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HELEN ADIE: A SORT OF SENSATION STOLEN FROM EMOTIONAL CENTRE

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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@gmail.com

 

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.

Jeanne de Salzmann’s “The Reality of Being”

JOHN ROBERT COLOMBO REVIEWS

JEANNE DE SALZMANN’S “THE REALITY OF BEING”



A page from one of Jeanne de Salzmann’s notebooks


‘Madame de Salzmann’s Testament’

I have in front of me, as I keyboard this review, my prized copy of “The Reality of Being.” The copy is prized, despite the fact that it has not been autographed by its author; despite the fact that it lacks any association with an individual person, place, or incident; despite the fact that it was not given to me by a specially sensitive well-wisher; despite the fact that it was purchased through the Internet and arrived unheralded; despite the fact that it is the trade edition of the book that was published in thousands of copies in May 2010 and this is already October. The reasons why it is prized lie elsewhere and herein.

I prize it because of the quality of its contents, and so I have reserved a space for it on the bookshelf in my study where I display the spines of a limited number of select volumes about the Work that were published over the last three-quarters of a century. This brace of books includes the three volumes of G.I. Gurdjieff’s “All and Everything” series, four books written by P.D. Ouspensky, “The Harmonious Circle” by James Webb, and perhaps a dozen slender volumes composed by people whose last names are Claustres, George, Ravindra, Tracol, Vaysse, Welch, etc.

Before I attempt to convey the extent and limits of the contents of the present volume, I want to praise first its publisher and then its editors. It is a handsome piece of book-making. It measures 6″ x 9″ and has a substantial, dark blue cloth cover embossed in gold; it has end-sheets and an inspired and atmospheric dust-jacket which features an image that combines the horizon of the earth with the stars of the heavens which was created by an artist who goes unnamed but is nevertheless intriguingly referred to as “the author’s great-granddaughter.”

The typographical design of its pages appears at once casual and classical. The volume is published by Shambhala of Boston and London, which ensures it will be widely distributed and kept in print, and it is very reasonably priced at CDN $32.00. The publisher even had the signatures of the book sewn – most books these days have their pages glued together, a process euphemistically described as “Perfect Binding.” As well, they have added, like a sovereign crown, a bright yellow-orange headband. The book is a durable and handsome product, worthy of the muse or saint of printing and publishing, if there is one. Thank you, Shambhala, for taking pains!

I hope I do not sound like a claque because, as well, I will praise in extravagant terms the editors of this book. On the mundane level I did not find a single misprint, and that rarely happens these days, even with scholarly texts issued by university presses. I did note, in passing, that there are discrepancies between the birth years of its subject and its author. The copyright page, which includes the by-now standard Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data, gives G.I. Gurdjieff’s year of birth as 1872, whereas the text gives it as 1866. The same page gives Madame de Salzmann’s year of birth as “1889?” whereas the text gives the same year but without the droll question mark. But these are matters of amusement and no consequence, unlike the text of the book itself.

The text is well organized, indeed super-organized, with a Foreword, an Introduction, twelve main sections, a Biographical Note, a list of the four Gurdjieff centres (Paris, London, New York City, Caracas), and an Index. Let me pause over the latter item, the twelve-page, double-column index, as indices are often overlooked, despite the fact that the attentive reader may tell a lot about a book from a cursory examination of its index.

After perusing it, I thought, “The only personal name in this index – and hence in the text of the book itself – is that of G.I. Gurdjieff.” Then I looked closer and found three other names, those of Christ, Buddha, and Mohammed. Illustrious company indeed! Added to them, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, I found that of Ashiata Shiemash. So it is apparent from this index that the reader will not turn the pages of this book in order to be entertained by stories, anecdotes, or descriptions of the men and women who participated in the evolution of the presentation of Work principles and practices from Ouspensky’s “Special Doctrine” to Madame de Salzmann’s embodiment of the Fourth Way.

The present volume is about as far from a gossipy book as it is possible to be. In fact, the book is about how it is “possible to be,” and in doing so, I find I want to describe the text as a collection of homilies. A homily is a commentary on a passage of scripture, and during a church service a homily is delivered following the reading of the specified passage of scripture. It is basically a sermon with a practical application of the general principles found in the day’s passage. Hence a homily deals more with practice and not directly with principle. It is hortatory.

If I am right when I claim that what we have here is a series of homilies, it is also true that the thrust of the texts is towards the harmonization of the three centres of man. There is next to nothing about the speculative nature of this system of thought at least of the sort identified with the expositions of P.D. Ouspensky. The sections about the Law of Three and the Law of Seven are perfunctory in the extreme; indeed, they are credited by the editors to legitimate sources outside Madame de Salzmann’s notebooks, the source of these texts.

