that there’s a family living with me at the moment, and they’ve bought their own house, and are going to move out. And I’m anticipating missing them. And I think that also connects with other events in my past. Two questions come from that. One is, how am I to understand this experience, and what attitude should I have to it? And the other question is, how should I work with it?”
“You try to confront it. That is, you try to be quiet, balanced, and then produce this to yourself. Really, to be separate from it.”
“Yes, I’ve tried after the preparation.”
“It’s part of the preparation, in a way”, replied Adie. The preparation is the morning exercise Adie learnt from Gurdjieff, referred to in his book. “You’re in this state of stillness, apart from external interferences. You try to understand it. You be patient, you be present to the question. You expect to just sort of turn up a thought and then, in a flick, just find an answer: but you can’t like that. The answer has to come in different terms altogether. For instance, you say to have external rather than internal consideration for a person.”
“No, what I said was to have external consideration for someone else and to shift my focus from on my own self-pity, to have concern for someone other than myself.”
“Yes, but you’ve got to do the shifting of yourself first. Then external consideration can take place. To what extent it can take place will depend upon your being there. If you really confront it, or try to think about what these things really are, you will see that you’re weaving a web of nothing, creating a big mountain out of almost nothing.”
“It’s just an associative sort of dreaming”, continued Adie, “what’s going to happen? You don’t know what’s going to happen at all. Don’t you see that you’re passive, you give in to it? You have to use it to come more deeply to yourself. I can speak about centralizing myself, but I’m still working peripherally … I’m still in the head and not really strongly centred in my sensation. I want more emphatic sensation. Definite. Now, what do I think? All else is this shifting peas, trivial, lightweight … almost nothing … What is the reality?
“Then you speak of the feeling of loneliness. That can be extremely useful. But it is very much necessary to change it from loneliness into being alone. I need to be alone. Who am I going to take with me when the time comes? I can take no one, I can take nothing. At that time, everything, my imagination, my perceived loneliness, will be all blotted out.”
“That’s from one point of view: that’s as far as my desire to not be lonely. But in fact I should take the benefit of all that unconfronted, misunderstanding within me. That is my past, in some lower form. You can’t destroy the thing. It’s pretty horrible, so I can’t afford to give in to any negativeness. But your past also yields a higher form. You are one of Mr Gurdjieff’s pupils by second stage – that’s not nothing. That’s not nothing. Now you come very much in touch with it. That’s very substantial.” As a final comment, he added: “There’s a lot of sort of dodgy stuff about it, you know, it’s very artistic.”
“I see the helplessness of it,” agreed Sam.
“This is the lower element, but don’t lend yourself too much to this side. There’s no need to be lonely – you can have yourself. If you have yourself then you’re anything but lonely. This loneliness means that something in me is seeking an external prop. So, let me stop seeking external props. I need a meal, I need some recreation, so let me go and have it, but, to sit moaning for props? So, be active, innerly active. Your hope is based on your immediate presence. Very definite.”
“Then you can have some hope, otherwise, no hope. And to live without hope is not very good, but it’s all based on now. Now. There’s no future hope. All hope is present. Obviously what is to come depends upon now. Don’t want it to change. Use it, find it useful. Kick against the pricks. be interested, otherwise you’ll weave a sort of miserable gloom and you won’t see what happens when they leave.”
The next question, from Mick, again related to what Adie had said about “producing to yourself” the negative emotion, and confronting it with a quiet presence.
“Mr Adie, I’ve found a clear voice within me that leads me into dissatisfaction and considerings. A form of personality: a fantasy voice that comes up and says “that doesn’t sound too good”, or it says “this would sound better”.”
“Supposing you give an illustration, Mick, or an experience of it. What you say is clear enough, but give an example of it if you have one.”
“Well last weekend I saw an a position in a newspaper for a job that seemed to be a better job than the one I have, even though it’s a good job. This is the instance when I first noticed this voice, the voice said this job sounds better, it would sound better to say.”
“That you would be a sergeant rather than a corporal?”
“Yes, and during the week I noticed that voice, and realised that it had been there a long time, but I had never noticed it at all, or confronted it, but I enjoyed it, and I remember daydreaming with it, playing with it. I’d like to know how to get a handle to eliminate it.”
“Welcome it!” replied Adie. “Open the door! Say: “Please come in!” It will hate it if you’re there. The difficulty will be to get it to come in: it will wait until you’ve gone to sleep, and then it will come along. This is where the flash comes in: our work goes in flashes, and in a flash you can be quicker, and confront it before it can disappear. Use it, be present to it, every time it comes trotting along, medals out and all the rest, you begin to hear it coming.”
“But I’ve tried that this week.”
“You tried it like that? How have you tried it?”
“Well, I haven’t been present to it or welcomed it.” At this, everyone laughed.
