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This question and answer, simple, but I think all the more valuable for that, comes from a group meeting of 3 March 1983. The first question to Mrs Adie came from Mitt.

Mrs Adie, I’ve mentioned before an attitude, particularly at work, of wanting to belong, sort of seeking approval, and wanting to be the centre of activity. And I realised today that I’d been taking this matter too lightly. I’d been brushing it as just an attitude I have. And I believe that I am in fact jealous, and that it is very negative, and it is a serious thing.”

So what is your approach to that?”

It’s something I was pondering upon, and at first I couldn’t see any way out. It seemed to be my state when I was at work. But this evening I felt strongly a reminder to remember myself.”

At what point was that?”

This evening, when I arrived here. And the moment that I came to myself, I saw for the first time, that this wasn’t really me, this state. It was just another ‘I’, and that gave me a lot of hope as to the importance of self-remembering. It was …”

Yes, but the difficulty is you get caught, and you go to sleep. Can you tie it down to particular situations where this comes upon you? That kind of thing could be part of your line of work. Everybody has it, to a greater or lesser degree, in their personality. I am sure everyone would agree, unless they’ve not seen it.”

After a pause, Helen continued: “Now the thing is how to approach that? How to use that as material for your work?”

It is connected with particular people, and there are definite times when I know the pull, that the attraction of the crowd is strongest. When I think of that now, I remember those times.”

You can’t expect it to stop immediately. It’s been doing this for 20 to 30 years. But you can have an attitude towards it if it’s strong in your mind, if you really care about it, and you think of that as material.”

There are hundreds of similar things one can think of, but that is something very specific, and that can be material for your work. If you can, choose a person or a time or a situation, where you try just to be present to yourself. You don’t try to change anything directly, externally. You don’t decide to act in this way or that way. Nothing at all will come from that. But you try to be. It’s very difficult of course, but if you can, as specifically as you can, plan at a certain moment that you will be present to yourself when you meet that person. And you let the impressions come in, whatever takes place, you don’t deliberately try and alter something; but you cannot act in the same way if you are present to yourself.”

Of course you can’t maintain it: that is a difficulty. But with exercise, with practice, doing it more often, I don’t fall in the same way. And the point is, if it is material, that is something specific. It’s a manifestation of sleep, it is considering, which, apart from the fact that it is all based on imagination … and dreams … also takes my energy.”

I have to be satisfied to be as I am, because falling into this imagination doesn’t really change anything at all.”

You feel your own inner strength”, Helen continued, allowing these last two words a certain weight. “You can feel something strong in you. Try it that way, anyway. Of course, it has to be maintained for a little while, otherwise I’m asleep and it all comes out as usual. It’s a question of practice: the more I do it, the more I can do. The more I try to maintain it, the more I can maintain it, and the more likely I am to be awakened by the thing itself. I feel the taste of this thing appearing. I really realise it now.”

And it’s very fortunate to see something like that. People often have not the slightest idea. You can describe that, if you like, as one of your weaknesses – it’s a weakness that nearly everyone has – one of your obstacles, something which you can definitely use as material. It will come and go: one minute you’ll believe in it again, but then with practice it loses its power.”

So try to be practical about that. Do you think that clarifies it?”

Perhaps Mitt signalled a silent assent. After a space Mrs Adie asked: “Does it actually make you behave in a different matter, or does it occupy your dreams alone?”

It mostly affects my dreaming. One of the main examples of it is when I hear a conversation and I can’t resist going in.”

Yes, you’ve mentioned that before. Well, in that case you could just not join in. Sometimes I can just go against it in that way. But you must know why you that at the time. You must be present to yourself.”

That is what is meant by going against the denying part. This is mentioned in Beelzebub quite often. It was in the last reading.”

I find the exchange interesting not only for Mrs Adie simplicity which contains everything one needs, but for the simple observation that there are certain manifestations which one can just stop. Too often, perhaps, we forget that we don’t have to be childish. We may not be able to do in the full sense of the word, but we can do something.

[You might also be interested in two other Helen Adie related posts:




29 October 2012

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.

“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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Anger” from Hieronymus Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things

A Sort of Sensation Stolen from Emotional Centre”

On Tuesday, 30 October 1979, Helen Adie took a question from Vera, a young woman who had had an argument at work. She didn’t explain herself terribly clearly, and Mrs Adie had to put some time into sorting out what had happened, yet, much of the exchange is, I think, deep and of wider application for students of Gurdjieff’s methods and ideas.

Today,” Vera said, “I was annoyed with a particular person because they didn’t do what I had asked them to do … and, I, felt the situation was very valuable to try and forgive that person and just forget, and I managed to stop the negative thoughts, but, when I looked at the person, I just … I just couldn’t feel anything, and I felt, still, slightly intimidated inside.”

Nothing’s permanent”, replied Mrs Adie. “Everything is moving all the time. That you don’t feel it once doesn’t mean that it isn’t present.”

I just, no matter how much I tried …”

You tried, but you couldn’t feel anything?”

No”, Vera firmly replied. “I couldn’t feel for him.”

No. You can’t try to feel something for people, you can’t try to care for people. You wouldn’t recognize it. Maybe you do in fact have some feeling in respect of other people, but you don’t recognize it because you have an idea about feeling for people. And it’s generally a rather sentimental idea. I have a sort of picture of what feeling for somebody is. But that isn’t real feeling.”

You can’t try to feel something. But you can feel your own presence, and you can, from that, you regard that person. I don’t mean stare at them, but you take them into your experience: you’re aware of their existence. And you often don’t know whether you feel something for them or not. You may without recognising it.”

Mrs Adie paused a little before continuing: “Generally speaking, when we think we care about someone, it means we cling to them in a certain way … are dependent on them, or feel they’re dependent on us. It’s very often not the real thing. We’re looking on the wrong side of ourselves for it.”

Real feeling is something we have yet to learn to recognize. It’s a question of being free, and making a space for it. The place is there, but there’s something which we still have to understand very much about feeling. We can’t force it. It cannot be forced. You either feel it or you don’t.”

But you can make it possible to feel, and a very important step in this is to become, little by little, free of all sorts of dreams about feeling.”

I just wanted to forgive,” Vera said.

Yes, you wanted to accept.”

Yes, that’s what it was. Accept. I just cried. I couldn’t do it.”

You still had that feeling of resentment.”

I did Mrs Adie. The thoughts weren’t there so much. It was just a tension.”

The physical aspect of can remain. It doesn’t go just immediately, that’s true. But a very important step to stopping the tension is stopping the daydreaming about it. This daydreaming, these revolving thoughts only add fuel to the resentment. It makes it, gives it a form.”

Yes, you can’t expect physical sensations to go in five minutes. They may or may not: it depends on the strength of the stimulus. But if some resentment or grudge is established in your body, you can take a great deal of the force away from it by not making it go through your mind, not dwelling on it. And in time it will go, but in itself it doesn’t matter. There’s an energy there which you can begin to learn to take to yourself. You can even begin, eventually, to learn transform it. What we’re discussing is the beginning of this transformation. But now, you were aware that you had that feeling of resentment: so what did you try to do?

I just tried to be aware of myself, with that person, and … I don’t know how I tried to feel … I just tried to see that person, really, and … why it stayed stuck there, I don’t know.”

Yes, that’s quite right, but it’s because you’re expecting a result. That inhibits it, you know. Yet, the effort is in quite the right direction. You face that person, you look at that person, and you try to not feel for that person, but to feel your presence there, in a sort of free, detached way.”

And then you have to be ready to try different things. That’s where you have to use your head a little bit. Be careful. From what you’ve been saying recently you should know that the sour grapes feeling may come in. But that, and most of what we know, are not real feelings: they are a sort of sensation stolen from emotional centre, if you like to put it that way. But feeling can come. It’s possible for people to feel themselves in relation to others. It comes in different periods of their work, but it happens. It’s possible.”

To me, this is quite enlightening. The distinction between feelings (real and permanent) and emotions (partial and ephemeral) is not new. Gurdjieff made it, and several of his pupils remembered something of what he had said about this. I dealt with it in the book George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil. But I was struck by the elegant simplicity of Mrs Adie’s thought. And her statement that these emotions are a “sort of sensation stolen from emotional centre” addresses the emotion/knowledge paradox. That is the paradox that despite our knowledge we are taken by these emotions time and time again. We believe in them while realising that they distort everything in us and almost our entire process of perception. Something in us is identified with these distorting agents. Mrs Adie here explains why: it isn’t that they have no relation at all to feeling, but they are stolen from it and so are cut off from the higher energy of that centre. Also, it isn’t that they have no reality, they are sensations, they’re in the body, so they have that degree of reality. But that is not the reality for which they are made. Feelings serve knowledge and understanding, but only when sited in the right place of the alchemical laboratory which we are. This material is almost endlessly deep. Don’t be distracted by my lubrications. Go to the mistress, and make what she has said your own.


Joseph Azize is presently an Honorary Associate with the Dept. of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. In April, he will be delivering a paper there on J.G. Bennett as a student of mysticism. He has published academically in ancient Near Eastern history, in law, and in religious studies. His latest effort, an article on Gurdjieff’s sacred movements and dances, will be published later this year in a Brill volume edited by Carole Cusack and others.

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?”


“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.”
11 January 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.





jane Heap

Jane Heap

Jane Heap / Notes, Jane Heap, anonymously edited by Annie-Lou Staveley and David Kherdian, 1983 and 2002, Two Rivers Press, Aurora, ISBN 089756023X

This is an edition of the notes Jane Heap prepared before delivering her talks to her pupils in the Gurdjieff ideas and methods. They are not ‘to introduce the ideas’, but ‘towards practical application of the ideas’. Her pupils had already learned the theoretical outlines, and were now participating in groups (the Gurdjieff schools generally organize pupils into ‘groups’ for collective study of the applied methods). The fact that these notes were not written for publication makes them more valuable, because we eavesdrop, as it were, on Jane thinking to herself about how she can address the practical needs of her pupils.

Gurdjieff’s ideas can only ever be superficially understood without an attempt to apply them to oneself. One finds in this volume, to an extraordinary degree, evidence of knowledge and practice united in work – which I would define as ‘informed action directed to a constructive aim’ (see George Adie p. 28). Although written as a number of chains of thought, not as one thematic exercise, the contents of this book are probably the greatest exposition of the ‘technique of techniques’ we will ever have.

There is a table of contents, a two page introduction by Michael Currer-Briggs (whom Dr Lester, Jane’s pupil and physician, described to me as Jane’s ‘right hand man’), a large number of extracts from Jane’s private notes, with minimally intrusive editing by Mrs Staveley (one of Jane’s pupils, whom Jane effectively ‘graduated’ from her group before her death), and David Kherdian (Mrs Staveley’s pupil, and an acclaimed literary talent). Pages 87-95 comprise a collection of Jane’s aphorisms. The text is organized into readings of between one and ten pages, with italic sub-headings at various points. This is good, because the presentation is intense and compressed, so the sectioned layout assists the reader to select and study integrated units of related thoughts.

The volume is an attractive hard cover, with thick paper cover and plastic protection, approx. 6 ½ by 8 inches, with oil print on the endpapers. It comprises 95 pages printed on a slightly creamy, textured, top quality paper. The original 1983 edition was handset. Except, I think, that the first edition had leather trimmings, the 2002 edition is an exact facsimile reproduction of the first. Information about Jane, her style of teaching, and the publication of these notes and others, is found on the fly-leaves. The excellent choice of the paper, print and binding were the work of David Kherdian and his wife Nonny Hogrogian, a celebrated artist. However, the entire group at Two Rivers Farm were concerned in various aspects of its compilation and printing. To see and hold it, one feels that one is in the presence of a product of respect and careful attention, even down to the good use made of the fly-leaves.

At the outset, I should observe that there is another book of Jane Heap’s notes, The Notes of Jane Heap, which, although also published by Two Rivers Press, was edited by Michael Currer-Briggs and others of Jane’s London pupils, not by Mrs Staveley. That is different from the book I am reviewing, although almost everything I say about the contents of this volume would apply to it, too. There is a significant overlap between the contents of the two books. The chief difference is that the ‘London notes’ lack even the subtle editing of this volume, and that, I think, is advantageous in that the notes are even more concise, but then, sometimes they’re almost impenetrable. That volume is a nice hard cover, but as an artefact, it is not in the same league as this masterpiece.

