George Adie: Distinguishing an Aim from a Plan (Tuesday 11 October 1983, Pt I)

This was another very strong meeting. It is hard to express the almost psychic way that Mr Adie could deal with questions in groups. That is one feature of this meeting. Another is that it is so practical. Being practical, it sheds a fresh light on Gurdjieff’s methods and ideas. For example, Gurdjieff said that we cannot do, we cannot change ourselves. Yet, several times in this meeting, Mr Adie counsels people to do just that. Is this not contradictory? Not necessarily: the general rule relates to people in the circle of mechanical life. As Ouspensky explained, the teaching that we cannot “do” (meaning, to set and achieve an aim) “refers to people who are not connected with any teaching. When one begins to study certain teachings or systems which give school methods, one has to try to do certain things” (The Fourth Way, 247). Now for the first part of the meeting.

On Tuesday 11 October 1983, the first question was from Hans, who said that he had started a new line of trying to observe a state of combined tension, disquiet, anxiety, hurry and revolving thoughts.

Yes,” said Mr Adie, “and eventually and without too long a delay, to change it. It is a combination of identification with the thing, and a habit of hurry. It is an obsession with the idea of doing. There is no idea of being there. It is “how can I do that, and do that too, and that other thing too?”

“Of course that has been going on for a long time. There is a certain willingness in the body: you have a strong body that can race around, without too much sleep. Well, you have a job, haven’t you? But you can’t manage everything at once, full bore. You have to choose. Which element is the clearest? Which offers the best lead in: is it the physical tension, is it the thought, is it the negative feeling? Is it the apprehension, the fear that the thing might not come off? You have to choose. Give it real thought. Think again. Where is the most suffering? Where is the most energy lost? All of these issues will cause you to lose energy, but you must tackle it somewhere.”

“A drunken man who is trying to get somewhere lurches all around. But if he can keep on his feet, then his need is to find something which can help him keep going in a straight line. He can’t help hanging his head, he can’t help feeling nauseous, but he can go a little bit straighter. And then, perhaps as he is going along, the other things will start to change. It is being more present. Know that the aim is to be. Know that your state can’t be quite the same if you are there. You really have to come to a stage in your preparation where you are unquestionably there, and the thought, and the aim, and the state are not the same as this rushing state.”

“You see that you have this field of work, and seeing that there is this field of work can even give you a different life. There are many unknowns before you: you are not sure of this and you are not sure of that. It’s very practical. Make a list of them, and that alone, even if it isn’t a full list, will make you start to feel that you have a vantage position. Think about it a little, frequently.”

“See, when you are rushing about, it means that some part is willing. It hands itself over to the rushing very willingly. Which part is that? Which part are you trying to satisfy? Of course, there is practically no satisfaction in it at all. There is practically no relief, no gratitude, just one thing to the other. As soon as I have finished this, there is the next. The key realisation for you, surely, is that I have to live through that, and in that. If I am going to change it, I have to come alive in the process, not change it, and then be alive. Mmm?”

After a short pause, Mr Adie continued: “You see, everybody is more or less in the same boat. More or less. Some people are very passive and very indolent, and instead of having peaks like this, they have this. But it doesn’t matter, it’s a question of degree. Think of the life of the average tycoon. What sort of a life is that? You’re living a bit like a tycoon, aren’t you, rushing from thing to thing?”

I’d like to think I’ve given it up,” answered Hans.

Mr Adie seemed unconvinced, because he asked:Where are you going to next, Tasmania, or New Zealand?” I expected Hans to say neither, as he had given it up. Instead, he sheepishly replied: “Well, we haven’t decided.”

It is another occupation,” said Mr Adie. “If you consider what it means to have a boat, to learn to sail it, and to use it responsibly, in connection with all the other features of your life, it’s an enormous demand. I’ve got to fit that in with other things as well. It may be time to look over your activities, and see what I can legitimately give up. Not everything in one hit, but some one feature, even a small feature, which is non-essential and would not leave anyone the worse off if I gave it up. Think about it. I have to work negatively as well as positively. Doing for being includes this. It can be very rich if you follow the line you’ve started. We’ve now clarified the aim a lot. When it is reduced to within practical limits it becomes more interesting.”

Hans blurted out: It’s amazing how true that is, what you’ve said. The boat is useless.”

I think it would be good to come to a decision only after you have taken a quiet period of about half an hour,” Mr Adie counselled. “There are ordinary greeds in you, and they want to be satisfied. But now how are you going to plan to put at least half an hour away from the usual identifications for your own being. It doesn’t mean that you have to do nothing, but the main purpose of the half hour is to be. To be there. It is specific. But now that will mean denying something, so there is no question of what the aim is. It is an aim to be there.”

“That tendency, if I bring it into the Work, makes the Work impossible. I don’t really make provision for a quiet being-approach. Otherwise, if I want to read the Mahabharata and the Quran and the Bible, I become anxious about getting it all done. I have got to realise that there is a limit. Very practical. Good.”

The next questions was from Paul, who said that he had been trying to get back to something very simple.

