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Gurdjieff & Christianity: part one

Joseph Azize

Joseph.Azize@gmail.com

I feel that the time has come for this blog to address the relationship between Gurdjieff, his teaching and methods on the one hand, and Christianity on the other. I have been pondering the issues for some time, but have always sensed that the issues were too big for me to tackle just now. Really, they still are, and maybe always will be. But I’ve found that the exercise of writing helps me to understand, to see where I don’t understand, where I can’t understand, and to perceive more clearly where the limitations in my thought lie. So, the fact that a topic is difficult for me, or even beyond my capacities, may be a reason to attempt it, to try to expand my range.

The impulse to broach the topic right now came from an acquaintance who asked me some pretty good questions about Gurdjieff and Christianity. Unfortunately, the information available to him is so lopsided or even distorted that he cannot even obtain a half decent idea of the possibilities of Gurdjieff’s teachings and methods. Once I addressed myself to the topic, certain very clear ideas appeared as if they’d been waiting to be articulated … and so, here we are. I’ve planned this as a series of short blogs, of no more than 1,000 words each, to present a few of my more or less tentative conclusions in crisp outline.

My first thesis is this: Gurdjieff’s teaching and Christianity have the same aim, to secure eternity with God. It seems to me to be obvious, and entirely unoriginal, to say that our lives depend upon our aim. If I have no aim, then, as Mr Adie said, everything is equal. Aim brings meaning to life and unity to our strivings. Multiple, mixed or conflicting aims lead to futility, meaninglessness and disturbance. Therefore, it is of the utmost significance that the Christian religion and Gurdjieff’s system coincide in aim.

Of course, they express this one aim in their own unique terms. But if my aim accords with that of Christianity – to attain to the beatific vision – then it also accords with Gurdjieff’s, as stated in Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. There he says that it is possible for one to become “a particle, though an independent one, of everything existing in the great universe” (183, see also 162, 244-5, 384 and 452). On the Planet Purgatory, he said, souls strive to purify themselves specifically to be able to unite with and become part of the universal “Greatness” (801). In the 1930 typescript, it states:

… the souls inhabiting that planet Purgatory might have a perfect and quiet existence, with everything uniquely favourable. Nevertheless, for them these external circumstances of quiet and comfort simply do not count at all. They are entirely absorbed in the increasing labour of their purgation; and only the hope of one day having the good fortune and the possibility of becoming a part of the Greatness which is fulfilled by our All-possible Endlessness for the good of All, appears occasionally to give them peace.

There is an important reference to the beatific vision, but it is characteristic of Gurdjieff that it is perhaps secondary to unity of being. That the beatific vision is the ultimate Christian aim is trite. Catechetic texts abound in statements such as the following: “Faith is the indispensable prelude to the beatific vision, the supernatural end of man. Both are immediate knowledges of God, faith the hearing of His word on earth, vision the seeing of His face in heaven. Without revelation there would be some natural knowledge of God, but not the knowledge of faith.” As we shall explore in future blogs, this idea of the necessity of revelation is found also in Gurdjieff, and his references to “messengers from above”.

Aquinas said that “the beatific vision and knowledge are to some extent above the nature of the rational soul, inasmuch as it cannot reach it of its own strength; but in another way it is in accordance with its nature, inasmuch as it is capable of it by nature, having been made to the likeness of God.”

This, it seems to me, is also a good summary of Gurdjieff’s position. We have possibilities, as Gurdjieff said, “according to law”. The most important of our possibilities do not depend on us, they are part of the makeup of creation as it is. What depends on us is that we take advantage of our lawful possibilities. That Christians will speak of “grace” whereas Gurdjieff does not is merely a semantic difference. Christians also speak of “providence” and “predestination”, although less frequently than of “grace”, and these all come down to the same thing. Calvin utterly misunderstood predestination, and since him, the Western Christian discourse has been somewhat confused. To my mind, Gurdjieff can best explain how these concepts all fit together.

“Grace” refers to the action of God (chiefly felt in the soul, but also manifested as the rare miracle), and to the divinely planned system of the creation.

“Predestination” in human terms, is pretty much like the way that the Department of Roads laid down a broad street between Rydalmere and Parramatta. But if I want to travel to the predestined end (my home in Rydalmere), I still have to drive my car. The road is there by providence: the facilitating of road-making, driving and navigating. That I do not crash or lose my way is due to grace: that God has freely given me (the etymological meaning of “grace”) the means of availing myself of this providential arrangement.

Gurdjieff says little about grace in the first sense, although it is actually in Beelzebub, e.g. the pardoning of Beelzebub. For this reason, among others, the apparent difference between Gurdjieff and Christianity is greater than it is. But as I have said, Gurdjieff shares the aim of Christianity, to bring humanity to God. And that is the most possible significant fact.

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

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

“Maronites” is pp.279-282 of “The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia” published by Cambridge University Press and edited by James Jupp.

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GEORGE ADIE: Why do you run away in your feeling?

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com
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Why Do You Run Away In Your Feeling?

{I have selected his material from a meeting of 5 December 1979 as a commemorative posting for 29 July 2010.}

The first question came from Richard: “Mr Adie, I’d like verification on my line of work, to be freer from the compulsion of my career.”

“You wish to be less under that compulsion? Good. What measures do you take?”

“What I have done is set aside a time to stay with my children, and also here on Sunday night after the weekend work, I was about to rush off again, doing all sorts of things, and I decided to stay behind, and help put the tables and chairs away.”

“Those are quite different, yet both could serve the same purpose, it’s true. Any sort of discipline helps, and making the work a priority will help, if you actually experience connection. Compulsive life connected with your career is one thing, and any conscious effort, or doing your duty is another. There is an unmistakable degree of contrast. And if there’s real work it will separate itself out from the compulsion in your experience. My speech even changes. Everybody can say everything they need in very few words, really. And if they say it once properly, it doesn’t need to be repeated three times.”

“Your compulsion is there in your speech, and in so much. You will be compelled in your job, unless you can use it. How? You can’t neglect it now. It’s an opportunity. It’s quite right to give place to something else, to insist on doing the preparation. It’s quite right to see your children: not to allow the whole of your life to be dominated. That’s quite right. But realize that you also have to be in it.”

“Then, understanding that you must have a job, and must come within the domain of this compulsion, the question is now: do you really wish to be free of the inner compulsion? You’ve got to find that wish in yourself. To have a wish is to have some active inner impulse. You think that we have a wish just by thinking of it? It isn’t so. You have to work until you get that wish. If you aim for it, then you will get it. Do you follow?”

“Yes.”

“That means you have before you a work to experience the wish in yourself. Try and understand that. You do a preparation or something, don’t get up until you find the wish. You have to realise: is it really worth it? What do I have to pay if I want it? Am I willing to pay for it? If you can say yes to each of those then perhaps you can begin to say that you have a wish.”

“And then you shall have to sacrifice your suffering. But if you have worked, sufficiently long and wisely, and acquired a moving balance in yourself, you will be able to bear to make that sacrifice.”

The next question, one from Azaria, came very fast upon the heels of Richard’s, she clearly felt that there was a close connection: “After the Sunday work here, I continued with the exercise, and on Monday, after the preparation, it seemed as though because of the work I could tell the subtle difference between the centre of gravity and my presence. There was an excitement in me, I had this realisation, and in looking for a centre of gravity, I found I could come to the place where my presence is real. And like Richard, I can say that I now wish to be more present.”

“You wish to be more present? Where would you look for the wish?”

There was a pause, and Mr Adie answered his own question: “In that place you cannot describe any more. Return to it, and return to it, and return to it.”

I suspect that, at this point, Mr Adie turned to Richard: “But relaxed, always relaxed. To sacrifice my suffering I must be relaxed. Could I imagine such a sacrifice being made in the midst of tension? From where could such a relaxation come? Surely from deep within, only from deep within.”

The next question was very lengthy. Opal was an elderly woman. She spoke rather hesitantly to the point of being inarticulate, saying something, withdrawing or correcting it, and then going back to her first formulation.

Mr Adie was patient with her, but when she had finished, she nervously asked whether he had understood her. “I could follow it, but then, you started using words which you disowned. You might take as an exercise to write down what your question the day before, and in the morning, read it and see.”

“We want to bring very good quality here, not just, as is said, ‘off the cuff’, not thought out. It isn’t enough to have a sincerity, I need to have my intelligence. It’s not enough to have that, I need my presence.”

“When you’re muddling things, the process of thought is absent. But if I have taken thought beforehand, there’s a process added. A conscious or partly conscious process is added. It isn’t two states, it’s more like three states, but even that isn’t a good way to speak about it. Find a better way, to formulate better. You can, otherwise I wouldn’t say what I do. Is there any question about it?”

“No. Thank you. That’s clear.”

The very next question, from Scott, about how he gets confused by words, likewise meandered. Finally, Mr Adie asked: “Did you find that anything helped you to make your aim clear?”

“No, that wasn’t very well formulated.”

“No.”

“No … it doesn’t help to find the wish,” Scott added, perhaps echoing the first two questions. In any event, Mr Adie did not think that the comment corresponded to his real question: “But you see you’ve gone back to words now. It’s a trap all the time.”

Mr Adie waited a little, and then asked: “What does it mean: ‘In the beginning was the Word?’ Surely, it means many things, but there’s a beginning, and there’s something which follows. For that to follow, the Word must change its place. The Word is essential, and yet, if it is in the wrong place, it’s the end. And the places and the forces are always changing.”

The next question, from Dmitri, was also about a lack of clarity. “I find that my difficulties start the moment I sit down to do the preparation. I’ve been trying to sit quietly, without expecting anything, just trying to see what my worries are. And after I time I give up. I feel I should logically try and draw some conclusions about what I’ve seen, but it’s all so confused in my head, and I turn away. Something in me says, come back again next time. It feels as if I’m shrinking away from doing something very definite there.”

“Supposing that is objectively true, what are you going to do?”

“I can’t make observations very clearly at that point.”

“Do you really wish to know why you turn from what is necessary?”

“Well, I’ve seen that through these years I can’t go past the first step,” replied Dmitri.

“Does that mean anything? Surely the point is that you don’t know what the first step is.”

Dmitri started arguing. “See if it is true,” suggested Mr Adie. “Can you say clearly what you mean when you say that you always fail at the first step?”

There was quite a lengthy pause.