I have seen the typed transcript of all Jane’s notes, and it’s fairly apparent from their contents that some of them, especially the “Black Book”, can only have been meant for her own purposes, and not even in preparation for addressing her groups. But this book does not include those most private notes: this volume consists of notes which Jane wrote in longhand when preparing to give talks to her groups.

In August 1973, some nine years after Jane’s death, some of her pupils, having already provided Jeanne de Salzmann with a complete copy of the typed transcripts, met with her in Switzerland to discuss what use they might make of the material. And it is fortunate that they did, because Madame challenged them to produce their best. I do not just mean that she issued a challenge: anyone can do that. De Salzmann helped them probe deeply for their truest, best effort, as is apparent from the extracts below. It must have been an intense two days for these people. The notes of the meeting with Madame de Salzmann record her as saying on the first day:

This is something none of the other books have. There is plenty published about Ideas but not about How to work. Perhaps the thing to do is to prepare a small volume on this. Then Mme Salzmann will show it to the older ones – Tracol, Mme Lannes, Deselle – to see if it would help. We must be more DYNAMIC.

The capitals are as in the notes of that meeting, provided to me by the late Dr Lester. De Salzmann went on to say:

We must remember that what we do will be for the benefit of Jane – editing and shortening – and not hold back or hold on to the old memories because we were there – were taught by her. We must remember that the book will be read by people who never knew or saw Jane. For this reason we must remember that we have to insure that the book has IMPACT. (Jane’s sayings – need to be worked up and brought on).

I am not sure whether this last sentence represents de Salzmann’s aside, or was placed there by someone else. She made the point, which I feel the London notes bear out, that unedited, these notes incline towards being too dense. Thus, while I do not know if Madame ever gave approval of Mrs Staveley’s and Kherdian’s book prior to publication, it is that one which more closely accords with her advice:

As they are – Jane’s Notes – we would have to shorten them – edit them for reading. When they were given they were spoken – they were for that group to hear – for that moment – that meeting. They were spoken to be listened to. At a meeting – when spoken – the formulation does not matter so much because of the people there – they could be explained – elaborated – questions could be answered. But for reading by other people – people on their own – at home and not in meetings or groups – it would have to be different – and very carefully formulated – absolutely right.

One can sense the high demand which de Salzmann made, and the quality of thought which she brought (I am told she used to quote Gurdjieff as having said: “Very good is not good enough”). Other of de Salzmann’s comments, as recorded in these notes, illustrate the initial impulse which went into the production of this volume:

We must remember there is never enough MENACE in ourselves – never enough hard confrontation. If there is a true confrontation there is an agony – a horror – in that moment of balance. This way or that? Whichever way we go is an escape. We have to pay. If we give up then we are lost. … We meet someone – read a book – it arouses our interest – we feel that person has something. Even at a very early age that possibility of interest is there. This arousing of interest happens in our ordinary lives. We become aware that there is a hunger in us and because of that we follow that interest – we put our energy into that and no longer just as always before on everyday things. In doing that we put our energy onto a new and different level in ourselves.

We meet someone – like you met Jane – who has something different – that meeting raises your interest to this other level – it calls you to give your interest and energy in that direction. That person remains special for you – will always remain so – has become permanent. They have altered the direction of your life. Then later you will meet something else which will do the same and again raise you to another level. Gradually something becomes your own – what you have received is available to you. And you are in danger. There is a menace for you – a trap. You do not go on – you stay there. It has become too easy and you fall down and allow life to take you away. You do not stay there with that danger, that menace. You do not find your place. If you lose that position of danger it is hard to come back again.

Then there is TIME. Gurdjieff used to give work of a certain kind, for a time only. And just when people were getting used to that work – beginning to be able to do it – to find it easy, he would sweep it away – destroy it – because of that danger – the danger of it becoming too easy. Life changes – some of the things we still hear about – read about are now old fashioned. The time has gone for them, and this is inevitable and according to Law. There is a different way to call people to work now – a way that has to be used today. This we must always be searching for – and at the same time we must remain faithful to the Work – the Ideas – as we received them.

It is easy to make grand efforts – big efforts – to work extra hard on this or that, with terrific energy. This also can be an escape – can be a danger too. But if your work is related differently – if it is not just in one part – your mind or your feelings or your body – if everything in you is related and related to that danger – that menace – so that a true confrontation can take place – a confrontation that brings you up with a jerk – then that is different.

That, then, is how Jeanne de Salzmann came to be the godmother, as it were, of this volume. Now for the two other key players. Jane Heap and Annie-Lou Staveley were two of Gurdjieff’s most accomplished, and most faithful pupils. Unfortunately, there has not yet been any study of either of these most redoubtable persons which does them justice. Jane (1887-1964) was with Gurdjieff from about 1924, I believe, although at some point he sent her to London to commence her own groups. Initially, I understand, he asked her to join Ouspensky’s London group, but he refused to accept her. If I remember correctly, Moore says that his stated reason was that she was an ‘incorrigible lesbian’. Apart from wondering what a ‘corrigible lesbian’ would look like, and how Ouspensky would go about correcting one, I would need to see some evidence before I could believe that Ouspensky had made the comment: it seems an odd thing to say knowing that it could be reported, and that she had been a pupil of Gurdjieff’s.

The Contents
This book is direct and powerful to an extent I have never seen matched: “Only what we actually experience is valuable” [page 8]. As De Salzmann said, these notes tell how to apply the Gurdjieff method. They do not expound the ideas, but they operate from the ideas in such a way that certain important ones are highlighted; and when they are, their setting, which is a practical one, illuminates them in fresh ways. For example, she says that ‘I’ is a ‘power of emanation’ [12], and that it is a ‘potentiality of essence’ [13], and so opens a new perspective on these ideas. Then, the piece “I Am my Burden” draws on the Law of Seven, and yet develops it in a direction contemplated, but not executed, in Miraculous:

To finish everything you begin! We rarely finish anything completely – always something is lacking. How to see clearly in ourselves the cause of this! I may be unable to finish because I have decided but have not understood. … Or you may take the habit of finishing – but it will not give anything because the same habit may turn into something else. [3]

From these notes we can glimpse something of the teaching, and of the ‘technique of techniques’. I first heard this phrase from George Adie: both he and Helen Adie had been close to Jane, and they perhaps learned it from her. Mr Adie used it as a description of the Gurdjieff method, a technique which is not like any other we have known. It’s a technique which comes from a higher level, so that even in its form it is under fewer rules than our ordinary methods. The heart of this ‘technique of techniques’ is the preparation, and so, the preparation itself can also be called the ‘technique of techniques’. And yet, Jane says that “Every time I have to remind myself that it has to be the first time I ever tried the exercise” [16].

Can the use of a technique and the imperative to continually reinitiate fresh efforts be reconciled? They can be, and they often are, in practice. We see this even in the world where employing techniques in trades, arts and crafts, far from inhibiting freshness, makes it more possible. The great innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and J.S. Bach devoted great attention to the fine details of their arts. They can be reconciled in theory, too, because mastering the platform skills requires that the three platform functions (intellect, feeling and organic instinct) are trained, as a vine is trained to a trellis, and harmonized at least in respect of that art, which may explain why many people who master a craft, an art, a science or a skill, come to appreciate it with something in the direction of love.

The technique of techniques is under the laws of a higher world: it is based on the understanding of higher mind. In addition, the preparation is done in quiet, away from electro-magnetic fields, in the light and air of morning, which, as Gurdjieff said, possess special properties. Very few principles are required to do the preparation, either for the contemplative part, or to complete it by making a plan for the day or, in the evening, to review it and perhaps make a sketch for the following day.

Although the preparation is made in a special environment, with special knowledge, nonetheless its fruits must be expressed in this world: which means the formulation and the fixture of plan, and the wish and resolve to keep one’s word to oneself. So there is definition and decision, and it has to be that way. To refuse to use any technique is idiocy, a recipe for delusion. This is true whether we’re speaking of carpentry, gardening, painting, music, or inner development.

This point deserves emphasis: this book presents the authentic Gurdjieff teaching of the ‘preparation’ (not the ‘sitting’), thus Jane says “All depends on your preparation” [63] , but see also pp. 10 (mentioning divided attention), 14-16, 31, 34, 38, 46, 48-9, 52, 54, 63, 69 and 81. It helps that Jane refers both to the evening preparation and to the connection between the preparation and one’s plan for the day [pp. 14, 55 and 70]. The Adies brought all of these methods, and I have concluded that they are critical to any possibility of accelerated development. I would say that I proved this to myself, because after their deaths, I gradually let those good habits run down, but I’ve returned, thankfully, to them just in accordance with the principles they gave.

The preparation is a sort of bridge between worldly and spiritual life, what Mr Adie called ‘life under the sun’ and ‘life under the stars’. Both lives go together, as Jane said: “We transport into work what we are in life. If I behave like a pig in life, I behave in the work like a pig also …” [58]. Another practical concept uniting the two lives in practices is the teaching of the good householder, whom she says is “the man who neglects nothing. The man that is faithful and accurate in small things and, at the same time, remembers that he has another life to care for and who tries to relate them” [21, see also p. 15].

So, Jane points us to a unitive discipline [39], pursued for an aim [80]. To speak of discipline, today, invites resistance. Dr Lester often said that Jane understood the importance and lawfulness of resistance. He said, for example, that if someone in their craft shop The Rocking Horse was hammering an object which was not sufficiently steady, she would call out “Not enough denying force!”. The same wisdom inhabits this book: “The No is to make the Yes remembered. No and Yes have to become more inseparable – one without the other is not profitable. … Yes without No – the angel without the devil – is impotence. … If it were not so it would not lead you to something. It would be romance – fallacious.” [10-11]. Later, we find this powerful comment: “Gurdjieff says the word ‘passive’ meant something very strong and concrete” [66].

Negative emotions can be used: hence her succinct advice: “Look over the top of being negative” [26]. And not only negative emotions: Jane understood the value of fasting, [73], something which one can harmlessly experiment with by following the traditional fasts of the Eastern Christian Churches (modern Catholic practice is arguably better than nothing, but it does not compare to the Eastern traditions).

A special feature of this volume is that Jane preserves in an organic context many sayings of Gurdjieff, some of which would otherwise have been lost. Here is my list:

“Try to be responsible for what you have understood” [19]
“We are always making requirements” [24]
“To believe is to make sheep” [36]
“Revalue your values” [40]
“Everyone has a dog in himself” [41]
“Not even an apparatus in us for negative emotions – but they use every part of us”[42]
“Your work is cheap” [44]
“You are a very naive person” [46]
“A good egoist is something very big – a man who becomes concerned for his own reality, then begins to be concerned for the reality of others” [50]
“Try to do what you do – just what you do – but do it!” [58]
“Use little reminding factors” [59]

At the end of the volume, as noted, are her powerful aphorisms. An earlier draft of this review cited some, but there were so many I ached to include that it became unworkable. So I have, instead, selected lines from the other part of the text which strike me as profound with an almost unearthly profundity: “A picture formation in the mind is one of the foods for attention. Think what is meant by this food – food for voluntary attention” [53]; “What you have lived in dreams is etched in you …” [26], and with that, “As long as you accept to feed on deception you will not be given better food” [17].

There are so many such master-teachings that I cannot do them justice. I will give a subjective list of a few: see [44] for her comments on blood and instinct, [45] on worry, [76] on death, and pp. 19, 22-23, 28-29, 32-33, 50, 69, 71 and 76-77 for her comments on reality, unity aim and cause and control. It seems to me that she gives the clue to a theoretical understanding of reality and unreality in oneself. One of Jane’s famous sayings about death is here, too [76]. Dr Lester was there when a woman, in a state of mild anxiety, asked Jane what death was like. Jane replied: “Don’t worry. You won’t notice much difference.”

Finally, the Notes of Jane Heap ends with a few extracts about death and recurrence. And that is a good way to end. But this volume ends with something I think is even better: a chapter titled ‘Here – Now’ which seems to me to sum up the entire book in a tour de force. I will end with just one sentence from that chapter:

Do not fear – it is stupid. Quieten your emotions – this is the first step – then collect a little.

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.



Joseph Azize Page



Where are the Gurdjieff Groups Heading?

