Gurdjieff's teaching: for scholars and practitioners

G. I. Gurdjieff's teaching, research, books, conferences


Joseph Azize Page



Helen Adie

The role of feeling in human life is all-pervasive. In art, religion, spirituality and the development of consciousness, its role is, if possible, yet greater. As a human energy, in Gurdjieff’s teaching, feeling lies between the intellectual and moving-instinctive forces on the one hand, and the sexual on the other. Since the sex centre produces the finest energies usually known to us, the role of feeling in connecting and harmonizing the work of centres is axial.

Feeling is the contact between the intellect and the soul (in Gurdjieff’s terminology, “the astral body”). If the astral body is the body of the higher emotional centre, then the feeling centre is the bridge between the higher emotional centre and the intellect.

This understanding is essential, because, in my humble opinion, the goal of “harmonious development” is chiefly achieved by the ordering action of the higher centres. For many years the work is a work of the lower centres to “discipline”, if one can use that word, themselves. This is a very difficult business, and for the great majority of people who join groups, this is practically (but not completely) all that they ever know. Perhaps, too, for this very reason, the majority of people do not persevere for the significant periods needed before the higher centres become active.

To put it another way, the lower centres can be prepared, so that they are receptive to the work of the higher centres. Then the necessary work of coating the astral body can proceed at more than a snail’s pace; and then we can see with our own eyes where we’re heading, where we go wrong, where we have gone wrong, and what to do about it. The higher centres can even repair, as it were, the work of lower centres, and ensure that they use their proper energies.

But feeling is not something we understand terribly well. Our culture is oriented towards the body and towards the head. The arts (poetry, music, painting, drama and so on) all provide possible, but only possible means of touching the feeling and harmonizing the centres, so that the organism as a whole is enchanted, as it were, with the energy of the feeling centre. But sadly, modern art is chiefly an intellectual art.

That is why the example of those who have gone before is an indispensable help. Some people have had a being-understanding of what it is to live a life in which feeling is active. With that in mind, I am presenting this material taken from a group meeting with Mrs Adie held at Newport, Sydney, on Thursday 10 March 1983. Some of the material in this meeting is critical to Gurdjieff’s practical method. At the time, we were studying chief feature, and had been requested to write, in not more than 50 words, how we saw our chief feature, and what practical steps we intended to take to deal with it. This night we handed in the assignment, and so the meeting was conducted with the influence of that task.

Everything here has been said before, but Mrs Adie’s way of saying it is valuable. She was a personal pupil of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and De Salzmann. Her unique formulations, based on her own experience and understanding, may perhaps touch some people where, for whatever reason, other forms of words would not. Her work with music and sacred movements gave her, perhaps, even greater opportunities for understanding.

Much which Mrs Adie said this evening concerned the practical use of the force of feeling. The gathering of the attention through conscious sensation, she said, is the necessary prelude to the gathering of the feeling. But necessary as the first step is, it is only the start. It can seem to be more because the development of the octave of presence can occur in a flash. Consciousness includes an understanding of the apparently instantaneous process, and teachers like Mrs Adie can illuminate the path, and separate out what otherwise might be blurred.

The first question came from Mitch, who saw his biggest obstacle as “a very strong part of me that wants to be brilliant at work.” So pervasive was this, that the 30 minutes he devoted to the morning preparation were lost in dreams about his “brilliance”, past, present and future. After she had elucidated the facts, Mrs Adie said:

“How can you let it go on? It’s so absurd. You forget what you’re doing this preparation for. That is the monster that you have to struggle against at that time. Before you begin you must find some will. You have to develop it, we have very little … so we must develop it. You remember what your interest is at that moment. It is to find your reality and stay there, so that to sit there lost in dreams must be impossible. Ten minutes is an eternity. If you’re working, ten minutes is a very long time.”

Mitch replied that at the end of the preparation he felt he had no energy to combat dreams. “I knew”, he said, that “it would be a bad day, and it was. Although I tried sensing my limbs, I didn’t remember a single appointment.”

“Yes”, replied Mrs Adie, “but dreaming all through the preparation can’t be a justification for failing. You can’t assume that you’re going to fail during the day. It’s too passive. You have to take it more seriously now. How can you reason with yourself?

