Gurdjieff's teaching: for scholars and practitioners

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

Archive for the ‘DON'T TRY TO ESCAPE – Wake up in it!’ Category

DON’T TRY TO ESCAPE – Wake up in it!



George Adie

Don’t Try to Escape – Wake up in it!

Don’t Try to Escape – Wake up in it!

On 29 July 2009, it will be 20 years since Mr Adie died. These extracts are from a group meeting of Tuesday 26 February 1980.

The first question was from Anne, who was pregnant: “Looking back on my work through the break, I see there’s a sort of wave like process. I go up and down. And I find that I really seem to need a practical approach. I seem to get in a slump where I don’t know; where my days are all the same, and I don’t know how to work in a practical way. I’m sort of afraid that this will continue like this, especially since I mightn’t be coming to groups for a while. I just feel there’s that continuing cycle that I can’t get out of. I need a direction, or something.”

“Well, really, you know, don’t try and get out of it. Why not, why not wake up in it? Then you could use it. We’re always trying to get out of something, you see. Something presses on us. We don’t seem to think there’s actual value in this difficulty. Try and accept this wave-like motion. If it’s truly so, it’s useful. I know I’m going down, brakes are required; I’m going up, take the brakes off. I mean, different inclinations require different types of effort, don’t they? Sometimes I need to lie down and go to sleep. Other times I need a little bit of force, I need to try and work.”

He turned to Mrs Adie: “Well, I’d like Helen to help me on this question.”

“I think you’ve covered it very completely!” she said with a humorous emphasis.

Then Mary brought her difficulty: “Mr Adie, I’ve been trying to evaluate my situation, and to find a way out of this confusion that I feel I’ve been in for quite some time. And I came to see that I don’t really know how to conduct an inner search. And quite practically, it means that somehow I don’t know how to work during the day when I make a plan. And I think that is connected with the confusion, so that my general state is rather low, and I’m so easily taken. I’ve tried to think about the meaning of the term “inner search”, what it could mean, and I’ve had some thoughts, but somehow they don’t connect.”

“You have in fact made a lot of important connections there: what you say is of good value,” replied Mr Adie. “Do you think that you’re more confused? Rather, it’s only now that you see that the confusion. It’s how you’ve always been, except that you were in it so badly that you were oblivious to it. You’ve been racing like a hare after some prey or other, or running to escape from some dog. In that chase there seems to be clarity, there’s no doubt. But all it really meant was that I’m taken, I’m going hell-bent for that one thing. I’m actually hooked. If I am fully identified all the time with one thing, I seem to know, I seem to be in no confusion. But real choice can’t exist in confusion, so immediately I approach a power of choice, it brings the awareness of confusion.

“What you say is absolutely right. But it means to say you’re seeing your confusion, and that rather sets one back – you feel less sure, you feel in query. And then you raise these very important questions which are related to it. That represents a fairly long thought, what you’ve just been saying. So you are not in that sort of absolutely hopeless situation, whatever you might seem to conclude. On the contrary, you are already beginning to pass through a gate, because you feel the need now, you see that in confusion not much is possible, and you begin to see what confusion is, you begin to experience it, there’s no doubt now. Your old certainty was more confused than the new uncertainty.”

At this point, Mr Adie turned to Adam, and asked him with [what] he was following. It was extraordinary how he would be aware of any dreaming in the groups. Adam admitted that he had been lost: he was, he said, “acutely uncomfortable”. Then, recommended Adie, “raise your eyes, and keep on with your practice of relaxing and sensing, and quietly listen.”

Adam made some movement, but it wasn’t enough. Adie prompted him: “Eyes higher still, and then relax. There’s nothing for you outside in that way, it’s all inside. Let everything come in that will come in. Try and centralise yourself. Try and cease from your tense striving. Let all that be passive, let your own central relaxed awareness be your only action, that’s the only thing that’s necessary to you, nothing else.”

Paul spoke: “I feel I’m on a plateau, and I can’t see any real way sort of up from it. I’ve been finding for some time now, my appointments during the day have been very seldom kept, and I used the stone, but now it seems to have no effect at all.” This was a reference to a task which involved moving a stone from pocket to pocket as a reminding factor.

“But that was only for a week,” said Mr Adie. “You had the right to go on a bit longer, but one goes on too long with these things. You want to go and break a window with that stone, and find something quite different.”