Gurdjieff brought a promise: the fourth way would transform people who were prepared to work (meaning here “make a practical study the ideas and methods, applying them in their lives”. Pupils of the fourth way would be in a school, and in these schools there would be esoteric knowledge. His people would be an ascending people, a people co-operating with the forces of evolution, climbing the stairs to the divine vision explicitly spoken of in “Beelzebub” and implicitly in “Miraculous”. Individual efforts would even have planetary and cosmic effects, a side given some emphasis by Jeanne de Salzmann. In addition to this there lay a social dimension: with his ideas and methods, Gurdjieff would make war on the old world of lies, suggestibility and “reciprocal destruction”, and forge a new one.
The vision which we had when we came across the Gurdjieff ideas was that it would be possible to become something like what Gurdjieff had been like: vigilant, aware, resourceful, capable of working in many fields, full of knowledge and feeling. The picture of Gurdjieff in the books, especially Ouspensky, de Hartmann and Nott, is of someone always connected with a higher level, so to speak. A life like that would surely be glorious whatever hardships came along, for unconscious suffering would be made conscious. Further, the entire group would be a leavening agent, an esoteric society of brothers and sisters within a host body. And I would be one individual in such a group, collaborating for a mutually understood higher purpose.

And why not? There had been extraordinary people in history, and here was Gurdjieff, clearly another one. And besides, religion required so much, and yet did not offer the means to carry it out. To me, being a Christian was like being in a French class where no-one could actually speak French, just deliver lectures about the theory, but forgot what they had just said or learned as soon as they left the classroom. As a young person, I never saw a single person change their character for the better except by effluxion of time or after massive shocks, such as a close escape from death. or by leaving the world, perhaps to become a monk or nun. This did not seem right: surely there must have be something tranformative there, otherwise, it was a farce, a mockery.

Gurdjieff promised to deliver in reality. And when I met George and Helen Adie, I realised that even after his death he could deliver. There was no doubt about that all, and I still have no doubt about that.

But did even the Adies ever preside over such a school of ascending individuals growing in consciousness and wisdom? Although the Adies had a great effect on literally hundreds of pupils, not one of us, not excluding myself, is at their level. My experience of the Foundation groups in New York and London, while not the most extensive is still sufficient for me to be sure that it is almost always those who knew Gurdjieff himself who had achieved the most for themselves.

It is as if the power left the Gurdjieff groups with Gurdjieff himself. And that is the fact, at least as I see it.

So, I repeat my question, where are the Gurdjieff groups going?

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.



Joseph Azize Page


Jeanne de Salzmann

Jane Heap

John Lester

Meetings with Jeanne de Salzmann in 1973

These notes were given to me by the late Dr John Lester. Dr Lester had become a pupil of Jane Heap in London during WWII. If I remember correctly, he told me it was between 1940 and 1942. In 1946, he and all Jane’s pupils had gone to study with Gurdjieff in Paris, remaining with him for more than three years. An Oxford trained physician, he became Jane’s doctor, being with her on the day she died in 1964.

I cannot be certain that he made these notes, but I am certain that he was confident of their accuracy. I never explicitly ask him if he had been at this meeting, but it was, as I recall, implied. He had a vivid recollection of Jeanne de Salzmann’s concern about not only the possible publication but even the dissemination of Jane Heap’s Black Book. This made me think he had been at the 1973 meetings recorded here. However, this is not certain, and his recollection of de Salzmann’s anxiety may have been based on other meetings. I had first thought only to edit the notes, but decided that I should make them available in their entirety, in case it is apprehended that I have selectively quoted them. I am thinking of writing a proper academic article, when time allows.

I have not changed a single word, except to correct spelling errors: e.g. replacing ‘to-day’ with ‘today’.

Part One: The Notes

Notes of Meetings with Mme Salzmann about Jane’s notes.
Switzerland August 1973

How to Work. This is something none of the other books have.
There is plenty published about Ideas but not
about How to work.

Perhaps the thing to do is to prepare a small volume on this. Then Mme Salzmann will show it to the older ones – Tracol, Mme Lannes, Deselle – to see if it would help.

We must be more DYNAMIC. The idea of the alphabet and index is alright for your own purpose – for practical work to find your way around the notes – but otherwise it is not dynamic enough – it is too intellectual – too like an ordinary dictionary. We have to find another way to select, a more dynamic way.

About Jane’s Black Notebook.
The question about whether these notes were taken from Addison transcripts. (And others as well) Mme Salzmann will ask Mme Lannes if the transcripts taken of all those Addison meetings still exist or if they have been destroyed. If they have been destroyed it makes what we have from Jane more valuable – maybe there are still copies in London – she can find out. There are none in Paris. (contradicted later).

As they are – Jane’s Notes – we would have to shorten them – edit them for reading. When they were given they were spoken – they were for that group to hear – for that moment – that meeting. They were spoken to be listened to. At a meeting – when spoken – the formulation does not matter so much because of the people there – they could be explained – elaborated – questions could be answered. But for reading by other people – people on their own – at home and not in meetings or groups – it would have to be different – and very carefully formulated – absolutely right.

There is too much repetition – too many inaccuracies – they could be misunderstood.

[2.] (On reading JBN for a while) They do not seem like Jane – nor yet Mme Lannes. Not her way. If it was Tracol he would have prepared – he would have his own notes – not Mme Lannes perhaps. There could be some of Jane’s writing in it.

If she had heard this material she would have tried for herself. Was it taken down verbatim at the time or remembered afterwards? If it was taken down – maybe by Cathleen Murphy.

Trouble with the Family and others,
There must be no quotation without permission otherwise the family will sue. They even wish to sue the Canadian Group for the Index to All and Everything – some of which is good – some not so good. Mme Salzmann doesn’t see why that was necessary – if you know the Book – but it was their work and they wanted to do it.

It would be our responsibility to know that anything we proposed had not been published before and would be clear of copyright. Not only from the Family but from Orage – Ouspensky – Nicholls (sic). The copyright of all these are protected.

In America the copyright laws are different from here (England and Europe).

There is even trouble about the Black Book of Gurdjieff Lectures that is coming out in October. But these were written down from memory – much later – and this is different. They could not be claimed as the writings of Gurdjieff.

We must remember that what we do will be for the benefit of Jane – editing and shortening – and not hold back or hold on to the old memories because we were there – were taught by her.

We must remember that the book will be read by people who never knew or saw Jane.

For this reason we must remember that we have to insure that the book has IMPACT.

(Jane’s sayings – need to be worked up and brought on).

[3.] When we first heard the Ideas – when we were told something – (for example about attention) we would be listening – trying to experience. But we did not know why the Ideas were given in the order they were given. Then later something else was given – perhaps in relation to something else – and it was a step forward. Something had been added. But again we didn’t know or understand why that was given in that way. But something had remained from before, (from the first time) and something new had been added.

When we revise the Notes we have to remember this.

If there is to be a book – a chronological order might be the way – but if in another then on subjects.

The introduction to the book will be very important.

To use the letter of Orage is good (on hearing the draft introduction read aloud) Some of the introduction is good but more is needed – the idea is not bad.

The story of Orage.

Orage had not been trained long enough by Gurdjieff before he began his Groups in New York. When one knows the Ideas well – when they are available to you – something can happen – there can be a danger. It always happens, everyone is exposed to this danger.

Orage had many people around him – he could attract them – arouse their interest – but then something else happened and it was a trap – inside one has to know the danger of this – he began to ‘play’ with the Ideas. To make up exercises of his own and so on. Gurdjieff went to America and he saw what was happening. It was not good and he decided to do something about it.

It would have been useless to say anything to Orage directly – it would have been no benefit for him. He had to receive a shock. He had to feel shame – deep inside. So G. began to talk to O.’s people – behind his back – and told them that they were being told nonsense – taught wrongly. There is a talk about it all in the Third Series. Naturally it soon got back [4.] to O. – there was much disturbance. G. then told every one of O’s people that they had to choose and that they would have to sign a paper and would solemnly swear never to see or speak to Orage again.

There was to be a special meeting of all O’s people and they were then to sign.

Mme S was there when Orage telephoned G – having of course heard about this meeting – Mme S heard the conversation on the second earpiece of the phone. O asked if he should come to the Meeting – would G let him come. G said – “Come Orage, come.”

At the meeting when the papers were passed around for signature Orage was the first person to sign. As he gave the paper back to G, he said he hoped he would never see or speak to Orage again. It was very clever – he had felt something – he had been touched.

A shock of this kind makes a complete difference to the direction of somebody’s life.

Orage decided to go back to England – to give up his Groups – to go back into life.

Maybe in another life he would return at just that point.

But not only Orage was put on the spot – every one of his people as well. Many were very upset – Jessie Orage in particular. Of course some didn’t sign, but that was no good for them. They thought they had escaped but they didn’t. G never accepted these people back again.

Perhaps later O. would have returned – maybe he was working – preparing to do so – he always stayed faithful – he didn’t go elsewhere to other teachings – perhaps he had only decided to go away into life for a time.

When Orage died Gurdjieff felt that he had lost somebody valuable.

We must remember there is never enough MENACE in ourselves – never enough hard confrontation. If there is a true confrontation there is an agony – a horror – in that moment of balance. This way or that? Whichever way we go is an escape. We have to pay. If we give up then we are lost.

[5.] This is why we always have to try and find a place near people who are also trying to work. So that we can relate to each other – to exchange. It is in this place where we give and receive. Only there can something be created. Only in that place where we give and receive at the same time.

We meet someone – read a book – it arouses our interest – we feel that person has something.

Even at a very early age that possibility of interest is there. This arousing of interest happens in our ordinary lives.

We become aware that there is a hunger in us and because of that we follow that interest – we put our energy into that and no longer just as always before on everyday things. In doing that we put our energy onto a new and different level in ourselves.

We meet someone – like you met Jane – who has something different – that meeting raises your interest to this other level – it calls you to give your interest and energy in that direction. That person remains special for you – will always remain so – has become permanent. They have altered the direction of your life.

Then later you will meet something else which will do the same and again raise you to another level. Gradually something becomes your own – what you have received is available to you. And you are in danger. There is a menace for you – a trap. You do not go on – you stay there. It has become too easy and you fall down and allow life to take you away.

You do not stay there with that danger, that menace. You do not find your place. If you lose that position of danger it is hard to come back again.

Then there is TIME. Gurdjieff used to give work of a certain kind, for a time only. And just when people were getting used to that work – beginning to be able to do it – to find it easy, he would sweep it away – destroy it – because of that danger – the danger of it becoming too easy.

Life changes – some of the things we still hear about – read about are now old fashioned. The time has gone for them, and this [6.] is inevitable and according to Law. There is a different way to call people to work now – a way that has to be used today. This we must always be searching for – and at the same time we must remain faithful to the Work – the Ideas – as we received them.

It is easy to make grand efforts – big efforts – to work extra hard on this or that, with terrific energy.

This also can be an escape – can be a danger too.

But if your work is related differently – if it is not just in one part – your mind or your feelings or your body – if everything in you is related and related to that danger – that menace – so that a true confrontation can take place – a confrontation that brings you up with a jerk – then that is different.

What we publish in a book of Jane’s Notes must be absolutely right. Not only because of the family and others in the work – or the general public – the people who are searching and in need.

And today there is a need in many of the young and they accept many of the Ideas that were astonishing to us when we first heard them as part of everyday life. (G. said this would happen in his book – the Ideas are passing slowly but inevitably into life.) But also because there may be someone – some Sufi – Buddhist – Hindu – some Zen in Japan – who would say it was wrong – not part of the true tradition of the work that has and always will exist somewhere in the world. This we must avoid.

Jane apart from her brilliant personality – her amazing qualities – those which she had as an ordinary person before she came to the work – was a very humble person. There was a great humility in her that many people never saw.

Second talk – the following day.

We are not enough challenged. There must always be a demand in you – and in the other person. It is the exchange that is important – it is in the exchange that you can receive some food.

Thinking about Jane’s Notes – I (Mme S) see more clearly now the problem since yesterday.

It is right that Jane should have her place. Something must [7.] be done. Did she write nothing else? Everyone wrote notes about their meetings with Mr Gurdjieff – and about the movements – but not at that time – that was forbidden. He demanded absolute attention to try and experience what he was saying – there was to be nothing else happening like taking notes. But afterwards everyone wrote notes, but they never wrote down anything serious – no exercises – nothing really important that he said – only the trivia and the outside things.

S.’s diaries – I (Mme S) have read them – these should not be published. But did not Jane write anything herself? Reply – No. Maybe she felt she did not need to – she could trust her memory. Are you sure there was nothing in her papers of that kind? Reply – No we would have seen if there was – there were a number of us with our eyes open and looking and even later when the move from her house was taking place, nothing new was found.

There is the need then to find out if there are original transcripts of Addison meetings in London – or Paris – to confirm with what you have (sic). If not there is perhaps a slender volume – but not more. All the rest you keep for yourselves.

