This is prepared, well in advance, for 13 January, celebrated as Gurdjieff’s birthday. The very fact that he wanted it celebrated on the first day of the Old Calendar is surely significant. It is a new year, but not the New Year at which the world revels. It is according to the traditional reckoning. Yet, it is not so far from the civil New Year, merely twelve days. Neither is it the religious calendar: in the East the new liturgical year commences with the Consecration and Renewal of the Church (generally early November), and in the West with the first Sunday of Advent (late November or early December). I have selected two pieces: one an exchange, and the other a Saturday morning address.
“Mr Adie,” said Paolo, “I’d like to try and understand work I’ve been doing over the last couple of days. My intention was to act otherwise than my normal patterns of pleasing people, so I deliberately offended people, not in a gross sort of way, but instead of saying yes, when I normally would, I said no to a request.”
“But if it isn’t costly, it’s quite nice to give people what they ask for. What’s wrong with that?”
“It was only for work’s sake that I did it,” Paolo replied.
“Yes, but why should I take something like that as my task for the day? Why would I choose that?”
“Mr Adie, the reason I chose it was for my children. With them, I habitually say yes, it’s a sort of a laziness, they ask me to play games with them all the time, and rather than saying no, I just say yes all the time. And after a while, there’s a sort of … I feel almost like a victim to the children.”
“I don’t think you can start by saying no every time. I don’t think you can take it as a task to say no all the time. You have to choose the moment, how the request comes, and how you say no. You can say no in a very positive way. You can say: “Look, I am very busy right now, but if you will ask me this time tomorrow we’ll have a real good go.” Just at the moment, said in the right state, it is most positive. You haven’t said no. But you have achieved your object. But something in me decides that I have got to say no.”
“No,” said Paolo, and everyone laughed. He caught himself: “Yesterday, it was a positive note. I said it almost the way you described it.”
“So you agree with me?”
“Yes, I had got into the habit of saying yes.”
“It is a very formatory habit. I must bring my feeling into it, because that may alert me to how it’s going to be understood. I miss my chances. Every time somebody wants something, it’s an opportunity – I mean particularly children. When an adult wants something, they don’t ask for it generally because they expect to receive the answer no; they wait until you’re not looking and take it, or devise some scheme.”
“But with children, it is quite different, and then there’s the interchange, there’s the regard, a thousand things can come into it.”
“The first is the kind of formatory application of any teaching. This is the kind of idiot thing that people will be taught, that just because it’s difficult to say no, so I’ll say no and be brave and firm. And so I go around saying no, and become a sort of idiot, in that regard. You’ve got to try to be normal, simple, sympathetic. And then perhaps we can start to work.”
“Today,” said Paolo, “when I was saying no, there was a lack of sympathy.”
“Good. Sympathy is a feeling of myself. I can’t feel as the other, but I can feel myself, and then, through sympathy, what he is feeling may be received by me. Lacking any feeling of themselves, people go around with cut and dried likes and dislikes, and what they think of as principles, so that one man reads this paper, and he won’t look at the other. A man in London once said to me: “What about this fellow? He reads The Guardian. He can’t be any good.” I later learnt that the man didn’t read The Guardian at all, he’d been carrying it for somebody else. That’s the sort of crazy world one lives in.”
“Mr Adie, the funny thing about those two days was there was a real different quality to the working. One day I woke up in the morning and I seemed to have, I can’t say any other word but a positive expectation that this work was right. That was my way of response, and it was subtle, and it was alive. But this morning I woke up and just had this sort of feeling of deadness: “Oh well, I will keep on doing it because I did it yesterday. It was that mechanical. What I would like to know is, how can you break that expectation of the day? What can you insert to change the pattern?”
Mr Adie paused a moment, and then said: “I try and prepare my own state. Try and get into a proper state. I go from a full night’s sleep to a waking sleep. That is the ordinary course: from sleep to waking sleep. But in that passage is the best time to try and go from sleep to awakening, to really awake, when my consciousness is working. I’ve got a little while there, it’s the best time. It’s not the only time. Any time I remember is a good time. But that time is a special time when I have a little, a little good clean energy left from the night, a certain amount, and in a jiffy it’s going to go there and there, and there, and I’m just an automaton again.”
“If I can take the first ten or fifteen minutes, and really work to become balanced and erect, and breathing, and know it, and with regard to people and my life, acknowledging the gift of my life, and then, as a result of that, trying to think: “Now what can I do today that will not just let all that go by the board?” And you choose a certain number of specific things, or one specific thing, and try and work on that.”
“Well, that’s the principle of the work, which is really what you’re asking. But I have to do it. It is no good my thinking of my knee, I have to have sensation there. Quite a different thing. Yes, quite a different thing.”
This relates to what was posted on 13 January last year about the daily programme. But there is a most important realisation here: there is a point when I am naturally in passage from one state of being to another, and that point is the moment of passing from sleep to waking sleep or, as Gurdjieff sometimes called it, relative consciousness. It is in that short period, when my state is already inevitably in transition, that any efforts to continue the movement of awakening to waking consciousness or self-remembering (also known as subjective consciousness) are being assisted by Great Nature. To use the language of the Law of Seven, it is an interval, and cosmic forces are available and localised within my organism to help me not only fill the two intervals in that octave, but also to cross to the following octave, and to fill the intervals there so that a full octave from sleep to waking sleep is crowned by another passage from relative to waking consciousness.