The Mercy Present in Severe Situations (25 October 1988, Pt I)

Part One

This is an excerpt from the meeting of Tuesday 25 October 1988. The first question was from Boris. It gives me some pleasure to present this question. Boris was one of Mr Adie’s old friends, and had been loyal and sincere to the point of being a role model. Tonight he said: “This week I was in a rather in a dark state for a long time, with crazy imagination in my head. It became clear to me that I have a tendency of sliding down that way, and I thought that this could be a beneficial situation, something could be done differently.”

“Very good,” replied Mr Adie. “That’s a step nearer reality. You are nearer to firm ground. If you’re not firm ground, you can’t move, you can’t do anything. You have no basis to work on, so although things are very bad you can still feel that this is something to work with.”   

 Boris agreed: “That’s right, and they may not be as I see them at that time.”

“Interestingly,” said Mr Adie, “they could be worse, yet often we don’t see that then. And what we want is not some merciful blindness but to be able to see the reality for what it is, and to confront it. What will that need?”

“Well, the word that came was “discipline,” which for a long time was just a word, and not particularly attractive,” answered Boris. “But it became connected with some place inside, which gave it a completely different meaning.”

“Good, very good,” said Mr Adie. “Maybe the connection was with a centre from which some direction could issue: maintain the discipline and direct my efforts.”

“When I could notice that the scenarios were becoming crazy, then I could then come to that place,” added Boris.

“That’s right. When you see this thing that you cannot just go and change, and alter and arrange as you would like, then you come to yourself,” said Mr Adie. “And then things are not as I thought. That’s very clear, everybody should try and see that. But if you’re not suffering at the time being or haven’t got any severe challenge it’s not so easy. But a severe situation gives one just that. It’s very merciful, isn’t it?” 

“Yes,” replied Boris, “because the feeling of gratitude that I receive a result of it is fairly lasting.”

 “Yes, yes, not cursing because of the painful situation, but gratitude that I can even try and think about it and what to do.” Mr Adie was in full agreement. In fact, that it calls me. Yes, it’s true. So, in that situation it’s good not to rush and try and understand it in the old way if possible, I have to be more balanced and not hectic about it. Try and be balanced again.”

Boris continued: “There is a difficulty in becoming balanced because, when something is relieved, I run into dreams, but you know, positive dreams, good dreams, but they’re not real at all. And there is a surge of emotion that begins to carry me, and this is where the balanced state would help very, very much.”

“See, the thing about pleasant dreams are at any moment they can become negative,” said Mr Adie. “Just a chance association occurs in a dream, and what had been a beautiful place suddenly becomes full of horror, and leaves me drained of energy. But what would be more real? If I can bear the memory of both the contrary states, and be where I am, that is the third force, then I will be more real. I will be in a position where not just anything can change it.”

Part Two

Later in this meeting, Mr Adie would return to Boris, and speak about the importance of “discipline.” But there is a lot in this change. For example, Mr Adie mentions this point that when the circumstances are hard, they can call me – and this is not only the case if I have prepared for the situation. It often happens that ordinary people, with no sense or notion of conscious development or of religion, respond very well to a crisis. I think that this is, as he said, a merciful dispensation: the person responds from essence. More precisely, perhaps, if personality cannot or does not respond to a challenge, and this is more likely where the challenge is unusual and difficult, then essence is temporarily uncovered, and responds. This can happen in moments of grief: personality is not ready, essence answers, and then the person who responds to the challenge is quite different.

Gurdjieff, when he was explaining essence and personality, told Ouspensky that: “Essence has more chances of development in men who live nearer to nature in difficult conditions of constant struggle and danger” (In Search of the Miraculous, 162). And one does find this: if one meets someone who has been through a war, for example, one sometimes senses that the person is more himself than he is something artificial. I can think of one man in Lebanon who exemplified this. People said that he had been the bravest of soldiers during the civil war. I have also, on a few occasions, seen essence clearly manifest. In one case, a woman collapsed from a heart attack. The woman who then opened her eyes and spoke to those around her was a more serious and sensible person than the one we knew. Later in life, when she was at her sister’s funeral, that woman, the serious one, reappeared for a moment. What was striking was that her voice was in the same tone – an unusual one for her, and her face was devoid of the sort of expression she usually had. In both instances, the tone of her voice and the look on her face, there was a simplicity there, her accustomed posturings were absent.

So there we are. Boris responded from essence to a very dark period in his life. And Mr Adie encouraged him to see the mercy in the situation, and to take advantage of this situation, and free himself from dreams; to confront both the good and the bad which was facing him, and remain present before them. Then, I think, essence can more readily manifest. Another clue comes from the former soldier I knew. He had been courageous, selfless.

Joseph Azize, 2 April 2020


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