“Ah. So you haven’t had the idea of welcoming it. I’ve got to be a bit quiet inside. All this takes place inside, the corporals and sergeants and all that. I have to be very quiet, I have to take my work more deeply, relax more. But that’s a good observation, and it’s the same for everybody, there’s nobody here hasn’t got dreams and hasn’t had dreams. It’s very familiar, it couldn’t be otherwise. Couldn’t be otherwise. Everybody wants to be something, to achieve something, and things around that. Dreams of success, dreams of profit, dreams of glory. It starts very early. Look at how hero worship is educated into young children. They’re encouraged, they stimulate it with books and films. Chaps that have got long legs and can run a bit faster, they give them prizes for it, and make them into heroes. Is it clearer?”
“I’m not sure what you said about taking it a little deeper.”
“Be more present, be deeper inside. Don’t be satisfied with your old degree of sincerity. Just be a bit quieter and confront this thing. See the stupidity of it. Didn’t you follow what we were discussing with Sam? It relates to you, doesn’t it, although you haven’t got exactly the same conditions.”
“I take my work seriously, and the only thing that is up to it is my inner centre of discrimination, but if I only discriminate in my head, it’s no good. You know how it is said that nothing can exist without three forces, active and passive and neutralising. And here are three forces, instinctive and moving force, emotional force and intellectual force – broadly – and they all have to all take part. Well. they’re not centred in the toes. if anything they’re centred here, you see. And I need that sense of myself before anything.” Adie must have gestured to a part of his body when he said “centred here”.
“Love and attraction is very, very powerful. It generally comes from same central place which moves the whole of you, but when we think of something, our head takes centre-stage, the body is asleep, and the head goes dodging about, looking through queer holes, and understanding nothing.”
“Mr Adie, I mentioned it a long time ago”, said Ida, “about how when my husband comes home, and he criticises me for something in the house that not’s right, or about me, I get defensive and react. When I first started to try and work on it, I saw that if I was criticised I saw a need to hit back and retaliate. Now I find that I don’t retaliate.”
“Not in the same form. What form does it take now?”
“It’s a sullen silence.”
“In a way, that’s worse from his point of view.”
“Yes, because when I tended to hit back quickly, it was over and done with, but now it tends to smoulder.”
“Well now, if you relate that situation to what we’ve just been saying, then you can transform that … something more is possible.”
“I see the energy that’s wasted.”
“Yes, and you could have that for yourself. There’s nothing that won’t feed me if I can be in the right place. More and more we try and understand what alchemy is. Alchemy is the transformation of one kind of energy into another, negative into positive; the transformation of coarse metal into fine: gold. It is always said of the alchemist that before he can do that, he has to have some gold to start with. This gold is our presence, this is the gold that we need to bring, our presence. This will transform, so that you have more energy. Well, that is a picture, but it needs confrontation. You need to compare that, that marvellous reality, with this dubious and horrible alternative.”
“You can’t expect him to change, but if you change yourself, it would help him. He would be in the presence of a different process. Of course, in that connection, you’ve got to be prepared for him to be more annoyed because you don’t react quite in the same way. But, if you have your presence, you won’t offend. If you merely disdainfully put him away or close into yourself, it’s more offensive than coming out fighting. It has to be done in the presence of.”
“You can’t cut off from it: you’re right in the thick of it, you wake up inside it, and then you make your transformation. This extraordinary invocation in the Bible, “thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” What does that mean? One repeats it, but what does it mean? Here is one’s enemy, very clearly, isn’t it? Enemies of my being, and here is the table. If I eat it, if I take it, I get my food, my feast. Try and think like that, think how, and of course I have to be practical, too. Try and be practical.”
“This is my inner work, it’s not concerned so much with my comfort. Things will get better if I work that way, but I want to make this alchemy the key of my effort. All the other efforts are sort of partial efforts, they’re conditional upon my getting some satisfactions and all the rest. This is the only pure, unmixed effort. If I can make a pure effort, I certainly can get the energy, no doubt, but it’s difficult, it means swallowing things which in the usual way I could never swallow. And it isn’t swallowing to take them swallow them slowly and painfully. I’ve got to take them almost gladly, and that’s hell.”
I have not included the next question. The one after was brought by Stan. “ I’ve been trying to look at my dreams in my tense state. I’ve noticed the types of dreams that have been going on supporting this state.”
“Part of it,” replied Adie. “They’re together. The dreams encourage the state, the state makes ground for the dreams.”
“That’s really my question. I’ll give you some examples. One dream I can remember very clearly, I sat down, I imagined very vividly, and with my whole emotions, that I was having an argument with my boss, but behind that there seemed to be a certain attitude. I was in the commanding position. But I could feel all my emotional force being drawn out through this.”
“Negative imagination: a definite kind of process.”
