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Archive for September 2008



Joseph Azize Page

Certain ideas or hints can assist with the Gurdjieff preparation and exercises. Of course, not everything can be adequately communicated on the printed page. But neither is complete silence necessary. The best published material known to me is the final chapter in Jean Vaysse’s Toward Awakening. That chapter is instructively titled: “The First Step in Self-Study: Inner Quiet, Relaxation, Sensation of Oneself, and the Attempt to Remember Oneself”.

Vaysse was a personal pupil of Gurdjieff, and a person of tremendous ability. Nothing I could say would improve on what he wrote. It is regrettable that his book is presently out of print, but perhaps a demand will persuade the publishers to reissue it. Having said that, there are some matters which Vaysse does not cover which, I think, can usefully be canvasssed.

These notes are intended to assist one with understanding something of the preparation as it came from Gurdjieff. The value of these thoughts is different for those who have had a personal introduction to the art from someone who learned it from Gurdjieff or one of his direct pupils, and those who have not. For those who have, this piece may, perhaps stimulate their valuation of what they have learned, encourage them to further practice, and maybe provide some fresh perspectives. But if someone has not learned the art from one of the qualified, then these notes might provide some food for thought, and even furnish a reason to at least explore the possibility of learning the art. These thoughts on the art should not be confused with the art itself. But perhaps they can lead to it.

In earlier blogs I have used Gurdjieff’s term “Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation”. Let us continue to do so. Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation starts with being present to my state as it is. One “re-members” one’s self, without deception, so far as this is possible. Not even a breath of analysis is allowed to blunt my perceptions – I want a naked apprehension of myself more intimate than any thought, an intuition more instant than any idea. And, from a position behind myself, as it were, each of the three centres (thinking, feeling and motor-instinct) must in its proper way be relaxed.

The eyelids are gently and intentionally brought down – not just squeezed shut. The Adies would sometimes invite us, having closed them, to reopen the eyelids and then softly lower them not so much to shut out light as to turn innerly. Something similar is possible with the mouth: it should not be tightly pressed, and once more, it can be softly and consciously parted but a fraction and the lips then brought into touch. At the end of the preparation, incidentally, it often helps to open one’s eyes with much the same sense, then close them again, and reopen, allowing the impressions to enter.

Such ostensibly small gestures can bring a fresh understanding of “relaxation”. The concept of relaxation should not be hurried over as if we know what it is. The states of relaxation and tension reflect, on our human level, two of the three holy forces which operate on a cosmic scale. Consider these pairings: relaxation and tension, contraction and expansion, heat and cold. These qualities all say something about the place and the tempo of any given phenomenon. Everything in the universe vibrates at a certain pitch. As its rate of vibration changes, so too must its place, its temperature and its state of tension. This is exemplified when ice melts and moves. Ultimately, the place, tempo and tension of any phenomenon are one: together, they are its pitch. This word ‘pitch’ philologically refers to ‘position’ in the widest possible sense of the term, which is why it embraces both the placing of a note of music and the erection of a tent.

In one exercise he gave in 1938, Gurdjieff said “Fifteen minutes relax. Break tempo of ordinary life…”. To relax is to change our tempo, our time. But relaxation and tension are two aspects of one reality: they are not and cannot be exclusive. They must go together in some particular ratio. When we relax for the preparation or exercises, we do not relax completely. If we did, we would go to sleep. To lift any object we need a certain amount of tension, or our muscles will never contract to enable us to grip and then raise our arms. Yet, if there is too much tension in our arms, we will not be able to move them adequately. So the ratio of relaxation and tension must always be equilibrated.

This “equilibration” is judgment, measurement, ordering, relationship and harmonization and it involves our three faculties. One word for this process of equilibration is “attuning”, with its connotations of both artistry and science. Perhaps we can say then, that we are normally pulled between tension and relaxation, between yes and no, affirmation and denial, stability and movement. And Gurdjieff’s ideas and practices give us the opportunity to consciously attune ourselves.

One thing which a person will find if they persevere with the preparation, is that there is relaxation not only in the body but also in the feeling and in thought. When this relaxation reaches feeling, one acquires a new understanding of patience. Etymologically, it means “suffering something to be”. These simple words hide something very large: to start with, it assumes an appreciation of what actually is, and it includes an affirming attitude, whatever the consequences for myself. Of course, there are occasions when one must interfere with things, or even stop harmful processes. This requires judgment: a function of all centres.

It is not so easy for the centres to work together: there are different tempos in different centres. Our first thought, perhaps, would be to try and immediately change the diverse tempos. However, they can be effectively and safely harmonized not by wrenching them but indirectly, by including them each at the proper moment within my sphere of conscious awareness, just as the blood moves at one rate, the breath at another, and so on. It is, I think, better not to attempt to describe the different tempos. A person can experience them, and the experience will be more reliable for not having been suggested.

Now, what does “relaxation” mean to us, in our experience? Each person’s history is different, but many years ago, an old nun, in her immaculate grey and white habit, said to me in Lebanese: dul mirtaah, “stay relaxed”. I received the impression of her kindness and I sensed something else within the words. I knew without thinking that these words meant “relax” and yet, also more than that. Gurdjieff says that “mentation by form” is related to the “inner content” of a word. I could not have defined the inner content of that gentle nun’s words, yet something with a feeling quality passed to me. When one looks up a Semitic word, one has to first identify the verbal root. For mirtah, the root is pronounced rah and has a sense of “to go away” and “to begin (a process)”. Perhaps its fundamental sense is “to be engaged in movement”.

The noun from this verb is ruh, and has the basic meaning of “breath of life, soul, spirit, life”. The “t” infix makes the verb intransitive. It means that the action of the verb takes place within the subject: rather than going away, the subject comes to himself; rather than commencing an external process, the subject commences himself; and rather than blowing upon something … and so on.

In fact, etymologically, the noun mirtaah which we translate as “relaxation”, connotes “breathing throughout oneself” or “breathing within oneself”. It is a recognized hazard of translating Semitic languages that it is not really possible to coin a one word translation.

This made me think of Hebrew, because in the Hebrew Bible, the spirit of God which moves upon the waters is the ruah, cognate to the Lebanese and the Arabic. In ancient Hebrew, no word for “relaxation” is attested, but the word is found in modem Hebrew. One of the modem Hebrew words said to denote “relaxation” is based on the root nefesh. This is a word for “self”, “soul”, “spirit”, “living thing”, and hence in biblical Hebrew could be used to mean “to revive”. In Arabic this word, written as nafsu, has a similar range of meaning, often signifying “self”. Thus, while “relax” may mean “to loosen again, to loosen further” in English, the word is not an entirely adequate translation of mirtah. For people like ourselves, who tend to understand words according to “mentation by words”, it is an adequate translation. But, not only does mirtah mean “breathing throughout oneself”, to a sensitive person, it conveys, according to “mentation by form”, something over and above “relax”. It really connotes entering a new alignment of internal forces. It means new connections, allowing the breath, the spirit, to move and expand within oneself, bringing about fresh relationships.

The reference to “self” is also significant: consider the meaning of the “Self” in Advaita.

But to return to our thesis: if one is to move in the direction of any aim, one must be able to relax sufficiently to move from one’s present position. And the higher the aim, the more that relaxation should tend towards breathing through oneself, “in-spiriting” oneself. Gurdjieff once said: “All pleasures are merde. All pleasures make you a slave. … mechanical pleasures destroy you. You are lost in them. They are all injurious, except for giving oneself voluntary relaxation, necessary for an aim.” In a meeting of 9 December 1946, Gurdjieff said that only conscious relaxation has value, that is, relaxation where the head retains the role of policeman; otherwise, he said, it is weakness.

In terms of inner movement, relaxation is affirmation, and tension is refusal, as Jane Heap indicated.

In the 1943 group meeting alluded to in an earlier blog, Gurdjieff gave some extraordinary indications about relaxation and the muscles. Simply, Gurdjieff apparently taught them how to relax large muscles, then to relax the muscles which depend on those, and finally the smallest muscles, depending on those.

The question now is, will anyone see fit to pursue these indications? As Gurdjieff said in that meeting: “Relaxation is without end.”
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 third book, “George Mountford Adie” represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.



September 30, 2008 at 4:17 pm


Joseph Azize Page


Al Stewart, Reincarnation and Recurrence: Part Three

England, wet and rainy, England rich in history, is Al Stewart’s muse, an inspiration which has not lessened by reason of Stewart’s residence in the USA. We shall see how Stewart’s expressed sense of himself and his lifetime merges into something larger. In songs such as “Manuscript” and “Somewhere in England, 1915”, the land stands for this bigger something Yet, the greater reality is not quite England, but “England under the light of eternity”, a feeling which the English-based American expatriate, T.S. Eliot expressed in “Little Gidding”:

Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere,
Never and always.