Paul moved on to something else: “I was talking to someone the other day, who’s not in the work, but who touched on an alternative way of looking at things. And this was, instead of looking inside, to take the concept of the universal light or the universal absolute, and looking upon myself merely as a receiver, and as a transmitter, that if one could become totally free from all the rubbish, one could then tap into any part of this universal mind.”

“Yes,” replied Adie, “but the problem about all that is this little word “if”.” People laughed at the simplicity of the comment. Paul, however, defended the concept, saying that it “seems to align with the work”.

But Adie did not agree. “In words it aligns. But you started from the fact that you don’t carry out your exercise appointments. What is going to help you do that? You say, “if I could be full of this impression”. But you’re not.”

“There’s no particular harm in what that person said, but what is their method? Looking on higher things, or what? If anybody is really working, they do what we do. There’s only one way to work. The best way is to work a little tiny bit, that’s the right way. There is no other way. If you don’t have attention, what work is possible? If you don’t awake, what work is possible? If you haven’t got some centre of cognition, what choice is possible? With no choice there’s no control. It means nothing. What we have is the eternal, absolute instructions, plus the connection with our lives. The question is work, I need to work. For that I need to relax, I need to receive impressions, I need to not identify.”

Still, Paul went in to bat for this method: “The way I was starting to work was to divest myself of the garbage, to be more free.”

“But how? How do you do that?”

“To see the rubbish, and be free of it.”

“Yes, but how do you do it? This is the question of presence, non-identification, confrontation, objectivity, all these things are necessary in order to see it. And I need to see the actual moments in my life by choice, and these are the appointments. If I don’t keep them, then I am subject only to accident when I get an odd prod from outside. What I need to do is somehow to plan a bit, a little. If I could plan very little, it would make an enormous difference. Then I would get more related, if you like, shocks or prods, or stimulus from outside.”

I will just pause here for a moment to point out the importance of what Adie said about making appointments as part of a plan for use during the day. By formulating a strategy, we exercise, in the form of exercise appropriate to a spiritual discipline, our judgment and our will. We aim to introduce an intentional current into our lives, which runs side by side with the events of the day, and then, at the decided time, we disrupt the established tempo. By consciousness, then, we come to consciousness. But to return to Mr Adie’s explanation to Paul.

“Work is work. That is the whole thing with people. Everything you read in all religions is there, but what is missing is the way to do it: have being, have love, have compassion for all people, be free, tell the truth, honour thy God. But how? And then I find I’m confused, as Mary said, which means that it’s beginning to enter into me. Directly that kind of confusion arises, as a result of seeing something, I begin to have a certain kind of discrimination. I see that this is the position at the moment. So in all this confusion, what?”

“If I understand it at all, I understand it because there is something representative in me that is capable of recognizing, not just theorizing, but actually experiencing confusion, and being present to be unable to decide … and not giving up. And if I can sustain that for a certain time, balanced, the requirement will come to me, there’s no doubt. It gives a chance for higher reason, which works very quickly, to see what is necessary.”

“Whatever you find, try it and see, and then if you find it profitable bring it, but not, not if it contradicts the work. I don’t want to take anything away from you, and if you find those concepts help you, good, then try, prove it – the work. The thing, the important point is, are any of these advices included in the work? Do they have any work in them? You started from a good point: your realisation of a lack of power, of the diminishing effect of the task, is brought about by the little bit of work you have done. None of us have worked enough, but even the little we’ve worked brings some realisation. But then I say, oh, let me find a different way.”

Paul was, apparently, put out, although I must say that he remained with Mr Adie for almost ten years, right up until Mr Adie’s death, so, at some deep level, he respected Mr Adie’s advice. But tonight he was defensive: “It was really the concept of, seemed to bring a breath of fresh air.”

“We don’t accept to resolve confusion through over-simplifications, or talking about something we cannot live. Try and have some practical experience of force in you. If you could have that, there’d be much more fulfilment. See, if I feel that I’m confused, what force can I have really? It’s a very good thing that I haven’t got any, because in confusion what would happen to it? Which way would it go? The very confusion robs me of appreciable force, but there is something of a higher quality, which can respond in a very small degree to the higher forces. If I can only contact that, then the process starts. It’s a very fine process, I need to be as much balanced as I can. I need to have my head quiet, not interfering with my body. I repeat that the head is always cut off, it’s not in control of the body at all, it’s just dreams, my head isn’t fulfilling any proper function, it just dreams, thinks of easier ways and that sort of thing, you see, but go on trying, try and come to the right reasoning yourself, you see.”