Instead of regarding thought, feeling, and sensation as separate subjects, we have an integration of them within the human body. The index, once again, gives an idea of what is being emphasized, with entries such as these, each of which has a dozen or more page numbers: being, body, consciousness, contact, crystalization, efforts, energy, existence, feeling, instrument of knowing, mind, nature, order, perception, reality, relation, seeing, sensations, shocks, teaching, tensions, understanding, vigilance, voluntary suffering.

There is an abstract quality to the exposition, certainly the quality of selflessness, so it is a relief that the texts themselves are surprisingly short – one page, two pages, three pages – seldom more. If they were any longer, they would be somewhat tedious to read; if they were any shorter, the expositions would be reducible to maxims, like the pages of sentence-long quotations that introduce each of the twelve sections. Two instances of these mantras are “We struggle not against something, we struggle for something” and “I have to maintain a continual sensation in all the activities of my daily life.” In his memoir of Madame de Salzmann called “Heart without Measure,” Ravi Ravindra made exceptional use of such expressions of experience.

The structure of this book as a collection of meditations or a passel of ponderings is such that it may not meet the needs of the novice in the Work, but by its nature it will address the deep-seated needs of people experienced in the ways and words of the Work, people who are in need reminding. In a way the present book reminds me of Maurice Nicoll’s multi-volume set of “Psychological Commentaries” in which each short essay concentrates on one particular element of the teaching. Whereas Nicoll is intellectual and philosophical, Madame de Salzmann is physical and functional..

Each of Madame de Salzmann’s texts illuminates an aspect of the Work, what used to be called “the practice of the presence of God” and what is now recalled by the words of the title of Patty de Llosa’s fine book “The Practice of Presence.” As Nicol was indebted to Ouspensky, Madame de Salzmann is indebted to Gurdjieff. Over the last fifty years or so, I have watched as the word “religion” has been replaced by the word “spirituality” and how that word is now passing out of style in favour of such words as “being,” “presence,” “consciousness,” and “awareness.” Who knows where it will end (to pose a Zen-like question!)?

Let me pause over the arrangement of the contents of the book. Each of the twelve sections is neatly divided into three sections, and each of these three sections has four subsections. This would create a book of 144 texts of homilies, except for the fact that four of the subsections have not four texts apiece but three. That makes 140 texts. (These short subsections are “A Sense of the Whole,” “Ego and Illusion,” “Voluntary Attention,” and “Voluntary Suffering.” It might be worthwhile, at some future time, to pause to wonder why this lack of symmetry is so.)

If the sign of a fine translation is that the reader hears the sound of the voice of a person whose words are being rendered into another language, this translation is sound indeed! I have never heard words spoken by Madame de Salzmann, but as I read these words I feel I am hearing her speaking her own words in her own way. She owns them. Her use of words is measured, they are masterfully chosen, and they are rhythmically arranged. There is a flow of language to match the flow of the teaching. The English translation from the French seems amazingly fine. Yet there is no way to ensure that this is so because the French originals of the notebook are not in print. Indeed, it seems that this English edition is the “editio princeps,” as the French text has never been published. A world first.

Who edited this book? Who prepared the translations from what are described as the “notebooks” kept by the author over the last half-century, from the death of Gurdjieff in 1949 and the death of Madame de Salzmann in 1990 at the age of 101? (Both the Library of Congress and the text of the book agree on these years!) “This book was edited by a small group of Jeanne de Salzmann’s family and followers.” Thus reads the last paragraph of the Foreword. This is a self-effacing sentence, so I wish I knew more, so I could credit the collective effort of family and followers.

Maybe I do know more. I have heard that the positive force behind the book’s appearance originated with the author’s daughter Nathalie de Salzmann de Etievan, who died in 2007. The project was carried out by a couple, Nathalie’s daughter Anne-Marie and her husband Stephen Grant, a retired New York lawyer, supported by the author’s grandson Dr. Alexandre de Salzmann. The labours of Anne-Marie and Stephen, to use their first names without leave, were no doubt augmented by those of other unnamed contributors. Their efforts “have surpassed expectations,” as M.B.A.s in business schools are wont to say these days.

The organization and presentation of the Work that is currently overseen by the four Gurdjieff centres would seem to be based on the efforts of preservation, continuation, elaboration, and extension led by Madame de Salzmann and continued by her son Dr. Michel de Salzmann until he died in 2001.” The text reads, “Before Gurdjieff died he charged Mme. de Salzmann to live to be ‘over 100’ in order to establish his teaching.” She certainly succeeded in more ways than one!