The solution of this paradox is, I think, that what we transcend or surpass, indeed all we can transcend, is the episodes of our lives. These moments are our points of departure. Then, those points of departure, the places we visited, the people we knew, become even more significant and precious to us for the sake of our lives, and what are our lives but short fractured glimpses of eternity between two moments of blinking: birth and death?

In his best work, Stewart photographs these episodes against the sky. We can only come to eternity through our experience of and reflection upon the fruits of time. The intuition that place and distance are internally folded into one infinitesimal point is possible only when specific places and scenes have become so much a part of us that our feeling of them arises without our having to think about them. We silently bear a reality within ourselves.

Given that the troubadour released a new album, Sparks of Ancient Light on 16 September 2008, there will be at least two more last Al Stewart blogs. The next blog shall deal with the mature masterpiece ‘A Beach Full of Shells’. Here, I shall gather together some loose ends from his earlier oeuvre.

Stewart’s first albums, dating from 1967’s Bedsitter Images, the acclaimed Love Chronicles and Zero She Flies are interesting not only as pointers to what would follow, but also for the charm and even accomplishment of tracks like “Beleeka Doodle Day” (probably early evidence of Stewart’s fondness for Edward Lear), and the instrumental “Ivich”. In these days, Stewart was, I think one can fairly say, a “folk singer”. As one would expect while he was establishing his own identity, Stewart tended to strike imitative poses (Dylan was a big influence). As is often also the case with young talented artists during their apprenticeships, the writing tends to be clever rather than strong. There is also a fair amount of ambition on display: the lengthy and unsatisfying title track of Love Chronicles offering a parade ground example. Stewart’s personal life was also unsettled during this period, with the result that the third album, Zero She Flies, was perhaps the weakest of the three.

Yet, Zero She Flies featured the first of his “historical” songs, “Manuscript”, which, as I see it, Stewart would rewrite in 2005 as “Somewhere in England”. History and time are fractured in this song, as they often will be in Stewart’s hands. “Manuscript” opens with a softly strumming guitar, and references to Prince Louis Battenberg, Admiral Lord Fisher, Churchill and houses in Hackney. Suddenly, there is a change in both musical mood and narrative focus:

And my grandmother sits on the beach
In the days before the war
A young girl writing her diary
While time seems to pause,
Watching the waves that come one by one
To die on the shore,
Kissing the feet – of England.

He then moves to the Tsar in his great Winter Palace, whose foreign news is that “An Archduke was shot down in Bosnia, but nothing much”. We then return to Stewart’s grandmother, who I think is now being courted, “smiling a secret smile”, and “the sun set gently – on England.”

It then moves forward to contemporary times, as Al and Mandy, his girlfriend, drive down to Irving by the sea on a pouring day. The scene was, he sings, unchanged except that the jetty “was maybe more scarred than I’d known it to be”. Mandy and he stand staring at the sky, where ten years before he had stood with his grandfather:

And the waves still rushed in as they had
The year that he died,
And it seemed that my lifetime
Was shrunken and lost in the tide as it rose and fell
On the side … of England.

It then reprises with the opening words: “Prince Louis Battenberg is burning the Admiralty lights”. Given what I had written in the two previous blogs about recurrence, this is striking. An unmistakable time-disrupting circularity is imparted by this reprise, including within the arc of its return his grandmother’s youth, and his own modern excursion which itself includes memories of ten years past.

In terms of his art, the folk genre is ideally suited, both for journalistic reporting and to convey intimacy. The vivid depiction of his grandmother’s intense private life is masterly: and it is done so simply, by showing her write her diaries and smiling to herself. Another personal aspect is added by the fact that it revolves around England.

Zero She Flies coincided with some relationship issues for Stewart, which he surfaced from with the brilliant song “News From Spain” on 1972’s Orange. Another very strong track from that album is “Songs Out Of Clay”, but otherwise, the album does not, to my taste, require much consideration. In 1973, Stewart released Past, Present and Future, a record which in some ways marks a development. It featured two mini-epics, “Roads to Moscow” and “Nostradamus”. If the “past” and “present” of the album title came from “Moscow”, the “future” is for “Nostradamus”. But for me, the best track on the album, or at least the one I can most often listen to with pleasure is “Soho (Needless to Say)”, a rather poignant song, which anyone who has ever been alone and at a loose end in another city can relate to. My only reservation concerning “Soho” is that with its breathless rhyming lyrics it sounds to me as if Stewart was writing his own “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, but I could be wrong. Interestingly, being Stewart, he had to make the lyrics sensible. I am not too fond of the Dylan: it strikes a posture but that it is all – it’s a pose, whereas Stewart makes a statement. I have said before that I think Stewart’s good songs are generally sound stronger to me than Dylan’s good songs (with the exception of the astounding “Blind Willie McTell”), although I know that I am probably alone in this world in holding that opinion.

Stewart’s attempts to stretch himself on Orange and Past, Present and Future paid dividends on his next album, 1975’s Modern Times. The title track, one of his best songs, is set in New York, although it points back to England. It is, apparently a fictional story, of Stewart meeting a school friend in a bar, and – in a monologue – reminiscing about the old times. Stewart is in top form, lyrically evoking the past:

Do you remember the time when we were young?
Outside the window the frosty moonlight hung on the midnight snow.
So we pulled our scarves around our faces in the night,
Huddled on the doorsteps where the fairy lights shone bright …
It all comes back like yesterday …

Chasing skinny blue-jeaned girls across the building site,
Checking out the dance floor while the band played “Hold Me Tight” …
Do you remember the church across the sound …
You stood outside and planned to travel to the lands where pilgrims go.

But the friend does not want to know: “I don’t want to remember. In fact, you’ve hurt too much already,” he says, just leave me “wrapped up in the warmth of New York City … Got no use for the tricks of modern times that tangle all my thoughts like ivy.”

In short, Modern Times treats of two different approaches to the past: one which gladly bears the memories, and warmly brings them into the present; and another which not only denies them, but cannot cope with them at all. It is fairly clear which attitude is Stewart’s. Further, the friend who cannot cope with the past cannot cope with the present either, what he calls “the tricks of modern times”. A problem with the past is really a problem with the present, because our recollections all take place as they must in the present. Our ability to bear the past is not a sign of former strength so much as a sign of present maturity.

Above and beyond the ideas expressed, is the music. There is something of the folk song in it, but at about 6:25, when the last words have been sung, a searing guitar line enters before slowing down into a mellow, almost wistful plaint. Almost as much as the George Harrison song, this one deserves to be known as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. But what I hear in this guitar tour de force, is affirmation. It evokes a feeling of largeness of feeling, a feeling which can withstand the poignancy of memory.

And this, I think is important. The moments of our lives become transformed for us as we see them in a longer perspective, the perspective of our journeys through time and space. Above I indicated that the past becomes dearer to us for the sake of our the whole of our lives, which are now deeper and broader than they had been. At the moment of perception, of living through these episodes, our eyes are full of the action of the moment. We make some connections, chiefly by association. But often the deeper connections between these instances, the patterns in our lives, are seen much later, and only in retrospect, when something deeper than the ordinary mind (the formatory apparatus in Gurdjieff’s terms) can meditate on such larger issues, even if only subconsciously. Once more, in Gurdjieff’s system, the real I, essence, lies in the subconscious, and so it is the only place where real meditation can be accomplished.

Now, what I think Stewart has touched on in Modern Times, whether is was intentionally or by happenstance, is this: the past is often painful. In terms of memory and the past, one person’s meat is very often another person’s poison. Because we all have incidents in the past which are more or less painful, our attitude to the past is always equivocal: it is certainly very rarely an impartial one. We are forever picking out highlights, and praising, excusing or condemning. At different times we select different portions: if we’re stuck in self-pity, we remember only corresponding moments, and so on.

Here we come again to the question of maturity: the chief reason we cannot deal with the past is self-hatred. We believe that things should have been different but they were not. If it were just a question of hating other people that would be much easier, but one would not fear the past for that. We fear the past not for what it tells us about others, but for what is discloses about ourselves. And the thing we hate the most is an offence to our vanity, facing that we have made mistakes. But a mature person can acknowledge their errors with a clear mind. We are bound to make mistakes for the simple reason that we are each just one individual in a very large complex world made up of countless billions of entities, forces, substances and creatures of which we can know very little. If it is theoretically possible to avoid mistakes it is only by closing our world in and not making judgments, experiments or taking action. And that may be impossible.

This is the sort of meditation which Modern Times leads me to, and without it, I might not have come to quite these thoughts. The last of the miscellaneous songs I shall deal with before coming to A Beach Full of Shells in the next Al Stewart blog, is the splendid rhapsody on a guitar string: “Down in the Cellars”.

