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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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GEORGE ADIE: PRACTICAL EFFORTS AND CHIEF FEATURE

Joseph Azize Page
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George Adie: Practical Efforts and Chief Feature

Often on the spiritual road, an insuperable question arises. Part of the difficulty is not the complete and utter sincerity demanded by the question itself. A really good, hard, here-are-your-gizzards-on-a-pike question can even be welcomed. The dilemma, the quicksand we kick in, is that we don’t even know how to begin to think about the question, and as we persevere, we sink deeper into the mud of turning thoughts. This could, maybe even should, be an opportunity. But in reality it is invariably experienced as emptying and draining at best, and at worst, as soul-destroying.

Here is one of the most difficult questions: how can I make practical efforts? Openings seem to appear, the question seems resolved in one’s work, and then it returns again, and any response seems further than ever. Even harder is this: what is my chief feature? This is so obscure to us that most people in the Gurdjieff groups of my acquaintance ignore it in tacit despair. Of course, despair is not admitted: no, a self-calming line is found (e.g. we are past that, or, it is a purely intellectual question and we want questions which address one’s being). I remember one “older” person saying to me that thinking about chief feature made us fixed. But this is wrong: I would say I know that this is wrong. It is wrong because chief feature is what keeps us in rigor mortis. Intelligently struggling with it can only lead to freedom. And what is more, Gurdjieff himself agreed: just read In Search of the Miraculous where he is quoted in Ouspensky’s masterful account.

In early 1983, Mr Adie spent an evening with us studying chief feature, and gave us the task of writing in not more than 50 words what we believed our chief feature to be and how we proposed to struggle with it. Then, in the following weeks, as we continued to study the concepts, we handed in our assessments. In the third week, in the group meetings, Mr Adie read what we had written and made comments. He would not, he said, generally indicate whether what we had observed was indeed our chief feature or not. Yet, on a very few occasions he did say that the perception was correct, while on some other occasions, he made a point of not endorsing the person’s conjecture.

When I recently transcribed these meetings, I found that I had not forgotten most of the comments from the group meeting I had attended. The learning of the evening has kept coming back to me. I think that the truth of what was said, and the quality of the shared attention in that small studio, helped me to remember. It was an extraordinary night. I remember that it seemed to be illuminated, and that there was a serious calm feeling in the air as I left for home. I have decided to share just a few of the exchanges, partly because the two comments he made about Gurdjieff may of interest to others. Also, as I was working on this material, Bob Hunter’s The Tyrant Within, an interesting and even vibrant study of chief feature, arrived. It seemed to demand a response.

But to be clear, this is not the evening where he discussed chief feature. This is the later exchange, where he spoke of our difficulties in formulating chief feature, and then taking what we had said, whatever we had said, he indicated that there was a way forward, and sketched out the direction, especially for those who had found the exercise hard.

From Tuesday 15 March 1983

Mr Adie said generally: “It’s now a question of taking measure. Most of reports on chief feature are all about the place. Very few of them are direct, and very few of them really get anywhere near touching the work. There’s one from Able: ‘Greed, selfishness and desire to be appreciated. These are, in combination, all-powerful, and have been as long as I can remember. Any concern for others, excepting my immediate family, can take place only after these I’s have been satisfied. I have tried to combat certain small aspects of these I’s, but never the real thing. I have not developed a central I, an inner strength which can oppose these I’s, when they are in control, I rarely get a glimpse: usually, only in retrospect.’.

“Well this is good”, said Adie, “because it’s a straight-forward statement. Whether it’s exactly right is another matter. But it’s more direct. After a good few years of seeing, there’s something at least more or less categoric about it. My comment it is that I haven’t developed a central I, certainly, but I have been given the seed for it. You don’t disbelieve that, I think, and you have the embryo in you, even if you haven’t developed it. You were given the seed, and you have the embryo, but it may be very covered.

“So, if you have this conviction that you have at least that, and you accept this fact, that acceptance is sufficient to begin to struggle and to work: you don’t need any more. If you have it, are you going to let it rot, are you going to yield it up again at the end of your life without any profit? You know the parable of the servants who had five, two and one talents. The first rendered to his lord the five talents and another five he had earned from them, the second returned his two talents and the two he had earned, but the third, who had just one, had not invested it, and said take back what thou givest, thou hard master. Mm?

“And this question of greed: how to struggle with greed? I want to determine what it is, and how, and how to give up something. It’s no good saying ‘it’s greed, and it always comes up’. If it’s true, then what do I need to forego? What? There must be many things. Something specific: choose it, do it, and it will have meaning in relation to my wish … only in relation to my wish. All the other I’s will say it’s rubbish, not interested, and they’ll turn out the same sort of plausible rigmarole that’s been going on for so long.