“Surely it would mean that you are repeating yourself. So let us not evade the question you yourself started with: why do you always turn from what you realise is necessary?”

“I don’t know,” conceded Dmitri.

“No. But do you really wish to?”

“Well, part of me does,” he replied, but in such a trembling voice that people laughed.

“There you are. Part of you. You see? I can’t come to a wish partially. My wish has to really be the wish of my I, and you haven’t obtained that yet.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Now, do you really wish to? You have to face it until you do. There are all sorts of obstacles, you may not want to pay, you may not want to make effort, you may not want to suffer. Hundreds of obstacles, but if you really wish to, you will. And it’s your solitary, alone-reality which must face that question. What I am trying to do at the moment is to cleanse it a little, make it more serious, that’s all. Imagine you’re on your death bed. What would you need then? Where would you be? Face, try and come to what is you. You. Would you have any reality? This is what you, I and everybody needs, but don’t be negative about it now.”

“Yes, yes!”

“Yes, yes? … Why … why having come near a place in your intellect, why do you run away in feeling?”

“Exactly that sense of needing to flee, to look away, shows that this is your need … and that you are close to a genuine confrontation.”

“Stay, stay, stay and have a little genuine self-respect, a little genuine pride. You could be free now. What do you choose at the moment? Every second I have to choose. My old understanding is not enough. I need a new understanding, quite new. If you could realise that, you could see that nothing that I had corresponds to what I now need. I need something a bit more genuine, more perceptive, less personal. Try and have this line that you will not allow this or any of its companions to join in. You will try and have something for yourself. Try and work to find your real self. Try and find a centre in yourself. This is what we some found on the weekend, trying to find a central strong place.”

“You want to watch the posture of your eyes if you want to think. Try to place them slightly above level. You contemplate down here. You sink back into the same old quagmire time after time. I suggest to you now that when you want to contemplate, you contemplate with your eyes there. What you don’t find when your eyes are raised, you can well do without. If you can’t bring all these clever propositions, you can have a chance to free yourself. Will you work like that for a bit? Good, keep it now, for the rest of the meeting, at least.”

“Mr Adie,” said Mary, “in the past few weeks, my efforts have been very erratic, and when I’ve seen that, I’ve become negative.”

“Alright, you found you’d gone to sleep, and you became negative about it? You need to know that. Every time we awake we awake to having forgotten.”

“If we get negative every time we awake, it’s going to be rather a fruitless process, isn’t it? See, you don’t have to be negative. So go on. You make a plan, you fail. Don’t let the failure make you negative. It should have the opposite effect. You don’t deny it. You don’t pretend it isn’t a failure, but you are there. It begins to be a confrontation.”

“In confrontation I really live, you see. The ultimate confrontation: what is that?”

“The confrontation with the Absolute.” Mr Adie was speaking slowly: “Don’t receive anything negatively. Receive the failure, but don’t be negative about it. It comes like a message. You’ve got to see that. We’ve got to fail and fail and fail, and not be negative about it, otherwise we’ve got no chance. So it’s full of hope, mmm?”

“I think I expect the wrong thing from the little effort I make, because on the couple of occasions when I’ve had a better than usual preparation, and I try to remember myself at school, and I know that there are particular hours when I am particularly prone to getting impatient with the children, I still get upset …”. Denise had been in groups for quite a while.

“You mean that you’re disappointed when you don’t succeed? Then you need to see that you haven’t succeeded, at least not in that way. Exactly in that way, you didn’t quite succeed. But you still find something. You have to be more persistent. You’re rather apt to have a go and then throw your hands up if the results don’t match the ideal.”

“On the day that I saw, I became very impatient, but the next day I just didn’t want to see it.”

“Try and find a different kind of pride. It could help you. What could I accept as a genuine pride? What about me is worthy of maintaining? Is there something? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? In a way, pride is a picture. A person who has even some ordinary pride won’t sink to certain things, they’re too proud to take an advantage.”

“Where is my good opinion? What am I proud of now? Because I serve my pride and vanity. But I forget that. If I have a genuine being-pride, could I become self-indulgent, disorganised, or lazy? That is an absence of a certain kind of pride, isn’t it? I have no pride of order, no pride of duty, no pride of reliability. I’m just a sort of tramp: although I’m a rather nice person, nobody could really trust me because I might not remember.”

“So, what quality to I really want to have? If you approach it this way, I’m quite sure, I’m quite sure that you’ll have some different kind of result.”

“After all this time what we’re all finding is that we’ve got to bring more of us to the point. I made this effort and stopped, and I’ve made that effort and stopped. But I’ve had a lot of lessons now. You have a lot of material. Why not collect it together, face the situation and see what’s possible and what I really want. Remembering that I cannot suddenly free myself from any of my stupidities, I know enough to take a more dignified way … Imagine what you thought ten years ago! Full of cock-eyed ideas, wasn’t it?”

“So you have an advantageous position. Now. It can be quite new. But for this you have to keep aware of all the old dirges and sagas of misery and failure and self-accusation, and … you know, ‘without dogs, sorcerors and whoremongers and whosoever loveth and telleth a lie’.” {This is a reference to Apocalypse or Revelation 22:15.}

“All outside. Our work is all inner. So, try. Take a fresh heart for yourself. Put some things in your room. These things are going to remind you: this is what I want to be. Model your room for a serious person. Model your room for a person with the qualities which you’ve found are difficult to acquire. Build around you some condition. That’s why people put up pictures of the Buddha, Christ, a marvellous tree. Fill your room with everything to remind you. Will you try that, and don’t worry about the rest? Have you got another question now?”

“It’s a slightly different one. I noticed that when I try to do a preparation, I get an, I don’t know, no, I’m always tight in the midriff. Once I found I could get around it when breathing, to go behind it, at the back of me, and relax it.”

“What, with your attention, you mean?”

“Yes. I wanted to ask whether … I was … sort of cheating?”

“No, you try and find your own way. And if it helps you to relax, you want to be very patient and see that everything else is relaxed. Don’t try and relax that area until your face is relaxed and until your head is relaxed, and then retain a sense of the relaxation there, you see. If the belly’s really tense, then you can even physically feel it going down, can’t you?

“Yes.”

“Well then, the next thing is, can you feel it coming up again? Or do you find that it has come up? You find it has? Alright, well now, that’s the thing! Now watch it go down, and let … now let it come up.”

Obviously, Mr Adie was guiding her as she relaxed and observed the process.

“Don’t forget the duct has to be open, the shoulders have to be down.”

“And then maybe I’m magnifying it, I may have a little bit of a special kind of sensation, a tautness, maybe that isn’t an important tension. Maybe that isn’t what is my trouble. Maybe I can still feel the pot of my belly with all its need. See that everything else is right, and then probably that’s right. Many people have a lot of difficulty here. It’s a very sensitive part.”

“But the kind of relaxation we want is not only what will come easily by being able to let a thing go. It’s another kind of relaxation, it’s – if you can use the word – an inner relaxation. Watch for what it is without saying ‘this is tense’. The question is, what do you experience? Maybe I find that it’s just an idea I had. Maybe it wasn’t very tense at all. So I have to be very poised and flexible and free from my ordinary frightening formulations.”

“Get something new every day and put it in your room. Something. Pick up anything. A leaf, grass, stone, book, picture, anything. Every day one thing different, see? Create a different atmosphere for yourself, and in that atmosphere, relax. Go into a new room each time, you look around to see if it’s new, and all the other things you put. Work like that.”

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

3 July 2010

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

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

“Maronites” is pp.279-282 of “The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia” published by Cambridge University Press and edited by James Jupp.

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JOSEPH AZIZE PAGE

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com
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ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING …

Conscious change starts when a person sacrifices their unconscious suffering in order to intentionally experience the impulse of conscience. Prior to that point, everything is preparation. Awareness of sensation, self-observation, even “remembering oneself”, only prepare the ground for that sacrifice and for the new life which immediately follows, being, as it is, under both the law of grace and the law of cause and effect. Or so I believe.

If our spiritual efforts do not include feeling, they will atrophy and falter, and everything can be lost. We can come to the starting point, turn away, and end up as far away as we ever were. In fact, a person’s fate is harsher if they have finally found the threshold, but then turned back. Why? Because one then has a history of having retreated from that point. It becomes easier to retreat a second time. There is something in us which is practically waiting to justify retreat, even to turn negative in respect of the way. Having once backed off, you know that you can back off, and it becomes harder than ever to make the indispensible commitments to conscious labour and intentional suffering.

These commitments are, I believe, indispensible to crossing the threshold to more durable states. There are states available for us in which the entirety of our feeling is positive feeling. Negative emotion is utterly passive, even impossible, in such a state. Such states can last not only for days, but for weeks, and if they can last for weeks, they can last for months. You can see where the equation is heading. Permanent change of being to a significantly higher level is possible. And it always begins with a growth in feeling. I mean that it immediately begins with a growth in feeling. For that, we must earn many small and one major victory over negative emotion.

To die to the life of negative emotions is to awaken from a fever: it literally feels that way. The air becomes brighter, the world acquires a further visual dimension, and memories of how we used to be seem not so much unreal as “now impossible”, like some former House of Parliament in sepia postcards.

Mysteries are resolved by the peaceful light. For example, how is it that the more we feel our separate individuality the more we feel a connection with other people? Doesn’t that strike you as odd? It has puzzled but not perplexed me that when I identify with others, there is actually less relation between us, and less feeling than when I am more aware of myself and not so identified. In a state where feeling is active for more than a flash, our eyes have sufficiently continuous light, and all falls into place: we see that different levels coexist.

Our unity is at a higher level. Difference and diversity do really exist at one level, perhaps even exists more truly than we had ever appreciated. We simultaneously perceive, without having to enquire, that at another level we are in a more intimate relation to each other than we could ever have thought. It is as if we are inside each other. On that level, each of us is also more truly themselves, and the ground of our unity is so bright we cannot miss it. This ground of unity is nothing other than the fact that, as Gurdjieff said, behind real ‘I’ lies God. We really do come from God, and we really are made to return to him. That is the divine plan Mrs Staveley spoke of.

So it seems to me that self-observation and self-remembering can lead to conscious change only to the extent that they include an affirmative feeling of conscience; otherwise, the action of self-remembering will always be preliminary. I don’t like to be too dogmatic about this, but my experience is as it is. Also, this interpretation corresponds to Gurdjieff’s ideas, being supported by comments made by both himself and Ouspensky.