The album after Modern Times was 1976’s classic Year of the Cat, which I dealt with in the first Stewart blog. Then followed Time Passages and, eventually, Indian Summer and 24 PCarrots. The quality of these albums was not to be compared with Year of the Cat, and Stewart disappointed his fan base. It is not that there was nothing of merit on these albums, there was, for example, the splendid “Merlin’s Time” on 24 Pcarrots, and the odd classic such as “Fields of France”. But I am fond of few others from this decade or more, and although Time Passages sold well, I am inclined to think that it sold because people wanted more feline entertainment. I think it is fair to say that Stewart’s muse was not as lusty as she had been in 1976 until 1991’s Famous Last Words, which I dealt with in the last Stewart blog. For me, that album is not in quite the same category as Rubber Soul, Revolver, Pepper’s or Abbey Road, but it is in the next one down, with Hard Day’s Night and the best of Dylan.

Immediately after Last Words came an album which, to one of my taste, strove for quality, but missed it by an inch or two on absolutely every song but one. The album is Down in the Cellar and the song which achieved its promise is “Down in the Cellars”. Comment on the musicianship, sterling silver in digital format, would be superfluous. After a graceful guitar introduction, Stewart, in a mellow mood of oak and shiraz, sings:

Down in the cellars of Jean-Louis Chave
All the shadows are leaving,
Bottles lying asleep in the cave.
You’ll see history breathing
… the vines are trellised in evening.
In the cellars of Jean-Louis Chave,
You’ll see history breathing

Generations go, slipping away now.
What can you say, now?
Five hundred years.

Lives are written here,
Pages on pages, ages on ages
Just disappear.

Another splendid and accomplished guitar break takes us into silence. There is nothing more to say about it which I have not already said in earlier Stewart blogs. It is fragrant with the sixth sense: me here now, in relation to my life, past, present and future.

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 third book, “George Mountford Adie” represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.



September 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm


John Robert Colombo Page


Toronto 1918

James George and Brabara Wright 2004


JRC contributes some impressions of James George’s
90th Birthday Celebration in Toronto

It was 90 years ago to the day that James George was born in Toronto.
His father was a physician and he grew up in the city’s exclusive
Rosedale area of the city. He acquired an excellent, bilingual
education and was drawn to Ottawa, the nation’s capital, where in the
1950s and 1960s he became one of the country’s “mandarins,” to use the
term to describe those members of the Department of External Affairs
who clustered around Lester B. Pearson (who went on to receive the
Nobel Peace Prize and then serve with distinction as the country’s
Prime Minister). In Ottawa these men – there were a couple of women
too – were called “mandarins,” in Whitehall “boffins,” and in New
Delhi “bapus.”

James George himself served with distinction as Canadian High
Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Nepal. In India he became fast
friends with the present Dalai Lama. I could go on to fill out Jim’s
distinguished career in the Royal Canadian Navy and as a foreign
service officer, and as the author of a forthcoming book (on the
subject of meditation). But of more interest here is the fact that in
select circles he is recognized to be one of the senior statesmen in
the realm of consciousness studies. (In Canada his peers are film
producer Tom Daly of Ottawa and physicist Ravi Ravindra of Halifax.)
He has great experience in the Work and at any one time leads or
contributes to group activities in cities in Canada and the United
States and perhaps elsewhere as well.

The celebration was well organized by Jim’s vibrant and vigorous wife
Barbara Wright, who has a long record of contributing to the Work in
San Francisco and elsewhere. The party was held on Sunday afternoon,
September 14, 2008, the actual day of his birth ninety years earlier.
The venue was Toronto’s Arts & Letters Club, and its Great Hall was
strikingly illuminated with candles for the sixty or so invited guests
who came from various cities across the continent to be present. In
attendance were members of the immediate family, including children
and grandchildren, who spoke about Jim as pater familias.

My wife Ruth and I were privileged to be among the invited guests and
we mingled with ease among them. I would estimate that four-fifths of
the people present were connected with the Work. (At times I felt like
a Catholic in a congregation of Protestants – to employ a loose
comparison!) But it was also by and large a professional group, with
teachers, editors, publishers, musicians, lawyers, and even a former
U.S. college president and a world-famous theoretical physicist.

It was a private event, so it would be inappropriate to report in
detail on the proceedings, other than to state that Jim George, at
ninety – now Dr. George, as he had recently been awarded the degree of
Doctor of Sacred Letters – spoke very well. He talked without notes
for about fifteen minutes about the need for us to be fully conscious
human beings who live in the here and now as well as about the
ecological crisis facing the world at this period and at this place,
which he described as “the most exciting time” to be alive.

Jim’s speech was made following testimonies of how he had influenced
the lives of his children and grandchildren and many of the other
guests who were present. Toasts were proposed, a new poem read, a new
song was sung, the friendship rite of the Pacific North West was
performed, a Tibetan prayer over food was recited, a birthday cake was
sliced and served, and a Gurdjieff-de Hartmann hymn was movingly
played on the piano. I think Barbara Wright hit the right note when
she talked of love and its force and how Jim had inspired that emotion
in everyone he had ever met.

No point would be served in describing the heart-warming proceedings
in greater detail, but I will share with the readers of this blog the text of
my own contribution, which was perforce less personal than the other
contributions. It was delivered without notes, but there was a text.
Here it is.

Notes for a Brief Talk
To Mark the Occasion of the Celebration of James George’s 90th
Birthday, Arts & Letters Club, Toronto, Sunday, 14 September 2008

My name is John Robert Colombo and I have been what might be called “a
James George watcher” since the year 1961. That was the year I first heard
the name of the gentleman we have gathered here to honour. His name came
from the lips of a young poet named William Hawkins who was running a
series of poetry readings at a coffee house in Ottawa, called Le Hibou, where
I was invited to be a guest reader.

Hawkins discovered that we shared his interest in occultism, mysticism,
esotericism, and Eastern religions. I remember Bill telling me, “There’s this
guy right here in Ottawa, who’s crazy about Oriental ideas, and he’s high
up in the Department of External Affairs, and one of these days he’s
going to be appointed Canada’s Ambassador to India!”

I remember thinking, “Bill, you’re exaggerating, as usual, but there’s
probably some substance to what you’re saying, even if you can’t
distinguish between an Ambassador and a High Commissioner.” At the
time that was forgivable because Hawkins was preoccupied with writing
the lively poems that would appear in the book he published with so
memorable a title. That title is “Shoot Low, Sheriff, They’re Riding
Shetland Ponies!” Remember it: I will return to it.

I asked Bill a question: “What’s this impressive man’s name?” Poet
that he was, Hawkins replied with a spondee. Now a spondee is an
unusual poetic meter that consists of two equal and heavy stresses ( X
X ). I never forgot that spondee: “James George.” I filed it away for
future reference.

Since then my wife Ruth who is here with me and I have been “James
George watchers” and I have kept a file on the man. But for more than
forty years, James – or Jim, as I have learned to call him – has
preferred to be “watched” from a distance. Over the years I courted
him. But it was not until the dramatic appearance on the scene of his
dynamic wife, Barbara Wright, that Jim agreed to be “watched”
close-up, at least by Ruth and me.

Many of you know Jim and Barbara as family members or as close
personal friends. Ruth and I are not able to make that claim, but we
are second to none in our appreciation of the qualities of the couple,
even if from the sidelines, though it must be said that distance does
sometimes lend some perspective on quality. So I will take the liberty
of speaking frankly about the man, beginning with identifying a chief
characteristic and the greatest misfortune ever to befall him.

Jim had the very bad luck to be born and raised in Toronto’s up-scale
community of Rosedale. Had his karma been other than it is, he would
have been born eight hundred miles north of Rosedale, among the
Algonkian-speaking Indians of the Great Lakes Region. There, north of
Lake Superior, he would have been honoured and admitted to the
Midewiwin, the Great Medicine Society of the Ojibwa. He would have
been recognized as its Sachem; and as its Chief, it would have been
his obligation to perform the aboriginal ancestral rites. He would
have been privy to its cache of hereditary knowledge, secrets of the
past that Madame H.P. Blavatsky attempted to penetrate in 1851 on her
exploratory trip to Quebec City.

Had his karma been more positive than that, he would have been born
even farther north, a thousand miles north of the Great Lakes Region,
among the Inuit of Baffin Island. Here he would have been regarded as
a shaman, a practitioner of the arts of “shamanstvo” which are
associated the ancient tribes of Mongols around Lake Baikal, a UNESCO
World Heritage Site. As an anagok, he would have made ecstatic flights
into the upper atmosphere and been able to access the possibilities of
the future. Indeed, he might have embodied that reference to “an
Eskimo … one of the four contemporary initiated beings” that
Gurdjieff mentioned in passing in “Beelzebub’s Tales.”

Or, had he been born outside Canada, in a foreign country half-way
around the world, in Japan for instance, perhaps in Kyoto, he would
now bear the title “Living National Treasure.” This designation was
instituted by the Japanese government in 1950 to honour contributors
to culture of considerable importance to the present – and hence
eligible for special protection and support.