“Then selfishness. How to combat selfishness? I have to choose who, and when, and how to put them in the first place – simple. But how often do I move to that kind of thought? I say: ‘Oh, I’m selfish, I must observe my selfishness, I must prepare myself and so on.’ No. All beside the point. I must choose a definite time and definite circumstances when I am going to put the other one before me. Their comfort is more than mine. Then I can confront. Then I shall see the kind of make up of it.

“Work is definite. It is quite definite.

“And then the desire to be appreciated. Everyone has it, of course. The question there is am I really unable to be without praise? It isn’t so. There have been moments when I have been free. When I am, when I know I am, praise isn’t anything to me. I am.

“I have to remove myself from these limited and limiting thoughts. I have to get out of this realm and to practice. This certainly applies to everyone, but in degree.

“I’m going to be completely merciless tonight. It’s no good stroking people. We either really want and really believe there’s a chance or we don’t; and if we don’t, it’s much better not to waste our time.”

Mr Adie then read Pierre’s note. ‘I lose my force, energy and direction mainly to unnecessary worry and considering about what people think of me, and from that, I redirect it into criticism of others.’ Is there any such thing as necessary worry? Do you still believe that worry is necessary? You see how little thought you’ve put into it. Of course, there is no such thing as necessary worry, but we proceed on the basis that there is, and we justify worry, I justify hurry, I justify the fact that I have no time for it. I accept this situation, and I plunge into the worry.

“Now about this particularly, try to be alone for a moment or two. There is a special meaning to being alone. There could be a dozen people there, and yet if you wished, it would be possible to be alone. You have to have some serious intent, and some freeness from your personality. This is aloneness for us. Then if you are alone you are free to work: if you are not alone, you are already considering, associating, reacting. So, what is necessary for you? Not for everybody, but particularly for you? What is necessary is to be alone, for some time anyway.

Then Mr Adie took Serena’s assignment. ‘My chief feature, fault or obstacle is, I think mental laziness, letting myself drift through life without wishing to appreciate the terror of the situation.’

“Not wishing to appreciate the terror of the situation? It’s just words. You can’t wish to appreciate the terror of the situation? You can wish to be: then you can appreciate it. Do you follow? You do? Good. It isn’t really mental laziness, it’s laziness all the way around, not being serious. All you can do is wish to be. If you want to get over negative emotions, it’s no good wishing not be negative. But if you wish to be, then the wish is for something you can sense in yourself, and then the result will follow. It’s no good wishing for things to be other than they are. You are not a thing, you are a living woman with the possibility of action. You wish to have that presence, and when you have that presence, all the things which you project, all the lies, gradually diminish. Take those words: “mental laziness, letting myself drift through life without wishing to appreciate the terror of the situation.” When you are, then you will appreciate what you need to: but your wish must be more immediate if it is to be effective.

Serena said: “What you said was really what I meant.”

Mr Adie replied: “Yes, but this is what you write, and that has a significance. If you disown it too easily, and don’t address what you actually wrote, you are robbing yourself of an opportunity. See, if you weren’t here you could withdraw it, and all would be forgotten. Here I can help you to confront it: you know how he speaks about being-logical-confrontation. Even saying that it isn’t what you meant may be a form of laziness. You have a fact: something in you used these words, and not the words you say you meant.

“Then you go on: ‘I need to face this every day, starting in the morning.’ It is true, quite true, but it’s a passive comment. There is no suggestion as to what to do, except for something which is impossible for you as you are.

Serena expanded: “I need to get up earlier in the morning.”

“In order to prepare? Yes, very good, then make a clear plan, because you will have to change your regime in some way: maybe eat supper earlier, or whatever. If you take that into account, you then have something practical. Choose something definite within your power and do it. But if you want to get up earlier while you don’t want to alter anything else you may find that it comes to nothing, it starts and then it stops. If you attempt that seriously over the next week, it will be different, it won’t be like this any more.

“Well, that’s all for tonight. It’s food for everybody, I think you must all have found a point of application. We all share in this. Let me see how long will it take me to get to something small and specific which I really can carry out. Make the plan, carry it out, and bring it next week.”

Mrs Adie mentioned that next week was a combined meeting. “Yes, thank you”, he said. “Then bring your observations in a fortnight; but next week, to the combined meeting, bring the effect of your work.”