The next question, from Ellen, who was, what I believe they call a clinical psychologist, meaning that she gave/administered certain therapies or treatments to people, was rather similar: “Mr Adie, this week I’ve had two experiences which have left me in some confusion.”

“Then take them one at a time. Shortly, start with what the first one was.”

“I was reading a psychology book which presented ways of controlling one’s behaviour either by Eastern methods like meditation or Western methods of self-observation, and they presented the idea of observing one’s focus, either internal focus or external focus, and on Sunday at the work I was reminded of this when I was given a task, I was doing some ironing, and sort of got into it in my usual way, and suddenly I noticed that I was, I don’t know … sort of, probably …”

“Observation. What was the observation?”

“I suppose it would have been identified with the ironing, just rushing into it, I suppose I was lost, but … I thought … I think the idea is that I was identified with ironing, and I was reminded then of the focus, and then I tried to change that, and the next moment I found that my focus had changed to something like identified, and I was even more lost than before.”

“I think it just shows that you’re mixed up with ordinary psychology, the psychology of pathology, and the pathology of psychology and so on, and it’s all a big confusion, it’s partly what Paul was talking about, and the words are very close, meditation and internal focus and external focuses, and all that. So many words. I have to really guard. I’m sorry you’re studying books on Western psychology. In a learned way they go round and round and round and round, and when they’ve done this long circle round, they’ve forgotten where they started, and they start going on again and again.”

While Adie was saying this, people were breaking up with laughter, but he didn’t play it for laughs: “So your job to become a purveyor of psychological freedom, or of administering psychological treatment, or teaching others how to deal with psychological defects is a great danger … it’s all slightly in the realm of head-shrinking of one kind or another. All the words are there. But you see too that
the terminology about internal focus and external focus, doesn’t help you. But in trying to work, we get all sorts of reminders, connections and impressions of all sorts.”

“We don’t want to dispense with any of them, but we do need to sort them out, if we can. There’s no reason why this thought of internal and external focus really should knock me over, but first of all I have to have this experience of my inner focus, and I can talk about it without having it at all. This is the danger. If I have it, then I don’t get trapped in the words. You follow? So I need to have something going on in me that isn’t words. A word may help me tremendously: it touches something, it quickens me. At that point I need to understand the point and not go on with this word, word, word. After three repetitions, it’s gibberish. But if I can remain there, I don’t need the word: I have it, it’s transformed, it’s a force within me.”

“Take an invocation: you call. Once the call is answered, you don’t go on. You call to God, if you like. I find it’s answered. Well then, are you going to call to another God or something, or go on? No. There’s a fine contact made. If I really observe, I receive a certain living experience, very fine, very short, but in ordinary life-time, very long: now I need to be present to everything. Does it mean anything at all, what I’m saying, or does it seem an awful lot of words again?”

“It helps. I don’t let words outrun the experience. ”

“It can help now because you’re a little bit relaxed. Good. If you do a preparation, surely some of you will have had this experience, and say you manage to get a bit quiet; surely sometimes a good idea comes, you either see what you mustn’t do, or what you need to do, or how you need to be. Maybe you even realise that it’s important enough to try and make a note of it so that you don’t forget. So you go and write it down. Before you’ve finished writing it down you’ve lost it, it’s gone into words, if you’re not careful.”

“Yes, I’ve had that experience.”

“There you are. But that doesn’t mean to say you must stop writing. It means that instead of getting lured into two or three pages, we try and allow to come out what will come out while I’m present. I need to see if I’m there or not there. It means I’m continually trying, but not getting tense. Good, it’s a good question, I have to answer it for you.”

The next question was difficult to listen to and to transcribe. And yet there was a sort of serious drama about it. Tonight, Kevin, who brought the questions, contended with Mr Adie, obstructed him, answered him testily on occasions, and yet, he too, remained with him, and like Paul, was a force in the group after Adie’s death. The exchange opened up simply enough, until Kevin referred to “what I’m supposed to be doing at that time”. When Adie asked him whether he was referring to an inner work or an external doing, a very odd mantle of obtuseness fell on Kevin. He would say “I start by doing the work”, and refer to “my planned work”, but never specify which work.