(Mme S had not had time to read what we gave her in April) [this sentence underlined by hand]

Further brief notes.

Fear- there must be no fear.

You are not challenged enough – all the time there must be this challenge.

Chandolin – the chalet someone gave to Michel de Salzmann – where the Geneva groups work in the summer – the same village where Lizelle Reymond – who shares the group with M de S.

Bringing everything to the site by special life – the village high in mountains. When sand and cement were needed it was brought by helicopter – only way.

Necessary to make friends with village priest – mayor – gendarme. Now they think we are nice well meaning intelligent people.

It is necessary to do all this. We need to do this more and more. There is not enough contact with life around us.

Part Two: Some Comments

What is the big thing about this document, the really big thing which is so large that we would miss it for the details? I think it is Jeanne de Salzmann’s attitude: not her attitude to the notes of Jane Heap, as such, but to Gurdjieff’s heritage. Related to this is the way she bamboozles the people who have gone to Switzerland to ask her opinion. I suspect that the discombobulation is a technique she used, consciously or otherwise, to protect her attitude to Gurdjieff’s heritage.

First of all, a word on method. It seems to me that, very often, things which we write and say hold the key to understanding ourselves. I started to see this when time and again people’s criticisms of third parties proved to be strikingly accurate descriptions of their own weaknesses. Perhaps the same is also true in respect of strengths. Since I started to ponder this, it has helped to me to ask whether I may not share the very same weaknesses I detect in others. And often I do.

Why is this? I suspect that the elements which make us up are forever subliminally swimming in our minds and our feelings. We are most familiar with ourselves, even if we do not admit that what we see is true of ourselves. As Jane Heap said, something inside us always knows. And if it is known in ourselves, we can more readily see it in others. For this reason, a truthful person often needs a bit of time before they can spot a liar, while one cheat is onto others straight away.

Related to this, an analysis of another person, or even a critique of their ideas is more effective, indeed most effective, when it uses the other person’s own words, because it might grapple with their principles. So let us turn to these notes.

First of all, de Salzmann was struck by the fact that here were Jane’s own notes on “How to work”, something “none of the other books have.” The distinction she draws between the “Ideas” and “How to work” is difficult to establish in practice as even the ideas have a practical force. The ideas relating to self-remembering, self-observation and negative emotions can be put into practice even from the books. One will rarely get very far, but the same is often true even of people in groups. I would say that Jane seldom set out the ideas as if expounding them to the ordinary educated reader. She assumed an acquaintance with the basic ideas, and then offered more advanced ideas to help her students, that their being might grow in line with understanding. These were advanced ideas, of no value without practical attempts to actualize conscious efforts.

Salzmann’s initial idea was for “a small volume” as a tester. At the end of the second day’s discussion she has not shifted: “there is perhaps a slender volume – but not more. All the rest you keep for yourselves.” And this at a point when she had still not read all of the material.

De Salzmann’s opposition was evident from the start even if always apparently prompted by matters of principle: an alphabetical index was not sufficiently “dynamic” (whatever that meant), it was “too intellectual – too like an ordinary dictionary”. And what is so horrifying about an ordinary dictionary? How is an index “too” intellectual? How does one leaven an index with something not intellectual?

The next objection was that the notes cannot have been Jane’s, they were probably “notes … taken from Addison transcripts”. Then, they were not meant to be read, and if one is going to prepare such material to be read then it must be “absolutely right”. Not just right, but “absolutely” right. Then the notes themselves were denigrated: they had “too much repetition – too many inaccuracies – they could be misunderstood”, as if there is anything one can write which cannot be misunderstood.

This all reminds me of two conversations I had with Michel de Salzmann. He had exactly the same attitude as his mother: people should publish only under his careful direction because it might add to the misunderstandings – as if he could control people’s conclusions and thoughts through quiet behind-the-scenes censorship.

Then de Salzmann read the Black Book. Once more she returned to the tactic: “They do not seem like Jane”, before conceding that “There could be some of Jane’s writing in it.”

The next impediment was copyright: Gurdjieff’s family might sue! I cannot conceive why she thought that there was a possibility that any of this text was Gurdjieff’s, let alone why the family would think so, but she was quite categorical: “There must be no quotation without permission otherwise the family will sue. … It would be our responsibility to know that anything we proposed had not been published before and would be clear of copyright. Not only from the Family but from Orage – Ouspensky – Nicholls (sic). The copyright of all these are protected.” So they bore the onus of proving that not only Gurdjieff but even the Orage, Ouspensky and Nicoll estates could not sue (Jane did meet Ouspensky, but not often, and I am not sure if she ever met Nicoll). And what was de Salzmann’s objective basis for thinking that there was any question of material from these three being in the Notes?

Then, note the very subtle reference to the follies of the Canadian Group. Madame did not see why they needed to produce their index, but how allowing she was! The message is clear: don’t make trouble for me like those silly Canadians.

On page three, we have “the story of Orage”. To me, this is the key to what Madame herself did. What she says of him is true of herself. Although like Orage she knew the ideas well, she was “exposed to this danger” of ‘playing’ with the ideas. Also like Orage, she began “to make up exercises of (her) own and so on”. Was she subliminally aware that despite her extraordinary understanding, she did not understand enough for her position? I suspect that she needed to work with and not over other pupils of Gurdjieff, at least with respect to the ideas.

Then on page four is this comment: “Maybe in another life he (Orage) would return at just that point.” This was, from what I have heard, the sort of thing she and Lord Pentland would say from time to time. James Moore gives another example, where she said that if Mme Lannes’ pupils worked she (Lannes) would not have to come back. As if de Salzmann knew and had to say it to these people at this time! What does it mean if not “I am an oracle, I know the decrees of eternity: accept my word”? Ravindra’s “Heart Without Measure” quotes her as effectively saying that she knows what the planet needs: “one can sense it”, she would say. This is all, quite literally, pretentious.

A clue to de Salzmann’s deeper concerns is found at page six. It opens with reiterating that: “What we publish in a book of Jane’s Notes must be absolutely right.” This time, she invokes two groups: first, “people who are searching and in need” with its romantic appeal to the interests of “many of the young”. Why always the young? Are seekers less valuable as they age?

The second group is particularly revealing: “there may be someone – some Sufi – Buddhist – Hindu – some Zen in Japan – who would say it was wrong – not part of the true tradition of the work that has and always will exist somewhere in the world. This we must avoid.”

Why? Why must we avoid it? Why not engage with it in discussion? And can one avoid it? The thesis has in fact been argued by people such as Perry and will be argued in the future, and no Gurdjieff Foundation or Institute can stop them. But at a deeper level: is it true or not? If it is true, what is served by a blanket of silence? Why not explain where and why Gurdjieff makes an advance? What is the value of Gurdjieff’s heritage if it replicates what already exists and always will? But if it is untrue, why not let the facts come out so that at least one can claim the courage of one’s convictions? Why not deal with the danger, by bringing better information to bear?

I suspect that the S. whose diaries should not be published is Solita Solano. Even if it was not, the Solano example is revealing. Because the diaries had not been published in their totality, they were available to be used as a publishing coup. Extracts were made by Paterson who published some in his journal as “The Kanari Papers” and based much of his book “Ladies of the Rope” around them. Apart from the fact that the results in the book were not terribly distinguished, what happened? Did the bottom fall out of the Gurdjieff groups? In fact, hardly anyone noticed. I have read some of those notes: I think that a properly edited and annotated edition would go some way to rehabilitating the image of Gurdjieff: his relationship with women and lesbians emerges in what seems to me to be a rather sympathetic light as he experiments with various ways to help them. But they are more effective in their own words, not in Paterson’s awkward rephrasing.

Why this insistence on a “slender volume” at the most? Ultimately, despite her keen intelligence and her profound understanding, I feel that de Salzmann tried to control Gurdjieff and his public reception, to remake it in something more like her image. And I am quite certain that she had more to learn from the other pupils of Gurdjieff about Gurdjieff’s own heritage. But with those people, she adopted an oracular stance, while she went to Japan and Asia and picked up the “New Work”, and invented her own exercises: a process which has quite quickly lead to the disappearance of the Gurdjieff exercises, and the bowdlerization of Beelzebub, perhaps the two keys to his entire practical system.

Let us come back to this danger of ‘playing’ with the ideas. It is a very deep comment: but there were exceptions: I do not see that Jane, or Mrs Staveley or the Adies, to name but some, succumbed. And why not? What saved them? I think it was loyalty. Loyalty is a real emotion: in its pure form it is a function of higher emotional centre. And it is one which becomes available to us, it is given to us by Great Nature, by a providential arrangement of attachment to the scenes and peoples of our past. This attachment, blended with discrimination and impartiality, leads to loyalty. Loyalty does not exclude understanding: understanding is the first demand for attachment to spark into the higher emotion of loyalty. But that spark can be smothered.

And I personally conclude, without either regret or joy, that Mme de Salzmann compromised her loyalty in her desire to protect the movement.

Joseph Azize has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book “The Phoenician Solar Theology” treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The third book, “George Mountford Adie” represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.



Joseph Azize Page


Bomb falling on Paris 1943

An Unpublished Gurdjieff Group Meeting dated Saturday 16 October 1943

On 20 July 2008, I was sorting through some papers in a folder Kenneth Adie, Mr George Adie’s youngest son, had passed onto me from among his father’s unsorted documents. Amongst them was a French language transcript of a meeting with Gurdjieff on Saturday 16 October 1943. I have not checked that 16 October 1943 was a Saturday, I am reading from the transcript itself.

Present were Mme de Salzmann and people identified as André Abadi, G. Franc, Louise Leprudhomme, Miss (Elizabeth) Gordon, Yette, Simone, and Nano. The transcript then has a return, apparently, to distinguish those above from those below, being Rene Daumal, Philippe, Méchin, (Henri?) Tracol, Aboulker, Kahn, Luc (Dietrich?), Lebeau, J. and A(lfred?) Etiévant, and J. Crochereau.

The meeting took place in two parts. The first section is said to occur after the reading of ‘Pogossian’, which we know from Meetings With Remarkable Men. Evidently, this was the first meeting after holidays. Gurdjieff asked if anyone had made any observations concerning what I have translated as “the separation exercise”. The exact French is “l’exercise du dédoublement”, literally “the exercise of making into two.” ‘Separation’ and ‘division’ are attested translations of ‘dédoublement’, and this meaning is supported by the context. Later in the transcript the French word ‘separation’ appears as an equivalent. But, unless otherwise stated, you can take it that the speakers always use the word ‘dédoublement’ when I refer to ‘separation’.

The first to speak was Dr Aboulker. He said that he had continued with the exercise, and although he had “succeeded a little” during the holidays, he now had “much less than I did back then”. He stated that he had not been able to reach “a point of coming out of myself”. He requested Gurdjieff to now give him the exercise he had promised to at the beginning of September, “to help me regain the taste of division (dédoublement).”

Gurdjieff did then give him an exercise.

Then Luc observed that he can “separate out from myself very strongly (fortement)” when he makes a very brief effort, but that it disappears when he tries to keep it.

Gurdjieff replied that it was not necessary to do it ‘fortement’, what is necessary is to do it gradually. Indeed, he said, one should never force oneself: that could lead to fixed ideas.

Luc said that he had expressed himself badly. It wasn’t the efforts which are strong (forts), but rather that the impression which he receives is strong, provided the effort is brief.

Gurdjieff replied, it seems to me, not only to the question, but also to the state of the questioner, and to what he intuited was behind the question. He did not seem to be buying Luc’s ‘clarification’. His first sentence is lapidary: “It’s in the effort.” He continued that to act a little more consciously will always be an effort, a point Mrs Adie used to make very often. However, Gurdjieff added, it isn’t necessary to do anything vehemently (violenter).

Luc’s next statement vindicated Gurdjieff’s scepticism as to his ‘clarification’. He stated that he would focus all of his ‘forces’ for a very short period, “as if trying to overcome some obstacle”. He also spoke about how he wrenched himself

Gurdjieff reiterated that that was not necessary. “Do your exercise just as a service, and little by little, you will arrive there. I did say, on one occasion, that it was better to work intensely and for short moments. But the intensity is in the attention, the intensity of concentration, and not in any shock (choc). … Your effort must be to concentrate, not to wrench.” Luc replied that his ‘nature’ refused to “separate itself out” (a se séparer).

De Salzmann gave the advice that if he concentrated in himself more, it would “happen by itself”.