Thursday 17 March 1983

Mr Adie started with the Myron, who was then working on a book. This was an exchange I have often remembered. “You wrote: ‘The major obstacle at present is the consuming belief in my professional brilliance, and all the unnecessary effort and antagonisms that go with trying to support this belief. It is an obstacle in that it hinders my ability adequately to fulfill my duties such as the preparation and pondering.”

There was a lengthy pause. “Well most of what is necessary has already been said. But you see, there’s a sense of competition there: your excellence and superiority is only in relation to others. Otherwise, how do you measure your brilliance? You’re not brilliant in comparison with a caterpillar, for instance. You couldn’t crawl up a leaf and climb back down.”

At this point there was laughter and loads of it. I can still recall people diagonally rocking on their chairs.

“It’s all comparative”, he continued. “Comparative and competitive. And the other puppets with whom you compare yourself, you don’t see them as they are at all. They are puppets whom you see as inferior, or – if you are jealous – they are superior puppets. It’s all created inside you: a whole universe of puppets. By accident, you might get a glimpse of the truth. But can you really tolerate this position? … You must be alone in your efforts for freedom, otherwise you start competing once more. All your life is competition: how good, how clever. So surely you yearn for some kind of freedom, don’t you?”

“Yes”, Myron replied.

“Well, why worry any more? The freedom’s in this other direction, alone. If you’re not prepared to be alone and seek a kind of aloneness, you’re just wasting your time. It can be full of grace, that special time. You might have a moment or two of real quiet. Working in that way is a sacred thing.”

Mr Adie paused. “Writing books can so easily be narcissistic. You know about Narcissus? Looking into the pool, loving himself. It’s a wonder no one pushed him in.” Again, laughter. He then took Sam’s observation: ‘This week, upon being called and attempting to turn inward, the question arises, what is the next step?’

“Yes, that’s right. I am called, so what is necessary? Now, at this very second. It’s always at this very second. Then you go on: ‘This question is of a formatory nature and leads away from the sense of myself into revolving thoughts and sleep.’ But it is formatory only if I don’t sense myself. Of course, if I don’t respond, it immediately turns into a poison. But the question is the next step: I turn to myself. I do nothing. I am present. What is necessary is more likely to take place if I am not interfering.

“You’ve got to find your feeling and sensation: it’s your responsibility to provide the vehicle or tabernacle in which this process can take place. Remember “I AM”.

“Remember, as Mr Gurdjieff used to say “You are Mr Gurdjieff’s pupil: you are not tail of donkey. You are possible man.”

“So, alright, you are Mr Gurdjieff’s second generation pupil. You are becoming a man. It’s not nothing.

He then read Amie’s thoughts: ‘If I have a goal and there are obstacles to face …’. Do you mean “when” you have a goal, and “when” there are obstacles to face?

Yes, Amie said.

“Good, because the first is theoretical. So when you have a goal, and when you face obstacles: ‘this negative part rises up and cancels the positive wish, so there is no longer any forward momentum. I lose the sense of myself’. Yes, broadly speaking it’s right. But now it mustn’t be “if I have a goal”. You have to a task, you have to have an immediate goal, a task. The far goal is there, but you have to have the intermediate steps, otherwise you’ll never arrive, you see.

“Mr Gurdjieff used to say that if you are going to achieve, it’s like the lamp-posts. You have to the first lamp post, then the next, then you are at the Arc de Triomphe, more lamp posts, then Colonels Renard in order to get to this room. But if you don’t pass each lamp post you’ll never get there. You have to do the thing immediately before you. That, at least, is within your power. Maybe you’ll get knocked over before you reach the far aim, but this one here seems in reach. So the work is always immediate. And our work in regard to this is at once.

Now to understand, and later I will make my resolve for a particular plan. If you make a plan to see the obstacles you will encounter them. But you will never see them unless you have an aim. Presently, what had been a difficulty is no trouble, but then there’s a bigger one before you.

And you shall succeed only by work: there is no alternative. The great reward is the sense of I which you speak of. Work until I know that I really am. I have to decide myself between I and it, between I and not I. I and all the Annies, all the Myrons.”

Mr Adie paused again: “Well, this was a bit longer than we have ordinarily had, but it was to mark a new level in our work. Bring short notes of what you’re doing for yourself. Even there you’ll find the resistance: you haven’t got the pencil or you haven’t got the paper. But it isn’t so far to get them.

Work from your understanding and limit your task to that. Not all day, just definite and limited so that you can know whether you have failed or not. And do not accept to fail. Well, we’d better stop there. Good night.”

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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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