Finally, in respect of this and other obscurities, Adie said: “You see, the fact that I don’t formulate clearly shows me that I don’t think clearly. I need to formulate very simply. If I mix up my inner aim with any sort of life processes, I can’t think properly. You’re inclined to mix it up, and this is what spoils an observation, but it’s good to bring it because this is how it’s straightened out.”

After much more discussion, Kevin said that he had, during the week, been in a position where he realised that he could not think or even make an internal movement. He was shocked by what seemed to him to be, I might say an extraordinary and unique seizure, an internal paralysis.

“Not unique,” said Adie, “it happens time after time. This is what Gurdjieff means by “nothingness”. It goes on more or less. all the time for all of us. What a horrible business. You were lucky, you actually had an experience of no reality at all – you couldn’t function in any way. It’s a very valuable experience. You had to struggle here to try and to say that simple thing. Well don’t leave it go, try and work on that, find out what robs, you find out what stands in the way, make appointments, try and keep them. It’s a good example.”

Kevin now asked, in what sounds to me like a rather truculent way: “My question is, is it better to try and prolong that time, or is it better to have more of them?”

Adie paused, and then replied: “Both – but you can’t do either. If you work, you will get more opportunities, and if you respond to them, they will tend in the end to get longer. But then this is words again.”

“ You see, the kind of understanding that I receive from seeing that I am absolutely fixed and have no choice, is one of these flashes which lasts for one ten thousandth of a second, but endures in my mind for weeks. It can enter into me for weeks as an influence, which I’ve received. I’ve received, let me now not let that disappear. I can’t profit by immediately identifying with that, so it helps me to be brought up to it. It’s a very subtle thing. We want to tackle it with great big spanners and hammers, but it’s not possible to do delicate things with such tools.”

Then Andy brought this: “Mr Adie, during the break period, the efforts that I have made have left me with a feeling that I lack organization, both inwardly and outwardly. The plans that I make in the morning seem to me to be, good value for me, something that I need, but it still doesn’t seem to follow a line, it seems to be scattered. Individually they’re worthwhile efforts, but as a whole, going towards something, I can’t seem to keep to an aim. I tend to go away, I never seem to be able to follow towards something.”

There is a lengthy silence on the tape. Finally, Adie spoke: “You want to go forward toward an aim. Bring it nearer. Best be practical. Remind yourself of the main direction, your main big belief, the belief you started with, that man had a possibility, that there was a path, that there was a noble life as well as an ignoble, and so on. It’s true. And what is the step now? What is the immediate requirement? I have to have these intermediate aims, because if you don’t work now, you’ll never … come to earth. How short is it necessary to make the aim? Could you make an aim for fulfilment in one hour, or half an hour? And possibly choose another moment for renewal, when the circumstances will be such that you can’t now predict. You don’t know what your state will be at lunch time, do you?”

“So, you have your immediate thought, what you’re going to try and obstruct, study, change, use transform. Try and choose something within reach, that’s important for you, and then try and have an appointment at midday, to see what kind of effort you need then. You won’t know exactly what is necessary. In principle, yes, but you won’t know the details. So in order to make it very practical, try and make a fresh near aim at lunch time. See, ideally, if we could renew our aim every five minutes, that would be a marvellous thing. In other words, we would live five minutes at a time. The trouble is that after one or twice we should immediately start to slip into a dream, and we wouldn’t even notice the end of the five minutes for which we were planning. So it’s no good trying to do a thing that we can’t. So let’s have one appointment, a little way ahead, and then an appointment to make an appointment at some time. In this way you can make it more practical, without these unfulfilled appointments and misses. There are things which you need about which you have no doubt, so what about those? And make the connections, all sorts of connections to be made with any plan.”

Now Adam spoke, in a voice I can only describe as very heavy: “I haven’t been on the search for some time. I’ve found I need to overcome negativity, evidenced in certain things that I do, recurrent situations that always trigger off absolutely predictable reactions. Right at the end of last session, the exercise that we were given gave me released energy to help me deal with these situations, but that energy was no longer forthcoming over the break.”

“Did you do the preparation?”

“You bet!” This was emphatic. “And I got more and more depressed because they were having less and less effect.” This was hammered in, and suddenly he expostulated, for no apparent reason: “No! I’m not going to speak.”

The first time I heard this, I was expecting a rebuke to issue from Mr Adie. But I should have known him better than that. He waited just a little, and in his ordinary voice, not even a particularly soft one, said: “Try, try. Just be patient. You have a chance to speak here. If I start speaking and find I’m talking rubbish, it’s a very great relief to find it is so, because then I know that that’s out anyway. Now let me open a fresh chapter and see.”

