Mrs Helen Adie on Aim

This is the last exchange from the meeting of Thursday 3 March 1983. There were only five questions that evening, but some of them were quite lengthy. Listening to these recordings, it has struck me how much more willing people were to disagree and even to argue with Mrs Adie. I wonder if one factor was that they were rebelling against Mr Adie’s personal authority? Gurdjieff remarked that some people were delighted when he had his motor vehicle accident because it released them from his supervision. And that was Gurdjieff! There may be a law here, in the teacher-pupil relationship, which we need to take account of.


Part One

This question came from Primrose, a long-term pupil. I liked her a good deal, and often wonder what became of her: she is not even visible on the internet. Mr Adie sometimes remarked that when she spoke she could be philosophical, but often hit the truth. This night she asked: “I have a question about how I am related to my aim. I remember a long time ago when there was a question asked about aim, an answer was given to remember how you were before you came to the work, if nothing else could help you to remember your aim. And many times, I have remembered that because I don’t really feel that I have an aim anymore. I feel that I have used the benefits from the work for my personal life not the other way around, and during the break that lead me to have really negative feelings about the work. I really don’t know where I am. I am not sure of this is clear. It is probably very mixed.”

“No,” said Mrs Adie, “I think you made yourself clear. You can’t always find words for your aim so easily, and if I do find words they’re so vague. Certainly, it helps to remember how you were when you came into the work. It helps a little. But it won’t give you the answer, I don’t think, it is only a help. But, something brings you here. Could you say what it is that brings you here?”

“The fear that I would be like I was before.”

“Then what is the difference between what you are now and what you were before?”

“Well, it’s supposed to be, I’m supposed to be somebody with a real purpose that has a real meaning to me.”

“It’s supposed to be,” said Mrs Adie, “but what are you?”

“I just feel I don’t have any will, even if my life depends on it.”

“None of us got much will, you know, perhaps a very little bit. But nobody has much will. One of the aims of the work is to acquire will. It has been said that my attention is the measure of my will. Attention and will are not the same thing, but, my attention is maintained by whatever will I have.”

“That idea can help you: you feel you lack will, and then that takes you to the question of your attention. It can lead to an aim, also, but an aim is not so easy to put into words. We read about the aim of the work in Beelzebub, but he doesn’t say that that is what he is describing: you have to be sensitive to it.”

“Having an aim, and even formulating, doesn’t always touch me personally – my little I’s aren’t interested at all. It is something very small in a way It’s not powerful, but it’s real, a very small real part of me. It understands that it has to grow at the expense of all the rest. What you express when you speak very often is one I, or another I, another personality which spends all its time saying I haven’t got an aim, or quarrelling with what I want to do. And I listen to it, and believe it.”

“You can’t argue with that voice, it will always go one better. You just have to put it away. Briefly, you come to yourself, you really feel “I”, you feel some substance. You know what you aim is, but you don’t have to always have it into words. You want particularly to not be in the power of this absolute monster that has taken over all your life, and grown. You have to accept the wish is not going to balance you in five minutes, but we need to change the control. At the moment, that controls you. You want it to be the other way around, upside down. Personality can be very useful, when in its right place. But you want something a little stronger in you that can control it and direct it.”

“Yes, it’s not there,” agreed Primrose.

“Sometimes it’s there a little bit, and sometimes it’s not. It depends on what efforts you make, but it’s there waiting to be called.”

“You should not worry about finding words for your aim. From time to time we are asked to say what our aim is, a specific task. For that we really have to think in a different way, and not be guided under the power of my personality. You can’t just say “I want to be conscious, I want to be conscious”, it does no good.”

“The feeling is critical. It has periods when it works in various ways, and that also has to be watched over by me, and if I feel it’s getting less, I have to increase my effort. Feeling only diminishes if my efforts are less. And, it’s always up and down, it’s inevitable, but it doesn’t always have to go quite so low down and fast.”

“It’s a vital point: I feel myself going down, and I’m lucky if I feel it and I don’t just slide, and then boom. I feel it right at that moment if my effort is sincere, and it will certainly go against the grain. The very fact that I may go down means that something in you doesn’t want anything. But if you realise that’s not you, you don’t have to listen to it.”

“The thought of making effort sometimes completely knocks me down, but in fact with the effort even comes a certain love. There’s always suffering when you make the effort. I don’t look for joy at that time, but it can appear. Everything is balanced.”

Primrose then said something which is probably too personal to be reported here, but at the end of that she added: “I was visiting a lot of people, making friends, so that there will be friends around when I needed them. It was really with Mr. Adie because I know that he truly cares, but I don’t want him to know anything about this, or to talk about it with him. When I was here I felt bad about that. I did feel remorse.”

“Well, you’re having a very difficult time,” said Mrs Adie, in a very calm voice. It was just calm, not sentimental in the least. “Try not to settle for bad conscience in the wrong way, in the negative way. You’re identified with the negative feeling.”

“It’s a very difficult situation. The question is: what is possible for you? It’s not good trying something if it is not possible for you. Try as much as you can to be affirmative, not negative, to accept. I know it’s asking a lot but accept. You’re not helped at all by not accepting, you can’t change anything. Try to accept it. Without any negative image of being a martyr, or heroic …  just quietly, very quietly try to affirm in your attitude for everything.”

“The future you really know nothing about, you don’t know. But it’s no good feeling that you ought to be doing things you’ve never had the strength to do. That means looking at things more impartially. Try and be impartial: is this possible for you or not? And if it isn’t, then you accept.”

“It is something which can’t be forced, if you have a quiet affirmative attitude towards it, that in itself is already a big thing. Sometimes, an idea about yourself and what you should be doing. It’s just an idea.”

“But it is something I like to feel, and I don’t,” pleaded Primrose.

“Feeling can’t be forced,” replied Mrs Adie, “and there are no benefits for you if you dwell on the fact that you don’t feel it either. If you feel so much that you’re not feeling it, try not to talk to yourself quite so much about it. Try to go to your feelings taking things as they are. You don’t really know what the future holds for you at all. It may look very blank, but it may not work out that way.”

“I’m not concerned very far into the future,” argued Primrose.

“You say that now,” replied Mrs Adie, and everyone laughed, “but if you could see it, you would probably perk up. You can’t force feeling, it comes as a result of an effort. It’s that simple. You talk about not feeling so much that’s it’s impossible to be feeling anything. There are certain efforts that you’re quite capable of making, even if it’s the effort to accept your situation without dreaming about it.”

“That in fact is about really all that I can do,” said Primrose.

“It’s quite enough,” offered Mrs Adie. “If you can really do that it’s already a lot.”


Part Two

It is extraordinary how often, especially in this meeting, Mrs Adie spoke of the importance of coming to a feeling of myself. She kept coming back to feeling.

In what she said to Primrose about not finding words for our aim, the stress on not worrying about finding the words, but to work in preparation for when the exercise of formulating aim was given. We would, from time to time, be asked to formulate our aims. Mr Adie would set a word limit, sometimes as low as 50 words, then bring them at the next meeting with his notes on each one. It was not just very valuable, it was irreplaceable. Sadly, I never met anyone who could do what he was able to, at least in this respect.

Joseph Azize, 1 February 2018

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