“Yes, I noticed,” observed Mr Adie. “And you saw it, but you can’t get it back just like that. You want to remember your aim and then renew the plan. It is very important to discriminate between a line of work, which is to fulfil for a certain aim, and then the plan: how to put it into operation.”

“If I choose a line of work, it must have an aim at the end of it, to achieve something. It is very easy to mix that up with the method. The method is one thing, but the plan is another. For instance, if I decide that line of my endeavour for the next month shall be the digging of this large field, then I need a plan that I shall dig so many rows each day, otherwise I shall never get it done, and that many other things shall be arranged, so that it shall be done. But the method is something else.”

“The method I employ must be related to the aim: for example, if I use a spade that I can’t lift, and I shan’t do much work, and it won’t be completed in time. There is a difference between the aim and the plan and the method, and I need to discriminate between method … and the plan. It doesn’t mean that what you said was wrong: it was very nearly right. But your work will be helped if you see the difference.”

“I am in danger if I say: “I planned to do what I intend,” if in fact I have no plan. This is what I aim for. The plan is how I go about it, when I go about it, and so on. To do any work consciously, and to arrive at the aim to be achieved, there has to be a plan. If I have no plan, I may finish up here when I wanted to be there.”

Mr Adie had stressed that point again and again. He now allowed a short silence before continuing: “Our work becomes extremely interesting when we start to refine our discrimination. Words start to have a value. At the present moment they have very little value. If I discriminate between one word and another, they have different flavours. Words have a different quality, and can enliven me.”

“See, life is experience, it is quickness. If I take plums and think I’m eating apples, what am I? Am I not like a pig that just wallows in the old trough and takes what’s there? It is true of everybody. But if I see that a plum is one thing, and an apple is another, I acquire a quickness. Plums and apples have different nutritional and medicinal qualities. And they are eaten quite differently. You can put a whole plum in your mouth at once, and savour the experience of opening and eating it, while that is not possible with an apple. Take something juicy and succulent, and try and eat it slowly, it loses all flavour by the time you come and swallow it, so you need to take it quickly.”

“So in our work we really start to contact the outside world: the textures and the flavours. It’s all impressions. I am saying all this to show how crude our thinking is. Nothing like the fineness which is possible. Our life in the world can be an art. This is it. The art of arts. You have heard of “the martial arts”. Well this work includes all the arts.

Paul now changed tack a little: “I am conscious that when I set out to get up in the morning at a particular time, I so often don’t do it.”

Well that is another thing,” replied Mr Adie. “It’s a question of decision. I have to make many, many decisions in support of my so-called initial decision. I have an aim, and I accept it as a line of work. That is a sort of decision. And then, on the basis of decision, I make a plan, you see. I have to approach it that way, otherwise it is lost to being with.”

“I have to start with an action. I have to start with my presence. And with my presence make the decision. Then it is a different kind of action. I have to reach my best state. I have to prepare. I have to discriminate so that my wish will be realised. I cannot just do it off hand, with the idea that it might be a good idea. That’s not enough. I have to prepare to make it a being wish, a being task. He talks about Being-Partkdolg-Duty. A being duty. Not what I do. My being – my state. I work for my state.”

“And then what is the duty of that state? It is a duty for my being and of my being. Simultaneously. Being-Duty. So the emphasis changes, instead of doing, it is being. Going all external. Being all internal. I must have this being-search, and yet I cannot take even a day off for that.”

“I am involved. My history will compel me. And now, for a moment or two, I try and be there, and make that decision. Then, if I fail, I shall notice it. And it will relate to my initial decision, and I shall have something there which is able to see and understand much better. I will often feel as if I am failing, and yet in fact I may be succeeding. If I am present there to see my mistake, that is a big thing. It gives me many more chances.”

It comes back to the being-wish,” said Paul.

“Yes, it comes back to being there. Everything is there, except “I”, and it is the one thing needed to make the decision. Whether it is real “I” or deputy-steward, some form of “I” is needed. At least it cannot be one of these compulsive “I”s which are in my personality.”

“What is my responsibility now? How do I understand being responsible now? I am not familiar with that idea. I do not realise that my immediate responsibility is to be conscious, and that to be conscious requires awareness of the body, the feeling and the mind, to take in impressions. So I have to go on making effort to be. To be. To understand.”

“Sometimes we speak of “being” as if it were something dull or passive. But in fact “to be” is the essence of activity. The Buddha: extremely active. Poised. Maximum activity. Inner being activity.”

“I observe the movement of my own thought, my feeling, and like that I make my decisions.”

“Does that give a practical opening? And who is to do that, to make the effort, to see where it goes wrong, and to learn from that, and to struggle? So I have to be there, otherwise the decision won’t be carried out. One “I” will decide, and before it’s finished deciding another “I” will be engaged in a totally different direction.”

“This explains why I must have a line of work, so that there will be some connection between my daily effort. If I am in a prison and I have to hack my way out, and I make a stab at some spot in the wall once or twice, I will never get out. But if I find a weak place, at least as it seems to me, and I have a good go at that, I may succeed. I cannot waste my time. So come to your best state, and then decide what you will do.”

Joseph Azize, 6 July 2018

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