What is her message? Here any reviewer has to make a decision. He can either report on what the author says in the order of the excerpts from the notebooks that appear here, and thereby write at considerable length; or he can summarize the approach that the author takes, and thereby risk sounding somewhat platitudinous. After pondering the matter, what I have decided to do is offer the reader two sentences, no more, on each of the twelve sections of the text. They will give the flavour of the whole and a sense of its direction.

The first sentence is my summary of the argument of the section, expressed in language that sidesteps the terminology of the Work. The second sentence is taken from that portion of Madame de Salzmann’s text and represents an idea or a formulation that struck me as a novel in expression if not new in insight. The book is so arranged as to lead the reader from the simple to the complex, yet at the same time the text resembles a hologram, for which every portion is a portal to the whole.

1. “A Call to Consciousness.” Man does not know himself, but he may through self-knowledge become a conscious being. “Everything comes from the wish, the will.”

2. “Opening to Presence.” We sense ourselves in a passive way, but it is possible to have an active impression of ourselves. “At every degree of awareness my response is in the way I exist at the very moment, and the kind of action in which I am engaged.”

3. “In a Common Direction.” Attention must be paid to the feeling of being alive. “In order for my being to change, I must understand my state emotionally.”

4. “The Work to Be Present.” There are moments of awakening and we need to aim at these, to concentrate on these. “Only one thing counts: ‘I exist.’”

5. “With Others.” Man is a living organism and it is necessary for living organisms to meet and learn and work and move together. “This is why the most important condition, the necessary condition, is to work with others of comparable experience and understanding, who are capable of upending the completely false scale of values established by personality.”

6. “To Be Centered.” Through concentration, through will, and through breath-work, I may find my inner center. “I need to know myself as a whole and to express myself as a whole, that is, to be a whole.”

7. “Who Am I?” The real self is consciousness itself. “No movement from the periphery toward the center will ever reach the center.”

8. “Toward a New Being.” Man has various centres and these need to be sent shocks in order for man to collect himself. “Our work is to understand better the collected state, a state in which I engage in a new order.”

9. “In a State of Unity.” If all my sensations, feelings, and thoughts were in alignment, I would be a conscious being. “Seeing is an act.”

10. “A Presence with Its Own Life.” There are very special energies and subtle forces and man has to experience them in quietude to be truly alive. “To come to this state, I need a right posture, an attitude in which I am grounded, maintaining an inner center of gravity.”

11. “The Essential Being.” Forces pass through us and we must learn to sense those vibrations that are subtle and submit to them. “I need to have a force in me coming from a higher level of the cosmos. It must become part of what I am.”

12. “To Live the Teaching.” We live in two worlds and with our bodies we may feel a Presence. “With consciousness, I see what is, and in the experience ‘I Am,’ I open to the divine, the infinite beyond space and time, the higher force that religions call God.”

These twelve chapters take the reader from a concentration on the ego through schools with practices to a sense of the cosmos, not really step by step but all at once. Hologram-like, these homilies repeat the main thesis that change in level of being is possible and they treat the reader to an array of approaches to the central existence of gnosis or the “knowledge of being.” The book is rightly named “The Reality of Being” for it deals with what is most real in us and in the world in which we live. This is Madame de Salzmann’s predominant testament, one that is to be prized.

John Robert Colombo, Toronto-based author and anthologist, has recently published “Poems of Space and Time,” a collection of 360 poems written over the last half-century and inspired by “the fantastic imagination.” Watch and hear him read some poems on YouTube. Listen to his podcasts on topics of the day on his website: www. colombo -plus. ca. He writes regularly on Fourth Way subjects for this blog.

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

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com
=====================

Why Do You Run Away In Your Feeling?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. Thank you. That’s clear.”

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

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

“No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was quite a lengthy pause.

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

“I don’t know,” conceded Dmitri.

“No. But do you really wish to?”

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

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

“No, I haven’t.”

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

“Yes, yes!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What, with your attention, you mean?”

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com

3 July 2010

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

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

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

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GEORGE ADIE: a task on hurry from 1981

A Task on Hurry, from 1981

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

Part I

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

“How are we going to approach work more practically?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it clear to everybody?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So what else? Have there been many questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Much quicker, yes.”

“No, that’s not right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mm!”

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

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

“Oh yes!”Jethro was emphatic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good night.”

Joseph.Azize@googlemail.com
11 January 2010

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

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

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