Now there was a pause, and then Adie became more direct: “You see, you stare at this point there. You’ll get nothing that way. But you could open and relax and try and receive impressions. It’s all buzzing around in you like that, you see? Or do you? Do you accept the whirligig of your own thoughts?”

Adam did open, and told a sorrowful tale of aggressive driving, losing his temper for no reason, and of how his wife was concerned that he was becoming worse, not better. He felt that she was correct. He had said to her that: “It’s stopped being a search, it’s become more like a search and destroy mission.”

“Well, you know, Adam, this search is a very real thing, but it’s a word that can lose its meaning if it’s used without presence. It’s like “wish” – you can get hooked and identified with the word “wish”, and then this sacred word doesn’t do anything for you. “Search” is a tremendous thing: search can mean a conscious presence that has faith, and looks for something higher and corresponding because of that.

“If we have a search, surely the search for us is in here, inside. It’s not going to be very encouraging at times, but that doesn’t matter: we want to come to a truth, and so we need to be open at the same time. My great difficulty is that I think I have a lot of powers and possibilities now that I don’t possess. I think I can search, but I am only capable of little searchings, yet, if I can only do that a small amount, and let the rest go, I’d have a chance. But I have big thoughts, putting the whole of my house into order, making a plan of the work, and so on. I don’t realise that it’s all very efficiently provided for, including all sorts of laws of accidents. My type is provided, my whole history has been provided. Can I alter all that? Can I alter all the people I am going to meet tomorrow, and all the accidents that are going to happen? Of course I can’t. I might as well concentrate on a small area of my being, you see?

“This is the problem,” asserted Adam, “the small things are getting less under control.”

“I’m not sure we’re talking about the same small things. I am not speaking about small outer things, but the small inner reality which is real; it is there. The high ideas and the inner response that is there. And don’t despair, or anything of this kind. But, this attitude: “I must pay attention to this”, or “It needs my determination”. What is that? Adam on the track, you see?

There was laughter at Adie’s take on Adam’s manner of speaking. “Our position is tragic-comic, there’s no question. If you could take it quietly, and put this massive fist down, and just relax it.” Adam was a large man, and probably did have a large fist.

“I hope that is something for you. And also, to take a thought on behalf of your wife helps. Think what she’s suffered. Poor woman.”

The final question of the evening came from a young woman. Her question was not so remarkable, but there was something in her way of speaking which was unusual. Adie asked her: “Do you ever hear yourself speaking, the kind of intonation? Do you hear yourself now, what kind of person is speaking?”

“I think so. I think I’m pleading with you.

“And yet, you have what you need. No plea or request or prayer can possibly be answered if I haven’t done what I myself can do. What is here will help you somewhat, in your work. And if you can listen carefully to your voice, you could hear a certain self-pitying tone about the plea, and as long as that’s there you won’t receive what you seek, because you’re sorry for yourself, and that fills the space. Yet, you haven’t got to be sorry for yourself. I have to be more there in order to get what I am asking for: then your efforts will help you. Listen to your voice, listen to how you ask.”

Finally, he turned to Adam, and made a reference to the passage in Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26: “You know what is said about the one who had the devil cast out of him, but after it was cast out, the devil returned with seven others worse than himself? You remember that, in the Bible? Well this is the thing: we get a moment of recollection, but then we become proud over that, and we become worse than we had been before. We don’t bring ourselves to receive it in the right way, somehow. To bring myself to it, to benefit from my experience, I have to be very simple, surely. I have to long to be humble, not puffed up. Try sometimes to come, without words to such a state, where you’re present, being, collected. It is just being: you’re not trying to sell anything, or prop your picture up. A great trouble isn’t it, propping a picture up? Well, it’s for everybody, nobody’s excluded.”

He turned to Mrs Adie: “Any advice?” he asked.

“No, no.”

“Well, goodnight.”


Joseph Azize has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book The Phoenician Solar Theology treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The second book, “Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria”, was jointly edited with Noel Weeks. It includes his article arguing that the Carthaginians did not practice child sacrifice.

The third book, George Mountford Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.The fourth book, edited and written with Peter El Khouri and Ed Finnane, is a new edition of Britts Civil Precedents. He recommends it to anyone planning to bring proceedings in an Australian court of law.



July 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm

%d bloggers like this: