The next exchange from Wednesday 28 February 1979 was again rather difficult. Dan said that during the recess, he had had many impressions, but could not find “the centre of gravity”. He continued: “I feel a question very strongly, but I cannot formulate it satisfactorily, although I have even tried writing it down. It seems too big for me, but I feel that the effort is helping me, as I am not daydreaming as much. How can I go on?”
Mrs Adie replied: “You began with talking about impressions which you had during the recess, then you said something about the centre of gravity which I didn’t understand, I was hoping it would be explained later, but it is still not quite clear.”
“I feel you’re … suffering in some manner … but I can’t understand with my head what it is that you’re trying to say.”
Allow me to pause there: Mrs Adie received a double impression, her feeling told her the nature of what was going on, but her intellect had shown that the observation was problematic. Don’t we often find in life, whether with others ourselves, that there are often tell-tale loose ends and contradictions?
Dan continued: he knows that it is important to formulate a question, but, he said: “I can’t. I don’t understand who I am.” He added that he had had some relationship to the music he was brought up with, and that, for him, is real, in contrast to what is unreal.
“That I can understand,” replied Mrs Adie. “Perhaps you are trying to find words for something for which there are no words. The search is always a question – a question that can’t be answered just like that.” She then asked Mr Adie to answer.
“Write it down, write down what the question is, and look at it in an hour, or the next day, and see if it makes sense”, said Mr Adie. “See if it’s a simple question. What meaning has it got? Just in an ordinary way. Come away from this indefinite state which you get in, which we all get: feelings mixed up with thoughts that we can’t put down. But something is possible”.
“When you come here with such a question your understanding is in the middle, it is not at the top. Our understanding is often somewhere about the centre, neither at the top level nor at the bottom level as it is when we’re fast asleep and completely automatic”.
“So now write it down. Make the discipline, just like you would do an exercise at school when you were a boy: can you write it a little better and make the question clearer? Write it simpler. Work at it.”
After a little pause, he added: “You don’t criticise your own vagueness: you accept it. Now you must discipline yourself and face it, this piece of paper which may find very much lacking when you come to look at it. It must be intelligible, otherwise it is useless to you, because you won’t be the same the next day, you will be different again”.
“Supposing you come across this writing: is it going to mean something? It has to mean something. It has to be expressible, otherwise, apart from feelings, there is nothing exchanged. Don’t forget, we have our possibility because of the ideas – ideas – formulations. So you have to formulate, very necessary. Some of the formulations are so frightening that you perhaps don’t want to face them, but they have to be put down”.
“Don’t be content to come with such a vague question. Come with something you have worked on. Take it as a task. Good. Some others could take the same task”.
Irene said that her present attitude is largely negative and one-sided. It is related to her lack of understanding.
“Can you say what your present attitude is?” Mrs Adie asked.
There was no response, and Mrs Adie continued: “It is not always negative. But you cannot just change your attitude like that. The question is: how can you change your attitude? The question is how you can change your attitude – the attitudes you don’t want.”
“First of all, you have to see the attitudes very clearly. Seeing once is not enough; you need to see those things which repeat and repeat, making a sort of pattern in all your attitudes, some of which you are more aware of than others. You begin to recognise some of them, particularly the negative parts of attitudes. But perhaps you’re not seeing the whole of the attitude, only a negative part of it. You need to see it, more.”
“When you see it, you find that something in you doesn’t like it and doesn’t want it. But it’s not going to disappear just like that. You have to do something active. You have to try, to make an arrangement with yourself, on some particular occasion, to free yourself from that reaction, to some extent, to the extent that you can. Free yourself a little bit.”
“You know how you are going to react. You often know quite exactly what you are going to react to. You have to be free from that. You have to understand yourself, that you wish to be from it. It won’t go away immediately. But it will be less in time, and you will be less in its power, you won’t believe in it, you won’t justify it. It’s the justifying it and telling yourself you have every excuse to feel like that which feeds it. You justify it, and it gets stronger and stronger and stronger.”
“But now you know you can’t justify it. It isn’t helping you, and it may be harming other people very much, because our negative emotions have a very harmful influence on those around us, and the opposite is also true.”
“So you have to study. Everyone has to study. Even though you have seen a lot, there is much more to be seen. Being with that. At the same time you can already begin with some action, trying to change something.”
I would like to try and draw these two exchanges together, in this way: Mr Adie’s reply was, it seems to me, based on the understanding that our minds take things very differently depending upon our emotional and our physical states. That is, our most volatile centre is our emotional centre. Our intellectual workings are much less variable than our physical states and they are less so than our emotional. Whether I like this or that can vary quite wildly in a short period of time. Whether I have the energy to even walk to the shops can vary depending on the time of day. But my mind generally has the same intellectual knowledge and valuation.
This has the corollary that when my ideas are scattered, and I am “in two minds”, so to speak, the wise thing is to use this knowledge of my fluctuations. I do that by writing down what is in my head, and returning to it later. Almost certainly, there will have been some shift in my emotional and physical states. That shift may free up the head and allow it to work with clarity and to probe. That indeed is insight, the operation of the intellect unclouded by the mists of emotion and physical inertia.
This is also the basis of Mrs Adie’s wise advice to Irene to study. That means, to return to the same question when I am in a different state and to use my intellect to compare, analyse and correlate. Her warning against justification is of the first importance: when something in me justifies, it produces a fixation in the intellect. Self-justification can be considered a form of intellectual tension.
So we are not one. But if we use time, then we can make the best use possible of our lack of unity to understand ourselves, and so to realign ourselves more consciously. And then, the more we can work at this, the more united we become, and so the deeper and more productive this very effort will be.
Joseph Azize, 16 December 2018