Gurdjieff added that he should tense himself ‘organically’, or else he would also tense his feeling. To show him how to tense organically, Gurdjieff gave him an exercise to try before the main exercise, and invited him to report back in a week “what result you’ve obtained”, a salutary reminder for those who take so literally the idea of not working for results as to think that results are unimportant.

The Louise spoke. She said that she was no longer doing the separation exercise, but concentrating in such a way that she could “sense myself … see myself, and that it is not my head. I have the impression that I see myself as more than my head, more than my body.” Gurdjieff replied that ‘separation’ is exactly that. When Louise added that she could not, however, “feel myself as double” (the French word is ‘double’), Gurdjieff said: “But you can’t feel yourself at all. Your double is incorporeal, you are not able to feel it. It is something which is beyond bodily.”

The last question before lunch was from Lebeau, who spoke of the separation exercise, and how he sensed vibrations which reacted a certain way with his body, bringing a sense of “two separated (séparées) things”. Gurdjieff was pleased, and advised Lebeau too, to try the first exercise because: “Without that you could work for a thousand years, and all you would receive is fixed ideas, and end up a candidate to enter into a madhouse. … do the exercise solely as a service.”

After lunch, Philippe said that Gurdjieff had told him not to continue the exercises, but he would now like to begin them again them. Gurdjieff wanted to know, first, how he had been spending his time. Philippe initially said he’d been resting a little, but Gurdjieff soon established that he hadn’t been resting enough, he had had to work to earn his living, and said: “Perhaps you need a special physical respite. How do you work on yourself when you wish to rest yourself?”

What Philippe said was that he had slept a bit better while he was away. Gurdjieff was pleased with that, saying: “If you cannot sleep here, but you have slept there, we have a sign of work. You have arranged your life a little less mechanically. If it wasn’t automatic, then you were working.” This is, to my mind, is an interesting example of how encouraging Gurdjieff could be. The idea that even sleeping better is a sign of work shows that work is closer, more in such details, than we might think.

Philippe said that he felt: “the need for an inflexible rule. I would like to introduce into my life a very firm rule. I sense that I would be able to maintain it. I have never sensed my slavery so much as now. I have, without doubt, had that knowledge, but never have I sensed it to this degree.”

The ‘rule’ Gurdjieff gave him was to “Do this exercise as your work”, and then gave him a relaxation exercise. Make a program, Gurdjieff advised, decide how much time you will spend on it: 15 minutes, half an hour, one hour; and arrange to do it three times each day “as a service”. The first time, he said, the experience will perhaps be mediocre, and he won’t receive anything. But the second time it would be better, and by the tenth time, perhaps, he would be able to compare the taste of mediocre relaxation with that of good relaxation.

Interestingly, Gurdjieff said that if certain muscles did not relax, he should smack that spot. Presumably, the sharp sensation would make relaxation possible.

Then, Gurdjieff asked Philippe to give the exercise to Doctor Aboulker, who had been doing the washing up. Philippe immediately substituted the word ‘decontract’ for ‘relax’ in describing the exercise.

In a significant reference to the importance of directing thought, Gurdjieff said: “What you need is to relax and to occupy your thought with this exercise.” The word he used was ‘relâcher’, not ‘decontracter’. Aboulker then spoke of difficulties in his attempts to ‘decontract’ himself.

Even a donkey can decontract its large muscles, said Gurdjieff, but to decontract the small muscles is a job for a human cow (literally, “a man of the genre cow”).

To Philippe, Gurdjieff added that the relaxation exercise would be the first exercise of his fresh start, and expressed the hope that it would produce in him faith in his possibilities of becoming. Again, encouragement.

Philippe wanted to return to the separation exercise, but Gurdjieff said to return to that one later. In answer to a reference by Aboulker to his difficulties, Gurdjieff gave the same advice, to leave the separation exercise until after he had progressed with the relaxation exercise.

Aboulker resisted, but Gurdjieff ignored him. Turning to Philippe, he said: “Among other things, you changed one word. In place of the word ‘relax’, you’ve substituted the word ‘decontract’. Relaxation is without end. While there is a limit to decontraction, you can go very far with relaxation. It was you who changed the word. At the same time, if you could understand how you did that, you would understand yet better many of your subjectivities. But this way, you close the door to understanding. This, this is you. … I wish for you that you could understand the difference, for then you could understand many things in your life which are similar to that manifestation . Do not forget this: decontraction – even a donkey can do that. But relaxation – only the intellect can do that. May God help you with your intellect (Que Dieu vous aide avec votre intellect).”

To me at the moment, perhaps the most important sentence is this very final one. I think that too often the intellect is either adored or abused, with little appreciation of what it could be, let alone impartiality. The negative or critical side of intellect, so necessary for any discrimination, is often treated as if it were a negative emotion. As Ouspensky remarked, the reason we have negative emotions is because our attitude to them is insufficiently intellectually critical. It is a piquant human trait that when we ourselves are generally in negative emotion when we condemn others for either using the critical parts of the intellect or for negative emotion, alike.

But the transcript has also significantly helped me in clarifying what Gurdjieff was doing in his final years. Many ‘transcripts’ which are circulated, even published as authentic transcripts, have been substantially edited, and even portions from different meetings have been stitched together to form a ‘genuine’ Gurdjieff meeting. And I think one is entitled to be prima facie cautious of English translations of French language meetings. I say this because I have copies of so many originals from Mr Adie. The same editing and Frankensteining occurred in the production of Views from the Real World. Once more, I have copies of the original drafts. Mrs Staveley, who also knew that this was occurring, referred to it, more kindly, as ‘disinfecting’. To her, there was something earthy about Gurdjieff which she felt might have embarrassed some of the keepers of the flame. We see the same process in the Tchekhovitch book, where the references to the post-death apparition of Katherine Mansfield (vouched for, let me say, by Mme de Salzmann) was omitted from the English translation, together with many other interesting and even valuable excerpts. Obviously, I don’t approve of the process.

To my mind, what we need is impartiality in respect to Gurdjieff, not air-brushing away idiosyncracies we find untidy in our image of him. To do otherwise, to pretend that he was perfect or saintly, is to do him a deep disservice, because it is as if he never had to struggle. But he had denying factors, and as I heard that one lady who knew him said: “Mr Gurdjieff never tried to hide his faults”. Further, if our attitude to him is not critical, if it is anything less than impartial, we are giving ourselves over to suggestibility.

This transcript, I repeat, has not been through any editing process, although there are some handwritten corrections. Obviously, however, I have no right to make the entire text freely available. I have sent the original French copy to two people who knew him. I have retained for myself a photocopy.

Together with what I have published of Gurdjieff’s teaching to the Adies in 1948 and 1949, it seems to me that the centre of his inner work in the 1940s was in the exercises as much as it was in the movements, although these have garnered almost all of the attention. The movements can be considered as exercises for the movements floor, but they are less clear, less potent, less concentrated, to my mind; and to a very great extent they depend upon the quality of the group and the movements demonstrator. To me, the movements are something like what Gurdjieff said the Christian liturgies were, school demonstrations of which their true nature was now forgotten. But I don’t think that this has happened with the exercises, for the simple reason that Mme de Salzmann ignored them after a certain point, probably in the 1960s, and they were left to a very few people who, for whatever reason, were not affected by her “new work” and passed them on unchanged. The Adies were among these, perhaps because they came to Australia before she introduced the new work to London. So, too, Mrs Staveley, who had the good luck to return to the USA from London before the great forgetting.

To speak directly of the exercises, which are after all the chief thing, the chief exercise is (I think) what the Adies, like Madame Lannes, called “the preparation”. Secondary, although still vital, are three other types of exercise: (a) tasks to be attempted during the day’s practical activities (particularly well passed on by one person I knew), (b) exercises to relate the energies to the centres and to the whole person (my chief sources here are the Adies, Mrs Staveley and Dr Lester), and (c) preparatory exercises to help in both the preparation and the energies exercises (all the above, but also the Paris transcripts). Bennett admitted that he made changes to the exercises. I think that if one does this, and there may be reason to, one should then give the amended version in addition to the original.

Personally, I think that without these exercises just as Gurdjieff brought them, the “Gurdjieff work” is seriously crippled. People know what to do, but bit by bit, they are bound to forget how to do it. Hence the doubt and uncertainty in so many Gurdjieff groups. Hence the firm belief in the rightness of their “group leaders” and their approach: the belief is a way of coping with their unbelief. But with the exercises, one can find the way.

Joseph Azize has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book “The Phoenician Solar Theology” treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The third book, “George Mountford Adie” represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.



From: Joseph Azize

Part One

When I started writing this blog, all I had in mind was to present some rather interesting and powerful material from a meeting of Wednesday 9 March 1983, taken by Mrs Adie. As I worked at the introduction, however, more and more ideas came together. Answers appeared to queries I had long had about group work, and these in turn raised new questions as I contemplated the significance of these new ideas.

This all brought me to the concepts of “group depression” and “group resistance”, the sort of depression and resistance which can strike a person only in a group: the sort of depression and resistance which a person doesn’t experience until they find a group, and can take the person right out of the way of conscious development irrespective of whether they stay in the group or not.

Time and again, I was struck by how many of the questions on this old tape really came down to this: “I can’t work. I feel a resistance, I’m not getting anywhere, and I feel depressed. I want a quick fix.” I was also struck by how true this was of all my experience in groups. This attitude is contagious, as it were. Even when the Adies provided the answer – and it is an answer – people could not apply this to themselves. Even when people saw others going around in the same circle, they could not help but tread that circle, too.

As Mr Adie very acutely pointed out, when people first come to groups they are often enthusiastic and willing. Why not? They have been excited by Gurdjieff’s ideas and the thrilling prospect of conscious development. They come asking what to do. But then, relatively soon afterwards, this question has disappeared. “It is as if we have lost the realisation that an action of doing is essential to any real work.” (George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia, p.112) We find that it is not so easy as we had imagined, and being told that we cannot do, we take this too literally, too absolutely. And yet without the possibility of being able to do, to attain a projected aim, as Gurdjieff defined it, the method is meaningless (see In Search of the Miraculous, p.132).

I had long been puzzled by Jurgen, who had been bringing his extremes of elation and depression to groups for 30 years and perhaps still is. Only last year, I realised that something in him did not want to change: it preferred the performance and the attention of the audience. That is, he brought his questions and observations not to have the ostensible concern addressed, but for the sake of the show, rather like the ritual changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace where the military or security value of the parade is negligible. The resistance he spoke of is a resistance which takes that form only because he can bring it to a group and be the tragic problem. Others heard him, and although they had initially tried not to indulge in negative emotions such as depression, as they became accustomed to his constant wringing of hands, they feel free to indulge it, too.

I know that something like this happened to me. I had a very healthy attitude about not complaining. This is not to say that I never did complain, or indulge in self pity, but I had always felt that it was a problem I had to address. Then, after Mr Adie died, I had a good deal to do with Jana. She was like the patron saint of complaints, or perhaps the demon assigned to them. She had been in groups for probably 25 to 30 years at that point, and was one of the senior women. Others in the group all said “Yes, Jana’s concerns must be taken seriously.” Not until much later was one of the women willing to concede that Jana was “negative.”

And because it is “wrong” to be “negative”, that is only said about people in groups if the person has already been marked as not fitting in. So as she was not a black sheep, no one could say that she was negative. Then, gradually, something in me was not impeded from imitating her attitude. It has taken me a long time to try and repair that part of my past. I never sat down and articulated such ideas to myself: something in me just wordlessly picked this up. This is “group resistance”. The prevalence of certain negative qualities in the group hallowed them for me, because this was the group. So too, the prevalence of silly ideas among “group leaders” justifies them. Who am I to know better than Sadie Schmutz from Group 1 in New York?

People frequently brought this observation: “I cannot work, it is hopeless.” The Adies frequently showed what was wrong with that and why it could not be trusted. But people had “learned” in the group that it was alright to bring the question and not to use the material offered. This is “group resistance”.

When you read the material in Part Two, you will see how familiar Mrs Adie’s answers are, even if she expresses the ideas in her individual way. Imagine what it would be like if before bringing their questions, people had followed her advice, and then brought questions about what they had seen while making the efforts she had recommended. The group meetings would have been charged like suns.

What could have been done? Well, I think people are kept in groups too long. Why can people not be sent out when they are in a rut, and then, if they can overcome the resistance, they return?

This shows the significance of the fact I have commented on before in these blogs: Gurdjieff did not found the Gurdjieff groups. Ouspensky did, and he was copied by de Salzmann. The idea of being in groups for all of the rest of your life does not come from Gurdjieff. I think he was too wise for that.

