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MEETINGS WITH JEANNE DE SALZMANN IN 1973

Joseph Azize Page

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Jeanne de Salzmann

Jane Heap

John Lester

Meetings with Jeanne de Salzmann in 1973

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

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

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

Part One: The Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When we revise the Notes we have to remember this.

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

The introduction to the book will be very important.

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

The story of Orage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second talk – the following day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further brief notes.

Fear- there must be no fear.

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two: Some Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“DOING” AND “NOT DOING”

Newport
click on image to enlarge

Doing” and “Not-Doing”

On 15 and 22 August 1990, Jim Wyckoff of the New York Foundation attended meetings at Newport. Mr Adie had died a little more than 12 months earlier. In May 1990, some of our people had visited Paris for guidance, and Michel de Salzmann had told them to try and work with Jimmy Wyckoff, as he was already coming to Sydney to visit the Foundation group there. And so Jim Wyckoff came to take questions at Newport. After that second evening, he asked me whether the meetings were being taped. He was not keen on the idea, and said that one should try and work in the present. However, he added, they have been taped and there is no need to destroy the records. Use the material, but as sparingly as possible. Some of what he said, for example, his answers to Stan and to myself have proved to have enduring meaning for me, and I think that the material may have value for others too. So let’s use the material … if sparingly. Here are a few questions from each of those nights, and then in Part Two, some comments.

Part One

15 August 1990 was the first occasion when Jim Wyckoff sat in front of a group at Newport. The Wednesday before, in a combined meeting (for this term see George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia), Ken Adie had brought an exercise from his father which involved making diary notes after the morning preparation. Now, having tried the exercise for a week, Basil brought an observation about how much it had given him, and how fresh it had seemed to him to sit quietly after his preparation and spend a little time digesting it, valuing his being, rather than hurrying off into life, as usual. Throughout the day he had found himself quieter, remembering his hourly appointments. He could see himself dragged out, but then he would recollect himself more quickly.

Yes, replied Jim Wyckoff, something simple like that can help me. But I see that I cannot “do” it, and it is not something I can gain or acquire. Maybe what I need is to give something up, such as my tension, my hurry, or my compulsive thinking, so that there is room for something else. I open and listen for my work. We are made of an energy which everything is made of, so maybe something in me can correspond to what it seeks. I don’t know, said Jim, but I can be patient. If I was watching an animal in the bush, I wouldn’t rush in … I would be quiet and watch, he said, dropping his voice. I can be patient like that, with myself. Not with “my” attention, but with “the” attention. It is not mine.

Then Esmeralda spoke. Like Basil, she had been with Mr Adie for many years, and he had a profound respect for each of them, even if he sometimes found some of Esmeralda’s ways exasperating. She spoke about how she was when with her daughter, realizing that there were difficulties in that relationship, and that she had done no work at all in respect of that for years. This is how things go, Esmeralda said, I pick something up, there is a result, and then I let it drop for a number of months or years until I return to the same situation, the same area of work. I never really make use of what I could make use of, she said. The possibilities seem so rich, and I know that things can change and be improved, but then I squander those possibilities. Even listening to the question some 20 years later, its truth still has an impact. And to her credit, she did realize that she had a tendency to “not deal” with things which needed to be addressed.

Well there’s a lot that needs to be done, replied Jim Wyckoff, but that still doesn’t mean that I can “do”, does it? I need to experience, I need to learn how to perceive. I try to perceive by going out, but to perceive I need to take in, I need to be. We live under laws, I start DO RE MI and then I go MI RE DO. I know it, but I don’t feel it. I think that if something starts it can be continuous, but Mr Gurdjieff tells us that the vibrations are discontinuous. This question of trying to do something about my situation is in my way. If I really understand that I know nothing, then I can learn something. But whatever I try and learn, I put it on top of what I already have. I am brought up to acquire something, and then I get graded on it. But when I see that I am simply an expression of life, like all of nature, then perhaps I could accept to simply experience myself through the sensing awareness of the body, which is the receiving of something, not a going out. Like that. Does that make sense to you?