It is not that self-observation and self-remembering won’t lead to change. They will. But with only a modest amount of conscious feeling, they have only a modest an effect. A small effect is better than none, but will take literally hundreds of years to lead to a change of level of being, if indeed the results are not forever being swept away before they crystallize.

No one can live without feeling, and if I can see or remember myself, then feeling will be there more consciously. So we can never say that we don’t have some feeling. But if it’s not sufficiently present to be the temporary centre of my consciousness, then, for practical purposes, it’s absent. From one perspective, it’s worse to have glimpses of this feeling-presence than not to know that glimpses are possible. People often find that a moment of presence has an after-effect which leaves us depressed, rather like coming down. “Why,” we wonder, “is this freedom so elusive? Where was this power when I lost my temper the other day?” The experience of making effort after effort and perennially coming only to temporary change of being can lead to despondency and even to despair.

It is, of course, significant to come to a point preliminary to genuine change, to stand before the doorway to another level of life.

But preliminaries only mean something if they lead to achievement: their meaning is realized when I go through the door. If we start to fete the door and forget that we have to go through it, we may as well never have found it.

It is feeling which motivates and enables us to make the passage, leaving behind the old, and entering the new life, unknown and yet, at the same time, intimately intuited. To be precise, the experience of sacrificing unconscious suffering and its fruit in the gnawing of conscience lead to an entire octave of motivation and capacity: we feel at once the fever of the past, our present position, and the objective promise of the future, and we also feel other things, perhaps even ineffable. So I won’t try and describe that more.

The minds of the body and the intellect don’t like blind corners: and neither does the feeling intelligence. But feeling can “see” around corners, so to speak. The intellect needs data for comparison and deduction, while feeling has only one datum, as it were. But feeling penetrates that datum, and can perceive its multiple layers or aspects. A naked feeling of confidence grounds trust in a way that a thousand reasons never will.

Gurdjieff said that the way begins above the level of life, and that much work is needed to come to the threshold. I think that some of his meaning may have been this need to have feeling operate as the centre of consciousness for more than a short time. Conscience can be present long enough to persuade us that permanent change of being is possible. Without that, I rather think that something sceptical or “faithless” in us will always want reassurance. This, to my mind, sheds light on Mr Adie’s statement that “faith is based on fact”. Gurdjieff said that faith was a divine impulse. Yet, we say little about faith unless we mean “blind belief”. The faith which provides a light when all seems eclipsed (to paraphrase Aquinas) is barely acknowledged. I think this is because that faith can only be an active fact or in us when one can bear the gnawing of conscience long enough for feeling to penetrate to something essential in us.

Because we can only work on bodies – we have literally nothing else to work on – a growth in feeling must be a crystallization of the Body Kesdjan (Persian for “the spirit of the soul”, or, in Bennett’s paraphrase, “the vessel of the soul”, if I recall correctly).

As the feeling body crystallizes, it evokes a conscious sensation which is deeper, more whole and inclusive than anything otherwise imagined. Of course we’re bound to make our first efforts by using our minds, such as they are. If one is fortunate, one can participate in movements classes or something else which can help us more continuously sustain consciousness of sensation. But conscious sensation is only a means to the end of consciousness of feeling. All too soon, the physical body must die. Endurance and immortality are properties of the other bodies (in religious terms, the soul and spirit).

There is even a danger in focussing on sensation with the eye of a Cyclops: if we forget about feeling, all our efforts with sensation will serve only to mesmerize us, to keep us in a state of obsession with sensation.

If you’re reading this blog you probably know that the role of sensation is tremendous. It is necessary for physical life. But that is only its first function. Like much else in nature, it is designed to serve multiple purposes. One of these purposes is that consciousness of sensation seals in the Body Kesdjan, or perhaps helps to keep the formation of the Body localised so that the higher hydrogens used in its crystallization are not dissipated. Further, the sort of sensation one has when the initiative has come not from the mind but from the feeling is beyond words. I say that when feeling is available for long enough, it calls the sensation because, being of a higher intelligence, it knows what it has to do to preserve and sustain itself. But it is too weak to do so until a certain stage has been reached.

That stage cannot be attained to unless the struggle with negative emotions has reached a critical level, when the human machine has been substantially cleaned. Even before negative emotion is made utterly passive, significant changes will start to appear. That is one of the beauties of the human organism: it is flexible enough to allow encouraging anticipations, and we can see what lies ahead, at least for one step. It is like anything else in life: the development is subject to the law of octaves. We advance, fall back, advance, fall back and so on. But if we’re wise, and we use our heads (instead of disparaging the intellect and giving all the emphasis to sensation) we can even profit from our setbacks.

I shall pause here: I want to try and make this clear, assuming, of course, that what I say bears some relationship to the truth of the matter. I am saying that a sense of presence, of being “different” as is often said, is good and necessary. But it is good and necessary because it is a means to a higher end. Even if we described that end as “a greater intensity of presence”, we would be wrong. It’s a presence with unique qualities of dimension and duration.

Higher levels of presence include dimensions of feeling, intelligence and, I would say, intuition, of something inimitable and ineffable. And these levels of presence become more connected and longer lasting. When they retreat, they don’t retreat in the same way: they remain nearby, you can feel their touch through a membrane somewhere inside, as it were. They bring us back more quickly when we fall, and they enable us to see more clearly what is needed. Having had continuous consciousness of feeling for a period of weeks, you can never cease to believe in the reality of the new man. This greater intensity brings us to the raw moment of work on ourselves, that is, immediate work on our bodies, not merely on our thoughts or reordering our emotional lives, necessary as those efforts are.

I’ll take the analogy of travel. I want to go, say, from Clyde to Carlingford by train. I could tell you, quite truthfully, that to get there I must go through Rosehill to get there. In fact, Rosehill is the first station after Clyde. But I could also have equally truthfully said “no gets from Clyde to Carlingford unless they first pass through Camellia”. To get to Carlingford, I also have to travel through Rydalmere, Dundas and Telopea, which are further down the line. The statements are all true, but if I think in a formatory way, I will see a contradiction. The whole truth and the nothing but the truth is that each of these stations must be passed in a given order.

I think (I would say that I am sure), that something similar happens in respect of the inner journey. We can only get there through self-observation. We can only get there through self-remembering. We can only get there through sensation, through feeling, through conscience, through awakening the mind, and so on. All are true.

But what is this aim for which all of these steps are necessary? The far aim of which I speak is, and only sanely can be “theosis”, the experience of the Absolute: the infinite and eternal, all-encompassing presence which depends on nothing else. I am speaking, then, of the beatific vision, mystical communion with God. Even what I have said about feeling is subject to this.

But our position is that we, and everyone we know and know of, are stuck at Clyde. We’ve never seen anything else, and no one we know unarguably has, either. Not surprisingly, some people deny that there is anything beyond Clyde. If we eventually even get to the road sign to Rosehill, we’re rapt in wonder, at least for a while. The sense of wonder disappears, and to keep it alive we invent rituals of anointing the sign and laying flowers before it. Anyone who can make a good claim to have been to Rosehill strikes us as extraordinary. We start to identify with them, and imitate them. We think that we’re honouring the journey and the destination, but really, all our little reverences have the effect of keeping us where we are, miles from feeling. We get so used to hearing that Carlingford is so far away that we come to think “Rosehill is good enough for me”.

I have written before about the romance of the search: that is pertinent here. Searching only has meaning if there is a possibility of finding. Anyone who thinks that there’s virtue or merit in looking without hope of discovering is, literally, mad. Of course, they might not be mad in every possible respect, but in that one they are. It can be dressed up however one likes, but the idea that we are always searching is lunacy. We search only until we find. Maybe then a further search will beckon: that is quite possible, but that’s a different matter.

The practical vice of the “romance of the search” is that it keeps us at preliminaries. Too often, material I have read states or implies that a permanent change of being is not possible: we can only be present “in-between”, as it were. This is true, but it isn’t the whole truth. If we are present for a moment, even “present in-between”, we can be present for two moments, and three moments, and so on. We can be present at a higher level of being. That higher level can be long-term, and therefore it can be permanent.

It is possible to become man number 4, but how would this be possible if one did not have faith (not belief) in the possibility? I cannot imagine that the chances of a change of level of being increase if one never even thinks about man number 4, and what qualities such a person would have. I’m rather inclined to think the opposite.

And according to Ouspensky, who I am sure was speaking from his own experience, but may have had it from Gurdjieff, too: the chief difference between man numbers 1, 2 and 3 and number 4 is that number 4 has conscience. In other words, such a person is available to feeling. That is the difference. The impressions which usually would call forth, as it were, negative emotions, are received. We can even sense that something in us is ready to react in anger, jealousy, or hatred, and so on. But feeling is present, or at least its influence is, and the third force (the self-indulgent attitude) required for the manifestation of negative emotions is not there at the locus of these forces. The moment passes, and rather than negative emotion , feeling, and perhaps even a representative of conscience appears.

In A Record of Meetings (a much under-utilized book which has fortunately been reissued by Eureka), someone asked Ouspensky whether man number 4 was free of negative emotions. No, replied Ouspensky, not free of them, that would be too much to expect. So number 4 is vulnerable to negative emotion, but has conscience in respect of them. He is changing in respect of them, he is profiting from them and making them passive. He is, so to speak, eating them.

When sustained feeling is available, one is present. Not absolutely present: perhaps only God is absolutely present (Ouspensky says that perhaps only God can say ‘I’). But if we cannot say that we are absolutely present, yet we can know that we have reality. We feel safe both inside and safe to other people. We see where we went wrong, and why. This by no means makes us infallible: it’s a danger to believe so. But we have an intuition that we could come to a stage where we could actually think: and in such a state the possibilities of thinking appear astounding.

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

3 July 2010

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

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

“Maronites” is pp.279-282 of “The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia” published by Cambridge University Press and edited by James Jupp.

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SUGAR IS AN ESOTERIC ISSUE (revised 28 may 2010

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Sugar is an Esoteric Issue (revised 28 May 2010)

I am absolutely serious. Sugar is an esoteric issue, together with smoking and narcotics. Of course, it is not nearly so dangerous as narcotics, which can make conscious development practically impossible. But I am not sure how it compares to tobacco. That issue is difficult, because, among matters, people who consume tobacco invariably consume sugar, so the respective roles of these poisons in causing disease is tricky. Also, the sugars which are sometimes added to cigarettes make their smoke more cancerous (they increase by up to 60% the amount of formaldehyde in “mainstream” cigarette smoke, i.e. the smoke produced after puffing on a cigarette). Therefore, the effects of sugar and tobacco may operate jointly.