Part Two: The Meeting of 9 March 1983
The first question was not recorded. The tape starts somewhere in Mrs’ Adie reply. “Yes, but we’re not trying to change anything externally. It will change of itself if we work, but we change from inside, not from outside. Relationships are a very useful source here. I have a tendency either to be hurried or to be slow, or even lazy. Certain people I am irritated by, and with certain people I am always anxious for their good opinion. That sort of thing. Take what strikes you as the strongest tendencies, and so make a serious plan each day when you know more or less what you’ll be doing, who with, what you’ll come up against, that kind of thing. And then you plan to be present to it. Then, if you are present to it, the chances are that you will not react in the same way. But that is not the object of it: the object of it is not to lose yourself in that situation.”

“We have had this task before, but it is difficult to get to grips with it, and very few people have actually got down to it, because we don’t know well enough what goes on. But we know more or less certain things which we can start with. And some things really stand out: I always expect people to be different, I cannot accept people as they are and not be disturbed by them. And then once you have started, it becomes more possible. I shall see more, because I shall be more awake. A great deal can from it, but we’re always in a sort of fog.”

{This question of preparation, intelligent and focussed preparation is absolutely critical. I shall return to it in a future blog.}

The next question was difficult to transcribe. The woman who asked the question was arguing with Mrs Adie, and spoke over her. She started by saying how she did not feel keen to do her preparation, and found the rotation exercise very tedious.

Mrs Adie replied: “As for the preparation, does it really make a difference if I am keen or not keen? Sometimes if you are not keen you get more from it, and if you really start in a serious way, the feeling changes. Something in you knows that it is important, but that is not uppermost in you at that time.”

The woman objected that she does “not feel stirred by it”. Mrs Adie acknowledged this: “No, your personality is not stirred by it. But is there not an interest attracted not by the thing in itself, but by the fact that you are taken by it, that it takes your energy, and also that it is unreal? Considering, for example.”

Another objection followed from the same person, who did not even acknowledge what Mrs Adie had said. She now changed tack: she has no line of work. Her son should be a help, but she keeps putting off doing what she should do. Mrs Adie’s reply was: “If you cannot spare him time when he needs it, then he has to understand that, somehow. But then when do you make time, do not imagine that he is bound to enjoy it. Some children do not enjoy such times.”

The next question was from someone who said that he found it difficult to find chief feature, as he has so many, lack of feeling, dreaming, etc. But, he added, he did not really care about the exercise (sic). Mrs Adie replied: “But something in you does care. It might be present only for such a short time that it seems it doesn’t count, but it’s not true. When I really need to think, it is more possible to be free of dreams. I can come away from certain recurring dreams, and I need to, because they often have other effects as well, but to stop dreaming altogether … no, that is not possible.”

Then Jana asked a question. She said that she had decided to give up her job, and thought it would be good, because she has a tendency to always be doing things. At first she could use it, but now she is “very resentful against all factors that were involved. That was Jana for all the time I knew her. She went on: “And I find I spend a lot of time and energy justifying my negative approach now, and I can’t honestly confront the conflict in me, something turns away.”

Mrs Adie replied, sensibly: “If you know that, that is already half the battle.” But Jana was not to be mollified. “But I only just see it, I don’t see it enough to act.”

Again, Mrs Adie’s reply was spot on: “In a way that is an excuse, telling myself that. I think that you see it very clearly. Try not to encourage these thoughts which disagree with the action you’ve taken. It must be very hard, I am sure, to see the other side, but it is a struggle with the denying part. You have a lot to occupy you, a – ”

Jana interrupted Mrs Adie with an insistent: “Yes, but I feel I am occupied with what Jana does not want to be doing.”

Mrs Adie patiently replied: “Your big chance is that you can formulate it to yourself. What is there? There is a denying part, but there is something also which understands that this is not to be accepted. Try and bring both sides more in front of you, and for that you need to do away with the words in your head.” Jana had to have the last word: “Yes, I agree, it’s the words.” I am sure Mrs Adie felt deeply stirred and encouraged to know that Jana had agreed with her last comment.

The next question was from someone for whom I had a good deal of respect, because she did change over the years. Iris said that something came up at her work (she was an art teacher) which made her depressed. It affected her in the stomach, and then she found she had no force at all.

“You need to have some thought, or an idea that will help you at those moments. You now know, in advance, that after the preparation, you feel better for a while, but after half an hours, this depression comes back. But although the preparation seems to be all in the past, yet there’s some recollection of it, and the purpose of it, and that a different state is possible,” Mrs Adie said. Iris agreed. Mrs Adie continued: “Then this depression is something you could really be grateful for. It is hard to see this until you’ve been able to use it, but it is material for you. Once you have seen it, you can acknowledge it, “I am depressed.” I don’t try and free myself from it exactly, not try to push it back – you can’t do that – but if you can come back, to some extent, even while you’re doing things, to this feeling of another part. Accept the depression, alright, I’m depressed. Don’t try and argue, you are depressed, I’m depressed. But I separate out from it.”

“Don’t try and prolong it, but I am aware of it. It is almost as if it isn’t you. It’s part of you, it’s an external part of you: but you’re not lost in it, you’re not drawn out of it. This is a good example of a line of work. All of these moods and states I go through … if I could only see at the end of the day how many states I have been in … it’s a thing we should do much more often, ask myself, what is my state now? If possible, without words. I try to see what is going on. I may not understand it. It doesn’t matter, but I see it and I accept it, and I separate to some extent from it. Something is separated from it. It’s going on at the same time, in another life inside.”

“And it’s not in order to lose it. It’s in order not to be taken by it. I see the force of it, but I don’t get lost in wondering what it’s all about. This seems to be something around you at the moment. But then you also have this thing about art, too, don’t you? Which is really a sort of considering. You have to accept that you do what you do, well or not so well, I don’t really know. Don’t let it concern you. Accept that that is what is what you can do, and don’t criticize it, meaning don’t consider about it. This one is above me, or this one is down there. They are all individuals, and their talents are not the same as yours: it doesn’t matter.”

“Try to accept that you are as you are, with all the ups and downs, but to see the ups and downs, and in a way to be separated from it. There is something that doesn’t go up and down, and is either there or isn’t there, and it will always come when it’s called. It’s longing to come when it’s called, but it is smothered, it can’t breath. And you can use these strange considerings and states to all upon it, but without expecting your state to change immediately. It may, or it may not.”

“Try not to look at it as something which is permanent. Try to look at it from the point of view of how it can be of use to you, how a certain struggle is required, producing just that friction which you need. It is a force. The struggle is not exactly a fight with the thing itself, it’s a struggle to come alive inside. It is a dead thing, it has a lot of force, but a dense heavy one. You try and find a finer force, which you can, don’t doubt it, as long as you free yourself from the head.”

The final question which can be made out on the tape came from a lady who complained that she had not changed in all the years she had been coming to the groups. “Oh no, I can tell you that there’s been a big change,” Mrs Adie assured her. But the woman was disappointed because “things get hold of her”.

Mrs Adie would not agree. “You see it more, because despite what you say, your sleep is not so deep as it was and not so unbroken. There are degrees of awareness, complete sleep is one thing. But the change is very gradual, and you sound more aware of what is taking place. But instead of being glad to see it, and taking action with it, you get annoyed with it, which is just throwing good money after bad.”

“But I get depressed about it, “she retorted. I love Mrs Adie’s reply: “Well that is very silly, isn’t it? Because when you see it you have an opportunity. We don’t trust to the simple effort which has to be made. I just have to come to myself and recognize the life which is in me. I always want to do something sensational.”

As Mrs Adie said time and again, once one has seen it one has an opportunity. Try not to look at it as something which is permanent. And don’t let anyone persuade you that it is.



MOUNT ATHOS click on image to enlarge

Gurdjieff and the Prayer of the Heart
Joseph Azize

In the post on Fasting, we saw that Gurdjieff taught that techniques such as fasting, confession and prayer were not only valuable but essential for any seeker, even if we usually associate them with religion, but not with the Fourth Way. Gurdjieff gave few indications about prayer, but he knew of and used certain Eastern methods of praying. Is it possible to develop these indications with a view to making prayer something practical?

Of particular importance are what are often called the prayers of repetition, such as the Prayer of the Heart and the Jesus Prayer. I prefer to call these “continuing prayer”. Here, etymology is enlightening. “Continue” is derived from two Latin roots, *SCOM meaning “together” and *TA / *TEN, “stretch, hold”. *SCOM appears in Greek as “ksun” and “sun”, while in Latin the s was kept in words like “sequor” meaning “I follow”, while in words like “cum” and “con” meaning “with”, the s disappeared and the c was retained. So, etymologically, in “continuous prayer”, the instantaneous prayer of this moment holds hands, as it were, with the instantaneous prayer of the next moment. It is an action of prayerful attention perpetuated by wish, will and – most important of all – grace.

Continuing prayer is the “safe place” of which Mr Adie spoke to us, what he would call the “inner tabernacle” and the “oratory”. Continuing prayer is the amethyst jewel which transforms poisons into wine, it is the lamp of Galadriel which dispels dreams. It is the philosopher’s stone which converts lead to gold, because it is awareness in the intellectual part of feeling centre, and thus the bridge to intellectual part of intellectual centre and to the higher centres. This praying is inside us, as Mr Adie said. But this does not mean that it is not somehow spread among organs and blood vessels. In his words, “inside” means permeating me and my atmosphere. My “inside”, odd as it may sound, extends for about a metre all around me. One can use the planet as an analogy. In some notes published as “Notes on Saint John’s Gospel”, Ouspensky wrote:

Earth is enclosed and enwrapped in a great flame of radiant power. The same power is stored inside every living form, waiting for some shock that will set it free.

The Christian techniques of prayer can provide such shocks, but as Ouspensky stated on 23 January 1934, these techniques are useless without conscious breathing and fasting (see A Further Record, pp.295-8.) Ouspensky’s comments make sense of some rather cryptic remarks to be found in the Philokalia, especially in Nikiphorus the Monk (see volume 4 of the complete text). The more I experiment with fasting and with the preparations and exercises EXACTLY as Mr Adie had from Gurdjieff, the more I think that this is also true of the Gurdjieff method.

Adie’s instructions tally exactly with those of Nikiphorus. Indeed, they make sense of and expand the monk’s deliberately fragmentary and incomplete instructions. Incidentally, I believe that Mme Kadloubovsky, who had a major role in the preparation of the English translation of the Philokalia, and who assembled the volume which dealt with the Prayer of the Heart, was Ouspensky’s secretary. That volume is highly recommended, and includes Nikiphorus under the name “Nicephorus the Solitary”.

Let me relate one personal experience, or type of personal experience. With the continuous prayer, impressions are received entirely differently, or perhaps one could say that they are received as before but as well there are added impressions of oneself, of vividness, of almost being poised above time, added depth and dimension in everything … and so on. When I forget the prayer, I am sometimes awoken by a feeling which is something like “who took away the third dimension?” The street scene I had been alive in has suddenly become more like a television screen. The very gap between life with prayer and life without can serve to awaken.

As this suggests, continuing prayer is not some sort of monolithic granite extension: there are fluctuations and distractions. Yet, the person praying (the orant) is influenced by the prayer, and the active elements of the prayer (aim, intention, wish, feeling, understanding) which are augmented by what can metaphorically be called a stretching of the attention. The prayer is not of equal and unvarying intensity: but the moments of prayer are united in their effect by the aim and the practice of the orant, which is continually initiated, lost, reinitiated, and so on. Indeed, as Helen Adie told us, a thought can be pulled back if it has not yet left my atmosphere, and it can often take seconds to do so. The concept is strange, and no words can really express it, but hearing it on tapes now I know something of what she meant, because a person who has been taught the collected state exercise can have a sense of its truth: how by making an effort to bring back a thought or an emotion, one has a feeling of recalling something, and the incipient feeling of depletion is succeeded by an inflow of force. Thus, one can properly speak of a “continuing” prayer.

And has some understanding of what Gurdjieff meant in his chapters on hypnotism about the work of the sub-consciousness, then there, where it counts, the prayer be even less discontinuous than we know. Further, the material in those chapters will clarify much of what is implied, but not stated explicitly, about the heart, the pulse(s) and breathing in the Eastern Christian material. If “Purgatory” is the heart of the teaching, then “Hypnotism” is the backbone of the techniques.