Yes, Esmeralda replied, thank you. Then Stan, a talented young man, spoke of his jealousy, resentment and envy in relation to his wife. He could see how it affected both of them. Jim Wyckoff asked, are you saying that you are concerned about how she treats you? Yes, answered Stan.

You’re concerned about how she treats your image, your ego?

Yes.

Well, is that all you are? Your ego? Now I am asked to try and see my SELF beyond the I in quotation marks. Am I the I in quotation marks who thinks he should be considered by his wife? Or am I something other than that, from which that other I is derivative? Study your body when you’re in that state. It’s tight, and closed, but I still have that spark of life. Then, if they want to consider me, that it’s alright, and if they don’t, then that’s alright too. Am I concerned about their opinion? That’s a load of nonsense, isn’t it?

But what about my feeling? I don’t mean my emotion, I mean the feeling, this reconciling force which Mr Gurdjieff speaks of? How can I look for that, how can I touch that? I can’t make it appear, because that will be more of the ego trying. Maybe it’s there. When you work you find that something changes. I don’t mean like a rearrangement of the furniture, but the quality is different. The sense of yourself and of time is different. I don’t say “I’m going to sense myself, as if I was the author”. I don’t have to be first and foremost. You are you. Listen with your whole self, your body, not just your ears. I listen and see that I am different. How did I attract that state, not how did I do it? My preparation is not to get that state, it is to be in such a way that that can come. It could be a very interesting study. Not how to overcome it, how to get rid of it, but how to see, is it possible that something can be transformed here, although it is not something I do. You know if you put an empty cup in a sink full of water, it will fill it. You don’t have to fill it, just put it in.

Loreto then brought a question: what can I trust? That is the question, replied Wyckoff: or perhaps I should ask, can I be trusted? I get very tight, but it doesn’t have to be like that. You know how you can get up and go to work, but you know you have an appointment at 5 o’clock, say you’re going to see Shakespeare, and you’re looking forward to it. You’re working all day, but you still have this sense of anticipation. It can be like that, but not hurried. I ask myself, who am I? What am I? (His voice dropped when he asked these questions.) I listen with that inner listening, and if I don’t find it today, then I don’t find it. And then there’s the question that maybe that force needs me. Instead of me finding something, I need to be found. That is enough from the first evening.

The next week, Andrea mentioned how she had been in a conversation with someone. The other person was seeking her help in respect of something, and it seemed to be a rather intimate and personal matter. Andrea was trying to console her, and as she sat there, she started to become aware of extraordinary sense that two human beings were in contact. She had rarely ever had this type of simple contact in a conversation before. It was a discovery for her.

And it can be a discovery the next time, too, replied Jim. Our relationships with other people tend to be based exclusively on “yes” and “no.”. But on occasions a force can appear which is neither “yes” nor “no”, but recognition. If I work in a certain way, it appears. When I work, I become different. I’m a different person, and this force recognizes me: we recognize each other.

I was the second person to speak that evening. I had been struggling with anxiety about a conflict with some people, when I had remembered Mr Adie’s injunction: “Never forget the Creator. Never forget the Creator of all that exists.” That had dissipated the anxiety. (I still vividly recall the moment: I was sitting in the bottom level of a rather over-heated train). That night I woke from sleep, the anxiety reappeared, and bang, right behind it was this other recollection, and I was present, free from anxiety.

You see, said Mr Wyckoff, the situation helped you. One tends be against such situations, because they are unpleasant and tire you. But it’s as if I need the opposition, as if I were a wrestler who needs an opponent to struggle against, so that I can grow. (Incidentally, wrestling is the only sport I was ever any good at, but I doubt Jim knew that.) What is the difference in me? It’s not just a different attitude: there’s a basic change in my body too. Be observant for it. Oh, he added, it’s a good idea, if you wake up in the night, whether anxious or not, to immediately work.

The third question was from Tim, who relayed, as often one finds in groups, a fairly bare if not even despondent account of realizing that some effort was made, but feeling as if he couldn’t make any. And in fact, despite his better knowledge, he had not made an effort. How he could move in such situations?

