This is from the meeting of Tuesday 28 March 1989.
The first question was from Tim, who said that over the last week he had found moments where he had a choice, whether to go into daydreams or not, and into negative emotions or not. Yet, he also missed many moments when he could have done something and not drifted off. Also, he might choose to not go into a daydream, but then he found himself in daydreams again. Finally, on the way here he had noticed someone on the footpath and started to thinking about something to do with his outside work, which led him away.
“What you haven’t mentioned is your body,” said Mr Adie. “You saw somebody on the footpath, but forgot that you have a body, and you were unaware of your sensation. Unless you have these three, your feeling, your mind, and your sensation, you aren’t very much in query. You have better choice if you have awareness of your body, and some feeling. Then there’s a possibility. Then your thought, perhaps, can be something of this quality. If you don’t have any feeling, you can’t do anything anyway. You can’t discriminate, it’s just going on, and your observation never becomes self-observation with a power of awakening. It’s all rather one-dimensional. You haven’t yet reached the conviction that for your being-reality you have to have three, three elements have to be there.
For us it is very clear, we have to sense the body, we have some sensation, but it isn’t ours, it just goes on. I have to have the head, and we have to have some feeling because all the motive force is here, the impulse. I have a good idea, but what about it? I have to have the feeling to give me a movement. So, your experience is very good. But now seize it, let it bring you to the recollection that you need your bodily awareness.
My thought does not include the fact that I’m given the gift of life, at this very moment, on the earth, under the sun. If I forget the sun, I’m far away from reality. If I forget the gift of life, well, what am I? With that, I could remember, and it means something. On the earth means on the bus with an aching toe which I don’t notice at all for some peculiar reason.
Make it very practical. But practical thought is so far from our ordinary striving and thinking. Why should that be? Although it’s very simple, it eludes us because we have this powerful identification with what goes on. Then, something attracts our attention and then we’re taken by our so-called thought about that. It’s been going like this for so long that at a very strongly conditioned level we never accept the possibility of a completely new way of life.
We are like a bull with a ring through its nose. Somebody waves something and you’re pulled. The other night, when you were tired in the meeting, you stood up to try and remain awake. That was good. You had the idea to listen, which is good, but you have to look too, otherwise you miss the impressions. Having made one effort, the next and more necessary effort was forgotten. It’s very good to listen like that, but really, listening is a form of seeing.
See, I relate it to you, but it was here, and it is true for everyone. You probably thought about that quite a bit this week, has it produced something? I think it has.
I was recently asked why it is that people like Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley have gained some “traction” within contemporary Western culture, but Gurdjieff had not. I am not sure that is entirely true: I think it depends on where within Western culture you look. But still, some very well-informed people think that this is the case, and Roger Lipsey’s recent book Gurdjieff Reconsidered is an attempt to help Gurdjieff gain the “traction” which once perhaps he had.
I think that what Mr Adie says here is a part of the answer, although it may be better to speak of “answers,” or even of an ongoing research. It is this: Gurdjieff calls for a complete change of being. Crowley speaks of gaining new powers, of making contact with the higher aspects of one’s Self which he calls the “Holy Guardian Angel.” Along the way, he does a lot of silly things like take drugs, and that is probably the least controversial aspect. He was forever chasing visions, and using numerology, astrology, and trances to try and have these illuminations.
Gurdjieff begins with see yourself. Remember yourself, and everything you need will come. Although Gurdjieff’s story, especially as told in Meetings, has a certain allure and mystery, the actual work is at the same time more exciting and less exciting. The focus of the excitement, however, is within, not without. Crowley was not unaware of the inner aspect of spiritual development, but his scattered insights do not make a system as Gurdjieff’s do, especially if the contemplative exercises of Gurdjieff’s later years are taken into account.
From Gurdjieff’s perspective, Crowley was like someone who wanted to go to heaven with his boots on. It is not possible, says Gurdjieff, you must first change yourself, revalue all your values. Realise your own nothingness, and then work to become someone.
I think that this is what Mr Adie was saying to Tim. Hence he uses the unexpected word “conviction” in this sentence: “You haven’t yet reached the conviction that for your being-reality you have to have three, three elements have to be there.” In editing it, I almost replaced “conviction” with “understanding,” but on reflection, I saw that made was speaking about something very deep.
In the end, perhaps part of the study into why Gurdjieff’s method is not so popular is because one has to be able to come to the conviction that as I am I am unreal, I have no being. Even my dreams and aspirations are almost entirely illusory. It is a very hard message to accept. This is not the whole of the story, but it is, I think, a significant element in it.
Joseph Azize, 11 February 2020