Instead, he had the ill-luck to be born or at least raised in
Rosedale, a few miles northeast of where we are congregating right
now. Actually, he did quite well for someone who was handicapped from
birth by being a Rosedalian!

There are some positive aspects to an upbringing in Rosedale. For
instance, he was able to receive a great, bilingual education;
associate with “mandarins” like Lester B. Pearson; travel widely;
marry and raise a family; establish a record of heroism with the Royal
Canadian Navy; represent the country as its High Commissioner in New
Delhi; become Ambassador to Nepal; study and work with various
Gurdjieff groups; write an important book on ecology; and meet Barbara
… and change his name.

Let me dwell on the latter achievement. His name was changed from a
spondee to an iamb. Readers of poetry will know what I mean: from the
spondee “heavy-heavy” ( X X ) to the iambic “light-heavy” (x X). The
spondee “JAMES GEORGE” is now the iamb “Jim GEORGE.”

But his bad luck is our good fortune, for we would not be in his
company on this happy occasion had he lived in the past on the tundra
of the North of Superior, or in the provisional future on the littoral
of Baffin Island, or in the shadow of the temples of the present-day
in Kyoto, Japan. So we can be here, with him, in Toronto, dwelling in
the present, and Barbara too, within the hallowed halls of the Arts &
Letters Club, to mark the ninety years of the fruitful and productive
life at home and abroad of this accomplished man … our High
Commissioner to the World of Values.

Let me conclude. I mentioned earlier the title of Bill Hawkins’s book:
“Shoot Low, Sheriff, They’re Riding Shetland Ponies!” With James
George – that spondee of spondees – now Jim George – that iambic
meter – we have to revise it to read: “Aim Very High, Ladies and
Gentleman, He’s Riding on a Camel!”

John Robert Colombo is a Toronto-based author and editor with a
special interest in consciousness studies. His forthcoming book of
occasional essays is titled “Whistle While You Work.”

P.S. An envelope posted when James George was three days old.


September 15, 2008 at 2:31 pm


Joseph Azize Page


Jeanne de Salzmann

Jane Heap

John Lester

Meetings with Jeanne de Salzmann in 1973

These notes were given to me by the late Dr John Lester. Dr Lester had become a pupil of Jane Heap in London during WWII. If I remember correctly, he told me it was between 1940 and 1942. In 1946, he and all Jane’s pupils had gone to study with Gurdjieff in Paris, remaining with him for more than three years. An Oxford trained physician, he became Jane’s doctor, being with her on the day she died in 1964.

I cannot be certain that he made these notes, but I am certain that he was confident of their accuracy. I never explicitly ask him if he had been at this meeting, but it was, as I recall, implied. He had a vivid recollection of Jeanne de Salzmann’s concern about not only the possible publication but even the dissemination of Jane Heap’s Black Book. This made me think he had been at the 1973 meetings recorded here. However, this is not certain, and his recollection of de Salzmann’s anxiety may have been based on other meetings. I had first thought only to edit the notes, but decided that I should make them available in their entirety, in case it is apprehended that I have selectively quoted them. I am thinking of writing a proper academic article, when time allows.

I have not changed a single word, except to correct spelling errors: e.g. replacing ‘to-day’ with ‘today’.

Part One: The Notes

Notes of Meetings with Mme Salzmann about Jane’s notes.
Switzerland August 1973

How to Work. This is something none of the other books have.
There is plenty published about Ideas but not
about How to work.

Perhaps the thing to do is to prepare a small volume on this. Then Mme Salzmann will show it to the older ones – Tracol, Mme Lannes, Deselle – to see if it would help.

We must be more DYNAMIC. The idea of the alphabet and index is alright for your own purpose – for practical work to find your way around the notes – but otherwise it is not dynamic enough – it is too intellectual – too like an ordinary dictionary. We have to find another way to select, a more dynamic way.

About Jane’s Black Notebook.
The question about whether these notes were taken from Addison transcripts. (And others as well) Mme Salzmann will ask Mme Lannes if the transcripts taken of all those Addison meetings still exist or if they have been destroyed. If they have been destroyed it makes what we have from Jane more valuable – maybe there are still copies in London – she can find out. There are none in Paris. (contradicted later).

As they are – Jane’s Notes – we would have to shorten them – edit them for reading. When they were given they were spoken – they were for that group to hear – for that moment – that meeting. They were spoken to be listened to. At a meeting – when spoken – the formulation does not matter so much because of the people there – they could be explained – elaborated – questions could be answered. But for reading by other people – people on their own – at home and not in meetings or groups – it would have to be different – and very carefully formulated – absolutely right.

There is too much repetition – too many inaccuracies – they could be misunderstood.

[2.] (On reading JBN for a while) They do not seem like Jane – nor yet Mme Lannes. Not her way. If it was Tracol he would have prepared – he would have his own notes – not Mme Lannes perhaps. There could be some of Jane’s writing in it.

If she had heard this material she would have tried for herself. Was it taken down verbatim at the time or remembered afterwards? If it was taken down – maybe by Cathleen Murphy.

Trouble with the Family and others,
There must be no quotation without permission otherwise the family will sue. They even wish to sue the Canadian Group for the Index to All and Everything – some of which is good – some not so good. Mme Salzmann doesn’t see why that was necessary – if you know the Book – but it was their work and they wanted to do it.

It would be our responsibility to know that anything we proposed had not been published before and would be clear of copyright. Not only from the Family but from Orage – Ouspensky – Nicholls (sic). The copyright of all these are protected.

In America the copyright laws are different from here (England and Europe).

There is even trouble about the Black Book of Gurdjieff Lectures that is coming out in October. But these were written down from memory – much later – and this is different. They could not be claimed as the writings of Gurdjieff.

We must remember that what we do will be for the benefit of Jane – editing and shortening – and not hold back or hold on to the old memories because we were there – were taught by her.

We must remember that the book will be read by people who never knew or saw Jane.

For this reason we must remember that we have to insure that the book has IMPACT.

(Jane’s sayings – need to be worked up and brought on).

[3.] When we first heard the Ideas – when we were told something – (for example about attention) we would be listening – trying to experience. But we did not know why the Ideas were given in the order they were given. Then later something else was given – perhaps in relation to something else – and it was a step forward. Something had been added. But again we didn’t know or understand why that was given in that way. But something had remained from before, (from the first time) and something new had been added.

When we revise the Notes we have to remember this.

If there is to be a book – a chronological order might be the way – but if in another then on subjects.

The introduction to the book will be very important.

To use the letter of Orage is good (on hearing the draft introduction read aloud) Some of the introduction is good but more is needed – the idea is not bad.

The story of Orage.

Orage had not been trained long enough by Gurdjieff before he began his Groups in New York. When one knows the Ideas well – when they are available to you – something can happen – there can be a danger. It always happens, everyone is exposed to this danger.

Orage had many people around him – he could attract them – arouse their interest – but then something else happened and it was a trap – inside one has to know the danger of this – he began to ‘play’ with the Ideas. To make up exercises of his own and so on. Gurdjieff went to America and he saw what was happening. It was not good and he decided to do something about it.

It would have been useless to say anything to Orage directly – it would have been no benefit for him. He had to receive a shock. He had to feel shame – deep inside. So G. began to talk to O.’s people – behind his back – and told them that they were being told nonsense – taught wrongly. There is a talk about it all in the Third Series. Naturally it soon got back [4.] to O. – there was much disturbance. G. then told every one of O’s people that they had to choose and that they would have to sign a paper and would solemnly swear never to see or speak to Orage again.

There was to be a special meeting of all O’s people and they were then to sign.

Mme S was there when Orage telephoned G – having of course heard about this meeting – Mme S heard the conversation on the second earpiece of the phone. O asked if he should come to the Meeting – would G let him come. G said – “Come Orage, come.”

At the meeting when the papers were passed around for signature Orage was the first person to sign. As he gave the paper back to G, he said he hoped he would never see or speak to Orage again. It was very clever – he had felt something – he had been touched.

A shock of this kind makes a complete difference to the direction of somebody’s life.

Orage decided to go back to England – to give up his Groups – to go back into life.

Maybe in another life he would return at just that point.

But not only Orage was put on the spot – every one of his people as well. Many were very upset – Jessie Orage in particular. Of course some didn’t sign, but that was no good for them. They thought they had escaped but they didn’t. G never accepted these people back again.

Perhaps later O. would have returned – maybe he was working – preparing to do so – he always stayed faithful – he didn’t go elsewhere to other teachings – perhaps he had only decided to go away into life for a time.

When Orage died Gurdjieff felt that he had lost somebody valuable.