We’re all passive, replied Jim Wyckoff. We want outside stimulation, an interesting person, a book, a film, or an idea. Such stimulation moves the energy in me and I like that, so we go to parades, football games and so on. But that quality is not what we here are after. We have had a taste of a finer quality of energy that seems to appear from nowhere, and I’ve been told that if I work in a certain way, it appears. However, my habits and my armour hold me back. I need to know the difference by taste (he lightly stressed these two words), because I identify with the better feelings which appear. I need to begin again, even if I am feeling better. Never say “I’ve arrived”, because in the next breath it’s gone. Something may be looking for me, not just me looking for it, because it would not come if it did not recognize something. Like attracts like. The difference in me is recognized by this force. So wait, be patient. But actively wait. Actively be patient. For you never know when the hour cometh.

Then Samantha spoke. She had seen a feature in herself, she said which she wanted to change. She had attempted to do so before, and it had gone for single days, but had always come back. She knew, too, that something in her was indeed attached to it. She needed to but could not change her attitude. Was she perhaps not sufficiently serious? Was that clear enough, she asked?

“Yes”, Jim Wyckoff replied, “the difficulty of course is that I want to do something about it.” He emphasized the word “do”. I want to get rid of it, or change it. “I want to do something about it”, he reiterated with the same emphasis. But what I need is to study it, he said. I cannot do anything about it because I’m the one who allowed it in the first place. Take something like tennis, for instance. Say the coach tells you that you’re holding the racquet in the wrong way, or standing in the wrong position. You want to change it, but you can’t. The old way of moving is too strong. You see?

Samantha agreed. The same thing applies here, continued Jim. When it happens try and notice what takes place without reacting to it. We don’t see our habits, we just see their effects. But to see what goes on inside, for that I need patience and observation.

Then Lindy spoke. Yesterday she had initially been able to observe what went on during conversations with a difficult person at work, even when this woman became quite upset. Lindy had felt sympathy for her, but then this person had attacked her, Lindy, which upset her a great deal. Lindy could think of the work and of observation, but she could not move, she was frozen. She had held up her hand in a gesture of protest but had not been able to speak. What could she do when she was paralyzed like that?

I cannot control anything, replied Mr Wyckoff. One can speak of self-control, and one can squash something down, but then one can also speak of work and only have but the thought of it. What really counts is the memory of being in work without any notion of controlling anything or anybody, but simply to see what happens. What was really happening? You have pictures that you were doing something and she was doing something, but what was really happening – by way of force? There is something happening which I don’t see. I record it only after it has happened, although it’s so quick that it seems to be simultaneous. But when you’re more connected you’re in a different time, and you weren’t in that different time on that occasion, were you?

No, Lindy replied. So, continued Jim, I can remember that there is something I don’t see and I can draw back. It is like how if you’re looking at that picture and you’re standing right there in the corner of the room you can’t really see it and what’s around it. You need to draw back and then you can see it. Like that.

The last question I will deal with came from Esmeralda. She returned to her question of the week before. She said that she thought had understood what Mr Wyckoff had said, but when she came to put it into practice, it was a “complete mess”. She had been with her daughter while she was practising her violin, and she tried to have a certain state with her, but it was quite the reverse, she was worse than ever. It seems to me, said Esmeralda, that when you speak, I understand something and something responds, but tomorrow, this condition won’t be there.

But something will be there, maybe, said Jim. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going to happen in five minutes, and the moment I say that, it puts me in a different place. I assume that work is only up to me … well there’s a job for me, but what comes to me, I don’t create that. I open to it, so it’s a big work. My effort is up to me, but when I allow a place that corresponds to this other force, it comes, doesn’t it? When I try and do something about it or think about it, I close. I’m ordering my life, I’m ordering the universe, even. But I wonder what’s going to happen today when we play the violin? It’s different. I don’t just listen o the violin, but to my body, because that’s where I hear the music, not just in the ears, but in the body.