“Will I give a few more examples?”
“Well, what about this example? Maybe the other examples are different: what about the question here?”
“First thing I noticed about it, there was a certain satisfaction in it. There was a tense state about it.”
“Yes. We’ve already been told that from our childhood we have enjoyed our negative emotions, very difficult, everybody would have said at the beginning, oh, of course I hate my negativity, I don’t like it. But as you truly say there’s a certain satisfaction: there’s some dog rather liking its bone, dog in me who finds there’s something there. This thing likes the fight it’s winning. This is an imaginary I, part of false personality enjoying itself at your expense, the expense of your blood, and not only that, but of your Kesdjan blood.”
“I think that as soon as I see this dangerous negative imagination, obviously I should try and change my state, because it can go on and on, and I can bleed. I have seen what my state is now, and now, directly, I want to put a stop in. Give it a shock. Register what it is, that I need to move, and change my posture, take a breath, go for a walk. Whatever helps. I can surely take that as a point to begin work. The difficult part is that I have to somehow keep on, but eventually it will slow down. It’s only got to be unguarded, and it will go again, you see?”
“So, my effort is more to stop dreaming?”
“Certainly, but you described dreaming mixed with negative imagination. This emotionalism has to be stopped. But how do you stop?”
There was a pause in the conversation, before Adie continued: “You take your energy away, take it to yourself. You don’t have anything to do with this poison at all. You see, if you start to hang onto it you can destroy yourself. You go to yourself. You go and take the energy in.”
“What of the attitude, Mr Adie?”
“The attitude? The attitude gradually changes. What attitude can I have other than that I’m being sucked dead, and soon there will be only a corpse. I’m a compulsed, forced nothing, Immediately there’s a different attitude possible, based on finer matter, move. And then I can have an attitude, an intentional attitude. The attitude I want is based on choice. I choose not to waste my force like that, so I have an attitude grounded centrally: an attitude which can look up as well as down, an attitude which is open and not closed. An attitude which can move, which is mobile. How do you understand “attitude”? It isn’t only a mental thing. It’s everything, it’s my feeling and my thought, of course, but the thought has to be connected with feeling and sense, otherwise it’s a dead thought. People commit horrible crimes when they’re cut off from feeling and sensation. If they had feeling and sensation it would be entirely different.”
“I find that my whole day is a system of dreams,” Stan continued: “not all as emotional as that, but all different things, coming all the time.”
“Good, you’re finding that out. Then, what is your plan for work? Now, according to what you’ve seen, according to what you’ve received, you make a plan. If you make a plan, perhaps you don’t carry it out: but you see why you didn’t. You’re still learning something. Or maybe you do carry it out for a little bit: it’s a whole process of becoming born, and being created, or awakening, which is gradual, gradual, gradual, depending on your self-impulse, and the exercise of your own small degree of will. The more you observe yourself, the more you relax, the more you will see what your state is by the set of your face, the direction of your eyes, and it will tell you about your inner state, and again you will make small adjustments. And now that probably covers all your other illustrations, but if it doesn’t, bring the other examples.”
“In my efforts, I would have to try and stop dreaming all the time, wouldn’t I?”
“But you can’t do it all the time”, Adie replied. “You do it some time, by intention. Nobody can make effort all the time. But you can make efforts occasionally, when you get called. Every now and then, you come up, otherwise you couldn’t make these observations. But you don’t observe yourself all the time.”
“You see that you’re manifesting like this, and become despairing. But you only conclude that it’s like that all the time, because these are the things you see when you start to awaken. When you say it goes on all day, it sounds hopeless, but choose certain moments and don’t worry about the rest. These moments when you’re called are the moments when you can make effort. If you relate this to your preparation, and plan with it, you find more light each time, you have more connection with your intention when the time comes. I have to have intent, otherwise I have no power of action, and then everything goes automatically. The whole essence of what I’m trying to say is that we really have this will-potential in us, we have this possibility. This is what I have to bring into my work – at points – and I plan to allow this to be touched as often as possible. You can prepare to make use of your periodic fits of madness, because there’s something definite. That’s the practical way to work.”
Half way through the next question, unfortunately, the tape ran out.
edited Joseph Azize, 12 June 2011
JOSEPH AZIZE has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book The Phoenician Solar Theology treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The second book, “Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria”, was jointly edited with Noel Weeks. It includes his article arguing that the Carthaginians did not practice child sacrifice.
The third book, ‘George Mountford Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia’ represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.The fourth book, edited and written with Peter El Khouri and Ed Finnane, is a new edition of Britts Civil Precedents. He recommends it to anyone planning to bring proceedings in an Australian court of law.
“Maronites” is pp.279-282 of “The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia” published by Cambridge University Press and edited by James Jupp.
George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia
is available from By the Way Books.