We must remember there is never enough MENACE in ourselves – never enough hard confrontation. If there is a true confrontation there is an agony – a horror – in that moment of balance. This way or that? Whichever way we go is an escape. We have to pay. If we give up then we are lost.

[5.] This is why we always have to try and find a place near people who are also trying to work. So that we can relate to each other – to exchange. It is in this place where we give and receive. Only there can something be created. Only in that place where we give and receive at the same time.

We meet someone – read a book – it arouses our interest – we feel that person has something.

Even at a very early age that possibility of interest is there. This arousing of interest happens in our ordinary lives.

We become aware that there is a hunger in us and because of that we follow that interest – we put our energy into that and no longer just as always before on everyday things. In doing that we put our energy onto a new and different level in ourselves.

We meet someone – like you met Jane – who has something different – that meeting raises your interest to this other level – it calls you to give your interest and energy in that direction. That person remains special for you – will always remain so – has become permanent. They have altered the direction of your life.

Then later you will meet something else which will do the same and again raise you to another level. Gradually something becomes your own – what you have received is available to you. And you are in danger. There is a menace for you – a trap. You do not go on – you stay there. It has become too easy and you fall down and allow life to take you away.

You do not stay there with that danger, that menace. You do not find your place. If you lose that position of danger it is hard to come back again.

Then there is TIME. Gurdjieff used to give work of a certain kind, for a time only. And just when people were getting used to that work – beginning to be able to do it – to find it easy, he would sweep it away – destroy it – because of that danger – the danger of it becoming too easy.

Life changes – some of the things we still hear about – read about are now old fashioned. The time has gone for them, and this [6.] is inevitable and according to Law. There is a different way to call people to work now – a way that has to be used today. This we must always be searching for – and at the same time we must remain faithful to the Work – the Ideas – as we received them.

It is easy to make grand efforts – big efforts – to work extra hard on this or that, with terrific energy.

This also can be an escape – can be a danger too.

But if your work is related differently – if it is not just in one part – your mind or your feelings or your body – if everything in you is related and related to that danger – that menace – so that a true confrontation can take place – a confrontation that brings you up with a jerk – then that is different.

What we publish in a book of Jane’s Notes must be absolutely right. Not only because of the family and others in the work – or the general public – the people who are searching and in need.

And today there is a need in many of the young and they accept many of the Ideas that were astonishing to us when we first heard them as part of everyday life. (G. said this would happen in his book – the Ideas are passing slowly but inevitably into life.) But also because there may be someone – some Sufi – Buddhist – Hindu – some Zen in Japan – who would say it was wrong – not part of the true tradition of the work that has and always will exist somewhere in the world. This we must avoid.

Jane apart from her brilliant personality – her amazing qualities – those which she had as an ordinary person before she came to the work – was a very humble person. There was a great humility in her that many people never saw.

Second talk – the following day.

We are not enough challenged. There must always be a demand in you – and in the other person. It is the exchange that is important – it is in the exchange that you can receive some food.

Thinking about Jane’s Notes – I (Mme S) see more clearly now the problem since yesterday.

It is right that Jane should have her place. Something must [7.] be done. Did she write nothing else? Everyone wrote notes about their meetings with Mr Gurdjieff – and about the movements – but not at that time – that was forbidden. He demanded absolute attention to try and experience what he was saying – there was to be nothing else happening like taking notes. But afterwards everyone wrote notes, but they never wrote down anything serious – no exercises – nothing really important that he said – only the trivia and the outside things.

S.’s diaries – I (Mme S) have read them – these should not be published. But did not Jane write anything herself? Reply – No. Maybe she felt she did not need to – she could trust her memory. Are you sure there was nothing in her papers of that kind? Reply – No we would have seen if there was – there were a number of us with our eyes open and looking and even later when the move from her house was taking place, nothing new was found.

There is the need then to find out if there are original transcripts of Addison meetings in London – or Paris – to confirm with what you have (sic). If not there is perhaps a slender volume – but not more. All the rest you keep for yourselves.

(Mme S had not had time to read what we gave her in April) [this sentence underlined by hand]

Further brief notes.

Fear- there must be no fear.

You are not challenged enough – all the time there must be this challenge.

Chandolin – the chalet someone gave to Michel de Salzmann – where the Geneva groups work in the summer – the same village where Lizelle Reymond – who shares the group with M de S.

Bringing everything to the site by special life – the village high in mountains. When sand and cement were needed it was brought by helicopter – only way.

Necessary to make friends with village priest – mayor – gendarme. Now they think we are nice well meaning intelligent people.

It is necessary to do all this. We need to do this more and more. There is not enough contact with life around us.

Part Two: Some Comments

What is the big thing about this document, the really big thing which is so large that we would miss it for the details? I think it is Jeanne de Salzmann’s attitude: not her attitude to the notes of Jane Heap, as such, but to Gurdjieff’s heritage. Related to this is the way she bamboozles the people who have gone to Switzerland to ask her opinion. I suspect that the discombobulation is a technique she used, consciously or otherwise, to protect her attitude to Gurdjieff’s heritage.

First of all, a word on method. It seems to me that, very often, things which we write and say hold the key to understanding ourselves. I started to see this when time and again people’s criticisms of third parties proved to be strikingly accurate descriptions of their own weaknesses. Perhaps the same is also true in respect of strengths. Since I started to ponder this, it has helped to me to ask whether I may not share the very same weaknesses I detect in others. And often I do.

Why is this? I suspect that the elements which make us up are forever subliminally swimming in our minds and our feelings. We are most familiar with ourselves, even if we do not admit that what we see is true of ourselves. As Jane Heap said, something inside us always knows. And if it is known in ourselves, we can more readily see it in others. For this reason, a truthful person often needs a bit of time before they can spot a liar, while one cheat is onto others straight away.

Related to this, an analysis of another person, or even a critique of their ideas is more effective, indeed most effective, when it uses the other person’s own words, because it might grapple with their principles. So let us turn to these notes.

First of all, de Salzmann was struck by the fact that here were Jane’s own notes on “How to work”, something “none of the other books have.” The distinction she draws between the “Ideas” and “How to work” is difficult to establish in practice as even the ideas have a practical force. The ideas relating to self-remembering, self-observation and negative emotions can be put into practice even from the books. One will rarely get very far, but the same is often true even of people in groups. I would say that Jane seldom set out the ideas as if expounding them to the ordinary educated reader. She assumed an acquaintance with the basic ideas, and then offered more advanced ideas to help her students, that their being might grow in line with understanding. These were advanced ideas, of no value without practical attempts to actualize conscious efforts.

Salzmann’s initial idea was for “a small volume” as a tester. At the end of the second day’s discussion she has not shifted: “there is perhaps a slender volume – but not more. All the rest you keep for yourselves.” And this at a point when she had still not read all of the material.

De Salzmann’s opposition was evident from the start even if always apparently prompted by matters of principle: an alphabetical index was not sufficiently “dynamic” (whatever that meant), it was “too intellectual – too like an ordinary dictionary”. And what is so horrifying about an ordinary dictionary? How is an index “too” intellectual? How does one leaven an index with something not intellectual?

The next objection was that the notes cannot have been Jane’s, they were probably “notes … taken from Addison transcripts”. Then, they were not meant to be read, and if one is going to prepare such material to be read then it must be “absolutely right”. Not just right, but “absolutely” right. Then the notes themselves were denigrated: they had “too much repetition – too many inaccuracies – they could be misunderstood”, as if there is anything one can write which cannot be misunderstood.

This all reminds me of two conversations I had with Michel de Salzmann. He had exactly the same attitude as his mother: people should publish only under his careful direction because it might add to the misunderstandings – as if he could control people’s conclusions and thoughts through quiet behind-the-scenes censorship.

Then de Salzmann read the Black Book. Once more she returned to the tactic: “They do not seem like Jane”, before conceding that “There could be some of Jane’s writing in it.”

The next impediment was copyright: Gurdjieff’s family might sue! I cannot conceive why she thought that there was a possibility that any of this text was Gurdjieff’s, let alone why the family would think so, but she was quite categorical: “There must be no quotation without permission otherwise the family will sue. … It would be our responsibility to know that anything we proposed had not been published before and would be clear of copyright. Not only from the Family but from Orage – Ouspensky – Nicholls (sic). The copyright of all these are protected.” So they bore the onus of proving that not only Gurdjieff but even the Orage, Ouspensky and Nicoll estates could not sue (Jane did meet Ouspensky, but not often, and I am not sure if she ever met Nicoll). And what was de Salzmann’s objective basis for thinking that there was any question of material from these three being in the Notes?

Then, note the very subtle reference to the follies of the Canadian Group. Madame did not see why they needed to produce their index, but how allowing she was! The message is clear: don’t make trouble for me like those silly Canadians.