Part Two

To my mind, at least, Jim Wyckoff had some substantial insights. He also had a good quiet style in groups, and while he spoke, one felt a confidence that much was possible. But in retrospect, I think that Esmeralda’s experience over those two weeks was everyone’s, whether they would concede it or not. With him, we felt that it was simple. We were getting in our own way. But when it came to using his advice in daily life, then like fairy gold which glittered by night there was only dust in one’s pocket by daylight. People may disagree, but that is my view. Wyckoff could indeed deliver moments of uplift: no doubt at all. But these left little trace. However, there are techniques, there are methods: many of them. But Jim Wyckoff only really understood the use of sensation, if indeed he understood that, because he did not see that even for this, an aim is needed.

Mr Wyckoff had some tremendous flashes, and he had some follies. His answer to Samantha is an example: it was nonsense to say that a tennis player cannot change his grip or stance. They do it often. I have even checked with a tennis player who gave me some interesting information about the different grips and stances and how while older people might find them unusual at first, or awkward, he had never met anyone who could not with some attention change either. It is formatory to say one cannot “do”: incidentally, one could look up George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia in the index under “change”, “doing (do)” and “formatory (as in “formatory thought”) to see what the authentic teaching of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Adie was in these regards. Gurdjieff even said: “A man who works is always seeking for means to do.” (3 August 1944). But the concepts of change and doing are related to aim: aim must come first. The ability to do, Gurdjieff said, is the ability to attain a projected aim (see George Adie, p.56 and the materials cited there, see also the lectures “The Point of Doing” and “Doing” at pp.112-20 of that book).

If I cannot “do”, and it is so absolute as that, then neither can I study. Neither can I listen. There is no point in his advice: which is what Esmeralda effectively said. “Learn by doing”, said Gurdjieff, “repeat, repeat, repeat. Work until the sweat runs neither only from your brows but also from your heels”. “I cannot work”, said Jim Wyckoff, “I am worked.” Which sounds more inviting?

I do not say this to abuse him or his memory, but the fact is that “aim” is something Jim Wyckoff simply did not understand. As I mentioned in my earlier blog: “Did Gurdjieff Found the Gurdjieff Groups?”, he rebuffed a question about it by telling me not to think in terms of aim.

The concept of doing is distorted if approached in a formatory way. As I show in George Adie, “do” and “cannot do” can be reconciled. One needs a third force: an aim, or at least a motive, perhaps new knowledge, perhaps a new understanding. We even see people in life, with no connection to the Gurdjieff groups let alone to any religion, who change their lives. We see drug addicts beat their dependencies, we see people leave grudges behind, we see reconciliations. How could an intelligent man arrive at Jim Wyckoff’s conclusions?

I think the answer is that Wyckoff himself did not “do”: he was fortunate to come under certain conditions, and he had a mind capable to insights. But he was a rather feckless person, who never learned to think: he never acquired an ability for logical-confrontation. He saw deeply, but I never saw evidence that he could analyse. His books support me: whatever virtues they have, analysis and logic are not among them. In The Lost Continent of Atlantis (1968), he narrates Plato’s myth, with little discernable added value. He mentions that “Atlantologists” say that “Gadir” is the only surviving name in the Atlantean language (p.20). Jim would be helpless in the face of such an assertion: he would not know how to test it. But this is in fact a well-known Phoenician word, as many books on the Mediterranean would have told him. This would have lead to a more fruitful line of enquiry: the relationship between Phoenicia and Greek mythology. Typical, also, is his ending on p.92, that when man has found Atlantis, he may have found “something of himself. Maybe then he will know then who he really is and why he is here on earth.” Sounds good, may even sound great. But nothing whatever in the book has lead up to this. It is just a portentous statement he added at the end of the book. Jim certainly did not know why we were here, as he said (see below).

Then, in Wilhelm Reich: Life Force Explorer (1973), consider the statement at pp.120-1 that in “a sick world” anyone who is sane is bound to seem mad. What is madness, Wyckoff rhetorically asks, but that area where we place our devils, our enemies and our God? I read this to a friend of mine, a doctor (meaning, a physician). Oh no, she said, madness exists alright, and it is a horrifying thing. She was speaking from experience in the mental health wards of Sydney’s hospitals. Even from my limited exposure to genuinely mad people, I would say that Wyckoff’s statement is once more, big sounds, no content, and certainly no attempt to justify it. We place God in madness? What in heaven does he mean? It is not even undergraduate level. I could continue with other parts from the book, but you have the picture.