That said, it would be irresponsible to provide specific indications concerning continuing prayer, because, as the Philokalia stated on the Prayer of the Heart, and as Mr Adie said, such techniques must be learnt from someone experienced, who can watch the orant (or student). Otherwise, a person can become deluded, and imagine that they possess qualities they do not, or worse. But I can indicate this: three things came together to bring me to the contents of this post. First, I have once more started to benefit from a certain experience which I had first had in 1982, when the Adies had taught me the preparation as Gurdjieff had taught them, and eventually something began to happen within me. It was a feature of my time with the Adies. I am amazed I can have remembered it so little. The experience has reoccurred several times in the past few years since I left the group, when certain events or realizations were the catalyst to this self-feeling of the continuing prayer. I am not saying that I am man number 4, or always have self-consciousness, but I will venture to say that the continuing prayer experience proves to me that the idea of man number 4 is not a fantasy. It is possible to have the continuing prayer experience for the entirety of a day and even for several days together. On such days, one is man number 4, with all the fluctuations and variation of intensity I have referred to.

The second thing which has contributed to my writing this blog is the receipt of several e-mails since posting the Fasting blog. These have pointed me back to parts of the Orthodox tradition I had not understood, especially to the Prayer of the Heart and the Jesus Prayer. I can hardly overstate how important fasting is in disrupting the coordination of the centres and making possible new physical, feeling and intellectual experiences.

The third cause is that I have become more and more aware that Gurdjieff did in fact have sources, and wherever I have been able to identify such sources, they are in the Greek tradition, especially what is called the “Neoplatonic” school of Plotinus and Iamblichus, including their distant disciple Proclus. Now, who retained those texts in a language Gurdjieff could read? Some Sufi school in Afghanistan? Not terribly likely, and certainly, I have not seen evidence that they did. However, the Greek Orthodox tradition of Byzantium did preserve many of these texts in well-ordered, accessible libraries, and what is more, the Orthodox scholars studied them.

I have been reminded of something else which I can now, in retrospect, hardly believe I could have forgotten. The hitherto-forgotten secret lies open in the well-read pages of In Search of the Miraculous: at p.304. It is related that Gurdjieff asked his pupils where the word “I” sounds in them when they pronounce it aloud. Ouspensky stated that he was “entirely unable to evoke this sensation” in himself. Then, said Gurdjieff, there is an exercise “preserved up to our time in the monasteries of Mount Athos.” (Incidentally, Gurdjieff had earlier stated that he had been to Mount Athos, Miraculous, p.36).

In this exercise, Gurdjieff said, a monk takes a certain position, lifts his arms in a definite posture, and says “Ego” while listening to where it sounds. In Greek, “ego” does not mean “me”, or even “egotism” and “egomania”, it means “I”, or “I am”. The purpose of the exercise, Gurdjieff explained, is to feel “I” at every moment a man thinks of himself, and furthermore, to bring the sense of “I” (perhaps one could say the sense of “I am” or “presence”) from one centre to another. All this material on the “Ego” exercise is given in some 19 lines. Incidentally, the 19th century Maronite monk, Mar Naamtallah is often shown praying in just this posture. Gurdjieff also gave a similar but less physically unsparing exercise to Mr Adie as a preparation for the morning preparation.

During the war, Gurdjieff gave many exercises based on “I am” (Voices in the Dark, p.56 for but one example). There, he twice stated how “original” the exercise was: which I think is more likely than not to be a sign that it was anything but original. If one looks up “I am” in the index to that book, and reads the passages, one cannot but feel that the three-centred awareness of “I am” was central to his practical method: it was certainly axial to the methods which the Adies taught us. Med Thring, in a conference in England, stated that the big difference between Ouspensky and Gurdjieff was that when he went to Paris, Gurdjieff taught them “I AM”. This has to be right. Mr Adie was speaking of the effects of this when he said that his experience was that “Mr Gurdjieff could open people up in a way which Mr Ouspensky never could.”

To return to the “Ego” exercise, the similarity of this exercise to Gurdjieff’s war time teaching and the last exercise of 1949 is striking (this is one which he gave Mrs Adie, and features “I AM”). Further, Gurdjieff had, in Russia, pointed out “many times” the “necessity” of studying this “forgotten technique” and declared that without it nothing but purely subjective results could be attained on the “way of religion”. Not, I would add, that subjective results are to be scoffed at.

Where does this leave us? I think it is encouraging to reflect that there are methods for prayer and self-development which can and do work. They are not easy, and one must be prepared for real shocks, but the possibility is there. It is also, I think, comforting to reflect that the Gurdjieff methods and ideas do not have to be so divorced from religion as they sometimes, perhaps even too frequently, are. I think that for those in the Gurdjieff tradition, it points them to the authentic preparations and exercises brought by Gurdjieff, and away from the “sittings” of the “new work”.

For those of us who have ever had the sense of the continuous prayer and its vibration in the body, it is a much-needed reminder, because as Merlin once said: “It is the doom of man that he forgets.”


March 28, 2008 at 6:11 am



click on image of Helen & George Adie to enlarge

Part One

In this post, I wish to try and bring something which may be of continuing practical value, although it is perhaps most accessible to those in Gurdjieff groups. In June 1980 the Adies set their groups a task: submit a written report, retaining for yourself a copy, stating: (1) what you feel you have gained from the work, (2) what you feel you now need, and (3) your plan to acquire what you need. Even if one were not engaged in the Gurdjieff “work”, the task is pertinent. One can substitute for “the work” the name of one’s path, or simply the word “life”. But anyone can take this as a task. The transcripts below may provide some assistance.

On 25 June 1980, Mrs Adie said in response to a question by someone who found it difficult to formulate a plan: “…you could take one habit, for example, watching t.v., or smoking, and try and change it. But it is very important to remember why you are doing this. To stop watching t.v. or to cut down smoking will create a friction and a suffering. It can easily become an ordinary sort of misery, but the recollection of your aim is a factor which can prevent the suffering becoming an ordinary misery.”

After this reference to aim, Mrs Adie came to a related topic – wish.

“We have to realise much more our wish. Most of the time there is no truth to our wish, one could even say that there is no wish at all. That is why so little happens. But there are moments when there is some wish active in us. And the most important moment is in the morning preparation. If it is done sincerely and with a certain amount of will and force, the feeling comes from it. Feeling comes as a result of making an effort, there is no doubt about it, but it is not going to last. So it has to be repeated in some way, but it won’t be repeated unless – at that moment – I plan for the next moment.”

“But at that moment there is a wish. During the day I may remember. During the day I may get a guilty feeling, but there is no wish. Yet only that wish will produce a result. One sees more and more in all the questions that is the main difficulty, really. At some time a shock is received and a fresh impulse appears. There is a wish. But that does not stay by itself, it must be reinforced.”

Part of the significance of this statement is that wish, the wish for conscious evolution which is essential in all of us, “resides”, as it were, in feeling. “Feeling” and “emotion” are different things. Feeling is in essence, and always brings a sense of myself in relation to reality. It is always permanent, not in the sense that the feeling lasts forever, but that the truth of the experience is permanent. If love turns to hate or vice versa, this is emotional love not feeling. If I experience love in my feeling, that feeling is always true for me. I can never deny it or say that I had been deceived or was wrong. Gurdjieff says that from the result of experiencing love, “we can blissfully rest from the meritorious labours actualized by us for the purpose of self-perfection.” (Beelzebub, p. 357) This love never fades: it is always remembered as an immediate being-reality. While emotions can be very violent, and hence believable, they can be blown away. Feeling is always deeper, immeasurably deeper, but feeling is always quieter. Indeed, a correlation can be made between feeling and a certain kind of silence. But the opposite does not necessarily hold: silence, the cessation of sound, does not always point to feeling.

The feeling of “Wish” is a great mystery. In Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am”, Gurdjieff speaks of the three impulses “I Am”, “I Can” and “I Wish” as being “sacred for man”, and as “Divine impulses”. (p.136 in both the privately printed 1975 edition and the 1999 paperback). In the critically important chapter “Hypnotism”, Beelzebub refers to the “sacred being-impulses” of faith, hope, love and conscience. It seems to me that there are correlations between these two sets of impulses such that one may even think of faith as approximating to I Am, hope to I Can, and love to I Wish. I do not say that the terms are interchangeable: but if one holds these concepts side by side in thought, the experience may be enlightening.

To complete the reporting of the meeting of 25 June 1980, Mrs Adie stated in reply to a question: “It is very interesting. It has often been said “Don’t work for results.” But it’s also said that every effort has a result. But it’s not always what we expect.” She was going to develop this thought, but the person who brought the question cut across her.

Part Two

From the same period, comes this edited transcript of the meeting of Wednesday 18 June 1980, taken by both the Adies. The task was the one mentioned above: the report with three aspects. But some of the people also referred to an exercise which the Adies had from Gurdjieff in 1949, and which I call the “Clean Impressions” exercise. In my experience, to date, this is the king, as it were, of Gurdjieff’s exercises.

The first question came from Basil, who asked about his troubled younger son, and how he could not relate to his son except in the “normal fatherly way” of advising him to think of himself and others. He finds, however, that this achieves no lasting result. Perhaps, said Basil, he needs to accept the situation as it is. However, he added with real honesty, he found it very difficult to accept the situation without disapproval.

“Well unless you do”, replied Adie, “you cannot help him. If you refuse to accept the reality, you can’t understand. Everything being as it is, then you have to agree that this is the situation. As for leaving a more permanent effect, this is a big doing. Unless I have this actual transformation going on in me, how can I leave anything at all enduring in anybody? What more permanent impression can I achieve in myself?”

“Take yourself: you are the operative factor. You wish to affect him, You wish to minister unto him. But can you minister unto yourself? Because what is to do the ministration?”

“Yet”, added Adie, “this is what we need to do to come to the point of our lives.”

In this idea of the point of our lives, something very deep is touched, which having been sounded, will be picked up again later in the meeting. At this point, however, Adie referred to the task which had been given: “All the answers to these questions show this up tremendously clearly. Almost every answer, almost every one, begs the question. It says “I have to do this”. But it does not say how. It says “I have to make a plan,” but it does not say how, almost exclusively. In one or two instances there was a very theoretical one, “I must have a higher thought”. Of course I must. But how? This is the great difficulty: it stands out now from all the answers. We are not in very intelligent contact with the world we live in, or with the bigger world. See after 10, twelve or fourteen years, what is our contact with life on a bigger scale? Where is the sense of obligation or duty … or meaning? Where is the meaning of life? Have I got a duty? And whom would that duty be for?”

Let me just interrupt once more: I think this is terribly important for the future not only of each individual, but also of the Gurdjieff tradition as a whole: what is its contact with life on a bigger scale? What is the contact of each group with life? Gurdjieff used to feed the poor and support the needy. I shall one day collect the references to this, but it is sufficient here to refer to Tchekhovitch and to Conge. I hope that the same can be said of today’s Gurdjieff groups, because if it cannot, this points to a deficiency in their work. To return to Mr Adie’s answer:

“Well, I think everybody ought to study their answer and see. Some of the things which were said were perfectly alright, but they have to be taken further. In that respect, there is little difference in anybody’s answer. They all go round about. Time and time again, someone says what they need, and then they state the furthest need, “I need to remember myself”, yes, but alright, then what am I going to do about it? “I am going to try and remember myself.” It’s almost as banal as that. Almost.” He turned to Mrs Adie and asked for her opinion. She agreed, saying:

“I was thinking that there were one or two good ones among them, but most of the answers could have applied to anybody. People have not written about their particular difficulty. But everybody is different in some way: we all have our own subjective weaknesses and ways. They were left too general.”

“Interestingly”, said Mr Adie, “the answers which we had received from people who had only just come were better. At least they saw quite crisply that this was an obstacle. This specific thing. They really felt something about their lack of will, their lack of control. It came out. They felt that this they needed, and that’s why they came to the work.”

“See, we’re in front of a great challenge there. We need the influence of the far off, but we need to experience it, not as a tale that is told but as an actual fact. What is it that stops that, and how could I have that experience more often? Someone would say by remembering their far aim, yes, but how am I going to achieve this increased recollection? Practically no one cited anything that they had got to give up. Almost no one said “I have to sacrifice this”, or that they had to acquire that specific thing in order.”