On page three, we have “the story of Orage”. To me, this is the key to what Madame herself did. What she says of him is true of herself. Although like Orage she knew the ideas well, she was “exposed to this danger” of ‘playing’ with the ideas. Also like Orage, she began “to make up exercises of (her) own and so on”. Was she subliminally aware that despite her extraordinary understanding, she did not understand enough for her position? I suspect that she needed to work with and not over other pupils of Gurdjieff, at least with respect to the ideas.

Then on page four is this comment: “Maybe in another life he (Orage) would return at just that point.” This was, from what I have heard, the sort of thing she and Lord Pentland would say from time to time. James Moore gives another example, where she said that if Mme Lannes’ pupils worked she (Lannes) would not have to come back. As if de Salzmann knew and had to say it to these people at this time! What does it mean if not “I am an oracle, I know the decrees of eternity: accept my word”? Ravindra’s “Heart Without Measure” quotes her as effectively saying that she knows what the planet needs: “one can sense it”, she would say. This is all, quite literally, pretentious.

A clue to de Salzmann’s deeper concerns is found at page six. It opens with reiterating that: “What we publish in a book of Jane’s Notes must be absolutely right.” This time, she invokes two groups: first, “people who are searching and in need” with its romantic appeal to the interests of “many of the young”. Why always the young? Are seekers less valuable as they age?

The second group is particularly revealing: “there may be someone – some Sufi – Buddhist – Hindu – some Zen in Japan – who would say it was wrong – not part of the true tradition of the work that has and always will exist somewhere in the world. This we must avoid.”

Why? Why must we avoid it? Why not engage with it in discussion? And can one avoid it? The thesis has in fact been argued by people such as Perry and will be argued in the future, and no Gurdjieff Foundation or Institute can stop them. But at a deeper level: is it true or not? If it is true, what is served by a blanket of silence? Why not explain where and why Gurdjieff makes an advance? What is the value of Gurdjieff’s heritage if it replicates what already exists and always will? But if it is untrue, why not let the facts come out so that at least one can claim the courage of one’s convictions? Why not deal with the danger, by bringing better information to bear?

I suspect that the S. whose diaries should not be published is Solita Solano. Even if it was not, the Solano example is revealing. Because the diaries had not been published in their totality, they were available to be used as a publishing coup. Extracts were made by Paterson who published some in his journal as “The Kanari Papers” and based much of his book “Ladies of the Rope” around them. Apart from the fact that the results in the book were not terribly distinguished, what happened? Did the bottom fall out of the Gurdjieff groups? In fact, hardly anyone noticed. I have read some of those notes: I think that a properly edited and annotated edition would go some way to rehabilitating the image of Gurdjieff: his relationship with women and lesbians emerges in what seems to me to be a rather sympathetic light as he experiments with various ways to help them. But they are more effective in their own words, not in Paterson’s awkward rephrasing.

Why this insistence on a “slender volume” at the most? Ultimately, despite her keen intelligence and her profound understanding, I feel that de Salzmann tried to control Gurdjieff and his public reception, to remake it in something more like her image. And I am quite certain that she had more to learn from the other pupils of Gurdjieff about Gurdjieff’s own heritage. But with those people, she adopted an oracular stance, while she went to Japan and Asia and picked up the “New Work”, and invented her own exercises: a process which has quite quickly lead to the disappearance of the Gurdjieff exercises, and the bowdlerization of Beelzebub, perhaps the two keys to his entire practical system.

Let us come back to this danger of ‘playing’ with the ideas. It is a very deep comment: but there were exceptions: I do not see that Jane, or Mrs Staveley or the Adies, to name but some, succumbed. And why not? What saved them? I think it was loyalty. Loyalty is a real emotion: in its pure form it is a function of higher emotional centre. And it is one which becomes available to us, it is given to us by Great Nature, by a providential arrangement of attachment to the scenes and peoples of our past. This attachment, blended with discrimination and impartiality, leads to loyalty. Loyalty does not exclude understanding: understanding is the first demand for attachment to spark into the higher emotion of loyalty. But that spark can be smothered.

And I personally conclude, without either regret or joy, that Mme de Salzmann compromised her loyalty in her desire to protect the movement.

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 third book, “George Mountford Adie” represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.



Joseph Azize Page


Ferapontoff’s Constantinople notes state that: “Unity is the psychological attribute of immortality.” I would add that consciousness and conscience are perhaps likewise the intellectual and emotional attributes of immortality. The three divine impulses, faith, hope and love, may be the spiritual attributes of immortality. By contrast, death is dissolution and “tumbling to decay”, as Hopkins said. Narrowing of consciousness, stifling of conscience, closure to the divine impulses, and rigidity are all shadows thrown before the remorseless advance of death.

Life is a field in which the materials for the life-beyond-this-life are all found, and can be attracted together to create an operating wholeness. In the chapter “Beelzebub’s Opinion of War”, Beelzebub says that the ‘destiny’ of humans is “chiefly to elaborate – by means of the process of their existence – the vibrations required by Nature …” (p. 1105). On the very next page, he speaks not of producing vibrations but a sacred cosmic substance, “Askokin” (p. 1106). Perhaps there is no relevant difference: perhaps Askokin is as much a vibration as it is a substance. Beelzebub also says that Askokin is generally found blended with two other substances, Abrustdonis and Helkdonis. These latter two substances are the material from which higher being-bodies, namely, “the body Kesdjan and the body of the Soul” are “in general” formed and perfected. Further, Abrustdonis and Helkdonis are transubstantiated “by means of conscious labors and intentional sufferings”. In that process of transubstantiation, Askokin is “liberated” (pp. 1106-7).

This was known to the people of Atlantis, says Beelzebub. Atlantean males would gather in their temples for certain “mysteries” in the “special state” of self-remembering. There they would give themselves over to “active and conscious contemplation the whole time, and in this state performed these corresponding sacred mysteries, so that there should be transubstantiated in them the sacred substances Abrustdonis and Helkdonis.” (p. 1109) Thus they fulfilled two duties at once, the duties of perfecting their higher being-bodies and of serving the cosmic Trogoautoegocratic process (p. 1108). It would appear, although it is not explicitly stated, that Askokin, Abrustdonis and Helkdonis are elements of the active element Exioëhary which can be used both for continuation of the species and for self-perfecting (see pp. 277, 761 and 793). That is, self-remembering, conscious labor and intentional suffering, contemplation, normal use of the sex energy, the production of the soul and of the vessel of the soul (“Kesdjan” is said to mean “vessel of the soul”) and so immortality, are aspects of the one process, the “process of (our) existence” if lived consciously.

The same doctrine is, I think, referred to in the chapter “Purgatory”, when Beelzebub speaks of “intentional contemplativeness”, which he states is “the principal factor for the assimilation of those cosmic substances”, being those “definite cosmic substances necessary for the arising and existence of higher being-parts …” (p. 783). Once more, he tells us in this context that the absorption of the higher being-foods was considered by some of the inhabitants of Atlantis to be “the chief aim of their existence” (p. 783).

Then, Beelzebub states in the chapter “Beelzebub in America” that the practices of what he calls the Mohammedan religion were introduced because the followers of the teaching had “lost the capacity for contemplation and consequently the possibility of understanding truths consciously …” (p. 1010). Again, contemplation is placed at the beginning of a progression of conscious development.

As for faith, hope and love as spiritual attributes of immortality, Beelzebub speaks eloquently of them in the Ashiata Shiemash chapters, stating at the outset that they are the “three sacred ways for self-perfecting, foreordained by OUR ENDLESS CREATOR HIMSELF …” (p. 353). Immortality is thus the prize, but immortality necessarily includes these divine impulses, and therefore is more than a bare extension of existence indefinitely far into time, it is an immortality of faith, hope and love.

In one of the Paris group meetings, Gurdjieff spoke of forming the second body by accumulating a substance, and said that a “will” was needed for this, and a struggle. He stated that this was the “only possibility” of coming to the second body, and that “the only aim is that everything should serve this aim”. Once one has glimpsed the simplicity of Gurdjieff’s methods, many other indications of how the methods all serve the crystallizing of higher bodies spring to mind, or are more quickly spotted. Perhaps Gurdjieff’s self-remembering, the five Obligolnian-strivings, and conscious labour and intentional suffering, can all be integrated into one system: they are integrated as being different notes in the octave of crystallizing higher bodies.

That integration of the methods, their simplicity (the folding of many into one ply), is illustrated in a passage titled “The Opening for the Appearance, the Materialization and the Coating of the Second Being-Body” read on 2 August 1978, where Mr Adie stated that the road to the coating of the astral body was “by means of gradually controlled, directed and divided attention”, which all tended to the harmonization of the life processes within us. He spoke there of the need to be able to remain balanced in the preparation and also in life, so that the inner transmutations could be sustained in their integrity. This text is now in the book, George Mountford Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia.

