Remembering George Adie in the Present

Mr Adie died on 29 July 1989. I have prepared what I think of as some special material for the 29th itself. It seems to me that this year, at least, it might be good to devote the anniversary to the teaching he handed on and developed, rather than to the sort of present memory I am devoting this post to. Those who did not know Mr Adie may find this sort of article useful as giving them some insight into why I speak of “present memory”.

By “present memory” I mean a moment of effort, grounded in the here and now, recalling with the whole of myself (or at least as much of it as I can animate), a formerly experienced reality: what was, what was done, what was said, a state or an atmosphere. It is a constructive use of memory to have a moment of engagement with someone deceased. If I am not even more present than usual to my body, my feelings, my mind and my sense impressions, it loses its reality, and becomes sentimental and even dangerous.

But this relationship with one’s teacher is a special one. If the memory of the teacher lives in pupil as an active impulse, the teacher is still alive. A very good friend of mine, a master in his own right, recently shared with me his experience. I won’t say more about it except that it confirms what I have just written. I might perhaps add that the teacher is not truly dead unless his memory is no longer animating his pupils. So, immediately, the questions of loyalty and treachery arise. Loyalty is vivifying. Neglecting to use the teacher’s example and precepts is betrayal; it is a form of neglect, even of murder.

With those sobering words, let me keep this short. P.D. Ouspensky was Mr Adie’s first teacher. Adie learned a good deal from Ouspensky, and never ever, so far as I can recall, spoke in the least disrespectfully of him. Quite the opposite: he said Ouspensky was much misunderstood, that he was both a towering intellect and also a man of tremendous warmth. This is not the usual picture of Ouspensky. But that image of Ouspensky as cold and severely intellectual, Mr Adie said, was superficial: Ouspensky was perfectly capable of playing a role, and of testing those who came to him. Ouspensky’s teaching, however, was very good, very sound, Mr Adie would say. Further, he told me some stories of Ouspensky’s penetration in even ordinary ways: for instance, when Ouspensky heard of what was happening in Palestine, with the establishment of Israel, he held up his hands and said: “Horror for a thousand years”. This is not pro- or anti-Israel, it is an impartial evaluation of a situation in which there were many actors and many factors. The point here, is that Ouspensky was absolutely correct.

So sincerely attached was Mr Adie to Ouspensky that, as he told us, when he went to Gurdjieff, he realised that this was a tremendous opportunity to work for Ouspensky. There was a small story around this. I think it was not the very first occasion that he was going to Gurdjieff’s apartment, but rather one of the very early days in 1948. He said that he and Mrs Adie were together, I think he said that they were on a railway platform, and they both had the understanding that with Ouspensky that had studied the theory of change of being, but that with Gurdjieff they saw it taking place.

And then, Mr Adie insisted that we would be a great deal poorer if we did not have In Search of the Miraculous. He was right. Despite the criticisms levelled at Ouspensky and this book, I doubt that any other pupil of Gurdjieff could have written it. It is the masterpiece of the Gurdjieff tradition. In a recently published book, there is a story of Gurdjieff’s reception of In Search which adds some details I have not otherwise come across. It is titled Un chemin hors de l’exil (A path out of exile), by Francois Grunwald, a pupil of first Henriette Lannes, then Gurdjieff himself from 1946. Grunwald writes:

At the end of 1948, someone brought to Gurdjieff the manuscript In Search of the Miraculous – Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, which P.D. Ouspensky, a talented writer had worked up form his notes of the work of the Moscow group between 1915 and 1921. … Ouspensky specified in his will (or testament) that he left the publication of the manuscript to the personal approval of Mr Gurdjieff. Now he (Gurdjieff) had not read a single book for quite a long time. Madame de S(alzmann) was already prepared to study it when, contrary to all expectation, he (Gurdjieff) took it, and dived into it this English-language text for some days. In suspense, we eagerly awaited his verdict (comment, remark). It was positive. “Peter Demianovitch was a good journalist. Truly, a good journalist. Everything in it is true. It is the facts. We can have it published, madam, and have it translated into French and German.” (p.540)

I think that Ouspensky has been somewhat disparaged, caricatured, and sometimes even maligned. But his understanding was phenomenal. I could say much more, but I just wanted to make these points about the teacher-pupil relationship, and that in Mr Adie’s loyalty to Ouspensky, even when others were proving disloyal, he showed his inner nobility.

Joseph Azize, 26 July 2018

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