Self-Pity Keeps Reappearing (28 March 1989, Pt III)

Part One

The next question was from Pablo, who said that he was always lost in self-pity over very trivial things. The self-pity made him “very tense and cut off from any possibility.” Then he decided to make a list of examples of them, beginning the next morning after the Preparation. When he read them again after four days, a sense of revulsion arose: he did not want to be like that. This gave him “a very, very strong urge to not to be like that,” and over the last two days that “dramatic sense of self-pity hasn’t arisen.” Yet, he can sense that self-pity hasn’t gone forever. Should he continue with this line, or move to something else now that it seems quiet. He needed to know because, he said: “I’m not sure.”

“That’s also part of your misfortune, isn’t it?” said Mr Adie. (Everyone laughed. Obviously enough, there was a certain self-pity in how Pablo had moaned that he wasn’t sure). “It’s  already there again. So make an effort now. See, I’ve tried and, “Now, what to do”?  (laughter) You see how subtle the thing is, it will creep back into your very work.”

“You really have to be awake for this work, the thing is to awake. To be awake in your body, in your mind and in your feeling, and try eventually to acquire a balance, not all in the body and not all in the feeling. The head has got to work but, what does it do? In the absence of feeling, it’s capable of any atrocious thing. Well, good, go on. See all the ways which you’re unfortunate, how unfair it is.”

“And you worked for four whole days, but now you’re not sure. It’s wonderful to read, in All and Everything, about Ashiata Shiemash, when he was faced with the problem of how to help humanity, how to teach, and when he went out onto the mount at Veziniama, and for forty days and for forty nights, he did one thing, and another forty days and another forty nights, and a third forty days and a third forty nights. He did it and then he came to the conclusion that what he’d been doing was not possible so, what to do? What he had to do, having reached this level, he had to do all this to prepare, to find out what really he had to do. It’s a marvellous picture of intense protracted struggle. If you want feeling, try and read All and Everything and understand it.”

“He tells you how to read: the first time, read it straight through; the second time, only read it as if you were reading it out loud to somebody else; then only the third time, get your dictionaries and try and understand it.”

“He gives all the answers to all the questions, he gives the answers to thousands of questions that we haven’t asked yet and haven’t approached yet. We should study a little, we need fresh ideas you see, we need, we need impressions, fresh impressions, and the book is full of them. Of course, we don’t see them all, but we see some. In my work I have to try and arrange the situation so that I do get fresh impressions. So, for that I must move, move from this dead spot, this customary approach and I have to change my sight, I don’t have to do anything very terrific. Suppose I go to this special place for a cup of coffee, eleven o’clock each morning, and perhaps I choose to go to a different place, it may not be so easy, it may be a little bit further. A thousand reasons will present themselves why it’s better here. So, I’m defeated over a cup of coffee. Don’t waste time.”

“You ask whether to end this line and move on or not. No. Do not end this line, it is still current, and also move on to work on other aspects you need.”


Part Two

Pablo asked whether he should continue with a certain line of work, his work against self-pity; after all, he said, it had disappeared. He then added, thick with self-pity, that he wasn’t sure what he had to do. Mr Adie pointed this out to him, and so it was clear he had more work to do. Self-pity is a sort of hydra: when you cut off one head, two more appear. Hercules needed help to singe the Lernaian hydra’s necks once he had decapitated it, so that it could not regenerate. In our case, the quality which can prevent the reappearance of the head is a three-centred consciousness to myself – the conscious which stands behind all my functions and sees them.

Mr Adie added to this a picture of the labours of Ashiata Shiemash as described in the First Series; a picture often being of more value than many words. In the middle, he said something more about the nature of the effort, and, I think, by implication, what had been lacking in Pablo’s efforts: a balanced sense of himself as a whole in which his feeling of himself played an equal part to his body (organic instinct) and intellect.

It is necessary to stress the importance of the body, of our consciously relaxing it so that the energies can circulate, and the distractions and diseases which come with tension be avoided. The awareness of our organic instinct, as Gurdjieff called it, is a providential anchor for our flightier mind and feeling. And, of course, the centrality of the mind cannot be dismissed: it provides clarity and certainty for all our functions. It is even an important check on the right working of my emotions. When I am lost in emotion, it seems impossible to withstand them. But my head can, sometimes, bring a certain critique which can edge me towards impartiality. The head can tell me, “This is a partial emotion, it is taking you away from yourself; it is not a feeling, bringing you to a fuller sense of your being reality.”

And that, I think, is one of the points Mr Adie was trying to make – that we need more feeling of ourselves, because that feeling will temper the intellect and keep it on the right track. So, with all three centres, it is like “one hand washes the other hand.” One of Mr Adie’s strengths was how he could evoke feeling. Over and above that, he manifested feeling in himself, and we could catch the flame, as it were, from him.

Joseph Azize, 15-18 February 2020

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