Background

Where is this all coming from? An article I wrote, dealing with sugar and its equivalents from a legal and ethical point of view, has been published in vol. 17 of the Journal of Law and Medicine (May 2010, pp.784-799).

In that article, I contend that there is a crying need for legislative intervention to actually tax sugar, ban sugar products from schools, require full disclosure of sugar content in any food (even in bread), with health warnings on confectionary, and more of the same fanatical measures. You can read the facts about sugar in the late John Yudkin’s readable classic Pure, White and Deadly. My article summarises some of the latest evidence, the vast bulk of which supports his conclusions about the relation between sugar, diabetes and cancer (not to mention dental caries), and some of which shows that sugar is addictive in much the same way that narcotics are.

That is all very well, you may say: but why put this on an esoteric studies web site?

The Esoteric Significance of Sugar

For those who know Gurdjieff’s ideas, let me say first, that sugar disharmonises the tempo of our common-presence, and second, that it damages essence.

Now, let me rephrase that for the non-initiated. Sugar is wreaking havoc on our civilization. It’s just doing it slowly and enjoyably. Gary Taubes, whose work in this area seems to me to be – without hyperbole – magnificent, writes: “Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.” (The Diet Delusion, n 27, p 454) The italics on “dietary causes” is Taubes’ own.

Over time and in sufficient doses, sugar can do great damage to a person’s body and emotions. That is, it damages essence, the real you, the heirloom with which you are born. Indirectly, sugar will even damage how one’s mind works, because the workings of the mind, body and emotions cannot ultimately be separated (although the organism is very adaptable, and can often reach extraordinary levels of intellectual and emotional functioning despite even near-fatal physical damage). Indirectly, through diabetes and, it seems, other diseases, sugar can even be fatal. And if it does indeed contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, what have we unloosed upon ourselves?

When I say that “over time and in sufficient doses, it can do great damage to a person’s body and emotions”, we must bear in mind that how much time and what doses are sufficient depends upon the person, their conscious control over their organism, their genes, the balance of their diet, the exercise they take, their sleep, their lifestyle, and other factors.

Now for common-tempo. In a talk he gave in Paris, in August 1922, Gurdjieff said that a person’s reception of impressions depends on “the rhythm of the external stimulators of impressions and on the rhythm of the senses”. Right reception, he said, would be possible “only if these rhythms correspond to one another”. In fact, he went so far as to say: “a man can never be a man if he has no right rhythms in himself.” G.I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World, pp.82-83.

Briefly, as I understand it, in Beelzebub, especially in the chapter on “Hypnotism”, Gurdjieff teaches that each centre of the organism, and also essence (as a whole) and personality (as a whole) function at different tempos, and that parts of the human organism can mutually communicate only when their tempos stand in a particular relation. At p.1163, Beelzebub says to Hassein that each of the functions which compose our individuality acquires a “harmonious tempo in the common functioning”. In other words, our individuality (the distinctive nature of our being), is made up of various functionings, each of which is formed as a whole (“crystallized” is Gurdjieff’s word) and works at its own tempo in an integrated organism, in harmony with other functions operating at their proper tempos.

One can think of it as being like a car: all the moving parts have their own tempos. The wheels, fan-belt, ignition, battery, all work at different speeds, or more precisely, within different ranges of speed. In fact, they can only perform their proper function without damaging the machine if they remain within their specific speed ranges. If one could arrange all these parts so that they operated at one identical speed, the car would be useless . I am aware I am now speaking of “speed”. Shortly, a speed is absolute: it is measured from zero, but tempo is a relative speed. Tempo is meaningful only as comparing the speeds, rhythms or rates of a particular activity.

Gurdjieff says that we have two established tempos of blood circulation (provisionally taking the tempos as absolute). Each of these tempos is related to a form of consciousness: essence (sub-consciousness), or personality (consciousness). A change in consciousness can cause a change in the tempo of blood circulation, and a change in that tempo can cause a change in consciousness.

Sugar disrupts that tempo to an extent which was not, I believe, contemplated by nature, and which is not under conscious control. Interestingly, anecdotal evidence suggests that if taken naturally (i.e. directly from sugar cane), it is not nearly so noxious, if at all. This makes sense: one researcher says that refined sugar is a “genetically unknown food”. That is, it is not a use but an abuse of nature. Further, you get a load of sugar a lot faster drinking soft drinks than you ever can by chewing on sugar cane. In the right dose, and for some people the right dose is an extremely small one, sugar causes a nervous energy within the body and disrupt emotional equilibrium.

Because sugar is (apparently) the only food which provides energy and no nutrients, there is nothing good to say about it which cannot be said for anything else which makes food more palatable (e.g. cinnamon and vanilla). On the other hand, those foods have positives which sugar does not. The glucose in sugar is oxidised in the cells, and the bloodstream cops the released energy. This is the basis of the “sugar-fix”. And this disrupts the tempo of the body, and the all-important tempo of the blood circulation. In other words, sugar is a food (although I would say it is better understood as a food derivative that is, in itself, a good-substitute), and a poison, which makes it harder for essence to manifest, and easier for personality to manifest.

If you don’t believe me, try and observe carefully what happens inside you when next you ingest confectionary, cake, sweetened biscuits, soft drink or anything else to which you’ve added sugar. You may be surprised to find that what you thought were part and parcel of your natural fluctuations of mood (and, in Gurdjieff’s terms, your “state”), are in fact abnormal but familiar results of sugar ingestion.

Part of the “esoteric danger” is this: because we do not think of sugar as a slow-working poison (albeit of low toxicity in small and irregular doses), but as a food and only as a food, it hardly enters our heads to think of its effects as being unnatural. We are far more likely to attribute its psychic effects to other causes.

Also, we are so used to sugar that we tend to accept our unnaturally sweetened state (to coin a phrase which is meant only half-humorously) as neutral, or even as positive. We take so much sugar, and we see so many people who take it, that we don’t know how jumped up we are.

There is more. I could do a social analysis and say that we live in a “sugar-coated” society. And I believe we do: but that is another area. I sometimes wonder if sugar is not one of those things like tea, coffee, hops and opium, which, as Gurdjieff said, have a complete enneagram within themselves. For what it’s worth, I think that mint and garlic may be other such plants, but of course benign ones. But for now, I just want to raise this issue.

Gurdjieff, Sugar and the Tempo Paradox

There are two related objections to consider: the first is, but didn’t Gurdjieff use sugar? And, considering the different tempos used in the movements and sacred dances, surely Gurdjieff didn’t try and impose one tempo on us? So if we can changing tempos is not noxious there, why should it be different if we change tempos by taking food?

The answer to the first question is simple: yes, Gurdjieff seems to have loved sugar, and was even known as “Monsieur Bon-Bon” because of his lavish distribution of confectionary. But Gurdjieff didn’t know everything. His being was beyond ours to an extent which makes comparison pointless, but he wasn’t omniscient. He still had to find out where the shops were, and learn the English language. He had to learn: in fact, he spoke to the Adies about one particular thing he had learned (as I shall mention in the forthcoming book on Helen Adie, where I can provide the context to do justice to the issue). As with sugar, I doubt that Gurdjieff would have used tobacco so much, or allowed people to smoke as they did, had he understood the dangers, especially the risks of passive inhalation where people who do not smoke suffer from others’ indulgence.

In respect of the second question, the first point is that it is striking that what I might call the sacred dances do seem to be slower than the other movements. I am thinking of “The Big Prayer”, “The Camel Dervish”, and of those which form the esoteric series within his last series of movements. But you could contradict me on that, and I would be unconcerned. There is something deeper than all this.

And this is it: first, disrupting our standard tempos is analagous to disrupting our standard roles. Gurdjieff said that man “has a role for every kind of circumstance in which he ordinarily finds himself in life; but put him into even only slightly different circumstances and he is unable to find a suitable role and for a short time he becomes himself.” At p.239 of Miraculous, the phrase “for a short time he becomes himself” is italicised. I think something similar happens with tempo. Is it going too far to say that each person ““has a common-tempo for every kind of circumstance in which he ordinarily finds himself in life; but put him into even only slightly different circumstances and he is unable to find a suitable tempo and for a short time he becomes himself”? This would be the purpose of movements. It is done there relatively consciously. But the same thing could not be said for eating confectionaries and cakes.

The second point is that although I have been studying tempo for a while now, I have only very recently started to think that the key to the awakening of essence is the ratio of tempos. Of course, the corresponding ratios should fall into place mor easily while one is quiet. This is why the preparations and exercises Gurdjieff bought are so important. Through these, he taught how to raise certain organic tempos to consciousness. But this was taught so that the state attained could be an influence in daily life, and the results crystallized in us. As Mr Adie used to say, it’s like learning to row a boat. You start off in calm waters, but one day, with sufficient practice, you might be able to manage in rough water.

Now, in so far as the movements have to do with changing the tempo of our organism, the aim is that we remain conscious whatever the tempo and how it changes: or so I tend to think. In terms of what I have said above, it is consciousness and the ratio of tempos which are critical. The quicker my body must work in the movements, the finer the work of the mind and feelings which is demanded. A different kind of consciousness, both active and passive, is called for to take the movements and the monitor what results.

I have made this as clear as I can, but of course I cannot disclose on the net the actual methods used in the preparation and exercises. Without that disclosure there will always be an irreducible margin of vagueness. So, perhaps these comments can help: a certain physical tempo is necessary only as an aid. Essence is not a slow tempo, or any tempo at all. Essence is in feeling (real feeling, and not the emotions). Feeling centre works faster than any of the centres but for sex and the two higher centres.

When essence appears through feeling, it can handle any speeds. Once we have awakened, we can manifest. But for man number 1, 2, and 3, there is a long work required to understand, by inner-sensation, the appropriate range of physical tempos and how to bring them within their proper ranges and mutual ratio.

And I will add one last comment which I shall expand on in future writings: we can, in my opinion, only work on bodies. But if this is right, then we’d better look after them.

Conclusion

I began by speaking about sugar. I said that in addition to the physical illnesses it contributes to, it damages essence and disharmonises the tempos of our common presence. I am recommending that anyone engaged in a spiritual quest has a spiritual reason to give up sugar altogether, and a responsibility not to facilitate its use (indeed, I feel a duty to actively discourage it).