If the process of Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation is necessary for the formation of the highest being body, the converse is also true, that the formation of the bodies makes a more conscious life possible. As Mr Adie then said: “the formation and completion of the coating of this emotional body … enable(s us) to have the power to return and to enter the daily life of outer activity without suffering the usual dispersal of the emotional body”. In fact, this is, I think, the real reason why we are always forgetting: depending upon one’s vocabulary, one can say either that the higher bodies are insufficiently crystallised or that the soul is insufficiently pure. That this is Gurdjieff’s treaching is apparent from the diagram of the four bodies and the explanation found in Miraculous.

This diagram ties in with the idea of the higher centres. The balancing of our three most amenable centres (thinking, feeling and moving) corresponds to the development of man number 4. The harmonization of the higher emotional centre with these corresponds to the development of man number 5 and of the astral body. Thus, in the Ferapontoff notes it is stated: “The matter of the astral body is to be found in the emotional centre, but it is not crystallized.” Then, the harmonization of the activity of the higher intellectual centre with these corresponds to the development of man number 6 and the mental body. In man number 7, these developments are permanent.

There is found in Miraculous a diagram where alongside the ray of creation are two columns for bodies and laws. The diagram relevantly shows that the fourth (causal) body is subject only to six laws and is made up of the material of the starry world; the third (mental) body is subject to 12 laws and is composed of solar matter. The second (astral) body obeys 24 laws and is of the material of the planetary world, while the physical body under 48 laws is made of earthly matter (p. 94).

All of these various ideas of bodies, centres, energies, matters and laws, are but perspectives from different sides of the one process. On 2 July 1982, Mr Adie said that in the preparation one could, if one’s efforts had come to that point:

… direct a part of my gaze upwards through my brows, to that higher source, the source of the all-pervasive influence of the initiation of all life. It is as if the gaze started in my centre of gravity, and flowed upward, and joined in my head at that opening, to receive the finest impressions coming from the source of everything existing.

This is a reference to the work of the higher intellectual centre and the incipient mental body, which being composed of the matter of the sun does in fact directly receive the influence of “all suns”, the source of all life. Importantly, the process Mr Adie describes is natural. The ground for it has been prepared by the harmonization of the centres, but yet there is required both an understanding and effort, albeit surpassingly subtle understanding and effort.

In this regard, a letter which Adie wrote to Mr Gurdjieff and Mme de Salzmann on 24 July 1949 is interesting. In it, Adie speaks of the latest exercise Gurdjieff has given him, and what he experiences through it, describing the “building up or materialisation of the envelope of my sphere”. He also describes the stopping of thoughts, and an awareness of the “higher emotional body or Kesdjan body or at least something leading to this”. It is clear that he has not to been told to expect it, but nonetheless the concentration of his attention and energies, as directed, has made it possible. Adie explains that when he has the stated experience no negative emotions even appear. He notes that his consciousness seems to shift or be centred in a particular part of his body which I shall not describe. Now initially, his consciousness placed itself there, but now that he is aware of it, he says, this “is to be cultivated … as if from here I am safe in regard to others”.

In the blog on the Prayer of the Heart I wrote about the Christian prayer which makes use of awareness of the breath and its flowing into and through the body. There, too, the consciousness is placed in the body. As it happens, Mr Adie was referring to a different part of the body in this letter, but the principle is clear: when the consciousness has shifted, one can intentionally, by a simple act of will, place the consciousness there again, making possible a fresh experience. The placing in the body undoubtedly provides a stool for a more continuous experience.

One does not have to speak of the higher centres to come to the point of being able to sense the movement of energies through them. In fact, it may even be counter-productive if one speaks unwisely, or perhaps more accurately, if one allows oneself to mix imagination in with what one learns. This type of dreaming can lead to sleep in higher centres. Yet, once one has had an experience of the movement of subtle energies or of the activation of higher centres, then I feel as Mr Adie did, that one should not neglect them. Incidentally, that letter provides contemporaneous evidence of the methods Gurdjieff was using in 1949, and also of Adie’s faithfulness to his teacher.

Why Aiëssirittoorassnian-Contemplation?

Why is Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation necessary for the development of higher bodies? It is worth pondering some portions in the posthumously published Tu L’Aimeras, translated into English and re-edited as Gurdjieff, A Master in Life: Recollections of Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch.

Tchekhovitch recalls that a friend of a member of their Constantinople group had died, and they were speaking of this death when Gurdjieff approached. One of them summoned up the courage to ask Gurdjieff to clarify “how work of a spiritual nature leads to immortality”. They knew that he had said subtle bodies could be formed, but found this obscure. In reply, Gurdjieff gave the examples of stones forming in the kidney, and salt crystallizing from saturation. So too, he said, “psychic substances” can, if they saturate the body, crystallize. Further, a substance such as salt, when crystallized, possesses qualities lacking from the salt dissolved in water. A salty liquid poured into a river will quickly blend into the river water, and while one might detect some salt fifteen metres downstream, there will be no trace at all one kilometer further on. However, if the salt can be crystallized and placed beyond the waters, then it is “theoretically … immortal”.

The river, said Gurdjieff, is life. Life carries away the energies elaborated in us. If we could somehow keep separate from life the higher substances formed by conscious labors then the substances would crystallize more quickly and, like the salt crystals, retain their integrity. Once formed, the new arising has its own destiny. Gurdjieff went on to give the example of bread: one it has been properly baked, bread can no longer be reduced to flour. “Once made, bread has a fate of its own.” But, Gurdjieff went on to add, this does not mean that one must withdraw from what we call ‘life’, as some wrong-headed ascetics do, with the result that they exhaust themselves rather than developing. One must acquire a deeper understanding of the nature of life and separation from it.

Hence, I think, the importance of Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation and making a connection between our experience of it and the manifestations of our lives. One commences the day with the preparation as a means of fostering the elaboration of finer substances.

By consciously collecting oneself within one’s atmosphere, one sets up, by an act of will, a sort of magnetic field for the collection and coherence of finer hydrogens. As the relative tempos of each centre start to come into the sacred relationship, these hydrogens coalesce and form a spiritualised unity according to a pattern contemplated on a more subtle plane of existence.

For this reason, some of Gurdjieff’s exercises end with instructions to rest ten or fifteen minutes in a collected state. One example, from “The Four Ideals” which Gurdjieff gave Mr Adie on 1 October 1948, specifically states that without this “calmness” the results cannot be assimilated and the exercise will have been in vain. It even gives further indications of what is meant by the collected state. Then, in the meeting of 9 December 1946 averted to above, Gurdjieff says that one should not do anything which causes one to emanate excessively: should one wish to accumulate the desired substance, one must come to a concentrated state. The danger he says, is that the results may evaporate like cigarette smoke. In fact, Gurdjieff there recommends that an exercise be finished with a prayer, to ask one’s “ideal” (sic) to help safeguard this result, and even to use the prayer between exercises so as to evoke “a factor of recall”.

In that meeting, and elsewhere, Gurdjieff insisted upon practising and repeating. An undated pencil jotting, found with what I call Mr Adie’s “Paris Notes” is headed Real I. It reads, in part:

Real I
Practise to isolate yourself from everyone, so as to come into this presence.
Real I. This you must practise now to have every aim.
Real I.
Practise for this isolation … Stop considering. … Keep all in. Real I.

As these “Paris Notes” of September 1949 briefly chart the Adies’ time with Gurdjieff, including something of the exercises, treatment and advice he gave, it is a fair conjecture that this piece either reflects a resolution Mr Adie made under the influence of what he was receiving in Paris with Gurdjieff, or even that its terse cadences record Gurdjieff’s own advice to him.

The advice seems to me to tie in with the talk on immortality recorded by Tchekhovitch, and also with another allegory which he relates. Still in Constantinople, Gurdjieff was asked about the proper attitude for a pupil. Imagine, he replied, that you are offered a house in a vast virgin forest with but one condition: you must maintain the fire beneath a cauldron. Even though no one checks on you, you are not allowed to lift the lid of the cauldron, and you know nothing about the boiling substance inside. You know only that you must keep it boiling and never allow the fire to go out. Significantly, no one but yourself verifies that you are doing it correctly. Such dedication, perseverance and honesty are the best attitudes in a pupil. Only later, Tchekhovitch said, did he come to understand what the mysterious alchemical substance might be and why sacrifice was required to obtain its gift.

It is also interesting that the stimulus for this allegory was a question about the desirable attitude in a pupil. I doubt that I am the only one who has for too long not appreciated what we have in Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation. Jane Heap said that we live beneath our privileges. Nowhere, perhaps, is this more true than of we who have learned the morning preparation, but do not use it, or do not pass it on. Gurdjieff said of one version of the preparation: “Do this ten minutes every day for the rest of your life and you will live to bless my name.”