“You see the absurdity of it. Feel what it is that you want. It’s feeling that you lack. Sensing your limbs is very good, but much better if you add to it some feeling of yourself and try to stay with that. It’s the unknown. That’s where the force is, the power. It’s in the feeling. It’s very good for the attention to sense your limbs. To begin with it draws your attention together. But there’s no feeling in that, it’s the feeling that has the force. You have to try to remember how you have felt yourself with some force. Then perhaps your feeling can have some weight, and you find then that it is something very desirable. But it is just not serious enough if you’re sitting down and dreaming. At the start, we have no power to combat dreaming, but by now you must have more capacity. It must be much more urgent for you. Everybody has that problem that you spoke of, dreaming of the glorious feats they’re going to perform in their own area.”

The next question, from Alby, concerned an observation of a fear of ringing someone up, and confessing to an error.

“There are two things there, first is this image, which I do not need to believe in quite so much, and secondly all the imagination which goes on around it. This has happened before: you have spoken about it before. So it’s an opportunity. This image is one of our chief enemies. Everybody has some sort of image, based on an automatic tendency. Some part of me knows that it’s pure imagination, and that it’s really very harmful. It’s strange, but it is so. I think everyone has to find their own way, but in any case, whenever I am aware of it, I can at least stop dreaming about it. I can relax inside, because a fear is always bound up with the image.

“Just let it drop, and face the situation – intelligently. Whenever you catch yourself dreaming about it, put your attention somewhere else. Don’t try and explain it, you know what it is. And now you also know that however sweet it might seem at times, there is a fear accompanying it. Every time you indulge in this dreaming about it, you encourage it. We’re educated to have it: what our parents and teachers say about ourselves and others, prizes and competitions, all part of our famous education. “Look at how clever he is!” You’ll have plenty more opportunities.”

Sef spoke about how, remembering his aim, he had a sense of presence and control. But then, what to do? The state dissipated.

“Remember when that happens that your aim is not to do something but to be. It’s partly because my personality is always wanting to do something. I’m not quite content to be just present. There must be something going on. Of course, there is something going on, but personality wants something superficial. Yet, there is something you have to do, in a way. If you’re with people, you have to have some attention on yourself, some presence, and act in an ordinary way with the people. But an ordinary way which has some concern for the people you’re with – I mean that they are taken into account.

“Don’t be too clever about it. Just be simple, or you end up stuffy and superior. It’s another identification. You can never win an argument with your personality, it’s much too wily. You just go to your presence. It can happen with people in the work … they have this air of being superior, and there’s nothing going on inside at all. It’s dreadful. It’s much better to be normal.”

At that, we broke into laughter. The next question came from Belle. Over the course of the summer holidays, she had lost what most of she had seemed to have gained. And now, she lamented, she did not have the feeling she felt that she should.

“It’s no good telling yourself you should have feeling. There is no excuse now for the preparation to be lackadaisical. You’re not there. It doesn’t come into your mind, what you’re about to do. In a way, you have to prepare for your preparation. To be aware that an important moment of your day is about to start, and that effort is necessary. Everybody goes up and down. And it happens a lot when people go on holiday. They seem to imagine, I don’t know why, that they will enjoy themselves less if they are working. But it’s not true, it’s the opposite. Perhaps they have the wrong idea of “work”.

“It is an effort. Everyone must realise that everything depends on the time of preparation. I have got to impress it on my personality, that it has to be quiet. I have to try and find some real force of my own. Personality will always be there, but there has to be something there to oppose it. And I have to realize in advance that that is what I have to contend with. There must be some force got from that preparation, and for that, there must be an effort.

“The feeling for work, the feeling of wanting to work, comes from the effort of trying to work, otherwise I let go and I don’t even miss it. I don’t think about it, or I may have a very guilty feeling somewhere, but it doesn’t achieve anything. It has to be a definite effort to maintain my attention, even if it’s for a short time.”

Someone then spoke of how in writing his task out, the second part had “come from the head”, and so he had lost the benefit he might have had.

Mrs Adie was not so sure: “No, but it’s not nothing. It’s something you can start with. And you can move on from that. It gives you a picture. And just because it comes from your head doesn’t mean it has to be discounted. It’s likely to come from your head, and there are different parts of your head. Your head could hardly play no role in such an exercise. It seems to me that you have a basis. Now see what takes place. How do you make a practical line with it? Are there definite situations where you realise it comes up, with different people? People you always react to the one way?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Then make appointments for those times. In general, I have to be awake much more, but how to be awake more often? We’ve tried to awaken ourselves on the hour, but if nothing happens, it’s better not even to try. You can create other alarm clocks for yourself. In fact, we have to. But there is a lazy part of ourselves which does not want to.