Yet, I know from experience that it is very difficult for us to logically confront such matters. Neither do I think it’s only an issue of how I raise it with people, although that is not always guaranteed to help.

I would ask you read Yudkin and Taubes, and look at the evidence. If you can get the Journal of Law and Medicine, read my article. Then consider whether sugar is not, as I suggest, an “esoteric issue”.

And if you think it is, what prevents you acting on your knowledge?

Is this an area where the ‘I’ that knows is not the ‘I’ which is present when we come to eat?

28 May 2010

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

p.s. For regular updates on the science of sugar and related problems, check out the website “Raisin Hell”, maintained by David Gillespie. I must disclose that I have struck up a sort of friendship with David (who is also an Australian and a lawyer). But the friendship is a result of our reading the other’s work. We’re friends because we agree on these important issues, rather than agreeing because of friendship. You could also read his book Sweet Poison (Penguin Books). To find the web site, enter his name, or “Raisin Hell” and the words “Does saturated fat really cause heart disease?” into a search engine.

‘”Our Imbalances All Balance”: George Adie 1980

JOSEPH AZIZE PAGE

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com
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Our imbalances all balance”: George Adie, 1980

I’ve been preparing the blog for the anniversary of Mr Adie’s death on 29 July, and had thought these questions might be suitable candidates. However, I’ve since come across some more promising material. I think that while what Mr Adie says here might strike some as so obvious as to need no reinforcement, others might find them useful, as I did. Whitsunday 23 May 2010 is as good a day as any to release them. All come from a meeting held on Tuesday, 1 April 1980 at Newport.

The first question was from Mick: “Mr Adie, for some time now, I’ve noticed a lack of force and direction in my work, and a readiness to accept excuses not to work. I find a confusion. I really don’t know how to make my efforts. And though sometimes I realise my position and what I must do get out, to change things, the impulse I get from these experiences very oftens immediately disappears, and I get lost in excuses.”

“Can you really can say you get an impulse to animate yourself?”

“Yes.”

“What does that tell you?” Mick did not respond at once. Mr Adie addressed the group: “This is very important for everybody. Everybody has exactly this difficulty, amongst many others.” He returned to Mick: “Yes. What does it tell you?”

“That something is possible?”

“Yes, but for how long?”

“Just at the present.”

“It tells you that you have to respond quicker. There can’t be a gap. So where does that lead you?”

After not too long a silence, Adie said: “It leads you to your preparation.”

“You’ve got to prepare yourself when you’re willing to work, because the situation of confusion you describe is a confusion life. You get a reminder and then you don’t respond to it. But in your preparation, you can prepare to come to a place where you really find a wish when you get a reminder to respond. That is your wish.”

After a slight pause, he added: “Your attitude is that this is material, whatever your circumstance. If you have the attitude, then you’re ready.”

“What other way could there be? It’s very obvious, it’s very simple.”

“Of course, you’ll fall. You’ll get led away, covered over. But if you put that element into yourself, then there’s a possibility that when it’s not like that it will be touched immediately it’s needed.”

“That’s the work. You try and create an animated, responsive feeling centrality. It just gives more … point to your preparation.” He lightly stressed the word “point”.

I am omitting two exchanges, and passing to Tony’s question. “Mr Adie, I’m confused about the difference between being aware of myself and being present and self-remembering. Yesterday morning, I was talking quietly with my wife, and she asked me a couple of questions which were basically to do with trust in our relationship, and I immediately felt had feelings of my skin drawing together, and tensing up, particularly in the face.”

“You felt under attack?”

“Yes, yes. But I also felt very present. I was very much aware of myself. I was aware of her at the same time, but there was a complete focussing down, and I wasn’t aware of anything else at all. Yet it seems to me that if I was in a situation of self-remembering, it wouldn’t have been that way. I’m a little confused about being so aware of myself and a state that is different to that of self-remembering.”

“They’re not two solitary, labelled items. There are shades of intermingling from complete absorption to complete freedom,” said Mr Adie.

“But there is something else to learn here. We have habits, attitudes based on old happenings, and they can lead us into mistakes and then into a habitual routine. For instance, supposing someone is in the delightful habit of using an umbrella to beat their little boy. Every time she goes for the umbrella he thinks he’s going to get a beating. One day she’s going out and she’s heard that there may be a late change, so she takes the umbrella out. He thinks he’s going to get a beating. She has no such intention at all. But he’s sure she is, and he can’t see any clouds, so he reacts just as if he’s going to get a beating.”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Well, that’s happening all the time to us. The force of habit in our reactions is tremendous. We’ve got an incredible number of routines of habit, and little accidents of association. Now, with that information, I have a possibility. It’s no good telling me it’s not like that, I know that it is like that. But if am present to that knowledge, I may catch sight of a few of these routines, and I know where they lead to. I get a chance.”

“And you’re right, it’s not self-remembering to anything like an ample degree, but something is there that remembers. The question is respond more quickly, so that they recollection can awaken the parts of me which are sleeping. This takes us back to Mick and his confusion.”

“So now, where are you are now? You prepare, you want to see. It would be very useful for you if you could really see where the landslide started, as it were.”

“There must have been a predisposition to slide that way before this little remark of hers just set it off, then there was a landslide, very quick. It shows that you must have been all ready for it. It’s a condition of predisposition, built up in relative sleep, which we are. There’s also an instinctive sensing of proximity and possibilities. Something in me knows that this type of conversation can lead to arguments, crying and what not. And perhaps a little bit of head is telling me it’s fine, it’s alright. All this is quietly presenting itself, and that is the bubbling condition which I experience as a confusion. And then in one moment, off it goes.”

“Again, I have to prepare: not to escape from that, but to see what’s going on. If I were to escape from that now, I would never overcome my predisposition to it. I would escape a few times, I would think I was alright, and then it would be worse than ever. I really have to see, and go through, I have to accept, and then I can learn.”

I will interpose that these last two paragraphs, especially the last one have been of great assistance to me in coming to an interest in seeing, and in having some patience. Tony then asked his final question: “My position v is, then, how can I prevent myself from reacting in the habitual way?”

“Well, all your work will be towards that, that you will be able to help yourself. And you give thanks that you can learn. When consciously, you know how to move, that’s different. Until you understand how, you will react. So, say, alright, I’ve got to learn, so long as something in me can react like that. I need all these examples. And really, that gives you a concept, an idea of how very fair everything is: there’s nothing unfair in it. Something in us believes firmly, most of the time, in our bad treatment. I receive the most diabolical treatment, ‘it just can’t be true.’ But it is, and everything is very fair. I need just that.”

Later that evening, Joni said: “Mr Adie, I have a question, I have recently experienced a hardness inside myself that I sense very close to my inside, and … I’ve tried to think about it in order to understand more about this hardness … and I realised that I’ve been using it as a self-preservation sort of …”. Her voice trailed off. Joni had had very serious issues, literally life threatening, and these were known to Adie. Therefore, in reading his answer, bear in mind that her problems were beyond the average.

“That’s what you tell yourself,” replied Mr Adie.” Something in you’s been making a sort of excuse for it, that it’s necessary. Not very clearly, but in the background. It accepts it in a way, as acceptable and justifiable, and even, at the moment, rather necessary.”

“Yes,” Joni agreed. ”But I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been experiencing a lot of negativity around me, and I’ve felt that this was a sort of place where I wouldn’t become negative.”

“If I’m in the circumstances where a lot of that is going on, I will be affected. I can’t expect not to be. But I have to know my measure. Something is possible. If I am there I can tell if it is more than it’s advisable for me to endure, and if it is, I take myself away, or I take measures.”

“If I have a certain wish to be in the right attitude, to deal with things in the right way from the point of view of serious consideration, I will find that I have a measure. We each have a definite measure. It’s no good trying to jump over your own knees, because you never can. You realise what it means to jump over your own knees, don’t you?”

There was no answer.

“Spare a little time to think about jumping over your own knees. How would you do it? The higher you jump the higher would your knees come, don’t you think?”

Still no response, and he was clearly waiting for one.

“It’s no good trying the impossible. No good trying to kiss your own elbow. You just can’t do it, not even you. You have your measure, and you make your efforts for so long. But you’re intelligent, and if it is too much, you look for a suitable out, not in order to escape, but because you’re following what’s going on, and you see that it’s time to withdraw.”

“That helps a lot, a good deal, but I’m also wondering further on, what is the next step in understanding this sort of log in there?”

“Well, you have to be present to it, but you don’t stay too long. You can go back again. There’s plenty more coming, you’ll have a lot more opportunities, and you’re interested to see what. Start with relaxing. If nothing else comes into your head, don’t surrender to the confusion. Relax. You try and let the belly fall down, and if your head’s hanging in the same old way, move it. And then I have to be upright but neither stiff nor rigid.”

He continued: “And what about the source of the irritation? I have to be available to it, if I’m trying to do anything. If a person’s badly wounded, I must be there confronting this horrible mess: if I’m not, I’ll never help, and that is my job. I may have to run off and be sick, but doesn’t matter, I have to come back if I’m going to do anything.”

“Yes.”

“To remain, to remain. Only learn from the present. Always the present.”

“Well I think that what you’ve been speaking about is very necessary and very good for you. Couldn’t have been better, really, what you needed to see. Your own evidence of your own inner hardness. This is the wonderful thing , because you begin to see where it is, it’s localised here. You know that. And then it’s related to other things, you know how we work. It won’t be confined to that. It will affect all the outer surfaces, how it will affect the “I”s, how it will affect your facial expression. Mmm? Good. And the voice, the tone, and everything. All different points can be included, gradually.”

The next question was from Hunter. His boss had accused him of being a slack tradesman, and that was not his own opinion. This had taken place before his colleagues. His reaction had been to put his head down and shut off. He could hear the boss’s voice was coming in, but only barely recognised his words. His hand moved a pencil up and down on a sheet of paper as if it had a life of its own. He was raging inside, and every muscle in his body was “locked in”.

“You felt your own inner rage?” Mr Adie confirmed.

“Mmm.”

“Then what is the aim there?”

Hunter did not reply.

“There are two aims there, broadly. There’s the aim to adjust and somehow satisfy or rectify the job and the relationship of workman to overseer, and a totally different thing, your own inner work of being and so on.”