This explains two things: why it is necessary to use the preparation and exercises as Gurdjieff gave them, and why Gurdjieff, de Salzmann, Mrs Staveley, the Adies, all these people, insisted upon the value of trying the exercises in groups. First, the Gurdjieff exercises, and only the Gurdjieff exercises, include this teaching of higher being bodies and integrate it into the entire system in an organic manner. Bennett remarked that exciting as the Subud latihan was, he and others found that they had to go back to the Gurdjieff exercises because a strange sort of will-lessness had developed in them. Second, the more people who use these exercises together, the greater the concentration of higher hydrogens. Gurdjieff placed a lot of knowledge, very concisely and very precisely into the formulation of his exercises.

We will value Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation more if we study and value the teaching on higher being bodies. And of course, this takes us straight to Beelzebub which is filled with references, both direct and indirect, to these higher bodies and their cosmic destinies. As Gurdjieff stated, his pupils should regularly read his book, and they should read it in the manner he indicated: three times, passively, actively and bringing the reconciling scrutiny which can lead to digestion, transforming our knowledge of the book into our own understanding.

This all has an important corollary: the art should, I think, be related to daily efforts in life. We do try this, but perhaps there is scope for more concerted and ever more conscious efforts along these lines. Gurdjieff and his pupils persistently encouraged us to find ways of making connections between the morning preparation and efforts “in life”, so to speak. There is very little exchange on the exercises, and maybe that is prudent. Yet, nonetheless, perhaps it should perhaps be allowed for, even if only once a month or so, amongst those making a study of the art.

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 third book, “George Mountford Adie” represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.



Joseph Azize Page


I have referred elsewhere to “The Four Ideals” exercise which the Adies worked on, at Gurdjieff’s direction, for a period of five months from October 1948 to March 1949. They had other exercises at the same time, particularly the “I AM” exercise. But this one is of some significance, for several reasons. The four ideals of this exercise are Muhammad, Buddha, Lama and Christ (although the diagram made by Adie shows, if I read it correctly, that there are also many other ideals). Other of Gurdjieff’s exercises mention these four ideals, and sometimes also Moses. The exercise is given to facilitate in the person who attempts it the conscious absorption of higher hydrogens. It is effectively, I would say, a prayer of a very unusual type.

There is something literally ‘wonder-full’ about these exercises. According to the transcript of a meeting in Paris of 7 December 1941, someone asked Gurdjieff how he should pray. Gurdjieff replied that this is for later, but there are substances which emanate from the sun and planets (in this respect, see “Purgatory” at pp. 760-1). These emanations, he said, make contact at certain points in our solar system, and can reflect in materialized images which are themselves images of the All Highest, albeit they are what he calls “inverted” images. There are always, he averred, materialized images in the atmosphere, and if only we could sufficiently concentrate, we could enter into contact with the image and receive the substances.

Another aspect of the Four Ideals’ prayer-like nature is that religiosity is not usually associated with Gurdjieff. He is occasionally quoted expressing something like religiosity, but not often. However, in Beelzebub (especially the 1931 edition), in his music, and in the movements, there is rather more. Much of his piano music bears titles such as “”, “The Story of the Resurrection of Christ”, or “Reading from a Sacred Book”. There are even pieces with titles such as “Vespers Hymn” and “Tibi Cantamus”. There is the entire series of “Hymns from a Truly Great Temple” and “Sacred Hymns”. The solemnity and gravity of these pieces is almost overwhelming. In fact, it takes most of us some time before we can bear to open to the music, so powerful is it. Such sublimity requires courage to stand before it. It is easier to subliminally shut down. Then there are movements with titles such as “The Big Prayer”, and “Sense of the Sacred”, which invokes the names of the four ideals. One cannot say much about this teaching without words. But it exists and is an important part of Gurdjieff’s heritage.

Gurdjieff gave directions for prayer, even while warning that it was not prayer such as we ordinarily understand, and that to be significant it has be attempted with all three centres. In Ouspensky’s ‘In Search of the Miraculous’, Gurdjieff is reported saying that the action of conscious praying could itself do for the person what they sought from a higher power.

However, neither here nor in the transcripts of Paris meetings does Gurdjieff say that prayer is ineffectual let alone not to pray. On the contrary, he actually and explicitly gave instruction in how to pray and enjoined it. In other words, prayer is one of Gurdjieff’s methods.

A particular form of prayer which he insisted upon is what might be called “well-wishing”. In one of the Paris groups, someone related to Gurdjieff that he had seen some poor children, and was distraught because he could do nothing to help them. But you can, said Gurdjieff, even if you have no resources: you can wish well for them, and then, it is a law that someone who can help shall do so. The questioner continued in the same vein, he could not assist them. Gurdjieff stopped him: you have not heard what I say. You can, do as I suggest.

Mr Adie said little about this, he placed the emphasis upon changing oneself, but he did sometimes state that we are all related. He would often speak of being in relation. We are connected by subtle threads, and so to what are the others connected? An evolving part of humanity? Mrs Staveley said more about this, and about prayer, and she was correct to.

But whatever one has learned about this, I would suggest that once more, the key lies in Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation. At page 569 of ‘Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson’, Beelzebub goes so far as to state that the soul is made up of substances exclusively obtained from the art of Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation. Gurdjieff taught that only through the crystallization of the higher bodies do we acquire immortality; and immortality, Gurdjieff said, is the goal of all religious teachings, including his own.

To someone who practices the art as the three-centred basis for engagement in life, prayer and well-wishing come naturally. The circumstances of life suggest them. The practitioner knows that prayer is no fantasy, even if it works in ways we find mysterious. But there is a wisdom and even a wonder in that mystery. A high valuation of the art of Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation will bring a valuation of prayer, and a low valuation of the art a correspondingly low evaluation of prayer and well-wishing.

Gurdjieff advised his students to have an ideal: for example, in the meeting of 16 January 1944, with his disarming common sense, he counselled that one cannot recapture the faith of childhood, one is adult now and that faith is not necessary. Yet, he stated, if one does not have an ideal, if one does not believe in God, then one’s parent or teacher can serve as an ideal. As mentioned, on 9 December 1946, Gurdjieff advised that when finishing an exercise one could make a prayer to one’s ideal to help guard what one has received or attracted until the next exercise.

This concept of the ideal is referred to several times in the Paris groups, and it is worth studying. Many of us have found that what we thought of as ideals whether religious, political, social or otherwise were idols (ideals with which we became identified), and we came to see our idolatry as a foolishness. To an extent, Gurdjieff’s methods enabled us to see both idol and idolatry with more clarity. But it does not follow that there are no ideals or that there can be no service, no genuine being-faith. To take one’s teacher as “ ideal” does not mean to pretend that our teachers were perfect. In so far as they represent a teaching, they represent an ideal. The ideal himself, as Gurdjieff said in the Four Ideals, is high above the earth. We approach the ideals by stages. We ourselves are flawed, and are far from God, but we can take an ideal which corresponds to our situation and raise ourselves by steps.

Finally, in the Four Ideals exercise there is an order given to the movement of higher hydrogens through the body. Some of the Paris groups meeting transcripts refer to this passage of energies. Other traditions, especially from Asia, give very precise indications of how different forces move through the body. While there is no doubt that there is a sort of psychic circulation system which follows its own laws, these laws are not on our terrestrial level. The blood of the astral body (Hanbledzoin) does not behave like the blood in our veins and capillaries: it possesses a greater degree of consciousness. Hence, as Vaysse says, even if one has a skeletal deformity, one can use the preparation. If one brings consciousness to the body and the movement of the breath, that very consciousness will assist the passage and transformation of the energies.

I think that there is a danger in the reports of the Asian systems, such as those of Hinduism and Buddhism. They are so clear and precise that they almost suggest that the higher hydrogens flow like water through copper pipes. I cannot say that this is wrong, but neither is it the whole of the truth. They move with a passage which defies description even when it is experienced. What we experience of this movement we have to account to ourselves. Our account is necessarily influenced by what we already believe and have previously experienced. What seems to us to be an entry of forces may in fact be the manifestation of forces which are within: the feeling of entry may, on occasions, be a trick of the eye. What seems to us to take time may not: it may be instantaneous but presented to our experience as if sequential, and the sequence may even be the opposite of what we think. That is, the movement of these energies may be first noticed by the conscious mind when it is completing. Then the very last of a chain of unconscious or superconscious experiences is the first to impinge upon our awareness, and our awareness but sometimes, but not necessarily always, reconstruct the order and so present it to us in reverse order. Something like this happens with our visual impression of lightning.

This is all said so that one does not trust too much in second hand accounts whether oral or written, but rather in one’s own experience. Having said that, certain of the preparations which the Adies had taped do provide some very valuable information. They would warn us not to imagine what they referred to, but to watch for it. It is rather as if an experienced astronomer advised in which section of the heavens one should watch to see a very faint star.

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 third book, “George Mountford Adie” represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.


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