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MEETINGS WITH JEANNE DE SALZMANN IN 1973

Joseph Azize Page

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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.

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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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