“Surely from that point of view, your own inner work, you really need to be quite open to any external criticism. And be available to it, and to ascertain, if possible, what degree of truth or correctness there is about the criticism. It could be very interesting for you in that state of feeling, to find out how right or how wrong he was. In a feeling of rage, you can’t find anything out, and everything he says is impossible and unjustified. But obviously he’s not a complete monster, he doesn’t live and get up, have his breakfast with the idea of terrorising you. When he arrives there, something takes place, and an incident happens. So, in such a circumstance, if I haven’t got my aim, well, I’m going to be relatively at the mercy of what’s going on.” Mr Adie stressed the word “relatively”.

“See, I’ve received a lot, I’ve heard a lot, I’ve tried things in easier circumstances … and now, I’m under attack. Can I not look at that from the point of view of my aim? Actually, of course, my aim has disappeared entirely. Could I have aim there? If I haven’t, I shall never have any purchase on it. I shall be forced into a furious immobility, and be completely ineffective. You see? So it illustrates that under that circumstance you can lose your aim and direction. And in a way, you need that again. It’s very difficult to understand, but you need just that. Some good insults. As long as they can make you absolutely disappear, that is what you need. Because I cannot afford to be disappearing.”

“I can’t appreciate with any intelligence what he says. He goes off without any satisfaction. He says: ‘Oh hell. that man, I tried!’ You haven’t said anything to relieve him at all, or explain anything. You’ve been completely unable. So from a worldly point of view, it’s not any use either.”

“It’s very, very difficult to fulfil. But there’s no alternative. Either I try, not in order to do the job, but because I realise that such circumstances can serve me. And I need them. However bad they are, I need them. It’s a stick with two ends. If I can take this situation – and accept it – I get the good end of the stick. And the result is I learn. If I reject it then I have the bad end of the stick, and I suffer. Think like that. Is that clearer to you now?”

Rather weakly, Hunter answered: “Yes.”

“ It is? Good …”

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

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

“Maronites” is pp.279-282 of “The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia” published by Cambridge University Press and edited by James Jupp.

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Written by SOPHIA WELLBELOVED

May 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm

SUGAR as Esoteric Issue: (revised 28 May 2010)

JOSEPH AZIZE PAGE

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

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SUGAR IS AN ESOTERIC ISSUE

Sugar is an Esoteric Issue (revised 28 May 2010)

I am absolutely serious. Sugar is an esoteric issue, together with smoking and narcotics. Of course, it is not nearly so dangerous as narcotics, which can make conscious development practically impossible. But I am not sure how it compares to tobacco. That issue is difficult, because, among matters, people who consume tobacco invariably consume sugar, so the respective roles of these poisons in causing disease is tricky. Also, the sugars which are sometimes added to cigarettes make their smoke more cancerous (they increase by up to 60% the amount of formaldehyde in “mainstream” cigarette smoke, i.e. the smoke produced after puffing on a cigarette). Therefore, the effects of sugar and tobacco may operate jointly.

Background

Where is this all coming from? An article I wrote, dealing with sugar and its equivalents from a legal and ethical point of view, has been published in vol. 17 of the Journal of Law and Medicine (May 2010, pp.784-799).

In that article, I contend that there is a crying need for legislative intervention to actually tax sugar, ban sugar products from schools, require full disclosure of sugar content in any food (even in bread), with health warnings on confectionary, and more of the same fanatical measures. You can read the facts about sugar in the late John Yudkin’s readable classic Pure, White and Deadly. My article summarises some of the latest evidence, the vast bulk of which supports his conclusions about the relation between sugar, diabetes and cancer (not to mention dental caries), and some of which shows that sugar is addictive in much the same way that narcotics are.

That is all very well, you may say: but why put this on an esoteric studies web site?

The Esoteric Significance of Sugar

For those who know Gurdjieff’s ideas, let me say first, that sugar disharmonises the tempo of our common-presence, and second, that it damages essence.

Now, let me rephrase that for the non-initiated. Sugar is wreaking havoc on our civilization. It’s just doing it slowly and enjoyably. Gary Taubes, whose work in this area seems to me to be – without hyperbole – magnificent, writes: “Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.” (The Diet Delusion, n 27, p 454) The italics on “dietary causes” is Taubes’ own.

Over time and in sufficient doses, sugar can do great damage to a person’s body and emotions. That is, it damages essence, the real you, the heirloom with which you are born. Indirectly, sugar will even damage how one’s mind works, because the workings of the mind, body and emotions cannot ultimately be separated (although the organism is very adaptable, and can often reach extraordinary levels of intellectual and emotional functioning despite even near-fatal physical damage). Indirectly, through diabetes and, it seems, other diseases, sugar can even be fatal. And if it does indeed contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, what have we unloosed upon ourselves?

When I say that “over time and in sufficient doses, it can do great damage to a person’s body and emotions”, we must bear in mind that how much time and what doses are sufficient depends upon the person, their conscious control over their organism, their genes, the balance of their diet, the exercise they take, their sleep, their lifestyle, and other factors.

Now for common-tempo. In a talk he gave in Paris, in August 1922, Gurdjieff said that a person’s reception of impressions depends on “the rhythm of the external stimulators of impressions and on the rhythm of the senses”. Right reception, he said, would be possible “only if these rhythms correspond to one another”. In fact, he went so far as to say: “a man can never be a man if he has no right rhythms in himself.” G.I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World, pp.82-83.

Briefly, as I understand it, in Beelzebub, especially in the chapter on “Hypnotism”, Gurdjieff teaches that each centre of the organism, and also essence (as a whole) and personality (as a whole) function at different tempos, and that parts of the human organism can mutually communicate only when their tempos stand in a particular relation. At p.1163, Beelzebub says to Hassein that each of the functions which compose our individuality acquires a “harmonious tempo in the common functioning”. In other words, our individuality (the distinctive nature of our being), is made up of various functionings, each of which is formed as a whole (“crystallized” is Gurdjieff’s word) and works at its own tempo in an integrated organism, in harmony with other functions operating at their proper tempos.

One can think of it as being like a car: all the moving parts have their own tempos. The wheels, fan-belt, ignition, battery, all work at different speeds, or more precisely, within different ranges of speed. In fact, they can only perform their proper function without damaging the machine if they remain within their specific speed ranges. If one could arrange all these parts so that they operated at one identical speed, the car would be useless . I am aware I am now speaking of “speed”. Shortly, a speed is absolute: it is measured from zero, but tempo is a relative speed. Tempo is meaningful only as comparing the speeds, rhythms or rates of a particular activity.

Gurdjieff says that we have two established tempos of blood circulation (provisionally taking the tempos as absolute). Each of these tempos is related to a form of consciousness: essence (sub-consciousness), or personality (consciousness). A change in consciousness can cause a change in the tempo of blood circulation, and a change in that tempo can cause a change in consciousness.

Sugar disrupts that tempo to an extent which was not, I believe, contemplated by nature, and which is not under conscious control. Interestingly, anecdotal evidence suggests that if taken naturally (i.e. directly from sugar cane), it is not nearly so noxious, if at all. This makes sense: one researcher says that refined sugar is a “genetically unknown food”. That is, it is not a use but an abuse of nature. Further, you get a load of sugar a lot faster drinking soft drinks than you ever can by chewing on sugar cane. In the right dose, and for some people the right dose is an extremely small one, sugar causes a nervous energy within the body and disrupt emotional equilibrium.

Because sugar is (apparently) the only food which provides energy and no nutrients, there is nothing good to say about it which cannot be said for anything else which makes food more palatable (e.g. cinnamon and vanilla). On the other hand, those foods have positives which sugar does not. The glucose in sugar is oxidised in the cells, and the bloodstream cops the released energy. This is the basis of the “sugar-fix”. And this disrupts the tempo of the body, and the all-important tempo of the blood circulation. In other words, sugar is a food (although I would say it is better understood as a food derivative that is, in itself, a good-substitute), and a poison, which makes it harder for essence to manifest, and easier for personality to manifest.

If you don’t believe me, try and observe carefully what happens inside you when next you ingest confectionary, cake, sweetened biscuits, soft drink or anything else to which you’ve added sugar. You may be surprised to find that what you thought were part and parcel of your natural fluctuations of mood (and, in Gurdjieff’s terms, your “state”), are in fact abnormal but familiar results of sugar ingestion.

Part of the “esoteric danger” is this: because we do not think of sugar as a slow-working poison (albeit of low toxicity in small and irregular doses), but as a food and only as a food, it hardly enters our heads to think of its effects as being unnatural. We are far more likely to attribute its psychic effects to other causes.

Also, we are so used to sugar that we tend to accept our unnaturally sweetened state (to coin a phrase which is meant only half-humorously) as neutral, or even as positive. We take so much sugar, and we see so many people who take it, that we don’t know how jumped up we are.

There is more. I could do a social analysis and say that we live in a “sugar-coated” society. And I believe we do: but that is another area. I sometimes wonder if sugar is not one of those things like tea, coffee, hops and opium, which, as Gurdjieff said, have a complete enneagram within themselves. For what it’s worth, I think that mint and garlic may be other such plants, but of course benign ones. But for now, I just want to raise this issue.

Gurdjieff, Sugar and the Tempo Paradox

There are two related objections to consider: the first is, but didn’t Gurdjieff use sugar? And, considering the different tempos used in the movements and sacred dances, surely Gurdjieff didn’t try and impose one tempo on us? So if we can changing tempos is not noxious there, why should it be different if we change tempos by taking food?

The answer to the first question is simple: yes, Gurdjieff seems to have loved sugar, and was even known as “Monsieur Bon-Bon” because of his lavish distribution of confectionary. But Gurdjieff didn’t know everything. His being was beyond ours to an extent which makes comparison pointless, but he wasn’t omniscient. He still had to find out where the shops were, and learn the English language. He had to learn: in fact, he spoke to the Adies about one particular thing he had learned (as I shall mention in the forthcoming book on Helen Adie, where I can provide the context to do justice to the issue). As with sugar, I doubt that Gurdjieff would have used tobacco so much, or allowed people to smoke as they did, had he understood the dangers, especially the risks of passive inhalation where people who do not smoke suffer from others’ indulgence.

In respect of the second question, the first point is that it is striking that what I might call the sacred dances do seem to be slower than the other movements. I am thinking of “The Big Prayer”, “The Camel Dervish”, and of those which form the esoteric series within his last series of movements. But you could contradict me on that, and I would be unconcerned. There is something deeper than all this.