I suspect that Mr Wyckoff’s real passion was not Gurdjieff, but Reich. I think this is why Jim would mention “armour” (Reich referred to “body armour”), why he placed so much emphasis on sensation of the body, and why his real strength in the Gurdjieff work was in the movements, but certainly not in the ideas. This would explain why “aim”, “chief feature”, “essence”, “higher being bodies” and similar concepts from Gurdjieff meant nothing to him; why in fact he eschewed them.

Jim Wyckoff’s crypto-Reichianism is why he hardly ever read Beelzebub. He did not understand it, and it was a world away from Reich, with its Most Most Holy Absolute, its angels and its discourse on the reasons for man’s existence. I once heard Jim ask rhetorically: “Why are we here? Who cares, I don’t want to know. All that matter is we are here”. Well Gurdjieff cared. It was the reason for the entire panoply of ideas and techniques and his answers are the heart of his book. It is ironic that Wyckoff expresses the wish that Reich be studied without “distortion” (p.136), because that is what I feel he brought to Gurdjieff: distortion.

It seems to me now that the big problems for the Gurdjieff groups emerged in the 1960s, and it is no coincidence, perhaps that the Catholic Church went through what can only be fairly described as a process of Protestantisation during that period. Catholic theologians came very close to Luther’s idea of salvation by faith alone, and certainly not human works. The same thing happened with Gurdjieff: “work”, “aim”, “doing”, were all very hard and de-emphasized, if not done away with altogether.

Did Jeanne de Salzmann effectively Protestantise the Orthodox teaching and methods of Gurdjieff? It is an intriguing line of thought: the Gurdjieff exercises were no longer needed: one just called down higher energy. The old rituals with their rules and stately order were discarded, yet Gurdjieff had said that “every ceremony or rite has a value if it is performed without alteration” (Miraculous, p.303). So why were his exercises not performed without alteration? Look at what happened with the movements. No longer did one study the movements in detail, learning them, getting them into the body, reading the book which was there. As Gurdjieff said, “a ceremony is a book in which a great deal is written.” (p.303). Rather, as Wyckoff would tell us, one just works on the floor. One would do a bit of a movement, leave it for weeks, come back, maybe do bits of another movement for a few weeks, but then not again for a year. With Mrs Adie, however, we learned four movements regularly over the period of nine to ten months, and entered into the mystery. It is not enough to have the experience: it must be digested, as Gurdjieff said.

The next blog shall have more to say about Jeanne de Salzmann. It is time to end this one. Those who cannot bear the critique of Jim Wyckoff can simply cut and paste Part One into another document. It is unique, some of it is excellent, and I cannot see anyone else making available material by him. For those who have the stomach, however, to try and consider the facts impartially, Jim Wyckoff was a man of great talent, but he never met anyone who could help him develop his talent and whose help he would have accepted. He did meet Mr Adie, but he despised him. In the end, it was his loss, but many other people lost out too, because Jim Wyckoff played a large role in the destruction of Mr Adie’s school.

When he came to Newport, he made no attempt to find out what we had there. He just started doing things his own way. Even the new manager of an office doesn’t do that: they enquire, they go softly and see that is there, and then make changes as they think they are needed. Not Jim: no interest, not the least curiosity as to what Mr Adie had brought, who we were or how we were. He just had to bring the two groups under his direction.

It is ironic. He said so often that we know nothing. Maybe five minutes ago I knew something, but not now, he said (it’s on the tapes). But he did not live this. He was quietly cocksure of himself and his approach. Yet his mind gave out. Perhaps he had a condition I do not know of, but it seems to me that his last years, which were spent in senility correspond to his passive, indeed overly passive dispensation. This idea that I cannot keep it, I can only have moments, is insidious. This formula “not my attention but the attention” is a play with words. It is just not right: I can keep something of it, as Gurdjieff said, and as many have proved. One can change, one can coat the higher bodies, one can save one’s soul. In the end, although he did have something, Jim fulfilled his teaching: he could not do, he could not change, he did not know who he was, he could not even remember, and he died like that.

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