“It’s difficult to make a clear plan as we don’t really know what goes on. We sleep all day long, and have nothing to remember except moments of violence: if we have a frightful row with somebody, or some painful considering where we suffer acute embarrassment: then it makes an impact.”

A young woman then said that she had seen two parts of her personality. One side sees itself as a marvellous person. However, the other side, when it sees that she’s not so marvellous, plunges itself into depths of despair and anguish.

“One’s just as false as the other. It’s just another side of the same coin. We all have that. But what’s your attitude to it? Where are you in connection with it? If you find this presence in yourself, you feel it in your “I”. The absurdity won’t live with it, it can’t. If you’re asleep, it can even awaken you. What you have to find is where you react very quickly. I don’t mean to tell me right now. But that is one thing you can look at. What attitudes and reactions come up too quickly for me? In fact, these are the features of sleep. Can I find my interest in that? If I have no interest in that, I am in my personality.

“That is where the preparation is useful. I have to come away from my personality for it to be a preparation. I have to experience what is real in me. It is from the impact of that, the force, that I am reminded during the day. I cannot sleep so deeply.”

Then someone who had been in groups for 30 years remarked that his chief feature still seemed the same: fear and laziness. The fear, he saw, was often connected with the wounding of his self-image. Yet, he added, even seeing this gave hope, “because if there is something there then it must be possible to be.”

“To begin with”, Mrs Adie said, “I have not to believe in that picture. A long as things are going well, there is no fear. But once that changes, the fear arises. And at the same time, when everything seems to be going to pieces, there is nothing left but me.”

Significantly, she added: “That feeling of me can be very strong. There is something there that nobody can destroy. Only I can destroy it myself, with my own personality.

“Yet, I have to be active outside, too, I have to use my head in a practical way, see the situation for what it is, and use my head to make the situation right, but without this picture. It’s part of my life obligation. But the fear is imaginary. It’s not a fear because I fear I will fail in my life obligation; it’s because it offends my image. Remember, you can’t argue with it. Dismiss it from your mind when you find yourself going over it.

“But when you are real, nothing can touch you there. There has to be something a little more steady, a little quieter, inside. My head lets me down terribly when I am taken by fear: my thoughts become quite unreasonable. If you could remember a little more often to be more quiet in your feeling: not a lazy quiet, but a but steadier.”

I feel that this is the key, perhaps even the final key: it relates to what Gurdjieff says in the chapter “Hypnotism” about different tempos of blood circulation. It is something we must return to, but essence is active when the corresponding tempos proceed in me. The trick is to be able to sense the tempos (or range of tempos), where they are taking place, and where they are not.

The next question was rather argumentative, but something Mrs Adie said in reply was important: “If I make an effort which is really a conscious effort, then higher parts of my centres are used. The effort comes from going against an inclination, a struggle with sleep, the denying part, and if it is made for its own sake, that is one thing. But if it is mixed with a life motive, then it is muddied.

“You will find it in very small things in life: something in me does not want to do it. The smaller it is, the less significance for me personally, the clearer it is that it is done for consciousness. The efforts we make are often very simple, but an effort against the reluctance of my body and personality really counts: it produces finer matters. This creates the very highest energy. It’s absolutely magical, but people are not very quick to see it.

She then gave a new exercise, one for the production and distribution of feeling energies throughout the body. I cannot give that here. But I can say that working with it has helped me to see something quite vital, and that is the thought I opened this blog with.

The ordering of our lower centres comes from and is done by the higher centres. Once someone asked Mr Adie about the relationship between the higher centres and God. “Well they are God”, he replied. At the time I wondered if this was not a rather ready paradox. But now I would say that I know better. Mr Adie was speaking from his own experience, an experience which transcends mine.

The action of becoming a new person, the action of “salvation”, if you like, seems to us to come from our own efforts. And I think, contra Luther, that our own efforts are essential. But in fact I can now see that the effective work comes from the higher centres, although was once by no means apparent to me. I now think that Mr Adie was saying that in the same way, what seems to us to be the work of higher centres is itself the work of God, even if that is no means apparent to us.

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: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.



December 7, 2008 at 4:28 pm

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