“This relates to what you’re saying, Basil. How to come to be useful in this situation. One finds people who will say, “you must do this, and try to realise that”, all these wise man responses, very sage, very salutary. I think we don’t realise the necessity of getting down into the same situation. I don’t mean getting down from a condescending point of view, but standing side by side. If there were something wrong with a motor, would I sit in my chair and tell him to go outside and fix it? Or do I sense his need, leave my chair, and have a look with him? Maybe I can’t exactly do that verbally, but if I’ve got it in my feeling, then I could even remain mute and yet share his situation, and that would be much more lasting. If only I could feel myself in relation to him. You refer to your son, I can refer to one of our sons, and there there is great difficulty. From the ordinary point of view it is heartbreaking. But what is shared sometimes is a quality of feeling, and that certainly is an enduring thing.”

“Just a certain little while, shared in a wordless way, even just cooking a meal together, or getting something from the shop, because words never satisfy, they always go the wrong way, while feeling is a more permanent influence. But to have a result … ah, that’s a different matter. We have to settle for the possible, and even to be grateful for that, and to see that the other is beyond our power. But if something is exchanged there, in our presences, then that remains a recollection possible for him. Mmm?”

“One does not know what stage people are at, what point in this enormous long life, they are at. Do you know John Bunyan’s remark, when he saw the fellow led off to the gallows. He wasn’t being mock-humble, he just realised that everybody is exposed to these tremendous forces, and that there was one being led off to the gallows. “There, but for the grace of God go I, John Bunyan.”

“But too often, for us, other people present a bleak prospect, and for us it is unacceptable. Certainly, as you yourself say, acceptance is absolutely essential. That means, really, in practice, in this case, an absence of negative criticism. You don’t have to say, oh yes, it’s alright. You have to be free of blaming – in your feeling. You can realise how ghastly and costly it is. But in your feeling you don’t blame.”

Mr Adie then turned to Paul, who in his report had said that he found a good state but he could not find the words:

“And Paul wrote, certainly from the most sincere place that he could, but still you have to come to an answer, you cannot leave it unanswered, because our work is on this level. Facing that higher state, I am wordless, I cannot know. I am in challenge totally, but if I am going to work, I have to come to some kind of an answer, I have to work to it. So I go forward. Maybe you come to something trite, it doesn’t matter. You cannot remain in that exalted state for long, you return … and then you follow. Try and take it further. Don’t be satisfied with this formulation. I have to work to do. With the benefit of this, whatever it is, I go and find the work.”

Mr Adie then noticed Richard, who had not handed in a report. Why, he asked him, had he not submitted one? Well, Richard replied, he did not think it had to be submitted.

“Nonsense”, retorted Adie. “You fail. Next time you do not come if you do not bring it. You are not entitled to be here, if you are not serious.” After a pause he added: “Somebody speak about work. Let us get away from this dead spot. See what we’re speaking of is the real interest. If nothing is going to change, if we’re not going to get any of these powers, then what is it about? Our understanding is not adequate, therefore we have to work to increase our understanding. So, we’re always lacking, but if we can see our lack and go on, then that is the way of the work.”

I would relate this to what I have earlier blogged about the “romance of the search”. If there is no possibility of finding, the “eternal search” is farcical.

Someone asked about negative attitude, and surprisingly, perhaps, Adie replied: “I don’t think you need to ask about that.” My sense is that Mr Adie thought the person’s difficulty lay elsewhere. “Try and work to make it very practical for you. You, like everybody has, to some extent or other, a real possibility of playing a part in the work of the universe … it’s an enormous concept … but what is a responsible being, a man in life that one could respect for a moment?”

“What is it one respects about that man? He has some stature in humanity. He contributes something. He brings something, he works. In a way, he leaves a mark. It may not last very long, but it isn’t as if he never was.”

“He doesn’t pass like a shadow. He passes like a being with some meaning. But we have no meaning, see, when we have no aim we have no meaning. A person without any meaning is a sort of shadow, just a phantom.”

There was a silence. Even on the tape it sounds like a strong silence in which these powerful words were absorbed. Remember the reference to aim, especially if you attempt the task of the report, and recall what Mrs Adie said on 25 June. It is aim which is the catalyst which raise efforts beyond the meaningless.

Part Three

Eventually, Alwin asked a question: “Mr Adie, there’s many times during the day when I get a reminder, but I simply do not want to make use of it when I could. I might be preoccupied or in a negative state or whatever. I cannot overcome that, even in the smallest instant, and I would like to make some progress.”

“You have to bring yourself to face that time and time again. The need for that. That is practical.”

“But I can only find that in retrospect.” Alwin was fond of an argument, and fond of being at a loss. Often, I find, people would much rather have the attention which comes with having an intractable problem than they would have the solution.

Adie, however, was not to be deflected: “Do it more often and find the wish in retrospect. And then the next time it may be that you get the echo of that wish. But if you only remember it from the point of view of negative failure, you only have the recollection of negative failure. With this attitude, you don’t face it out long enough to really bring your being in contact with it. Because if you do, then when it comes again, your being contact will also come. Surely you can see that?

“Yes, but –”

“Yes, but this is the way. It’s then we can work in our confrontation. That is the preparation. Don’t think we can just change, suddenly become aware and find responses extempore like that. Of course not. We have to make the response, if there is to be one, now. When the time comes, if it has been made, there shall be the response! Which will help me then to hear the message and take some action.” Alwin kept arguing. Adie replied: “Something sees, but you are not there in the right form. But some I keeps reminding you of the work. You say you keep remembering during the day. This is a useful I, if you can connect yourself to it.”

“I have to bring myself and my feeling, and then it gives me a whole different field of work, because I can tell something about my feeling from my manifestations. I can’t make love and cut a throat at the same time – and if I am manifesting negative emotion, or pride, I will not be able to remember what I need. But my wish to respond will bring me to a moment, and then maybe I see these very definite things, and I work.”

Ian now brought a contribution. Ian saw himself not as Adie’s equal but as his superior. He did not even like to say that he had followed Adie’s suggestion. He tried to make it look as if he independently had the same idea. “I tried for myself over the break, to come to something very similar to what you asked.” What he found difficult, he said, especially while he was away by himself, was to overcome the “great inertia” in his thought.

“And a momentum. There is a momentum to our thought.”

Ian pushed on: There were two definite occasions, he said, when he was by himself, when he had a breakthrough, and he wrote some notes down in a restaurant, but now he finds that he cannot bring that feeling he then experienced into his thought.

“But if you read your question while you are present to yourself, surely it gives some kind of connection”, Adie said. “All sorts of different levels co-exist within me, and I remember clearly a level I would glad to be on. I seemed to understand, to have less doubt at that moment. I felt some wonder, not just ignorance. And I would like to be connected with that again, not to have it exactly like that, but to get the influence of that level. This is what you’re talking about, isn’t it?”

Yes, Ian replied, it was.

“I don’t see how you can expect more than that. Then, from that, there can be another experience. It won’t be the same, it doesn’t have to be. It’s a good thing it isn’t. If it was the same it wouldn’t be a birth, it would be a repetition. Every birth is a unique thing, and in a way, a momentary act is a birth, if you like. It is a unique act, every second.”

Adie then addressed the fact that Ian had then been overseas: “When you’re away like that, your possibility of sensing your own reality is greatly enhanced, because you are taken away from many of the customary stimuli: the family is not there, the climate is different, the jobs are different, the timetable is different, and one is helped to bring to oneself one’s own reality. You are operating in a rather different medium, and you have constant impressions of the new medium. I have to decide a little bit more often: even breakfast is different. It always raises different little questions. I can’t even pick my hairbrush up from the same place. All this stimulates my self-awareness in a way. And I have a sense of self-responsibility – maybe very very little, but very useful..”

“What you say is partially true,” allowed Ian.

“I am glad of that,” Adie said softly, and everyone laughed. Everyone but Ian: “I find, in general, there is a great deal of agitation inside.”

“Of course,” replied Adie, “but agitation is real, too. I may be a in a spin, but nevertheless everything is different, it’s calling me in a different way. I notice my perturbation much more. If it’s the same old dreary perturbation, I don’t notice it so much. But I can’t always be away, so how can I make use of that strange fact? Connects at once, doesn’t it, with the idea of making strange essence tasks? Of having something that’s different, something that will intrude a little on my customary automatic routine. How could I do that?”

“You see, to begin with one makes little experiments, one finds one cannot do, and then gives up the ghost. But now after ten or 15 years we should be approaching the point of doing, of inner doing. It then gives point to these small things again. There’s a connection.”

Samuel then asked about his experience at work. He had taken as a line of work his identification with certain matters which gave rise to some rather serious grievances. One of these related to a colleague who had been mistreated, and undergone a complete mental collapse. In both instances, the employer had been deceitful. Yet he planned to be neutral and take no sides. Yet, he said, he had felt very angry, and had “disappeared into it completely.” He was now despondent.

“Yes, but don’t you see,” said Adie, “that you were deeply identified even in the task you choose. Where was your objectivity before you went? There’s an idea to be impartial, but that’s an enormous word, because it doesn’t mean that I cease to care. And if this person is callous and his policies dangerous, then surely you should take a side, at least against such behaviour.”

“That’s true,” said Samuel.

“Impartial does not mean that I cease to care. It does not even mean that I try not to do anything about this awful situation. But my first task is internal. I free myself from righteous indignation. But you choose something where you almost know you can’t do it before you start. So now go on, and try and separate yourself in your representations about it. There was something naive about the preparation. Now you see that it has to be wiser. Try and take a measure. Try and be realistic in it. Give up the dream. The dream can even help me if I listen for one moment, and then remind myself that that’s a dream … of a kind of a higher level. Okay, now I’ve got work to do here.”

“Just the same as you, Paul, you’ve come to that point, which is something. You feel it, the presence of a question you can’t answer. But I have to then come away from that at the right time, and come back to the point of practicality. I cannot continue indefinitely there, otherwise, without my knowing it, still sitting in the Buddha’s seat, I am doing some idiotic thing.”

Now Ian spoke of the “Clear Impressions” exercise. “I saw one thing in the preparation you gave, the new one you gave us, in the second part of it, in particular, where it seemed that it was possible, not continuously, to come back to the state where instead of looking I just received impressions. And, I think it was two mornings ago, I found a sort of seductive element trying to come into this. This is quite enough … well it was interesting to see the thought come, and to see it in that light. I found it difficult to look out but not think about it.”

“In a flash, you’ve lost everything, but in a flash it’s back again, differently. I am glad you’ve had that. Did anyone have this experience, of a fine division of time?” Adie paused. “We think that our measure of understanding is to say “chair” when we see a chair, and “painting” when we see a painting. But can one look at a wall without putting words on it? What can it mean without words? I am in front of a mystery, straight away. But I start looking and it becomes subjective. Why would I have to describe it? How can I hold myself in front of the wonder of everything?”

Someone then brought a similar observation from the exercise, about looking but trying “not to give any thoughts out to it.” Indeed, he said, he had tried to “blank out” all thoughts.

“Could you say how you tried to do your blanking?” asked Adie. “If you do it at all, it’s by a sort of tension, which isn’t good. Let the thoughts do what they like, but don’t have anything to do with them. If you start blanking them out, you become tense and you really increase the thought. You simply get a long tense impression, that’s all. You’re bound to get impressions of everything if your eyes are open. Receive the impression, and be present to that, but don’t resist anything.”

“The point is I wish to experience myself relatively free from thought. That force which usually gets taken in these speculations becomes mine. I need that to reinforce my being-conscious–reality for a moment or two.”

Sarah then mentioned that she had been able, in the exercise, to sit with her eyes open, receiving impressions, “I found that I am able to be in that room, take in the impressions, and the external noises without a reaction. There doesn’t seem to be a shock. I hear it, but I remain stable. It helped me during the day.”

“We have to really try and remember the finer divisions of time, and the very very fine impressions of higher thought. A higher, finer matter which is moving at incredibly faster vibrations than normal. As we begin to tune in to those a little, to receive a fraction from that, we begin to experience a totally different time, with a totally different effect. That’s one of the elusive things. Until one gets to a certain point, one does not understand this and its value, the vast differences between my time and the sun’s time. But here it now begins to become practical. If we really work during this ten or 15 minutes, there is a great amount of time there. But then one can open one’s eyes after 30 minutes and find that nothing has happened.”

Adie then gave instructions for the experience of “a different kind of physical functioning”, something essential to the practical method as he had it from Gurdjieff. After he had given the instructions, he added: “Keep on. Don’t be put off it’s a bit uncomfortable. Use it. Pass a certain point of discomfort. If you get to what you think is the limit, go for another half a minute. I think we’ll stop there.”

In memory.


March 8, 2008 at 12:26 pm

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