And this is it: first, disrupting our standard tempos is analagous to disrupting our standard roles. Gurdjieff said that man “has a role for every kind of circumstance in which he ordinarily finds himself in life; but put him into even only slightly different circumstances and he is unable to find a suitable role and for a short time he becomes himself.” At p.239 of Miraculous, the phrase “for a short time he becomes himself” is italicised. I think something similar happens with tempo. Is it going too far to say that each person ““has a common-tempo for every kind of circumstance in which he ordinarily finds himself in life; but put him into even only slightly different circumstances and he is unable to find a suitable tempo and for a short time he becomes himself”? This would be the purpose of movements. It is done there relatively consciously. But the same thing could not be said for eating confectionaries and cakes.

The second point is that although I have been studying tempo for a while now, I have only very recently started to think that the key to the awakening of essence is the ratio of tempos. Of course, the corresponding ratios should fall into place mor easily while one is quiet. This is why the preparations and exercises Gurdjieff bought are so important. Through these, he taught how to raise certain organic tempos to consciousness. But this was taught so that the state attained could be an influence in daily life, and the results crystallized in us. As Mr Adie used to say, it’s like learning to row a boat. You start off in calm waters, but one day, with sufficient practice, you might be able to manage in rough water.

Now, in so far as the movements have to do with changing the tempo of our organism, the aim is that we remain conscious whatever the tempo and how it changes: or so I tend to think. In terms of what I have said above, it is consciousness and the ratio of tempos which are critical. The quicker my body must work in the movements, the finer the work of the mind and feelings which is demanded. A different kind of consciousness, both active and passive, is called for to take the movements and the monitor what results.

I have made this as clear as I can, but of course I cannot disclose on the net the actual methods used in the preparation and exercises. Without that disclosure there will always be an irreducible margin of vagueness. So, perhaps these comments can help: a certain physical tempo is necessary only as an aid. Essence is not a slow tempo, or any tempo at all. Essence is in feeling (real feeling, and not the emotions). Feeling centre works faster than any of the centres but for sex and the two higher centres.

When essence appears through feeling, it can handle any speeds. Once we have awakened, we can manifest. But for man number 1, 2, and 3, there is a long work required to understand, by inner-sensation, the appropriate range of physical tempos and how to bring them within their proper ranges and mutual ratio.

And I will add one last comment which I shall expand on in future writings: we can, in my opinion, only work on bodies. But if this is right, then we’d better look after them.

Conclusion

I began by speaking about sugar. I said that in addition to the physical illnesses it contributes to, it damages essence and disharmonises the tempos of our common presence. I am recommending that anyone engaged in a spiritual quest has a spiritual reason to give up sugar altogether, and a responsibility not to facilitate its use (indeed, I feel a duty to actively discourage it).

Yet, I know from experience that it is very difficult for us to logically confront such matters. Neither do I think it’s only an issue of how I raise it with people, although that is not always guaranteed to help.

I would ask you read Yudkin and Taubes, and look at the evidence. If you can get the Journal of Law and Medicine, read my article. Then consider whether sugar is not, as I suggest, an “esoteric issue”.

And if you think it is, what prevents you acting on your knowledge?

Is this an area where the ‘I’ that knows is not the ‘I’ which is present when we come to eat?

28 May 2010

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

p.s. For regular updates on the science of sugar and related problems, check out the website “Raisin Hell”, maintained by David Gillespie. I must disclose that I have struck up a sort of friendship with David (who is also an Australian and a lawyer). But the friendship is a result of our reading the other’s work. We’re friends because we agree on these important issues, rather than agreeing because of friendship. You could also read his book Sweet Poison (Penguin Books). To find the web site, enter his name, or “Raisin Hell” and the words “Does saturated fat really cause heart disease?” into a search engine.

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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 second book, “Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria”, was jointly edited with Noel Weeks. It includes his article arguing that the Carthaginians did not practice child sacrifice.

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

“Maronites” is pp.279-282 of “The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia” published by Cambridge University Press and edited by James Jupp.

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GEORGE ADIE: a task on hurry from 1981

A Task on Hurry, from 1981

On 24 February 1981, Mr Adie gave this task to one of the Newport groups. His statement of the task comprises Part I. Over the next week, the groups attempted to use the task to help their line of work. Then, the next week they brought their observations. Some extracts from one of those meetings, that of 3 March 1981, taken by Mrs Adie, is Part II.

Part I

Mr and Mrs Adie were in front of the group. Mr Adie introduced the task:

“How are we going to approach work more practically?

“The tasks that are given are only there as a help to work. The actual work, the actual choice is my own responsibility to do what I think is best for me. I may be wrong, but it doesn’t matter. I shall find that out. If I try, and then bring my experience to the group, I shall find it out. If I don’t try, I shall find nothing out.

“And the exercise is given, and has to be done as near as possible as said. I don’t have to think about that. Or at least I don’t have to think it out, it’s already presented. I do have to try and fulfil it and relate it to my own line of work. I must have a near aim, I must be going against something. I must be trying to achieve some change in my being state. Now how?

“Again, want to see how I am. Again, I may already know that certain habits, certain tendencies are unquestionably against my aim. Whatever my own individual aim, it takes me away. So that’s a thing I have to try and work against. Maybe I need to see more in regard to that. Alright then, in that case my aim is to see more in regard to that. And I have to relate that aim to this exercise given, and see how the connection is, and how it can be supported. I know that if I do make a resolve, and do my preparation, I shall get more reminders.

“Now this week, there’s a particular exercise given, which will be gradually expanded. But this week, I have to choose when. I have to do my preparation. It’s my own responsibility how I prepare myself, to sense myself, to relax, to become centrally placed, I know that. And I have to try and remind myself of the kind of work I’m going to do: where I’m going to be impatient, where I’m going to be irritable, where I’m going to be afraid, what habit I’m going to try to get over, laziness or gluttony or irritation, or I don’t know what.

“And in relation to that, what is going to remind me? I choose in the morning. I must do my preparation early, first thing, first thing on awakening. Then, I choose in the morning for one half hour during which I will not hurry. That doesn’t mean to say I do things slowly. I may find I do them much quicker, but I will not hurry. I will try and do everything without hurry.

“Hurry is terribly costly, it produces tension, fear and consternation and flurrying, throwing things, and catastrophes. Nothing can be done with hurry. How can any artist work in a hurry? Impossible. That’s an artist, and our work is on another plane. We cannot work if we’re in a hurry.

“The central idea of this half an hour is that I wish to observe myself. I am going to be in life: if I have an interview, a job, cooking, accounting, carrying, whatever it is. I know that this is the kind of work I shall be doing. I choose that half hour, but in that half hour I am not going to hurry. As said, it doesn’t mean to say that I have to slow down.

“Is it clear to everybody?

“Do you smell the possible result that might come from that? That one is always in a hurry, either in a hurry to escape doing something, or to get a result with less effort, or to get onto something more pleasant. Try and see. See what is required. You have some data now. See how it goes. Make a note of what you find.

“Of course you have to try and be present. And I shall need my feeling of myself. See how the requirements expand? Does it seem possible? For the whole week I try not to be in a hurry, but to do twice as much. Mm?

Mrs Adie prompted Mr Adie: “You also suggested that if they succeeded, they could …”

“Yes, thank you, I forgot that. If I make the appointment and I remember, then I am entitled to choose another half an hour in the second half of the day. But if for some reason I don’t remember, and I don’t have that half an hour, then I must leave it until the next day. It’s not like an ordinary appointment; this is something for half an hour where you’ll be working in a special way. If you fulfil, it doesn’t matter how successful you were, but as long as you fulfil it, you can then try again in the second half of the day. But if you don’t, then you miss the second half of the day. Try and see what use you can make of this to help your own line of work, your own aim.

“In the preparation, it’s a question of ten or 15 minutes, as early as you can in the morning, if you wish on one or two occasions to have a considerably longer one, you can, but at the same time, don’t just sit in a dream and think it’s work.

“If this is productive, the exercise will be built upon, so see what we can find. Don’t forget to make a note.”

Part II

When Mrs Adie came down to the meeting, perhaps 25 minutes after it had started, Ivan, who had been taking the meeting, said: “One of the things people brought, Mrs Adie, was that they couldn’t maintain the exercise for half an hour.”

“What do you mean by ‘not maintaining it’? Of course you couldn’t maintain it without any lapses.”

Pauline spoke: “I had sort of a moment … I can’t remember times.”

“But you mustn’t be too identified with the time. Can you say what happened? What your experience was?”

Pauline had a good deal of trouble even stating what had happened. After several questions and Pauline’s responses, it appeared that she had had a few moments of presence, but felt discouraged because they were so few. She had noted a tension in the stomach, and saw what she called a “boorishness” manifesting. It reminded her of something Mr Adie had reminded her of, but all she could feel “was a wall”. Her question was: “When I found it so difficult, do I keep trying to continue for half an hour?”

“If at that moment of difficulty, you realise how unstable your attention is, you have a chance. Don’t let that just slip away. You have less than half an hour before you. Can you somehow or another approach to the wish to do it?

“At first, you find there’s no wish there, because really, what can wish? However, even if you’re not fully present, but you have a feeling that there’s something lacking in your presence, then there is something there that can lead you on. Take advantage of that moment. Don’t let it go too quickly. You can’t hold it indefinitely, but if you want to, if you feel it enough, your weakness, that inability, you are working. What else could one ask for?

“You may not be able to maintain it unbroken, but it will come back, and much more often. And that is what we hope for. Everything depends on having more moments of this presence. Yet it’s no good working directly for the wish. You can’t produce a wish like that, by just saying “I want to wish. I wish.” It’s not there. It comes as a result of something. It comes as a result, sometimes, of making an effort in spite of the fact that you haven’t a wish.

“It can come when your head understands that it’s necessary. Although in many ways the head is a great obstacle, or at least the lower part of it is, we also rely on it. The head understands. The body doesn’t understand, and the feeling doesn’t understand: they have to be disciplined.

Pauline asked: “Can you say more about the different parts of the head?” You can hear, even over the tape, that the person asking this was a lot simpler and clearer than the one who had been speaking earlier.

“Well, you’ve read it of course, but until one has a real question, people forget. One wants to be careful not to become formatory in your understanding, but it’s important to know that your head is divided into three. There’s lowest part, which is completely mechanical, where really you could say there is no attention. Your attention is dragged out of you, so to speak. Then there’s the middle part, which has some feeling, and is not completely mechanical; there’s an interest, you’re attracted to something, and you find it easy apply your mind to it. And then the highest part requires a big effort, because you’re not attracted to it, it’s something you’re obliged to put your attention on. Some people find that with Beelzebub, for example [reading Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson]. There has to be an effort, you read in spite of the fact that your inclination is not to read it. Many people in their accounts spoke about the lack of wish, and it’s perfectly true, but the practical question is how do I produce it? What is going to help me feel it more?

“I’m nearly all the time in my personality, and my personality does not wish, because personality is in my head, very largely. And the feeling is in my essence, and my essence is what is real. Yet, sometimes something in personality can realise that. We couldn’t live without personality. Without the help of the more real part of personality, we should not be here: it’s largely personality that takes the initial interest in the ideas. So we to be careful not to confuse that.

“But very often personality is completely imaginary, and apart from not wishing, it’s very much against it. There’s nothing in it for that part of me, and some have seen how much that operates – that’s a very big discovery. It takes a long time sometimes. You don’t get upset about it, you can’t help it, this imaginary part is going to try to come in and spoil everything. But if you just don’t believe it, it loses some power, you’ve seen that now.

“So what else? Have there been many questions?

Gerry spoke: “Mrs Adie, there’ve been moments where I’ve known that I need to be watchful to observe myself and really try to see what’s happening, but when those moments come, and they are such that I know when they’re likely to come, but when they come, I don’t seem to be able to observe, I seem to be caught. I know in my head, anyway, that I need to plan for these.”

“Yes,” replied Mrs Adie, “you’ve spoken about that before. It certainly is a thing which seems to bother you. Of course with your present exercise something is very much more possible. In a way it doesn’t matter which time you choose, if I have an intention. You can choose a particular time when you know you’re going to have that tendency to hurry, but it’s much easier to see, I think, don’t you? It’s more restricted, in a way. It’s more specific, and a lot can be seen from it apart from the fact that whether you do or do not hurry in that time. But any other line of work should go on at the same time. It can help it.

“Yes, I feel there’s a necessity for me to care more about these moments, but when I do try and look, it seems a futility.” Gerry continued: “I feel a futility, in that when I try to observe, when there’s a negative process happening in me.”

“Did your effort not to hurry commence before that process began, or did you awake in the middle of it?”

“I wake up in the middle, or even after it.”

“If it awakens you, then that’s a moment of possibility. If you weren’t there at all, you’d have forgotten it, but if you’ve remembered it, that’s a great gift. At that moment you actually have some choice.”

“A moment of choice is a terrific thing, which has to be worked for. But what is aware of your state isn’t caught up in it. So, how can it serve you? You need to hang onto that awareness, even if the process apparently goes on. The force goes out of it. Some force is available for myself. And at the same time, it’s very difficult but you can actually observe what is taking place.

“It can’t last very long without a break. Maybe the impulse is too weak, but any kind of recollection is a moment of choice nevertheless. You have a certain choice at that moment. Your head will understand that something is possible at that moment. But it hasn’t enough power, the head hasn’t enough force. Those moments have to be cherished and fostered, and I agree, as it were, that the fact of my experience makes an impression on me at a moment when I’m a little bit more impartial, less lost. If you have that valuation, something may grow up in you.”

After a pause, Mrs Adie advised: “Don’t concentrate so much of your attention on whether I can do the exercise it or not. It’s what can come out of it. If I try, quite unexpected things can follow. I shall see many things I had not known. Does anybody have any interesting observations about it at all?”

John spoke: “I think just from being given the exercise to do, I’ve seen a lot clearer the running around, and the sort of madness going on inside. It’s even the time of the day outside of the half hour appointments. It began as soon as Mr Adie gave it, before I’d even made the first appointment. I felt: “ I need this”.

“It’s quite true”, said Mrs Adie. “ An intention has an effect. I make a plan, and if I have any presence, it has an effect, it isn’t restricted to the time planned for. Especially with something like hurry, because even if I’m not doing anything. I’m never at peace, never quiet inside.”

Jethro brought his problem: “Mrs Adie, I find that I just go at two speeds, flat out or not at all. and really there’s no half way. Maybe I misunderstood the point of the exercise, and gave way, but I found that to interfere with the speed at which I operate, my machine operates, results in real failure of coordination.”

“But you’re not asked to interfere with the speed at which your machine operates. You’re asked to not to hurry, which means not to force it to go faster. What would you say hurry is?”

“It’s putting a kind of nervous energy into normal movements …”

“Yes, and it doesn’t make you any faster, just more hectic. It can even make you do things more slowly, because everything’s chaotic, you drop something, or … all the centres are completely in chaos. Hurry is a state, a sort of agitation. The mind isn’t working, the mind is in confusion. But Mr Adie did not suggest that you interfere with the speed at which your machine operates.”

“I’m in a situation where I’m under pressure from my boss to do quite complicated repair jobs, to help get musicians and artists out of trouble. I work with a firm of specialists, so I’ve achieved a kind of concentration which enables me to do sometimes quite complex work, at a high speed, while the customer is waiting, while they should really be sort of …”

“And you find you do it quicker if you do it in a hurry?” Mrs Adie asked.

“Much quicker, yes.”

“No, that’s not right.”

Jethro was not to be moved. “Well, the job gets done somehow, and the customer is delighted.”

“Yes, but if you were not in a hurry you could probably do it quicker. If you’re in a hurry, your attention is either dispersed or completely identified with one thing, getting it finished.

“Oh, well, yes, that always happens, that always happens. I curse the phone and I curse the intercom.”

Mrs Adie laughed. “Alright. You say it’s the only way you can do it, yet you haven’t tried any other way. To do something without hurry doesn’t mean to slow down. It doesn’t mean that at all. On the contrary, it means not to hurry inside. It’s inside that all this hurry is going on, in your so-called feelings.

“This hectic, agitated feeling that you’ve got to get on with it, get it done quickly, is the resistance. You can try times when it hasn’t got to be done in half an hour, or whatever it is. But try to do it with your head operating in the right way, and your emotions quite quiet. Your emotions have got nothing to do with it. They’re not needed at that time. You need your head and your moving centre. Maybe a certain amount of instinctive centre, too, to do with tuning the instruments and that sort of thing, but it’s the emotions that interfere and make you hurry, that get in the way. If my feeling can then appear, that will even ground me.

Ivan made an appropriate remark: “May I give an example? I think if you consider a concert pianist who plays something very very fast. He’s never in a hurry: he’s extremely relaxed. I went to the Opera House the other evening, and the pianist was playing some tremendously fast passages, but his hands just went … there was absolutely no hurry about it. I think that’s what we’re trying to convey.”

“Yes, it’s quite true,” said Mrs Adie, who was herself a concert pianist as well as a composer. “I remember that was a very vital thing, always, it was even impressed on me, by my professor, to take my time beginning, for example, never to be in a hurry.” She addressed Jethro directly: “You’re a pianist yourself, if you hurry, you’ll play a lot of wrong notes.”

After a pause, Mrs Adie added: “I think you’re rather settled, you’ve taken rather a stand about this. Try and be a little more flexible in your understanding. Make an experiment at a time when you can afford to make an experiment.

“You know this about your nature that you are a very tense person, and it’s not only physically tense, you’re tense in your feelings. You agree that you’re rather tense?”

“Mm!”

“It’s not a sin. Many of us are. I think it is very largely in your feelings. It means that you should sometimes, when you have a moment’s peace, just watch your breathing without changing it. Your breathing indicates your emotional state, very much. If you’re calm, breathing is calm. Directly you get excited, the breathing gets quicker and more shallow. Remember that when you’re doing something. It can be anything, just for a moment put your attention on that area, it’s the area of your feeling. Where you breathe is the area of your feeling. Try and quieten it a little bit, and when you do that your body will also relax more.

“You need to put a little more attention on that, I think. It’s one of your big difficulties. But you’re not as tense as you were, in any case. It is already better than it was: much better. But it would help you with everything that you’ve been mentioning, especially with the particular job that you have, which is very demanding in a certain way, and needs a sort of sensitiveness, doesn’t it? If you’re dealing with musical instruments and that sort of thing, you need to be free from this sort of turmoil that goes on. I think you agree that it does go on? That you’re in a turmoil a lot of the time, and it doesn’t serve any useful purpose?”

“Oh yes!”Jethro was emphatic.

“It really is your enemy. Well, I think you need to choose your half hour very carefully, to being with, to start with, anyway. Choose an occasion when you’re doing some quite simple thing, and see if you can do it when your feeling’s absolutely quiet, and your movements very measured, and intentional, with the assistance of your head.”

Silvio brought an interesting cameo: “One day this week I did my preparation, and I made the appointment for 11.00 o’clock. As I was typing, I kept saying to myself, “I’ve got an appointment at 11.00 o’clock.” And I did that until 1.00 o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Then learn from that. Something in me gets very frustrated. But I accept that that is how I am. And then I need to be patient. I accept the fact that that is how I am, but I am not satisfied with that. I accept it, but not passively. From that there can come a wish. The realisation of that. It’s necessary to see how completely powerless I am.”

“What I wonder is, what in me was saying to myself: “I’ve got an appointment at 11.00 o’clock”?

“No one can say, only you can know. It is suspect, but maybe it is the best I have for the moment. Something in me always wants to do: to succeed in doing what I set out to do, which is nothing to do with my real wish at all. I’ve decided to do something and I’m going to do it. But it isn’t like that, a real wish. It’s a very subtle thing, and very difficult to put into words exactly.”

I have omitted a few questions. At the end of the meeting, a woman brought this last question of general application: “Should we keep the same time each day?”

“It depends on what you find,” answered Mrs Adie. “If you find it’s a practical time, no need to change it. If not, then you change it. Sometimes it’s good to change it, it depends on what you find. But if you know there’s something that you tend to spoil by hurrying, make more mistakes, choose that time, certainly.

“If the quality of the effort seems to fall off, better to make a change. It will always run down unless I apply some sort of a shock to it. And also, one becomes rather lazy about it: taking the same time saves a lot of thought, so choosing another time can be good, giving plenty of opportunity. You judge by the result. Try something, then you try it again, if it seems to yield less, change it.

“Good night.”

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com
11 January 2010

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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 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.

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